Making Plans for World Read Aloud Day 3/7/12

Did you know that LitWorld’s annual World Read Aloud Day is coming up on March 7th?

“World Read Aloud Day is about taking action to show the world that the right to read and write belongs to all people. World Read Aloud Day motivates children, teens, and adults worldwide to celebrate the power of words, especially those words that are shared from one person to another, and creates a community of readers advocating for every child’s right to a safe education and access to books and technology.”            ~from the LitWorld website

Last year, a bunch of us who write books for kids got together and volunteered to read aloud via Skype to classrooms and libraries all over the world, for free. These weren’t big, fancy presentations — just a few minutes of reading aloud, followed by some questions.  I made a list of read-aloud authors with links so teachers & librarians could contact them and plan Read Aloud Day Skype sessions for their students. Some authors also posted video read-alouds to share, and it was all great fun.

So…that brings us to this year. World Read Aloud Day is March 7, 2012.

Are you a traditionally published author who would like to Skype into classrooms & libraries to read aloud to kids for free on March 7th? Just leave me a comment with your name, publisher(s),  the age groups for which you write, and a website where teachers & librarians can find contact information.  Please use this format to keep things simple:

Kate Messner
PB/Chapter books/MG

Once I hear from a bunch of people, I’ll create this year’s list and keep adding to it as we get closer to World Read Aloud Day.

(Note: This list will include traditionally published authors only. I have nothing against self-publishing, but I’m one human being with limited time, and that helps to limit the scope of this project so that I can still write books and feed my kids and things like that.  If someone else wants to make a list of self-published authors volunteering to do Skype read-alouds, I will happily link to it here.)

Teachers & librarians…please give us a few days and then check back; we’ll have a list of authors ready to go so that you can start planning for Read Aloud Day, 2012!

This one’s for my author & illustrator friends…

I’ve shared this poem before, but in light of all the “Best of 2011” lists appearing in newspapers, magazines, journals, radio shows, and blogs… I thought it might be time for an encore. This one’s for my author/illustrator friends, whether or not your book is on any of those lists.

What Happened to Your Book Today
by Kate Messner

Somewhere, a child laughed
on that page where you made a joke.
Somewhere, she wiped away a tear,
Just when you thought she might.

Somewhere, your book was passed
from one hand to another in a hallway
busy with clanging lockers,
with whispered words,
“You have got to read this.”
And a scribbled note:
O.M.G. SO good.
Give it back when ur done.
It’s looking a little more love-worn lately,
rougher around the edges than it did on release day.
There are dog eared pages and Gatorade stains.
Someone smeared maple syrup on the cover
because she read all through breakfast.
Pages 125 and 126 are stuck fast with peanut butter
Because Chapter 10 was even more delicious
than lunch.
Somewhere, tiny hands held up your book
And a little voice begged, “Again!”
Somewhere, the answer came,
A grown-up sigh…and a smile…
And the fourteenth read-aloud of the morning.
That same book. Again.
Your book.
Somewhere, a kid who has never read a whole book on his own
(Really. Not even one.)
picked up yours and turned a page.
And then another.
And then one more.
And it was pretty cool, turns out.
He brought it back – huge smile on his face –
(and I mean huge)
And asked for another one.
And he read that, too.
Somewhere, a teenager who thought she was alone
Opened your pages and discovered she’s not.
And somewhere, somebody who thought about giving up
will keep on trying,
keep on hoping.
Because of that book you wrote.
Somewhere tonight – listen closely and you’ll hear–
A child will turn the last page of that book,
That book you wrote,
and sigh.
Can you hear it?
It’s the sound of a story being held close
Right before a young voice says,
“It feels like this was written just for me.”
And it was.

So thank you, friends.  Your books matter so very, very much.

Yay, Chris!!

I’m breaking my holiday blog vacation to share some great news for OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW’s amazing illustrator. Christopher Silas Neal has been named a Fall 2011 Flying Start Illustrator by Publisher’s Weekly!

