Category Archives: For Teachers

Keys. Journal. Imaginations.

I recently read Wishtree by Katherine Applegate. I loved this story of children creating change in their community through innocent acceptance.

At the heart of story lies a mysterious key. What does it belong to? And, once discovered, what secrets would be revealed from its home?

I was looking for my extra set of car keys the other day, and I came upon these.

23 keys.

They’ve all traveled with us as we moved into our new home six months ago, and yet, not one of them serves a purpose here. Except one, which is to my garage door. I guess I’d better figure out which one that is.

But, where do the rest belong? Their secrets remain with their notched blades, their wards a mystery.

Samar and Stephen, the two young protagonists of Wishtree, discover that their key, bestowed upon them by Bongo, an animated crow, opens a journal which holds a wish from the distant past. Their sleuthing changes the fate of Red, the long-standing neighborhood oak.

The keys now sit on my desk, as I’ve resolved to figure out which portals they fit into, or likely not, before repurposing them. They have found a temporary home next to a journal that is significant to my personal storyline.

It is a journal given to me by my friend Michelle Houts, editor of the Biographies for Young Readers series I’ve written for. My first contribution shares the life journey of Mildred “Millie” Benson, the original ghostwriter of Nancy Drew. The cover and contents of my gift are from The Secret of Red Gate Farm, a Nancy Drew Mystery Story written by Millie. There are lined journal pages in between the text. How cool is that?

I’ve got over a dozen journals, filled with reflections from our family adventures to all 50 states, notes from writing workshops, and musings.

Yet, this one was special, and its purpose needed to be just that.

I’ve determined it is to be my story idea journal. I get inspirations for stories, both imagined and real, daily. My challenge is finding that one, perfect idea, sticking to it, and finishing it.

I’m certain that my fellow Mixed-Up blog contributors are the same. Life presents us with story all the time. And, for those of you teachers and librarians whose days are filled with characters and plots, I encourage you to start writing them down too.

Find that one key that fits somewhere, and explore it. Use it to unlock your imagination and share the journey with children. They need our stories of acceptance, kindness and empathy.

This is my wish and goal for 2018, and it will be discovered in my journal. All I need to do is look, unravel that one unique, shiny, mysterious idea, and then help it find its place in the world.

As for those other keys? This may be their perfect ending.

Paper Love: An Author’s Challenge to Writers of All Ages

Like most authors, I love getting fan mail. I mean, wow! There’s nothing more affirming than THIS:

I’d venture to say that I get more mail than most marginally-known authors. But not because I’m more popular. In fact, sometimes I get letters that ask, “So, what do you do for a living?” You’d think if they’re writing to me, they’d already know. Right?

Not always. Sometimes I do get mail from my young readers. But often, my mailbox is stuffed with letters from those who’ve found the 52 Letters Challenge. Maybe they came across it on my website, in which case they’ve figured out that I’m an author. But sometimes they’ve picked it up from a blog post or by word of mouth. Maybe their teacher has compelled the class to take part. It doesn’t really matter to me how they got the idea to write 52 letters in a year. It matters that they’ve embarked on a writing journey that will make someone’s day. Once a week. For a whole year.

When I started the 52 Letter Challenge, I had no idea how far it would reach. People from Australia, Singapore, and Poland have joined the fun.

Sound do-able? Daunting? Like drudgery?

There was a time when letter-writing was a necessary part of communicating. While writing the biographies of Charley Harper, Dottie Kamenshek, and Emma “Grandma” Gatewood, I depended heavily upon letters written decades ago. Letters to and from and about these individuals provided key information and a unique personal perspective not found in newspaper articles.

A letter from artist Charley Harper to Edith McKee during his years serving in the army during WWII. He called her “Ediepie.”

It makes me wonder how research will be done in the future. With so much communication happening via email and texting, how will those conversations be recovered by researchers? They likely won’t be.  Think of the ideas, feelings, thoughts, reactions, emotions, and responses that will go undocumented. Sure, there will be articles and interviews, but those often contain a person’s most guarded answers to questions.

Next time you decide to send an email of appreciation, consider writing a thank-you note. If you want to text “I love you” to your momma, baby, or sweetheart, by all means, do it! And then put it on paper with a big heart beside it and place it in their hands. I guarantee paper love goes into a box or drawer to be treasured later. E-love will be felt at the time, but it will disappear with the rest of today’s million messages.

A little paper love from my big girl!

Send some paper love to someone today.

