Marty McGuire News!

I’ve had a busy spring so far, and so has my chapter book character, third grader Marty McGuire.Here’s a Marty update:

The second book in the series, MARTY MCGUIRE DIGS WORMS, came out April 1st, and there have already been some super-nice reviews, including this one (that came with a star!) from Kirkus:

Floca’s cheery black-and-white illustrations match the upbeat theme of the tale, and with at least one per brief chapter, they break up the text pages nicely. Marty’s first-person commentary, sometimes just a tiny bit sarcastic, splendidly conveys the eroding innocence of middle-graders.A quick, amusing read with an easily digestible environmental message; it is a perfect match for its young intended audience.  

School Library Journal called Marty a “spirited youngster” (she liked that) and  said this:

Packed with eco-friendly ideas, this realistic, plot-driven early chapter book is a welcome addition to Earth Day or environmental units.

And I especially loved this review in a Washington Post round-up of Earth Day books

It’s hard to think of cafeteria composting as the topic for a good chapter book, but Messner and Floca pull it off. It’s the characters who make this book entertaining, whether it’s Marty’s wildlife rehabilitator mom or her inventive Grandma Barb, who thinks both worm slime and duct tape have essential uses.
Gotta love a book review that mentions both worm slime and duct tape, don’t you think?


Meanwhile, the first Marty McGuire book has been nominated for the Rhode Island Children’s Book Award, along with some other books that I love.  You can see the full list here.


And how exciting is this?  Marty has her own book club!


School library media specialist John Schumacher created the poster above for the Marty McGuire Book Club! He and fourth grade teacher Colby Sharp are well known for their blogs celebrating the best of children’s books, and they’ve declared May “Marty McGuire Month,” inviting readers to dig into one or both Marty books and then join them for an online Twitter chat starting at 8pm EST on May 23rd, using the hashtag #MartyMcGuire. I’ll be sure to be online that night, too, answering any questions about Marty or writing chapter books or really anything. Check out this post on “Watch-Connect-Read” or this one at “SharpRead” for all the details, and join us if you can!

Celebrating Stories (Part 2): A Terrific Tuesday at IRA 2012

Tuesday morning at the International Reading Association started bright and early for me. I don’t usually have trouble jumping out of bed in the morning, but I was especially excited for breakfast. Can you see why?

The theme for the Scholastic Book Clubs breakfast, “My Favorite Teacher,”  made this an easy talk to write because I’ve had so many great teachers who helped make me into a writer. I loved listening to the other authors, too. Mem Fox told us about her teacher who read aloud to them: “”It’s the hearing of the words that’s kept them alive in my mind,” Mem said, and then she read her new picture book aloud as all 550 of us sat spellbound.  My pictures from this breakfast didn’t turn out too well because the ballroom was so big, but here’s a slightly fuzzy Mem Fox speaking. (In real life, she is lovely and smart and funny and not fuzzy at all.)


Author/illustrator Peter Reynolds told the audience how he doodled his way through school and shared the story of the math teacher who noticed his doodling, called him on it, and challenged him to illustrate concepts in his math textbook for the class. I loved this – when teachers connect what they’re teaching to what kids love, so many connections are made.

Rita Williams-Garcia shared a story of her favorite teacher, who was the inspiration for a teacher-character in her upcoming sequel to ONE CRAZY SUMMER.

Then it was my turn.

I snapped this photo to post on Twitter just as Scholastic’s John Mason was introducing me. I’m sure he was thinking, “Hey! Hey!! Put that phone down, will you, and get ready?!”

I talked about four of my favorite teachers (I never was very good at test questions where you were only allowed to choose one answer) who understood what was important about stories and writing and nurtured those passions in me.  And then I shared my poem, “Revolution for the Tested,” because with so many schools slogging through standardized tests this spring, I thought it would be a welcome reminder for teachers fighting to keep sharing stories with students and honoring their voices every day.

A lot of teachers from the breakfast have emailed me to request that poem.  (If you’re one of them, thank you so much for the kind words; you made my day.)  Here is the link to “Revolution for the Tested.”

Right after my talk, my editor Anamika  rushed me off to the convention center for my EYE OF THE STORM signing at Walker Bloomsbury.This is what the IRA Exhibits Hall looks like from the food court above. It’s enormous!

I was sad that I missed James Dashner and Henry Winkler speaking at the Scholastic Book Clubs breakfast but happy to meet fellow Walker/Bloomsbury author Leslie Margolis and connect with writer-friend friend Greg Neri at the exhibit hall.


Here are Beth Eller and Linette Kim, the fantastic school & library folks from Walker-Bloomsbury. Every time I’ve ever seen Beth and Linette at one of these events, they’re smiling, no matter how many boxes they’ve unpacked or how busy their schedules have been.

I got to see author-friend Lisa Schroeder for a few minutes, too!  She stopped by to say hi on her way to the Simon & Schuster booth to sign her gorgeous YA novel, THE DAY BEFORE.

