Monday, April 29, 2013

A SPELLBINDER book launch and giveaway!

Spellbinders Logo

April 29, 2013

Our very own Spellbinder Book Launch - just in time for
Spring and Summer Reading!  
SPELLBINDER author, Kimberley Griffiths Little's new book, WHEN THE BUTTERFLIES CAME, is out from Scholastic this month! Just in time for planting your very own summer butterfly gardens.

Everybody thinks Tara Doucet has the perfect life. But Tara's life is anything but perfect: Her dear Grammy Claire has just passed away, her mom is depressed and distant, and she and her sister, Riley, can't agree on anything. But when mysterious and dazzling butterflies begin to follow her around after Grammy Claire's funeral, Tara knows in her heart that her grandmother has left her one final mystery to solve.

Tara finds a stack of keys and detailed letters from Grammy Claire. Note by note, Tara learns unexpected truths about her grandmother's life. As the letters grow more ominous and the clues harder to decipher, Tara realizes that the secrets she must uncover could lead to grave danger. And when Tara and Riley are swept away to the beautiful islands of Chuuk to hear their grandmother's will, Tara discovers the most shocking truth of all, one that will change her life forever.

Kimberley Griffiths Little weaves a magical, breathtaking mystery.

Of course, there are gorgeous, magical purple butterflies in the story.

In fact, there are many *unusual* species Tara's Grammy Claire is researching in her secret laboratory. . .

The book takes place in the swamps and bayous of Louisiana.

And on an island in Micronesia in the South Pacific.

Tara must solve a series of clues inside a stack of mysterious letters with keys . . . and save her Grammy Claire's butterflies even as she finds herself and her sister, Riley, in grave danger.

The stunning book trailer for WHEN THE BUTTERFLIES CAME will be in a post later this week. Final music edits were delayed due to unforeseen events so stay tuned for a marvelous book trailer.

But here is the gorgeous cake from the launch party at Alamosa Bookstore earlier this month.

Please join Kimberley and all the SPELLBINDERS in celebrating!
Kimberley will be doing another presentation & reading at:
Bookworks Bookstore in Albuquerque, New Mexico
Saturday, June 22, 2013 at 10:30 a.m.
4022 Rio Grande Blvd NW  Albuquerque, NM 87107
(And there will be cake!)

Every attendee will be able to make a butterfly necklace like these:

Your SPELLBINDERS are giving away an autographed copy of
WHEN THE BUTTERFLIES CAME to one lucky winner!!

To Enter, please leave a comment at our blog - and please officially follow our blog right here ---> SPELLBINDERS BLOG
The Winner will be Announced on May 13 -
which will be our last post
before the summer holidays begin and we go on summer hiatus.

 Black Stripes

Monday, April 15, 2013

"How a Book is Made" by Harpercollins - must see videos!

"How a Book is Made" with Author Lauren Oliver and HarperKids
by Kimberley Griffiths Little 
If you are a teacher, librarian, parent, or writer yourself looking for something unique and different for you or your students/children, check out this wonderful new series of videos by HarperKids, a division of Harpercollins.

How a Book is Made - (AND Revised, Edited, Designed - and BORN), before it gets to the shelves of your local bookstore or library. 

Lauren Oliver is a bestselling Middle-Grade and young Adult author who narrates these 4-5 minute videos about how she a writer gets ideas and develops them, and then writes and revises a book. She takes you through all the steps, including videos with her editor and copy-editor and designer at Harpercollins talking about their jobs (inside their offices in NYC) and leading us through their role in how a book is made. It's fascinating.

As a writer, I'm pretty familiar with the first few videos and how a book goes through the process of getting edited and copy-edited, etc. I've also read quite a bit about the rest of the in-house process, but the Production video was especially interesting to see the pieces of the book and how it's bound and glued and created. It was fun to actually *see* it on these videos, and I think your students or children will enjoy seeing this unique and amazing process.

There are 8 videos total, between 3-5 minutes apiece.
Take some time afterward to discuss with your students what they've learned, as well as discuss the various book careers that are possible or they might be interested in.

