Thursday, July 30, 2015

2015 ILA Conference: Exhibit Hall Authors and Meg Cabot Luncheon

Sunday, July 19, 2015
Day 2: Exhibit Hall and Luncheon with Meg Cabot

Soon after our Scholastic Breakfast was finished, we headed to the Exhibit Hall to catch more autographing authors and free ARCs. Here are some of the authors we saw and the books they were promoting:

Matt de la Pena--The Hunted
Andrew Smith--Stand-Off
Pam Ryan Munez--ECHO
Dan Santat--Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot
Lisel Shurtliff--Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk; Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin
Jessica Day George--Silver in the Blood
Sharon M. Draper--Stella by Starlight
T. A. Barron--Atlantis in Peril; The Hero's Trail
Jacqueline Kelly--Calpurnia Tate series
Tommy Greenwald--My Dog is Better Than Your Dog (Crimebiters #1)
Alex London--Guardian

Image result for meg cabotIn the midst of this literary chaos, we booked it to our YA Literature Luncheon with Meg Cabot, author of the bestselling Princess Diaries series.

When Meg was a young girl, she saw Star Wars and was intensely drawn to the character of Princess Leia. She loved how Leia was not only a princess, but she could lead a successful rebellion against the evils of the universe. From that point on, Meg began writing her own spin-off stories with Princess Leia. Unfortunately, her stories were about Leia and Luke getting together and having kids. When she saw Empire Strikes Back, Meg was absolutely devastated. She cried all the way on the car trip home telling her mother that George Lucas would never accept her spin-off stories to make into movies. So after that devastating blow, Meg left her writing skills behind and began to focus on her artistic skills.

Fast forward to college, Meg got her degree in Art at the college where her father worked. But a fellow classmate warned Meg she wouldn't get any jobs with her degree. So she moved to New York City and took the only job she could get, which was managing a college dorm. While Meg was overseeing the dorm, she went back to school, this time majoring in Creative Writing. That same classmate that warned Meg earlier was also going back to school to get his degree in Creative Writing. Later the two were married.

After Meg graduated she began submitting her work to be published. Unfortunately, everything she submitted was rejected. In the midst of this, her father passed away. With her husband's and Princess Leia's help, Meg kept up writing and submitting her work.

Image result for meg cabot princess diariesA few years later, her mother broke the news that she was dating one of Meg's past professors...someone Meg did NOT like. So to cope with her mother's love life, Meg began writing about a teenage girl, Mia, whose mother starts dating her teacher. But since she loved princesses so much, Meg added the twist that Mia was a princess. These, of course, became Meg's Princess Diaries books.

Meg said that she was excited for her two new books set in her Princess Diaries world: From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess (story about Mia's unknown step-sister who is actually excited to become a princess, illustrated by Meg Cabot) and Royal Wedding: A Princess Diaries Novel (she stated that this is NOT a YA book).

A hilariously heartwarming presentation that showed Meg Cabot was a pro at expressing herself!

Next post up, the last day of ILA.

Monday, July 27, 2015

2015 ILA Conference: Scholastic Breakfast

Sunday, July 19, 2015
Day 2: Scholastic Breakfast

Bright and VERY EARLY on Sunday morning, we stood in the long line of about 600 guests to get into Scholastic's Breakfast. Scholastic is famous for doing these breakfasts during each ILA conference where they honor the educators who promote literacy and inspire their students to aim higher.

Along with the delicious meal and a bag of free books, Scholastic also features authors who discuss educators that inspired them. This year they had five authors presenting to our group: Mark Teague, Jewell Parker Rhodes, Dan Santat, Pam Munez Ryan, and Brian Selznick.

Image result for mark teagueAfter an incredibly delicious meal, our presentation began with author/illustrator, Mark Teague.

Mark wanted to honor his elementary school teacher, Mr. Rosenburg. What Mr. Rosenburg did to inspire Mark was to see reading as a reward. Part of this reward was providing a "reading loft" in his classroom that Mr. Rosenburg had specially built for his students. The reward of reading was given any time a student did well on an assignment. Mr. Rosenburg would then acknowledge that student's achievements to the class and that student would get to pick a book and walk proudly to the loft in front of their peers. This helped Mark develop a deep love of reading, which later led him to become a writer.

Image result for jewell parker rhodesOur next presenter was YA author, Jewell Parker Rhodes.

