A Visit with LeUyen Pham

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The American Library Association just held its annual Midwinter Conference in Atlanta, and that meant that some amazing authors and illustrators were in town.  One of the speakers at ALA Midwinter was LeUyen Pham.  Who has worked on over 80 picture books!  Her current picture book is The Bear Who Wasn’t There and it is one she wrote and illustrated.  We were so thankful when her publisher, MacMillan, reached out to Avid Bookshop to offer a visit with a local school to celebrate her new book.

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The Bear Who Wasn’t There is a hilarious tale that invites the reader along to look for a bear who has gone missing from the book. There’s evidence of a bear along the way, but the reader and the animals in the story just can’t seem to find him.  Meanwhile, the duck in the story uses the bear’s absence to show off some magic tricks and try to sell his own books.  This book has a lot of mischief and laughs along the way, and readers might just discover a bear if they look very carefully.

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We didn’t learn about the opportunity to host LeUyen until late December, so the prep time for this visit was very short. Normally, I try to have students make decorations, but it was tricky to pull off this time. Instead, we really focused on reading the books. I pulled all of LeUyen’s books from our library and showed lots of classes the huge range of illustrations she has created from Freckleface Strawberry to Vampirina Ballerina to Alvin Ho to Princess in Black and more.  We read several of her books as well including The Bear Who Wasn’t There.  Every class laughed out loud on every single page.  We also took time to learn how to pronounce LeUyen’s name by listening to it on TeachingBooks.net

With over 350 K-3 students in the audience, LeUyen was magical!  With her twinkle fingers, she sprinkled the room with focus and students were hanging on every word.  She took them on a journey by looking at some of her very first drawings to the drawings she does as an adult. Students learned about movies that she worked on before she became an illustrator such as Prince of Egypt and Spirit.  She did some storytelling as she recounted her journey to Africa sketching scenery and animals.  LeUyen pulled out one of her many notebooks and showed students how she sketches everywhere she goes.

Students are hanging on every word from LeUyen. #avidevents #avidinschools #athensga #author #illustrator

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One of the moments I loved, was when she told students that she doesn’t spend too much time on one drawing. In fact she shared some pretty amazing drawings that she created in less than 15 minutes. She always draws in pen.  With a pen, you can’t erase your mistakes, so you can look back at those mistakes and learn from them.  That one statement has so many connections within and beyond art.  I want to bring that idea back up with students as we create together.

 

Next, LeUyen read A Piece of Cake, which is a perfect story for a big group read aloud.  There are so many unexpected things at each page turn and the kids had a blast shouting out what they thought mouse and bird would trade cake or objects for.

Listening to A Piece of Cake #avidinschools #avidevents #author #illustrator

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To close her time, LeUyen created some illustrations.  Students were selected from the audience, and she turned each of these models into an animal version of themselves reading a book.  While drawing animals with the features of our student models, she also took questions from the audience about her inspiration, her longest and shortest books, and more.

Turning kids into animals with LeUyen #avidevents #avidinschools #author #illustrator

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Animal kids with LeUyen Pham #avidevents #avidinschools #author #illustrator

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It was during this time that we heard about how a student at a school could suddenly become the inspiration for an illustration as one student did for Grace for President.    You just never know where your next idea may come from, so LeUyen is always watching, listening, and sketching her world.

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Our young readers listed to LeUyen for an hour, and I was so proud of their excitement for her.  She is such an inspiring and sweet person who is insanely talented at illustrating.  I know her books will fly off our library shelves, and I can’t wait to see what students create and talk about after exploring her books.

Personal drawing of my kids by LeUyen=AWESOME! #avidinschools #avidevents #athensga #author #illustrator

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As she left, LeUyen signed lots of books.  She lovingly included an illustration in each book she signed.  If you didn’t get a book at the visit, we have many books for checkout in the library or you can visit Avid Bookshop to purchase one.  As always, we are thankful to publishers like MacMillan for sending authors and illustrators to independent bookshops and schools.  Thank you, LeUyen, for spending part of your travels with us and sharing your talents and stories.  Thank you to Avid Bookshop for connecting with your community and enriching the reading and creative lives of students.