 

STEM Tuesday Exploration– Books List

Welcome to January’s STEM Tuesday book list! This month our topic is EXPLORATION! It sounds exciting, doesn’t it? You’ll see that we stretched the concept of exploration to include some unique ideas. We hope that these books launch you off on new adventures.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgSmash! Exploring the Mysteries of the Universe with the Large Hadron Collider by Sara Latta
Discover what happens when two cousins visit the Large Hadron Collider that speeds up tiny particles and then smashes them together in this fun graphic novel.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgThe Search for Olinguito: Discovering a New Species by Sandra Markle
Sandra Markle brings Kristofer Helgen’s discovery of a new, furry, four-legged Ecuadorian  species in this middle grade title. Readers will experience a real-life adventure into a cloud forest.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgDiving To a Deep-Sea Volcano by Kenneth Mallory
Not all volcanos explode lava above ground. Readers of this Scientists in the Field title will discover that most volcanic activity is under the ocean. Explore the ocean depths and discover new worlds with Kenneth Mallory.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgAstronaut/Aquanaut by Jennifer Swanson
Space and sea exploration in one title! This National Geographic title discusses the ways deep-sea and space explorers have to be concerned about the same things — pressure, temperature, climate, and remote places.

 

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgAmazon Adventure: How Tiny Fish Are Saving the World’s Largest Rainforest by Sy Montgomery
Can a tiny fish save millions of acres of Amazon rainforest? Enjoy this adventure story with Sy Montgomery as she travels the Amazon river and rainforest to discover this important ecosystem.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgNational Geographic Kids Ultimate Space Atlas by Carolyn DeCristofano
Kids are the explorers in this collection of amazing maps, including the solar system, deep space, the Milky Way, and the night sky. Written by a STEM educator, this title is perfect for budding astronauts.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgWelcome to Mars by Buzz Aldrin with Marianne Dyson
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin invites readers to explore the universe and imagine living on the red planet.  If you want more on Mars exploration, check out Mission: Mars by Pascal Lee  Readers will discover how they can train to be part of the 2035 mission to Mars.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgWhat a Waste! Where Does Garbage Go by Claire Eamer
If you have ever wondered where your trash goes once it leaves your home then this book is for you. Readers will explore the history of garbage, where it goes today, and why it has become such a problem.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgSeven Wonders of the Solar System by David A. Aguilar
Travel the universe with astronomer David Aguilar in this gorgeous book. Explore the far reaches of our solar system to see the surface of distant planets.  Break through colorful gaseous hazes. This title is published by the Smithsonian Institution and will not disappoint.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgScience Comics: Coral Reefs: Cities of the Ocean  by Maris Wicks
In this latest Green Earth Book Award winning title, Maris Wicks invites readers to explore the world’s coral reefs and their ecological importance. Through fun illustrations and comic cuteness this book delivers some hard-core science. Other titles in this  fun series focus on dinosaurs, volcanoes, and human anatomy.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgNot for Parents – How to Be A World Explorer: Your all terrain training manual by Lonely Planet
How could we not finish up our list with this appropriate how-to book from Lonely Planet? Readers will discover how to cope with extreme cold, navigate through the stars, and how to escape quicksand along with many other explorer necessities. This title touches on many STEM topics in a fun and useful way.

STEM Tuesday book lists prepared by:

Nancy Castaldo has written books about our planet for over 20 years including her 2016 title, THE STORY OF SEEDS: From Mendel’s Garden to Your Plate, and How There’s More of Less To Eat Around The World, which earned the 2017 Green Earth Book Award and other honors. Nancy’s research has taken her all over the world from the Galapagos to Russia. She enjoys sharing her adventures, research, and writing tips with readers. Nancy also serves as the Regional Advisor of the Eastern NY SCBWI region. Her 2018 title is BACK FROM THE BRINK: Saving Animals from Extinction. www.nancycastaldo.com

Patricia Newman writes middle-grade nonfiction that inspires kids to seek connections between science, literacy, and the environment. The recipient of the Green Earth Book Award and a finalist for the AAAS/Subaru Science Books and Films Award, her books have received starred reviews, been honored as Junior Library Guild Selections, and included on Bank Street College’s Best Books lists. During author visits, she demonstrates how her writing skills give a voice to our beleaguered environment. Visit her at www.patriciamnewman.com.

Check back every Tuesday of every month:

  • Week 1:  STEM Tuesday Themed Book Lists
  • Week 2:  STEM Tuesday in the Classroom
  • Week 3:  STEM Tuesday Crafts and Resources
  • Week 4:  STEM Tuesday Author Interviews and Giveaways