Sunday, May 1, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 05/02/2016

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA! 
It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It's also a great chance to see what others are reading right now...you just might discover your next “must-read” book!
Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and I decided to give It's Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children's literature - picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit - join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them. 


I would love to share how you use mentor texts with students or in your own writing here at Teach Mentor Texts as part of my series For The Love Of Mentor Texts! If you would like to write a guest post, please click here

Last Week's Book Adventures:
This week I spent time rereading Gae Polisner's The Pull of Gravity and devouring Geoff Herbach's Anything You Want...and also catching up on my WWE non-fiction thanks to my kids! 

Last Week's Posts:
 
Click on any picture above to go read my post.

Upcoming Book Adventures: 
I'm planning to continue rereading The Pull of Gravity and to read Donna Gephart's Death by Toilet Paper that Peanut picked up at the book fair this week.

This Week's Posts:
Check back throughout the week to read these posts. 

So, what are you reading this week? 
Link up below and don't forget to check out other blogs to see what they are reading!
To help build our community and support other bloggers, 
we ask that you comment on at least three other blogs before you. 
Also, if you tweet about your Monday post, don't forget to use #IMWAYR!
Did you know I have a newsletter? You can click here to sign up for it. 
I'll send you updates so you don't miss out on any of the writing fun 
AND you'll get a free copy of my ebook: My Story Is Here

Teach Mentor Texts Ch, Ch, Changes!

Look! Did you see! There's been a few changes around here!
I'm so excited for you to see my new design!

As you might know from reading this blog or from Teachers Write: 

I'm a writer.

Over the years with Teachers Write, I've written and polished up a YA contemporary novel, drafted another YA contemporary, researched and written a non-fiction narrative picture book. I'm in the middle of drafting a middle grade and have some research done towards another picture book and I'm currently querying my YA to agents. 

It's a wild ride! But I'm doing it. 

It's scary and exhilarating at the same time. But I'm doing it.

I believe in the writing process.
I believe in the growth mindset. 
I believe in dreaming. 

I have a dream of being a published author.
I'm determined to devote more energy to my writing to make it happen. 

So I'm doing it. 

I'll still be blogging here at Teach Mentor Texts. You'll be able to stop in on Mondays and see what I'm reading. I'll continue to share ideas for using mentor texts but my posts will be less of a review and more examples for how a mentor text can influence our writing. I'll always celebrate books and words.
But I'm hoping you might help me spread the love of mentor texts! Do you have a favorite mentor texts you use with students or in your own writing? I would love for you to write a guest post I can share here at Teach Mentor Texts. Just click here so I know you are interested.

Also, you may or may not know about my blog Story Exploratory. I launched it in the fall and it's another happy place where for me to talk about writing. If you haven't visited it yet, I hope you'll stop by! 

In the words of David Bowie, "Time may change me, but I can't trace time." Time has definitely changed me! On May 10th, 2010, I wrote my first ever post here at Teach Mentor Texts. I loved books and reading and writing and I wanted to share how I used authentic texts to help my students become better readers and writers. Six years later I still love mentor texts but they have taken on a whole new meaning in my life.

I've changed. 

I didn't always have a dream to be a writer. 

Even though I loved writing in middle school and high school and I've had countless journals over the years, I didn't think I had stories or books in me. It wasn't until 2011 when lots of my Twitter friends joined in on NaNoWriMo that I thought I would give it a try. I so totally didn't win at NaNoWriMo that fall but I had a start. I kept drafting in the summer of 2012 during Teachers Write and I've been writing ever since. Thanks to so many authors and illustrators who share their creative lives, I believe it's possible for me too.
Change is good. 
Whether we expect it or not. Whether it's easy or not. 
Growing is good. 
Change has brought me here.

I'm a writer.

And so are you. 

Thanks for being here! Thanks for celebrating literacy with me. Thanks for cheering for me and letting me into your life. 

I appreciate you. 

If I could reach through the screen and hug you, I totally would.

