Category Archives: Children’s Authors

My friend is brave…

I believe all Writers are brave. They are risk takers.  They are hard workers! I respect and admire writers…  and I especially love and respect writers for young peopleRickloveme — the ones who write the books that young people hold to their hearts, and either cry at the endings, or laugh all the way through them! Yes, the ones whose books kids will hunt for, long and hard, because of the one they just read.

Brave writers that are good writers make me wish I were a writer.  This one brave, good, hardworking writer that I want to tell you about is also a generous writer.  He has inspired so many other writer-wannabes, and he has mentored them and cheered them on to their own published books and careers as writers for young people.  My friend, the brave, good, generous writer, rick-soMANYbunnieshas done that for more writers than I even know about…  more than I can count.  I do, however, count this writer as my friend, and I know that I’m not the only one who does.

Meet Rick Walton. rick-walton-05Read his books…  and better yet, enjoy them with a child, or your children, or your classroom full of children.  Rick is a genius…  clever in word play, generous in friendship, caring in his regard for this earth and the people who love and care for it, too. Rick is kind…  and good… and hard working.  And brave.

Learn about RickSIGNINGhow Rick Walton became a writer for children. Be sure to read the paragraph you will find on the left-hand side of the screen!

See how funny Rick Walton is. Really, besides reading his books, you should read every part of his website at http://Rickwalton.com. Each time I look at his website, I find a different section that makes me laugh out loud!  My favorite section – because I teach elementary language arts methods courses — is his section on word play — and all of his amazing word lists!  (Rick is my idea of the perfect language arts teacher!)

Rick is bravely facing big trials and hard things.  I’m not a writer…  but as a lover of writers, this is my shout-out to one of the bravest of them all!  Rick Walton — you are loved!

Submitted by Nancy Peterson, Professor, UVU School of Education. Nancy teaches at Utah Valley University in Orem, UT, and is Co-Chair of UVU’s Forum on Engaged Reading.

All In The Family

What could go wrong?

Yesterday my brother and his wife welcomed their sixth child and my parents’ 20th grandchild into the world. I’m the mother of four of those 20 grandchildren, which makes me an aunt to 16 smallish people. I love being an aunt! Compared to parenthood, it’s a trip to Disneyland. As the oldest of five children, I feel it’s my sacred duty to recount to my nieces and nephews all the hairy details of their parents’ early years. I might embellish a bit from time to time, but it’s mostly all true.

I’m still learning how to be a teacher, but I’ve been a parent for almost 18 years now (how time does fly when you’re having fun!). In thinking about families and teaching, Super Genius 1it occurs to me that families are a child’s first teachers and home her first school. The instructional methods vary widely; there’s no prior-year CRT or curriculum map for a kindergarten teacher to review. Nevertheless, children learn a great deal from their families, and a smart teacher is mindful of the many ways students’ family backgrounds affect an individual student’s educational outcomes and, in a broader sense, the classroom dynamic.

Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Watterson

The summer is fast winding down to a close, and that means it’s time for family reunions. In fact, I’m scheduled to attend one next week. I’m looking forward to watermelon, green grass, delicious salads, sticky children, and clusters of chatty grownups.

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Thinking about the reunion reminded me of one of my favorite children’s books! I read this book for the first time about five years ago, when it came in a group of Newbery-award-winning books I had purchased through school book orders. It’s called The Relatives Came, and it was written by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Stephen Gammell. 

I don’t think it’s the kind of book I would ever have picked up on my own, but the first time I read it to my children, I knew it meant something special to me. The story, told from the perspective of a first-person omniscient narrator, begins by detailing the narrator’s relatives’ long trip from Virginia to visit. The joy experienced by each member of this extended family as they see and greet and love each other again is plainly evident through the pictures and the words.

