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  • Jennifer L. Holm is a NEW YORK TIMES bestselling children's author and the recipient of three Newbery Honors for her novels OUR ONLY MAY AMELIA, PENNY FROM HEAVEN, and TURTLE IN PARADISE. Jennifer collaborates with her brother, Matthew Holm, on two graphic novel series -- the popular Babymouse series and the bestselling Squish series. Matthew Holm first began working with his sister, Jennifer, as a copy editor and fact-checker for her Boston Jane novels, and later drew several pages of comics for her book MIDDLE SCHOOL IS WORSE THAN MEATLOAF.
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    5 Questions With … Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

    by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
     | Aug 16, 2013
    Jennifer L. Holm is a NEW YORK TIMES bestselling children's author and the recipient of three Newbery Honors for her novels OUR ONLY MAY AMELIA, PENNY FROM HEAVEN, and TURTLE IN PARADISE. Jennifer collaborates with her brother, Matthew Holm, on two graphic novel series -- the popular Babymouse series and the bestselling Squish series. She is also the author of several other highly praised books, including the Boston Jane trilogy and MIDDLE SCHOOL IS WORSE THAN MEATLOAF. She lives in California with her husband and two children.

    Matthew Holm first began working with his sister, Jennifer, as a copy editor and fact-checker for her Boston Jane novels, and later drew several pages of comics for her book MIDDLE SCHOOL IS WORSE THAN MEATLOAF. When Jenni came to him in 2001 with the idea of making a comic book with a female heroine named Babymouse, he again picked up his pen and the two worked out the ideas and look for what became one of the first graphic novel series written specifically for children. Today, he continues to collaborate with his sister on several graphic novels each year, both for the Babymouse series as well as the Squish series. He currently lives in Portland, Ore., with his wife and dog.


    Last month at Comic-Con you took home the “Best Publication for Early Readers” Eisner Award for BABYMOUSE FOR PRESIDENT. We all knew Babymouse was very popular with young readers, but how did it feel to win at the “Oscars of comics”?

    We actually sold Babymouse in 2004 to Random House. So after working on it for over ten years, it was wonderful to see our messy-whiskered mouse get some love. Also, it felt wonderful to be acknowledged by our peers in the comics industry. They have been incredibly supportive of Babymouse and graphic novels for young readers.

    In a recent blog post about gateway texts, Nathan Hale specifically mentioned the Babymouse series as gateway books that help readers cross self-imposed genre boundaries. What differences are there in the way readers approach and engage with graphic novels as opposed to traditional children’s books?

    Graphic novels have the incredible ability to give visual clues and break out different aspects of the text like narration and dialogue. It really simplifies storytelling in a way for readers while keeping them excited.

    You’ve mentioned that Babymouse is based on Jennifer’s life and your other collaboration, the Squish series, balances the scales a bit for Matthew. With sibling rivalry inevitable, how do you make sure you both dedicate equal creative energy to both projects (as well as ones outside both series)?

    We give both our mouse and amoeba equal time! (We alternate between doing Babymouse and Squish.) For example, next year, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BABYMOUSE will publish in the spring, and FEAR THE AMOEBA will publish in the fall.

    We are both working on novels, but they tend to take a bit longer to get done. Sometimes, time can be a friend when it comes to revision.

    You’ve said that when you initially pitched Babymouse you weren’t sure how traditional publishers would receive a graphic novel. How has the climate for children’s graphic novels changed in the last decade?

    It's a whole new world. Walking around San Diego Comic-Con in July, you can see that we are really in the middle of a renaissance for kids’ comics. There was a huge showing of creators and panels. I think it's fair to say that comics for kids have arrived and they are here to stay.

    Back to Comic-Con: You were both on a panel entitled “Raising a Reader!” What were the best ideas you shared and/or heard in regards to getting kids excited about literacy?

    We loved the idea of extending the reading experience "beyond the page." Which is to say: kids are really motivated to write a graphic novel after they read one. This seems like a natural way to keep the spark alive for storytelling.

    © 2013 International Reading Association. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.
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  • Nicki Clausen-Grace is a teacher, author, consultant and staff developer from Oviedo, Florida, USA. She currently teaches fourth-grade at Carillon Elementary school. She is the coauthor of three books for teachers with Michelle, the author of over fifty articles on families and education, and six nonfiction books for kids. Michelle Kelley is an assistant professor at the University of Central Florida. She is also an author, consultant, staff developer and mother.
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    5 Questions With… Michelle J. Kelley and Nicki Clausen-Grace

    by Michelle J. Kelley and Nicki Clausen-Grace
     | Aug 02, 2013
    Nicki Clausen-Grace is a teacher, author, consultant and staff developer from Oviedo, Florida, USA. She currently teaches fourth-grade at Carillon Elementary school. She is the coauthor of three books for teachers with Michelle, the author of over fifty articles on families and education, and six nonfiction books for kids. She is the mother of two children (ages 13 and 21), one cat, and one dog. She enjoys biking, boating, spending time outside with family and reading

    Michelle Kelley is an assistant professor at the University of Central Florida. She is also an author, consultant, staff developer and mother. She lives in Oviedo, Florida with her husband, son, daughter, and dog. She is the coauthor of three books, with Nicki, for teachers.