One more thing! Did you know I have a newsletter? You can click here to sign up for it. When you do, I'll send you updates so you don't miss out on any of the writing fun AND you get a free copy of my ebook: My Story Is Here

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Wild Robot

Title: The Wild Robot 
Author: Peter Brown 
Illustrator: Peter Brown 
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: April 5th, 2016 

Genre/Format: Science Fiction/Novel 
GoodReads Summary: When robot Roz opens her eyes for the first time, she discovers that she is alone on a remote, wild island. Why is she there? Where did she come from? And, most important, how will she survive in her harsh surroundings? Roz's only hope is to learn from the island's hostile animal inhabitants. When she tries to care for an orphaned gosling, the other animals finally decide to help, and the island starts to feel like home. Until one day, the robot's mysterious past comes back to haunt her... 
What I Think: If you had asked me, I would have told you that it was highly unlikely that a story about a robot could make my heart race. Or that a story about a robot could make me cry. Or that I could fall in love with a robot. But it's true. It can. It did. And I did. And it's all Peter Brown's fault. 
     The Wild Robot isn't just a story about a robot. It's about a remarkable, learning robot and all the wilderness friends she makes. Which is to say it's about relationships. It's about relationships in so many different ways and that's what makes it fascinating but also what makes the story resonate so deeply. Peter takes two seemingly simple things: robots, animals, but he puts them together and creates a multi-faceted story that readers will find captivating.
    To take a robot and bring her to life in such a way that readers like her - love her - and can relate to her, is a lesson in character development. As a writer, introducing a character to a reader is crucial because if the reader doesn't like the character, he or she probably won't have much interest in continuing to read the story. Readers can look at The Wild Robot and use it as a mentor text to think about what a character might say or do that helps to bring him or her to life for the reader.
     What I'm most excited to use The Wild Robot for as a mentor text, is to look at descriptive writing. Peter uses the setting to work for and against his main character in this book. The setting is almost a character in itself because of how it influences Roz and her story. A sense of time and place is very important to a story and Peter takes time to put the reader on the island with Roz by carefully describing her surroundings. He uses alliteration and onomatopoeia and strong word choice to bring the readers right into the story alongside Roz. Students can close their eyes and imagine what their own characters might see, hear, smell, taste, or feel and then try describing similar to how Peter does in The Wild Robot. 
Read Together: Grades 3 - 6 
Read Alone: Grades 4 - 7 
Read With: The Curious Garden and Mr. Tiger Goes Wild and others by Peter Brown, Boy + Bot by Ame Dyckman, Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee, Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin, Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, The Martian Chronicles and There Will Come Soft Rains (short story) by Ray Bradbury
Snatch of Text:  
     "Animal sounds filled the forest. Chirps and wingbeats and rustlings in the underbrush. And then, from the sea cliffs, there came new sounds. Heavy, crunching footsteps. The forest animals fell silent, and from their hiding places they watched as a sparkling monster stomped past." (p. 16)

     "Roz stood on the peak and watched the sun sink behind the ocean. She watched shadows slowly spread over the island and up the mountainside. She watched the stars come out, one by one, until the sky was filled with a million points of light. It was the first night of the robot's life." (p. 25)

     "'...and sometimes I see you waddling behind your funny-looking mother and you seem so nice that I thought I'd come down and introduce myself but now I'm nervous and I'm talking too much and my name is Chitchat I think I said that already.'
     There was a pleasant silence.
     Brightbill stood on one foot for a moment.
     Then the gosling took a deep breath and said, 'It's very nice to meet you Chitchat I don't think you talk too much I think you talk just enough and I like you so let's be friends.'
     A big smile appeared on the squirrel's tiny face. For once, Chitchat was speechless." (p. 109)

     "'We're a strange family,' said Brightbill, with a little smile. 'But I kind of like it that way.'
     'Me too,' said Roz." (p. 126)

Writing Prompts: Write about a time in your life when you needed to gain someone's trust and what you did. 
Topics Covered: Family, Friendship, Loyalty, Determination, Trustworthiness 
I *heart* It:

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Mechanical Mind of John Coggin Blog Tour Interview

Earlier this month, I shared my absolutely, all-out love for The Mechanical Mind of John Coggin by Elinor Teele. Now I'm over the moon to be part of the blog tour and to share my interview with Elinor with you!
I describe this book as an adventure that blends the twists and turns of A Series of Unfortunate Events and the essence of your favorite Roald Dahl characters into one nonstop novel!

I'm sure you'll enjoy Elinor's thoughts about writing and her process. I'm especially fond of the advice she shares and think student writers would benefit from hearing these words of encouragement!

TMT: Can we meet for coffee so I can pick your brain in person, please!?

Pick away! There’s not much left after winter, but you might find a few scraps of rhymes and a couple of ladybugs wandering around in there.

TMT: Just kidding! But I am so curious about how you tackle character development. All of your characters are unique and multi-faceted. What insight can you share about how you bring a character to life?