My last scheduled IRA book signing on Tuesday was for REAL REVISION: AUTHORS’ STRATEGIES TO SHARE WITH STUDENT WRITERS  at the Stenhouse booth.  So many of my teacher-friends from Twitter dropped by to chat about writing!

After my morning convention events, I rushed back to the hotel to check out and hop in a car bound for Naperville (Anamika, thank you SO much for bringing lunch!) to spend the afternoon at May Watts Elementary School.

I showed the students my writer’s notebook and asked how many have notebooks of their own. So many hands went up!  This notebook (or one just like it) comes with me everywhere, and it’s where I write down new ideas, thoughts on the book I’m working on, and interesting things that I see or hear in my travels. It’s where I try out ideas for my works-in-progress, make outlines, scribble graphic organizers and character sketches. And it’s where I take notes when I’m doing research…like the day I went to a local marsh and kissed a frog (just like my character, Marty McGuire!)  so that I could describe what it was like in the book.

We talked a lot about writing and reading. Students shared lots of their favorite titles with me, and I jotted them down in my notebook to add to my to-read list.  I signed what felt like a zillion books for some terrific fourth and second graders, many of whom are enthusiastic writers themselves.



I’m always excited when I’m also able to do a school visit on one of my conference trips, and this was just an amazing way to end my time in Chicago.  Thanks, IRA and May Watts Elementary School, for an amazing couple of days around the Windy City!

Celebrating Stories: A Magical Monday at IRA 2012

After two whirlwind days at the International Reading Association Convention in Chicago this week, I have three conclusions to share:

  1. Even in this age of high-stakes testing, passion for real reading is alive and well.
  2. Teachers have amazing, resilient, indomitable spirits.
  3. People who love books are the absolute best people to hang out with.

My Monday morning began with a 4am ferry ride so I could get to the airport & catch a flight to Chicago. I checked into my hotel and headed straight to the convention center for my signing at Anderson’s Bookshop booth.  I got to meet Uma Krishnaswami, who was signing her books one table over, and Trisha Bandre, who was on the committee that selected OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW as an NCTE Notable Book in the Language Arts.   I was so happy that Trisha came to introduce herself and say hi; so often when a book makes a wonderful list like this, authors never have the opportunity to meet the people who made that happen. It was nice to be able to say thank you in person!


After my signing, Emily Manning interviewed me about EYE OF THE STORM (out now from Walker/Bloomsbury) and CAPTURE THE FLAG (coming in July from Scholastic) for the Read-Write-Think podcast, “Chatting About Books.” Emily is delightful and always asks the most thoughtful questions. I’ll be sure to share a link when the interviews are posted.

I had lunch (notable because lunch is sometimes hard to come by at these conventions), and then it was off to sign books at Follett Learning, where they were cheerfully giving away paperback copies of MARTY MCGUIRE DIGS WORMS.


Next, it was off to Chronicle, to sign SEA MONSTER’S FIRST DAY and OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW.  Here’s the wonderful Lea Yancey from Chronicle, showing off one of our books.


Next, I found my way to the Scholastic booth to sign with Blue Balliett and Kimberley Griffiths Little.  Here I am with part of the Scholastic school & library team – Candace Greene, Lizette Serrano, and Emily Heddleson, who are just as friendly and awesome as they look.

This was my first time signing CAPTURE THE FLAG – just advance reader copies for now, but now I’m SO excited for the book’s release this summer!


(Photo shamelessly swiped from Tracy van Straaten’s Twitter feed. Thanks, Tracy!)

After my signings, I participated on a panel about engaging readers, with Tennessee teachers Jennifer Winstead and Beth Landers  I talked about Skype author visits and shared my list of authors who do free Skype chats with classes and book clubs that have read one of their books, and Jennifer and Beth shared zillions of ideas for getting school communities involved in reading. Their students are so lucky to have them.


After our panel, I hurried back to the hotel to meet for the Scholastic Book Clubs dinner.  I love spending time with the book club folks because they’re so fiercely passionate about getting books into the hands of kids. My kind of people, for sure.   Mem Fox was there, too, and Peter Reynolds. I got to chat with James Dashner and tell him how much I liked the first book in his upcoming INFINITY RING series.   I got to chat a little with Henry Winkler, too!  His book, GHOST BUDDY: ZERO TO HERO, co-written with Lin Oliver, is so funny and a great pick for reluctant readers.  I loved hearing how Henry and Lin collaborated on the book, hanging out in Lin’s office and both talking, tossing out ideas as she typed. Even though I loved Henry’s book (and was a Happy Days fan as a kid!) I didn’t have a photo taken with him because, to be honest, he was quite in demand, and I couldn’t help thinking that he’d probably just like to eat his dinner. Here he is doing that, and visiting with Scholastic CEO Dick Robinson.

(Stealth photo taken on my super-sneaky iPhone)

And then….well, then I collapsed into a puddle in my hotel room because it was late and I was sleepy. But Tuesday was another day full of great teachers, great readers, and one amazing breakfast —

Part two of my Whirlwind Days of IRA 2012 blog post will be on the way soon!