Non-Fiction of Olympic Proportions (plus a prize!) — Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)

by Karlin Gray What do I know about writing nonfiction picture books? After my book NADIA: THE GIRL WHO COULDN’T SIT STILL was published, someone said to me, “Great timing with the 40th Anniversary of the Perfect 10! How smart of you to write that book now!” Um, no. Well, yes . . . but […]

via Non-Fiction of Olympic Proportions (plus a prize!) — Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)

AXS CEO Troy McClain Featured at Special Needs Conference

Troy and Kid sisIdaho Partnerships Conference on Human Services has a great featured speaker this fall: Troy McClain is the CEO of AXS , a full-service marketing, communications and business management firm focused on growing people and businesses to great heights.

Their website says:

Our annual conference is an opportunity to bring professionals, self-advocates and family members together in order to increase education and hands-on training surrounding topics such as mental health, developmental disabilities, autism, supervision/leadership and self-advocacy. Additionally, it’s an opportunity for individuals to network professionally in order to build stronger support groups for family members, clients and participants.

As a seasoned entrepreneur with over 14 years experience in the financial industry, Troy has learned how to create budgets, manage costs and cost-effectively market and communicate products, services and causes. Using innovative techniques and strategies, he has been instrumental in providing successful growth concepts to companies and professionals working toward a higher level of achievement.

Today, Troy is an international speaker on a variety of topics, such as entrepreneurism, finance, advertising, marketing and communications, personal growth, and giving back to one’s community.

Troy  became America’s sweetheart and underdog sensation when he was selected from nearly a quarter million applicants to vie – on national TV – for a job working with Donald Trump. Millions of viewers watched this one apprentice hopeful without a college education excel past the other 16 finalists on his way to the final four. After the unfathomably successful season 1 run of The Apprentice, Donald Trump said, “Guys like Troy are what make America great.”

Troy’s “kid sis” is profoundly deaf and developmentally delayed, so he knows firsthand the challenges families and organizations face when it comes to serving the needs of the Special Needs Community.

***

AXS has redefined collaborative community. We are the leading successful living membership club of cause, and purpose-driven people who understand that the power of community creates opportunity, energy and purpose. Our promise is to inspire, uplift and serve, while equipping our members with the entrepreneurial mindset and practical tools needed to live successful lives, as each defines success. Through online and in-person education and training, impactful events, business networking opportunities, experiential travel, courses and workshops, publications, mentoring and more, our members manifest their fullest personal, professional and philanthropic selves.

See allaxs.com

Julia Vanishes Skillfully Blends Steampunk, Fantasy, Adventure and Magic

barker_TRC_juliavanishes“Egan’s debut novel sparkles with storytelling that skillfully blends elements of steampunk, fantasy, adventure, and magic…A beautifully rendered world and an exquisite sense of timing ensure a page-turning experience.” – Publishers Weekly

Julia has the unusual ability to be . . . unseen. Not invisible, exactly. Just beyond most people’s senses.

It’s a dangerous trait in a city that has banned all forms of magic and drowns witches in public Cleansings. But it’s a useful trait for a thief and a spy. And Julia has learned—crime pays.

She’s being paid very well indeed to infiltrate the grand house of Mrs. Och and report back on the odd characters who live there and the suspicious dealings that take place behind locked doors.

But what Julia discovers shakes her to the core. She certainly never imagined that the traitor in the house would turn out to be . . . her.

Julia Vanishes by Catherine Egan is the perfect magical fantasy book to fill those long summer days at the beach or by the pool. Murder, thievery, witchcraft, betrayal — Egan builds a dangerous world where her fierce and flawed heroine finds that even a girl who can vanish can’t walk away from her own worst deeds.

“Readers will find themselves immediately immersed in the narrative and invested in the fate of Julia, who is both feisty and flawed,” Booklist said. “There is a richness to this inaugural volume of the Witch’s Child trilogy, and readers will be hard pressed to put it down.”

“Olive-skinned Julia’s a wonderful, fully realized heroine with moral dilemmas aplenty,” wrote Kirkus Reviews. “For those readers waiting for the sequel to Marie Lu’s The Rose Society (2015), a well-realized page-turner in the same vein.”

