Skype with an Author on World Read Aloud Day!

Hi there! If you’re new to this blog, I’m Kate Messner, and I write books like these:


I also read lots and lots of books, and reading aloud is one of my favorite things in the world. When I was a kid, I was the one forever waving my hand to volunteer to read to the class, and still, I’ll pretty much read to anyone who will listen.

For the past couple years, I’ve helped out with LitWorld’s World Read Aloud Day by pulling together a list of author volunteers who would like to spend part of the day Skyping with classrooms around the world to share the joy of reading aloud. World Read Aloud Day 2013 is March 6th.

Some of you have already sent me notes asking if I’m available to Skype on that day, and I’m so sorry to tell you that I’m not this year – but for the very good reason that I’ll be reading to some kids in person at a school author visit in Vermont on that day. Instead, I’ll offer a sneak-preview video read aloud of two upcoming titles — HIDE AND SEEK (which is the sequel to my mystery CAPTURE THE FLAG and comes out April 1st) and MARTY MCGUIRE HAS TOO MANY PETS (which doesn’t come out until 2014, so I’ll be reading to you from the not-yet-edited draft. Cool, huh?)  So if you’d like to share those with your students, just bookmark this page and stop back on March 6th, and the videos will be posted right here.

So now…on to the World Read Aloud Day Skype list! The authors listed below have  volunteered their time to read aloud to classrooms and libraries all over the world. These aren’t long, fancy presentations; a typical one might go like this:

  • 1-2 minutes: Author introduces himself or herself and talks a little about his or her books.
  • 3-5 minutes: Author reads aloud a short picture book, or a short excerpt from a chapter book/novel
  • 5-10 minutes: Author answers some questions from students about reading/writing
  • 1-2 minutes: Author book-talks a couple books he or she loves (but didn’t write!) as recommendations for the kids

If you’d like to have an author visit your classroom or library for World Read Aloud Day, here’s how to do it:

  • Check out the list of volunteering authors below and visit their websites to see which ones might be a good fit for your students.
  • Contact the author directly by clicking on the link to his or her website and finding a contact form or email.  Please be sure to provide the following information in your request:
    • Your name and what grade(s) you work with
    • Your city and time zone (this is important for scheduling!)
    • Possible times to Skype on March 6th. Please note authors’ availability and time zones. Adjust accordingly if yours is different!
    • Your Skype username and a phone number where you can be reached on that day
  • Please understand that authors are people, too, and have schedules and families just like you, so not all authors will be available at all times. It may take a few tries before you find someone whose books and schedule fit with yours. If I learn that someone’s schedule for the day is full, I’ll put a line through his or her name – that means the author’s schedule is full, and no more visits are available.  (Authors, please let me know that if you can!)

World Read Aloud Day – Skyping Author Volunteers for March 6, 2013

Authors are listed along with publishers, available times, and the age groups for which they write.  (PB=picture books, MG=middle grades, YA=young adult, etc.)

