René Saldaña, Jr. will read Sunday, June 27th

Posted June 23, 2010 & filed under Notebook.

Straight from the Inprint press release:

Cool Brains! Inprint Readings for Young People celebrates summer reading with a presentation by bilingual children’s writer René Saldaña, Jr., on Sunday, June 27, 3 p.m. (doors open at 2:30) at Talento Bilingue de Houston, 333 S. Jensen Drive. Admission is free and open to the public. Saldaña will read from and talk about his work, followed by an onstage interview with mystery book aficionado David Thompson of Murder By The Book. Audience members will have a chance to visit with the author afterwards at the book sale and signing.

For more information, click here, or call 713-521-2026.

René Saldaña, Jr., grew up in Nuevo Peñitas in the Rio Grande Valley. His semi-autobiographical first novel for young readers, The Jumping Tree, was described by The New York Times Book Review as a “warm coming-of-age novel.” His second book, The Whole Sky Full of Stars, is, according to a starred Booklist review, “about the perils of friendship and the burdens of parental expectations.” Saldaña is also the author of Finding Our Way: Stories, which explores the many ways teens can feel lost. School Library Journal says, “With a deft touch, the author creates a clear, concise picture of time and place (along the Texas border or Georgia) with characters who sound and think like today’s teens . . . These powerfully written, provocative selections have universal appeal.”

Saldaña will read from his newest book, The Case of the Pen Gone Missing: A Mickey Rangel Mystery / El caso de la pluma perdida. A longtime fan of Encyclopedia Brown, the Hardy Boys, and Nancy Drew detective stories, in this book Saldaña develops his own spin on detective stories through the character of Mickey Rangel, a web-licensed kid detective protagonist. Kirkus Reviews writes of the book: “it will engage intermediate readers in both languages, English and Spanish, and offers multiple possibilities for school projects, group discussions and read-aloud sessions.” The Case of the Pen Gone Missing is the first in this bilingual series.

On Meaning

Posted January 21, 2008 & filed under Notebook.

A few years ago I saw an author speak an Houston. During her talk, she spoke about a friend of hers who had passed away. Her concern was moving; she didn’t need to memorialize her friend, yet she freely chose to honor her with her speech. However, her execution wasn’t perfect. If her testimonial had been a service, complete with instruments, then a couple of the musicians sounded jarringly out of tune. There was an edge to her stories; some of them portrayed her friend in an unflattering light. At first I thought it might just be me, but a friend who had also been in attendance that night later confirmed my impression. We agreed that the author’s words had a double meaning, in which the edges of her speech cut against the grain.

It’s true of the literature we read, too. Our writing has unintended effects; it can reveal more about us than we meant to show, or speak in tones we would’ve preferred to hide. Sometimes, it can even make our work better.

I often begin the school year with an exercise where I ask the children to write about themselves. When children are asked to tell their personal history, they will often adopt a clipped, deadpan, almost clinical tone. They are recounting events that to them seem mundane, even boring; they have long since merged with the wallpaper of their lives. When we teachers read them, however, the details often leap out and grab us by the throat. Some children have experienced losses that are truly tragic; after reading their stories, their ordinary difficulties in the classroom seem trivial by comparpic.jpgison.

Even when we, as authors, think we can predict the effect of our writing, the example of those children shows us that readers will often glean meaning we didn’t know was there.

posted by Julian Martinez, Writers in the Schools

Three favorite books to inspire young writers

Posted January 8, 2008 & filed under Notebook.

Good reading makes for good writing! Here are three books I love to bring into the classroom to engage young writers’ imaginations.

if coverIf by Sarah Perry, is a simple text with fantastic illustrations. Using ideas such as “If cats could fly…” and “If leaves were fish…” the book asks its readers to use their imaginations to ponder the possibilities of small changes to the world we know. These ideas are a great jumping-off point for young writers. I like to ask them to write stories about one day when they wake up to find one small thing has changed about the world, and the big differences that one small change can make.

my map book cover My Map Book by Sara Fanelli is a collection of surprising maps drawn with a childlike sense of the world. Using the concept of “map” rather loosely, Fanelli shows us not only maps of her neighborhood and her room, but also maps of her family, her tummy, and imaginary places. Young writers like to draw their own maps in response to this book; these maps help them focus on an idea for writing about aspects of their lives.

wilfrid gordon cover Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox is the story of a boy who tries to find out what “memory” is so that he can help his friend, an elderly woman, who he hears has lost hers. After being told that a memory is “something warm,” “something that makes you laugh,” “something that makes you cry,” “something from long ago,” and “something as precious as gold,” he assembles a box full of items that he hopes will fit the bill. I ask my young writers to create their own “memory boxes” that are filled with short memoirs about an item they have that fills each category. This helps them see how even small objects can contain and represent powerful memories and emotions.

There are so many wonderful children’s books out there that can inspire writers at all levels. What are your favorite children’s books, and how have they inspired you?tria

posted by Tria Wood, Writers in the Schools