Julia Vanishes is a solid start to this YA fantasy-mystery trilogy. It is filled with promise. Julia’s world fascinatingly magical. Urban fantasy mixes with a dystopian feeling along with throwback Victorian sensibilities. Witches are real and feared. Their spells are cast through writing. Blended with mystery the sharp, curious narration is very effective. Readers are charmed into overlooking some of the lesser developed characters while hope arises that they too will flesh out more in the forthcoming novels.

“Teens will experience the emotions and actions as the narrator travels around her world and is betrayed again and again. VERDICT Recommend to fans of light fantasy and character-driven narratives.” – School Library Journal

“An exciting novel with magic and serial killers…. One of the hottest books coming out.”
—Hypable.com

“In the suspenseful, action-packed debut of the Witch’s Child trilogy, Canadian author Catherine Egan spins out a dark and deep world of magic and crime where powerful mortals and terrifyingly violent creatures fight behind the scenes for the future of a realm.” – Shelf Awareness

What Mastery-Based Learning Would Look Like in Idaho

As we discuss children’s literature, it is important to examine connections between learning with and through the written word and the policies that determine what goes on in classrooms.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra  is working to help lawmakers “move from the notion or the concept of mastery-based education to the actual concrete view of what it could look like in Idaho.” The initiative would move away from traditional academic schedules.

Ybarra2

Sherri Ybarra

According to the Idaho Education News.teachers from Kuna Middle School and officials from the Council of Chief State School Officers briefed lawmakers, highlighting the mastery-based education recommendation issued in 2013 by Gov. Butch Otter’s Task Force for Improving Education.

The idea behind mastery is that students would advance academically once they demonstrate a thorough understanding of educational concepts, said Stephen Bowen, the CCSSO’s strategic initiative director for innovation.

Such a move would replace seat time requirements, and could allow more students to graduate early or work towards college credits while still in high school if they master concepts early. On the other hand, some students who struggle could theoretically need more than four years to graduate high school.

Some districts and states that moved to mastery replaced traditional letter grades with scores of one to four. A “three” indicates mastery. A “two” indicates students are progressing but have not yet achieved mastery.

“They’ve taken out all seat-time requirements,” Bowen said. “It’s not about did you sit in class long enough to get a C-minus and pass the class. It’s about did you master that (subject area).”

The IEN article by Clark Corbin reported that a statewide move to mastery is complex, and could require legal changes to everything from a state’s funding formula to the laws governing diploma requirements, he said. In some mastery-based schools, students of different age groups are found working together within the same classroom.

“We give (students) a problem we don’t have the answer to and they have to use elements of math, science, English and history to find the solution,” Murphy said.Kuna Middle School teachers Kevin Murphy and Shelby Harris said they’ve experienced positive results in the two years since their team of four teachers moved to a mastery- and problem-based learning system they call Synergy.

Murphy described his team’s classrooms as “a beautiful mess,” where students collaborate (sometimes loudly) in groups, don’t observe traditional bell schedules and view teachers as mentors, not traditional educators who deliver lengthy lectures that consume a class period.

The situation took some getting used to, and some trust, but he said students in the Synergy system outperformed their peers on last year’s ISAT by Smarter Balanced (SBAC) tests.

While mastery offers an opportunity for advanced students to progress more quickly, CCSSO experts said it is equally important to personalize learning opportunities for students who fall behind or struggle.

“One of the most important things when a school moves toward a mastery-based system of education is, if students are working at a different pace, there must be systems of support in place,” said Jennifer Poon, CCSSO’s Innovation Lab Network director.

In a 2015 interview, Ybarra emphasized her support for mastery, but described the transition as a “generational change” that will not be completed during a four-year term in office.

Otter proposed spending $1.2 million to continue developing mastery in Idaho. That money would allow 20 school districts to begin piloting a mastery system.