Jewell had a very rocky family life when she was brought into this world. Thankfully, a loving grandmother raised Jewell, her sister, and her two cousins. Unfortunately, Jewell and her sister were taken away from their grandmother by parents who were absolute strangers to them. This parental estrangement caused major problems at home. So to escape those problems Jewell found a safe haven in school and reading. She grew to love school and the freedom knowledge brought to her. And she saw the power and positive influence teachers were in her life. So, when she went to college, she too became a teacher so she could be a positive impact on her students' lives. From her experience, no one teacher made a major impact on her to become a writer. All the teachers she had, along with her teacher-like grandmother, inspired her to become a writer.

Image result for dan santatAfter Jewell, author/illustrator Dan Santat came to the stand. He is a recent recipient of the 2014 Caldecott Medal for his book The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend (soon to become a Pixar movie!).

All through Dan's life his parents were grooming him to become a doctor. Dan wasn't thrilled with the idea but followed his parents wishes. But Dan had a secret love for art and drawing. His parents did not like Dan having this artistic streak, so they kept him from taking any art classes in school. An understanding elementary librarian, Mrs. Whitlee, saw Dan's predicament and began suggesting library books that helped Dan learn how to draw on his own. Even after Dan left elementary school and pursued higher education, Mrs. Whitlee kept tabs on him and supported his artistic talent. When Dan was accepted into dental school, he realized that his dreams of drawing would be lost if he didn't make a career change. Quickly, he scrambled a portfolio together and was accepted into the Academy of Arts in San Francisco. His parents finally accepted his artistic gift and supported his career change.

Image result for pam ryan munozNext up was YA author Pam Ryan Munez.

Pam acknowledges that her very strict 4th grade orchestra teacher, Mr. Bumgartner, was her inspiration to become a writer. Pam had a love of music and tried to show it in her violin playing. One day as she was practicing, her violin's bridge popped out making the strings collapse. She had been warned by Mr. Bumgartner that if they damaged or ruined their instruments their would be no replacements. Thinking fast, Pam pasted the bridge back on her violin with tons of wood glue. When she brought her instrument back to class, Mr. Bumgartner was furious. His fury brought Pam to tears. She asked for a second chance, but he said that she could support the orchestra by being in the audience. Then he suggested she join the glee club. While in glee club, her teacher asked the class if someone would be willing to write an article for the school paper about the club. Pam volunteered to write it. Once she saw her name and words printed for all to see, she was hooked. 

Image result for brian selznickOur final speaker was author/illustrator Brian Selznick.

Apparently, at a previous IRA, Brian sang a song talking about all of his elementary school teachers. He said that out of all the things he has done or accomplished, people have readily remembered his song and frequently requested him to sing it. So he sang his "teacher song" to all of us, with pictures showing some of the teachers he sang about. Later in his presentation, he introduced his newest book, The Marvevls, which is similarly composed to his other two books: The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck. He calls The Marvels the end of his "trilogy" even though all three are stand alone works.

At the end of the breakfast, we brought our newest bag of books back to the hotel room and then headed back to the Exhibit Hall! My next post will be about our luncheon with YA author Meg Cabot. Stay tuned!

Friday, July 24, 2015

2015 ILA Conference: Author Meet-Up and Random House Voyagers Cocktail Party

Saturday, July 17, 2015
Day 1: Exhibit Hall, Author Meet-Up, and Random House Voyagers Cocktail Party

After the opening ceremonies, we were off and running (literally) into the Exhibit Hall to meet authors, get their autographs, network with publishers, and receive free ARCs publishers were giving out....along with lots of other goodies!

Now, our approach to ILA was different than most attendees. Our purpose was to meet as many authors as we could to so we can figure out future presenters for the Allen County Young Author's program or for Iola Reads.

With our agenda firmly in hand we politely pushed our way into long lines to several publishers' booth's where authors where signing their newest books. Here are some of the authors we met and the books they were promoting:

Judy Young--Promise
Sonia Manzano--Miracle on 133rd Street; Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx
Candace Fleming--Bulldozer's Big Day
Kathleen Krull (past presenter at Allen County Young Authors)--Women Who Broke the Rules series
Kekla Magoon--Shadows of Sherwood
Eugene Yelchin--Arcady's Goal; Breaking Stalin's Nose
Mark Teague--How Do Dinosaurs Stay Safe?
Kate Messner--Ranger in Tme #2: Danger in Ancient Rome
Gail Jarrow--Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary

All along the way we were accumulating stacks of free books, book bags, buttons, posters, and teaching aids.