I can envision this book used as the anchor text for a first-week-of-school lesson plan for language arts. First, ask students if they have ever attended a family reunion, especially during the previous summer. Invite several students to share their experiences. Next, play this YouTube video for your students–it’s a read-aloud of The Relatives Came. Ask the students how the relatives felt about each other and what words the author used to communicate those feelings.

edoutreach_1Next, have the class participate in a graffiti shared-writing experience; you might have different writing spots where students share what family reunions look like, smell like, and feel like. Then assign the students to write about a family reunion they have attended using as many descriptive details and words as they can. Ask them to include a “family picture” that would have been taken at the reunion.

Once the students have completed the assignment, don’t forget to allow a few students to share their stories and artwork with the class, and while they do, emphasize that everyone’s family is different and special because of its unique ways. This lesson is especially effective at the beginning of the school year because some students experience new-school-year jitters, and thinking about their families can bring feelings of comfort and security. Moreover, our students’ families play a dramatic role in shaping their identities, and when we honor their families, we demonstrate that our classrooms are safe places for our students to learn and grow.

More books for celebrating extended families:

Aunt Claire’s Beehive Hair by Beborah Blumenthal, AuntCLAIREillustrated by Mary GrandPré (2007, Pelican);

What a Family! WhataFAMby Rachel Isadora (2006, Putnam)

Me and My Family Tree me & famTREEby Joan Sweeney, illustrated by Annette Cable (2000, Dragonfly Books)

In My Family/En mi familia by Carmen Loma Garza, In-My-Family-En-Mi-Familia-9780892391639illustrated by Annette Cable (2000, Children’s Book Press)

 

Posted by Karen Rapier, an elementary education major at Utah Valley University in Orem, UT

Location, Location, Location!

This weekend, as I write, folks in Orem, Utah (where Utah Valley University is located)orem-utah-420x163 are celebrating the annual “Orem Summer Fest.”  This includes a carnival with rides, food trucks, and craft Summerfest2014booths in a local city center park, a “kick off” parade through downtown, a “cutest baby” contest (and more), as well as a culminating fireworks display.  The Orem High School Marching Band fireworkshas been practicing throughout the neighborhood for two weeks, and I suspect that Mountain View and Timpanogos High Schools have been doing the same thing.

Well guess what?  I thought of a connection to this!  The Orem Summer Fest is all about celebrating what’s great about living in Orem, Utah…  and it made me wonder about fiction for young people that might have their settings in Orem, Utah.  I actually know about one Iforget(and I know the author, too!):  If I Forget, You Remember, by Carol Lynch Williams (Yearling Press, 1999).  I love this book for its plot and characterization as much as I do for its location!

This description is adapted from the hardback book jacket blurb: Sixth grade has just ended and Elyse Donaldson is ready for a perfect summer. She’s going to read her favorite books and write her first novel. She’s even determined to get along with her older sister, Jordyn. But her plans quickly unravel when Granny, whose Alzheimer is getting worse, moves in. Elyse finds change difficult as she watches her beloved grandmother slowly slipping away from them, but she also finds that she is a lot stronger than she knew.

Reminiscing about how much I loved  this book also made me think about a book series that was set in my previous location – Buckhannon, West Virginia.  BuckhannonPhyllis Reynolds Naylor wrote a delightfully funny series of books about the Malloy family (with all girls) who move in across Island Avenue from the Hartford family (with all boys). The take-off from Hatfields and McCoys smallNAYLORgives you a subtle idea about what to expect.  The whole series is a delightfully funny and laugh-out-loud experience – perfect for reading aloud to a variety of ages! My personal favorite will always be the first: The Boys Start the War, but this series could take you 2inONENaylorthrough the entire summer: The Girls Get Even, Boys Against Girls, Who Won the War?,  The Girls’ Revenge, The Boys Return, A Traitor Among the Boys, The Boys Take Control, The Girls Take Over, Boys Rock, and Girls Rule!

Do you know about fiction for young people that has YOUR hometown as its setting location!  Please let us know! Happy “Orem Summerfest,” everyone!