    The second edition of COMPREHENSION SHOULDN’T BE SILENT has just been released. What new approaches, ideas, and materials can readers look forward to?

    For this edition we addressed issues and concerns facing today’s teachers. We have learned a lot from years of implementing the Metacognitive Teaching Framework and we’ve updated our original text to reflect this as well. Some of the biggest changes include Common Core alignments for all activities and structures, scales and rubrics for many activities and topics, a more complete infusion of available classroom technology, and suggestions for center activities. In addition to many of the activities in the first edition, we have lots of new lessons and thinksheets in each chapter. One of the most exciting changes is that all blackline masters are now available on the CD. Additionally, in each chapter we have included reflective prompts for personal learning and professional development activities.

    You stress the importance of teaching students to use metacognitive strategies. What is the connection between these strategies and fostering motivated independent readers?

    It makes sense that if you don’t fully comprehend what you are reading, the text won’t hold your attention for long. This leads to disengaged readers who don’t choose to read, even when they have to. On the other hand, if students are able to immerse themselves in a text by seamlessly using metacognitive strategies such as predicting and visualizing, it will be difficult to get them to stop reading.

    The second edition is paired with a companion CD. What were you able to include by offering digital resources in addition to what’s in the book?

    The CD is one of the things we are most excited about! Imagine being able to print tally sheets, status of the class forms or various thinksheets right from your desktop. The ability to display these items on an interactive whiteboard makes it easier to model and demonstrate.

    One of the goals of this book is to help teachers nurture meaningful talk about reading. What barriers keep students on the surface without diving deeper into texts?

    A perceived lack of time sometimes causes teachers to race through curriculum rather than slowing down and allowing kids time to process. Sometimes this is due to unrealistic pacing guides or the perception that every class should be reading the same text at the same time. It takes time to dig deeper into texts and to have meaningful discussions about them, but it is time well-spent. Another issue is that some students struggle with appropriate vocabulary for discussing literature and reading strategies. Additionally, kids are not accustomed to academic talk. What our book does well is helps teachers develop both the language and structures that make talking about books a natural and daily occurrence. These conversations permeate the day and become more and more meaningful as the school year progresses.

    In the first chapter of COMPREHENSION SHOULDN’T BE SILENT you explain that you quickly observed that students were unsuccessful in self-assessing their use of reading strategies. Why is this and how can teachers nurture successful self-assessment?

    A lot of basal reading programs focus on students reading a text then answering questions from the Teacher’s Edition. Usually these questions are designed to provide opportunities for students to predict, question, visualize, connect or summarize. Unfortunately, the focus is on having students answer the questions correctly, rather than improving students’ awareness and use of metacognitive strategies. They often come to us with little understanding of the reading processes and skills they should be working to improve. When we ask them what they would like to get better at in reading, they usually reply to read faster, sound out words better, or read with expression. While these can be important skills to work on, they should not be the ‘meat and potatoes’ of the reading curriculum.

    It is very difficult to improve at something if you aren’t even aware you should be doing it. Additionally, kids are not used to the self-assessment process. They need to be guided through the process. Our book shows teachers how to implement meaningful goal-setting. Teaching kids to self-assess begins with modeling through think-aloud, practice through guided lessons, peer work and various forms of independent reading, including R5: Read, Relax, Reflect, Respond and Rap.

    COMPREHENSION SHOULDN’T BE SILENT: FROM STRATEGY INSTRUCTION TO STUDENT INDEPENDENCE, SECOND EDITION has published! Sample the first chapter for free by clicking here.

    © 2013 International Reading Association. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.


    COMPREHENSION SHOULDN’T BE SILENT: FROM STRATEGY INSTRUCTION TO STUDENT INDEPENDENCE, SECOND EDITION

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  • Gareth Hinds is the author and illustrator of critically-acclaimed graphic novels and picture books based on classic literature and mythology. Through his work he shares his love of literature with readers young and old. His adaptation of THE ODYSSEY received four starred reviews, and he is the recipient of the Boston Public Library's "Literary Lights for Children" award.
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    5 Questions With… Gareth Hinds

    by Gareth Hinds
     | Jul 26, 2013
    Gareth Hinds is the author and illustrator of critically-acclaimed graphic novels and picture books based on classic literature and mythology. Through his work he shares his love of literature with readers young and old. His adaptation of THE ODYSSEY received four starred reviews, and he is the recipient of the Boston Public Library's "Literary Lights for Children" award. He lives in New York City with his wife. When he's not working on a book he enjoys painting landscapes and practicing aikido.

