Monday, March 10, 2014

Stephan Pastis Wows are Students!

 Stephan Pastis visited with our 3rd, 4th and 5th graders on March 27th. Equiped with a great group of slides, he told the students about how he started out being an attorney for his career path. After ten years, he realized he really wanted to be creative and took the plunge to become a comic strip artist. He was rejected many times until he added a second character to his beloved rat, a very clever pig. (Pearls Before Swine comic strip author/illustrator)

Mr. Pastis explained his creative process. He made our group laugh as he explained his need for loud music, lots of coffee and a room with walls that he draws on to get his ideas down on paper.

He was approached several years ago to write a book for middle school children. At first, he felt he was too busy but eventually an idea came to him based on the type of stories he loved when he was that age: Detective stories. And so Timmy Failure was born!

Mistakes were Made was the first Timmy story. It was on the NY Times Best Seller list for many weeks. Soon, part two came along Now Look What You Did which is how we got to have Mr. Pastis come visit us.  Since he was doing a huge tour, The Book Stall in Winnetka asked if we would like to have him visit us here at Sears School! Well, we certainly did.

After talking to the students, Mr. P. fielded questions from the audience. He brought t-shirts, three Timmy Failure watches and temporary tattoos. We were able to have a drawing right there with him picking the names of the lucky winners.

He then signed books before heading off to his next appointment.

PS Mr. Pastis even gave our students a sneak peek at the third Timmy Failure story We Meet Again, due out in October! We will be looking forward to that!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Veronica Roth and Allegiant (Part 3 of Divergent)

I had the pleasure to meet author Veronica Roth at The Book Stall in Winnetka a few weeks ago. I wanted to share with you some of the interesting things that came up during this great opportunity.
For instance the Divergent series has been translated into 42 languages.
Veronica Roth uses more technology now than ever to help her be consistent with timelines and events in her stories.
She was really happy with the script that was written for the film (OPENS IN MARCH 2014) and thought the casting was perfect.
The film shot for 90 days of location shooting here in Chicago so there will lots to enjoy in the movie for all of us here in the area.
She says the whole book-into-a-movie experience has really changed so much of her life.
When Allegiant came out she had to sign 1000's of copies.

Part III of this terrific dystopia trilogy is full of all the action, twists and turns, surprises and disclosures that you have come to expect from this author.  If you have not read Allegiant don't read any social media or blogs about it, if you do not want the story spoiled for you. If you have read it then please do not spoil it for anyone else. It really deserves to be read with all the surprises intact. Enjoy the author at her blog (she puts in Spoiler Alerts!)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Dualed by Elsie Chapman - Another twist on the Dystopia genre.

For all the Hunger Games, Matched and Divergent fans out there, try Dualed!

Join West Grayer (15 year old orphan) as she tries to survive her city-kingdom of Kersh's harsh rules of survival. Since the world fell into constant warfare, Kersh has survived as a walled kingdom on the west coast of the US.  Everyone there has a genetically identical twin born of completely different parents. At an appointed time each twin or "alt" has a month to find and eliminate the other. Who ever remains alive is deemed worthy of becoming a member of the protective Kersh army as an adult. It's the ultimate survival-of-the-fittest story set in a tough city, short on resources and heavy on danger. 
Clearly, number one in a series, I found myself wanting to know what happened to get the world to this point; how did Kersh get started and who are the mysterious Board that run everything behind the scenes. Hints at all these things are present and you know there has to be a rebellion coming at some point.  I really liked the pace and atmosphere of this dark action story.  I hope some of my questions will be satisfied in the next installments when they arrive.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Two Caudill nominees about boys: Bamboo People and Boys Without Names

Chiko and Tu Reh are both Burmese teenage boys caught in the middle of modern day Burma and civil war. Told in the first person, the reader will live the ordeal of being kidnapped into the army and forced to become a soldier. Chiko is well educated and longs to become a teacher. He uses his education and intelligence to survive and cope, never forgetting his family. He gets to know Tu Reh, a Karenni rebel soldier, when he is severely wounded in a battlefield.  What happens next decides the rest of Chiko's life.  Themes of war, friendship, family, compassion and resilience weave a fast paced story about the lives of young people in Burma today.  Be sure to read the endnotes by the author about the current situation in Burma.
11 year old Gopal moves to present day Mumbai, India with his family. The family has lost their farm and rural way of life. In hopes of finding work through a family member in the big city they head out. Nothing is as expected in the city.  Money quickly runs out leaving the family homeless and hungry. Baba, Gopal's father, goes in search of the family member only to disappear. Desperate to help his family survive, Gopal tries to find any work he can. His trust in the wrong person gets him kidnapped into child labor.  Locked away in dark, airless loft Gopal and five other boys are held captive. All day with little food or water, the boys are forced to glue beads onto frames.  They call their cruel and dangerous boss, Scar. Gopal is determined to escape. Slowly, even in the face of hopelessness, he manages to befriend his fellow captives.  His resourcefulness and resilience ultimately changes the course of life for all the boys. This is a serious story about child labor and children's' rights and the power of friendship.

Two Caudill Nominees about modern girls: The Running Dream and I, Emma Freke

 Jessica is a star high school runner who loses her leg in a school bus crash. Her journey from complete despair to new dream realized is a believable story of determination, family and true friendship. I personally learned so much about what amputees go through that I never knew before. The story gave me a new appreciation for our veterans and bombing victims who overcome these sorts of injuries. It is an inspirational story on many levels.

Emma thinks it is terribly ironic that her name is pronounced "freak" because she often feels that way about herself.  Living with her free thinking and not very responsible mom, Emma would rather not interact with the world if she can help it.  All this changes when she is invited to attend the Freke family reunion. She knows very little about her dad and accepts the invitation. The reunion is overwhelming at first with hundreds of members in attendance but Emma soon makes several key connections that will change her self-image forever.  Joining Emma on her journey of self-discovery and acceptance is at times frustrating and funny but ultimately joyful.