Sunday, May 6, 2012

Reading Along on I-94 - See You At Harry's - Part 1

Today’s TMT Blogiversary Blog Tour Stop is at Maria's Melange!Visit Maria's blog to read about her favorite mentor text!

JEN: Our month of rereading is done! It feels great to get back to reading and discussing one book again. It was super hard to pick a book for us to read together this month, but I am so glad See You at Harry’s is the book we are reading. I have loved interacting with Jo on Twitter and I am also a huge fan of Candlewick and their books but, really, this is a book you have to read.

COLBY: You are a like a Candlewick groupie. :) Didn’t you visit their offices over the summer? I too am excited that we are reading See You at Harry’s. I’m a middle grade and chapter book junkie, so it feels good to throw in a little YA here and there.

JEN: I love Candlewick! I did visit their offices last summer! I went to visit my friend in Boston. I had been there before and done lots of touristy things but this time I had to ride the swan boats (the last touristy thing for me to do) and then go to Candlewick. I just wanted to stand outside and take a picture. Which I did...but then I tweeted them and was able to get a tour from Raegan who tweets and does other great things for them. To some it is just an office space, to me it was like walking into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. YOU will appreciate this! On Tuesday, I met Kate DiCamillo’s editor! Awesome, right? Candlewick does good stuff.

COLBY: Meeting Kate DiCamillo’s editor = Awesome

JEN: One of the things I had a feeling you would love is that Fern and her siblings are named after literary characters. We just reread Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White so we definitely remember who Fern is. Fern in Charlotte’s Web is a strong character at the beginning. She champions for Wilbur, but then towards the end of the book, she moves on. Thinking about it now, Fern isn’t really doesn’t play a big role in the book. She saves Wilbur, but after that, she grows up and leave Wilbur to find his own way. I love that Jo chose Fern’s name for her character in her book because I think Fern does do some growing up in See You at Harry’s, too.

COLBY: My kids have pretty awesome names, but I would love to name our future kids (if we have any) after literary characters. Not sure on a boy character, but I’d love to name a girl Turtle after Jennifer Holm’s Turtle in Paradise.

JEN: I love character names. Turtle would be super cute for a girl. The names that come to mind for me are books from my favorites - actually, Henry or Claire would be sweet names, those are from Time Traveler’s Wife. From my favorite fantasies I would be naming my kids Po, Katsa, Brigan, Fire, Trevanion, Isabeau...not sure those would fly with my husband!

I love the first chapter of this book. Love it. Love it. Love it. How about this for a first line: “The very best day of my life, I threw up four times and had a fever of 103 degrees.” Don’t you just love it? This first chapter is an awesome mentor text for personal narrative.

COLBY: The first sentence is perfect. I’m not sure how important the first few sentence are to middle and high school readers, but if a middle grade/chapter book doesn’t start strong, my fourth graders will often abandon the book.

JEN: I think the beginning of a book is important to any reader! When I think of formulaic writing and five-paragraph essays, it makes me cringe. When I read the first chapter of this book, I can see how it could be an answer to any essay questions that ask writers to talk about the best day of their lives, or  a time when they experienced a life change. It reminds me of my composition class in high school where we worked on college essays and were told to not write a five-paragraph essay. We were told to write a narrative that spoke to the answer. That is great writing. This is the kind of writing that we love to read but it’s also the kind of writing we want to use as mentor texts for our students.

COLBY:  I was really good at the 5 paragraph essay in high school. When I had to learn to actually write, I realized that I wasn’t very good at writing, but I enjoyed writing a lot more.

JEN: I am lucky that I went to a high school that embraced reading and writing workshop. It helped me become a more creative writer. My dad doesn’t own a restaurant and never wanted me to be in commercials for his business, but I can totally relate to being embarrassed by something my parents did when I was in middle school. It’s inevitable that a parent will embarrass their middle school child. I mean, come on.

COLBY: When I was in sixth grade my mom was hired to be a lunch lady at the middle school where I was going to school. I was mortified. It ended up being really nice to see her for a few minutes each day. My friends didn’t think it was lame. They loved it. Probably because they all got the biggest slices of pizza.

JEN: That sounds way cool now  - and makes me think of Jarrett’s Lunch Lady graphic novels - but I can see how as a kid you would be so freaked out by that. I know you are part of a very big family. Do you find yourself relating to any of the experiences or emotions that Fern as one of four children?

COLBY: I think that when you come from a big family it’s always interesting to see which siblings are close. I’m intrigued with Fern’s relationship with Sara. Fern is super close to Holden, and I love how she sticks up for him, but I am very curious to see if her relationship with Sara gets any better as the story progresses.

As an adult, I often look back at my relationship that I had with my sister growing up. I am the oldest of seven. She is three years younger than me and my closest sibling. We were never close growing up and that makes me sad. I’m hoping that Sara and Fern end up being BFFs (I’m not counting on it).

JEN: Sibling relationships are always interesting for me, too. I think it’s amazing how some siblings can be super close and others can not be. I hope I somehow raise my kiddos to be best friends with each other. I wish I could harness that...I’m sure someone has written a book about it. My sister is five years younger than me and we are six years part in school because of her September birthday. We were always in different places in our lives so it was really hard for us to really identify with each other. We are closer now actually but not the talk-on-the-phone-everyday kind of sisters. I know in the end, we will always be there for each other no matter what. I have an older half brother, too. He is ten years older than me and we didn’t grow up in the same households, we would just see each other here and there. We still love each other and have a really strong connection. I am actually closer to him in a sense because he has been married and has had kids close to when I got married and had kids so it’s fun. We are able to talk about those things and relate to each other in a way I don’t with my sister.


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