We took a break from the convention center and headed to our hotel's ballroom building where ILA had set up an invitation only author meet up. The program was set up like a speed dating panel with the authors presenting for 10 minutes at each table and then rotating to another table when their time was up. There were two panels going on: children's/middle grade books and YA books. I attended the YA panel where I got to ask the authors personal questions and hear background behind the newest books they had written. Here are the authors I met and the books they were highlighting:

Candace Fleming--The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia
Andrew Smith--The Alex Crow
Ruta Sepetys--Salt to the Sea
Una LaMarche--Like No Other
Cindy L. Rodrigues--When Reason Breaks
Jason Reynolds--All American Boys; The Boy in the Black Suit
Jenny Han--P.S. I Still Love You

All attendees at the panel received a book bag filled with free books by each of the authors.

When the panel was done, we deposited our morning's accumulation of books to our hotel room and headed back to the Exhibit Hall to catch more author signings and free books.

The conference ended at 5:00 and we returned to the hotel with our final load of books and goodies.

Then we quickly put on our semi-formal apparel to attend Random House's cocktail party launching their new series Voyagers. Voyagers is the brainchild of Patrick Carman. He wrote the outline of the six book series, but divvied out parts of the story to five other authors. The first book in the series was written by D.J. MacHale, with Carman writing the third book. But this series is not just book-based. Carman also has online games and apps that give extra background to the series' adventures. But unlike other series where readers have to wait a year between books, this series will be released every two months starting this September.

So at the end of the day we felt incredibly spoiled after getting so many free books and meeting lots of authors. But there was more to come! I'll post about Sunday morning's activities in my next entry.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

2015 International Literacy Association Conference: Opening Ceremony

Sorry for the recent "radio silence" this past week. Life has been very busy, and internet connections were not very reliable where I have been.

But I have much to share because I recently returned from the 2015 International Literacy Association (ILA) Conference in St. Louis. It was an exhilarating, inspiring, and entertaining experience that I would love to share with you. For the next several posts, I will break down each day's activities and the new authors I got to meet. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 18, 2015
Day 1: Opening Ceremony

I attended this conference with three lovely women who are bold reading advocates: my mother, Mrs. Johnson (kindergarten teacher), and Mrs. Sigg (3rd grade teacher). These woman have done so much to aid literacy in their hometown of Iola, Kansas. I have worked with them numerous times with Allen County Young Authors and have attended several Warrensburg Children's Literature Festivals with them as well. So, it was an amazing honor to join them in attending this monumental conference. Thank you for an unforgettable experience, ladies!

The first day of the conference started on Saturday, July 18th. The conference opened with several amazing speakers discussing the need to end illiteracy in the world.

One of the first speakers was Marcie Post, Executive Director of ILA, who discussed their #800Mil2Nil campaign. She told us that over 800 million people in the world cannot read. Out of that 800 million, 32 million live in the United States. To help fight these odds, ILA is hosting a campaign called #800Mil2Nil to bring awareness and aid in ending illiteracy in the world. If interested in joining this movement text LITERACY to 91999. She stressed the transformative power literacy brings in aiding and improving governments, education, and economies. Literacy is a SOLVABLE problem!

Shiza ShahidThe next speaker was Shiza Shahid, an activist and Malala Fund cofounder. Shiza talked about her upbringing in Pakistan where her forward thinking parents supported her efforts in gaining an education...something very few Pakistani families practiced with their own daughters. With her rare educational advantage, Shiza volunteered as a teenager to help in women's prisons and aid Pakistani earthquake victims. Later, she was accepted to attend college in the United States, but she was constantly hearing about problems in Pakistan. The Taliban was denying all girls in the Swat Valley from attending school to increase their intimidation on the population. Shiza returned to Pakistan to create a program to help give these girls the education they were being denied. One of these girls was Malala Yousafzai. Malala was later targeted by the Taliban and shot in the head. Miraculously, she survived the experience and asked Shiza to cofound the Malala Fund, a program that supports women's education in turbulent counties.

For Shiza and the Malala Fund, they found that illiteracy was sustained by poverty. So people need to be innovative and realistic when it comes to ending illiteracy in the world.

They also found that when you educate a girl, amazing things occur. From their studies, educated girls get married at mentally stable ages and then bring children into the world to pass along their own educational goals. Then these educated, married women improve the economy by 30% to 40 %.

Shaquille O'NealThe final speaker for the ceremony was Shaquille O'Neal. Besides being a world-renowned basketball legend, Shaq also worked outside the basketball court to earn a doctorate in Education. He recently added "author" to his many roles with his recently publication of his early reader series Little Shaq.