Posted by Nancy L. Peterson, Ed.D., Professor of Teacher Education at Utah Valley University, and Co-Chair of UVU’s Forum on Engaged Reading – “For the Love of Reading”

Demystifying Dyslexia in Literature and Life

Henry Franklin Winkler is not only a well-known American actor (The Fonze, from the hit comedy, Henry_Winkler_Fonzie_1977“Happy Days”), producer, and director, but he is also the author of a critically acclaimed series, Hank Zipzer.  Collaborating with Lin Oliver, who is a writer and producer of movies, books, and television series for children, Henry Winkler has written HankZipperSERIESa series of 17 children’s books about a 4th grade boy who is dyslexic. Winkler, a dyslexic himself, delights his readers in the escapades of his hero, Zipzer, who always manages to get the last laugh. The “world’s greatest underachiever”,  Zipzer  gives those who struggle with reading a reason to laugh at themselves and to find solace in a character in whom they can relate. Shouting loud and clear is the core message that everyone can succeed no matter what obstacle may be in there way.

Winkler himself did not realize he was learning disabled until he was 31 years old when his stepson was tested and diagnosed. This revelation brought him both ahas and relief. Dyslexia was an unhappy part of his childhood, and it was nice to get a label for the difficulty he had in learning when he was otherwise a very bright and intelligent child.  HWtodayMuch like his main character, Hank Zipzer, Henry Winkler is smart, funny and resourceful. Even though fonzauthorhe can tout such tributes as having a star on Hollywood Boulevard, being presented the Order of the British Empire by the Queen of England, and having the jacket he wore as the Fonz in Happy Days hanging in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C., he will tell you that his proudest accomplishment is writing the Hank Zipzer series.

I am a dyslexic. Shoot!  Like Henry Winkler, I didn’t find out I was until I was an adult.  I was in a doctorate program where the science of reading was my focus.  I know, a dyslexic studying the science of reading, seems a little out of place, right?  Right! I was explaining to my professor how I read and she quipped, “That’s not how it works!” What? Yes it is. At least that is how I read.

The conversation wasn’t a complete disaster because it ended up being somewhat life changing. That dear knowledgeable professor promptly led me to Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz.  overcomingDDid you know it comes in an audio format? I purchased the audio tapes and “read” the book going and coming from my home in Las Vegas where I was pursuing my doctorate, to my home in Salt Lake.  As I read I came across a list of clues for dyslexia describing typical behaviors of a dyslexic. I was dumbfounded. I demonstrated all of them. Not one or two, not most, but ALL. I rewound the tape and listened to it again. I got out my printed copy of the book and read, underlined, and flagged the page. THIS explained so many things.

Listen to this! Dyslexia is not just a reading impairment.  It affects the ability to spell (I love spell check!), to retrieve words, spellingto articulate words and to remember certain facts. Impairment is not intellectually based. Just the opposite, those impaired are highly intelligent. (That last part I really like!)  Up to now I had wordsassumed that I just wasn’t as smart as everybody else. I was a hard worker, and I was positive it was my work ethic, not my intelligence, that got me to where I was. My memory was a disaster, especially for proper names or proper terminology.  I was always saying things like the thing-a-ma-bob, or that thing on the you know what, or I can’t remember what it is called but you know… Well come to find out, this tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon is a symptom of a phonological weakness on the left side of the brain we laymen call the language center.  Who knew!

You see, good readers have highly interconnected neural systems that encompass regions in the back and front of the left side of the brain. Most of the reading part of the brain is in the back. brainIn contrast, dyslexics show that their back of the brain has faulty wiring. Neural pathways for them are under activated. This causes them to use other parts of the brain not necessarily equipped well for the reading task. Therefore, they find themselves needing to subvocalize as they read, slowing their reading rate way down. They don’t process words as deeply and as clearly in their lexicon (a fancy word for an internal dictionary of stored words). These poor quality representations make it hard for dyslexics to retrieve words when speaking or to recognize words when reading.

