Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Thunder Boy Jr. Inspires

Back in August of 2012, I posted about The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. I loved the book then and still do. When I discovered Mr. Alexie had written a picture book, I rushed to get a copy. I can see why Publisher’s Weekly listed it as one of the best picture books of 2016. My students loved it—both the story and the bold, captivating illustrations by Yuyi Morales. 

Thunder Boy Jr.

I read the book, first, to a group of students that included a young boy on the autism spectrum. He was so enthusiastic, he insisted we read it again as soon as I turned the last page. The others in the group readily agreed. The following day, Calvin burst through my door and said, “let’s read my favorite book!” When I asked him what that might be, (although I was pretty sure I knew the answer) he said, “THUNDER BOY JR!” And he said it with thunder in his voice. He has requested the book many times since and he’s not the only one to do so. It was a hit with all of my students. 

The kids could relate to Thunder Boy Jr. wanting to carve out his own identity. But they laughed when they heard his ideas for a name that differed from his father’s: “Old Toys Are Awesome” and “Mud In His Ears.” When I read the line, “I want a name that celebrates something cool that I’ve done,” they didn’t laugh, they murmured, “yeah.” After we closed the book, my students decided to come up with new names for themselves, names like “Flying Through the Air,” “Firetruck Boy,” “Princess Sparkle,” “Peanut Butter Kid,” “I Can Do Anything,” and “Mr. Amazing.”

I especially liked those last two. As the new year approaches, perhaps we should all think of new names to give ourselves and those around us, names that celebrate hopes and dreams so we can “light up the sky” like Thunder Boy Jr. and his father at the end of the story and like Sherman Alexie does with his writing.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Author Interview - Lauri Fortino

I’ve been buzzing around our school campus lately—testing students, writing progress reports and attending into-the-evening parent-teacher conferences. Fortunately, I had time during one rainy-day recess to share a story with a group of enthusiastic second graders. I enlisted their help in interviewing the author, Lauri Fortino, about her book, The Peddler’s Bed. The story kept these cooped-up-on-a-rainy-day students in their seats and captivated by Bong Redila’s illustrations.

Image result for the peddler's bed by Lauri fortino

Welcome, Ms. Fortino! My students enjoyed your book and have a few questions for you.

Chloe: How long did it take you to write this book?

Lauri Fortino: It took about a day to write the story. But it took over a year for the illustrator to draw and paint all of the pictures. Then the publisher had to put everything together in the right order, make sure it looked perfect, and send it to the printing company to be made into a real book. From the time I wrote the story to when it became a book, it took almost two years!

Hunter: How did you come up with the idea for this story?

Lauri Fortino: The idea for this story mostly came from feeling grateful to family and friends for being generous and kind to me. But I’ll let you in on a secret—I also got the idea because my husband and my dog both snore. And sometimes their noses squeak while they’re sleeping!

The kids had a good laugh about those squeaky noses and they did an excellent job  imitating the squeaks and snorts they hear in their own homes.

Kaylee: How many books have you made up?

Lauri Fortino: So far, I’ve written around forty-five stories, but they’re not all finished yet.

Karson: Do you have lots of ideas for other stories?

Lauri Fortino: I have ideas for over one hundred more books.

Andy: How do you get your ideas?

Lauri Fortino: Story ideas come to me in many ways. I get ideas from dreams. I wrote a dinosaur story based on a dream I had when I was a kid. I also get ideas for stories from places I visit and activities I do with family, friends, and my dog. Sometimes I get ideas from reading other books, or from observing people, animals, and nature. 

Jose doesn’t have a question but he wanted me to tell you that he has a toy cart with a horse that looks just like the one in your book.

Lauri Fortino: That’s awesome! I love horses! I learned how to drive a horse and cart and it was so much fun!

Hannah: This is a nice book—are you famous?

Lauri Fortino: Thank you! No, I’m not famous. But maybe I will be someday.

Eric: How did you choose the illustrator? How did you know he would make good pictures?

