Creating Hype for an Author Visit: Circus Mirandus

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We are over the moon with excitement that Cassie Beasley is coming to our school on September 3 thanks to her, her publisher Penguin Random House, and Avid Bookshop.  Sometimes author visits happen at the last minute, but this one has been in the works since the summer.  I read the book and fell in love with the story.  Even before I was done, I was talking with Avid Bookshop about the possibility of Cassie coming to our school.  We created a proposal together, and many emails and conversations later the visit was scheduled.

As a part of my proposal, I suggested that our PTA would buy a copy of the book for all 3rd-5th grade homerooms.  The book would be available to students to read or the teacher could even read it aloud.  I’m excited to say that our entire 3rd grade is reading the book aloud and many of the 5th grade classes are starting it. During our library orientation, I read aloud the beginning chapter of the book as well as the beginning of the chapter starting on p. 65 which details how Ephraim first made it into Circus Mirandus.  We learn that you can’t pay to get into the circus but must instead offer something of your own to the ticket taker.  For Ephraim, it’s a fish from his boot which results in a week-long pass to the circus.

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Reading from the book is enough to create hype because it’s just that good.  However, a circus theme as well as the contents of the book lend to some other fun opportunities for students to engage with the book ahead of the author visit.  Our wonderful PTA also bought 20 additional copies of the book to be given out at our discretion.  I’ve decided to give 10 of these away to students who participate in 2 opportunities in the library.

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The first opportunity is to think about what your ticket into Circus Mirandus would be.  I’m encouraging students to either make, bring in, or even take a picture of the object they would offer as their ticket.  I made a short ticket template for them to fill out with their name, ticket description, and how long they think the ticket would be good for at the circus.

We are displaying these on the tops of the library shelves.  When they turn in their “ticket”, I give them a ticket to put their name on and drop into our fish bowl.

The second opportunity is a photo booth.  I made a backdrop of red with quotes from the book.  I covered a table and cushion with a gold tablecloth and filled an empty Mariah Carey perfume container with fuzzy pom poms to look like gum balls.  Then, I ordered a set of circus photo booth props from Oriental Trading.  I put all of this together and included the wearable books from Capstone which contain beards, hats, masks, and teeth.  If students take their picture in the photo booth, then they earn another ticket into the drawing for a book.  I plan to print out the photographs and display them on the library windows.

Before the author visit, I will draw out 10 names and announce the winners so that Cassie can autograph the book for them.

Along the way, I’m tweeting about our fun and tagging Avid Bookshop, Cassie Beasley, and the publisher so that they can all follow along in the fun.

I have some other special decorations in the works, which I plan to complete this week.  I’ll keep those under wraps for now.

I’ve been emailing with Cassie and planning the visit.  I know that it is truly going to be a magical experience for us all when she comes.

Expecting the Miraculous with Cassie Beasley & Circus Mirandus

I’m drawn to powerful words and stories, and over the summer, my eye was caught by the cover of Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley.  I had seen the book getting considerable buzz, but even without the buzz, the cover, with its cutout top hat and hidden world beneath the tent, caught my eye.

The back cover slogan, “You have to BELIEVE IT to see it”, spoke to me.  In fact, it spoke directly to our motto in the Barrow Media Center to expect the miraculous every day.  In our library, we believe in everything that we attempt.  We don’t always know what is going to happen, but we know that if we believe that we can do something, then miraculous things will happen even if they aren’t exactly what we thought would happen in the first place.

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This summer I visited our local independent bookstore, Avid Bookshop, and picked up my copy.

I only had to read a few words to know that I was holding magic in my hands.  Circus Mirandus is about a magical circus that only is visible to the people who believe in it.  In fact,  you can’t even get into the circus with a regular ticket.  Entry is different for each person who comes because each person has a different purpose for being there.  Micah Tuttle’s grandfather tells him fantastical tales of the Circus Mirandus and Micah first thinks these are only stories.  Granpa Ephraim becomes very sick and says that the magical Lightbender from the circus has promised him a miracle and he is doing his best to make sure the miracle is granted.  Micah realizes the circus is more than stories and makes it his mission to find the circus and bring the Lightbender to his grandfather to grant his miracle.  This book has the magic of Peter Pan, Wizard of Oz, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, and more.