Knowledge is power, and we can take this scientific information and use it to help. So the good news is that the brain can actually be rewired.  Hard to believe but it is true.  Researchers using a functional MRI scanned the brains of struggling readers as they were reading both before and after instructional treatment. What they found is that when dyslexic students were given explicit, multisensory reading instruction in phonemic awareness and phonics that those highly interconnected neural systems start ed lighting up! EUREKA! How exciting is that? Well to me, and the one-in-every-five children who struggle with reading, it is life changing.

As Dr. Sally Shaywitz expresses in her book, dyslexia is no longer a faceless beast causing havoc in the lives of its victims. We now can see the “face of the beast”, and we arewell on our way to taming it and taking command!

This week’w Guest Blogger, Dr. Ann Sharp, teaches literacy in the School of Education at Utah Valley University, Orem, UT.

ann sharp photo

Jumping on the POETRY bandwagon…

I’m not really one for jumping on the bandwagon of national-this-or-that days, weeks or months. I promise…  I don’t even do much celebrating of less-than-national days, such as my grown kids’ birthdays (I live in shame for this), my own anniversary national-poetry-month(I go to therapy for this), or  National Day of Prayer (I go to church for this). However, there is one month-long celebration that I’m all in favor of. I go to great lengths to celebrate this one: National Poetry Month. As a passionate proponent of “doing” poetry with children in order to convince them that words are their friends (and very playful ones, at that), and as a “Ralph Fletcher convert” to poetry writing that every child can do (love, LOVE his book, Poetry Matters: Writing a Poem From the Inside Out), poetry mattersI simply cannot resist building my own “bandwagon” and inviting my students, my family, my friends, and you, Dear Reader, to jump onboard!

Here are three elementary-teachers-should” truths that I know about …poetry cover1.   Elementary teachers should  have favorites – favorite poems and favorite poets.

2.     Elementary teachers should collect brief, clever, and delightful examples of poetry with which they can delight and entertain their students.

3.     Elementary teachers should nurture the natural poets children are, rather than assigning poetry.

Here are three elementary-teachers-shouldn’t” truths (I know these truths, thanks to Mike Tunnell & Jim Jacobs):

1.     Elementary teachers shouldn’t force and over-do poetry memorization & recitation.

2.     Elementary teachers shouldn’t force/assign all students to write poetry (particularly with rigid parameters, no matter how many lines or syllables called for).

3.     Elementary teachers shouldn’t force/assign heavy-duty analyzing of poems for their structures and meanings.

And finally, here are three elementary-teachers-can” truths that I know about poetry:

1.     Elementary teachers can  entice children with contemporary poems with humor and some sort of rhythm and rhyme.

2.     Elementary teachers can  empower children with writing poems when they demand fewer conventions and permit “poetic license.”

3.     Elementary teachers can inspire children as poets when they show them that (Ralph Fletcher’s idea here) writing a poem for someone is like giving blood.  It goes from the heart of the giver to the heart of the receiver. (I know, isn’t that brilliantly poignant?)

Are you ready to put your own poetic license“Poetic Teaching License” to work? Needing ideas for some fresh poetry to delight, entice and empower your students?  mooseThe scope of this blog post cannot include everything I wish teachers could know, understand, and do about poetry.  But I cannot resist an opportunity to unload a few things from my bandwagon, and leave them with you for yours:

Check out the Classroom Bookshelf Blog  and scroll through everything you will need, including book reviews, teaching ideas, and supporting resources.  Be sure to “search” the archives for the many new and wonderful poetry books they have included on their site!  Then…  well, in the words of Beatrice Schenk de Regniers,

“Keep a poem in your pocket and a picture in your head and you’ll never feel lonely…”PocketFULofPOEMS

Posted by Nancy Peterson, Ed.D., Professor of Elementary Education at Utah Valley University, and Co-Chair of “For the Love of Reading” conference. 