~photo by Sam Weber for PW

PW has published a great interview with Chris that starts at the very beginning of this project:

“For a graphic artist who has done posters, covers, and spot illustrations, illustrating a book should be a piece of cake, right? Not necessarily. “When I do a cover or a poster, it’s often a big figure or object that’s centered on the page,” Christopher Silas Neal says. “I hadn’t created many environments where characters were moving through space.” He was delighted when Chronicle gave him the job of illustrating Kate Messner’s Over and Under the Snow (Chronicle, Oct.). He loved Messner’s evocative descriptions of animal life beneath the snow, and he’d been wanting to try illustrating a picture book. But he wasn’t immediately clear about how best to represent the winter world Messner had written about.”   ~from the PW “Flying Start interview. Read the rest here.

Congratulations, Chris!!

If you’d like to read more about the illustration process for OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW, Chris visited my blog a while back to talk about it. And finally, many, many, MANY thanks to everyone who’s helped to spread the word about this quiet book.  It’s been featured recently on terrific blogs like & 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast and Chasing Ray, as well as in the New York Times and Chicago Tribune.  I know that I speak for Chris, too, when I tell you that we’re both thrilled & thankful.

Happy News for a Sea Monster I Know…

If you’re a friend of this little guy…

…then you’ll be happy to know that Chronicle has signed up illustrator Andy Rash and me for two more books about Ernest the Sea Monster!  SEA MONSTER AND BOSSY FISH, about a small fish with a big head, is the first of the two, coming in 2013, to be followed by SEA MONSTER’S FIRST FIELD TRIP in 2014.  Underwater hijinks will ensue.

Books and News and Changes

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a newsy update, and there’s a lot going on. Here’s my catch-up-lots-of-things-happening update for December…

SUGAR AND ICE is out in paperback now!

OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW was on the NY Times Notable Children’s Books of 2011 list and has gone into a second printing. In the mean time, the book has become a little harder to find in stores and online, but if you’re looking for copies for the holidays, some little indie bookseller birds have told me that Books, Inc., The Bookstore Plus, and Flying Pig Bookstore all have a few copies left – and they ship!

Advance reader copies of EYE OF THE STORM (Walker/Bloomsbury – March ’12) started going out at NCTE in November, and some lovely readers have started sharing reviews on GoodReads. You can see some reviews and enter to win a copy of the book here.

MARTY MCGUIRE DIGS WORMS will be out April 1st. It’s the second title in my MARTY MCGUIRE series with Scholastic.

Marty #2 will be out just in time for Earth Day, which I suspect will lead to some terrifically fun classroom activities surrounding this new story.  In the mean time, I’m running a “Tell a Friend About Marty and Win Great Stuff” contest here. You can enter through January 14th.

Not long after Marty returns, my Scholastic mystery series debuts, with CAPTURE THE FLAG in June. I’m told the cover is almost-almost-final, so I should be able to share soon.

And finally… (In my old field of journalism, this is what they call burying the lead) I have a big, big change coming up in two weeks. For a long time, people have been asking me, “So when are you going to leave teaching?” And my answer was always the same: “I’m going to keep doing both – teaching and writing – as long as I can keep everything in balance.”

But my writing life has taken off in a way that I never could have imagined – never could have dreamed about when I was that kid with a stack of notebooks in my closet. And by last spring, it was pretty apparent that I was getting to that place where I couldn’t do it all any more — teaching, writing, and being a wife and mom — and keep things in balance. So when the New Year begins…I’ll be starting it as a full-time writer. Leaving my classroom wasn’t an easy decision, but it’s made easier by the fact that I’ll still be able to do so much teaching and reading and writing with kids through my author visits and writing workshops. And our district has a high school English teacher whose position was never filled when she went on maternity leave in the fall, so when she returns second semester, she’ll be working with my students, and I know they’ll be in great hands.

The transition feels a little scary but mostly exciting. It means I’ll have more time to work on the books I have under contract, as well as some exciting new projects that I’ll be able to talk about soon. I’ll be able to say yes to more Skype visits and more in-person author visits that I’ve had to turn down in the past. I’ll be able to write during daylight hours (instead of the wee hours of the morning!) and then pick my own kids up from school at the end of their day, which I’m looking forward to most of all.

