Good Shepherd Episcopal School

My first author visit of the 2011-2012 school year was yesterday at Good Shepherd Episcopal School in Dallas, Texas. We spoke to kindergarden through 2nd grade, and the presentations were in the new library which houses almost 29,000 books, an aquarium filled with corals and tropical fish, two parakeets, and a yellow rat snake! Their amazing library is located in the school’s new Center for Creative Learning which is the first elementary school in Texas to be awarded LEED Gold certification established by the U.S. Green Building Council.

From left to right: Author Matthew Shane Bronson, Author/Illustrator Tammy Carter Bronson, and Librarian Liz Fleskes.

Both the librarian, Liz Fleskes, and her assistant, Claudia Hinton, made us feel very welcome. They treated us to lunch from the Corner Bakery along with coffee, snacks and a beautiful display featuring our books.

Good Shepherd's Book Display

The students were well prepared for the visit. They were familiar with every story, and several students sent us fan mail after the program. My favorite is from the youngest student to ever send me an email:

“Hello–My name is Jordan. I am a pre-Kindergarten student at Good Shepherd Episcopal School. Thanks for coming to visit with us today. I wish that I had brought you some flowers. I hope you can come and visit us again.

Jordan

P. S. My daughter was insistent on sending you this thank you email. You obviously made quite an impression today. Thank you.”

What a perfect visit to begin the new school year! Thank you, Good Shepherd Episcopal, for inviting us to your school. We enjoyed meeting your students, and we are grateful for the wonderful memories!

Corals in the Good Shepherd Aquarium

Good Shepherd Episcopal School Author Visit

Thursday, September 8, 2011

9:10-9:40 – Kindergarden/Pre-K (~50 students)

9:55-10:40 – 2nd Grade (53 students)

10:40-11:35 Book Signing

11:35-12:15 First Grade (55 students)

12:15-1:30 Lunch

1:30-2:00 Kindergarden/Pre-K (~50 students)

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Charlotte’s Web

Cover of "Charlotte's Web (paper-over-boa...

Cover of Charlotte's Web

“Salutations!”

And so begins the first meeting between two of the most famous characters in 20th century children’s literature, Wilbur and Charlotte.

I am a great admirer of E. B. White’s work, and Charlotte’s Web is one of my favorite children’s books. Today I caught part of a wonderful interview with Michael Sims’ about his new book, The Story of Charlotte’s Web: E. B. White’s Eccentric Life in Nature and the Birth of an American Classic. The interview is on NPR’s Talk of the Nation. The book was released June 7, 2011 and is already in its third printing. There are links to more interviews on the author’s website, michaelsimsbooks.com, and I enjoyed reading the insightful article about the book at Smithsonian.com.

I often use Charlotte’s Web in writing workshops with older students (2nd-5th grades) because the plot of the book is a perfect example of a “Hero’s Journey.” I use three questions to begin the discussion. The answers to these questions help define the beginning, middle, and end of the book.

THE BEGINNING

Who is the hero? Wilbur

Many students will name Charlotte as the hero, but she is a supporting character I like to call, “the Teacher Character,” because she helps the hero the most on his journey. Wilbur is the hero because he wants something, but he won’t achieve his goal until the end.

THE END

What does the hero want? Wilbur wants to live.

This is the hero’s goal, and it determines the end of the book. In Charlotte’s Web, Wilbur wants to live, and several supporting characters help make his dream a reality as the story unfolds.

THE MIDDLE

What is the problem, or why is Wilbur’s life in danger? Fern’s uncle, Mr. Zuckerman, wants to eat him!

Several supporting characters, including Charlotte and Templeton the rat, help Wilbur convince Mr. Zuckerman that he is “SOME PIG” and way too “TERRIFIC” to eat.

Below is an outline I created of the plot in Charlotte’s Web. Teachers, feel free to use this outline in the classroom. It’s a great tool for readers and writers. Seeing how the story unfolds, step-by-step, might help you outline the plot in your own story.

