Interview with an Author: Megan Shull

My ten year old recently read two books by Megan Shull that she would love to recommend to you for the middle grade readers in your life.

After reading THE SWAP, she was delighted to find out that it premiered as a Disney Original Movie and in school, she had the opportunity to create her own commercial. Click on the screen shot to view it.

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BOUNCE  takes place over the course of one day – Christmas Day, to be exact – but it’s not your typical 24-hour story. Frannie Hudson makes one desperate, crazy wish on Christmas Eve to be somewhere, anywhere else but with her busy and distracted family. And it works! When she wakes up, she’s dropped into someone else’s life, and it’s wonderful.  There’s only one catch: waking up as someone else keeps happening over and over again.  A celebration of the power of love and connection, Megan Shull’s heartfelt new novel combines the humor of the movie GROUNDHOG DAY with her own signature insight and proves that while we may not get to choose the life we’re given, we absolutely get to decide how we live it (publisher’s review).

BOUNCE is the ideal gift for the holiday season – full of fantastic adventures but woven with a heartfelt message that will stick with readers.

After she read BOUNCE, she had an opportunity to host a Q&A with Megan:

  1. What inspired you to create/write these/your books?

My goal always as I write is for my readers to want to keep the book close, or tuck it under their pillow because the protagonist’s journey somehow helps them (the reader) feel seen, safe, soothed, and—as with my new novel, Bounce—more resilient, and more capable of bouncing back after falling. So, I am always super honored if a reader tells me that one of my books just made them “feel good”—that’s for sure what I’m hoping for.

  1. As a kid, or even as an adult, have you ever wanted to swap lives like Ellie and Jack, or “bounce” into a different one like Frannie? 

Hmmmm. I haven’t wished for a body swap! To me Bounce is more about Frannie really needing to connect with people who can help her navigate her own quite reasonable painful emotions. Through the power of care and connection (from the bounces and the people she meets along the way) and feeling seen and soothed and safe in her body and her mind, she’s able to learn to take care of herself and feel a little bit less afraid and more capable of handling her life—which hasn’t really changed . . . but as you know, Chloe . . . she has!  The Swap and Bounce both have that piece in common which is really learning how to be more yourself by being—for just a little while—someone else.

  1. Did you have a dream to be an author when you were a kid? 

I did not. I wouldn’t have guessed it at all! On that note: I love this sweet, wise sentiment by the poet Mary Oliver—“Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.”

  1. When did you start writing books?

I started writing my first book after earning my doctorate at Cornell.

  1. Do you have any other hobbies? 

I love being outside. The town I grew up in (and still live in today) is stunningly beautiful and teeming with waterfalls, gorges, and secret swimming holes. I had the privilege of having a very outdoorsy childhood and that joy and freedom of exploring independently and being inspired by the sheer physical beauty that surrounds you that (in Bounce) Frannie experiences as Sky, well, I know that feeling and I love that feeling too.

Megan Shull is the award-winning author of five books for kids, including The Swap, now a Disney Channel Original Movie and, Bounce. Megan holds a doctorate in educational psychology from Cornell University, where she also earned her undergraduate degree. Born and raised in Ithaca, New York, Megan lives and writes in her hometown—a small college town surrounded by waterfalls, quiet, rolling hills, and secret swimming holes. 

©2016 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Down the Research Rabbit Hole; Up with Rosalie Gardiner Jones!

March of the Suffragettes: Rosalie Gardiner Jones and the March for Voting Rights

Author: Zachary Michael Jack

Publisher: Zest Books

Date: September 27, 2016

March of the Suffragettes tells the forgotten, real-life story of “General” Rosalie Gardiner Jones, who in the waning days of 1912 mustered and marched an all-women army nearly 175 miles to help win support for votes for women.  Most of us know about Susan B. Anthony and her fight for women’s right to vote, but few of us know about Rosalie Gardiner Jones.  The author of March of the Suffragettes, Zachary Michael Jack, tells us a little bit about how he learned about Rosalie Gardiner Jones.

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Over the past week, as I’ve taken my new book, March of the Suffragettes: Rosalie Gardiner Jones and the March for Voting Rights into schools and bookstores, readers keep wanting to know: how on earth did you discover Ms. Rosalie Gardiner Jones?! Rosalie, it seems, has surprised and delighted them as much as she did me, hiding out in right there in plain sight in the pages of history.

