Tag Archives: Natalie Lloyd

Love it? Say it! Share it!

This week’s post is a recycled theme. I’ve previously written about the importance of sharing our “Book Love”, but the more authors I get to know, the more passionate I feel about this. The books we love don’t just appear. There is a hardworking author who chose every single one of those words that we are savoring! I frequently see posts on social media where they comment on how a review, tweet, or fan letter has touched them or inspired them.  When you work for months or years, all alone, pouring your heart into a piece of writing, you hope that it is meaningful to some reader out there. Well, dear readers, let’s show them if it is!

I know many who do.  There is a whole nerdy nation of readers who are passionate about books and authors.  One of the biggest tribes is the Nerdy Book Club . Here they are always sharing their love of books and love for their writers. But what are some other avenues readers can take to spread their appreciation for the writers who gift us their words?

Here are a few ways I have tried.

Last year one of my favorite authors, Gae Polisner, (The Pull of Gravity, The Summer of Letting Go, and on Sept. 6 The Memory of Things) reminded me, as I read her blog, about the importance of book reviews to authors. Click below.

Tuesday Feedback: A Little Conversation about Book Reviews Starring YOU

Her message was that authors need us to keep them in the public eye.  Sharing our favorite books on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr will inform our friends and followers.  But how can we expand our Book Love beyond our relatively small circle?  How can we support those authors we love so they can continue their writing careers and bring us even more Book Love??

Our reviews on sites like Goodreads will certainly expand our influence and love, but sites like Amazon have a much stronger impact for sales of books.  THAT is the ultimate way we support our favorite authors.  Love a book?  Let others know!! Don’t know how to post an Amazon review?  Go here.  Don’t worry about sounding like an editorial reviewer from Kirkus, New York Times, Booklist, or School Library Journal. The length and quality aren’t as important as the willingness to do it! Here are a few quick tips for posting reviews for the books you love!

  • (This book) is about brief synopsis (but I think it’s really about)what it means to you. (Your review  doesn’t require a complete retelling-editorial reviewers have already done that! What is this book about for YOU?)
  • If you like_____________this book is for you! Who would like this book?  Who would be a target audience? Why would they enjoy it?
  • I really liked ______________ . Were the characters compelling?  Was the writing engaging?  Was it humorous? Suspenseful? Realistic? Heartwarming? Mention one or two things about the book that made it memorable for you.
  • Mention the author’s name (and illustrator).  Remind readers of the person behind those words who pounded out that plot, those characters, that dialogue, those facts and worked their bums off. Books don’t just happen, someone dreams them and brings them to life-we need to honor that!

THAT’S IT!  Sure you could do more or less.  You could write a review any way you want. Check out how kids do it at The Spaghetti Book Club! The big idea isn’t HOW?…it’s WHEN?!!  When will you take a few minutes and go to the independent or big box bookstore or  the website where you purchased your copy and leave a quick, but important review?  We want to keep this authors “employed” and creating the books we love!

What if I can’t afford to buy the book?  No worries.  I try to be a book patron as often as possible, but my local library knows me by my first name.  I check out dozens and dozens of books a month.  I always make sure to tell the librarian about the books I love the most and that ensures they’ll be recommended to other patrons.  As I said, I’ve also been known to leave a post-it note or note card sticking out to grab readers’ attention, “Hey!  You should check _______ out!  You’ll love it!”

So now that you’ve read my soapbox spiel – click on over to Amazon and post a review for one of your favorite authors!  They deserve it!

What’s On My Book Radar?

Screen Shot 2016-02-27 at 9.00.11 AMSince the day I read A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd, I knew I would pre-order any other book she would publish. Some writers help you visualize, Natalie makes you feel!  She creates characters that you want to befriend (or adopt!) Her writing is almost lyrical. I find myself rereading lines to taste them tripping across my tongue! Some may call it folksy, I find it charming.

The Key to Extraordinary  did not disappoint!! It is a joy to read. It is filled with imagery like this:

If God had a stethoscope, and if He held it up to this part of the dreary world to check for a heartbeat, I hope these are the sounds He’d hear: The sound of boots stomping rhythms out of the dust. The sounds of happy squeals and laughter when people spin out, nearly dizzy from joy. The sound of a scratchy voice, a thumping guitar, a plucky violin.  That’s what pure joy sounds like.”

