Teacher Resources 2: YA Author Yvonne Ventresca.

Here is the second selection in the series of CURRICULUM GUIDES AND MATERIALS for use in the classroom based on popular titles.  Today, YA author YVONNE VENTRESCA presents the curriculum guide and core content study questions for her second novel.

Black Flowers, White Lies    

 Black Flowers, Whites Lies is a young adult psychological thriller by Yvonne Ventresca that won the 2017 Gold Medal Independent Publisher’s Award for YA fiction. Sky Pony Press published the hardcover in 2016, and they officially released the paperback version in March.

The paperback includes bonus content, including sample discussion questions for educators. The complete guide was created by Marcie Colleen to help educators use Black Flowers, White Lies for classroom study, book clubs, and independent reading. To download a free copy of the complete educator’s guide, containing over fifty discussion points, activities, and writing prompts, visit Yvonne Ventresca’s website at YvonneVentresca.com.

Black Flowers, White Lies Education Guide: Common Core Alignment for Grades 7-12

 7th grade: ELA.

RI.7.1,2,3,4,5,6,9;; W.7.3a-­e,4;; SL.7.4,5;; L.7.1,2,3

8th grade: ELA.

RI.8.1,2,3,4,6,9;; W.8.3a-­e,4;; SL.8.1a,3,5;; L.8.1,2,3,4a,c,d

9–10th grade: ELA.

RL.9–10.1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9;; W.9–10.3a–e,4;; SL.9–10.1,4,5;; L.9–10.1,2,4a,c,d

11–12th grade: ELA.

RL.11–12.1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9;; W.11–12.3a–e,4;; SL.11–12.1,4,5;; L.11–12.1,2,4a,c,d

About the free education guide

The education guide encourages analytical thinking and more in-depth discussion of the story. For example, there are suggestions for map-drawing activities, rewriting scenes from a different character’s point of view, and creating a brochure for a walking tour of the setting.

One of the themes of Black Flowers, White Lies is dishonesty. The education guide includes several activities to help students discuss this theme. How does it feel to tell a lie or to discover that someone else has lied? Why are the characters dishonest in the story? Students can play two truths and a lie and practice looking for signs of untruthfulness. They can also investigate topics like gaslighting and how someone’s perceptions can be manipulated.

Sample Activity for Black Flowers, White Lies

Fact vs Perception

Sometimes it is difficult to sort through what is fact and what is perception.

Have someone unannounced (a teacher or a student from a different class) come into your classroom while students are working quietly on a task at their desks. Plan with the mystery visitor ahead of time to make sure he or she does several things in your class during his or her brief visit such as:

  • Borrow something like a book, a craft supply, money, etc.
  • Talk to a student in the class
  • Give a note to the teacher
  • Ask a question
  • Set something down on a table

After the visitor leaves the room, have the students write down as many details as they can remember about the visit.

  • What details do they recall? What was the visitor wearing? How long was the visitor in the room? What did the visitor borrow while in the room? Whom did he or she talk to? What did he or she say?

Once everyone has finished writing, ask students to share their observations. Compare notes. What are the similarities and differences between student reports? Discuss what might be facts and what was simply perception.

Copyright © 2017 by Marcie Colleen. Reproduced with permission from Marcie Collen. All rights reserved.

About the novel:

 Her father died before she was born, but Ella Benton knows they have a connection that transcends the grave. Since her mother disapproves, she keeps her visits to the cemetery where he’s buried secret. But when Ella learns that her mother may have lied about how Dad died sixteen years ago, it’s clear she’s not the only one with secrets. New facts point to his death in a psychiatric hospital, not a car accident as Mom always claimed.

When a handprint much like the one Ella left on her father’s tombstone mysteriously appears on the bathroom mirror, she wonders if Dad is warning her of danger, as he did once before, or if someone’s playing unsettling tricks on her. But as the unexplained events become more frequent and more sinister, she finds herself terrified about who—or what—might harm her.

Soon the evidence points to someone new: Ella herself. What if, like Dad, she’s suffering from a mental breakdown? In this second novel from award-winning author Yvonne Ventresca, Ella desperately needs to find answers—no matter how disturbing the truth might be.

To obtain a free copy of discussion points, activities, and writing prompts, visit YvonneVentresca.com and download the Black Flowers, White Lies education guide.


