I Love to Read–in Brazil, part 3

The adventure continues–this time at Escola American Campinas, where Lais Martins is the Elementary Librarian. The EAC school day began with their weekly assembly, celebrating gratittude and 100 students who had completed their summer reading program. Congratulations to all!

In their own version of Carnevale, Grade 5A, the class in charge of the assembly. paraded three floats they had created (from the moveable PE ball cages)–one on Recycling, the second  Diversity, and the third Peace.  I loved the fact that they showed their school’s initials, EAC, were the centerof PEACE. So clever! I told them this is a great example of playing with words!  This is what authors do!

I truly believe that if students feel words are not only fun, but powerful, then writing and reading will be fun for them too. This is what theater has taught me, and why I try to include my mini-play in at least one assembly. At Campinas the Elementary stars were: Lucas, Marcela, Brad, Valentina, Luiza, Victoria, Adam, Tommy, Giselle, and Rafaela. For the 6th and 7th grade presentation, I had Julia, Camilla, Helena, Gabriela, Beatriz, Daniel, and Laine do some fun theater games while two helpers held the books and two others beat-boxed to  my rap. (Wooot-wooot!)

Then it was off to meet with students for some writing workshops. Like Brasilia, many EAC students are Portugues, but there is also a large percentage of Korean students whose parents work for the Hundai plant nearby. Like EAB, the school is filled with bright faces from all over the world. What a wonderful experience for all. They are learning to be citizens of the world.

As for me, the days’ delights and surprises included 6th grader Julia’s gift of her fabulous manga drawing (see my facebook photos), and 6th grader Seongmin who wrote and wrote and was so excited to have fun with English words that he emailed me as well. Obrigada Julia and Seongmin!

From the Pre-K’s to the uppergrades, I had a blast. And another surprise was the marmoset monkeys that hang out on campus! (Real monkeys–not the pre-teen kind!) So cool!

When I wasn’t at school, Lais took me to the Campinas “Hippie Fair,” where we found a theater company perfoming the Wizard of Oz. We poked our heads in at the very end where Tin Man got his heart, Lion his courage, and a very smart Scarecrow recited to Dorothy, while the children in the audience laughed and talked back to the characters. : ) Theater is power.

Way too soon, it was time to say Tchau tchau to my Campinas friends. I am now in Curtitba, and off to go sightseeing soon. tomorrow and Friday are school visits! As Dorothy might say–“There’s no place like Brazil!”

I Love to Read–in Brazil, part 2

World Cup 2014 makes me reminisce about my visit to Brasil, where I spent three weeks doing Author assemblies and workshops two years ago.

Here’s a re-post of my musings from February 5, 2012, with photos this time:

Oi (Hi) from Brasil, where the d’s sound like j’s and the r’s are h’s. Last week’s rains have stopped and summer heat arrived just in time for my Brazilian adventure. First stop: Brasilia. Thank you to the students and staff at the American School of Brasilia for such a warm welcome.

Miss Anna Maria (c-right) and her wonderful library staff.

Miss Anna Maria (c-right) and her wonderful library staff.

We kicked off the day with an assembly for the Elementary (K-5) and PreK, starring students Henrique, Genevieve, Tereza, Andressa, Finn, Alexandra, Matheus, Mariana, Isabella, Luiz Felipe, Leonardo, and Kellita in Little Bo Peep Can’t Get to Sleep. Excelente!

Yes, this is the school!

Yes, this is the school!

Each hour after that I met with different age groups to have fun with words. I wish I knew the name of the young man who beat-boxed while I did the Writer’s Rap for Grades 4-5. I heard he might like to be president some day. (I’m not sure for which country but I’d definitely vote for him.) An added delight: a standing ovation after the rap from the high schoolers in the computer room next to the library. Wish I’d had time to meet each one of them!

Thank You (Obrigada!) to Librarians Miss Anna Maria–who has been at EAB for over 20 years–and Miss Claudia, and their staff, as well as my personal tour guide extraordinaire Kathy Dillon, EAB Special Ed teacher for the past five years.

Thanks Kathy!

Thanks Kathy!

(Kathy moved to Hong Kong to teach the following Fall 2013. Lucky Hong Kong!)

The staff at EAB is as interesting and varied as the students. I had a chance to hang out with them after work and hear about the paths that brought them to Brazilia –many from Canada and the US. Talk about adventures!

TGIF with the staff. : )

TGIF with the staff. : )

Who are the EAB students? Eager, beautiful faces with bright smiles–some from Brasilian families; many from all over the world, whose parents work for different embassies and diplomatic services. A smattering have already written stories and already want to be authors. Many –like my elementary school self–think they aren’t writers and would rather finish their assignments and go out and play. (Yay tetherball!) I’m betting at least one of these kids will write a book some day, if they aren’t running a country. : )

My new friends told me a trip to Brasilia would not be complete without churrasco (barbecue), so they took me to dinner at Fogo do Chao. I have never been so glad I’m not a vegetarian! Yes there is an endless salad bar, but also every cut of grilled beef, as well as lamb and chicken and sausage served by waiters who slice it off the skewer at your table. (You catch the slice with your own tongs. If you want them to stop hovering, you turn the round green token over to red.) You know it’s good when I have no room for dessert. Si?

IMG_3115On Saturday, we explored Ceasa ( the open air fruit market), where I played guess the fruit or vegetable,”

Can you guess?