 Anne Marie Pace
10-12 EST
Crissa-Jean Chappell
High School
10am-3pm EST
JoAnn Early Macken
Disney-Hyperion, Candlewick Press, Holiday House
10 a.m.-2 p.m. CST
Laurel Snyder
Random House Books for Young Readers
8 am- 2pm
Erica S. Perl
Random House/Abrams
Elementary/Middle School
9am-12pm EST
Jody Feldman
Elementary/Middle School
8am-5pm CST
Terry Golson
10 to 2 EST
Lynn Plourde
Dutton, S&S, Down East
Elementary EST
9am-noon EST
Alissa Grosso
High School & Middle School
All day – EST
Tricia Springstubb
10-2 EST
Lori Degman
Simon & Schuster
1:00 – 6:00 CST
Karen Day
Random House
Elementary/Middle School
11am-2pm EST 
Donna Gephart
Delacorte Press/Random House
Elementary/Middle School
9am-6pm EST
Sarah Albee
(Numerous publishers)
Elementary/Middle School
10am-3pm EST
Erin Dealey
Atheneum/Sleeping Bear Press
Elementary/Middle School
10am-6pm EST
Sonia Gensler
Middle School/High School
10am-3pm CST
Nikki Loftin
Older Elementary (Third Grade & up)
11am-2pm CST
Linda Joy Singleton
Flexible times PST
Tiffany Strelitz Haber
Elementary Time Zone
10am-4pm EST
Margo Sorenson
Marimba Books/Just Us Books
Elementary K-3
6 AM – 8 AM PST
Irene Latham
Penguin & Macmillan
Elementary/Middle School
9am-1pm CST
Carol Weis
Simon & Schuster
11am-2pm EST
Hillary Homzie
Simon & Schuster
Elementary/Middle School
9 am- 12 am PST
Tami Lewis Brown
Farrar Straus & Giroux
8:30- 2:00 EST
Wendy Kitts
Nimbus Publishing
9 am-7 pm PST
Diane Zahler
Harper Collins
12pm-3pm EST
Monica Carnesi
10 am – 3 pm EST
Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic
4th-8th grade
9:00AM-11:00AM EST
Greg R. Fishbone
Lee & Low
Upper Elementary/Middle School
Any time
Natasha Wing
Grosset & Dunlap
9-11 MST
Lizzie K. Foley
Elementary/Middle School
9:30am-2pm EST
 Tanya Lee Stone
Candlewick/Henry Holt/Penguin
Elementary/Middle School/High School
10am-2pm EST
Amy Guglielmo
Pre-school/Elementary (up to 2nd grade)
11am-2pm EST
Leslie Bulion
Elementary/Middle School
2-5pm EST
Mark Jeffrey
Harper Collins
Middle School
Anytime – PST
Dori Hillestad Butler
Albert Whitman/Peachtree/Grosset & Dunlap
Elementary or Middle School
1:00pm-3:00pm CST
Carmela LaVigna Coyle
Rising Moon/Taylor Trade
9am-2pm MST


Shannon Delany
St. Martin’s Press
Middle/High School
9am-2pm EST
Ammi-Joan Paquette
Elementary/Middle School
10am-2pm EST
J&P Voelkel
Egmont USA
Middle School
10am-1pm EST
Melissa Wiley
Simon & Schuster/Random House
10am-2pm PST
Mina Javaherbin
Candlewick/Disney Hyperion
8:30am-2pm PST
Kristin O’Donnell Tubb
Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan
Upper elementary and middle
10 am to 2 pm CST
W.H. Beck
Houghton Mifflin
Elementary/Middle School
7-7:45, 12:15-12:45, 4:15-5 CST
Joanne Levy
Bloomsbury Middle School
Elementary/Middle School
8:30 EST – 10:30 EST
Jean Reidy
Bloomsbury/Disney Hyperion
Preschool/Elementary School
10 am – 5 pm EST
Melanie Hope Greenberg
9am – 12:00pm EST

Alison Alison Formento
Albert Whitman & Company
1:00-4:00 pm EST
Debbie Dadey
Simon and Schuster/Scholastic
9:00-11:00 and 1:00-3:00 EST
Cynthia Platt
Tiger Tales
10am-1pm EST
Frané  Lessac
Candlewick/Holiday House/Lee and Low
Elementary/Middle School
Author’s time zone: Australia +8 GMT
10:30- 11:00am EST
Roni Schotter
Scholastic/Random House/Dial
Elementary (2nd-3rd)
11-2 EST
Melinda Szymanik
Scholastic NZ + others
Flexible Times (author is in NZ)
Hazel Edwards
Flexible times (author in Australia)
Susan Brocker
HarperCollins NZ
Middle School
Various times – New Zealand Standard time
Meg McKinlay
9-12 EST (Author is in Australia)
Alexa Moses
HarperCollins Australia
Middle School
9:30-2:30 AEST
7:30-11pm EST
Juliet MacIver
Scholastic NZ/Walker & HarperCollins Australia
Elementary School
2pm-4pm EST (Author is GST +13)!/pages/Juliette-MacIver-Author/509684365718086?fref=ts
Eileen Rosenthal
Pre-K – K
2pm-5pm EST
Jamie Michalak
10-2 EST
D. Dina Friedman
Simon & Schuster
Middle School
11-3 EST
Kate Feiffer
Simon & Schuster
Daytime hours EST
Steve Ince
Game Writer
Ages 9-12
2pm-4pm GMT (Author lives in the UK)
Rebecca Rupp
8am-2pm EST
Bobbie Pyron 
Westside Books, HarperCollins, Scholastic
Elementary, grades 3-6
11:00-1:00 Mountain Time

Happy reading, everyone!

