Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Caroline's Classroom Connections with Gae Polisner!

I can't help taking note of Tuesday, January 29th . . . today is the day my husband proposed to me (and it was also on a Tuesday!). Um, many, many years ago . . . not saying, but it's multiple decades. :-)
He proposed using fortune cookies he baked himself with notes (fortunes) inside. He had to "guide" me to eat them in the right order. I loved it! And I said "yes" immediately! We're still happy and crazy and in love!
Enjoy another weekly issue of SPELLBINDERS! Thanks so much for reading, everyone. 
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January 28, 2013
Caroline's Classroom Connections

YA contemporary fiction
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
released May 2011
paper back edition February 2013

"Polisner's first novel begins with a bang and ends with another . . . . There is a great deal to enjoy throughout, and literary kids will surely enjoy a subplot involving John Steinbeck." -Booklist

"Characters feel real . . . and the plot zips along, championing strength in adversity." -School Library Journal

"She [Gae Polisner] is a writer young adult readers will surely want to hear more from." -examiner.com

"Although the teens' best laid plans go oft awry, they discover that the force of the universe is with them-or at least friendship, family and romance. Pulls the heart in all the right places." -Kirkus Reviews  

Please tell us about your book.  

The Pull of Gravity is about two teens who, armed only with the wisdom of Yoda and a rare, first-edition copy of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, set off on a secret, whirlwind journey to keep a promise to their dying friend. I wrote it as an homage to the character-driven fiction I loved as a tween and teen. I hope I've done those wonderful books justice.
What inspired you to write this story? 

First and foremost, my own boys. We had always read aloud nightly from the time they were babies into their early teens (they're 15 and 13 now. I still read aloud with my 13 year old once in a while; the 15 year old, not so much).
From the time we started chapter books and then novels, they loved realistic, contemporary fiction, and weren't really interested in most of the genre fiction (sci-fi or fantasy or magic like Harry Potter which frightened them). We enjoyed endless Kate DiCamillo, Sharon Creech, Deborah Wiles, Lynne Rae Perkins, to name a few. But the older they got, the more they wanted their books to have male MC's - characters they could directly relate to in body and mind. And, outside of genre fiction, it got harder and harder to find those relatable male protagonists in contemporary MG and YA. So much was told from a female lead character. So, I decided to write a book for them, narrated by a teen boy. Your average teen boy, who is extraordinary only in the quiet way we are each capable of being.
Could you share with readers how you conducted your research or share a few interesting tidbits you learned while researching?

I did two sorts of research for the book. The first was on Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria syndrome - a rare genetic disorder that causes a body to rapidly age so that, by the average age of 9 - 13, most children affected die literally of old age. I had read an interview of a 15 year old boy with the syndrome and it really moved me - his spirit and matter-of-fact nature. The rest of the research was medical and on-line. I didn't need to go into depth, just have a general understanding of how it works and looks and what medical information exists on it - which is far too little.
Secondly, because Nick's dad walks from upstate NY (a fictional town near Saratoga) to NYC, and furthermore, because Nick and Jaycee venture from that town to Albany and then Rochester, NY, I had to do a lot of mapping of mileage and streets. During the writing and revision of TPoG, I often had Google maps and walking directions and a calculator spread out before me. 
 What are some special challenges associated with paralleling your book with a classic? 

The biggest challenge was to make Of Mice and Men sound interesting without giving away too much! I didn't want to ruin the book for kids who will read it after TPoG. It was also a challenge to just find the balance of how much to include for it to feel integral to the story without including so much that it bogged down my own story. I really loved that part of writing the book, though.
What topics does your book touch upon that would make it a perfect fit for the classroom?

In addition to the many Of Mice and Men ties that are there for the finding if a teacher wants to do so (here's a link to an essay I wrote on the same), there are themes of friendship - and what it means to be a good friend - taking responsibility and independence, and my favorite theme to explore: that we can be flawed individuals, our families can be flawed, our parents can be flawed, but that doesn't make us bad. Flawed and bad are not synonymous. That message is important to me. Being perfect is a big old bore. ;)

What are you working on now?

My next book comes out in 2014 (but is currently without a title). Here's the premise: Still reeling from her little brother's drowning death, a girl finds herself holding back -- from summer trips to the ocean, friendship, budding romance -- till she meets a young boy who may be her brother's reincarnation, which awakens her to new possibilities.

To learn more about Gae Polisner, visit her at gaepolisner.com.



 Black Stripes
Meet the Spellbinders
Caroline Starr Rose Caroline Starr Rose spent her childhood in the deserts of Saudi Arabia and New Mexico, camping at the Red Sea in one and eating red chile in the other. She's taught English and social studies to upper elementary and middle-school students in New Mexico, Florida, Virginia, and Louisiana. Back in New Mexico, Caroline now writes middle-grade novels and picture books full time. 

To find teacher's guides, writing activities, and information about author visits, go to her website, stop by her blog, or follow her on Twitter.


Carolee Dean
Carolee Dean has made numerous appearances as a guest poet/author at schools, libraries, poetry events, and teacher/library conferences. She holds a bachelor's degree in music therapy and a master's degree in communicative disorders, and she has spent over a decade working in the public schools as a

Comfort Paperback Cover
speech-language pathologist.

Her first novel, Comfort,was nominated as a Best Book for Young Adults, was named the Best YA Novel of 2002 by the Texas Institute of Letters, and was on the TAYSHAS (Texas Library Association) reading list. Take Me There is a YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers.
Take Me There Cover

She conducts teacher trainings on inspiring reluctant writers including "The Secret Language of Stories" and "Random Act of Haiku."

 Follow me on Twitter 

Kim Bio PhotoKimberley Griffiths Little is the recipient of the Southwest Book Award, The Whitney Award for Best Youth Novel of 2010, and the author of the highly acclaimed, The Healing Spell and Circle of Secrets, published by Scholastic Press. Look for her books at the Scholastic Book Fairs, as well Circle of Secretsas two more forthcoming novels in 2012 and 2013.
She lives on a dirt road in a small town by the Rio Grande with her husband, a robotics engineer and their three sons. Kimberley is a favorite speaker at schools around the country, presenting "The Creative Diary", a highly successful writing workshop and has been a speaker at many conferences.

Please visit her website to download free Teacher's Guides and Book Club Guides. 
Follow me on Twitter 

Upcoming Events

Caroline Starr Rose
April 19
New Mexico Library Association Youth Luncheon
Albuquerque, NM

July 27
19th Annual Norfolk Public Library Literature Festival,
Norfolk, NE


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Spellbinders | 3 YAF Authors | Albuquerque | NM | 87181


Kai Strand said...

Oh my gosh, I love the fortune cookie story. So adorable!

Thanks for the latest Spellbinders.

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

Thanks for reading, Kai! And thanks for the fortune cookie kudos. Shucks. I'll have to pass that along to my dear husband.



Winner of The Southwest Book Award!

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