I need to read like a boy…

That’s right – I said read like a boy.  I’m a girl, all grown up, having raised a boy who is now all grown up, and I still do not know what it is in a book that will capture a boy’s heart and soul boys1girl lovingBOOKSand help him become a reader for life.  I do know that all three of my girls loved being read to from the first moment I did it.  All I had to do was hold them close, let them see the book, and let them feel my love for them and the words and the illustrations. Once they grew out of my lap for story time, all I had to do was lie down on the living room floor, or the bed beside them, and read. Reading “like a girl” was easy, and I loved it!

My son, however, was a different story.  “On-the- lap” story time for the two of us was short-lived because boyENGINEERI mother_reading_to_baby_boycouldn’t get him to stay there long enough for a story!  He was one of those kids who love taking things apart and playing with all of those parts.  Maybe some of your daughters do that, too, but this was my experience only with my son. I will love Eric Hill Eric_Hillforever.  My discovery of his lift-the-flap books about a puppy called “Spot,” finally did reward me with a daily story in the lap, and together we discovered many other delightful, engineered books. We had just a few weeks of “in the lap” story time. Before long, I passed him off to some wheres-spotwonderful, book-loving teachers who introduced him, Where's SpotINSIDEthrough a journey unknown to me, to fantasy and science fiction, which he continues to read … and write!

Once I passed my son to those teacher-guides, I went back to my own choices for reading, and I never figured out the key to getting real_men_read_sweatshirtguys to read.  I know that guys reading Young_boy_readingis a cause that has been taken up by many authors out there, and I’m willing to take a look at what they have to say, and to learn from them.  But in the end, I really would like to read like a boy.

I found someone to emulate!  In her blog entry on July 15, 2011, Ruth got my attention! (I just love the blog’s title). In this blog entry on “Teaching With Joy and Purpose” I find good company, and an example for my quest to “reading like a boy.” Here are Ruth’s own words:

“What I have realized is that even if I’m familiar with titles and authors and summaries and reviews, truly connecting with readers is hard when you don’t ever read the same kinds of things they do. Besides, my selections for read alouds, book clubs, reading groups and even independent reading suggestions may make it hard for student readers who are not drawn to the same type of reading I am. The other problem is that I end up with very limited experience to draw upon when supporting these readers. I may not understand as a reader how these texts are set up, how the plots tend to work, or what strategies may really help readers navigate and understand and enjoy and share with others what they are reading.”

Ruth is so right!  And she confirms my belief in her as a model to follow by sharing her personal list of books for readingBoys_Reading that summer.  Since at least 1,000 new books for boys have been published since Ruth’s list, I would love to hear about recentBD1234-001.jpg “boy books” that you, readers of this blog, have discovered since 2011.  Please share!

The Toilet Paper Tigers (G. Korman)

Oggie Cooder (S. Weeks)
A Whole Nother Story (Dr. C. Soup)
The Spiderwick Chronicles, Book 1 (H. Black, T. DiTerlizzi)
100 Cupboards (N.D. Wilson)

Fablehaven, Book 1 (B. Mull)                  childrens-books

The Unusual Mind of Vincent Shadow (T. Kehoe)

Powerless (M. Cody)
Stink-o-pedia (M. McDonald)
NERDS: National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society (M. Buckley)

And, if you happen to be in the market for a good, recent list yourselves, consider coming to UVU’s Forum on Engaged Reading this coming September 19th  and 20th in Park City, Utah.  GuyREADINGsteveLAYNESbkJoining us to inspire a love of reading are “boy book” authors and fans, GuysREADatOURconfalong with other great authors and fans, all who desire, as I do, to discover many paths to life-long loving of reading.

Meet Steve Sheinkin… next year!