Don't forget that there is a whole Art Department at each publishing house that hires freelance artists and graphic designers who create the covers and choose the fonts and design the book inside and out, from concept to finished product for those artists in your midst!

P.S. If you watch the first one, it will automatically take you to the next one in order on Youtube. :-) 

 Black Stripes

Meet the Spellbinders

Kim Bio Photo
Kimberley 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 Secrets
as 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
to download free Teacher's Guides and Book Club Guides. 

Follow me on Twitter 

 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 Comfort Paperback Coverspeech-language pathologist. 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. She conducts teacher trainings on inspiring reluctant writers including "The Secret Language of Stories" and "Random Take Me There CoverActs of Haiku."

To find teacher's guides, writing activities, and information about author visits, go to

 Follow me on Twitter 

Caroline Starr Rose
Caroline 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.
May B

Caroline Starr Rose
Friday, April 19th
NM Library Association
Youth Luncheon
Albuquerque, NM  
Kimberley Griffiths Little 
Saturday, April 27th 
NM Battle of the Books, Author Guest 
Silver City, New Mexico

Kimberley Griffiths Little 
May 3-5
Presenter and critiquer at the  
Niagara Writers Conference

Kimberley Griffiths Little 
May 9-11  
Presenter, Publication Primer 
LDStorymakers Conference 
Provo, Utah  

Saturday, April 13, 2013


I'd describe your beautiful book, THE BOOK WHISPERER, as a reading teacher's manifesto for free-choice reading. You state "students in free-reading programs perform better than or equal to students in any other type of reading program" and that students' "motivation and interest in reading is higher when they get the opportunity to read in school." Could you briefly walk us through the changes you experienced as a teacher that led you to embracing this mindset?

When I first began teaching, I followed the other teachers in my department. I passed
out reading logs, taught whole class novel units, and assigned book reports. I didn't know any other way. I knew that there was a disconnect between what readers do away from school and what I asked my students to do, but I wasn't sure what I could do about it. School reading and the reading I did on my own never overlapped when I was a kid. When I began questioning why this was still true for my students, I began to read and study reading workshop and look for ways to make school reading mirror what readers do "in the wild" as I call it.

I gut check everything we do against these questions: 
Does this help my students become more independent readers? 
Do readers actually do this (or something similar)? 
If I can say, "No," then what's the point? 

Students in your class are expected to read forty books from a variety of genres in their year with you. How do your students first respond when hearing this? How does this compare to what they feel about their reading at the end of the year?

I am known as the teacher who expects students to read a lot, so I think my reputation precedes me now. In the past, my students (and their parents) were shocked and worried about my reading expectations. I urge my students to try reading more at school and home. In turn, I promise them that I will do everything I can to teach them how to read and enjoy it more. We start with these mutual commitments. After a few months, students are amazed at how much they have read and feel more confident. By the end of the year, most of them have read substantially more than 40 books. For the past four years, our class average is 56. 

My students also discover that I don't really care about the number of books they read. I just want them to find books that mean something to them. I want them to enjoy reading and find personal value in it. The children who read 20 books matter just as much to our class reading community as those who read 100.

One of the things I love about your classroom is the way you read alongside your students. In giving your students choice, you have shifted the power from the all-knowing teacher to a place where readers meet and learn together. While your young "apprentices hone a craft under the tutelage of a master, " you feel strongly that "meaning from a text should not flow from my perceptions... [but] from my students' own understandings, under my guidance."

This is a huge shift for children. How do you teach them to take the reins and trust their ideas? 

It takes time to build a classroom community where everyone feels valued. The children don't trust me at first because they think I don't mean it when I say they can choose their own books, writing topics, and methods for responding. I work hard to encourage every student. I try to listen to them as a person before I respond as a teacher. When a student tells me he cried reading LOVE THAT DOG, he deserves to get an authentic reaction to his emotions before I ask him to evaluate how Sharon Creech crafted the story. I cannot tell you how many students tell me that they think adults don't really listen to them or see them. 

