Bookworm Camp Day 3

We had another book-filled day at bookworm camp!  We continued talking about Breadcrumbs this morning and had a great conversation about Hazel and Jack. It led to researching Montessori schools, forest kindergarten, school closings in Minnesota, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Hans Christian Anderson, and age-appropriate behavior. We talked for close to an hour! Then we watched Pixar’s “The Little Match Girl” short from a few years ago.

After that, we dove into learning about how books go from an idea in someone’s head to the printed book in the bookstore. We talked about agents and slush piles, editors and publishing houses. Then I shared Kate Messner’s Revision Gallery presentation with them.  They sat at the tables in amazement as we looked at the revision process through the eyes of real authors.  None of the campers had any idea that authors spend months revising their work. And they felt better about their own writing when they saw the grammar edits and “show don’t tell” comments on many of the drafts.  I can’t thank Kate enough for the presentation because it is always enlightening for my kids.

Once again, we read  30 pages of Liar & Spy before lunch.  I can’t recommend it enough. It’s a great read aloud for middle school students!

After lunch, we spent an hour reading our own books.  It was absolutely glorious.  When I announced that it was time to move on, they actually groaned!  It’s a dream spending time with students who love reading this much!

Finally, we watched most of Chip Kidd’s TED talk, “Designing Books is No Laughing Matter. Ok, It Is“.  (There are no words to describe my love affair with TED talks.) Chip Kidd is a well-known and respected book cover artist and his TED talk is funny and thought-provoking.  The campers really loved it and we had a great conversation about book design afterwards.  I shared this tumblr with them and we discussed redesigning book covers for new generations.  And we took a look at some of Melissa Walker’s Cover Stories to learn about the process behind some of their favorite books.  I think they learned a lot and they really enjoyed it.

Looking forward to continuing with my campers tomorrow.  This week is flying by!

 

Bookworm Camp Day 2!

Today was our second day of bookworm camp and it was fabulous!  The campers started the morning with a creative writing activity, writing a diary entry from the viewpoint of a character who just woke up in a post-apocalyptic world.  It was a lot of fun and they did a great job.  I have some very creative campers!

After that we prepared for our Skype visit with Mike Mullin, the author of Ashfall. The campers were very excited because none of them had ever experienced an up-close-and-personal chat with an author before.  Or, as one of them said, “with a celebrity!”  We brainstormed some questions, prepared the room, and performed our test call.  That’s when I realized that we didn’t have a microphone!  Thankfully, it only took a quick call to the IT department and they raced up with a boundary microphone for us to use.  The guys who helped me were wonderful and could not have been more helpful.  (Thanks, guys!).  And then, we were ready!

The interview went off without a hitch.  Mike Mullin was engaging and kept the kids laughing and asking questions.  When he first popped on the screen the kids all exclaimed, “Wow! That’s a lot of books!”.  Mike laughed and then moved the webcam around, pointing out his huge TBR pile, his research bookshelves, and his library books.  He also explained that there were many more bookshelves in other areas of the house.  The kids loved that.

Mike started by talking a bit about Ashfall and telling us how he came to write the book.  He showed us his container of volcanic ash and told us about the road trip he took to trace the journey that Alex and Darla embark upon in the book.  That really impressed the campers.  Then, he read to us from Ashen Winter, the upcoming sequel to the first book.  The campers loved hearing the first chapter before it’s really “out there” for the public.  Plus, it’s great to hear the characters voiced the way that the author imagines them.

After that, Mike took questions from the campers.  At first, they were a bit shy, but they slowly opened up.  Mike was so engaging that they couldn’t help it!  He answered questions about how he wrote the book, his outlining process, where he is with the third book in the series, how books are titled, the inspiration behind some characters in the book, and lots more.  It as enlightening and the kids really got into it.  And of course, one of my boys asked if Mike plays World of Warcraft (Alex plays in the book) and was thrilled when Mike said yes.  His street cred went way up when he got deep into conversation with my camper about where he left off in the game.  Talk about authentic!

We talked to Mike way longer than we should have and I felt bad for taking up more of his time than we should have. But Mike was extremely gracious and continued interacting with the campers for a few more minutes.  I can not recommend his book enough and if you get a chance to Skype him into your classroom or library you should do it!!