Hooray for LeUyen Pham! #avidevents #avidinschools #athensga #librariesofinstagram #author #illustrator

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Exploring Advance Reader Copies with 1st Grade

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I love getting Advance Reader Copies (ARC) of books.  I selfishly enjoy having them for myself to read, but the real joy comes when I get to share them with readers well in advance of the book being released. It’s like sharing a secret with them and creates an extra level of engagement for the story. It also gives me a chance to get reader input on books that might become a part of our library collection.  In the past, I’ve returned from conferences with a suitcase full of books and distributed them to readers to enjoy and offer opinions.

Most of the time ARCs come from publishers in the mail or at conferences.  However, yesterday, I received 2 ARCs direct from author Hannah Barnaby with a special note tucked inside.

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Today, Ms. Skinner’s 1st grade class visited the library for a story time, so it was the perfect opportunity to share the books for the first time. Since it’s world kindness week, we discussed what a kind gesture it was for the author to send us a sneak peek of her two new books. We also discussed how we could in turn offer some kindness back by reading the books, discussing them, and sharing a bit of feedback with the world.

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The first Hannah Barnaby book we took a look at was Bad Guy illustrated by Mike Yamada. The book uses short sentences on each page to highlight the daily sinister deeds of one bad boy.  Many of these deeds are against his sister.  Without giving too much away, he learns that being a bad guy can have its consequences too.

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After we read, I asked the students to think about what they loved, what they wondered, and who they would recommend the book to.  Here are a few of their thoughts about Bad Guy.

What we loved:

  • bad guys
  • bad guys can be good
  • it went back and forth between the characters like a brother & sister.
  • his sister played a trick on him, too..
  • it was like playing a game.

What we wondered:

  • if they had made a trap for each other
  • how his sister made the trap
  • if he was really doing all the bad stuff or if it was pretend.

Who should read this book:

  • people who like stories about bad guys.
  • people who like stories where characters play tricks on each other
  • people who like traps

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The second book we read was Garcia & Colette Go Exploring illustrated by Andrew Joyner.  This book follows two characters who both want to go exploring but can’t seem to agree with one another on where to explore. This results in them taking two different journeys alone. As they explore, they make observations about their world and without knowing it, make many of the same observations.

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I again asked students to think about what they loved and wondered as well as who they would recommend the book to.

Book Title: Garcia & Colette Go Exploring

Author: Hannah Barnaby

What we loved:

  • they said the same things when they were apart
  • the packed the same things to eat
  • both couldn’t do the things they wanted to do.

What we wondered:

  • how did they make their rocket and submarine?
  • did they eat all their sandwiches?

Who should read this book:

  • people who like exploring
  • people who like space & sea
  • people who like the desert
  • people who like to explore alone

Finally, we had some discussion about both books together.  First, should we have these books in our library when they are released.  It was an overwhelming, unanimous “YES!”.  Both books are different, so I didn’t want to pit the books against each other.  However, students did offer some feedback about which book hooked their attention the most depending on the reader.  It was really split between the two books.  The students who preferred Bad Guys liked the trickery and brother/sister relationship.  Many students felt a connection to how the brother and sister picked on each other.  The students who preferred Garcia & Colette Go Exploring liked the adventure and the setting as well as the illustrations of the two inventions the characters made.

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I want to explore more ways to use ARCs with students. Thank you Hannah Barnaby for thinking of us and allowing us a sneak peek at your new books. We can’t wait to add them to our library.  We’ll continue to enjoy them with more classes over the next few weeks.

Bad Guy will be released in May 2017.

Garcia & Colette Go Exploring will be released in June 2017.

