Saturday, December 15, 2012

Short & Sweet #3 - EDWARD THE VAMPIRE or A VERY FROST KISS MISS by Carolee Dean

I would like to start by congratulating GoofyJ who won the book giveaway, In The Trees, Honeybees, for our November 18th post by Lori Mortenson. You should have received an email asking for your snail mail address. 

Here are a few more photos from the Twinkle Light Parade. Did I mention that while Caroline and I were taping lights onto each other, we almost passed out from the exhaust fumes coming from the trucks surrounding us? Directly behind us was a low rider that kept turning on its hydraulic lift and directly behind the low rider was a group of cyclists. Check out this one below:

I was nearly run over by a cyclist who kept yelling, "Watch Out, Candy Cane." I lost Caroline very early in the evening, which was a little disconcerting since she was my ride home. I kept running to catch up to the float but I eventually lost them as well. I eventually found Caroline and made it safely to my dinner date with my husband.

Thanks to everyone who came out to the Multi-Author Book Signing at Alamosa and for those who helped us sing our Christmas Carol Spoofs. Several local authors, as well as random people from the audience, joined in the fun. I would like to offer special thanks to the kids who volunteered to play bells and other instruments. I'm the one in the jester's hat.

Here is the third and final installment of our songs. WARNING - There are spoilers, so if you haven't read all the books in the Twilight series, you might want to wait on this one:

Inspired by the Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer
(Sung to the tune of FROSTY THE SNOWMAN)

Edward the vampire
is a boy without a soul.
He has a sparkly smile
and a GQ style,
but his eyes are black as coal.

“Edward the Vampire
is a school girls dream,” they sigh.
But Bella's knows
that he's white as snow,
because he's dead inside.

Her heart goes
Thumpity, thump, thump,
Thumpity thump, thump
when he walks the hall.
Thumpity, thump, thump
Thumpity, thump, thump
watch her trip and fall.

Edward the Vampire
is a vegetarian.
Though the Voluri
are much more scary,
they claim to have more fun.

Edward’s a Vampire
but Bells is not afraid.
Though she is a clutz,
and her friends are nuts,
Edward loves her away.

Her heart goes
Thumpity, thump, thump,
Thumpity thump, thump
halfway through Book Four.
Then she gets wed,
becomes undead,
and her heart will beat no more.


Sunday, December 9, 2012


This was the float Alamosa Books created for Albuquerque's Twinkle Light Parade. See the Christmas tree in the left hand corner? Now check out the closeup below...

Sean and Elizabeth, the owners of Alamosa, decorated the tree with books. Notice the titles by the Spellbinders?

We will be at Alamosa Books in Albuquerque, along with several other local authors, on December 11 from 6-8 p.m. In addition to mingling with librarians and conducting a multi-author book signing, we will be collecting books for the Albuquerque Public Schools - Title One Homeless Project. This project has already served over 400 students this year alone. A book is a gift a child may treasure forever. If you are not located in the Albuquerque area, consider donating books to your local homeless shelter, or better yet, partner with a local bookstore and start a book drive of your own.

As part of the evening's entertainment, we will be singing Christmas Carol Spoofs. I must give kudos here to the staff at Alamosa (Chris Warner, Megan Herceg, and Corey Bowen) for helping me brainstorm these wacky songs. They were the ones who suggested zombies and brought out a host of Jonathan Maberry books (see last weeks post for the Zombie song as well as for tips for creating your own holiday spoofs).

Here is our second song in the series:

Based on The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins.
(sung to the tune of "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire")

Rabbits roasting on an open fire.
Tributes shooting at your rear.
Mockingjays singing songs like a choir.
Kids dressed up in combat gear.

Everybody knows some arrows and a few berries,
are what you need to win this fight.
But mutant mutts with their eyes all aglow,
make it hard to sleep tonight.

You hope that medicine and soup is on its way,
and Haymitch didn't drink the sponsors pay.
Though probably he's passed out now and sleeping.
This happens every time that there’s a reaping

And so I'm offering this simple tale,
about a bunch of kids with bad behavior.
Though its been said many time many ways,
"May the odds be ever in you favor."

Remember, for suggestions on how to create your own book based Christmas Carol Spoofs, check out last week's post.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Short and Sweet #1 or Have a Very Zombie Christmas

Two of the Spellbinder Authors (Carolee Dean and Caroline Starr Rose) dressed up in lights and marched in the Twinkle Light Parade on Saturday, December 1, in downtown Albuquerque to promote our upcoming SCBWI winter party and multi-author book signing. For entertainment at this notorious event, we will be singing Christmas Carol Spoofs based on young adult novels. For the next three weeks we will be sharing the spoofs along with some hints for how you may create your own unique songs.

Based on the Rot and Ruin series by Jonathan Maberry.
(sung to the tune of "Jingle Bells")

Dashing through the snow
with my brother Tom
I had to get a job,
so I'm out hunting Zoms.