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When I read, quotes stand out to me.  Sometimes there is a single quote from an entire book that resonates with me.  I often tweet it out.  It happened this time, too.  One quote stayed with me:

I won’t give away how this quote fits into the plot of the story, but for me, it reminded me of how every day in our library we expect the miraculous.  It reminded me that often times there are very small magical things that happen even though I may pulling my hair out, dwelling on all the things I haven’t accomplished, and thinking about all of the things that went wrong.  However, it’s those small, magical moments that stand out.  It’s those small magical moments that are the most important and remind me why I press on.  It’s those moments that remind me the importance of empowering the voices of our students.

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Even Cassie’s dedication in the book reminds me of the importance of empower our students to believe that they can do anything they set their minds to.  She writes in her dedication:

“For Daddy and Mama.  When I was little, you told me I could do anything.  I’m not so little now, but you keep saying it.  I’m starting to think you really believe it.  I love you for that.”

I didn’t even have to finish Circus Mirandus to know that I wanted my students to experience the book and that I wanted Cassie Beasley to visit our school, but when I did finish, I knew that she had to.  When I read that she lives in “rural Georgia”, I immediately emailed Rachel Watkins at Avid Bookshop to learn more.  Between me, Rachel, and Janet Geddis, we began a conversation about what an author visit would look like and started talks with the publisher and author.  It took some time, but in my heart, I really believed that Cassie Beasley would come to our school at some point this year.

Just a few days ago, we got the confirmation that Cassie will visit our 3rd-5th grade on September 3 at 1:00.  She will also do an in-store visit at Avid Bookshop.  As part of my proposal, I said that I would introduce the book to all 3rd-5th graders and would also get a copy for every 3rd-5th grade classroom to use as a read aloud.  I love Avid Bookshop, because they got us our 10 copies for the classrooms just in time for school to begin.

Students will have an opportunity to pre-order her book for signing.  We are also purchasing additional copies of the book to give to classrooms thanks to our wonderful PTA.  You are probably wishing that you could also get your signed copy.

If you are in the Athens area, visit Avid Bookshop on September 3 from 4:30-5:30PM.  If you can’t make it to Athens, you can still get your autographed copy.  Just visit Avid’s website to order a copy.  Make a note that you would like to get your book signed, and they will ship your book to wherever you are!

We look forward to meeting Cassie Beasley in our school on September 3.  Expect to see lots of tweets and pictures during the event and a full post afterward.  I highly encourage you to read Circus Mirandus.  Your life will be rewarded!

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Kicking Off Summer Reading with a Visit from Author Sarah Weeks

A few weeks ago our local independent bookshop, Avid Bookshop, emailed me with an opportunity.  Sarah Weeks, author of Pie and many other great books, was coming to Athens, and they wanted her to visit our school.  Hooray!  I try to jump at every author visit I can get.  For the visit, I needed to presale some books, which I always do, but this time we wanted to try something new and crazy. I’ve always wanted to do a school wide read, but I have never gotten the idea off the ground.  I saw this as a perfect chance to try it with a smaller number of students rather than the whole school. This author visit focused on upper grades. Our 5th graders would be gone to Skidaway on a field trip, so 3rd and 4th grade would be the classes coming to the visit. Rather than asking every student to buy a copy of the book, I decided to try a GoFundMe campaign to raise enough money to give every 3rd and 4th grader a copy of Pie as well as buy a few copies of Honey to give away to a few students.

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In just under 1 month, 28 donors funded our project.  These donors included community members, grandparents, families, and friends from around the country.  Thank you to each one of these donors who made this crazy idea a reality.

When Sarah Weeks came to visit our school, I got to make the exciting announcement and tell them about the 28 people who took time to donate money to the project.  I also told them that the deal from me is that I want each one of them to read Pie.  I want them to share it with families and spend time talking about it.  I also want them to make things together like family recipes or even pies.  My hope is that they will document this over the summer on a Padlet.

Sarah Weeks was phenomenal in her visit and I highly recommend her to any schools looking for a great author visit. She built so many frequently asked questions into her talk such as “What was your first book?”, “What is your current book?”, “Do you get writer’s block?”, etc.  Each question was answered with slides filled with great photographs, personal stories, and lots of funny moments.  The students laughed so much at Sarah’s stories about boys painting their fingernails, kids doing puppets shows through the shirts, and dogs joining.

She talked about a story arc and had students moving their hands to show the flow of a story through beginning, middle, and end.  She also told them a story about a cowboy on a horse in the airport and paused along the way to point out what part of the arc she was in during the story. What a great connection to what they are learning in writing class!