Many of my characters start with an unusual detail that I’ve observed in life or read about in non-fiction accounts—the talisman in a pocket, the habitual twitch of a foot, the odd cadence of a man’s speech. That’s a start.  

However, as the story grows, characters begin to tell me how they’re going to behave. For example, I had little control over Boz’s movements—once I’d established his red hair and his speech pattern, he was off like a proverbial rocket. I often had to shove him out of scenes.

Great-Aunt Beauregard was different. She and I are still arguing about the merits of her position in the narrative. Yes, she’s nutty and has bizarre views on child labor, but she believes in family unity and a stable income stream. Those are pretty strong arguments in today’s world.

In general, I try not to think too hard about development during the first draft. But in subsequent drafts, and with the help of editors/readers, I’ll go back and see if my characters are lapsing into two-dimensions. It usually indicates that I haven’t been listening to their voices.  

TMT: What are you reading and loving right now (or recently)? What are some ways what you have read influences your own writing?

I’ve just finished the draft of a new book, so I’ve been trying to avoid recent fiction. It’s depressing to encounter the Statue of David when you’re hacking away at a lump of granite with a pickaxe.

For the most part, I’m a magpie. Along with books (new and old), I’ll pick up ideas for themes and plots from magazine articles, graffiti, news, information plaques—whatever is floating in the atmosphere.

For instance, I was recently reading Kepler’s Witch by James Connor and got caught up in the concept of geometry being proof of divine reason. I’d like to work that into a story at some point.  

And I’ll always return to Dickens. I’m wandering through his canon at the moment and taking mental notes on his technique. It’s fasc-i-nating to see how he constructs a scene—again, usually starting with a tiny observation that blossoms into an extended metaphor.

TMT: What is the best writing advice you have received and what advice would you give student writers?

The most important piece of advice I’ve ever encountered comes from a cartoon. It’s a picture of a crane trying to swallow a frog. Though the frog is well and truly screwed, he has his flippers clamped firmly around the crane’s throat. The caption reads:

  • NEVER GIVE UP

You will want to pack it in millions of times. You can’t. You have to believe.

The second piece of advice comes from my agent, Steven Chudney. When I was wrestling with plot direction, he gave me the following phrase:

  • “This is a story about [X] who wants more than anything in the world to [Y] but can’t because of [Z].”

I often repeat it when I’m getting muddled. Don Quixote wants to right the wrongs of the world. D’Artagnan wants to be a noble musketeer. Odysseus just wants to go home.

For kids who want to be writers, the third piece of advice is:

  • Observe and report.

Every person you meet has a hidden tale. Every detail is potential fodder. Every trip, even a walk to school, is a chance to amass material—dialogue, scenery, action sequences…  

Keep your eyes and ears and heart open and record your experiences. Don’t worry about what you’ll use this material for. Just get it down on paper. The stories will come.

TMT: Finish the statements: “Reading is…” and “Writing is…”

Reading is exploration.

Writing is procreation.   

A giant thanks to Elinor for her wonderful interview and Walden Pond Press for the opportunity to review the book and be part of the blog tour. Be sure to find Elinor Teele at her website. And check out the Educational Activity Kit based on the book for use in the classroom or library.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 04/25/2016

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA! 
It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It's also a great chance to see what others are reading right now...you just might discover your next “must-read” book!
Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and I decided to give It's Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children's literature - picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit - join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them. 


A New and Improved Teach Mentor Texts!
Teach Mentor Texts is getting a makeover! I'm working on a new look and making some changes to my review format. It's going to be great! Everything will go up May 1st! Yay!



For the Love of Mentor Texts!
I would love to hear about how you use mentor texts with students or in your own writing! If you would like to write a guest post I can share here at Teach Mentor Texts, please click here

Last Week's Book Adventures:
It took me longer than I expected to finish The Wild Robot by Peter Brown. I loved it and savored every world! Look for my review this week! I'm still reading Kingdom Keepers by Ridley Pearson with Peanut and I started reading Miss Daisy is Crazy by Dan Gutman with Little Bean.

Shared Last Week:
Click on any picture above to go read my post.

Upcoming Book Adventures: 
I'm looking forward to reading more with my kiddos. It's fun to reread books with them! I used to take April to reread some of my favorite books. I meant to start rereading Gae Polisner's The Pull of Gravity so I'll work on that this week but I also have Geoff Herbach's new book Anything You Want that's coming out in May and I'm hoping to read that too!

This Week's Reviews:
Check back throughout the week to read these reviews/posts. 

