Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Predator Face-Off!


If you teach grades 1-3 and are looking for a high-interest mentor text for investigating text features, you may want to check out Predator Face-Off! Today is the book's official release date. Hooray!

Predator Face-Off! also has a strong compare-and-contrast text structure, so it's perfect for introducing the idea that writers can organize information in different ways, depending on their purpose.

I wish I could take credit for this book’s fun title, but it was the brain child of my editor—Shelby Alinsky. In early 2016, she shared the title, asked me to develop the idea, and make a pitch.

At the time, I was doing a week of school visits in upstate New York, so I asked the kids for their ideas. And boy, did they take my request seriously. They started brainstorming with gusto.

Thanks to those thoughtful young pre-writing wizards, the book compares three predators that belong to different animal groups (fish, mammal, reptile), live in different environments (ocean, savanna, forest), and hunt in different ways. I’m delighted to welcome this book to the world.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

SCBWI Handout: Writing STEM Picture Books

3 Tips to Get Started

Starting with a Question

Making a Personal Connection

Hooking Your Readers

6 Key Elements of Nonfiction Writing
Writing Style
Text Structure



Point of View
If you’re writing a Life Story . . .
  • Narrative writing style
  • Probably sequence (chronological) structure
  • Probably running text
  • Voice reflect personality of subject
  • Third-person narration (first-person controversial)

If you’re writing a Concept Book . . .
  • Probably expository writing style
  • Sequence, compare & contrast, Q & A, cause & effect, problem—solution, or invent your own
  • Think carefully about text format
  • Voice reflects topic and approach
  • Third-, second-, or first-person narration

Monday, June 12, 2017

Just One More Day!

Tomorrow is the official release date for Can an Aardvark Bark?, a book I’m super excited about because it’s illustrated by uber-talented Caldecott Honoree Steve Jenkins.

Today seems like the perfect time to take one more look at the book trailer.

I can’t thank Mrs. Keith, the school librarian at Marguerite E. Small School in West Yarmouth, MA, and all the third graders in Mrs. Zabielski’s class enough for their help in creating this fun video.

Here's a great picture of the students just after I gave them all their own autographed copies of the book. Ahead of the publication date. Shh! 

Friday, June 9, 2017

In the Classroom: 12 Techniques for Writing Nonfiction

Recently, I came across this terrific visual aid created by the clever folks at the Teachers College Reading Writing Workshop (@TCRWP). I think your students will find it helpful.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Behind the Books: A First Draft Isn’t a Mistake

When I present the school visit program, Creating Nonfiction: Researching, Writing, and Revising, I show the image above and ask students what all those red marks are on my rough draft. Of course, the answers I’m looking for are “edits” and “revisions,” but sometimes students say “mistakes” or “things that need to be fixed.” And this really bugs me.

What I tell them is that writing isn’t like math. In math, if I said 2 + 2 = 5, then I’m wrong and I need to fix the mistake. But in writing, there is no right or wrong, and a rough draft is an important first step.
Revision is about improvement. It’s about taking something that’s okay and making it extraordinary. A first draft is important because you can’t improve something that doesn’t exist

And then I tell them that, for me, revising a manuscript is like renovating a home. This is a comparison they really seem to get.