 

When Authors Connect: A Skype with Barbara O’Connor

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One of our amazing Barrow teachers, Ms. Spurgeon, is leading a book club with some 5th grade students.  To select their book, she read the summaries of several books as well as the first page of those books.  The members of the group unanimously chose Barbara O’Connor’s How to Steal a Dog after hearing the opening line: “The day I decided to steal a dog was the same day my best friend, Luanne Godfrey, found out I lived in a car.  They have been savoring every moment of reading the book since choosing it.  They’ve taken their time because a book like this one deserves some discussion, and Ms. Spurgeon has shared that some of that discussion has been hard.

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How to Steal a Dog is about Georgina Hayes and her brother who have been evicted from their apartment and now live out of their car with their mother.  They long for a place of their own, and a “lost dog” poster suddenly gives them an idea.  What if they stole a dog and then collected the reward money after giving the dog back to its owner?  The plan sounds brilliant, but even though it is well planned out by Georgina, the duo face some unexpected challenges that complicate their hopes.

Ms. Spurgeon’s group has had some tough discussions about homelessness, poverty, stealing, and family relationships, but the students have embraced those discussions and in turn stayed connected and engaged in the book. When she shared with me how powerful the discussions were, I really wanted Barbara O’Connor to hear about it.

I shared some of Ms. Spurgeon’s observations with Barbara and wondered if we might connect over Skype for just a few minutes when they were close to finished with the book.  Barbara enthusiastically said yes, and we set a date to connect for about 20 minutes.

A small group in 5th grade connected with @barbaraoconnor to discuss How to Steal a Dog. #tlchat #authorvisit #studentvoice

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Ms Spurgeon kept the Skype a surprise until the day of the connection, and the 5 students were shocked that they would actually talk to the “real author” of the book they were reading. They prepared some questions over lunch and came to the library to Skype.

Meeting Barbara O'Connor #authorvisit #studentvoice

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It was a different kind of Skype because it was intimate. I pulled 5 chairs right up to the board so students could be close to Barbara on screen. Students each introduced themselves, and Ms. Spurgeon had a moment to talk to Barbara about their experience with the book.

Barbara took time to talk a bit about herself as a writer, how many books she has published, and where she lives. Then, it really became a conversation between the students and Barbara. I love author and illustrator visits, but often these visits are more presentation and less conversation because of the size of the groups we pack in for a visit. This type of visit built a connection between author and reader.

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Students asked about whether Barbara had experienced homelessness, why she wrote the book, how long it took, and more. Some students also came up with follow-up questions in the moment and because it was a small group, they could actually ask those.  We got to take a quick tour around Barbara’s house as she showed the students her dogs after they asked whether or not she had a dog of her own.

We closed our time by thinking about next reads. I had pulled the books from our library that weren’t checked out at the moment and asked Barbara if she would like to suggest any of her other books as a follow-up selection. She suggested The Small Adventures of Popeye and Elvis and showed students an example of a Yoohoo boat from the story. While she mentioned other books like Wish, one of the students reached out and grabbed Popeye and Elvis and started reading it. That’s one of the great rewards of an author visit whether it’s through Skype or in person.  The books come alive for the students and they can’t wait to read them all. Even though I can often recommend a book to a student and they will read it, the recommendation from the actual author is as good as gold.

Connecting with an author via skype means finding a new book to dive into. #studentvoice #authorvisit #reader

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When the students returned to their class, they continued to talk about the visit and how wonderful Barbara was to talk to.  Some of them said they couldn’t wait to read more of her books once they finish this one.  I know that Skype visits take time for authors, but it means the world to readers when they offer even a small amount of time to say hello, show off their dogs, and talk about the joys and challenges of writing and reading. Thank you for joining us today, Barbara O’Connor!

 

Exploring Pigloo with Anne Marie Pace

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Today Ms. Skinner’s 1st grade class had the great fortune to Skype with Anne Marie Pace to celebrate her new picture book, Pigloo. This book began when Anne Marie was in 1st grade, and now it is a beautiful picture book for our readers to explore. Pigloo dreams of going on an exploration to the north pole, and thanks to some snow, his sister, and some imagination, he is able to make his dreams come true.

This Skype was made possible through a contest that Anne Marie Pace held for librarians and teachers of 1st grade.  Prior to our Skype, students watched the book trailer to get familiar with where the idea for the book came from.  Anne Marie also sent us coloring pages for the students to color.

