Tag Archives: Kate Messner

Title twins: Epic Fails and Brilliant Falls

19 Jun

Sometimes the title of one book makes me think of another.

I just checked out The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya. It reminded me of Kate Messner’s The  Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z.

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Both are solid middle grade novels that tackle issues of family. Both have strong grandmother characters, of which I am a little jealous, never having really known mine well. Both would make excellent summer reads for kids if late elementary, early middle school age.

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Publisher’s Summary: Save the restaurant. Save the town. Get the girl. Make Abuela proud. Can thirteen-year-old Arturo Zamora do it all or is he in for a BIG, EPIC FAIL?

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Publisher’s Summary: Gianna Z has less than one week to collect, identify, and creatively display 25 leaves for her science project-or else she won’t be able to compete in the upcoming cross-country sectionals race. As the deadline for her leaf project draws near, life keeps getting in the way. Some things are within Gee’s control, like her own procrastination, but others aren’t, like Biana Rinaldi’s attempts at sabotage and Nonna’s declining health. If it weren’t for her best friend Zig, Gee wouldn’t have a chance at finishing. His knowledge of trees and leaves in their rural Vermont town comes in very handy- as does his loyalty to Gee. But when Nonna disappears one afternoon, things like leaves and cross-country meets suddenly seem less important.

My Summer Writing Plans

13 Jun

I’m worried about summer slide. MY summer slide.

Oh, I have no concerns that I won’t read over summer. And I will do as much math as it takes to get through life.

No, it’s my writing.

It is such a huge portion of my life during the school year and I don’t want to give it up. I don;t want to keep using the same mentor texts I’ve written, even though they are good ones. I want to keep writing, and so, I signed up for Kate Messner’s Teachers Write 2017!

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Along with three other authors (Gae Polisner, Jen Vincent, and Jo Knowles), Kate will take anyone who signs up on a month-long adventure in writing.

Here is what it entails:

Mini-Lesson Mondays: Mondays feature mini-lessons on writing craft or logistics. We’ll share a workshop-style lesson with ideas, tips, and examples, and then there will be something to work on during the week. Jo also gets our writing juices flowing with Monday Morning Warm-Ups on her blog.

Tuesday Quick-Write: Tuesdays will feature a writing prompt that can be used to brainstorm new ideas or deepen your thinking on the project you’re working on now.

Wednesday Q and A: Ever wished you could just pick an author’s brain about how they do it?  Each Wednesday, we’ll have a post where anyone can ask questions about writing .  Our guest authors will answer!

Thursday Quick-Write: Like Tuesdays, Thursdays will feature a writing prompt that can be used to brainstorm new ideas or deepen your thinking on the project you’re working on now.

Revision Friday and Feedback Friday: Fridays will feature a guest author’s thoughts on revision, along with virtual lemonade.  Author Gae Polisner will also host Feedback Friday on her blog, where you can share your work, get ideas, and offer feedback to others.

Weekend reflections & Sunday check-in – Weekends are for recharging, spending time with family and friends…and that includes online writing friends, too!  Teacher-writer Jen Vincent hosts a Sunday check-in on her blog, Teach Mentor Texts.

The month-long class is free, but they ask that you purchase one book by each of the authors. I am always happy to add to my classroom library.

I stumbled on this last year, after it had started, and decided there and then that I would undertake it this year. I am keeping my vow.

Maybe I will see you there.

 

I Wish…

14 Jul

Jury duty day 2 was even less eventful than day 1. The jury coordinator stepped up to the mike 3 times to call the names of people to go up to courtrooms. Mine was not one of them. At 11:00 she came up for a fourth time to tell us that we could go home.

While waiting that second morning, I read  The Seventh Wish  by Kate Messner.

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This one got a bit of buzz in the media because some schools were hesitant about putting it in their library because it talks about the impact of heroin addiction on families. In fact, a school visit by Messner was canceled when an administrator got nervous. You can read Kate’s post about it HERE.

Publisher’s Summary:Charlie feels like she’s always coming in last. From her Mom’s new job to her sister’s life away at college, everything else always seems to be more important than Charlie’s upcoming dance competition or science project. Unsure of how to get her family’s attention, Charlie comes across the surprise of her life one day while ice-fishing . . . in the form of a floppy, scaly fish offering to grant her a wish in exchange for its freedom. Charlie can’t believe her luck until she realizes that this fish has a funny way of granting wishes, despite her best intentions. But when her family faces a challenge bigger than any they’ve ever experienced, Charlie wonders if some things might be too important to risk on a wish.

With the same warmth and fun that readers loved in All the Answers, Kate Messner weaves fantasy into the ordinary, giving every reader the opportunity to experience a little magic.

Kids should be able to read about hard topics. This can be hard for many adults because it might lead to kids asking questions some adults don’t want to aster. From experience, I can tell you that, if a kid isn’t ready, they will abandon the book, or finish it and say they didn’t like it.

