5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Interview: Lee Wardlaw

I hope everyone is enjoying today as much as I am. I’m writing this introduction on a beach chair as I watch my kids play in the Gulf Of Mexico. I’m going to ge tight to the interview so that I can get get back to beachin’.

5,4,3,2,1 Interview with Lee Wardlaw


Can you tell us a little bit about the WON TON AND CHOPSTICK?

Won Ton cat’s purr-fect life is forever changed when his family does the incomprehensible: They adopt a (gasp!) D.O.G. Think sibling rivalrywith whiskers! (2)



What is your favorite thing about being an author?

I get to work at home in my kitty slippers. (1)


What’s the hardest thing about being an author?

Newbie writers think the hardest thing isselling that first manuscript. Nopeit’s when one of your books goes out of print. It’s like raising a child: you do all you can to ensure he’ll be happy and healthy, and have goodfriends. And then, one day, he’s kicked out of the cool club, relegated to the remainder table because no one wants to play with him anymore. WAH! (5)

4. If you could spend one day inside the world of any book which book would you pick?

Easy: Harry PotterI’d be BFFs with Hermione. And I’d have a wand made of Hawaiian koa wood with a little bit of cat hairembedded in it. (3)

5. What advice do you have for the young writers in my classroom?  

If you’re stuck for an idea, write about the time you felt a super strong emotion, such as embarrassment, shame, fear, anger, grief, or jealousy. (I used all six of thoseand more!in Won Ton and Chopstick! See if you can find them!) Strong emotions are a great tool for helping you connect with your story, and connecting your readers with that story. (4)

Lee Wardlaw swears that her first spoken word was “kitty.” Since then, she’s shared her life with 30 cats (not all at the same time!) and published 30 books for young readers, including Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku, recipient of the Lee Bennett Hopkins Children’s Poetry Award, the Myra Cohn Livingston Award for Poetry, and the Cat Writers’ Association Muse Medallion. She lives in Santa Barbara, California with her family.http://www.leewardlaw.com

Activity Kit for Won Ton and Chopstick:

Teacher’s Guide for Won Ton and Chopstick:

Twitter: @LeeWardlaw


The Nerd Camp Song

I cannot believe that this is a real blog post. It blows my mind that Nerd Camp has an actual theme song. How cool is that?

I’m very thankful that Christopher Petty, volunteered by his wife Dev, wrote us the perfect theme song for our summer literacy event. I can’t wait to play it for my students.


If you’d like more information about Nerd Camp please click on the image below (Designed by the lovely Laurie Keller).


Be sure to check out the book trailer to Dav’s I Don’t Want To Be A Frog. Mr. Petty wrote the theme song to this one, too!

5, 4, 3, 2, 1Interview: Margarita Engle

Today’s post is the part of a trifecta with Mr. Schu and Nerdy Book Club. Be sure to check out those two posts. I’m sure they’re awesome.


nerdy monster

This isn’t the first time I’ve had the privilege to interview a Newbery Honor winning author on my blog. Each time I have one of these amazing opportunities I feel like the luckiest guy in the world. I’m not really sure how I found myself in this unique position, but by-golly I I’m loving this ride.

I’m super excited to share today’s interview with Ms. Engle. Be sure to check out Orangutanka. It’s pretty awesome.

5,4,3,2,1 Interview


1. Can you tell us a little bit about the  Orangutanka?

Orangutanka is the story of a family of orangutans, told entirely in tanka poems.  It was inspired by a visit to a wildlife refuge in Borneo, where I was fascinated by a grandma and granddaughter who climbed down from the trees to people-watch.  I was especially impressed by the young female orangutan’s acrobatics, which resembled a dance.  The illustrations by Renee Kurilla are incredibly PERFECT!  I really hope Orangutanka is fun for children, but I also hope the scientific note at the end helps adults become aware of the need to preserve their rain forest habitat.


2. What is your favorite thing about being an author?  

I love the actual process of researching, writing, and re-writing, especially poetry.  On a good day, it’s a peaceful, magical, satisfying experience.


3. What’s the hardest thing about being an author?

The hardest part of being an author is waiting.  We spend months or years writing, then we have to wait for acceptance or rejection, wait for editing, copyediting, illustrations, design, printing, and reviews.  The only way to survive all that waiting is to start the next manuscript.


4. If you could spend one day inside the world of any book which book would you pick?

My favorite book is A Woman in Her Garden, by the great Cuban poet, Dulce María Loynaz.


5. What advice do you have for the young writers in my classroom?

I would advise young writers to read, read, read, then turn off all gadgets, go outdoors, stroll, and enjoy nature.  Watch, listen, inhale scents, and wait for an idea.  When an idea arrives, write the first draft with a pen on paper, so words can flow directly from the heart, through the arm, and out of the fingertips.  Don’t try to make it perfect, because changes can be made later.


Reading Roller Girl Post ALA Youth Media Awards

In late January, both the Caldecott and Newbery committees honored a graphic novel. Their monumental decisions have forever changed the way that the world looks at graphic novels.

The first graphic novel that I read post El Deafo winning a Newbery Honor and This One Summer winning a Caldecott Honor was Victoria Jamieson’s Roller Girl.

I LOVED the book.

I would have loved it if I would have read it before those book committees changed the way we look at graphic novels, but the fact that books like Roller Girl are now a part of the BIG awards discussions make it especially sweet.


I know this is a super short blog post.

Sorry about that.