They used to be our friends,
but watch out for their bite.
The eve the zombies rose is what
we normies call First Night.

Rot and Ruin,
Flesh and Bone,
Death and Decay,
Fire and Ash,
Lets make a dash,
We need to get away.
Rot and Ruin,
Flesh and Bone,
Death and Decay,
You can have fun
on a zombie hunt
in a one horse open sleigh.

Find the missing girl.
Defeat Charlie Pink Eye.
Your brother's not a coward.
He's really a swell guy.

Try not to lose your cool.
Hold on to your head.
Even if they're ruthless Zombies,
please respect the dead.

Rot and Ruin,
Flesh and Bone,
Death and Decay,
Fire and Ash,
Let's make a dash,
We need to get away.
Rot and Ruin,
Flesh and Bone,
Death and Decay.
You can have fun
on a zombie hunt
in a one horse open sleigh.

If you are in Albuquerque, NM on Tuesday, December 11, please stop by Alamosa Books from 6-8 at 8810 Holly Avenue NE where you can hear songs like this performed LIVE by the Spellbinders!

Classroom Teachers - Consider assigning a song spoof for your next book report, or better yet, write a collaborative song with your entire class based on a novel everyone has read. Here are some tips to help you get started:

1) Make a list of characters, locations, key phrases, etc. from the novel.
2) Explore a variety of songs and decide which one might lend itself to a spoof of that particular book.
3) Study the song you have selected, line by line, and see if any of the original lines of the song can be retained in part or whole.
4) Look back at your list of characters, locations, and phrases and see if any of them rhyme.
5) Go through the song, line by line, substituting your own lyrics.
6) Sing and Enjoy!

Watch for the following titles in our Three-Part Holiday Series:

After that we will be taking a break until January 14, 2013!


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Librarians Who Blog by Caroline Starr Rose

There are a vast number of resources available for educators, and never before has so much information been so easily accessible as in the Internet age. Last month I shared a number of links for teachers who blog. This month you’ll find a list of librarians who blog about books, literacy, and their experiences in their libraries. There is a wealth of knowledge at these sites, and I hope you find them to benefit you and the work you do with children.

School Librarians:

Great Kids Books

Mary is an elementary school librarian in Berkley, CA and had three young readers at home. She recommends titles for kids 4-14. This year Mary is the Chair of the Book Apps Cybils Committee.

Mrs. Yingling Reads: Books for Middle School Students, Especially Boys

The title says it all! Mrs. Yingling is a middle school librarian and avid reader. She reviews and posts regularly on a variety of titles -- “boy books” especially. She’s serving on the Cybils this year.

The Book Butcher

Kelly is a school librarian who hosts Book Talk Tuesdays, where she encourages bloggers to link book reviews to her post on a weekly basis. It’s a great way for librarians and teachers to discover new books.

Watch. Connect. Read.

Mr. Schu is an elementary librarian who posts interviews and reviews as well as showcases book trailers that can be used in the classroom. Along with Colby Sharp, he is reading through all the Newberys this year.

Librarian's Quest

Margie has been a school librarian for 39 years. From the website: A place where students, educators and parents can exchange and express views about the best of books, new technologies and libraries.

Children’s Librarians (Public Libraries):

Biblio File

Jennie is a children’s librarian in the DC metro area who has served on two Cybils panels (2007-2011), the Maryland Blue Crab Award committee (2009), and YALSA’s Award for Excellence in Non-Fiction (2013). She reviews a variety of middle-grade and young adult titles.

The Chained Library

Rebecca is a children’s librarian in Rio Rancho, NM who is also pursuing publication. She reviews books, interviews authors, and writes in-depth, meaty posts about all things bookish.

Green Bean Teen Queen

Sarah is a youth services librarian in Springfield, MO, who works with children 0-18. She posts reviews and interviews and this year is serving on the Printz committee.

The Fourth Muskateer: Reviews and More about Historical Fiction and History-Related Non-Fiction for Children’s and Teens

Margo is children’s librarian in California. This blog is an excellent resource for history lovers!

And if you’re curious about what kids think of new titles --

Kid Reviews:

Fresh Ink: New Books, Young Reviewers, Fresh Perspectives

Students 7-17 review new middle-grade and young adult titles.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

What is it about Picture Books? Interview with Lori Mortenson and Book Giveaway

Ever since I was a little kid and excitedly checked out Where the Wild Things Are from the Gregory Gardens Elementary School library for a special birthday night reading, I’ve had a special place in my heart for picture books. Within a mere thirty-two pages, they manage to be funny, touching, clever, rambunctious, surprising, suspenseful, and memorable. When I was small, writing them was the farthest thing from my mind. I was short and shy, but whenever I opened them up, I was instantly drawn away into worlds far away from my ordinary home on Jennie Drive.

Later as a dance major in college, I spent most of my time sweating and spinning across the dance floor. But when there was a lull in the action, I’d find myself wandering around the children’s section of the campus book store. As I paged through the picture books, I idly wondered how someone became a part of such a magical endeavor, but it wasn’t really a question. Wherever authors lived, they lived far away from me and somehow it seemed as if only people who were born to the profession had the right to claim it.