Through feedback during conferences and one-on-one conversations, I encourage students to set their own learning goals and evaluate their work against standards and class-developed rubrics. Teaching students to critically look at their own work before turning it in for my evaluation is hard for many of them who seek my approval as indication that they are successful. 

I love how you play book matchmaker for your kids throughout the year. Can you explain how you learn of their interests and pair books with readers?

I learn about my students because I talk to them constantly-about their life experiences as well as school assignments. I know who plays sports and who likes origami. I know who has a new baby brother and who is an only child. I also keep an endless database of books and authors in my head (and use Goodreads), and I read several books a week. If I see that a book is popular with my students and I haven't read it, I get a copy and read it immediately. When I can't find a book that matches to a student's specific interests, I fall back on titles that have wide appeal to most kids like HOLES or NUMBER THE STARS. I also ask students about the other books they have read and enjoyed. 

I read a lot of book reviews, reading blogs, and book lists, too. Remaining current on the newer books helps me provide titles that are relevant to my students. I also talk to a lot of teachers and librarians on Twitter who recommend books to my students and me. 

Knowing my students and knowing books-there's no shortcut. I often joke that I spend my life introducing my shelf children to my classroom children and facilitating friendships between them.

Learn more about Donalyn and her book Join us next month for the second part of the interview.  

Monday, April 8, 2013


The Secret Language of Stories is a twelve step story analysis system I’ve devised both to plot my novels and to teach story building to adults and kids. It’s based on Joseph Campbell’s classic work, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, with strong influences from The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler. In the past few years I’ve seen Vogler’s work referenced more and more in the classroom, but for the struggling readers and writers I work with, some of the ideas are still a bit abstract. My impetus for creating The Secret Language of Stories was to come up with imagery and vocabulary my students could understand, but with concepts deep enough to still be a challenge in adult creative writing workshops. A description of my system may be found at SLOS..

When I give presentations at conferences and workshops, I provide numerous examples for each of the twelve points in the story analysis, but teachers frequently ask if I can give them an analysis of an entire book. Some of my older Spellbinders posts contain outlines of picture books, but I recently completed reading a novel that was so well plotted, it was easy to see the structure.

City of Bones is a fabulous New York Times Best Selling novel by Cassandra Clare. It is the first book in The Mortal Instruments series and it tells the story of Clary Fray, who seems to be a typical teenage girl until she starts seeing demons and Shadowhunters.


The following analysis contains several spoilers so I strongly advise reading the book before proceeding. I will attempt to avoid talking about the wonderful twists and turns while focusing on the spine of the story. I don’t want to ruin the fabulous revelations and family secrets that are uncovered. On the other hand, the book is so well written, that it’s a total delight, even if you know how it ends.
THE OLD WORLD: Clary is a typical teenager hanging out with her best friend, Simon, at a club called Pandemonium. She sees an attractive young man slip into a back room with a girl and becomes concerned when he is followed by two young teens (Shadowhunters) brandishing knives. When she goes to investigate she sees the Shadowhunters kill the young man (aka: demon shape shifter) who shrivels into nothing and disappears.

THE CALL TO ADVENTURE: Clary receives a frantic phone call from her mother telling her not to come home because it isn’t safe. Clary rushes to their house to find her mother has disappeared. She is attacked by a Ravener demon who nearly kills her and is whisked away by Jace, one of the Shadowhunters from Pandemonium.

MENTORS, GUIDES, AND GIFTS: Jace serves as a mentor in the ways of the Shadow World. After Clary is poisoned by the sting of the Ravener, he must get her past the Du’sien demons disguised as police offers. Jace “hides” her temporarily by marking her arm with a mendelin rune. Throughout the story he gives her weaponry and other items she will need to fight off demons.

THE CROSSING: Jace carries an unconscious Clary to the Institute, a building in the middle of the city that looks like an old abandoned church on the outside because it is hidden by a glamour. On the inside, it’s a large and beautiful research institute capable of offering lodging and safety for up to two hundred Shadowhunters. Only four currently reside there; Jace and his friends Alec and Isabelle, along with their teacher and mentor Hodge.