In his talk Shaq had three pieces of advice to aid teachers and parents in supporting children's literacy: (1) Dream big dreams by helping children see that they can rise above any challenge, (2) Be a leader, not a follower, and (3) Imagination can take you anywhere by visualizing accomplishing awesome feats.

Shaq developed an love of education from his mother. As he rose to fame in his basketball career, his parents would teach him about facing an unknown future by asking him "what if" questions: What if his knee blew out in a game, what would be have to go back on? These "what if" questions led him to return back to college to get his bachelors, masters, and doctorate degrees.

Along with his love of education, Shaq is a firm believer of holding off on technological device usage until children know the foundations of reading and writing. He is worried that kids are too addicted to devices and video games and these addictions are keeping kids from being active learners. With his own six kids, he took away their Smartphones and told them they need to read two chapters in a book before they can play video games.

At the closing of the ceremony, we were received a rousing performance by the electro hip hop violinist SVET.

From there the conference began with over 6,800 educators heading to seminars or into the Exhibit Hall to gain the tools they needed to conquer illiteracy in their corner of the globe. ILA here we go!

My next post will be about the exclusive author "meet up" and Voyagers book-launch cocktail party we attended later on in the day. Stay tuned!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Troubletwisters by Garth Nix and Sean Williams

Twins Jack and Jaide Shield have a normal, comfortable life with their parents...that is until their house blows up. But the mysterious explosion was preceded by the appearance of several white-eyed creatures and a menacing voice. With the loss of their home and so many unanswered questions, their mother takes Jack and Jaide to their father's mother, known only as Grandma X. Once they arrive at Grandma X's old home, the twins notice strange magical forces at work in Grandma X's life. But when the twins start hearing the menacing voice again, they must decide whether Grandma X is either supporting good or evil.

Troubletwisters is a completely original start to a middle-grade fantasy series. Jack and Jaide are not happy about this abrupt change in their lives, especially when it takes them away from their father. But when they arrive in the strange town of Portland, a new education starts for them in learning about their own raw magic and the dangers associated with The Evil. The book may be middle-grade based, but the concepts and somewhat graphic descriptions of creatures moves this series towards young adult age readers.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Raucous Royals: Test your Royal Wits: Crack Codes, Solve Mysteries, and Deduce Which Royal Rumors are True by Carlyn Beccia

Was Napoleon Bonaparte really short? Was Henry VIII so fat that he needed to be carried by his servants? Was Prince Dracula a real vampire? From her research, Beccia reveals the truth behind the myths and rumors spread about many royals in history.

Written in the style of a humorous tabloid, The Raucous Royals includes facts about each monarch and highlights the time period they lived in. Along with these facts, Beccia provides quizzes, codes, charts, and guessing games to test the readers' knowledge on historical gossip. At the end of the book, Beccia shows the process students can use in writing research papers based upon a historical rumor. The Raucous Royals is a hilarious, fun take on history appropriate for ages 12 and up.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

A True Princess by Diane Zahler

Living as a servant on the Jorgen's farm is not easy for twelve-year-old Lilia. But Lilia's hardship is subdued by her deep friendship between two of the Jorgen children: Kai and Karina. One day Lilia overhears Mrs. Jorgen say that they need to sell Lilia. Upon hearing this, Lilia decides to runaway to the Northern Kingdom. As Lilia is sneaking away, Kai and Karina show up to join Lilia on her quest. However, problems arise for the group when their trail leads them to the dangerously enchanted Bitra Forest--the Elf-King's domain. While they travel through the forest, Kai is entranced by the Elf'-King's daughter and joins the king's spell-bound, stolen children. Lilia and Karina escape, but it is up them to find help in the Northern Kingdom to rescue Kai and the other children.

Zahler mixes Hans Christian Andersen's "The Princess and the Pea" and Goethe's poem "The Erl-King" to create this suspenseful, middle-grade read. Because of the combination of these two tales, Zahler addresses two driving themes in her book: uncovering a person's true identity and avoiding the deadly enchantments of magic. Lilia leaves her servitude to uncover a life that most likely started in the Northern Kingdom. This is due to her looks and her baby blanket. But when Lilia loses Kai to the Elf-King, Lilia's love for him causes her to place her plans on hold until she can rescue him. A True Princess is a great fantasy read showing the importance of fighting for friendships and searching for family. Appropriate for ages 9 and up.