Come See the Earth Turn
by Lori Mortenson

So when did I begin writing? I was a stay-at-home mother of three when I was reintroduced to children’s literature and secretly wondered—could I write a picture book? The idea was stunning, as if I’d challenged the laws of the universe. What did I have to say? What did I want to say for my children, and the child in me?

Many years later, that’s still the exciting reason I sit down at my keyboard and bring a story to life. When I sit down at the keyboard, the screen becomes a vacant world, that I fill as I please with characters, plots, and themes that take shape from my own thoughts, feelings, and motivations. Sometimes it’s hard to get started, but once I do and I know where I’m going, there’s nothing more exciting than wrestling with words on the page until they fall into their proper place.

Cindy Moo by Lori Mortenson
What is it about picture books? They’re a lot harder to write than they look. Picture books are so short, I’m sure many people pick them up and think they could knock one out in five minutes if they just had the time. The text is so short, how could it take any longer? Short as they are, however, the beauty of pictures books is how they pack so much into so little—character, drama, rhythm, rhyme, and meaningful undercurrents of theme. When they unfold across two eager laps in a chair, it’s an invitation to share a new world together through extraordinary pictures and words. Some of my favorites? King Bidgood’s Bath by Audrey and Don Wood; The Night Moon Fell Down, by Linda Smith; and The Recess Queen by Alexis O’Neil.



Ringity Zingity.

What is it about picture books? I love them and I love writing them. There’s nothing I’d rather do (although dancing comes close.) And if children ever think that any of my picture books such as Cindy Moo, In the Trees, Honey Bees!, Come See the Earth Turn – The Story of Leon Foucault, and my upcoming book, Cowpoke Clyde and Dirty Dawg are clever, awesome, or ringity, zingity, then I’d be delighted. Maybe one day, it’ll be my book that’s tucked under the arm of an excited child on their way home for a special birthday night reading.

Lori Mortenson is an award-winning author of over three dozen books and more than 100 stories and articles that have appeared in Highlights, Ladybug, Jack and Jill, The Friend,

and many other publications. Like a detective on the trail for a clue, Lori follows her writing interests wherever they lead her-sometimes to a fascinating French scientist who proved the earth turned (Come See the Earth Turn: The Story of Léon Foucault, Random House 2010) and other times to the remarkable insider activities of a honey bee hive (In the Trees, Honey Bees! Dawn Publications, 2009, winner of multiple awards including the NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Book for Students K to 12.) Her titles with Picture Window Books, Capstone Press, Stone Arch Books, KidHaven Press, and Marshall Cavendish Benchmark Books include early readers, biographies, American history, mid-grade nonfiction, and first graphic novels.

In the Trees, Honey Bees by Lori Mortensen
Check out the Rafflecopter Below
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Last month in my SECRET LANGUAGE OF STORIES column I discussed the importance of minor characters and gave suggestions for several short forms that could be used to explore them such as the epigram and the epitaph. A fun activity making headstones was described.

Another short form I enjoy is the cinquian. Cinquains are also a great way to explore characters. They are short, just five lines long as the name illustrates, so it's important to capture the essence of a character with as few words as possible. It's also a good activity for students who struggle with written language.

Writing character cinquains can be part of a book report or a stand alone activity. They can be used to create a "cast of characters" and because so much white space is left on the page, other artwork may accompany the project.

Because it's a poem, ideas are more important than grammar and punctuation. Ironically though, students are still exploring grammar because the cinquain focuses on using parts of speech to create each line.

The basic format of the cinquain is as follows:

Line 1: One word (subject or noun)
Line 2: Two words (adjectives describing the subject)
Line 3: Three words (-ing verbs relating to the subject)
Line 4: Four words (feeling words, sentence, or phrase relating
           to the subject.
Line 5: One word (synonym or word that sums up the subject)

In my recent paranormal verse novel, Forget Me Not, I wrote sections of the story in screenplay format. As an introduction to one of the sections, I wrote a series of cinquains describing the characters who appeared in that scene. I decided to call this my cinquain chain because of the way the verses appear to be interlocking down the page. See the example below:

Cast of Characters:

afraid, alone
hurting, hiding, biding
never can go back

timid, guarded
sitting, knitting, praying
quiet girl in black

hungry, unsatisfied
holding, kissing, groping
always gets his way

Julie Ann
trapped, bored
forgetting, conceding, letting
she never gets away

dark, dangerous
playing, plotting, punishing
ruler of the hall

And a cameo appearance by:

brave, bold
knowing, helping, showing
he risks it all

So give it a try! Have fun creating cinquains of your own.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Fantasy Sub-genres by Carolee Dean

This month's post is a continuation of my discussion with bookseller Elizabeth Anker about fantasy sub-genres. To read her thoughts on Science Fiction vs. Fantasy go to the October Feature Article.