Can you guess?

Pinha Grande, of course!

Pinha Grande, of course!

and sampled a  delicious Acai dessert, and wandered around the “Hippie Fair” (local crafts and artisans fair). Then it was adeus Brasilia and an 1 1/2 hour flight to Campinas, my next stop.

Viva Brazil! More adventures amanha. (Tomorrow.)




I Love to Read– In Brazil!

Let the Brazil blog begin! With any luck (and wifi) I will be updating this as I visit International Schools in Brazil this month. I always tell the students I meet that books can take you amazing places–both real and imagined. Boy is that the truth!

It’s finally hitting me that my Brazilian adventure is real.  What amazing opportunities I have to encourage children all over the world to do their personal best, read read READ, and find their voices.

Not bad for a kid who was going to be a math teacher. Seriously. With math you know if you’re right or wrong. With writing (in school anyway) not so much. With math there are answers in the back of the book and if you get it wrong you can use a formula to get it right. With writing, there is no exact formula–no matter how hard we try to spell out the expectations. Honestly, when it comes to writing, our students don’t get Writers’ Block–but rather Student Block, desperately trying to figure out what the heck their teacher wants from the assignment.

Writing requires taking a risk.  Like boarding an airplane for a country whose language sounds like a mixure of every Romance language known to man. We need to assure them that writing–like reading– is an adventure. Give them the type of environment that encourages young voices–where nothing (as long as it’s clean, legal, and appropriate) is wrong. Help them find their voices and format will follow. So will their love of writing.

As for me,  day one of my adventure begins today! Stay tuned!

Tchau (sounds like ciao–see what I mean?)


Confessions (and Reviews) of a Teenage Readaholic, part 3

Teen reviewer Maris Dyer reviews Mara Dyer…wait—what?

Confession:  When I first received this book, I was terrified to read it. Not because it was a horror story or because of comments from other people who had read it, but because of the title: The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer. My name is Maris Dyer. Music from The Twilight Zone immediately started playing in my head. I knew that I had to read it, and see if Michelle Hodkin had inadvertently written the story of my life.

Review:   Unfortunately, I was sadly disappointed. Not only does Hodkin not know my inner secrets, her first book also comes off as stale.  The main character Mara Dyer is lacking in complexity and originality. She comes off as a cliché, a teenage girl who is drawn in by the enigmatic bad boy. The concept of the story itself is intriguing; it’s the execution that’s lacking. The book begins when Mara wakes up in a hospital. She has amnesia, and her family explains that she and her friends were in an abandoned building when it collapsed, killing everyone inside except for Mara. She transfers schools to escape her past, and in the first day meets Noah Shaw, a fellow student that everyone warns her to stay away from. Things get more complex when she begins to see the ghost of one of her friends who died in the collapse, and realizes that people around her have a strange tendency to die.

Hodkin, however, chooses to focus more on the romance between Mara and Noah. This, I believe, is the downfall of the book, because I was very interested in Mara’s quest to figure out the true cause of her friends’ deaths. Hodkin is a good writer, but I didn’t like the relationship between the two. At first, Noah has an air of mystery about him, but, too soon, he only comes off as a normal, arrogant guy. While Hodkin does an adequate job at keeping the plot cryptic, Noah and Mara’s romance unfolds exactly as I expected it to. Plus, I felt no connection to either one of the characters, making it very difficult for me to be engaged in the story.

This is the first book in a series, so Hodkin has room to grow as a writer. As I’ve said, her ideas are thought provoking, and it could be worth it to pursue the series as Mara and Noah mature as characters. Over all, though, I was not impressed. Hodkin has all of the right ingredients to make a good novel—she just needs to figure out how to combine them.

Well, I hope everyone had a great holiday season. I know I did—I just finished my last college application! That means I’ll actually have time to read all the books I’ve wanted to get to. Maybe I’ll find something great to share with all of you!


Revisions? Ho Ho HO… a holiday poem

‘Twas a week before Christmas when all through the night,
Revisions were stirring– Tomorrow I’d write!
I’d promised my agent a debut best-seller.
“I’m finished! Let’s send it!” I wanted to tell her.

But children arrived with their laundry from college.
(My nest had been empty as they searched for knowledge.)
Alas, the house bustled with merry distractions.
My YA, however, still needed key actions.

I’d trimmed it, and shaped it, and read it for clanks.
(To Halverson, Price, and Miss Klein–Many thanks!)
My writing pals read it. I knew what to do.
But egg-nog by egg-nog, my writing time flew:
Wrap presents, bake cookies, string lights on the tree…
My manuscript whimpered, “Hey, what about me?”

Each night as I nestled all snug in my bed,
Revisions–not sugarplums–danced in my head:
Take beats for each character! Kill off a few!
Weave subplots, and –say–Is this one book or two?

Then down in the kitchen, arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my angst, to see what was the matter.
“Join us. We’re starving!” the college kids cheered,
While cocoa, and cookies, and more friends appeared.

Their eyes how they sparkled, as bright as the tree.
Each story a gift they unwrapped just for me.
Ye writers of kidlit, it made me remember
How holidays hook me each year in December.

So clicking a finger aside of my mouse
I’ll tuck in my YA as joy fills our house.
And to my dear agent (East/West you’re the best!),
To editors, author pals, no doubt you’ve guessed,
We’ll call this week research, these days that delight.
Happy Holiday magic! (No writing tonight!)