Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Writing Magical Realism like Natalie Lloyd

Yesterday in our Writing Party for Primary Grade Kids, we did a writing prompt about magical realism based on the book The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd. Normally we read a picture book but I just read a few selections from this chapter book which is the Young Reader's League pick for 2017. It's a beautiful book, and although ghosts are a major theme in the book it is more sweet than scary.

Natalie Lloyd is very skilled at coaxing readers to suspend our disbelief so that we can enjoy the magical events that are unfolding. She places those magical events in context with characters who all witness the event and interpret it in different ways. After I read an excerpt about the "Gypsy Rose Summer," I asked the kids how they know that (in the world of the book) this really happened. They said they knew that by how different people felt the petals, how many people saw the petals, how everybody heard the noise. A group of people are witnessing something extraordinary and unexplained, and they all have different interpretations of what's going on.

We did a group writing activity about how a ghost like the ghosts of Blackbird Hollow would get our attention. We listed our favorite things, voted on one, and then came up with a character description for a ghost who would haunt us by using that favorite thing.

Then we did a writing activity on our own, developing that idea further by adding what different people would say about the haunting.

Kids read their stories:

At the end of class two kids' names were drawn to receive a free copy of The Key to Extraordinary! And on Thursday, November 16th at 6:30 pm, they'll have an opportunity to get their books signed when Natalie Lloyd comes to Pasadena Public Library for our Young Reader's League celebration. We're flying her in all the way from Tennessee. We're so excited to have her. Please tell your friends--this will be an author visit not to be missed!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Spanish Chapter Books for Elementary School Kids

I recently got an email from a parent who was looking for some Spanish chapter books for her daughter who is in 4th grade and has to do three book reports this year on Spanish books. I often get requests like this from parents whose kids are in our wonderful dual-immersion Spanish schools at PUSD. As I was compiling my response, I thought it might be worth sharing for other people whose kids are in upper elementary school and able to read in Spanish.

We do have a lot of Spanish chapter books. Many of our most popular English series are available in Spanish translations. The ones that might work best for a fourth grader are the Clementine/Clementina books by Sarah Pennypacker or the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary, or some of Roald Dahl’s books (such as Fantastic Mr. Fox/El Superzorro). We also have Geronimo Stilton books in Spanish (originally Italian).

But I also want to recommend a few authentic Spanish-only chapter books a fourth grader might enjoy. These have been published in Spanish-speaking countries like Spain, Mexico, Chile, and Argentina.

¡Zoé es lo más! – from the La Banda de Zoé series by Ana García-Siñeríz and Jordi Labanda -- Zoe runs for class president

¡Esta casa es mía! – by Ana Maria Machado. A family builds a house by the beach and has to learn how to share the environment with the animals that were already there.

The Candela series by Mónica Rodriguez – A funny, goofy superspy who goes around the world and even to different times and learns things about history

The Rino Detective series by Pilar Lozano Carbayo and Alejandro Rodríguez – A very richly illustrated detective series with a rhino that solves mysteries

The Mondragó series by Ana Galán – Another very nicely illustrated chapter book series, this one is fantasy/adventure about a dragon who can’t fly

El secreto del escritor fabuloso by Jordi Sierra i Fabra – A magical and mysterious story about the nature of stories—a boy moves in next door to a writer and starts spying on him.

Jordi Sierra i Fabra has a lot of horror books similar to Goosebumps, so maybe when she’s a little bit older she might enjoy those too.