Laura Sassi Gets Her Diva On + Enter to Win a Copy of Her New PB DIVA DELORES

Today it is my pleasure to be the first stop on a blog tour for picture book Author Laura Sassi’s new book: DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE.  You’ll find other stops on the tour at the end of the post.  Now, here is Laura:

How to Write Picture Books – Diva Style!   by Laura Sassi

Thank you, Darlene, for hosting me on my DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE blog tour. I’m so excited that my protagonists, Delores and Fernando, are finally making their debuts, but as any well-trained diva knows, singing on stage is just the final thrill. What comes before that?  Hours and hours, even years of hard work! But is it all worth it? You bet!   

So now, in celebration of opera and divas and picture books, here are five fun tips for writing picture books – diva style! Enjoy!

1. Go to the opera… a lot!

If you are going to be an opera star, it only makes sense that you immerse yourself in the glorious world of opera by attending operas, listening to opera music, and all-around saturating yourself in all things opera.  Likewise, if you want to write picture books, it only makes sense that you immerse yourself in the world of picture books.  For me, this means making regular trips to the children’s section of my library, or my favorite local bookstore, and reading, reading, reading!  I read with two purposes:  first, just for the pleasure and joy of it, and second… to learn. That’s why I always bring along my writerly opera glasses and a notebook so that I can thoughtfully ponder and record what makes each opera (i.e. picture book) sing… or not.

2. Rehearsal is important. If you want to be a diva, you have to spend time rehearsing and developing your craft. For opera stars, I imagine this means a daily routine of warming up with scales, practicing a variety of pieces, working on voice projection etc. Similarly, if you want to write picture books, you have to be willing to invest the time and effort into writing daily.  My daily writing routine includes free writes (my version of scales), as well as working on a variety of poems, blog posts and the handful of picture book manuscripts I’m playing with any given moment.

3. Control those crescendos.

I’m not an opera expert, but it seems to me that in the field of opera, like in the field of picture book writing – less is more!  I mean divas don’t just cut loose and sing at the top of their lungs willy-nilly!  No, they artistically control their voices so that it plays a magical role in telling the opera’s story. Likewise, as a picture book writer – and especially as one who loves to rhyme – I work hard to control my crescendos so that every word, sound, phrase, action, magically and purposefully moves the story forward.

4. Be confident, yet humble. (i.e. be willing to learn from others)

Confidence is good, but if you want your singing, er writing, to shine, I’ve learned over the years that confidence must be tempered with an open heart, open mind, and gracious spirit when receiving constructive feedback.  As a young writer I thought my writing was fabulous! But now that I’m more seasoned, I look back on those early pieces and cringe. They would definitely have benefited from a little more humility and willingness to productively process and put into place suggestions from more experienced writers!


(Which leads me to my last bit of advice.)

5. Everything’s better with a buddy!

As Diva Delores discovers at the opera house, the journey to success is just all-around better with a buddy. Likewise, I’ve found that the picture book writing journey wouldn’t be the same without a nice support system. For me this includes my family, my lovely agent, and the wonderful network of like-minded children’s writers I’ve connected with over the years, many of whom have become dear friends and trusted critique partners. So, my last bit of advice for writing picture books – diva style! – is to find a buddy or two to encourage you and help you grow along the way.

BIO:  Laura Sassi has a passion for telling humorous stories in prose and rhyme. She is the author of GOODNIGHT, ARK (Zonderkidz, 2014) and GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz, 2015), DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE (Sterling, 2018) and LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz, 2018) She lives in New Jersey with her husband, two children, and a black Cockapoo named Sophie.



Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LauraSassiTales

Twitter: twitter.com/laurasassitales

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/laurasassitales/

Here’s the schedule for the blog tour.  Follow the links below to check out each website.

March 8   Darlene Beck Jacobson  TOPIC: Guest post: “How to Be a Picture Book Diva”  – writing tips:   http://www.darlenebeckjacobson.com

March 16:  Susanna Leonard Hill   TOPIC:  Perfect Picture Book Friday Review  – details TBA :   https://susannahill.com/blog/

March 19:  Melissa Stoller   TOPIC: “THREE QUESTION INTERVIEW” on story, creativity, connection- through the lens of DIVA DELORES:   https://www.melissastoller.com/blog

March 23 and 24   Vivian Kirkfield  TOPIC: Cookie Interview/ PPBF:    https://viviankirkfield.com

April 3  Kerry Aradyha  TOPIC:  TBD but something dance/music/opera related because that’s the focus of her lovely children’s blog:  http://kerryaradhya.blogspot.com

April 10   Carol Gordon Ekster   TOPIC: Interview:   https://writersrumpus.com

For a chance to win a copy of DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE, leave a comment on this post. Your name will be entered in the random drawing.  Share this post on social media and you will get a second chance to win.  Winners will be announced on this blog on 3-28-2018.