During our Skype, Anne Marie had students think about times they have waited on something just like Pigloo waits on the snow.  We heard stories of waiting on pizza and Pokemon cards.  We also talked about weather in Virginia where Anne Marie lives and in Georgia where we live.  We certainly don’t have as much snow as Anne Marie has, so it was fun for the students to think about opportunities to get out and play in the snow which is rare here.

Ms Skinner's class is having fun with author Anne Marie Pace. @barrow21firsties #pigloo #author #skype

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Next, Anne Marie read through the entire book.  She held it up for students to see, but luckily a copy arrived in the mail for us just in time for the Skype.  I held up the book so that students could see it on the screen or on the physical pages.

One of the things I love about connecting with authors is the chance for students to chat with them one on one.  Anne Marie took time to let students step up and ask a question.  Many wanted to ask more questions about Pigloo.  Why did his sister “trick” him?  Where did he get his sled and hat?  However, we also got to ask about writing.  She encouraged students to keep writing even when it’s hard.  She explained that sometimes writing has fun parts and sometimes it has hard parts.  She wanted them to always listen to their teacher and realize that feedback was a teacher’s wish for them to each become better writers.  This affirmation is always powerful for students to hear and realize that we all need to push ourselves to do better.

Pigloo will now be available for checkout in our library, but students have a chance to order it from Anne Marie’s local bookshop, The Sycamore Tree.  She will sign each one and the bookshop will mail them to our school.

Connecting with authors in person and virtually is always a treat for our readers. Each experience reminds students that there is a person and lots of hard work behind the pages of each book on our shelves.  Thank you Anne Marie Pace for stepping into our school for the morning.

A Visit with Kate Beasley

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Thanks to Avid Bookshop and MacMillan Children’s Publishing Group, we had the great fortune of celebrating the book birthday of Gertie’s Leap to Greatness with the author.  Our 3rd-5th grade all got to come to Kate’s presentation. We did lots of work leading up to the visit to write about great people in our lives as well as read the beginning of the book.

Kate traveled to our school with her wonderful publicist, Mary Van Akin.  When Kate arrived, she took time to look at all of the student writing in the windows.  Mary and Kate both took lots of pictures of the students’ “great people”.  I also had birthday balloons, Twinkies, and Gertie balloons to celebrate the book’s birthday.

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We were sure to take a picture with those to remember the day.

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Signing lots of Gertie's Leap to Greatness. #gertiesleaptogreatness #newbook #authorvisit #avidinschools

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Prior to the students’ arrival, Kate got busy signing all of the books.  Thanks to our PTA, ever classroom received copies of the books to put in class libraries.  Students are always eager to read the book after an author visit, so many teachers will read the book aloud while some will give the book to eager students to read and pass around to other students.  The library will also have 6 copies of the book for checkout and I’m sure that they will stay checked out for a long time.

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We kicked off the author visit by singing “Happy Birthday” to Gertie.  It was a rambunctious version of the song, but I’m sure Gertie would have loved it.  Then, Kate jumped into her presentation.  It’s always a treat to hear from an author because you get a window into their life to see where ideas come from.

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Kate also gave the students a lot of tips on what it means to be a writer and shared the huge stack of rewrites and revisions of Gertie. She also showed students what it looked like when various editors sent feedback to her to make changes.  Students were very surprised to see that she worked on the book for over 3 years before it came to be in our hands.

I loved that Kate read from Gertie and chose a part near the end of the book that students hadn’t read yet.  She read the part where Gertie goes to the office to take a note but the secretary forgets to give Gertie a chocolate for delivering the note.  It puts Gertie in a tricky situation where she has to make a decision about the tempting chocolate in front of her.  It was once of those scenes that leaves readers wondering, so I’m sure many students will be eager to read the book to see what happens in that scene.

At the end of her presentation students had a chance to ask questions and then participate in an activity on specificity.

