Good News from the Online Author Visits Team!

Good News from the Online Author Visits Team!

Patrick Jennings‘s new book, Naughty Claudine’s Christmas, illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman, will be published by Random House on October 24. Claudine doesn’t approve of Santa’s methods — surveillance, judgment, breaking and entering — so she decides to ward him off with naughtiness.

Naughty Claudine Cover

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Martha Brockenbrough will be speaking at NCTE in November with Laurie Halse Anderson. Please say hello if you’re there!

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Dana Sullivan  is happy to report that he completed and sent ALL of his final art for My Red Velvet Cape to Sleeping Bear Press. He’s also ecstatic that MRVC will launch on HIS BIRTHDAY, February 11, 2018!!!

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Dori Hillestad Butler reports that her middle grade novels Do You Know the Monkey Man and Yes, I Know the Monkey Man are getting new covers!

Do You Know the Monkey Man was originally published in 2003, so Dori also revised and updated the text to go with the new cover. She intends to revise and update Yes, I Know the Monkey Man as well. Both will publish in 2018.

Dori is also publishing a 7th book in her popular Buddy Files series. The multi-talented Dana Sullivan provided art.

buddy 7

In other news, Dori was thrilled to learn that her King & Kayla and the Case of the Missing Dog Treats and King & Kayla and the Case of the Secret Code both appear on the 2017 Cybils award nominations list in the Easy Reader/Early Chapter Book category. And her Haunted Library appears on the 3rd-grade Source Books list for the Scripps Spelling Bee.

Finally, if you happen to be at AASL in Phoenix this year, Dori is on the Reading on My Own! Beginning Reader Series panel Saturday, November 11, at 10:40 am. Look for her there or visit the Publisher Spotlight (Booth 101) Friday, November 10, from 2:30 until 3:30.

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Laurie Ann Thompson was honored to learn that both Be a Changemaker and Emmanuel’s Dream have been chosen as Community Book Reads by Bartholomew County Public Library in Columbus, IN! To celebrate, she’ll be doing a Skype visit with them about both books at the end of this month.

Laurie was also thrilled to see that Two Truths And a Lie: It’s Alive! is nominated for a Cybils award in the Elementary/Middle Grade Nonfiction category! Laurie has been a Cybils judge several times in the past, so this is a very special treat.

twotruthsandalie-hc-converted

And, in the “How cool is that?” department, Laurie learned that Emmanuel’s Dream is on the list of sources of words for the 2nd-grade level of the Scripps Spelling Bee!

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The truth is out there… maybe?

How do we know what to believe, whom to trust? How do we fight against the internet’s echo chamber effects and our brains’ confirmation-seeking biases? It takes discipline, but I believe we can train ourselves (and our students) to question what they see and hear and to seek out the truth, or at least the best image of the truth they can find, even if it’s complicated.

We’re just days away from an historic presidential election, and there’s nothing like an important election to get people fired up about civics, right? Well… fired up about something, anyway. Civics seems to be getting largely overlooked in many cases, as does basic research and fact checking. Most of us, no matter what our political views, have seen and heard misinformation that we believe to be true. Many of us have even passed it on to others without checking its veracity. How did we get to this point?

I have some theories, of course, but they’re not what this post is about. I want to talk about how we can all do better… and how we can help kids do better, too. How do we know what to believe, whom to trust? How do we fight against the internet’s echo chamber effects and our brains’ confirmation-seeking biases? It takes discipline, but I believe we can train ourselves (and our students) to question what they see and hear and to seek out the truth, or at least the best image of the truth they can find, even if it’s complicated.

twotruthsandalie-hc-convertedThis is a central theme of my upcoming book, TWO TRUTHS AND A LIE: IT’S ALIVE!, co-authored with Ammi-Joan Paquette. The book started out as simply a fun collection of hard-to-believe—but true—facts… mixed up with some wacky but almost-believable stories such as internet hoaxes and urban legends. But as we worked, it slowly grew into something more.

First, we were a bit surprised by how easy it was to curate a massive list of possible stories to include: they were bombarding us daily on our social media feeds, newspapers and magazines, and television broadcasts. Stories like these abound! And most people don’t care whether or not they’re true. We’ll read them—and share them—as  long as they’re entertaining.