“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

Twelve Kinds of Lovely: Frost Flowers on Lake Champlain

It’s probably no surprise that someone who writes books like these…

…is a winter person. I love summer, but winter light and winter quiet feed my soul in a different way. If you’re that kind of person, too, you won’t want to miss this small, lovely book called TWELVE KINDS OF ICE, written by Ellen Bryan Obed and illustrated by Barbara McClintock.

Don’t expect a novel; this is more the kind of story your grandmother told you over hot chocolate — a remembrance of wintry childhood memories that celebrate all that’s good and pure and wildly fun when it comes to being a kid.  It starts with the ice on the sheep pails in the narrator’s barn, “an ice so thin that it broke when we touched it.”  The language in this personal narrative is as crisp and sparkling as the ice itself. But it was the section on Black Ice that resonated with me the most:

We could see the clouds, the blue sky, the tree-edged shoreline, in the mirror of black ice beneath us. We could see ourselves in the glass, our long-winged spirals, our flashing blades, our new mittens.

This is the kind of ice we live for at my house on Lake Champlain. And as I read yesterday, the temperature was plunging for the third night in a row. This morning, it was -16 when I woke up. When I got home from taking the kids to school, I went out back and down the stairs to the lake. My back yard gets a lot bigger this time of year.

I found what I was hoping for — that smooth, perfect, black ice — and an unexpected gift, too.  Delicate, feathery frost flowers…


An article I found in New Scientist says this is mostly an Arctic phenomenon. Here’s an excerpt:

Grae Worster and Robert Style of the University of Cambridge found that frost flowers form mostly in still, dry air. The key factor is air that is much colder – by around 20  °C – than the water below the ice, they say.

Under these extreme circumstances ice vaporises into the dry air and then refreezes in the form of a frost flower. The pair confirmed this by recreating such conditions in the laboratory. They grew frost flowers from fresh water at 0  °C by cooling the surrounding air to around -25  °C.

I love it when science makes magic like this. Here’s an NPR feature about the phenomenon.

It wasn’t long this morning before cold hands and warning noises from the not-quite-thick-enough ice sent me scurrying back to the stairs. I’ll be working in my writing room overlooking the frozen lake today, warmed by hot tea and a space heater…and the memory of magical flowers that bloom on the ice.

It’s Time to Stand Up for Teachers

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I talk mostly about writing and nature, travel and revision and books and how to get kids reading.  None of those things are especially controversial or political. I have readers and friends and family members who wear both red and blue when it comes to politics, and I like that. I like hearing new ideas and getting a chance to think about views that are different from mine.

But the epidemic of teacher-bashing in our society – in our newspaper editorials and Tweets and blogs and status updates –needs to end.

I recently saw a Facebook post from someone whose work I admire a lot that said New York City teachers “should be ashamed of themselves” for not agreeing to a new evaluation system in time to save the state funding attached to it. The post went on to suggest that if those teachers really cared about children, this never would have happened.

But here’s the thing… That new evaluation system is required to base a good portion of a teacher’s evaluation on students’ standardized test scores, a practice that has exactly zero research to support its effectiveness.  In a statement on his refusal to extend the deadline for negotiations in New York City, Governor Cuomo said, “Since we established one of the strongest teacher evaluation models in the nation last year, 98% of school districts have successfully implemented them.”



Ask some of the teachers in those districts about the “success” of this new program, dubbed APPR for Annual Professional Performance Review.  In many of the districts that Cuomo is citing as “success stories,” the system is proving to be at worst, damaging to school climate and true literacy efforts, and at best, woefully unsustainable in terms of the time taken for each evaluation on the part of both teachers and administrators.

When I see colleagues from the building I used to teach in – one that was long known for its vibrant interdisciplinary teaching and strong student literacy program – they smile and ask how my writing has been going. And then they all say the same thing: “You got out just in time.”

I loved teaching so much.  And that makes me so sad.

Last night, I attended a kids’ music event at the school where I used to work and saw my former principal, a lovely woman who cares about kids and works hard.  I smiled at her and said, “How’s it going?”  And her response was a shrug, “Well…you know…”  She shook her head. She looked exhausted, and she looked sad.  She didn’t look that way before her school district cheerfully met the governor’s deadline by implementing its new teacher evaluation system.