I just wanted to let everyone know that I LOVE living in a world where graphic novels can compete for major book awards.


5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Interview: Lisa Doan

cover Jack at the Helm (2)

Interviewing author Lisa Doan seems like the best way to end my week. I hope you all have a fantastic day.


5,4,3,2,1 Interview

  1.  Can you tell us a little bit about The Berenson Schemes series?

The series is about a responsible young man who is lost in the wilderness of foreign destinations by his irresponsible, globe-trotting parents. In Jack the Castaway, he homesteads on a deserted Caribbean island; in Jack and the Wildlife, he builds a treehouse on the African savannah; and in Jack at the Helm, he rafts down whitewater and treks through a remote forest in Nepal.

cover Jack and the Wildlife (2)

  1. What is your favorite thing about being an author?

My favorite part is that I can create something from nothing, just from using my mind. I am my own entertainment factory and can go to any place or any point in time I choose. If you let it, your mind can be your own personal Tardis.

  1. What’s the hardest thing about being an author?

Disease, poverty and war are hard; writing is a gift.

cover Castaway_JPG (2)

  1. If you could spend one day inside the world of any book which book would you pick?

Harry Potter! I would spend the day at Hogwarts and ask Hermione to help me practice my spells. I would attend every meal in the Great Hall, as the food looks better than anything I ever come up with. And then I would probably make a side trip to number 4 Privet Drive to play some tricks on Petunia and Vernon Dursley.


  1. What advice do you have for the young writers in my classroom?

Don’t be fooled by a finished book you see in the library. Comparing your own writing to a published book can be depressing, unless you know the real truth. 1) A finished book was a pretty awful mess before it was revised, then revised again, then revised again and finally revised again with the help of an editor. 2) The important skill you need is perseverance—many people plan to write someday but never do and that’s why their book is not in your library. If you feel a call to write stories, then you are already a writer—just do it!

Thanks for stopping by, Lisa!



Lisa Doan is the author of The Berenson Schemes series – Jack the Castaway, Jack and the Wild Life and Jack at the Helm. She received a master’s degree in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her extensive travel in Africa and Asia and eight years spent living in the Caribbean were the basis for the series’ international settings. She has hatched her share of harebrained schemes, including backpacking alone from Morocco to Kenya, hitchhiking across the Sahara with Nigerian car dealers, sauntering off on an ill-advised, one-person walking safari, and opening a restaurant with no actual restaurant experience. Her occupations have included master scuba diving instructor, New York City headhunter, owner-chef of a “sort of Chinese-like” restaurant, television show set medic, and deputy prothonotary of a county court. Visit the author and download free, CCSS-aligned curriculum guides at lisadoan.org.


Follow along on the blog tour!
Mon, Mar 2
Just a Little Creativity
Tues, Mar 3
The OWL for YA
Wed, Mar 4
Once Upon a Story
Thurs, Mar 5
Kid Lit Frenzy
Fri, Mar 6
Children’s Book Review
Mon, Mar 9
The Compulsive Reader
Tues, Mar 10
Books Unbound
Wed, Mar 11
Geo Librarian
Thurs, Mar 12
The Late Bloomer’s Book Blog
Fri, Mar 13
The Hiding Spot

Celebrating Michigan Educators

I believe that I live in one of the best states in the country. We have four beautiful seasons, four of the great lakes, and a whole slew of amazing educators. At times I have felt like at our big state education conferences we don’t do a good enough job of celebrating the greatness found in our own educators. I wanted to throw a big party at the Michigan Reading Association Annual Conference celebrating some of these amazing educators, and giving conference participants an opportunity to connect before their weekend of learning together.

I asked the Michigan Reading Association what they thought, and they said let’s do it. We hope that you will join us March 27th for this free event.

Detail below!


5 Things I Loved About the Last Seven Days 3/6/15

I could start this post by talking about how crazy of a week I’ve had, but I’m beginning to realize that all weeks as an educator are crazy. Instead, I’m going to just get into all the great things that happened over the last week.


1. A Library Card

I can very vividly remember when I got my library card as a child. It’s a moment that will forever be etched in my memory. A right of passage. Earlier this week at conferences I suggested to a third grader and his mom that he get his very own library card.

He came to class two days later with the biggest smile on his face.

2. Slice of Life My students are slicing this month. I am really enjoying watching them capture moments from their lives.  

3. Guest Readers Each day this month we are welcoming a guest reader into our classroom. I love that my students are learning that readers come from everywhere, and not two readers are the same.  

3. Special Delivery Day

On Tuesday, my students and I celebrated World Read Aloud Day by reading Philip Stead and Matthew Cordell’s Special Delivery. After reading the beautiful book we mailed postcards to Jennifer Reed’s students on the east coast.

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4. Fifth Graders

I enjoy teaching third grade, but I really miss learning with older readers. During conferences I ran into some fifth graders in the hall selling dinner tickets for our family reading night. The night was more than half over and they had only sold 3 tickets. I told them that if they could sell 25 tickets by the end of the night I would give them any book in my classroom. They immediately upped their game. They ended up selling 31 tickets. The next morning they showed up at my door excited to pick up their new book. I had a blast book talking a bunch of great 2015 books to them, and I love the smiles on their faces as they walked out the door with a great book in their hands.


5. Swimming

Alaina and I have been taking the kids to the Albion College pool whenever we get the opportunity. It’s a great way to get away from the constant work staring at us in the face at home, and the kids absolutely love every minute at the pool. It’s becoming my favorite family activity.