4th Annual Thanksgiving Author Event: Writing Contest 5th Grade Winners

Bobbie Pyronimg_2533, author of A DOG’S WAY HOME, THE DOGS OF WINTER, and LUCKY STRIKE, and I did a school visit at Trailside Elementary School in Park City, Utah before the Thanksgiving holiday. We hosted a writing contest for the 3rd and 5th graders and judged their entries. Today’s blog post features the 3rd grade winning and finalist entries. Each child was asked to write a Fibonacci poem about Thanksgiving, family, friends or a pet.

Congratulations to Kaleigh for producing the winning entry!

winner-kaleigh

Finalists included Sofia, Izzie, Kaylee, Carson, Garrett, Grace, Carter and Kardin.

finalist-sofia

finalist-izzie

finalist-kaylee

finalaist-carson

finalist-garrett

finalist-grace

finalist-carter

finalist-kardin finalist-kandin

Special thanks to:

All of the kids who participated in the workshop and the teachers who supported them.

Sue Beasom, librarian extraordinaire for inviting us to her school.

Debbie Gonzales for developing the Fibonacci writing exercise.

Anjuli Turner for taking photographs.

Author Interview with Joel ben Izzy: DREIDELS ON THE BRAIN

dreidelsonthebrain_2-18Today I welcome Joel ben Izzy to World Reads. His new book, DREIDELS ON THE BRAIN (Penguin, 2016) would make a perfect gift for middle grade readers and up. With Hanukkah coming up soon it would also make a great Hanukkah gift for any reader interested in a fictionalized coming-of-age Hanukkah memoir!

Where is it set? 

The stories takes place in the suburbs of the suburbs of Los Angeles, over the eight nights of Hanukkah, in December, 1971. There are mentions of both Poland and Israel.

In 70 words or less, provide a succinct plot description of your story.

Joel is a “seriously funny looking” twelve-year-old magician trying to survive Hanukkah, 1971. That’s no small task, as the only Jew at Bixby School with a family that’s both mortifyingly embarassing and flat-out broke.

When Joel asks God for a miracle, he has no idea that what’s about to happen him and his family will be far worse than he’d feared – and better than he could have imagined.

Here are some links to reviews you can check out to learn what other people are saying about DREIDELS ON THE BRAIN: 

Amazon has some nice reviews

School Library Journal

Libraries Unlimited (appearing January 1, 2017) offers this book blurb:

“This fresh, fast-paced read is a must purchase for any middle school collection… HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

How are you connected to the setting of your story?

This being a fictionalized memoir, it’s the home and city where I grew up, in the suburbs of the suburbs of Los Angeles.

What inspired you to write this story?

Hanukkah is such a quirky, often overlooked holiday, I wanted to write a story that captures that sense of finding light within the darkness.   Digging into my past as a nerdy kid magician, I found one story I’ve always loved – about an orange – that became the inspiration for this book.

What was the biggest challenge you had writing your story? How did you overcome it?

I’m a professional storyteller, so telling stories in person comes easily to me. The hard part is getting them to sound right – and still be funny – when I write them. I found it took draft after draft after draft, the help of my editor – and a great deal of input from my wife, a gifted wordsmith.

What kind of story can we expect next from you? Is it set outside of the United States? If so, where? And what is it about?

I’ll be telling all kinds of stories in the weeks and months ahead – from China, Ireland, Israel, Mexico and everywhere in between. As a storyteller, that’s what I do.

As for writing, I’m playing with some ideas about a story like this, that would have one foot in that same suburb, another in Paris, and a third in Israel…

joelbenizzy_ahrigoldenWhat else would you like us to know about you or your story?

This is my second book. The first was The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness (Algonquin, 2003). Though a memoir for adults, it’s also great for older kids, from about 12 and up.

Weaving together folktales from my travels around the globe, it recounts the journey that began when I awoke from surgery to discover I could no longer speak.  At first doctors thought it was temporary, but later they decided it was permanent, and so it was that I fell into a story as strange as any I had ever told.  It was filled with twists and turns including the most surprising all – the return of my voice, long after I had given up hope.

I also have CDs of my stories – you can see them on my web site as well. They have stories from China, Poland, Israel, Ireland, England, Italy and many other places.

Can you remember the first book that made an impact on you? And why?

Though not the first, I remember spending a summer reading The Wizard of Oz series from first to last. I loved traveling to that world.