Charlottes Web Plot

Double-click to view and print the full page.

For more information about E. B. White and Charlotte’s Web, try these websites:

E. B. White Official Website

Charlotte’s Web Study Guide

Activities at ABCTeach.com

Charlotte’s Web at Scholastic.com

More Links at eThemes (Missouri.edu)

Dawn Denton, Arkansas Writer and Gardener

Yesterday I autographed copies of my new book, “Sea Horse, run!”, at Nightbird Books on Dickson Street in Fayetteville. Nightbird is an independent bookseller that supports and encourages Indie authors. Of course the greatest benefit of a book signing is that it allows the author to make a personal connection with readers, but yesterday’s event was a special treat because it allowed me to meet another local children’s book author, Dawn Denton. Her first book, Ruby and Rocket, came out last year, and her latest book, Oliver the Toad, was just published last month.

One thing Dawn and I have in common is that we both like to use our books to educate children. I put factual information at the end of my books after the story, but Dawn weaves her amazing facts into the stories themselves. Dawn is a certified Arkansas Master Gardener, so both Ruby and Rocket and Oliver the Toad were inspired by her extensive knowledge of gardens and the beneficial animals and insects that live in them. Dawn lives in Siloam Springs, and her books are perfect for children ages 4 to 9!

Thank you, Nightbird Books, for supporting local authors and artists!
http://nightbird.indiebound.com/

   

For more information about Dawn Denton…

Read this announcement from Bella Vista Garden Club:
http://www.bellavistagardenclub.com/News/untitledpost-2

Visit Dawn’s Personal website:
http://www.nwarkansasgardendesign.com/index.html

“Like” Dawn on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Gardens-by-You-and-Me/146661572032229?sk=info

Dawn’s Publisher:
http://www.tatepublishing.com/bookstore/search.php?search=dawn+denton

Dawn’s Books on Amazon.com:
Ruby and Rocket
Oliver the Toad

Email Dawn…
gardensbyuandme@yahoo.com

Gardens and fresh produce are a big deal in Northwest Arkansas. Here are a few must see destinations for Garden lovers…

Botanical Gardens of the Ozarks
http://www.bgozarks.org/

Fayetteville Farmer’s Market
http://www.fayettevillefarmersmarket.org/

And we can’t forget Northwest Arkansas’ famous organic food co-op:
Ozark Natural Foods
http://www.ozarknaturalfoods.com/

Readers Make Books Real

THE TELEGRAPH reported yesterday that Penelope Lively, the Booker Prize-winning author of MOON TIGER, said e-books are for “bloodless nerds” and are no substitute for real books. Responses to Ms. Lively’s statements vary. Sarah Crown, a blogger at the guardian.co.uk, agrees with Ms. Lively (Read Sarah’s Post), but someone needs to speak on behalf of the “bloodless nerds.” I guess that will be me!

I believe Ms. Lively needs to expand her definition of a ‘real book.’ What makes a book ‘REAL?’ My definition of REAL comes from an old picture book entitled, THE VELVETEEN RABBIT:

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.” 

The Velveteen Rabbit

Image via Wikipedia

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit…

The way a book is made does not determine whether or not the book is REAL. An agent, editor or publishing house does not make a book REAL. Distributors, wholesalers, and bookstores do not make a book REAL. The paper the book is printed on does not make a book REAL. What is a REAL book? A book becomes REAL when it is loved very, very much by a reader. If that is the case, it doesn’t matter how a book comes into the world. If a reader loves it, the book is REAL.

Take care, Ms. Lively. Those “bloodless nerds” will determine the future of your books. If you insult your readers, they might just decide that your books are not REAL after all.

Further Reading:

THE VELVETEEN RABBIT by Margery Williams
(Please note: Both the e-books and print versions are REAL;)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Margery_Williams

http://www.penelopelively.net/

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/ways-with-words/