I asked Elizabeth about dystopian fantasy and said she believes dystopian looks at the future as an examination of political structures. In utopia everything is perfect. Dystopia turns everything on its head. Usually a totalitarian and authoritarian government is involved and the story is set in a future that is often post apocalyptic. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is the most popular example of dystopian fiction.

Elizabeth said she was personally tired of the genre because as it continues and people write more of it there is far less explanation of why the future described in the book is happening and how the events affects our world at large. These weaker stories tend to focus on a few teens struggling to survive and rely on super powers to explain things.

In discussing other sub genres of fantasy, Elizabeth pointed out that just about any magical creature you can think of has its own series: vampires, werewolves, and even angels.

Scott Westerfeld, author of the Leviathan series, explores zombies, vampires, and classic fantasy creatures by explaining their biology and origin in scientific terms. He tends to fall in her science fiction shelves. For an interesting discussion of the difference between fantasy and science fiction, see our October Feature Article.

Seth Grahame-Smith, author of Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, combines zombies and vampires with historical elements and extensive research.

In regard to urban fantasy, Elizabeth says it's just what it sounds like. These stories take classic elements of myth and place them in urban centers like New York and London. The author then weaves in the history of those places with the current story. There is a lot of romance and often humor and whimsy. Examples are Cassandra Clare and her Mortal Instruments Series, Kate Griffin's Matthew Swift Series and Cynthia Leitich Smith's Tantalize Series. A lot of these writers are aiming for a clever feel working in modern trends and using word play.

In Epic Fantasy like Tolkien authors create a world and send a hero a quest. Good and evil are usually clearly defined. George R. R. Martin, A Game of Thrones, is an example. These stories are not derived from classic myth but are largely based on Tolkien's work which is in turn based on Scandinavian and British isles myths. Tolkien blended those influences with his Catholic beliefs of good and evil and the idea that there is an ultimate morality we should all be supporting.

I asked Elizabeth why she thought so many of the great fantasy writers are British. She thinks it's because Britains have deeper history than we do and deeper roots to mythology. Americans are good at taking ideas and developing them. Perhaps that is why we have so many good science fiction writers.

For a super handout exploring fantasy sub-genres visit Kimberley Griffiths Little's website with a free PDF called "The View from Under the Fantasy Umbrella".

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Ghost Tour and Giveaways by Carolee Dean

This month I'm promoting my new paranormal verse novel, Forget Me Not, with a Ghost Tour that includes 9 blog stops, videos, poem excerpts and a contest for numerous prizes including a signed copy of the novel, a hand-painted raven journal, and specially crafted, book-related jewelry-great rewards for your students, or for yourself. It's going on at my blog. Scroll to the bottom of the blog to find the Rafflecopter. You can view the Ghost Tour at anytime, but the contest ends on October 31.

Learn about the ghosts of Raven Valley High School at these stops:

Stop 1: The Nine Circles of Raven Valley High (Poem): Discover the connection between the Nine Circles of Raven Valley High and Dante's Inferno-Purgatorio. Discover which ghosts live where, and why

Stop 2: Paranormal Activity Video: Watch Video footage of the Girls in the Stacks as they travel to RVHS looking for ghosts

Stop 3: The History of Raven Valley High: Find out about the history of the school as a convent, military institute, and private university, and then discover who lived there while it sat vacant for ten years.

Stop 4: Interview with Elijah McCall: Explore his fascination with Shakespeare (he spent a month speaking in iambic pentameter) and learn why he can see ghosts.

Stop 5: Exclusive interview with the Ghost of Ernest Hemingway: Ally Cassell records her experiences in a moleskine journal, just like Ernest used to do. Find out why he's the only one she can confide in.

Stop 6: Poe-Pac Mash Up: A "Raven" inspired poem Ally wrote about 2Pac as a substitute teacher.

Stop 7: Raven Mania: Learn interesting pieces of Raven Mythology. Discover the names of the ravens that belonged to Odin, the Norse god of death and poetry and find out why they were referred to as Observation and Memory

Stop 8: Haunted by a Dead Girl: Learn the true inspiration for the ravens in the story. They're real! Hear author Carolee Dean's first hand experiences.

Stop 9: The Inhabitants of the Hallway: Find out who haunts the hallway where Ally is trapped. Ghosts are introduced in a series of Cinquain Chain poems.

To see pictures of the prizes and find the links to these stops, go to the tour here:


Don't forget to scroll to the bottom of the page for the Rafflecopter. If you want to forward this email, please use the icon at the bottom of this page.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Gathering at the Virtual Watercooler: Teachers Who Blog by Caroline Starr Rose

There are a vast number of resources available for teachers, and never before has so much information been so easily accessible as in the Internet age. Below you’ll find a list of teachers who blog about books, literacy, and their classroom experiences. There is a wealth of knowledge at these sites, and I hope you find them to benefit you and the work you do with children.

A Year in  Reading: Two Teachers Who Read. A Lot.