Readers can learn more about Joel ben Izzy by checking out his webpage or connecting with him on Facebook. Thank you for joining us on World Reads, Joel ben Izzy. Your book is a one-of-a-kind coming-of-age Hanukkah story that I enjoyed reading and recommend highly. Good luck with it and look forward to other books from you and your wife, Taly.

 

 

Q and A with Sherry Weaver Smith: THE WOLF AND THE SHIELD

Sherry Weaver Smith The Wolf and the Shield BOOK COVERToday I welcome Sherry Weaver Smith to Dog Reads, a blog that features interviews with authors who’ve written a canine story for kids or young adults. What is the title of your book? Pub date and publisher? Genre? Targeted age group? Illustrator?

The Wolf and the Shield: An Adventure with Saint Patrick, Pauline Books and Media, January 2016, Ages 8-12, Nicholas McNally Illustrator

AOB: Who is your key dog character(s) and what kind of dog is he/she? Feel free to list as many different breeds or mixes as necessary. Tell us a little more about him/her.

Aisling is an orphaned Gray Wolf pup, who likes to chase after anything that makes a sound, falls asleep quickly after playing, and curls up when she’s cold. She has light gray fur like birch tree trunks mixed with the soft white of a snowy path on the way to an adventure. She lives in 5th century Ireland.

AOB: In 70 words or less, provide a succinct plot description of your story.

Ever since Kieran’s father’s death, he’s tried to take care of his mother and little brother. When Saint Patrick helps him to rescue a wolf pup, his choices become more difficult. Should he leave home to join Carrick’s warriors? Will someone discover the wolf he’s been hiding and kill it? Join Kieran as he cares for the orphaned pup and searches for a shield strong enough to protect everyone he loves.

Links to reviews or blurbs.

AOB: What inspired you to write this story?

I found an article that described how Celtic saints turned to animals as friends when they couldn’t find their way. At other times, they saved animals at a point in history, where unlike today, it wasn’t common to rescue them.

St. Patrick stopped his friends from hunting a deer and her fawn who were resting on a hilltop where the group of men wanted to build a church. St. Aidan protected a hungry wolf by feeding it meat that the saint needed for himself. St. Melangell saved a hare from a hunt by hiding the fleeing animal in her robes. Sometimes, saints needed saving. Otters protected a saint, Cuthbert, so absorbed in prayer that he found himself over chilled in the North Sea. The furry creatures wrapped around his legs.

I was inspired by these caring people, who had so little but often were willing to give that away to animals.

AOB: What was the biggest challenge you had writing your story? How did you overcome it?

My biggest challenge was also the most fun: trying to imagine a story while also making sure it was historically accurate. I faced an exciting pile of books to do research regarding St. Patrick’s spirituality, plants and animals, customs, tools, food, and many details of 5th century Ireland.

AOB: What other YA/MG books have you written? Do any of them feature a key dog character? If so, which ones?

What are these stories about?

The Wolf and the Shield: An Adventure with Saint Patrick is my first book.

AOB: What kind of story can we expect next from you? Is it about a dog? If so, what is it about?

My next book, Search for the Hidden Garden: A Discovery with Saint Thérèse, will be published in August 2016. In the story, ten-year-old Charlotte and her friends think they are only looking for adventure when they happen upon a hidden garden. But they find much more than they expected—and face a threat to the trees themselves. Can Thérèse, an extraordinary fifteen-year-old girl preparing to become a Carmelite nun, help Charlotte to find the true treasure hidden inside the garden? And will Charlotte discover the mission she’s been on all along?

AOB: What else would you like us to know about you or your story?

It might seem hard for children to relate to St. Patrick, who lived so long ago. He had the courage to return as a priest to Ireland, where he had been a slave. For many Catholics, he is a symbol of having courage to follow God no matter what.

But I think children, by tapping into their deep compassion for animals, can relate to this story of St. Patrick, Kieran, and a wolf pup. Taking care of a pet is one of the earliest ways that kids show kindness and responsibility—all on their own—even at the risk that those first friends may become sick, hurt, or even die. Children show great courage when they journey through pets’ lives and end of life, and kids connect with Kieran, across time and across place, in this universal story.

AOB: Can you remember the first book that made an impact on you? And why?