Second, we were disconcerted by how hard it could be even for us—well-educated professional authors—to sort out the facts from fiction! Sometimes we were forced to abandon great story ideas because we couldn’t prove whether they were true or not. Other times we had discussions where one of us was convinced, but the other one wasn’t. Some stories we thought were true were found to be false, or vice versa, as we researched them further. And occasionally, a story was partially true but not completely, and we decided it was just too complicated to deal with in the format we were pursuing.

These factors pushed us to expand our goals for the book. Beyond being “just” entertaining, we felt we had to address the idea of information literacy head on. In addition to a detailed bibliography of the sources we used for every story, the book now contains an explanation of our process, habits that readers can cultivate to become more information literate (question everything, especially motive!), tips and activities to encourage critical thinking and analysis skills (how does this fit with my existing knowledge?), and advice on conducting high-quality research (hint: it’s not Google or Wikipedia, although those can be great places to start!).

Writing this book was such an interesting—and, at times, shocking—experience, and it taught us a lot about ourselves as authors and as human beings. We hope readers will have a similar experience, and we can’t wait to share it with them next year!

Until then, we hope you—and your students—will be careful out there. You can’t trust everything you read, see, or hear!

(For a sneak peek at some of what’s in the book, check out this reveal hosted by Pragmatic Mom.)

Laurie Ann Thompson, Author of the Month: It Comes Down to Heart

Do you remember that song from Sesame Street that went, “One of these things is not like the other?” It’s probably no surprise that it was one of my favorites.

Sometimes I feel like I’m living that song: none of my books is very much like the others! That genre-hopping is one of the things I like to talk about with kids during my author visits. How can all of those different books come out of the same person? It’s fairly obvious how they’re all different, but what about them is them is the same? My answer is—it comes down to heart. Writing a book takes a long time and a lot of hard work. If I didn’t have an emotional attachment to what I was writing, I wouldn’t want to persevere through all of those months and years or put in the necessary effort to finish a manuscript. It doesn’t matter how worthy the topic might be or how marketable, the subject has to matter to me.

When I was a kid, and for most of my adult life as well, I desperately wanted to make a difference in the world. Unfortunately, I had no idea how to begin or any confidence that I had the ability to achieve anything important. I wrote my teen nonfiction, Be a Changemaker, for that person and others like her, so no one would need to feel like they had to wait in order to contribute something of value.

Emmanuel’s Dream, my picture book biography, comes out of a similar place. When I first heard about Emmanuel’s story, I was so moved by his confidence and perseverance. It affected how I thought about myself and my capabilities, and it inspired me not to give up on my own dreams of being a published children’s book author. I wanted to show kids they, too, could follow their dreams, no matter what others might try tell them.

And my newest book, My Dog Is the Best, comes from—you guessed it—my love of dogs, plus a family story and a somewhat quirky sense of humor! I grew up with dogs. For the first few years of my life, I’m pretty sure I thought I was a dog. And dogs have always been my best friends. When I was young my grandfather used to say his dog was “one of the better dogs.” I worried about what he would think of my dog, but thankfully Grandpa proclaimed him “one of the better dogs,” too. Since then, everyone in my family has called each of our dogs “one of the better dogs.” As an adult, I realized that whatever dog we fall in love with is, of course, the very best. I also noticed that I tended tell my dog, “Good dog!” when she was curled up asleep, which struck me as hilarious. All of those things combined to produce a lighthearted fiction picture book for younger children.

Readers can expect even more genre-crossing strangeness in the future with Two Truths and a Lie, a middle-grade fiction/nonfiction hybrid series co-authored with my agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette. These books reveal my nerdy side and love of the unbelievable and the absurd.

And there’s lots more weirdness where those came from, because I plan to keep following my heart and writing whatever grabs me, pigeonholes be darned!

In my author visits, I encourage kids to do this with their assigned writing, too. Yes, in the classroom there are requirements to do a particular kind of writing, be that persuasive writing, personal narrative, fiction, etc. But, within those confines, finding a way to tie a particular assignment to something that is uniquely them—a passion, interest, personal characteristic, or family story, for example—can make the assignments easier and more meaningful at the same time.

Professional authors choose their topics carefully to maintain that connection with their innermost emotions, and student writers should attempt to do the same thing. After all, if what to write about comes more easily, then perhaps more effort can be focused on trying to write about it well.

And that’s one way we’re all the same!