Comments on my Facebook page included:

I devised a mastery system for remedial math in 1976. I can’t imagine a mastery system for government or literature. They are based on concepts, not skills, and student interaction is an important to learning.

and

This sounds suspiciously like the “level system” that was in place in Maryland in the 70’s. In sixth grade I was in level 8-4 in math, or hslf way through 8th grade math. The Jr. High I went to did not use the same system and I sat in class bored for two years. It is a good system if it is enacted system wide. If it is only in place in a few schools as an experiment it is extremely dangerous. Also it requires a high degree of professionalism for the teachers. Another reason it failed in Maryland is teachers became focused on cultivating the rapidly advancing students to the detriment of those who did not advance due to the lack of instruction.

However, Key features of mastery-based learning (MBL) include:

1. Curriculum design hinges on assessments
2. Assessments may take any form as long as they determine proficiency
3. Graduation to the next grade/level/topic is contingent upon successful completion of prerequisite assessment.
4. Curriculum is committed to the success of all students; students are not “allowed” to give up.

This initiative is intriguing and has promise. It should be looked at and discussed further for the possible benefits to Idaho children.

Winners…and Another Contest! — Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)

I got zapped with the flu two weeks ago. Really walloped me, like being endlessly pummeled with pillows at a sleepover party. Just when I thought I was getting better—PHHHHHHUMPT! Down I went. Cold compresses, hot tea, lukewarm toast. Sleepless nights, endless days. What a funk! Now I’m happy to be back in the land […]

via Winners…and Another Contest! — Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

71bg0qtrhwl“Will bring a chorus of laughter from sympathetic readers.”—Publishers Weekly

Celebrating 40 years of a Judy Blume classic!

Millions of fans young and old have been entertained by the quick wit of Peter Hatcher, the hilarious antics of mischevious Fudge, and the unbreakable confidence of know-it-all Sheila Tubman in Judy Blume’s five Fudge books. And now, Puffin Books honors forty years of the book that started it all, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, with a special edition–featuring a new introduction from Judy–to celebrate this perennial favorite.

“As a kid, Judy Blume was my favorite author, and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing was my favorite book.”—Jeff Kinney, author of the bestselling Wimpy Kid series

A teacher wrote her thoughts about the book:

I don’t know why I identified with and loved this book so much. The main character and I don’t have much in common. In fact I have more in common with his brother Fudge, us both being the youngest, but I didn’t like Fudge much in this book because in my adolescent eyes the kid never got what he deserved. Despite that, though, I read this book and it’s sequels many many times. It’s a great book though, especially for people with siblings. It’s a subtle story about family love and appreciation. Even if I couldn’t see that when I was younger, there was still something about the book that had warm and fuzzy undertones, part of the reason why I loved it so much.

 

Amazon.com Review

Passed on from babysitters to their young charges, from big sisters to little brothers, and from parents to children, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and its cousins (Superfudge, Fudge-a-mania, and Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great) have entertained children since they first appeared in the early 1970s. The books follow Peter Hatcher, his little brother Fudgie, baby sister Tootsie, their neighbor Sheila Tubman, various pets, and minor characters through New York City and on treks to suburbs and camps.

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing is the first of these entertaining yarns. Peter, because he’s the oldest, must deal with Fudgie’s disgusting cuteness, his constant meddling with Peter’s stuff, and other grave offenses, one of which is almost too much to bear. All these incidents are presented with the unfailing ear and big-hearted humor of the masterful Judy Blume. Though some of her books for older kids have aroused controversy, the Hatcher brothers and their adventures remain above the fray, where they belong. (Peter’s in fourth grade, so the book is suitable for kids ages 8 and older.)

The teacher continued:

 

This book can be and is used in schools, especially in fourth grade (of course.) I have seen it used as a class-wide read-aloud quite often. This book is great for kids who are older siblings and don’t get along with their younger siblings. It’s also a great read just for it’s hilarious and well-written story. You could use this book for any number of things.

It depicts a ‘normal’ (or average) American family life, and some kids will of course identify with it more than others, depending on what their family life is like. however, I don’t think this would be a barrier toward using the book, the teacher would just have to be more sensitive about the questions they ask. You’d want to stay away from anything that assumes your student’s home life is in any way similar (Unless you know it is) but I don’t think it would be a big deal for a discerning teacher.