Yes, Where the Red Fern Grows. I didn’t have a dog as a child (I had a cat), and I never had to move to a different home. But I still understood the beauty of a red fern shading the graves of two beloved pet dogs when a boy has to leave that place behind when his family moves. The title of Where the Red Fern Grows points to the way places can hold memories. As a writer now, I’m still looking for red ferns. I’ve written a series of poems for adults about graveyards that wonder about the stories memorialized there.

Sherry Weaver Smith AUTHOR PHOTOAOB: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

For me, the best part about creative writing is creativity—finding ideas! Ban writer’s block by:

  1. Carrying a 3×5-inch blank notebook or your phone to record your ideas—at all times.
  1. Collecting images of things that you like for your story: in newspapers, magazines, your own photos, or online.
  1. Lining up a playlist that evokes the characters of your story in their world. When I was first writing, I lived in bright California surrounded by brown hills. Kieran in The Wolf and the Shield protects his tiny wolf pup in a dark oak forest. So, I found lots of songs, like a movie soundtrack, that echoed this landscape.

Readers can learn more about Sherry Weaver Smith on her web page or by following her on Twitter. Thank you Sherry Weaver Smith for joining us at World Reads! Thank you Sherry Weaver Smith for joining us at Dog Reads!

Q and A with Sherry Weaver Smith: SEARCH FOR THE HIDDEN GARDEN

Sherry Weaver Smith SEARCH FOR THE HIDDEN GARDEN BOOK COVERToday I welcome Sherry Weaver Smith to World Reads, a blog that features interviews with authors who’ve written a story set outside of the United States for children or young adults. What is the title of your book? The pub date and publisher? Genre? Targeted age group?

Search for the Hidden Garden: A Discovery with Saint Thérèse, Pauline Books and Media, August 2016, Ages 8-12, Rebecca Thornburgh Illustrator

Where is it set?

Lisieux, Normandy, France

In 70 words or less, provide a succinct plot description of your story.

In a school in France, a ten-year-old girl finds a treasure map to a hidden garden and four special trees inside. With the help of her friends and a prayerful older girl, Thérèse, she works to uncover the mystery. But when she leaves one classmate out of the adventure, danger comes to the garden. Can Thérèse help Charlotte to understand the real mystery—and will it protect the trees?

 Links to reviews or blurbs 

How are you connected to the setting of your story?

First, I am connected to the setting since it was the home of St. Thérèse. Although she spent almost her whole life in the town of Lisieux, and the end of it in just one building, a Carmel or convent, she believed she was helping the whole world through her prayers. Just as reading this blog or books about the world connects us to different cultures, Thérèse really did feel that her faith was relevant not just to the Sisters she knew, or people in Lisieux, or in France, but everyone in the whole world. So in writing, I have had to have the belief, that although I could not be in France, I could somehow describe the place and time of Thérèse by reading research and her autobiography.

Second, I received the great gift of gaining ideas from Genevieve Sauvage, a curious and delightful French citizen who has spent many years sharing French culture and language with all who are interested. She is married to my father-in-law, the grandfather of my twelve-year-old daughter. The couple lives in France, and Genevieve shared many nuances of French language, customs, and nature with me to add to my prior travels in the country.

What inspired you to write this story?

I started to become inspired to write the story as a search for a hidden garden and as a treasure map when I began reading The Story of a Soul by St. Thérèse, which is her autobiography. On a huge piece of paper, I wrote and drew beautiful images and words from the book, such as an apricot, “fields enameled with cornflowers,” fir trees, the swing at her childhood home, and swirls of snow. What I created from her words looked like a garden full of fruits and fun places for children.

Then one afternoon, a friend of my daughter brought over a treasure map she’d found at a garage sale. As the two girls started making up stories about the dusty map and began digging in my backyard, I looked at what I’d drawn and decided on a plot for my own story.

What was the biggest challenge you had writing your story? How did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge was that St. Thérèse became a nun at the age of 15. When she went into the monastery, she didn’t speak with many people in the outside world. My characters are children so for them to become friends with her, Thérèse would need to be quite young, too. But as a child, she wouldn’t be able to share much of her spirituality. I overcame this by making Thérèse age 15, just at the point of almost entering Carmel. In the novel, she shares some of her core ideas, but of course, historically she hadn’t created most of her theology by age 15.

What kind of story can we expect next from you? Is it set outside of the United States? If so, where? And what is it about?

Yes, I am working on another “Friends with the Saints” story set outside the United States, this time in Norwich, England, a country I’m most comfortable with out of the three I’ve written about.