Fortunately, the situation at the school that cancelled Kate’s visit is working towards resolution. From the end of her blog post:

Updated 6/13: On Saturday, I received an email from South Burlington’s Chamberlin School principal Holly Rouelle, who told me that a decision has been made to carry THE SEVENTH WISH in her school library. She also sent home a note letting parents know about an upcoming event at the public library on June 28th.  In addition, I’ve offered to reschedule this free author-visit presentation in the fall and hope Chamberlin will take me up on that offer, once school is back in session and they’ve had a chance to prepare the students.

I think the kids at that school have learned some very important lessons about censorship. Every Fall, ALA celebrates Banned Books Week. I hope this school joins in.

Questions & Answers

15 Jul

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As soon as I read the jacket blurb, I knew I had to read All the Answers  by Kate Messner.

Jacket blurb:When Ava Anderson finds an old blue pencil , it doesn’t seem like anything special. But then she writes a question in the margin of her math quiz, and something very strange happens.  She hears a voice loud and clear – one that nobody else can hear – and it tells her the answer!

With the help of her friend Sophie, Ava sees that having a magic pencil in middles school can be very handy.   But as Ava’s reliance on the pencil grows, the truths it reveals about herself and her family lead Ava on an adventure she never expected to take.

In a story as heartfelt as it is magical, Kate Messner gives readers a glimpse at the biggest fantasy: a magic pencil that helps you through the ups and downs of middle school.

I really liked All the Answers  because it wasn’t quite the book I thought it was going to be. I expected Ava to use the pencil for schoolwork, which she does. But she quickly discovers it knows about things beyond school and asks it questions about family members. Ava is a worrier and the pencil is a comfort to her, until it gives her an answer that causes her to worry more, But it also helps her mature and learn to deal with things beyond her control.

Although Ava is in middle school, the book leans towards a younger demographic. Fourth & fifth graders will love this glimpse into the world of middle school and sixth graders may find some comfort in knowing that they are not alone in worrying. Heck, even this ld teacher, who is returning to middle school in September, found some comfort and wishes she could have a magic pencil to help her navigate a new world.

Journeys On the Oregon Trail

15 Apr

This week, my class set off on a book club adventure along the Oregon Trail. I started by introducing the five books they could choose. I gave a short book talk about each, then set a set of he five books on each table, giving theme ample time to look through to find a good fit book. Their choices were:

Ranger in Time:Rescue on the Oregon Trail by Kate Messner (by far the most desired book)

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Thunder Rolling in the Mountains by Scott O’Dell and Elizabeth Hall (not exactly an Oregon Trail book, but there is a connection)

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Dear Levi: Letters from the Overland Trail  by Elvira Woodruff

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Rachel’s Journal  by Marissa Moss

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The Stout Hearted Seven: Orphaned on the Oregon Trail  by Neta Lohnes Frazier

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Then they had to fill out a form naming their first and second choices and why each would be a good book for them. Some of their reasons were excellent. Here are some samples.

“When we talked about Native Americans, I had questions that went farther. I would like to know how they were pushed out of their own land .”

” I like books with a map and journal books.”

“I enjoy books where people have to go on a hard life-or-death mission.”

“I want to know the feeling and how hard it can be to have to survive alone.”

“Time travel is right next to impossible.”

“It is teaching you about the Oregon Trail and it is also doing fantasy at the same time.”

“I could see how other people come together and help each other live.”

 

They didn’t all get their first choice, but everyone got their first or second choice, and so far, everyone seems happy with their book.

 

 

 

 

Trifecta

13 Feb

Trifecta – a run of three wins or grand events.

Kate Messner might have created the perfect novel for kids ready to move beyond  The Magic Treehouse  series.

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Ranger in Time: Rescue on the Oregon Trail has a golden retriever, the Oregon Trail and time travel!

Summary: Ranger has been trained as a search-and-rescue dog, but can’t officially pass the test because he’s always getting distracted by squirrels during exercises. One day, he finds a mysterious first aid kit in the garden and is transported to the year 1850, where he meets a young boy named Sam Abbott. Sam’s family is migrating west on the Oregon Trail, and soon after Ranger arrives he helps the boy save his little sister. Ranger thinks his job is done, but the Oregon Trail can be dangerous, and the Abbotts need Ranger’s help more than they realize!

I think I might read this one aloud when we get to out Oregon trail Unit, unless I can get the funds to buy a novel set. When we studied Lewis & Clark, we looked at a number of books that told the story from the POV of Lewis’ dog, Seaman.

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The kids really connected to Seaman and I think they will do the same with Ranger. The story itself is only 125 pages long and it is illustrated in detail by Kelly McMorris. Backmatter includes an author’s note about using primary sources, a bibliography of sources and suggestions for further reading. This would be an excellent addition to any class that studies westward expansion.

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