After our Skype call we did a bit more of our read aloud, Liar & Spy before lunch.  The kids are really into the book, which I knew would happen!  But we had to cut it short to make it to lunch in time.

After lunch we took about 45 minutes to read our books, which was heavenly.  :)

We ended the day talking a bit about our next book, Anne Ursu’s Breadcrumbs. I’m looking forward to digging into fairy tales a little more tomorrow.

As the day ended, one of my campers turned to me as she was walking out the door. “I don’t think it’s sunk in yet that I got to talk to a real author today. Like, a real celebrity. It’s the coolest thing that’s ever happened to me.” With a smile, she glided out of the room. Let me tell you, I spent the rest of the day smiling! This camp is AWESOME!

Bookworm Camp Starts!

Today was the first day of camp!  I am thrilled to be running a “camp for bookworms” through my local community college.  Last fall I read about Thalia Kid’s Book Club Camp at Symphony Space in New York City.  I was immediately overcome with jealous because that camp sounded like my dream as a kid.  A place to read books and talk about more books?  HEAVEN!

When my local community college campus sent out an email looking for counselors and camp ideas, I decided to throw my idea out there.  A camp for bookworms that would be aimed at middle school students.  To my surprise, they loved the idea!  Then I spent a few months picking three books for the students to read before coming to camp so that we could focus on them during the week of camp.  It was very tough, but I finally chose Mike Mullins’ Ashfall, Anne Ursu’s Breadcrumbs, and Karen Sandler’s Tankborn. My goal was to choose awesome, well-written books that the campers most likely would not have read before.

Today was our first day of camp and it went really well!  I have a small group of students, and an even mix of boys and girls.  They are all entering 7th or 8th grade and they are avid readers.  We started out by introducing ourselves and talking about our book preferences this morning.  I have a paranormal fan, action fan, humor fan, romance, classics, and lots more.  One student is currently reading Sherlock Holmes while another is working on his own novel.  I’m very impressed!  We also had a great discussion about e-readers.  I was surprised to hear that most of the students do not use e-readers, and if they have one it was usually a gift.  Those with gifted e-readers said they use them to read classics or free stories/novels posted in the e-bookstore.  In fact, they were pretty big fans of self-published shorter works.  That’s a first for me!  But they were unanimous in declaring their love for paper books.  E-readers were more of a matter of convenience, used on vacations or while waiting around in places without reading material (usually a phone was used in that case).

We spent today talking about Mike Mullins’ Ashfall, in preparation for s Skype call with him tomorrow morning.  The kids can’t wait to chat to Mike Mullins after our talk today.  We discussed our favorite parts of the books, how we might react in the event of a supervolcano reaction, and other book recommendations for those who enjoyed Mike Mullins’ Ashfall.  After lunch, we watched a 30 minute BBC documentary about the Yellowstone supervolcano so that we all have a good grasp on the scientific possibility of an eruption in the next 50,000 years.  That will give you pause!

I also started a read aloud with my campers today.  I wanted a book that we could definitely finish this week, as I don’t want to leave them hanging once camp ends.  The choice was a no-brainer for me.  Thus, we began to share Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead today. It went over really well! We are all looking forward to reading more tomorrow.

It was a fantastic day and time flew by.  I am so looking forward to tomorrow! We will be talking to Mike Mullin, reading our books, enjoying a read aloud, watching some book trailers, writing our own post-apocalyptic scenes, and then we will dive into Anne Ursu’s Breadcrumbs for the second half of the day.  It’s going to be a great week!

As we were wrapping up our day, one of the campers raised her hand.  When I looked over, she quietly said, “This if off-topic, but I just want to say how glad I am that I found this camp.  I love to read and not many teachers encourage me. Most of the time they yell at me to stop reading.  So this camp reminded me that it’s ok to read.”

Well, that just about broke my heart.  She went on to tell me that her 3rd grade teacher caught her reading under her desk and marched over to her, tore the book out of her hand, proceeded to yell at her and humiliate her, and tossed the book to the front of the room.  The worst part?  The camper told me, “I wasn’t mad at her for yelling at me, because I guess I was breaking the rules. But I was so mad at her for disrespecting my book and losing my page when she threw the book. I’ve never been able to forgive her for that.”