So, what are you reading this week? 
Link up below and don't forget to check out other blogs to see what they are reading!
To help build our community and support other bloggers, 
we ask that you comment on at least three other blogs before you. 
Also, if you tweet about your Monday post, don't forget to use #IMWAYR!

Friday, April 22, 2016

CiCi Reno: #MiddleSchoolMatchmatker Author Guest Post

Today I'm overjoyed to have Kristina Springer here to talk about how she used mentor texts when writing Cici Reno: #MiddleSchoolMatchmaker. I hope you enjoy learning more about her process!


Using Mentor Texts for Cici Reno #MiddleSchoolMatchmaker
A Guest Post From Kristina Springer
Middle school is a test, but Cici Reno has all the answers. She's the go-to girl for advice. She's cool, she's funny, and she's enlightened (thanks to yoga classes at her mom's studio). So when her pretty BFF, Aggie, is too shy to speak to the boy she's crushing on, Cici goes online and does the talking for her. The only problem is, Cici starts to fall for the guy herself! For the first time in her life. she doesn't have a clue.

When I pitched this book to my agent (and then later editor) I told them it was based on a loose retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac and that it was a humorous tale of a 7th grade girl who thinks she has the answers to everything, but finds when it comes to love, she really knows nothing at all
On the cover of Cici Reno #MiddleSchooMatchmaker it says across the top, “She’s Cyrano de Bergerac in yoga pants.” So you probably can guess that a major mentor text I used for writing this book was the famous Cyrano de Bergerac play. Before I did any real writing I began by doing some research. I went online and found a copy of the original play written in 1897 by Edmond Rostand. I then searched for various adaptions of the play from over the years and there has been many. I even came across a Snagglepuss cartoon that adapted the Cyrano story. One particular version I looked at was the 1987 Steve Martin movie adaption Roxanne because I remembered watching it as a child and thinking it was funny. I knew with my book that I not only wanted it set in middle school but I wanted there to be a gender reversal in the characters: I wanted Cici Reno to be the Cyrano character, Aggie be the Christian character, and Drew to be the Roseanne character. So I also looked at 1997 adaption, The Truth about Cats and Dogs because in that film the smooth-talking Cyrano character was a female.
Another text I re-read while prepping for writing this book was Lauran Myracle’s TTYL series. The series is told entirely in text and instant messages and since I knew I wanted to include direct messaging between Cici and Drew in my book, I re-read Lauren’s book to see how she handled that sort of thing. I adore Lauren Myracle and she has been one of my favorite authors from her first book. I’m such a Lauren Myracle fan girl that I even went to one of her book signings on my due date when I was pregnant with my last child! Here’s a pic of me at the signing (from left to right: Sarah Mlynowski, me, Lauren Myracle, and E. Lockhart).
Check out Cici Reno #MiddleSchoolMatchmaker and let me know how you like my version of the Cyrano story.
You can find Cici Reno: #MiddleSchoolMatchmaker at
And you can find Kristina on

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Tito The Bonecrusher Cover Reveal!

As a mom to two boys, I know more about wrestling than I ever wanted to or thought I would. Honestly, I can tell you about John Cena and Roman Reigns, Sin Cara and Kalisto, The Miz and The New Day.  There's just no avoiding it in my house. 

*sigh*

But knowing that my kids are such wrestling fans, I know they are going to like Tito the Bonecrusher by Melissa Thomson. You might know Melissa from her Keena Ford chapter book series. I love Keena and her antics but I'm excited to read Melissa's first middle grade novel. Here's the summary from GoodReads:

"Oliver "Spaghetti-O" Rodriguez's dad is about to be deported to Mexico, and Oliver believes the only way to save him is with the help of his favorite lucha-libre wrestler turned action star, Tito the Bonecrusher. Together with his best friend Brianna (a.k.a. "Brain"), and their new ally Paul "Popcorn" Robards, Oliver devises a madcap plan to spring his dad from a Florida detention center. Heartwarming and hilarious, this book looks at what it takes to be a hero...and what happens when you realize that saving the day might not always be possible." 

Doesn't it sound so fun but also intriguing? I'm excited! And I'm excited for you to see the cover!

Are you ready?

*drum roll*

Ta da!



Open up your GoodReads!
Tito the Bonecrusher comes out next year on April 25th, 2017
 from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 

And until then, be sure to follow Melissa on social media. 
Visit Melissa's website
Twitter
Facebook
Instagram.