Fourth and Fifth-grade teachers Franki and Marie Lee read books and recommend books for K-6 classrooms.

Books 4 Learning

This blogger has been a teacher for twenty years and dreams of someday teaching children’s literature in a university. She reviews a variety of books, including non-fiction social studies and science titles, picture books, mid-grade, and YA, with an emphasis on fairy tales on Fridays.

Kate Messner's Teachers Write

As author Kate Messner transitioned out of the classroom to write full time, she devoted the summer to sharing writing techniques with teachers. There are interviews, writing tips, and prompts to benefit teachers and students alike.

Mr. Hankins is Reading and Writing in Kentuckiana

I would have loved having Paul Hankins as my high school English teacher. Enough said.

The Nerdy Book Club

This blog is run by three teachers -- one elementary, one middle school, and one high school -- who all share a love of books. As the Nerdy Book Bloggers say, “if you love books, especially those written for children and young adults, then you are an honorary member of The Nerdy Book Club. Like us, you probably always have a book along to read, a title to recommend, and time to talk about works held dear.”


From the website: Who are we? Some of us are teachers. All of us are parents and children’s book writers. All of us understand two basic truths about children and reading: Lifelong reading habits are established in early childhood, and children need what books have to offer.

We’ve come together to establish a resource for teachers, parents and librarians who work with readers in grades K-5. On a regularly-updated basis, ReaderkidZ will provide new and exciting downloadable tools we hope you’ll use in promoting books to these up-and-coming readers.

Reading, Teaching, Learning

Holly is a 4th grade reading gifted intervention specialist. Stop by to see what she and her students are reading.


Colby is a fourth-grade teacher in Battle Creek, MI. He’s one of the three minds behind the Nerdy Book Club, has served on the Cybils panel, and is in the process of reading and documenting all Newbery books, along with Mr. Schu, who will be featured in next month’s column.

Teach Mentor Texts

Teachers Jen and Kellee share from their own experiences how to expose kids to examples of great writing through children’s literature.

Teaching Authors: Six Children’s Authors Who Also Teach Writing

From the website: We are six children's book authors with a wide range (and many years) of experience teaching writing to children, teens, and adults. Here, we share our unique perspective as writing teachers who are also working writers. Our regular features include writing exercises (our "Writing Workouts"), teaching tips, author interviews, book reviews, and answers to your "Ask the Teaching Authors" questions. See our website for more about our "Writing Workouts," and for instructions on how to submit your "Ask the Teaching Authors" questions.

The O.W.L.: Outrageously Wonderful Literature for the Middle Grades

Jill teaches 5-8 grade English and is a strong advocate for developing life-long readers. She posts reviews, interviews, and her students’ reactions on book covers.

The Poem Farm

Amy is a writer and teacher who wants to bring poetry into the classroom. From the website: The Poem Farm is a poem garden, and it's a spot to highlight poetry in classrooms. Please share these poems and thoughts snuggled up on your rug, on a SMART Board, in a center, or however you wish. I will post poems regularly on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays throughout the school year.

Two Reflective Teachers: Two Teachers who Share the Passion of Literacy, Teaching and Life-Long Learning

Not only do these teachers share their passions, they share a name! Both Melanies teach elementary school. Their blog is a wonderful resource for professional reading, the Common Core, and bulletin board ideas.

Sonya Terborg

From the website: I have been teaching for 16 years in 7 countries, located in 4 continents. I am passionate about finding a significant opportunity to make a positive change wherever I am working. I enjoy learning more about the challenges and triumphs in education and believe in sharing ideas in order to deepen understanding.

Next month: Spreading the Knowledge - Librarians Who Blog

Monday, October 15, 2012

Kimberley's Book Buzz is Back for 2012-2013!

Welcome Back to Book Buzz! October is always our "welcome back" month since SPELLBINDERS takes June - September off for summer vacation. We have readers from coast to coast and school begins anywhere from the end of July through mid-September.

As much as I love the Fall colors, the cooler weather and crisp gorgeous mornings, it takes me awhile to get out of summer mode.

So . . . I give you a few of my favorite Summer Reads! Hopefully, you got a chance to relax this past summer and read, read, read, whether you were at the beach, in a car headed out to a great vacation, or relaxing at home.

Please tell us about one of your favorite recent reads in the comment section below.

Picture Book Titles:

I KNOW A WEE PIGGY by Kim Norman

A clever, colorful read-aloud in the tradition of I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.

A fun day at the fair becomes color chaos when one boy's energetic pig gets loose. Upside down, piggy wallows in brown, but that's only the beginning of this cumulative, rhyming text. Soon, he's adding a rinse of red (tomatoes), a wash of white (milk), a pinch of pink (cotton candy), and many more. Can piggy be caught before he turns the whole fair upside down?

With exuberant art by Henry Cole, this wild pig chase is a natural choice for teaching colors and begs to be read aloud. 