I only wish I could tell them in the fifth grade—when I was taught the remarkable story of “General” Rosalie Jones and the all-woman suffrage army she mustered and marched 175 miles, through the dead of a New York winter, when she was still in her twenties. I wish I could tell them that a well-meaning high school teacher, sensing my love for the revolutionary and the brave, tipped me off, almost conspiratorially with a nod and a wink and a go-forth-my-child, to research the amazing story of Rosalie and Ida Craft and Lavinia Dock and Jessie Hardy Stubbs for an upcoming research paper.

Instead, I’m left to confess the sad truth—that beyond Susan B. Anthony no one in my excellent public schooling taught me the noble truth of the votes-for-women movement and its amazingly contemporary advocates and their advocacies. That, I suppose, is part of the amnesia we suffer as a country where our foremothers are concerned.

The real story of how I came to learn about Rosalie Gardiner Jones and her remarkable march (at the time, probably the longest sustained women’s rights march in all of American history) is far more prosaic then that: I virtually stumbled into her in the dusky dustbin of history while researching female farmers and agrarians for a previous book: The Midwest Farmer’s Daughter: In Search of an American Icon. It turns out that a number of leading early feminists had rural backgrounds or rural interests, including the likes of Jane Addams and Frances Willard. So, as the saying goes, way led on to way—down, down, down and back up the research rabbit hole again—and suddenly, standing on the shoulders of these great women agrarians, I could see the distant figure of General Jones and her heroic army marching toward me…at least metaphorically.

As a writer and researcher, I believe in walking through the looking glass with both your notepad and your mind open, moving laterally, joyously, from one research find to another—something the Internet (the smart-as-a-whip “Aunt Google,” as I sometimes call her in classes) makes not only enlightening but enjoyable. While my otherwise fine fifth grade history class failed to introduce me to the proud, fightin’ spirit of my suffrage foremothers, it did, in my epic research paper on Maine, at least show me the vertigo-inducing, chutes-and-ladders feeling of historical research at its finest and most life-giving. That’s the breathless feeling I hope I’ve at least partly bottled in March of the Suffragettes: Rosalie Gardiner Jones and the March for Voting Rights. May it march on to the most unexpected places.

Disclosure:  I received a copy of the book from the publisher for review.

Zachary Michael Jack is an award-winning author and editor of over twenty books, a former youth and bookmobile librarian, and the lead instructor for a popular writers’ workshop for tweens and teens, the Master Class for Young Writers. An associate professor of English at North Central College, he teaches courses in Leadership, Ethics and Values, and Writing for Social Change. His latest book, March of the Suffragettes, was recently selected by the American Booksellers Association (ABA) for its Best Books for Young Readers 2016 catalog.

 

DIVE! by Deborah Hopkinson Blog Tour #diveblogtour

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Author: Deborah Hopkinson

Publisher: Scholastic Press (September 27, 2016)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0545425581

Using first-person accounts, archival materials, official Naval documents, and photographs, award-winning author Deborah Hopkinson details the deadly submarine battles that raged in the Pacific during World War II. 

divefinalcover_large2xDIVE! World War II Stories of Sailors & Submarines in the Pacific  is a teacher’s dream resource.  Weaving first-person accounts, such as,

“We heard noise over to our starboard side. . . You could see a bunch of planes coming in; nobody’s paying attention to it.  Then you could hear what seemed like thundering in the background, which actually were bombs starting to drop at that time,” Martin said.

Hopkinson expertly takes the reader back to WWII from the first bombs dropping on Pearl Harbor, to the cease fire and peace treaty in three hundred pages of exciting, informational, and all too real stories of WWII.

Not only is DIVE! an excellent resource for the content within, but also for writer’s craft.  Hopkinson takes a piece of U.S. history (which is often times very dry within text books) and transforms it into an informational text that is engaging, full of interesting language techniques.

Thanks again to Deborah Hopkinson for appearing.  For other stops on the Dive Blog Tour please check deborahhopkinson.com.