I was speechless.  All teachers should be encouraging readers, not humiliating them for reading under their desk, looking for more time to read.  It’s one thing to guide a student back to the topic at hand.  Sometimes it just needs to be done.  But to humiliate a young reader?  To throw their book across the room?  To lose their page?  That’s so disrespectful.  Thankfully, this child was a reader and always will be.  But a more reluctant reader, maybe one who just found that perfect book, might be convinced to never pick up a book again after an experience like that.

And that’s why I am thrilled to be running my bookworm camp this summer.  There are lots of readers out there dying for a space where they can share their favorite hobby.  I am happy to provide that for them.  We have four more days of camp and they are going to be amazing!

Breadcrumbs Blog Tour- Interview with Anne Ursu

Anne, thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed on TheReadingZone blog. I am currently a high school teacher (former middle school teacher), so I don’t read a lot of middle grade novels these days. However, I have been sharing Breadcrumbs with EVERYONE I know. On the first day of school I gave my ARC to one rising sophomore, with a waiting list after her. I know it will be a big hit with my students. I am dying to know what inspired the book. Did the characters come first, or was it the story?

Thank you so much; I’m so happy to hear that! I love that older kids are reading the book. I think reading levels should always begin with a number and end with the words “and up.”

I was actually inspired originally by the fairy tale of “The Snow Queen.” I’d never read it as a child, and when I finally did I was struck by the story of a boy and a girl who are best friends until, one day, the boy changes. This happens all the time when you’re a kid—you lose friends as you grow. But in this case, the girl decides she’s going to get her friend back. I loved that.

Have you always loved fairy tales? Did you find it easier or harder to write with the fairy tale world in mind? In other words, did you feel the already-created worlds fenced you in, or did they leave you free to write even more?

I adored fairy tales when I was young. I had this anthology of Grimm that was my dad’s from when he was a kid, and I read it over and over. I can still remember what that book felt like in my hands. This might be why I think “woods” when I think fairy-tale-world.

When I first read “The Snow Queen,” I actually thought I wouldn’t be able to do a retelling because the adventures Gerda goes on when she’s trying to find Kai are pretty random, and I just didn’t find them that interesting. It was some time before I remembered that part of the deal of writing fiction is you get to do whatever you want.  The fantasy world in Breadcrumbs could have been anything, really—and I decided it would be a fairy-tale world with an Anderson-like feel to it. But I still got to do whatever I wanted in the world—sample from fairy tales and myth, and write my own fairy tales,
too. It was very freeing in the long run.

What was it like to reference so many classic, well-loved books? Did you include your own favorites? And what is your all-time favorite children’s book?

The references to other books came pretty naturally—I knew I wanted Hazel to be a reader, that she would interpret her world through books she’s read, because those stories are really part of the fabric of her universe, and a part of how she connects with other people. And of course this meant that Hazel would really be interpreting her world through books I read and loved. Some were favorites from when I was a kid—A Wrinkle in Time, The Phantom Tollbooth. Others are books I love now, like The Golden Compass, When You Reach Me, The Wall and the Wing, and of course Harry Potter.

As for my all-time favorite book, that’s a great question. I have one shelf of books that I saved from when I was a kid—on it are some of the Little House books, Betsy-Tacy, Noel Streatfeild’s Shoes books, A Wrinkle in Time, Understood Betsy, and all of the Anne of Green Gables books. I think Anne of Green Gables probably has to be my life-long favorite, and has certainly formed how I interpret my world. Anne Shirley knew what was important: finding kindred spirits, places that had scope for the imagination, and, of course, spelling your name with an “e.”

Yes!  Anne and I are kindred spirits.  I am a huge fan of L.M. Montgomery.  My Anne and Emily books are some of my most prized possessions!

How do you write? Are you an outliner or a fly-by-the-seat of your pants writer?

By the seat of your pants is the only way to fly! I wish I were an outliner—I think it would save me a lot of time. But I tend to figure out a story by writing it. Sometimes this works, and everything falls into place. Sometimes it’s a disaster. The original draft of The Siren Song, the second book in my trilogy, was a lumpy, sad wreck of a thing, and after I handed in the draft to my editor I’d wake up in the middle of the night with anxiety attacks. During one of these middle-of-the-night sessions I finally figured out how to fix the book—and it involved deleting and completely rewriting the first 200 pages. Which I did. You would think this would be enough to get me to outline. But if you keep learning from experience, how could you ever repeat the same mistakes?