PAJAMA TIME! by Sandra Boynton

Here is a good-night book with the irrepressible language, the inimitable illustrations, the irresistible cast of characters only Sandra Boynton could create.
A jump-roping chicken and a pig on a swing. A Scottie in plaid pajamas and an elephant in a fuzzy one-piece with feet. And in sing-along nuttiness reminiscent of Barnyard Dance!, it's time to head to bed-to the beat: Pajammy to the left. Pajammy to the right. Jamma jamma jamma jamma P!J! Everybody's wearing them for dancing tonight. Jamma jamma jamma jamma P!J!


Middle-Grade Titles:

THE FALSE PRINCE by Jennifer A. Nielsen

A thrilling first book in a brand-new trilogy filled with danger and deceit and hidden identities that will have readers rushing breathlessly to the end.

In a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king's long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner's motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword's point -- he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage's rivals have their own agendas as well.

LEISL AND PO by Lauren Oliver

Liesl lives in a tiny attic bedroom, locked away by her cruel stepmother. Her only friends are the shadows and the mice-until one night a ghost named Po appears from the darkness.

That same evening, an alchemist's apprentice named Will makes an innocent mistake that has tremendous consequences for Liesl and Po, and it draws the three of them together on an extraordinary journey.

From New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver comes a luminous novel that glows with rare magic, ghostly wonders, and a true friendship that lights even the darkest of places.


Newbery Honor Book for 2012
Horn Book's Best Fiction of 2011

Sasha Zaichik has known the laws of the Soviet Young Pioneers since the age of six: The Young Pioneer is devoted to Comrade Stalin, the Communist Party, and Communism. A Young Pioneer is a reliable comrade and always acts according to conscience. A Young Pioneer has a right to criticize shortcomings.

But now that it is finally time to join the Young Pioneers, the day Sasha has awaited for so long, everything seems to go awry. He breaks a classmate's glasses with a snowball. He accidentally damages a bust of Stalin in the school hallway. And worst of all, his father, the best Communist he knows, was arrested just last night.

Young Adult Titles:

SKYLARK by Meagan Spooner

In magic there is power, and in power, life.

For fifteen years, Lark Ainsley waited for the day when her Resource would be harvested and she would finally be an adult. After the harvest she expected a small role in the regular, orderly operation of the City within the Wall. She expected to do her part to maintain the refuge for the last survivors of the Wars. She expected to be a tiny cog in the larger clockwork of the city.

Lark did not expect to become the City's power supply.


It's senior year, and while Kenzie should be looking forward to prom and starting college in the fall, she discovers she's pregnant. Her determination to keep her baby is something her boyfriend and mother do not understand. So she is sent to Spain, where she will live out her pregnancy, and her baby will be adopted by a Spanish couple. No one will ever know.

Alone and resentful in a foreign country, Kenzie is at first sullen and difficult. But as she gets to know Estela, the stubborn old cook, and Esteban, the mysterious young man who cares for the horses, she begins to open her eyes, and her heart, to the beauty that is all around her, and inside her. Kenzie realizes she has some serious choices to make--choices about life, love, and home.

Lyrically told in a way that makes the heat, the colors, and the smells of Spain feel alive, Small Damages is a feast for the heart and the soul, and a coming-of-age novel not easily forgotten.

DON'T TURN AROUND by Michelle Gagnon

Sixteen-year-old Noa has been a victim of the system ever since her parents died. Now living off the grid and trusting no one, she uses her computer-hacking skills to stay safely anonymous and alone. But when she wakes up on a table in an empty warehouse with an IV in her arm and no memory of how she got there, Noa starts to wish she had someone on her side.

Enter Peter Gregory. A rich kid and the leader of a hacker alliance, Peter needs people with Noa's talents on his team. Especially after a shady corporation called AMRF threatens his life in no uncertain terms.

But what Noa and Peter don't realize is that Noa holds the key to a terrible secret, and there are those who'd stop at nothing to silence her for good.

~Happy Reading from Kimberley!~

Please enjoy the PDFs, links, Teacher's Guides and Book Trailers at my website at:

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Major Impact of Minor Characters by Carolee Dean

The Secret Language of Stories is a twelve-step story analysis method I use both to plot my own stories and to teach writing and story comprehension to my students. A complete discussion of the twelve steps may be found on the SECRET LANGUAGE OF STORIES page on Carolee's Blog.

Some of the most memorable characters in literature and film are the minor characters. Minor characters serve many roles. They often provide comic relief, give us a contrast to the hero, provide a slightly different point of view, demonstrate a rivalry, share insights into different cultures, and show us the motivations of antagonists. They might be a friend, sidekick, evil minion of the villian, or a "threshold guardian" momentarily preventing the hero from leaving the Old World to enter the New World. They often act as mentors, sometimes just for a scene or two, passing along vital information or giving aid to the other characters in the story.