She showed them the many revisions that her work goes through and how important it is to listen to her editor. She connected this to all of the notes that students see on their writing papers and stressed how they needed to listen to their teachers’ comments because it helps make the writing better.

Sarah has so many books that she couldn’t talk about them all.  She started with books like the Oggie Cooder books and how he charves cheese into the shapes of states.

We had one student who knew every state she showed a picture of!

Sarah’s two new books are Glamourpuss and Honey.  She treated the students to a full reading of Glamourpuss and the high-energy students were mesmerized.  I loved how she showed Honey to the students.  She showed several slides with single words that helped students know some things the books was about, but then she showed students several characters from the book along with text from the book that gave the students a taste of the character.

Then, she showed the students how she had to do research to learn about how nail polish is made.  This story connected with a great story about how some girls in a library were painting their nails and several boys were very curious.  The librarian at the school hosted a nails at noon session in the library and it was attended by mostly boys who painted their nails and posed for some fierce pictures.

I couldn’t believe how much Sarah packed into an hour long presentation.  There was even time for Q & A.  She was engaging, funny, and a pro at keeping the student’s attention.  I loved getting to hang out with Sarah Weeks even for a brief time.  She is a fun person and a talented writer.

Thank you Avid Bookshop and Scholastic for bringing her to our school. Thank you to all of the donors who got Pie into the hands of all of our kids.

As I went to car riders today, I saw several students in the hallway already reading their books while they waited.  That’s what it’s all about!

It was a really fun day!

 

 

Give Our Students Some Pie (by Sarah Weeks)

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We have a wonderful opportunity at our school.  Author Sarah Weeks is coming to visit on May 8th to promote her two new books Glamourpuss and Honey.  She is also author of the amazing book Pie.  

From the book Pie:

From the award-winning author of SO B. IT, a story about family, friendship, and…pie!

When Alice’s Aunt Polly, the Pie Queen of Ipswitch, passes away, she takes with her the secret to her world-famous pie-crust recipe. Or does she? In her will, Polly leaves the recipe to her extraordinarily fat, remarkably disagreeable cat, Lardo . . . and then leaves Lardo in the care of Alice.

Suddenly, the whole town is wondering how you leave a recipe to a cat. Everyone wants to be the next big pie-contest winner, and it’s making them pie-crazy. It’s up to Alice and her friend Charlie to put the pieces together and discover the not-so-secret recipe for happiness: Friendship. Family. And the pleasure of donig something for the right reason.

With Pie, acclaimed author Sarah Weeks has baked up a sweet and satisfying delight, as inviting as warm pie on a cold day. You’ll enjoy every last bite

Some schools in our district benefit from the amazing Books for Keeps, which gives 12 books to every student in the school to read over the summer.  We don’t benefit from this program, and I have always wanted to give students something to read over the summer.

We have never done an “On the Same Page” or “One Book” event at Barrow, but this seems like a great time to try getting lots of our students reading the same pages over the summer.  We would love to give every student in 3rd and 4th grade (rising 4th & 5th graders) a copy of Pie to read over the summer.  We will have lots of online ways to talk about the book over the summer and a celebration of the book when we return in August.

For now, we have a bit of urgency.  We need to raise enough money to purchase these books from our local independent bookstore, Avid Bookshop. We have created a GoFundMe campaign to raise $1000 over the next month.  We expect the miraculous, so we truly believe that this opportunity will be miraculous for our students and we will miraculously raise the funds.

Any amount helps.  Please consider donating a few dollars to get books into the hands of our summer readers.  Click the picture below to visit our GoFundMe campaign.

Believing in the Possible with Jennifer Holm

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Many of you know that our motto in the library is “Expect the Miraculous” based on the book Flora & Ulysses.  When I saw the cover for Jennifer Holm’s The Fourteenth Goldfish for the first time I was immediately drawn into the tagline “Believe in the  impossible possible.”  Before I even read the book, I felt a connection.  I was lucky enough to score an advanced reader’s copy of the book at the Texas Library Association Conference back in April and I was hooked from the opening chapter.  In fact, you can read the opening chapter here.

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During the summer, I was contacted by the wonderful people at Avid Bookshop about a potential author visit with Jennifer Holm.  She was planning to be at the Decatur Book Festival on Labor Day weekend and was spending some time visiting bookstores and schools ahead of the festival.  It was fate.  The author of a book that I absolutely loved that connected with our philosophy of the library was available to visit our school.  I immediately said yes and the planning began.