When I came home from school last night and saw this book sitting on the kitchen counter, I ripped it open and dove right in.  Part of me wanted to slow down and savor it, but I just couldn’t. As I got into it, I was compelled to see what Emma’s Destiny Dream was, and how it was going to be realized. I wanted to see if the mysterious boy would ever speak again.  I had to know if they could save their family bakery, the Boneyard Cafe.  I was curious if the ghosts in their backyard cemetery were real. I needed to know what the key in her dream unlocked!

If you love stories with multi-generational families, compassionate characters, traditions, and eccentricity,  I think you will love it, too!  The Key to Extraordinary is extraordinary. It will satiate a hunger you didn’t even know you had!

Welcome to My Reading Life

I wasn’t going to blog this week.  Whatever nasty virus that has been making the late winter circuit finally caught up with me.  I was out of school for two days, and my workload kept piling up.  It would  have taken something pretty special to inspire me to carve out some time for my blog this week.  That something special walked over to my desk yesterday afternoon.

At the end of the day, I was back at my desk in my glassed-in cubicle at school.  In walked one of the most timid 4th graders, looking a little nervous, as though she was afraid to bother me.

“Do you have a book recommendation?” she breathed.  So quiet was her voice I couldn’t quite make out the words.  “Do you have any book recommendations?” she repeated.  Now, I have met kids in hallways and classrooms all year long inquiring as to what they were reading and recommending books on the fly.  Kiley was the first to come to me and ask on her own.  I had several books in mind I knew she would love.  Cynthia Lord’s Half a Chance and Natalie Lloyd’s A Snicker of Magic were two of my recent favorites, that I was confident Kiley would dive right into.  Unfortunately neither were there at my desk, having been loaned out to others.

I asked Kiley if she’d like to read one of my new books that I hadn’t yet read and then tell me her review of the book.  I had a signed copy of The Waffler by Gail Donovan.  I told her that it was just announced as a nominee on the list for next  year’s MSBAs  (Maine Student Book Award) We read the book jacket together and she eagerly nodded her head notifying me that she’d like to try it. As she left, I found myself smiling.  I felt honored that she thought I  knew her well enough as a reader to recommend a book that she’d enjoy.

Well, that good feeling got even better today when Kiley walked over to my room after lunch   “I’ve got a book recommendation for you.”  she beamed.  From behind her back she pulled out a paper back and handed it to me.  “My mom got me this at the book fair.”  I looked down at a copy of The Power of Poppy Pendle by Natasha Lowe.  She looked so happy as I flipped through the book.

“Have you already read all of this?” I asked her.

“Mmm hmmm.  I read it as soon as I got it.”

“So you think I’ll like this one?”  Nod.  “Then I definitely have to read this.”  I asked her if I could keep it for the weekend  since I didn’t think I could finish it in one night.

“Yeah, sure!”  she smiled at me.    I thanked her profusely as she headed back to class. “Oh, and I’m half way through The Waffler.   It’s good!”

Now my pile of must-reads, gotta-reads, need-to-reads,  should-reads and wanna-reads is massive, but  you can bet I am carving time out of my weekend to read The Power of Poppy Pendle.  Not because I can’t wait to see the power Poppy is imbued with, but because of the power steeped in that gesture by Kiley and my eagerness to talk with her about it next week.

She saw reading as a way to connect with others. She recognized that reading experiences can be shared.  She had confidence in herself as a reader to make recommendations to others-even teachers.  She welcomed me into her reading life  and she knew she was welcome in mine.

That kind of medicine got me feeling pretty good again!

Got Grit?

If you aren’t familiar with the term Grit, you might want to look up so you don’t get run over by the bandwagon!  Seems the phrase and the topic pops up quite frequently of late.  Ironically I started writing this post and then tuned in to hear NPR run a segment this morning Does Teaching Kids To Get ‘Gritty’ Help Them Get Ahead? and another this afternoon On The Syllabus: Lessons In Grit.  I highly recommend giving them a listen.