The novel doesn’t have a title yet. Set in the medieval period, a young girl tries to save her family’s bakery (targeted by a shady guild) by going on a quest set by holy woman Julian of Norwich, but her friend, the son of a fisherman, inadvertently causes disasters when he tries to help.

What else would you like us to know about you or your story?

In Search for the Hidden Garden, a gardener who works at a large mansion, Jean-Marc DuBois, created the map and planted all the flowers and trees for children to solve and enjoy. Many years later, when Charlotte finds the map, Monsieur DuBois has lost much of his memory, and the garden itself becomes his history, a way of showing what has been important to him.

My Uncle David inspired this character. My uncle didn’t have any problems with his memory, but he passed away at a young age, much too young. Still many children remember the model train displays he created to share with everyone each Christmas on his land in a rural area of Ohio. Beyond books, there are so many creative ways to share with, and inspire, children—holiday lights, the sets of school plays, the food and games at backyard birthdays.

Sherry Weaver Smith AUTHOR PHOTOCan you remember the first book that made an impact on you? And why?

Yes, I love Where the Red Fern Grows since it evokes a sense a place in a poignant way. I didn’t have a dog as a child (I had a cat), and I never had to move to a different home. But I still understood the beauty of a red fern shading the graves of two beloved pet dogs when a boy has to leave that place behind when his family moves. The title of Where the Red Fern Grows points to the way places can hold memories. As a writer now, I’m still looking for red ferns. I’ve written a series of poems for adults about graveyards that wonder about the stories memorialized there.

Readers can learn more about Sherry Weaver Smith on her web page or by following her on TwitterThank you Sherry Weaver Smith for joining us at World Reads!

Author Interview with Janet Fox: THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLE

Janet Fox THE CHARMED CHILDREN OF ROOKSKILL CASTLEToday I welcome Janet Fox to World Reads, a blog that features interviews with authors who’ve written a story set outside of the United States for children or young adults.

Janet, what is the title of your book? The pub date and publisher? Genre? Targeted age group?

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle, March 2016, Viking. Middle grade, ages 10+

Where is it set?

Mostly Scotland, though it begins in London.

In 70 words or less, provide a succinct plot description of your story.

When Kat Bateson and her brother and sister are sent to a Scottish castle-turned-school at the start of World War 2, they believe it will be a refuge from the London Blitz bombs. But the castle is creepy; spies may be in hiding; and the Lady who runs the school is not what she seems – and Kat discovers that all the children are in mortal danger.

Link to reviews or blurbs readers can check out to hear all of the great feedback Janet’s book is getting.

Here’s a link to a starred review from Kirkus.

How are you connected to the setting of your story?

I’ve been to Scotland several times, and my mother is first generation American, from England.

mqdefaultWhat inspired you to write this story?

An image of a chatelaine that I saw on the internet inspired the story. I was online – just hanging out – when a friend of mine posted a picture of a piece of jewelry. I stared at it, instantly mesmerized. It was a 17th century German chatelaine with 12 charms, and those charms looked weird. The more I stared the weirder they looked.

At that point, the entire novel came into my head, almost complete – including the setting and time period, and most importantly Kat, my main character. I wrote the first draft really fast – although it went through a long revision process.

Janet Fox Author PhotoWhat was the biggest challenge you had writing your story? How did you overcome it?

The multiple points of view were tricky to handle. I moved things around until I thought they made sense. In the end, I printed out each POV, laid them out in a long hallway, and shifted them until the story was coherent.

What kind of story can we expect next from you? Is it set outside of the United States? If so, where? And what is it about?

I’m working on a possible sequel, still set in Scotland, still in Rookskill Castle. It’s a continuation of Kat’s experiences with magic and World War 2.

What else would you like us to know about you or your story?

I feel very connected to Kat, who struggles with reconciling her practical nature with the possibility of magic in the world.

Can you remember the first book that made an impact on you? And why?

C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books! And they directly inspired this book, with their blend of fantasy and history.

You can learn more about Janet Fox and her wonderful books on her webpage or follow her on Facebook, and Twitter.  

Thank you Janet for joining us at World Reads! I’m super excited to read CHARMED! It’s at the top of my pile of nighttime reading books. Congratulations for all the well deserved accolades your book is receiving.

 

All materials © 2016 Annemarie O'Brien. Web site by Websy Daisy. Illustration © 2013 by Tim Jessell