A Summer full of monkeys, thrills and dangers

9780440981756A tree full of monkeys the last thing fourteen-year-old Jay Berry Lee thought he’d find on one of his treks through Oklahoma’s Cherokee Ozarks. Jay learns from his grandfather that the monkeys have escaped from a circus and there is a big reward for anyone who finds them. He knows how much his family needs the money. Jay is determined to catch the monkeys. It’s a summer of thrills and dangers no one will ever forget.

Wilson Rawls (author of WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS) has done it again. Summer of the Monkeys is a delightful tale of a poor family from rural Oklahoma in the early 1900’s. Fourteen-year-old Jay Berry Lee lives through incredible events and a rollercoaster of emotions as he comes of age, during one unforgettable summer near the river bottoms in former Cherokee territory. What, another kid-and-his-dog story? Fortunately, this one is much more.  You chuckle and groan with frustration, as Jay and his smart-as-a-coot Grandpa wrack their brains to catch some 30 monkeys which have escaped the circus after a train wreck. Lured on by the generous reward offer, Jay becomes obsessed with trapping the little fellows–in order to achieve a country boy’s dream of his own pony and .22 gun. But those simian rascals prove too human-savvy to be caught; time and again they outsmart the best laid plans–all because they are protected by a fiendishly clever chimpanzee.

Summer of the Monkeys takes place in the 1800s in Oklahoma near the Ozark Mountains. Jay Berry has his eye on a pony and a rifle and he hopes that he can capture Jimbo, the head circus monkey. Jimbo has a price tag on his head of $100. The rest of the monkeys will fetch $2 apiece. Jay attempts to catch the monkeys with traps and nets borrowed from his grandpa to no avail. A storm rolls through and the monkeys nearly die. Jay Berry befriends Jimbo and leads the monkeys to safety and the reward money. Jay then gives the money to his family for the surgery for his ‘little’ sister.  When his sister returns she brings him a gift of a rifle and Jay’s grandfather buys him a pony.

An amazon reviews said:

Jay Berry Lee is happy until the summer he is 14 years old and discovers monkeys living in the creek bottoms near his parents’ homestead. Set in the late 1800s, Summer of the Monkeystraces the boy’s adventures as he attempts to capture 29 monkeys that have (it turns out) escaped from the circus. With somewhat dubious help from his grandfather, and over the objections of his mother, Jay goes about discovering that monkeys are much smarter and harder to catch than he thought possible. Woven into this story is a second theme about his physically disabled sister and the family’s attempts to find money for an operation. As funny and touching as Wilson Rawls’s Where the Red Fern Grows, this book will appeal to the young reader who has always wished for the freedom to run wild through the woods with nothing more pressing to do than find another rabbit hole–or escaped monkey. (Ages 12 and older).

One of my students who read it said that the book is a great realistic contemporary novel.  The figurative language used in this novel is outstanding. The antics these monkeys pull on poor Jay Berry Lee create many truly comical scenes. Summer of the Monkeys is ideal for middles schoolers. Themes of friendship, problem solving, sacrifice, and persistence run through the work.

Summer of the Monkeys is a fun book that touches on many good themes in very colorful ways. There is a part when the monkeys get intoxicated and end up getting Jay Berry intoxicated as well so a discussion about the use of alcohol might have to be used before reading this book depending on the age of the audience.

The book is great for discussing characterization through the intelligence of Jimbo. Setting place a big role in this novel without the storm that passes through Jay might not have ever been able to befriend the chimpanzee Jimbo and the rest of the monkeys. The themes of friendship, the relationship between Jay and his grandfather, and the sacrifice that Jay provides for his family are all worth wile themes to delve deeper into.

Wilson Rawls has written the a superb young adult novel. The characters are so deep in this book; you can tell exactly what Jay is feeling and thinking, and you really get to love him. The story is very original and extremely well written.  It is funny and loveable, but not shallow at all … a real heartwarming story.The mixture of humor, love, family relationships, adventure and magic make for engrossing reading. There is never a dull moment in this wonderful book..

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