    Your work combines classic literature with a more cutting-edge art form, the graphic novel. What initially inspired you to join the two?

    When I first began making graphic novels I was more confident of my abilities as an illustrator than as an author. I knew I wanted to work with really great stories, and classic works in the public domain presented me with that opportunity—the chance to collaborate with amazing authors from the past, on stories that I knew had staying power. So I don't have to worry about the quality of the story, I just focus on trying to do that story justice in the way I adapt and illustrate it.

    Your latest adaptation, ROMEO AND JULIET, will be released in September of this year. What twists, beyond the graphic novel format, can readers expect on the classic tale?

    My adaptation is set in historical Verona of Shakespeare’s time, but it features a multi-racial cast. The older characters are dressed correctly for the period, but the younger characters’ costumes show them rebelling in contemporary ways—the men wear their jackets open, Tybalt has tattoos, the girls have cut their dresses to knee-length, and so on. I've also played up the swordfights and the humor (as I think a good stage performance should).

    How is a reader’s experience enhanced by encountering a classic story in one of your graphic novels as opposed to a more traditional format?

    I hope the visual storytelling brings the story to life and really puts the reader in the setting of historical Greece, Italy, etc., and I hope it gets them past the potential difficulties of archaic language and lets them see what's cool about the story.

    That's really my goal, to share of my own love of these works with kids (and adults) who might have trouble with the original text.

    Graphic novels are beginning to be fully embraced in the classroom. How would you describe the current relationship between graphic novels and the academic/classroom world?

    I used to hear from teachers at conferences that they’d never think of using a graphic novel to teach the classics, but in recent years that has changed completely. Graphic novels have proven themselves to be a great bridge into content. Now I hear all the time from teachers who find my books to be a terrific jumping off point to their study of a text. Or from teachers who have their students read the full, original version then read my graphic novel and have robust class discussions about my interpretations, visual choices, etc.

    Graphic novels are also a great example of “multi-modal” learning, which helps kids not only understand but retain the information. Graphic novel adaptations have a pretty obvious application for teaching the classics, but graphic novels are now also being used as primary texts for all kinds of subjects. It's very exciting.

    Your interpretation of Homer’s THE ODYSSEY is massive by graphic novel standards (almost 250 pages!). Why did you choose to undertake such a lengthy interpretation and illustration of the tale as opposed to a summarized version?

    Well, I think part of the point of the Odyssey is that it's an epic journey. If I just said “Odysseus went from A to B to C,” that's not very interesting and you don't feel like you went on that journey with him. I wanted the reader to experience that journey. I think it's an awesome story, and summarizing it would not do it justice.

    © 2013 International Reading Association. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.


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  • Author/consultant Harry Dickens has written three Apps for Learning books for Corwin Press: High School, Middle School, and Elementary School. He has been an educator for twenty-three years. Those years include classroom teacher and instructional technology director in a school district and a statewide resource center in Arkansas.
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    5 Questions With… Harry Dickens (Apps for Learning series)

    by Harry Dickens
     | Jul 12, 2013
    Author/consultant Harry Dickens has written three Apps for Learning books for Corwin Press: High School, Middle School, and Elementary School. He has been an educator for twenty-three years. Those years include classroom teacher and instructional technology director in a school district and a statewide resource center in Arkansas. Harry lives in east Texas with his wife and two sons. Visit him online at harrydickens.com.

    As the author of the Apps for Learning books, what advice would you give to teachers who want to incorporate technology into their curriculum but aren’t sure where to start?

    Start with what you have first! If it is one computer in the classroom, go for it. With the books I wanted to show examples of mobile applications that can be used in the classroom. Again, teachers need to start with what they have and don’t try to over do it. Start with a few apps—collect answers to a quiz through the Socrative app. Then move PowerPoint presentations to another app that’s great for formative assessment, Nearpod. Also, use the productivity tools for the mobile device of their choice, making use of it as a part of your daily routine. It is part of the students’.

    You’ve written books about classroom technology for elementary, middle, and high school students. How beneficial can apps be for children at the early learning stage?

    The small mobile devices and apps for preschool students offer more options than anyone could have imagined 40-plus years ago when I was in a daycare. The books for the iPad and other mobile devices are interactive, with something touchable and teachable happening on each and every page. The interactive Montessori apps introduce math, shapes, letter sounds (phonics), and more.

    Starting students in preschool with mobile devices gets them ready for K-12 school going mobile at an increasing rate.

    Many people assume that apps, mobile devices, and similar resources can be expensive. How can teachers from struggling districts keep up with today’s increasing emphasis on technology?