Because we want to give this year’s audience attending UVU’s Forum on Engaged Reading, a preview of next year’s program, I want to introduce you to Steve Sheinkin, SteveSheinkinone of the Keynote Presenters for UVU’s 2014 Forum on Engaged Reading.  I “found” Steve on Ink Think Tank itt-logo — a great website that is a true “think tank” of nonfiction authors.  In Steve’s bio, he confesses to being a recovering textbook author… whose mission is to simply prove to kids that his­tory is actu­ally cool.”  You’ll probably recognize a couple of his books:  The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story About Adventure, Heroism, and Treachery (Square Fish Publications, 2013) and Two Miserable Presidents: Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn’t Tell You About the Civil War (Roaring Brook Press, 2008).

Notorious Benedict2MiserablePres

Whether or not you recognize those books, you’re sure to be interested in his most recent one, Lincoln’s Grave Robbers (Scholastic, 2013), and the one just before that (a Newbery Honor Book), Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon BombBook(Flashpoint Publications, 2012). These books aren’t “your mother’s nonfiction” — these are “thrillers and adventure stories first” so that Sheinkin’s readers will want to read them!

 lincolns-grave-robbers

Since the Common Core State Standards have shifted the focus of teaching comprehension and writing of complex nonfiction, it’s refreshing to find authors like Steve, who lure kids (and their teachers) in to the wonderful world of facts and details that make history come alive.

If you join us (UVU’s Forum on Engaged Reading) in October of 2014, you’re sure to become a Steve Sheinkin fan, as I have. SteveSgiving.talk In preparing for this blog post, I read a blog post by Sheinkin, himself, where he refers to his writing as detective work.  “… a nerdy kind of detective work,” he says, “but still… My job is to find stories, and I read books to look for clues, follow leads, gather evidence.” Wow, what an example for our students!

I’ll end this blog with just a bit of serendipity: at the end of Sheinkin’s blog post, author Jim Murphy makes a comment…  and guess what?  Jim Murphy is Keynoting this year’s Forum on Engaged Reading (Sept. 19 & 20, 2013).  So, Dear Reader, I hope you have become a believer: our conference — “For the Love of Reading” — is just a gift that will keep on giving, to you and to your students!  See you there!

Posted by Nancy Peterson, Professor of Teacher Education at Utah Valley University, and Co-Chair of UVU’s Forum on Engaged Reading

Every child deserves to find herself beautifully portrayed upon the pages of a book…

I’m changing subjects just a bit… away from Valentine’s Day, but not so far from love. This is because something else that I love a lot has been on my mind lately… that is, picture books on whose pages Children of Color find themselves portrayed, and see their beauty in realism and truth and self-respect – and where children with less variety of pigment to hair and skin and eyes, see children of color as subjects of the world’s finest art and prose and poetry.  Without time and space to share all of my favorites, I present my most recent discoveries, as well as my most long-held favorites, and only briefly share my journey of discovery of this world of appreciation.  

I had no understanding of this exchange between the 3-year-old little girl and her mother sitting across from me as I held my feverish 10-month-old in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. This was more than twenty years ago, when I could still claim the title of “young mother.”  The little girl brought an open magazine over to her mommy to show her the dolly she would like to have. Mommy ripped that magazine out of the little girl’s hands and threw it onto the pile of magazines on a table a few feet a way, yelling, “Don’t you come bringing no white baby over here! You know you not going to get no white trash baby!” I didn’t have any frame of reference or understanding for that exchange.  I was sad and afraid for the little girl because of the angry yelling, and the look of rage in the mother’s eyes.  But I didn’t know what to think of the “white trash” baby doll, as I held my own little baby.        

