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Penguin Young Readers

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Books to Celebrate the Season!

School and Library Staff Pick

Ten Thank-You Letters Ten Thank-You Letters

Ten Thank-You Letters

I have a rule. Well, I have lots of rules, but some I stick to, and some I don't. Here's the rule: when someone graciously sends me a gift, I will not use said gift until I have written them a thank-you. It doesn't need to be on fancy stationary or in a certain script, but it has to be thoughtful and personal above all else. Not only because it is polite, but because I LOVE WRITING THANK-YOU LETTERS! So Daniel Kirk's newest picture book, Ten Thank-You Letters makes me happy every time I see the colorful spreads and read the clever text. Pig is writing a thank-you letter to his grandmother, when Rabbit comes over to play. In typical Rabbit form, he's got a lot of energy, and thoughtful, meticulous Pig needs all his concentration to finish his work. As the story unfolds, teachers and librarians are given the opportunity to model the craft of writing a thank-you, whether to a friend (like Pig), community helper (like the mailman), or a family member (like Pig's grandmother). The most satisfying part for me is reading what Pig has so carefully crafted throughout the book. I hope you'll appreciate the story as much as I do… and if you do, don't be shy about sending me a note…

—Kathryn, School and Library Assistant Director

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The Paper Cowboy

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Author Spotlight Kristin Levine

The Paper Cowboy Kristen Levine

1. What draws you to historical fiction?

I always found history very hard to remember and relate to - unless it was told through the eyes of a particular person, and then I couldn't get enough. I think writing historical fiction also provides enough distance for people to feel more comfortable discussing uncomfortable subjects.

2. Why do you write for middle grade readers?

I love writing for children and young adults because that was the time in my life reading was most important to me. As a kid in school, you don't have control over a lot of things in your life. You can't control where you live, where you go to school, or how you spent most of your time. But which books I wanted to read was something I could control. Also, middle-school can be such a hard time - at least it was for me. When I felt like I totally didn't fit in at school, reading, somehow, always made me feel much better.

3. What do you find the most exciting about school visits?

I love telling students that when I was in elementary school I actually HATED writing. I thought it was so hard and I wasn't any good at it. Then the summer after 7th grade I had the opportunity to attend a program called CTY run by John Hopkins University. You basically get to pretend to be a college student for three weeks - go stay on a college campus, live in the dorms and take a class. I decided to take a writing class because I was so bad at it, that I thought I might learn something.

It turning out to be a workshopping class, where we each wrote something and shared it with everyone else. What I discovered there was that writing didn't have to be about getting it right the first time. It was really more about being able to take feedback and revising and making it better as you go along. And I realized, that yeah, I'm not a very good writer (my first drafts still aren't very good) but I'm a really good re-writer!! And ever since then I've loved writing.

There are always at least a few kids who suddenly perk up when I tell that story and I know they can relate. I like to think that maybe I've helped them to think about writing in slightly different way.

4. Why do you think addressing bullying is so "timeless", and yet so important?

I think part of being is kid is learning how to treat other people. And part of that learning process is making mistakes. Sometimes kids take friendly teasing too far. And sometimes people are more hostile for other reasons. And it's not just children who deal with bullying and exclusion. New moms can be horribly judgmental of each other and the choices they each make. Talk radio and TV sometimes has a similar, bullying tone. I think we all struggle, at one time or another, with expressing our own views and beliefs while still having compassion for those who seem very different.

5. Who inspires you to write?

Right now, my kids are 5 and 8, so almost old enough to read my books. I find myself thinking more and more about the kinds of stories I think they might enjoy or learn from. I also think a lot about my younger self, and what types of books would have meant a lot to me.

To see even more questions answered by Kristin Levine, check out her archived chat on the Penguin Young Readers EarlyWord program here: penguinyrauthors.earlyword.com

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