Successfully, Governor Cuomo?  Visit some of these schools. Talk to some of these teachers and administrators.  Ask the kids how excited they are to be starting test-prep in October for an April exam. And ask them what books they’ve read and loved lately. And when some of them can’t answer, ask yourself why.  And while you’re at it, take a look at teacher absenteeism rates in the proud districts with the most ambitious APPR plans.  I hope you’re tracking that when you look at “success.”

But let’s get back to the issue of this deadline. Who’s the bad guy here?

Imagine for just a minute that we’re not talking about educational politics. Let’s take it to the school yard.

Imagine that a powerful kid wants another kid to do something that he or she considers to be wrong – cheating by giving answers on a homework assignment, for example.  And that powerful kid threatens to take the first kid’s lunch money if he or she doesn’t comply by a certain deadline.

In the school yard, we call that bullying. We don’t tolerate it. And I sure hope we support kids who stand up for what they know to be right.

There are many people – teachers and principals and parents alike – who are taking up the fight against APPR-style evaluations that rely on unreliable tests to evaluate teachers.  They should not be ashamed of themselves. They should be proud.  We should be proud of them. We should be standing beside them.  And if we value the kind of teaching that makes kids lifelong readers and passionate learners, then we should be supporting our teachers every chance we get.

Teachers are the good guys.  They’ve proven it over and over again – giving up lunch hours to work with struggling students, buying books with their own limited paychecks to share with emerging readers, and yes…shielding students from violence.  How very quickly we forget.

So I hope you’ll join me in a promise. When people are bashing teachers –  whether it’s on social media or at a dinner party – I’m going to speak up.

Every. Single. Time.

Writing and Writing (and a short story to read while you wait!)

I must admit… I’ve been a bad blogger lately because all  my words have been going into a few projects I’ve been working on. So now that I’m here, how about if I tell you a little about those?

This one’s all done…

HIDE AND SEEK is my follow up to CAPTURE THE FLAG, and in this second mystery, a sacred Silver Jaguar Society artifact goes missing, and Anna, Henry, and Jose go with their families to the rainforest of Costa Rica to try and track down the priceless Jaguar Cup before it falls into the wrong hands forever.  I love this book (maybe even more than CAPTURE THE FLAG – am I allowed to say that?) and can’t wait for it to come out in April.

After HIDE AND SEEK, Anna, Henry, and Jose will have one more adventure, and I’m working on that book right now. It’s called MANHUNT, and it pits the Silver Jaguar Society against the most nefarious art theft gang in all of Europe in a race to save the most beloved works of art in the world. This book takes place in some of the brightest and darkest places in Boston and Paris and was so much fun to research that I wish I could hop on a plane and do it all over again. But the great thing about writing books is that you get to relive your research trips with every draft.  It may be below freezing and drizzly where I live, but in my writing room this week, it was Paris in August, right down to the breeze on the Seine and the wafting smell of banana-Nutella crepes.

I’ve also been working on a couple proposals for new projects that are too new to be talked about but have been haunting my dreams and my notebooks for a while.

I don’t have a new book coming out until Spring, but I do have a short story to share now.  A while back, Scholastic asked me to write a piece of original fiction for their Storyworks magazine, and I jumped at the chance to try something a little different from what I usually write. It’s science fiction, and it’s called “They Might Be Dangerous.”


Scholastic has made much of the February/March issue of Storyworks available online (they’re great that way) so if you’d like to read my story, you can click here to find it.   Scroll down to find “They Might Be Dangerous,” and then you can click on it to download the story as a pdf to read and share.

Authors Wanted: A call for World Read Aloud Day 2013


Confession: Reading aloud is one of my favorite things in the world. When I was a kid, I was the one forever waving my hand to volunteer to read to the class, and still, I’ll pretty much read to anyone who will listen.

For the past couple years, I’ve helped out with LitWorld’s World Read Aloud Day by pulling together a list of author volunteers who would like to spend part of the day Skyping with classrooms around the world to share the joy of reading aloud. World Read Aloud Day 2013 is March 6th, and I’d love to do this again, to help interested authors, teachers, and librarians connect.