Years later I would read Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, and take my first step toward an epiphanal journey in coming to understand just a little bit, the heart and soul of that mother in the doctor’s office, that day.  I would also come to notice so many things that were unfair but unnoticed around me, such as calling that one particular color of nylon stockings “nude,” that one crayon “flesh; or the unfairness of my neighbor in West Virginia having to drive 60 miles to get hair product that would work for her hair.  So in order to surround my students, and my future grandchildren with beauty in realism and self-respect in a variety of color of skin and eyes, and texture of hair, and wonderful prose and poetry and truth, I will keep looking for brilliant authors and illustrators, and I will celebrate their work and their talents, and they way they show me the world. As I looked for just the right book to end this with, I found it…  well, I should say, I found the author.  It was Nikki Grimes.  I’ve been collecting her poetry books, her picture book biographies — pretty-much everything I can get my hands on that she writes. I thought I might try to find just one of her poems, perhaps from Thanks a Million, so I did a search on the internet.  What a found instead was her website, and even better — her blog. So here, at the end of my blog post, I introduce you to hers — Nikki Grimes. Please take the time to go to Nikki’s blog and read what she posted on December 21, 2012. Thanks to Nikki Grimes, I found myself, and the feelings of my heart, beautifully portrayed upon the pages of her blog.  I think you might find something of yourself there, too.  Don’t you just love how books and writers and illustrators can do that for us? Don’t you just want to share that with the young people in your life?

 

Sending out Valentines of a different kind…

This year I’m sending Valentines of a different kind…  love letters to a few authors of books for young people that have made me stop and think, “Wow, I love you for saying that!”   I’m sending out what I’m calling “Book-Love” Valentines. My Book-Love Valentine list isn’t nearly as long as my Happy-Holidays card list – which is a good thing because I didn’t even get those cards into their envelopes! But there are a few authors… whose picture books or young adult novels I will forever hold to my heart, for one reason or another (I should say, one child, or one student or another). These authors will be my Book-Love Valentine recipients.

I hope authors hear this kind of thing all of the time, even if it’s not in the form of a Valentine or “love letter.” I do know, in fact, that some of the funniest author talks are when they read letters they’ve received from their adoring fans between the ages of seven and thirteen.   I wonder if I can figure out a way to write a Book-Love Letter in a meaningful way – something that an author would be happy to receive, and not think it was a joke.  (I would just die if I were sitting in an audience and heard my Book-Love Letter read out loud as humorous entertainment!  No, this has to be good! 

Here are a couple of drafts.  What you think?

Dear Sara Pennypacker,
          I wish you lots of love and lovely thoughts this Valentines Day, because you’ve given me (and my students) such wonderful thoughts and discussions as we have gotten acquainted with your darling character, Clementine!  I, with my students, have giggled over her fresh view of her world, and her fearless love of words and ideas, and her ability to always say what she thinks and hopes and worries about.  Every time I read Clementine, I giggle, and I even shed a few tears about her patient and good-natured teachers, and her tender and loving parents.  I just have to tell you that my students and I love you for your writing because through Clementine, we think we are a little better at teaching and parenting than we were before we knew her… and you.

Dear Eileen Spinelli,
I hope your Valentines Day is filled with love and brownies and cards and letters from all the people you love, and even some you don’t know – like me!  I want to tell you about how your book, When You Are Happy has created such a loving bond between me and a grown-up daughter with whom I’ve had some rough road in healing a relationship.  The two of us just seemed to keep “missing” each other, when it came to matters of the heart.  But when we shared your book, and pretended to be younger versions of ourselves for those few moments, we did feel happy! We both knew, again, that there was no one else who knew just the right thing to say, just the way to be, or just the right moment that would heal our hearts… but somehow your book reminded us that we have felt something very much like we this.  We love you for that!

Okay, you get the idea.  I think I need to just get busy and write, now.  It’s kind of personal, this business of writing love letters – even Book-Love letters!  But I will share with you a portion of my list (in no particular order):  Maryann Cusimano Love, Karin Cates, Kadir Nelson, Steve Jensen (Yes, his nonfiction has stirred my soul!), Doreen Rappaport, Jerry Spinelli, Shannon Hale, Carol Lynch Williams…  Oh my goodness!  This could very possibly be as long as my Happy-Holidays card list! 