Often these are the characters who die at the MIDPOINT or DEATH AND TRANSFORMATION section of the story. We get to know them well enough that their demise causes us pain if they were friends or relief if they were evil. We feel the anguish of the hero, who has also come to value their friendship and support, or his sense of deliverance if they were trying to do him in. On the other hand, these characters are not significant enough to the tale that the journey cannot proceed without them.

In contrast, the hero of the story rarely dies at the MIDPOINT, in fact I can't think of a single example. It would be difficult to carry the story forward if he did.

Here is fun activity for all ages for the ghostly month of October. Make headstones for minor characters. If they have actually died in the story, all the more fitting, though if you are doing this as a class project you might want to keep it ambiguous so it won't spoil a story if not everyone has read it.

Write a two line couplet, an epitaph (a short text honoring a deceased person) or an epigram (a brief, clever, or memorable statement) that might befit a grave marker. An aphorism (original and memorable idea) that reflects the character's beliefs could also be used. The message could be humorous or might be profound. The headstone may be drawn on paper and include elaborate artwork or might be sculpted with clay, Play Doh, or Sculpey.

Headstones are interesting because they use just a few lines to capture the essence of a person's entire life or belief system. You might want to start by exploring some examples on the internet.

Often these final words are poetic. Some poets even write their own epitaphs before they die. Check out the one below by W.B. Yeats.


Monday, October 1, 2012


Welcome back to Spellbinders for the 2012-2013 school year. We enjoyed our summer off and are ready to gear up with more great tips for getting kids to love books.

I was recently preparing to give a writing workshop entitled, "What's Hot in Teen Fiction." As I sat down to write my definitions for topics such as Steampunk and Dystopian, I realized I wasn't altogether sure about how to describe these fantasy sub-genres myself

That's when I decided to interview Elizabeth Anker, the owner of Alamosa Books, our local independent children's books store. I figured teachers and librarians would also be interested in exploring these different categories and hearing what a book seller thinks of their appeal to young readers. A large part of being able to recommend a book to a young person is knowing what these different genres contain. Below are Elizabeth's thoughts on the subject.

She says Steampunk started with good writers, mainly in Britain, writing on the edge of science fiction. Then editors saw the trend and began looking for other books with similar themes. These stories tend to be more about a similar look and an idea rather than a similar story line. The look is basically Victorian with Victorian type costumes, gadgets, inventions, and creative weaponry. Goggles of some kind are almost always involved. Plots involve adventurers out to seek their fortunes or defeat bad guys in creative and technological ways. Although drawing on elements of Victorian England, these stories are not so much set in the past as they are set in parallel worlds with Victorianesque influences.

Elizabeth says Sherlock Holmes stories, which actually take place in Victorian times, are a strong influence. Holmes's nemesis Moriarty is the perfect model for the archetypical steampunk bad guy is often based upon reliance on high tech (for the times) weaponry used by a villain who is trying to take over the world. Moriarty is not influenced by morality at all and many steam punk villains are equally as capitalistic.

Steam is often the primary energy source of the times, but something magical is usually involved as well. There is a lot of true science and pseudo science woven through these stories. In the better cases it's real science with pseudo science on the edge, but based in a true science like physics. In books trying for the trend but not so concerned with research it's purely magical in many cases.

Elizabeth says Philip Pullman is the godfather of combining fantasy and science. His Golden Compass series and Phillip Reeve's Hungry Cities Chronicles have inspired many other writers.

Paolo Bacigalupi has expanded on the steampunk trend by creating a world in the future where oil has dried up, forcing people to go back to steam and other power sources. His first novel, Ship Breaker, won the Printz Award and was also a National Book Award finalist. It did not take place in a parallel world, but rather in a world slightly in the future describing a world without oil. He heavily researched what a world without oil would be like and looks at not only the environmental, but also the social ramifications.

Cherie Priest, author of Boneshaker and Hellbent, also writes about our current world in the future. She focuses more on the adventure than the science, but Elizabeth describes her books as a fun read. She gives you things to think about with a lot of android type creatures.

Rod Rees wrote The Demi-Monde Series where the army has created a virtual training world with all of history's vilest dictators and tyrants as villains. Things go haywire when the virtual world starts to develop on its own. The story starts out in the real world but the virtual world is very much based on steampunk.

Elizabeth says it's hard to figure out where to place steampunk. If a bookstore does not divide up fantasy and science fiction it would be easier but Elizabeth believes they are two different genres with two distinct audiences. Science fiction appeals more to male audience with roots in reality with guns, action, adventure, and not a lot of romance. Examples are the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz.

Fantasy audiences tend to have more female readers. The males who read fantasy tend to be "gamer" type kids. Girls don't care so much about what makes the ship go as long as there is a hot guy (preferably immortal) on board. Fantasy favors swords and swashbuckling over guns. History is often a factor. Stories are not necessarily set in history but contain historical elements.

Elizabeth says that for her, the main dividing line is that fantasy tends to look at culture, the roles of women, and all kinds of social institutions while science fiction is more concerned with science and the rational explanation of what is going on independent of human interference or influence.