THE NEW WORLD: At the institute, Clary meets Hodge, the mentor, teacher and guardian of the three young Shadowhunter residents. Throughout the story he will give her information and guidance. This is the stage in the story where Clary becomes aware of the rules of the new world she has entered, a world threatened by demons and occupied by the slightly less dangerous Downworlders; creatures like vampires, werewolves and fairies.

THE PROBLEM, THE PRIZE, AND THE PLAN: Clary and the Shadowhunters uncover a plot by Valentine; rogue Shadowhunter, to find the Mortal Cup. He plans to use it to create an army of Shadowhunters under his control whom he plans to use to annihilate the Downworlders. The majority of Shadowhunters have formed a tentative peace or Accord with the Downworlders. Valentine has turned against his own kind because he believes the earth must be purged of Downworlders. He kidnapped Clary’s mother because he thought she had the Mortal Cup or at least knew where to find it. In order to discover where her mother has been hidden, Clary must first understand who has erased her memory of the Shadow World and learn her true part in it.

MIDPOINT CHALLENGE: Clary, Jace, Isabel, Alec, and Simon (who has also joined the group) go to a party at the home of Magnus Bane, High Warlock of Brooklyn. There Bane reveals that it was Clary’s own mother who paid him to erase her memories, for Clary’s protection. As she and the others start to leave, Isabel informs them that Simon has imbibed in a blue drink that has temporarily changed him into a rat. A group of vampires takes him to the Hotel Dumort, thinking he is one of their own. Clary and Jace battle the vampires and just when it appears they are terribly outnumbered, werewolves intervene to create a diversion.

CHASE AND ESCAPE: Narrowly escaping death, the three teens find a flying motorcycle on the roof of the hotel. They get away, but as they are starting to relax and take pleasure in their joy ride over the city, the sun rises and the motorcycle crashes. Apparently the demons energies that power the bike don’t work during daylight.

DOWNTIME: Safely back at the Institute, Jace and Clary share a romantic moment on the roof which is interrupted when they return to her room and a jealous Simon emerges. With both boys upset with her, Clary settles on her bed to draw and to think. She then has a revelation about where the Mortal Cup is hidden, a location I will leave out just in case you haven’t read the book. If you have read it, then you already know.

DEATH EXPERIENCE: Jace and Clary retrieve the mortal cup with the help of their friends only to have it stolen by Valentine with the assistance of someone they thought they could trust. Along with the cup, Valentine also takes an unconscious Jace with him and Clary fears that the evil Shadowhunter plans to kill him.

CLIMACTIC SHOWDOWN: Clary, with the help of long time family friend Luke, travels to a remote location on Roosevelt Island where they battle dozens of Forsaken. Clary finds her mother, unconscious, confined to a bed with hands and feet in manacles. She then locates Jace who is completely unharmed. Valentine has convinced Jace to go with him to Idris. Clary confronts Valentine about his evil plans and convinces Jace to stay with her, which is much more difficult than it sounds, but I don’t want to disclose too much in case you haven’t read the story. Valentine escapes through a mirror portal with the Mortal Cup, but Clary saves Jace and rescues her mother. Those are her main objectives. She will leave the Clave to deal with Valentine.

REWARD: Back in the everyday world, Clary visits her mother in the hospital. She is in a coma, but for the present she is safe. Clary’s friendship with Simon has been mended and they reflect on coincidences versus “fortuitous occurrences.” Clary returns to the Institute where her tense relationships with Alec and Isabelle have softened. She meets Jace up on the roof where he shows her the flying vampire motorcycle that Magnus Bane recently gave him as a gift. He takes her on a ride and she marvels at how different the city looks. Jace points out that the city is just the same. Clary is the one who is different.

Understanding the basic plot structure of stories can be an invaluable way to start getting story ideas of your own. When young people understand these patterns that are repeated across genres, they start to recognize them in movies and books. Remember, for a more detailed discussion of each of these twelve steps, go to SLOS.

The City of Bones will be released as a major motion picture in theaters August of 2013. When it comes out on DVD I hope you show it to your students. It would be a great topic for a story analysis discussion.

But be sure to read the book first!