Laura Amy Schlitz

A few weeks ago I had the honor of hearing Laura Amy Schlitz speak about her Newbery win for Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village (out in paperback on December 23).  WOW!  If you have the opportunity to meet Ms. Schlitz or hear her speak, you must must must do it!  

Ms. Schlitz began her presentation by walking onto the “stage”, removing her shoes, and performing Giles’, the beggar’s, monologue from her Newbery-winning book.  Man, can that woman act!  She had the room full of librarians and teachers rolling in the aisles.  Her students are so lucky to have her.

She then spent the rest of her presentation talking about her writing career and the pinnacle- her Newbery win.  I was shocked to find that she had written a novel under a pseudonym in 1990.  She then assumed she could get anything published, and proceeded to write her dream novel, a huge tome of historical fiction; The Nightingale’s Cage, 700 pages.  Sadly, it never found a publisher.  During this time, she wrote the monologues for Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village in 1996 while waiting to hear back from publishers about her dream novel.  The monologues were written for her students and never intended for a wider audience,  When her dream novel was rejected over and over, she gave up on the publishing industry.  She especially knew that no one was interested in a childern’s book about medieval times told in dramatic verse.  

Inevitably, she was told year after year that the childrens’ performances were wonderful and that she should really try to get the monologues published.  When she finally decided to send out the manuscript, it was only to prove everyone wrong.  That way she would be able to say, “See, no one wants it”.  So, she sent out 11 copies to various publisher (which she named) and was stunned to receive an acceptance email from Candlewick.  She then imitated her reaction, which included bounding down the school hallways due to excitement!  Of course, it took years for the book to come out, and in the meantime she published other novels.  But when the book was published, and Newbery buzz started building, she honestly did want to win the award and woke up at 4am the morning of, hoping for a phone call!

Laura Amy Schlitz was a phenomenal speaker and I can not recommend her enough.  Her honest description of winning Newbery was refreshing and thrilling to experience vicariously through her.  Her performance of Giles’ monologue was flawless and full of laughs.  And she was extremely sweet when she held the book signing at lunch later that day.

Tween Book Buying Guide for the Holidays- The Realistic Fiction Fan

Realistic fiction is always the most popular genre in my classroom.  Middle schoolers love to read about other middle schoolers!  Some of the most popular choices in my classroom would invariably make great gifts!

  • Stanford Wong Flunks Big-time , Millicent Min, Girl Genius, and So Totally Emily Ebers by Lisa Yee- This series by Lisa Yee is always popular.  Everyone can identify with one of the main characters, whether it’s Millicent, Emily, or Stanford.  And kids love that the same story is told, but from the perspective of each character.  It makes each book just different enough from the last one while still retaining that familiarity that is so important for a lot of my readers.  Plus, Lisa Yee is hysterical!

 

  • Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshis- A personal favorite, Emma Jean represents that kid everyone remembers from middle school- lacking certain social skills, reveling in being different, and getting into everyone’s business. And her classmate, Colleen, is the girl who just wants to be popular, even if some of the “popular” ways go against her sweet and compassionate personality. A gentle read, this novel is perfect for fans of realistic fiction about middle school.

 

  • The Graduation of Jake Moon by Barbara Park- A word of warning- this is a sad book! However, it’s always a popular choice for boys and girls alike. This short novel deals with Jake’s relationship with his grandfather as his Alzheimer’s slowly worsens. You meet Jake when he is in third grade and follow him through eighth grade. He starts out looking after his grandfather an hour a day, a job that becomes more and more burdensom. He is embarrassed by his grandfather’s increasingly erratic (and sometimes crazy) behavior. Looking after his grandfather slowly alienates him from his friends, as he is embarrassed to have them see his grandfather. This is an issue a lot of kids deal with these days, and this slim novel is heavy-hitting.

 

  • Rules by Cynthia Lord- This is a powerful story about a young girl whose brother is autistic. Twelve-year old Catherine tries her best to help David get along in the world, developing lists of rules for him to follow. However, while she loves her brother, she is trying to live her own life, too. When a new girl moves in next door, Catherine isn’t sure she wants her to know about David. A great novel to introduce autism and special needs to tweens, this isn’t a preachy story and my students love it!

 

  • The Landry News by Andrew Clements- Andrew Clements is probably the most popular author in my 6th grade classroom. While all of his novels are a hit, this one is particularly popular this year. Mr. Larson has taught for 20 years and he’s burned out. So he decides to let his fifth graders do a project on their own while he sits back and relaxes. So when a student, Cara Landry, writes a newspaper with an editorial about the lack of teaching going on in room 145, the former “Teacher of the Year” gets very upset. Realizing that the girl is stating the truth, he starts a unit on journalism and the class enthusiastically begins a newspaper. The newspaper is a huge success. However, when she allows a very personal story about divorce to be printed, the principal sees it as an opportunity to get rid of Mr. Larson. A great story about the First Amendment, kids can’t put this down!

 

 

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