Angela Duckworth is a psychology professor at the University of PennsylvTrue_Gritania who coined the term “grit” (yes, based upon the novel and/or movie True Grit)  She received the MacArthur “genius grant” for it in the fall of  2013. According to Duckworth, “Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.“-Angela Duckworth TED Talks April 2013

The concept of Grit goes hand in hand with Mindset, in particular with a  Growth Mindset.  People with a growth mindset believe brains and/or talent are a starting point, not the only point.  They believe that with passion, practice and perseverance (Grit!) goals can be achieved and talents can be developed.  With a Growth Mindset (and Grit) students can learn from struggles and even failure more successfully.  They embrace the notion that FAIL = First Attempt in Learning and the word yet follows most “I can’t” statements.

The work of researchers and educators at this point is to see whether Grit or even Mindset can be taught to students in schools.  I think over the next few years we will see some compelling studies and some supports for schools interested in fostering these traits with their students. Certainly the work of Carol Dweck and her Brainology program is gaining traction in many schools.

But focusing on students alone is not where my thinking has coalesced on the topic, what about the teachers? If a profession ever needed Grit, teaching would surely be one.  There are struggles and failures on a daily basis when one is tasked with the education of dozens of very distinct and unique individuals.  There are parents with whom we need to communicate, administrators we need to please, curricula we need to master and a public that often views us as social welfare recipients.  Teachers (especially elementary) are often expected to be experts at everything!  Talk about a recipe for failure some days!

I work with new teachers every year and often wonder who will not only make it, but who will thrive and excel.  I work with veteran teachers who have been presented with ever changing reforms, initiatives, standards and evaluation systems.  I marvel at those who face every challenge with tenacity and a positive attitude and I look for ways to support those who are frustrated and exhausted.  Most of us lie somewhere in the middle of this spectrum.

mindset-sphere-hi-res-original-d-rendered-computer-generated-artwork-31936958-1Maybe one way to build our Grit and that of our colleagues is to first be aware of our Mindset and our level of Grit.  Understanding how we approach challenge and/or failure could be a first step in learning new strategies for dealing with  them and help us shift our thinking more successfully.   You can check out the  GRIT SCALES here.

Another way might be to cultivate a climate of Growth Mindset with our colleagues.  We can celebrate and be inspired by the success of others without feeling threatened or judgmental. We can seek out and learn from feedback without seeing it as a criticism of ourselves as people, but rather as a tool for stretching our abilities and understandings. We can recognize and acknowledge effort.  The teacher who always lucks out with the “good class” isn’t just lucky.   We can examine what it is that she/he does to create those conditions year after year.  We can embrace challenge and spend less time resisting the inevitable changes that come each year.  Lean on one another, problem solve together, encourage, praise and coach each other.

We can model Grit for our students.  Let them see us struggle with something and not give up.  Show them how we work through problems.  Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.  Show them what stamina looks like in ‘the real world’.  Help them set long term goals and not just seek instant gratification.  Let them feel some discomfort in grappling with new and unknown and resist the urge to jump in too quickly.  Let there be silence as students endeavor to comprehend ideas, formulate thoughts and solve problems. Teach them the power of the word, YET by using it often.

I think we can all agree that success comes from talent, hard work, perseverance, and passion (and occasionally some luck).  How we help our students and ourselves achieve success will depend upon the grit we display as we grow and learn.  The mindset we espouse may very well determine how ‘true’ our grit really is.

Share your own ideas for teaching grit. 

I welcome your feedback as an opportunity to continue to grow and learn!

What’s On My Book Radar?

51gNghE+NvL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_I finally got my hands on Natalie Lloyd’s Snicker of Magic.  I couldn’t wait to read the book I have been hearing so much about and I must say it has been worth the wait.  In fact, I have not yet finished reading it, I am totally savoring this one.  Felicity Pickle is a 12 year old girl who can see words as an aura around people and objects.  I am fascinated by the entire cast of characters who live and pass through Midnight Gulch, the town with just a ‘snicker of magic’ left in it.  Layered with compelling back stories of the history of the town and Felicity’s own family- this story is woven with a special magic from the first page! This will be one of those rare books I don’t want to leave, so I am in no hurry to finish. Oddly, I’m finding my ice cream craving has returned as well!!