Posted by Nancy Peterson

Just lucky to get an “I Love You” in edgewise…

As a co-chair of the 2013 Forum on Engaged Reading, it’s my privilege to blog “For the Love of Reading.” I’ve been soaking up a wonderful book that makes me stop at just about every-other page and say, “I wish I had written this!” In the
introduction to What to Read When (Penguin, 2009), Pam Allyn tugs at my heart strings with these words:

Everyday as you pack a lunch, wave good-bye to a school bus, tie a shoelace, braid a ponytail, the words you want to say to your child hum inside:

I love you, be safe,
I love you, be free.
I love you, I love you, I love you,
let the world treat you kindly, come back to me.
Here are the values of my life, our family, here is what I hope for you,
here is what I dream for you.

And yet, for most of us, too many moments slip by and we’re lucky to get an “I love you” in edgewise.” The good news, wondrously, is that the world is full of literature written by people who know you are longing to make connections and are striving to put a voice to them. (Pam Allyn in What to Read When, p. 6)

My own grown children recently validated my longing to know if I had done enough. Over the years I have felt various waves of regret for perhaps not having done enough, not having told them enough, nor loved them enough.  But, on December 25th they gave my husband and me the most beautiful gift we could ever have imagined – a “Family Treasure Chest,” they called it.  It was a 12 inch by 12 inch, 2 inch thick, cream colored, bound leather volume, tied with a cream colored ribbon.  After the first golden title page (“Peterson Family Treasure Book 2012”), and a page of “credits” stating that “Mom gave us wings to fly… Dad lit the sky to help us find the way…” they filled the book with a page for each of the books we read to them and the songs we sang to them that had mattered to them in their lives.

Our oldest daughter is completing a master’s degree at Georgetown University while working full time in that busy metropolitan area as a single young woman.  She loved all of the books of Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery, and related how she became Anne and lived by her many philosophical gems, such as,

Oh, it’s delightful to have ambitions. I’m so glad I have such a lot. And there never seems to be any end to them – that’s the best of it. Just as soon as you attain to one ambition you see another one glittering higher up still. It does make life so interesting.”

My second daughter is one month away from delivering my first grandchild, and the book memory she wrote about was when we all piled on the bed for me to read North to Freedom by Anne Holm (later changed to I Am David). She explained how fascinated she was to listen to a the experience of a 12 year old boy – older than herself – see and smell and taste an orange for the very first time, and how it opened her eyes to discovering beauty in a world that had, for him, been full of suffering.  She has since seen places of suffering first-hand, and been part of healing processes as well. She read North to Freedom to her husband, and they will carry the tradition to their own family.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, Goose Girl by Shannon Hale, and several of the “Alice” books by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor were all fond memories of my 25-year-old daughter.  She felt lucky to be growing up while I was teaching a children’s literature course so that she benefited from my needing to stay on top of some of the new looks being published at the time!  What she didn’t remember until I reminded her was that I got some of my reading list from her, such as Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix.  I found her huddled in the corner of her bedroom, having just finished that book, looking up at me and pleading, “Mom, I have to find another book like this one!”  I read it myself that very night.

And the last book page in this treasure chest was from my son, whose read-aloud experience was initiated by him rather than me.  He came to me carrying the Harry Potter books; “Mom, we have to read these.  Every one is, and they are so good.  Can we, please?”  How could I turn that down?  After the first four books, however, he didn’t have the patience to wait for our read-aloud sessions, and forged ahead on his own, and then on into the Eragon books, and the Lightening Thief, and the The Hobbit, and so forth.  He’s writing his own fantasy trilogy now.

So, I’m thinking, it may have been enough after all.  They said I gave them “wings to fly.”  I guess I was one of the lucky ones – to get an “I love you” in edgewise.

Posted by Nancy Peterson