    Many people look for apps for a specific task and that is where the cost comes in. There are many creativity applications available for free. Watch for free Fridays by downloading a “Free App” [such as App Gratis] for alerts on price cuts on the apps.

    School districts do receive volume purchase choices for several apps from the Apple Education Store. Sometimes this means a large purchase of a single app may have to up the price. I have made contact with several app developers and asked for them to consider making their app available this way. And many times I get a free code for the app!

    What should teachers look for in a high quality app?

    When I work with students I want them creating and applying and analyzing. Using a guide in the school setting is best because it may be an app I can use over several grade levels or an app that covers a specific deficiency that the state assessment says the district needs to address.

    Kathy Schrock has a wonderful Taxonomy I use every time I consider downloading an app. It helps me look at an app to make sure it can be used for higher-level Bloom’s.

    There are other rubrics available on the web from other professional educators as well. Here’s one more from Kathy.

    What would you say to a defiantly “old school” teacher who thinks apps and mobile devices are distractions?

    I can say personally teachers that are technically challenged have been some of the easiest to work with because they for the most part have a better understanding of the content. A new teacher or the tech director may say, “Here is a cool app!” But the “seasoned” teacher usually has classroom skills a new teacher doesn’t have yet. When they are paired together magic really happens!

    I have witnessed this in several settings. I even had a teacher in one workshop who decided to continue a few more years because she saw the potential [in technology]!

    © 2013 International Reading Association. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.


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  • Julie Sternberg received her MFA in writing for children from the New School. She is the author of LIKE PICKLE JUICE ON A COOKIE and LIKE BUG JUICE ON A BURGER. She lives in Brooklyn. Visit her at www.juliesternberg.com.
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    5 Questions With … Julie Sternberg (LIKE BUG JUICE ON A BURGER)

    by Julie Sternberg
     | Jul 05, 2013
    Julie Sternberg received her MFA in writing for children from the New School. She is the author of LIKE PICKLE JUICE ON A COOKIE and LIKE BUG JUICE ON A BURGER. She lives in Brooklyn. Visit her at www.juliesternberg.com.

    Your new book, LIKE BUG JUICE ON A BURGER, is the sequel to 2011’s LIKE PICKLE JUICE ON A COOKIE. In the past, you’ve described Eleanor as an amalgam of your daughters and yourself as an 8-year-old. Did you write the character as a role model for them and other young girls?

    I don’t think I’d get much writing done if I considered Eleanor a role model for other kids. It’s too much pressure! I just try to put her in situations that are hard for her and figure out what happens. For each scene, I ask myself these sorts of questions: Could this really happen? Would Eleanor really do that? Would readers care? I revise until the answer to all of my questions is yes. Then I keep going. (This is not the most efficient way to write! But it’s the only way I seem to be able to do it.)

    LIKE BUG JUICE ON A BURGER finds Eleanor navigating another unfamiliar situation. What is it about summer camp that gives rise to character-building lessons?

    For most kids, sleep away camp means leaving behind everything that’s familiar. No television, no computers, no video games, no favorite restaurants, no bicycle, no play dates, no air conditioning. No parents! Instead, teenaged counselors, color wars, cabins, bunk beds, camp food, outdoor overnights, muddy lakes, goats to feed, horses to ride. A bus to camp is like a portal to a different world. So it’s a terrific setting for a book.

    Illustrator Matthew Cordell’s work lends a lot to the enjoyableness of both LIKE PICKLE JUICE ON A COOKIE and LIKE BUG JUICE ON A BURGER. How much creative control did you have over the pictures that accompany your story?

    Matt deserves full credit! Our editor, the fabulous Tamar Brazis, runs Matt’s sketches by me at various stages. If I see an issue (for example, if an illustration is inconsistent with a detail in the text), we figure it out together. But for the most part I do nothing more than admire Matt’s work. I love the illustrations in both books, and the ones in LIKE BUG JUICE ON A BURGER never fail to make me laugh.

    Having written both books in poetic form, how do you think young readers engage with verse as opposed to prose?

    I’m always thrilled to hear my writing described as poetic, and I know both books are sometimes referred to as free verse. But I never set out to write poetry. I chose frequent line breaks for the books because they help me track the rhythm of Eleanor’s thoughts, and because I wanted the books to appeal not just to strong readers, but also to kids who struggle with longer lines. I hope that for all readers, the short lines and short chapters generate a momentum for turning pages.

    What are you most hopeful that your audience will take away from Eleanor’s experiences in LIKE BUG JUICE ON A BURGER?

    I hope some kids will relate to Eleanor and think— I know exactly how she feels! And, well, if she made it through, I could too.

    I hope others will think—Huh. I would’ve loved that camp. But I can see why she didn’t. And I liked reading about her.
    I’d count either of those reactions a success.

    © 2013 International Reading Association. Please do not reproduce in any form, electronic or otherwise.


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