Around the Web with OAV Authors: February 2016

It’s the fourth Thursday of the month, and that means it’s time for another edition of our blog series highlighting random online sightings of a few of our authors. Let’s go!

You must see this video re-enactment of Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams‘s Zeus and the Thunderbolt of Doom performed by some adorable young fans of the Heroes in Training series.

Speaking of videos, enjoy this trailer for Stealing Popular, one of Trudi Trueit‘s delightful middle grade novels.

Check out Patrick Jennings’s author page at the Scholastic website. You’ll find some interesting biographical information and a handy list of his Scholastic-published titles.

Next, surf to Laurie Ann Thompson’s Simon & Schuster author page, where you can learn a few fun facts (what she thinks about bats, for example) and stay up to date on her future releases with the publisher.

Clare Hodgson Meeker is this month’s featured guest at Janet Lee Carey’s Library Lions Roar blog. Head on over to read about Clare’s childhood library, recent author visits, and more.

On Goodreads, David Patneaude has his own Ask the Author page. Find out how he deals with writer’s block and what he most loves about being a writer. You could even submit your own question — he might just answer it!

Lisa L. Owens occasionally writes supplemental curriculum materials, and here’s “Exploring Friendship with Bridge to Terabithia,” a six-session Grades 4–6 lesson plan she developed for the International Literacy Association’s online database of teacher resources.

And, last but not least, here’s a sampling of Dana Sullivan‘s wonderful illustration work, handpicked by the artist himself!

Illustration of Dana Sullivan, by Dana Sullivan



Good News from the Online Author Visits Team!

Here’s a peek at what our members have been up to this month:

Erik Brooks has final cover art/design to share for July’s Later, Gator! (Sterling Children’s Books), and he couldn’t be more pleased. He is also excited to Skype with Schickler Elementary for his first World Read Aloud Day on February 24.

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Martha Brockenbrough was on the national SCBWI faculty in New York, where she taught techniques in social media. She also interviewed Rainbow Rowell. She’ll be visiting a community in Kansas City in March, and a school in Connecticut in April.

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Patrick Jennings has been visiting schools in the Sno-Isle Library District as his book, Odd, Weird & Little is on the reading list for their Mega-Fun, Biblioday-Trivia, Rockem Sockem Reading Challenge. He’s also been doing Skype visits with participating schools that he’s not visiting. (There are 40 schools participating in the challenge!) The kids, all in third grade, are super-excited about participating (i.e. studying the books that they will be quizzed on in team competitions). He’s been having a ball!

Patrick’s drawing pad after a presentation. They wrote a story in fifteen minutes based on audience suggestions.
A librarian’s jacket with last year’s book list embroidered on it

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Dana Sullivan writes: I just had a GREAT experience in New York City! While there for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators winter conference, I stopped in at the 42nd St. Public Library, where I met Louise C. Lareau, the children’s librarian. She grabbed some of my books off the shelves, which I signed. THEN I got to sign the author guest book! And THEN I got a NYC library card! You don’t have to be a NY resident and it’s good for three months. I don’t have any plans for checking books out, but I flash that card whenever I can. The next day I went back for a visit and my books were on display. I definitely  ♥ New York!


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Earlier this month, Laurie Ann Thompson presented to 130 young changemakers at the Pacific Northwest Association of Independent Schools (PNAIS) Student Diversity Leadership Retreat for middle school. Students learned about acceptance and social justice, brainstormed ideas and plans for how they could increase diversity and inclusion at their schools, and then shared their best ideas with the group. It was an inspiring event for all! Laurie also spoke recently about how to Be a Changemaker to a mixed group of students and adults on behalf of the Newcastle Youth Community Engagement Program.

In awards news, My Dog Is the Best was awarded a 2015 Blue Ribbon from the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (BCCB), and Emmanuel’s Dream is a finalist for the 2016-2017 Georgia Children’s Picture Book (Gr. K-4) Award!

Clare Hodgson Meeker, Author of the Month: Creating Nature Narratives in the Classroom

One of my favorite writing workshops for elementary school–aged kids is to have them create Nature Narratives, or fictional stories starring an animal they choose as the main character.

The first step: Find three facts about their animal that they can use in their story.

Every story has a problem to solve. In the natural world, there are problems of survival: finding food and shelter, dealing with predators, and raising a family. There could also be environmental problems humans have created in their habitat.

What’s the animal’s goal? Several years ago, I wrote a monthly series of nature narrative stories for the National Wildlife Federation’s Your Big Backyard magazine. These stories are now published in ebook form at One of them, Up and Away, is about a family of baby spiders that emerge from the egg sac and need to find new homes. Three facts:


  • Baby spiders spin threads, which they let out into the wind to carry them to a new place.
  • Birds are potential predators.
  • Hundreds of baby spiders are holed up together in one egg sac.

What are three problems or obstacles along the way to reaching the main character’s goal? The idea here is that each problem provides dramatic tension in the story and every solution to a problem helped move the plot further along toward reaching the main character’s goal.

Using my Up and Away story as an example:

  1. The first obstacle is getting out of the egg sac. The solution is that the baby spiders tear open the egg sac together and crawl out.
  2. Now they are hungry. But their mother has conveniently left a dead fly next to the egg sac for them.
  3. The third problem is that Wendy Wren is flying near where the baby spiders are. With a little help from Olive Opossum (the main character in the series), who distracts Wendy Wren with conversation, the baby spiders are able to scurry up to the top of a bush and balloon off into the wind.

One last plotting idea that really grabs kids’ attention is the darkest moment! Nature Narratives really lend themselves well to the idea of whether the character will survive to reach its goal. The darkest moment in the story is when the main character has a moment of doubt or fear about whether he or she can overcome the last obstacle. This is a great time to make a list of adjectives with the class that describe this emotional cliffhanger in the story.

The climax of the story is when the main character figures out a way to solve this problem and summons the courage to face this last challenge and reach his goal.

Let your imagination go wild and have fun writing Nature Narratives!

Clare Hodgson Meeker is the author of 11 books for young readers, including the Smithsonian Notable Book Lootas, Little Wave Eater: An Orphaned Sea Otter’s Story. Her new chapter book, Rhino Rescue! And More True Stories of Saving Animals is published by National Geographic KIDS and will be available in bookstores starting this month. She works from home on Mercer Island near Seattle, and teaches writing in schools through Seattle Arts and Lectures.

Author site:
Twitter: @ClareMeeker