A great way to remember and honor your favorite author is to post a review of one of their books on Amazon or Goodreads.  Happy reading.

Teachers: Need MG Historical Fiction? I’ve Got The Book.

Welcome to the first in a series of BOOKS TEACHERS CAN USE IN THE CLASSROOM.  Over the next several weeks I hope to feature a variety of children’s authors whose books can be used to enhance the curriculum in the classroom.  By providing teacher resources such as curriculum guides, activity sheets and vocabulary lists, teachers will have an easy way to bring more books into the classroom for enhancing the curriculum or getting kids interested in independent reading.

The first book featured is an MG historical fiction selection that happens to be my own book,WHEELS OF CHANGE (WOC) – Creston Books 2014.   Many teachers in classes I’ve visited have said they are doing historical fiction units as part of their reading/writing curriculum. If that’s you , or a teacher you know, WOC MAY BE JUST WHAT YOU’RE LOOKING FOR.  If you know a classroom teacher in 3rd through 6th grade, share this post with them.  The book is a good Read Aloud for 3rd and 4th grades, and can be used for silent reading and discussion with older students.

Here’s a brief description:

Racial intolerance, social change, sweeping progress. It is a turbulent time growing up in 1908. For twelve year old EMILY SOPER, life in Papa’s carriage barn is magic. Emily is more at home hearing the symphony of the blacksmith’s hammer, than trying to conform to the proper expectations of females. Many prominent people own Papa’s carriages. He receives an order to make one for President Theodore Roosevelt. Papa’s livelihood becomes threatened by racist neighbors, and horsepower of a different sort.  Emily is determined to save Papa’s business even if she has to go all the way to the President.

The book has a downloadable CURRICULUM GUIDE for the second wave of the Industrial Revolution, CORE CONTENT study questions, VOCABULARY LISTS, as well as other supplemental materials for use in the classroom.   The book also lends itself to discussion of segregation after the Civil War, Women’s Suffrage and the roles of males and females in early 1900’s:  http://www.darlenebeckjacobson.com/teachers.htm

I am offering a FREE SKYPE  VISIT to teachers who use the book in their classrooms and post a review of it on Amazon to share with other teachers/librarians.  I will also give away one  signed copy.  To enter the drawing for this give-away, leave a comment regarding how you would use the book in your classroom.

WHEELS OF CHANGE is a National Council of Social Studies Notable Trade Book and won Honorable Mention from the Grateful American Book Prize in 2015.

Stay tuned to this blog for more teacher-friendly selections in the weeks to come.

David Harrison and Mary Jo Fresch Present: 7 KEYS TO RESEARCH FOR SUCCESSFUL WRITING! + Win a Free Copy

As teachers, how do we get reluctant students to embrace writing projects?  Many of them struggle to produce good content for writing projects in all subject areas.  That’s why YOU NEED THIS BOOK by Authors David Harrison and Mary Jo Fresch: 7 Keys to Research For Successful Writing.  Here’s David to tell you more about it:

Thank you for inviting me to your blog today, Darlene. I’m delighted to tell you about 7 KEYS TO RESEARCH FOR SUCCESSFUL WRITING! published October, 2017.

    What motivated you to write the book (a break away from your usual poetry)?

Kids ask authors, “How long does it take to write a book?” A variation is, “How many books can you write in a day?” When I explain that I must first learn about my subject before I can write about it, many look surprised. When I tell them I often spend as much time getting ready to write as I do writing, they look amazed. Kids in school aren’t accustomed to spending much time investigating what they are going to write about.

My writing partner for 7 KEYS TO RESEARCH FOR SUCCESSFUL WRITING is Mary Jo Fresch, Professor Emerita and Academy Professor of The Ohio State University. Prior to becoming an educator of pre-service and in-service teachers of Kindergarten to Grade 8 teachers, Mary Jo was a classroom teacher.

Together we have seen far too many writing-before-ready results. They are usually dismal at best and at worst convince students that writing is too hard and mysterious and not for them. The goal of our collaboration is to provide classroom teachers with a practical resource to help them demonstrate that writers don’t just pick up and a pen or sit down at the keyboard and start writing.

  • What was the collaboration like?

This is our sixth book together. Prior to 7 KEYS, we wrote a series of five titles called LEARNING THROUGH POETRY, each dealing with different aspect of sounds: consonants, vowels, blends, digraphs, and rimes. We come from different backgrounds but share much in common, including work ethic and goals, so we make a compatible team. Before and during a new project we discuss ideas by email and conference via SKYPE. Once we establish a direction and general outline we agree on our respective responsibilities and jump in.