Pulling off an author visit in the first two weeks of school is tricky.  When an author visits, I love to have time to preview their books with kids, have classes sharing the books as a read aloud, and allowing students to create decorations to welcome the author to our school.  There’s also the presales of books.  Forms must be sent home, collected, organized, and books ordered for autographing.  Two weeks is hard, but we expect the miraculous.

Here’s what happened ahead of the event.

  • Every single Holm book was checked out by either teachers or students.  In fact, I didn’t have any library books available for her to autograph at the visit!
  • Announcements were made on BTV advertising the visit
  • Three teachers received advanced reader copies of The Fourteenth Goldfish and began reading it aloud.
  • The entire school was invited to make book birthday cards since the book came out 2 days before Jenni’s visit.

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  • Several people helped make decorations for the event including jellyfish and goldfish balloons to hang from the ceiling as well as some posters.

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  • Preorders went home on the 1st day of school and were due 4 days later.
  • Classes watched the book trailer for The Fourteenth Goldfish.

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Today’s visit was incredible.  Every 3rd-5th grade class came which was a little more than 200 students.  We shifted back the library shelves to make room for everyone.  Jennifer kicked off the visit by sharing with students the story of how The Fourteenth Goldfish came to be.  She shared the stories of famous scientists and what it means to be an true observer.  She shared family stories of scientists in her family and built up to the science behind the main idea of the book which revolves around a fountain of youth found within a jellyfish.  She held up an apple and invited students to think about whether or not it was alive or if it held new life within it.

Then, she spent some time having students ponder what it would be like to be old and suddenly be transformed back into a teenager.  What problems might people face if they changed ages?  What success would they have?  She turned this into a game by having kids come up to the board in teams and write everything good about being old and everything good about being young.  Then she tallied up the number of reasons to see which was better.  She did the same thing with new groups of students but switched to everything bad about each age.  While students were racing against time to make their lists, she took questions from students about her books and the writing process.  She also shared the secret Babymouse signal and had students do it (which was really a clever way to keep the audience focused and settle down).

I loved how she pushed students to think deeply about whether they would ever want to go back to being young if it was possible.  I also loved how she shared the idea of believing in the possible by connecting the story to an actual jellyfish that can revert back to a younger version of itself.  If it’s possible for a jellyfish, could it be possible for us?

I hope many students will take time to read this book, and I have a feeling after this visit that many will.  I know several teacher who are considering it as their next read aloud.  With tie-ins to science and the belief in the possible, it has so many implications for what it means to be a dreamer, a tinkerer, and a maker.

We ended our time by sing happy birthday to The Fourteenth Goldfish.

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Following her talk, she spent time connecting with students and signing books.  We found out that she had not signed a copy of The Fourteenth Goldfish yet, so Hannah was the lucky student who has the 1st signed copy of the released book.

We are so fortunate to have Avid Bookshop in our community making connections between the community, authors, and our students in schools.  Thank you Jennifer Holm for taking time to visit our school and share your wisdom with us.  Thank you Avid and thank you Random House for this wonderful experience.  Our students will never forget it.

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Fifth Grade Battle of the Books Had a Visit with Deborah Wiles

IMG_3370Last month at the Texas Library Association conference, I had the opportunity to attend a session with multiple authors talking about writing historical fiction.  Deborah Wiles was on the panel.  I’ve know “Debbie” for several years now.  I first heard her at the Decatur Book Festival, and when she spoke, she created a magical presence with her words.  When she speaks, she truly breathes story into the air.  Hearing her speak and reading the words that she writes on the pages of her books gives me such a connection to her southern spirit and reminds me of growing up in the rural town of Blue Ridge.  About five years ago, Deborah Wiles came to Barrow Elementary as my very first author visit.  She sang One Wide Sky with PreK-1st grade and had upper grades writing in their imaginary journals.  She even led a professional learning session for teachers after school.  When, I saw Debbie in Texas she told me that she wanted to stop by and see the new media center, so we setup a time.

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Since she was already stopping by, I asked her if she would like to meet our 5th grade battle of the books students since they had read Countdown for their competition.  I’m so glad that we decided to do that because today’s visit was simply magical.

While she was stuck in traffic, the 5th graders worked on making her some birthday cards for when she arrived.  We also displayed the blackout poetry that we had made using Freedom Summer and Revolution.