Lauri Fortino: The publisher of my book chose the illustrator. He saw some pictures that Bong Redila had drawn and he liked them. He asked Bong if he’d like to illustrate the story and he said “yes.” I think he did an excellent job!

We think so too!

Keelan: When did you make your first book?

Lauri Fortino: I was about your age when I started writing stories. I made my own books out of paper I stapled together. Then I wrote the stories and drew the pictures inside.

Vanessa: Did you think of having the birdhouse on the cart or did the artist come up with that idea?

Lauri Fortino: That was the artist’s idea. I think it’s pretty neat! I like the round baskets too and how everything is so colorful. The trees are one of my favorite parts of the book.

Duke: How did you make such tiny words without messing up?

Lauri Fortino: Great question! The printing company printed all the words onto the pages of the book. Printing companies have machines that can print words and pictures in any size they want.

Arianna: How did you make the book?

Lauri Fortino: I had a lot of help making the book. First, I wrote the story. Then the illustrator drew and painted all of the pictures, including the ones on the front and back covers and on the jacket flaps. Then the publisher put everything together and sent the pages to the printer to be made into a real book. The printing company printed hundreds of copies to send to bookstores all over the country so that people could buy them.

Several students enjoyed the kind characters in the story and that made them want to know more about you – the author. 

Johann: Do you like eating bananas?

Lauri Fortino: Yes! I enjoy eating bananas, especially in a banana split with three kinds of ice cream, chocolate syrup, whipped cream, and pineapple. Yum!

Eli: cookies?

Lauri Fortino: Chocolate chip cookies are my favorite.

Alia: What is your favorite thing to do?

Lauri Fortino: My absolute favorite thing to do is write stories. I also love to spend time with my dog. His name is Java. He’s super smart. When I ask him to show me his belly, he’ll lie down and roll over on his back. I’ll send a picture to share with everyone.

Thank you for the picture – we think Java is adorable!

Marcos: Are you rich?

Lauri Fortino: No. It’s hard to get rich writing books. But it’s a lot of fun.

To wrap up our interview, do you have any advice for young writers?

Lauri Fortino: Use your imagination and write stories about people, places, and things that interest you. If you do that, you’ll always do your best writing. If you dream of one day becoming an author like me, your dream can come true.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Free Kindle Ebook for Halloween

October has arrived along with crisp rustling leaves, mounds of pumpkins, and requests for Halloween stories in the speech room. One repeated request is especially pleasing, “Read the ghost story. The one with a g  -  g   -  g   ghost!” Today, when I turned the last page, several children said, “read it again!” I haven’t told them I’m the author. After all, I want unbiased reactions to my work and I’m thrilled with the ones I’m getting.

Since this book has been so popular with my students, I wanted to share it with you. I’ve created an eBook that’s available for free on Amazon for a limited time.
Click to go to Amazon for your free book

I wrote the story to give my students an engaging way to practice their “g” sounds but it’s also a good fit for Halloween.

In THE GHOSTLY NIGHT Kristy can’t sleep.

“The wind rattled her window. The full moon threw grasping shadows across her bedroom wall. They swayed with the rhythm of the wind.”

“Mom!” she cried. “There’s a   g  -  g   -  g   ghost in my room!”

Kristy calls again when the wind howls, when a branch scrapes her bedroom window, and when she sees her curtains move. Each time, the kids join in “reading” the repeated line, “There’s a   g  -   g   -  g   ghost in my room.” They can’t seem to help themselves. That makes for a lot of practice with the “g” sound. It also gives them an understanding of the sound the letter represents, a phonemic awareness skill that fits right in with the Common Core State Standards (especially RF.K.3a where students are expected to “Demonstrate basic knowledge of letter-sound correspondences by producing the primary or most frequent sound for each consonant.”)

One teacher told me her whole class erupted in clapping when the tables turned on the Mother at the end of the story. You can imagine how pleased I was to hear that report—almost as pleased as I was when I breathed in the autumn-crisp air this morning and poured a cup of cinnamon-spiced tea.

I hope you’re enjoying the season as much as I am and I hope you’ve found a good supply of autumn books to share with the children in your lives, and several more for yourself!