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.