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When she arrived today, she took a seat in the rocking chair that my dad made and started sharing stories.  She let the students talk to her about reading Countdown.  The depth of their conversation made me realize how different an author visit can be when the students have not only read the books but also spent extensive time discussing them.

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The students talked about the complexity of her plots, the character traits of their favorite characters, and shared specific details of scenes that seemed suspenseful.  In fact, some of the scenes that students chose to describe were some of the very scenes that were the most difficult for Deborah Wiles to write.

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Next, she showed us lots of pictures of where Countdown came from.  The students loved seeing the real places that inspired the story.  They also loved seeing how the title and cover art for the book changed and how the editor gave Deborah Wiles feedback on her work.

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Before students went back to class, we told her “Happy Birthday” and gave her some cards and artwork.  She spent time signing books that students pre-ordered from Avid Bookshop and chatting more with students about books and writing.

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While she was signing, we enjoyed birthday cake that she brought for us to enjoy!

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Before she left, we spent some time roaming around the school and looking at how much it had changed since the last time she was here.  Now, she will go to Avid Bookshop for a signing this afternoon at 4:30.

The students are all very eager to read Revolution, which publishes on May 27th.  I gave away 2 ARCs of Revolution today as well as some copies of Countdown.  We are so thankful to Deborah Wiles for driving to Athens and spending time with us today.  The students could have listened to her for the rest of the day.  We can’t wait to see her back in our library soon.

 

First Grade’s Fun Skype with Crabtree Co-creator, Jon Nichols

IMG_3166Our community amazes me.  Every year, new people within our school community step forward with ideas for our library program.  People share their talents, their connections, and their love of education.

This year, Rachel Gabara, a parent of a 1st grader, introduced me to a new book called Crabtree by brothers Jon and Tucker Nichols.  I’ll admit that it was my first time hearing of the book, but when I looked at the praise for Crabtree on the McSweeney’s website, I was floored.  Authors like Jon Klassen, Maira Kalman, Lemony Snickett, and Jon Agee all raved about the book.  I immediately ordered it from Avid Bookshop.  When I got it, I was raving about the book as much as the reviews.  It is jam packed with illustrations of all kinds of things.

Here’s the official trailer:

Crabtree loves to collect things.  The problem is that he has so much stuff he can’t find anything.  He begins to organize his collections of stuff in order to find his false teeth.  Each object on the page is labeled with its name, so kids are introduced to all kinds of tools and gadgets that they’ve probably never heard of.  It’s a great books just for the sorting, vocabulary, and potential research opportunities.  However, the humor and gadgets of the book are what really make it so much fun to read over and over again.  Even the dust jacket of the book has a collection of gadgets and unfolds into a poster.  At the end of the book, there’s a game where you can go back through the book finding various objects.  You need to order a copy of this book today.  It’s so much fun.

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When Rachel introduced me to the book, she told me that she was friends with the co-creator, Jon Nichols.  She offered to reach out to him to see if he would Skype with us.  He agreed, so we got to work preparing for our visit.  All of the 1st grade classes read the book in advance and pulled in some categorizing and math standards along the way.  Students also spent some time writing out questions for Jon.

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Today, the whole 1st grade came to the library and we connected with Jon in California.  He was a fantastic Skype author full of energy.  He told the kids a bit about how he and his brother made the book together.  Both of them were involved in the writing and illustrating process, and it was their first book.

Then, Jon showed the kids how he draws Crabtree.

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The students loved it when Jon let them ask him some questions.  When authors do this, the teachers help me a lot.  They start choosing students from the audience to start forming a line to the side of the screen and camera.

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As they get in line, we try to check to make sure the questions are all different and are actually questions.  I move the camera down to student-level.  Then, students take turns speaking to the author directly into the camera.

Today, students asked Jon questions like:

  • What kind of paint did you use?  He showed us the pens used to draw the illustrations and we learned that the colors were created by computer at the publisher because they didn’t like how real paint looked on the paper.

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  • Why did you call him Crabtree?  We learned that it was a mixture of a favorite place to visit but also the idea of 2 things that don’t really go together: crabs and trees.
  • Can 1st graders write books?  Jon was so enthusiastic in his answer and told them that they could absolutely write books.  He ran through the whole writing process and got them excited about their ideas for stories.

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There were many more wonderful questions.  I was really surprised by how well 1st graders asked questions.  The teachers did a wonderful job giving students time to think and write their questions down before they came.

We are so thankful to Jon for taking time out of his busy day to connect with us.  If you haven’t read Crabtree yet, we highly recommend it.