A suggested World Read Aloud Day Skype visit goes like this…

  • 1-2 minutes: Author introduces himself or herself and talks a little about his or her books.
  • 3-5 minutes: Author reads aloud a short picture book, or a short excerpt from a chapter book/novel
  • 5-10 minutes: Author answers some questions from students about reading/writing
  • 1-2 minutes: Author book-talks a couple books he or she loves (but didn’t write!) as recommendations for the kids

Sound like fun? If  you’re the author of a traditionally published* book and you’d like to volunteer to do some 10-15 minute Skype visits with classes on March 6, 2013, please send me an email via the contact form on my website (you can get there by clicking on the little envelope on the right side of the screen).  Deadline: February 1st, please, so people can plan.

  • Put WORLD READ ALOUD DAY VOLUNTEER in the subject line
  • Include the following information in the body of your email:
    • Your name
    • Your publisher
    • What ages your books fit best (Elementary, Middle School, or High School)
    • What time zone you live in (EST, CST, etc. This is important for scheduling!)
    • Hours you’ll be available for Skype visits on March 6, 2013 (10am-2pm EST, for example)
    • Your website (and email if your website doesn’t have contact information)

So a sample email from an author volunteer will look like this:

Kate Messner
Elementary/Middle School
11am-2pm EST

Please use this exact format; it will make it easy for me to copy & paste your entry to the blog post, and then I will love you forever.

I’ll pull all the author volunteer information together in a blog post for early February and share with teachers & librarians who want to Skype with read-aloud authors on March 6th.  Teachers & librarians will contact authors directly to request visits.  If you’re on the list for a while and then realize your schedule for the day is full, it will be helpful if you email me to let me know that so that I can cross you off and you don’t keep getting requests.

*Yes…I’m limiting this volunteer round-up to traditionally published authors who write children’s and YA books. That’s not because I have anything against self-publishing or ebooks — it’s simply to limit the scope of the project so it doesn’t overwhelm me. If someone else would like to create a similar list of self-published and/or ebook author volunteers, I’ll happily link to it here.  Thanks for understanding!

Why writing a book about concussions can be hazardous to your health…

WAKE UP MISSING, my Fall 2013 MG novel with Walker/Bloomsbury is just about put to bed. I spent much of the holiday break reviewing copy edits, and I have to admit, as excited as I am for this book to be out in the world, I was a little sad to let it go because it’s been so much fun, so interesting to work on.  The cover design team has done a spectacular job, and I can’t wait to show you what they’ve created.  But for now, I’ll share a little about the book.

Meet Quentin, a middle school football star from Chicago…

Sarah, an Upstate New York girls’ hockey team stand-out…

Ben, a horse lover from the Pacific Northwest…

And Cat, an artistic bird watcher from California.

The four have nothing in common except for the head injuries that land them in an elite brain-science center in the Florida Everglades. It’s known as the best in the world, but as days pass, the kids begin to suspect that they are subjects in an experiment that goes far beyond treating concussions….and threatens their very identities. They’ll have to overcome their injuries – and their differences –  to escape, or risk losing themselves forever.

 Researching this book meant lots of reading and multiple trips to the Florida Everglades to soak up the setting and details, so I’d have a better sense for what it might be like to attempt an escape through that unforgiving landscape.


My daughter and I went kayaking with alligators — twice — once in the early morning hours and once in the dark of night, when their eyes glowed red in our head lamps.

I went hiking in the Fakahatchee Strand with snakes like this one…


…and made it through all those experiences with nary a scratch.

But sometimes, while you’re working on a book, the heaps of laundry really pile up in your bedroom. And so sometimes, when you finish copy edits, you resolve to clean that room as soon as the manuscript is back in the mail. And if you’re not careful, you might bend over really fast to pick up a stray sock from your floor and forget all about that very solid oak bedpost that’s been living in that corner of your room for your entire married life. And it might connect with your head and cause you to see stars and sit down for a little while thinking, “Wow, that hurt!”  And two days later, when you develop a sudden and intense headache on that side of your head, you’ll probably need to go to the hospital for a CT Scan to make sure your brain isn’t bleeding. And you’ll learn that you are just fine, but you do have your first-ever concussion.

On a positive note…I got to see pictures of my brain, which is pretty cool.


My friend Irene thinks this should be the author photo for WAKE UP MISSING.

My post-concussion headache has abated now, but for a few days, it allowed me to empathize with my poor novel characters in a way I’d never planned.  I’m calling it accidental research. And also…validation. For years growing up, I told my mom that I was sure cleaning my room was somehow hazardous to my health.  Now I know, I was right all along.