Kate asked students to look at some parts of a sentence and try to come up with more specific details to make the sentence more descriptive and interesting.

Kate Beasley is now off on a big tour for Gertie’s Leap to Greatness.  We are so honored that we got to be one of her first two stops.  I can’t wait to see how readers at our school and across the country react to this wonderful book.

Thank you Avid Bookshop, MacMillan Children’s Publishing Group, and Kate Beasley for a very special day in our library.

Happy Book Birthday to Gertie’s Leap to Greatness

Today is a very special book birthday. Kate Beasley’s Gertie’s Leap to Greatness is now on bookstore shelves. This is Kate’s debut novel and we are so excited to have her coming to our school on the book’s birthday thanks to MacMillan and Avid Bookshop.

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About the Book

How would you feel if your mom lived just a few streets away yet had no interest in seeing you or talking to you? That’s Gertie Reece Foy’s situation. It doesn’t matter, though, because she has a plan, and Gertie never gives up on a plan. Gertie is a firecracker of a girl. She takes matters into her own hands and makes a plan to be the best 5th grader in the entire universe. She thinks that if she gives the best summer speech and become the best 5th grader in the universe, her mom will realize that Gertie is so awesome that she doesn’t need a mother anyway or possibly even come back into her life. Gertie has something standing in her way: a new girl named Mary Sue. Both of them have what it takes to be standout students, but their battle for the top results in even more struggles for Gertie to deal with.   This is a book filled with friendship, school and family challenges, and summer adventures.  You’ll be laughing out loud, cheering Gertie on, and crying along with her too.

Gertie is a character that I just want to hang out with. She is full of wit and adventure and can take just about any situation and make the best out of it. She does all of this even with a gloomy situation hanging over her. I think about my role in education and how a student like Gertie might slide by unnoticed as having a challenge to deal with. She isn’t one to reach out for help because she thinks she has to handle it all herself. How do I recognize those students? What opportunities can I give to students that allows them to shine and be the star that they are?  I love how even the stern Mrs. Stebbins recognized the potential in Gertie and gave her a moment to shine.

I’ve been reading the first two chapters of Gertie to our 3rd-5th graders, and it is pure magic to read aloud. Reading aloud is a sure way to see how a book connects with multiple readers.  It only took a few sentences into the book to have readers hanging on every word, laughing at the opening scenes in Aunt Rae’s kitchen, and begging to go on to the next chapter.  I know this book will become a favorite of many of our students.

 

Going Above and Beyond

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This book made all of my students think about people from their lives that are always giving their all.  Together, we thought about the many “great” people in our lives.  Students in 3rd-5th grade were able to write down their great person on a Gertie’s Leap to Greatness card and we displayed them in our library windows.

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I have so many great people in my life: family who are always there for me, volunteers who give their all to keep our library program running smoothly, and librarians who push me to be a better librarian.

One of those many librarians that I look up to is Nikki Robertson. She is the picture of perseverance, determination, and never giving up.  She is 100% awesome, not from concentrate just like Gertie Reece Foy.  I can’t really comprehensively name all of the things that Nikki does, but here are a few:

  • Co-founder of EdCamp Atlanta
  • Member of the EdSpeakers Group http://www.edspeakers.com/nikkidrobertson.html
  • Champion and producer TL News Night, a monthly internet program highlighting libraries
  • Moderator of #tlchat on Twitter
  • Nominee for numerous awards including Edublogs and Bammy Awards
  • Presenter at national and international conferences including ISTE and AASL

What stands out to me about Nikki is her willingness to go above and beyond for the good of all educators and students, not just herself.  Here’s an example.

Recently, Google Hangouts on Air transitioned to Youtube Live.  Many people in education use this tool and were really worried about how the changes would affect them. Nikki jumped right in to figure out the new tool.  She shared her frustrations, reached out to other people for ideas, and ultimately figured out how to easily use Youtube Live just like Hangouts on Air. She could have kept all of this new knowledge to herself, but instead she made a step by step visual tutorial on how to easily setup Youtube Live, and it saved me from agonizing over it another second.  I immediately used it to teach my BTV crew how to setup the new way of doing our morning broadcasts as well as assisted a fellow friend in a Youtube Live event we were doing for Dot Day.