 

Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story by Nora Raleigh Baskin

September 11 was a week ago yesterday and like most people around the country, I remembered that day, fifteen years ago.  Where I was.  How I felt.  But, see, that day is remembered every day by those first responders, families, and children who were directly affected by it. While I wanted to share this on the 15th anniversary of September 11th, or perhaps even leading up to the anniversary, I did not. Partly, because I didn’t get my act together in time, and partly because I think we should remember every day.   So, I share today.

nine-ten-a-september-11-story-9781442485068_hrOver the summer, I read Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story by Nora Raleigh Baskin and I was brought back to that day.  I posted a note to Nora on Facebook and mentioned that the characters in her story were “my kids.”  Between our exchange and her exchange with other teachers around the country, Nora realized that we, teachers in the classroom on September 11th, had an enormous challenge in front of us that day.  In many cases, we had to carry on as “normal,” for our kids.   We had to put aside our personal concerns or contact with family members in order to put on a brave face for the good of our students.  This is what teaching is every day.  We are the caring and kindness that students look for when they walk into the classroom.  We are their safe haven.  We are their security and comfort for 7 hours a day. And so, that is what we do.  We set aside whatever we need to in order to to be that emotional stability for our children.

My own children were not born yet in 2001.  They have no understanding of the events of that day.  They have no idea what a pre-September 11th world was like.  But, it’s books like Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story that can help this generation of children begin to understand.  Nora Raleigh Baskin weaves the stories of four middle school students together with the backdrop of September 11, 2001.  Through this book, children will learn kindness and empathy, while building their background knowledge about the day that our world changed forever.

To help teachers share their stories, and to offer a bit of catharsis, Nora created a blog on her website for teachers to share.  Here is my story:

It began as any other fall day; that gorgeous blue sky and beautiful temperatures. In Montgomery County, MD, just outside the nation’s capital, we were already into our third week of school in my 5th grade class. It was my student Shannon’s birthday, so as students filed in right around 9 am, we wished her a happy birthday and got started on our morning routines. . .  Continue reading

©2016 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

Crenshaw was released in 2015 and many of my book friends highly recommended it out of the gate.  My (then) fourth grader read it last fall and loved it.  So much so that she wrote a review for me to share (last year!).

Crenshaw is a very touching book about when you may need an imaginary friend.  This story all begins with 5th grader Jackson, who loves facts and his imaginary friend Crenshaw. Crenshaw is a giant cat who walks on his hind legs, has black and white fur, and is very crazy. . . does one handed push ups, stands on his head and hangs out in sometimes, unfamiliar places.  Jackson’s family is having money problems AGAIN. Will Jackson’s mom, dad, and little sister Robin have to live in a terrible life again- in  an unexpected place again? Find out in the book Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate!   

I finally read it this past summer and am so glad that I finally did!    In Crenshaw, Katherine Applegate masterfully touches on the emotional topic of homelessness.  Crenshaw is a wonderful book to read aloud to students to build empathy.

©2016 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Publication Date: April 12, 2016

The incomparable Kate DiCamillo has written a deeply personal story of love, loss, and friendship in Raymie Nightingale.  Raymie Clarke comes to the realization that everything depends on her.  Her father has left the family, but she has a plan.  She is going to win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition and when her picture is in the paper, her father will realize what he is missing and come home.

I fell in the love with the character of Raymie.  She is sweet, determined, and just a little bit broken (reminding me a little of me when I was her age).  Her unlikely friendship with Lousiana Elefante and Beverly Tapinski develops over time, and through unusual and semi-traumatic situations.   In the end, the Three Rancheros come to each other’s rescue in the most unexpected ways.

Here is a video of Kate explaining how Raymie came to be:

 

 

 

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review.

©2016 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.

 

Grandad’s Island by Benji Davies

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Publication Date: April 12, 2016

In Grandad’s Island, Davies explores the sensitive topic of losing a grandparent. The story is subtly told, but the illustrations are bright and eye-catching.  Syd’s grandfather lives nearby and Syd can go to his house any time he wants.  One day, Grandad invites Syd to see his attic.  Syd and Grandad end up taking an adventure to a special island.  Once there, Grandad decides to stay and Syd must travel home alone.

I am a huge fan of using picture books to help young children understand sensitive topics.  While Grandad’s Island explores the topic of losing a grandfather, Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs  by Tomie dePaola explores the topic of losing a grandmother (a great-grandmother).

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review.

©2016 by Dawn Little for My Learning Life. All Amazon links are affiliate links and may result in my receiving a small commission. This is at no additional cost to you.