Tag Archives: children’s literature

Thank You, Teachers!

turkey-readingTeachers pour so much of their time and energy into preparing lessons for their students. Today, I want to treat you, our teachers! This Thursday-Sunday only (American Thanksgiving break), The Candle Star will be available as a free download right here on Emblazon. So grab your choice of file format, sit down, and relax for a few hours. You’ve earned it.

Mobi | Epub | Pdf
(It’s always available at Amazon, as well. It’s just not free.)

When you’re finished reading, keep those feet propped up on the coffee table a little longer and browse through these  related resources. I’ve done some of your work for you.

As it  features slavery and the Underground Railroad, The Candle Star has been my most popular classroom-seller. I’ve used my background as an educator to design a companion booklet to help teachers get full mileage out of the novel. It includes chapter-by-chapter vocab and discussion questions, social studies extension ideas, and primary sources. It’s also aligned with Common Core standards. And it costs money everywhere but here!

The Candle Star: Classroom Resources pdf download

I’m not done yet. Encouraged by one of my colleagues, I also wrote out three full lesson plans designed to help students explore some of the novel’s historical context. (I especially like the mapping one. I LOVE old maps!) These pdf downloads are free for the taking.

Anticipation Guide (pre-reading activity) for The Candle Star
The Poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and the Civil War Era

Map Skills–Using Primary Resources with The Candle Star

Happy Thanksgiving, teachers! Enjoy your well-deserved break.

(Non-teachers, feel free to take advantage of this limited time offer, as well. Just be sure to thank the great folks who mentor your kids so faithfully. And point them to this post!)

Showing Thanks

I love fall—the colors, the bite in the air, the smell of baking pies. There is something about fall that bri220px-Baum_1911ngs people together. It’s a time to snuggle up with a blanket and good book. Fall is also the season of thanks. The time we take to share with others what we are most grateful for. I want to express my thanks to a very special person who helped me as a tween.

I want to thank L. Frank Baum. Although he is long passed away, his presence is still strong in my home. I grew to love his books when I was a tween. Life was hard for me during those early years. I lived on my grandparent’s farm, miles away from friends or family. It was lonely and most of the time I wished I were far, far away.

One day I took my copy of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz with me to the woods.Wizard of Oz 1015 I had created a fortress in a clearing next to a pond. As I read, characters would come to life and fill the empty spaces of those woods. Fairies would dance in the trees and munchkins would sing as they fished. Callidas would haunt the dark corners between evergreens. Magic existed. I had found my escape.

Every day I would sneak out to those woods and bury myself in another adventure. I was with Dorothy when she narrowly escaped the Wicked Witch. I was with her when she returned to Oz. I fought alongside Glinda as she rescued Ozma and Dorothy from the Skeezers. Tick-Tok, Scarecrow, and Jack Pumpkin Head became my imaginary confidants. They helped m02e deal with not living with my mom and the bullies at school. Baum created a world with his books that transcended the pages of reality and helped me in my time of need.

Today, I still have my collection of Oz books. When my wife and I became pregnant with our first child, I read The Wizard of Oz to my daughter every night before she was born. Since, we have read it numerous times. I am glad she has latched onto the love I have for Baum and his books. I hope as she grows up she can find lessons hidden in the pages. I hope she can find the magic and bring it to life.

L. Frank Baum is the first American middle-grade author. He struggled at first to 04get his books known, but once he did, he found they were loved by the old and young alike. Thank you, Mr. Baum for being one of the caretakers of children. You have truly written your words on my heart and I will forever be grateful.

Please take a moment this month to honor those authors whose books have helped you in some way. Take a moment to say, “Thank you.” Books can touch our hearts in more ways than one. I am certainly grateful for those that have touched mine.

-Mikey Brooks, author of The Dream Keeper

What Characterizes Tween Literature?

You found us! Emblazon is a BRAND NEW website that celebrates tween literature. Please browse our pages to see who we are what we’re all about, and tune in each Wednesday as we add new content. This is our very first post!

In celebration of our launch, we’re giving away signed paperback copies AND ebook copies of books written by Emblazon authors. Click here for details. Thanks for stopping by! 

What Characterizes Tween Literature?

Here on Emblazon we love tween literature. That’s the unique subgenre that falls between middle grade and young adult and can lean either way. You know, the one every reader of children’s books can sense but nobody really names or defines. Well, we’ve named it and defined it. We’ve even put an 11-14 age bracket around it. But what goes into a tween novel? What makes this genre so special? To answer that, let’s first look at the kids who read in it.

Middle schoolers, that’s basically who we’re talking about. Sixth, seventh, and eighth grades, maybe even fifth and ninth. These are the kids transitioning from grade school to high school, all at different rates. Their bodies are changing, their minds are developing, they’re becoming more independent, yet they’re still in need of adult guidance. Here are a few developmental landmarks characteristic to this age group:

  • Striving more for peer acceptance than parental approval
  • Moving from concrete to abstract thinking
  • Losing childish egocentrism; strong desire for fairness, justice
  • Understanding morality in shades of gray rather than black and white
  • Taking an interest in real world problems and issues
  • Changing body, changing emotions, becoming aware of sexuality

So how does this translate into literature? In all sorts of ways. Now is the time to start introducing tweens to tough topics they will face as adults, as Lois Lowry does in The Giver. Yet these topics must still be handled appropriately. Tweens are ready to empathize, to problem solve, to experience real life in a sheltered way.

A little boy reads a big book with grass at background

Tween literature generally contains a positive world view. Kids this age are beginning to think of others. They’re idealistic. They appreciate satisfactory resolutions because that’s how they want the world to work. They have a strong sense of justice and resonate with plots that see justice done. Tween literature almost always celebrates honesty, loyalty, sacrifice, friendship, etc.

Tweens are also looking forward to high school and greater independence, so protagonists tend to be at least age twelve and as old as fifteen or sixteen. Stories are often adventurous, with protagonists acting in peer groups with limited adult interaction, as in Harry Potter. The strongest adult characters tend to be mentors who provide a measure of wisdom. Books may contain some romance, but sexuality is generally toned way down. Portrayals of violence and substance abuse, if addressed at all, are portrayed in a negative light. Language is mild.

Middle schoolers are beginning to comprehend abstract ideas, so their books can be rich with metaphor, hidden meanings, and deep thoughts. An example of this would be the gentle lessons about life and death in Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt. But these guys still appreciate the absurd and can understand a higher degree of humor, which makes Percy Jackson so popular.

All these characteristics make the tween genre so dynamic and rich. Kids this age are discerning and they demand quality writing. As tween authors, we need to deliver it. By understanding what makes tween literature so unique, we’re better able to recognize it, appreciate it, and create it.

Photo of girls courtesy of Jaimie Duplass via Photoxpress. Photo of boy courtesy of Stepanov via Photoxpress.

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0451111When Michelle Isenhoff is not writing imaginary adventures, she’s probably off on one. She loves roller coasters and swimming in big waves. She’s currently training for a triathlon. She likes big dogs, high school football games, old graveyards, and wearing flip-flops all winter. Once an elementary teacher, Michelle now homeschools two of her three kids and looks forward to summer break as much as they do. Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Email