Nikki also goes above and beyond for her students. Her high school library is buzzing with activity and it’s all about giving the students a voice. Nikki designed custom Snapchat filters for her library and had students and herself immediately having fun in the library and embracing the power of social media.  Her makerspace is a bustling place where she empowers her students to deeply explore specialized topics in making. She engages her students with creative interactive displays such as inviting students to spell out the word “hope” and share what hope means to them.  She does a personal shopper program to put the right books in the right readers’ hands.  All of these things are in addition to the fully packed schedule of classes that she teaches.  The list just goes on and on.  The bottom line is that Nikki Robertson never gives up on any mission she starts for her students, teachers, and network just like Gerite Reece Foy.

Get the Book

Who do you know that goes above and beyond?  I invite you to leave a comment, share on social media, or do your own blog post.  Be sure to get yourself a copy of Gertie’s Leap to Greatness at your local indie bookshop.  You can always order a copy from our local store, Avid Bookshop.

Leap with Gertie

While you’re at it, when you get your copy of Gertie, take a picture of yourself leaping with the book and post it to social media with the tag #leapwithgertie  Take a look at Kate & Cassie Beasley leaping along with students from our school.

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Kate & Cassie Beasley leaping with Gertie. Photo courtesy of Macmillan.

Win a Skype with Anne Marie Pace

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About 4 years ago, I participated in my very first World Read Aloud Day and scheduled Skypes with several great authors.  I was pretty new to using Skype, especially with authors, so I was a bit nervous about how the day would go.  What I discovered during that day was how powerful it can be to connect with an author or illustrator in their studio or home.  Students get to see a side of an author or illustrator that is hard to replicate in a library visit because they can easily reach over and grab items that they are working on, tools that they use, objects that inspire them, and more.  Skypes can also be an affordable alternative for schools on a budget for author visits.

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One of the authors that I connected with on that first World Read Aloud Day was Anne Marie Pace.  She knew there was a big snowstorm coming, so she proactively gave me her contact info in case anything happened. That morning, I got a call from her because her power was out. She was so sad to miss our connection, but we immediately rescheduled and had an amazing connection.  Since that first Skype, she has shared Vampirina Ballerina with us, had Kindergartners up and dancing with her on the screen, and shared favorite picture books with our school and 4 others during our picture book smackdown.

She is a delight, and offers her wisdom on writing books and her love of reading.  I’m so excited that she has a new book coming out that started when she was in the 1st grade. It’s so important for our students to hear that adult authors often save writing from their childhoods and sometimes those writings turn into a new published book.

Anne Marie has an opportunity coming up for 1st graders.  I hope you’ll take a moment to read a message from her.

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A Message from Anne Marie Pace:

“Because I was a first grader when I wrote the first draft of the story that has become my new book PIGLOO, I’d love to celebrate its release by talking with first graders about reading and writing.  I am happy to offer ten free Skype visits to first grade classes across the United States in November and December (and January, if needed to schedule with the schools).  To enter, I’d like first grade teachers to use this form to send me their information between October 3 and October 24.  I’ll choose ten schools using a random number generator and contact the winners to arrange the scheduled visit.

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Skype visits will be 20 minutes long and will include my reading PIGLOO, a bit of chat about how writing is hard but fun, too, and a Q&A.  I’ll also send the winning classes some book-related swag and a teacher activity guide.

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If teachers would like to send home a book order form to allow students to purchase a signed copy of the book, I have arranged with my local independent bookseller to ship copies of PIGLOO which I will inscribe and sign before they are shipped.  This is NOT required to enter or to win, but some students and their families like to have this opportunity.

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First grade teachers and librarians on behalf of first grade teachers only, please.  Yes, I love kindergarteners and second graders, too, but this one’s for first grade.  (Ks will get a chance in the spring for Vampirina at the Beach)”

Submit your info by following this link!