Of course many books contain elements of both fantasy and science fiction. Elizabeth tries to determine if a book leans more toward one or the other.

On November 4 our feature article will explore additional fantasy sub-genres. In the meantime, Spellbinder's own Kimberley Griffiths Little gave a wonderful presentation exploring fantasy sub-genres at the International Reading Association last April. Check out her handout at her website.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Spellbinder Lunch Chicago Style!

Spellbinders Logo

May 7, 2012
or is it DINNER?


Following the tradition of the past two years, we are wrapping up the spring semester with a Spellbinders Lunch, except in this case it happened to be a dinner with our other IRA author panelists. We all gathered at Mity Nice in the Water Tower on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago the night before our all day panel.
From left to right: Caroline Starr Rose, Kimberley Griffiths Little, Esther Hershenhorn, Carolee Dean, and Lisa Schroeder, Uma Krishnaswami, April Halprin Wayland, and Carolyn Meyer. Kersten Hamilton couldn't join us but showed up Sunday morning in a cowboy hat and boots. The author panel was a great success. Here are some of the comments we received on the evaluations:
Dinner in Chicago

"Very interesting presentations with practical, motivating ways to teach writing and content areas."

"The lecture came full circle as ideas for developing stories were shown put into practice by published authors."

"This was my first IRA and I could not be happier with my first institute. I was actively engaged all day and I literally drank up every word. Thank you."   


If you missed our author panel, you can still find some of the highlights online.

From Carolee's poetry panel there is an entire power point taking examples of literary and poetic devices from her novel TAKE ME THERE and putting them into a fun format for middle and high school students. Look in the TEACHER RESOURCES section of Carolee Dean Books.

From Caroline's revision discussion you may want to explore  STICKMAN CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT which includes a simple graphic to get kids thinking about deeper aspects of character development. From her history panel she also contributed a reading TRAVEL LOG and an activity called WHERE IN THE WORLD ARE WE READING.

Check out Kimberley's examples of historical fiction at  


After this issue we will be going on a newsletter haitus for the summer so we may work on our book projects. That gives you three months to catch up on past issues of Spellbinders you may not have had time to read during the busy school year.

You may find past issues at the SPELLBINDERS BLOG.

Carolee'scolumn "The Secret Language of Stories" provides practical examples and discussions of her twelve step story analysis method.

Kimberley's "Book Buzz" provides short descriptions of the latest titles in children's books so you'll know what to recommend for your students.

Caroline's "Classroom Connections" gives fun and practical suggestions for how to run book clubs, and other helpful classroom tips.




Meet the Spellbinders

Carolee Dean
Carolee Dean has made numerous appearances as a guest poet/author at schools, libraries, poetry events, and teacher/library conferences. She holds a bachelor's degree in music therapy and a master's degree in communicative disorders, and she has spent over a decade working in the public schools as a speech-language pathologist.
Comfort Paperback Cover 
Her first novel, Comfort,was nominated as a Best Book for Young Adults, was named the Best YA Novel of 2002 by the Texas Institute of Letters, and was on the TAYSHAS (Texas Library Association) reading list. Take Me There is a YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers. Her upcoming paranormal verse novel, Forget Me Not, will be published by Simon Pulse in October of 2012.
Take Me There Cover
She conducts teacher trainings on inspiring reluctant writers including "The Secret Language of Stories" and "Random Act of Haiku."Forget Me Not

 Follow me on Twitter 

Caroline Starr RoseCaroline Starr Rose spent her childhood in the deserts of Saudi Arabia and New Mexico, camping at the Red Sea in one and eating red chile in the other. She's taught English and social studies to upper elementary and middle-school students in New Mexico, Florida, Virginia, and Louisiana. Back in New Mexico, Caroline now writes middle-grade novels and picture books full time. 
To find teacher's guides, writing activities, and information about author visits, go to my website.

Kim Bio PhotoKimberley Griffiths Little is the recipient of the Southwest Book Award, The Whitney Award for Best Youth Novel of 2010, and the author of the highly acclaimed, The Healing Spell and Circle of Secrets, published by Scholastic Press. Look for her books at the Scholastic Book Fairs, as well Circle of Secretsas two more forthcoming novels in 2012 and 2013.
She lives on a dirt road in a small town by the Rio Grande with her husband, a robotics engineer and their three sons. Kimberley is a favorite speaker at schools around the country, presenting "The Creative Diary", a highly successful writing workshop and has been a speaker at many conferences.
Please visit her website to download free Teacher's Guides and Book Club Guides. 
Follow me on Twitter 

                 Upcoming Author Events

                 Wednesday, May 16 
Bloomers, Buckboards, and Buffalo Chips presentation
The Library Center
Springfield, MO
Saturday, May 19
George Washington Carver National Monument
Diamond, MO
Caroline Starr Rose
November, 2012
YALSA Literature Symposium 
"Author Research Panel"
Carolee Dean
Kimberley Griffiths Little
and two other authors
St. Louis, Missouri