So true!  Now for the most important question: what is your favorite writing snack?

Popcorn. Airpopped, shellacked in I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Butter spray and salt. It’s the key to my productivity. At least that’s what I tell myself.

Anne, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me!  I hope we hear a lot more about Breadcrumbs over the next few months!

On Tuesday, 10/4 at 8pm EDT  Anne Ursu (@anneursu) and Bigger than a Bread Box author Laurel Snyder (@LaurelSnyder) will participate in a chat hosted by the incomparable Paul W. Hankins (@PaulWHankins), called “Magic is Real: Magic, Fantasy, and Realism in Middle Grade” under the hashtag #magicisreal.  Be sure to stop by and join in! 

Additional Breadcrumbs Blog Tour Stops

Tuesday, 9/27 – Review and Book Giveaway at Mundie Kids
Wednesday, 9/28 – Review and Skype Giveaway at Great Kid Books
Wednesday, 9/28 – Book Giveaway at 5 Minutes for Books
Thursday, 9/29 – Interview at Bildungsroman
Friday, 9/30 – Review, Guest Post, and Book Giveaway at Bookalicious
Saturday, 10/1 – Interview and Skype Giveaway at Kid Lit Frenzy
Sunday, 10/2 – Review, Interview, and Book Giveaway at The Reading Zone
Monday, 10/3 – Guest Post at Galleysmith
Tuesday 10/4 – Review at Galleysmith
Tuesday, 10/4 – Guest Post, Review, and Book Giveaway at The Book Smugglers
Wednesday, 10/5 – Review and Illustrator Interview at A Backwards Story
Thursday, 10/6 – Guest Post at The Mod Podge Bookshelf
Friday, 10/7 – Interview at Book Rat

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu (Review and Giveaway)

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu is a love song to book lovers.  I first heard about it when a few of my Tweeps mentioned it on Twitter.  When I was lucky enough to receive an ARC from the publisher, I set my other books aside and sank into my couch with it.  A few hours later, I struggled to leave Ursu’s world behind in order to be a functional member of society again.  It’s that good.  Enchanting, heartfelt, sincere, and magical are the only words I can use to describe  Breadcrumbs.

A modern retelling of Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Snow Queen”, Breadcrumbs is the story of Hazel and Jack.  Best friends their entire lives, they are inseparable.  That is until, something happens and Jack begins to change.  No one else notices anything different about Jack and when Hazel tries to point it out, she is only told that sometimes boys and girls grow apart as they grow up.  Luckily for Jack, Hazel doesn’t see this as a valid reason for his sudden coldness and distance.

Hazel finds herself drawn into a fairy tale world full of magic, witches, enchanted flowers, and spells.  I found myself utterly enchanted by Hazel.  She is a real (non-white!) girl experiencing the growing pains of early adolescence.  She is struggling to understand her parents’ divorce.  She has been forced to transfer to a regular public school rather than the creative arts schools she previously attended.  And she doesn’t fit in with new classmates but she is unwilling to compromise her self in order to fit in.

And the geekiness!  Ursu has created a love song for bookworms with Breadcrumbs.  Hazel is a book lover and she views the world through the lens of the books she has read and loved.  Harry Potter, Madeline L’Engle, Rebecca Stead, The Golden Compass, and many more in between.  I loved the obvious and not-so-obvious mentions of books that shaped my own childhood.  Breadcrumbs is just magical.

Highly, highly recommended.  This is being marketed as a middle grade book but I handed it to some of my sophomores and they are raving about it.  I think this is a book the will leap across the divides of gender and age.  It’s a book that should be in all classroom libraries.  The writing is poetic and brilliant and the story is one that wraps you up in its arms and doesn’t let you go until you reach the last page.  Get this one now!  You will want to own a copy before the Newbery Award is awarded this winter.  ;)

Interested in winning a copy of Breadcrumbs?  Walden Pond Press has kindly offered a copy for one reader of the blog!  Simply comment on this post by 10/7 in order to be entered.  Be sure to leave your name and an email address where you can be reached in the event that you win!

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