Aside from the occasional book recommendation, this blog is likely to be pretty quiet these last weeks of December as I clean out file cabinets and make plans, read books and hug kids, decorate the tree and bake cookies. Look for me in January, with some thoughts on new projects, new schedules, writing, and revising. And in the mean time, have a wonderful holiday season!

Celebrating Marty McGuire!

I’ve gotten some amazing entries in my Spread-the-Word-About-Marty-McGuire contest – and even though you can enter through January 14th…these student/class entries were so great I couldn’t wait to share them.

Up first… Allison, of Mrs. Phillips’ class, who made this fabulous 3D frog, who (look carefully!) is reading Marty McGuire.

Not to be outdone, Kathy Schmidt’s second grade group did a multi-week Marty McGuire book study unit. (Kathy wrote it up in detail here, and it’s a terrific resource for second and third grade teachers interested in sharing Marty with a class!)  Their culminating activity? Marty McGuire book trailers!

The contest runs through January 14th, and you don’t have to be a kid or a teacher to enter. Just do something to spread the word about Marty McGuire, and you could win a $100 bookstore gift card, signed books, or a virtual writing workshop. All the details are here!

Recent Reading: Breakups, Crash Landings, and Other E-mergencies

The NCTE conference last month was an embarrassment of riches when it comes to great books, and now that my fall travel schedule is winding down, I’ve had a chance to enjoy some of the titles I picked up at that conference. Here are three great ones – for three different age groups.

E-MERGENCY by Tom Lichtenheld and Ezra Fields-Meyer is a language lover’s romp through the alphabet – with every letterish pun you can imagine, played out in the house where the whole crew lives together. (P is in the bathroom in the first illustration…if that gives you a sense of the laugh-out-loud humor.)  When E becomes injured, the other letters must come to her aid and take her place (“Boop! Boop!” go the cars) until she has time to recover. This book is simply so much fun – and a great one to share not just with primary students but older kids as well.

Candace Fleming’s AMELIA LOST: THE LIFE AND DISAPPEARANCE OF AMELIA EARHART may end up being one of my favorite nonfiction titles of all time.  I loved the chapters that alternated back and forth between the search for the missing Amelia Earhart and the life that led her to that last voyage. This is narrative nonfiction at its very best…suspenseful, even though you know full well how it all ends. One more thing I love about Fleming’s research and writing is the way she paints a hero as a real human being, imperfections and all, and while this biography most certainly captures the daring and bravery of one of America’s favorite female adventurers, it also shines a light on her role as a self-promoter and marketer, and on her flaws…including the impulsivity that may  have contributed to her disappearance. Fascinating and compelling, this is simply a story you won’t want to miss.

WHY WE BROKE UP by Daniel Handler, with illustrations by Maira Kalman, is one of those books that makes me wish I had a time machine…so I could travel back 25 years or so and hand a copy to my 16-year-old self. I’m not sure I would have gotten it then – not sure I would have seen what Min found so hard to see about the relationships in her life. But I would have loved the writing anyway. Told through a series of illustrations depicting the stuff in a box that a girl gives back to a boy when they break up, the premise sounds simple – and in many ways, it is. It’s the voice and the heart that really won me over here. And probably, too, the fact that I remember all too well being a teenaged girl who fell for the Eds of the world…following around the wrong boys instead of noticing the Als…the friends who were always there with a hug and an old movie. This book is funny and warm and sad sometimes, too, and I liked it a lot.

Note for teacher friends: This is one of those older YA novels – better for high school than middle school, but for older teens, it could be a fascinating literature circles title, inviting discussions of not only relationships but also the role that artifacts play in our lives and memories.

Up next for me: THE APOTHECARY by Maile Meloy, and after that, THE MOSTLY TRUE STORY OF JACK by Kelly Barnhill, as soon as the library calls to tell me it’s in.  What’s on your nightstand right now?