In this case we decided to use my 50-year experience to demonstrate how writers prepare to write and Mary Jo’s deep knowledge of classroom and scholarly research to provide meaningful follow up activities. We adopted a word not used much — presearch – to show how writers get ready to get ready before they write that first word. That gave us shape and direction. The result falls into seven categories, or keys, which are important elements that lead to good writing.

  • Things you learned doing your own research for the book.

The first thing we learned was that nearly all books we could find that are meant to help young writers focus on the process of writing and how to improve it. We decided early on that teachers might not need yet another book about the act of writing. What they do need is a book about the act of getting ready to write, the kind of thoughtful, organized preparation that leads to good writing. Except for a page here, a chapter there, we didn’t see a lot of help out there.

The challenge was to find ways to make “doing your homework” seem necessary, fun, and un-daunting. My solution was to show by example what I do, and Mary Jo created imaginative and practical activities that children can relate to. This also gave me a chance to introduce two segments, one directed to teachers and one to kids. The ones to teachers are a cross between mini-PD sessions and personal asides meant to provide insight into the KEY in that chapter. Those meant for students are like a quick author’s visit that can be read as often as wished. They, too, set the stage for Mary Jo’s creative activities. 

  • Anything else you’d like to add?

Please let your readers know how one of them can win a free copy of 7 KEYS TO RESEARCH FOR SUCCESSFUL WRITING. We say the grade range is 3 and up but a university president recently told me he thinks more than a few freshmen could benefit from it. We hope readers will enjoy our book and feel free to leave their comments on Amazon.com. Mary Jo and I will present a 2-hour workshop on the subject in July at ILA in Austin. Maybe we’ll see some new friends there.

David is the prolific children’s poet and author of 100 titles. His books have received more than 50 honors, including Best Children’s Nonfiction Book of 2016 by Society of Midland Authors. He has been translated into twelve languages, anthologized in nearly 200 books, and appeared in dozens of magazines and interviews in print and online. Among other professional books are Easy Poetry Lessons that Dazzle and Delight with Bernice Cullinan and Rhymes for the Times, Literacy Strategies through Social Studies with Tim Rasinski.  Professional articles have appeared in Dragon Lode, Reading and Writing Quarterly, The Reading Teacher, New England Reading Association Journal, and others. David is trained in research, holds two degrees in science and two honorary doctorates in letters. He has performed 300 times across the country and abroad in conferences, schools, and workshops. He is Drury University’s Poet Laureate.  

Mary Jo is Professor Emerita and an Academy Professor of The Ohio State University. After years as a classroom teacher, She became an educator of pre-service and in-service teachers of Kindergarten to Grade 8 teachers. She speaks nationally and internationally about literacy-related topics and researches the developmental aspect of literacy learning. Her articles have appeared in peer reviewed journals, such as the Language Arts; Journal of Literacy Research; Reading and Writing Quarterly; Reading Psychology; The Reading Teacher; Journal of Just and Caring Education; and Journal of Children’s Literature.  She has authored/co-authored 19 books for teachers, including The Power of Picture Books (NCTE), Strategies for Effective Balanced Literacy (Shell Education); Engaging Minds in the English Language Arts Classrooms: The Surprising Power of Joy (ASCD) and Learning Through Poetry (Shell Education).

To have your name entered in the random drawing for a signed copy of 7 Keys to Research For Successful Writing, leave a comment below stating you will happily write a review of the book on Amazon/Goodreads.  Darlene will add your name to the list and ONE winner will be chosen and announced her on Wednesday, March 7, 2018.








Bianca Schulze:Helping Kids Select the “Right” Book + Win a Signed Copy.

It’s true … the New Year brings new books. Plenty of them! New books release for kids each year in the thousands. The great thing about new releases is that they often reflect on current cultural themes and affairs. And, finally, we are seeing the slow and steady inclusion of books with characters of diversity—for proof, just check out this list of middle grade picks that released in January: Best New Books For Tweens And Preteens | January 2018.

There are so many new books worthy of being read. But … how about the “classics,” shouldn’t we keep reading them, too? And, how do we help our kids select books they are likely to enjoy? Let’s explore these questions!

 How about the “classics,” shouldn’t we keep reading them, too?

A classic book reaches this prestigious status usually because the story has been bound by a timeless truth that resonates, through the ages, with our hearts and minds—humor, love, growing-up, loss, friendship, and more. And when a story truth continues to resonate years after a book’s publication, there is only one answer to the question: Should we keep reading these classics? If the topic interests you, absolutely!

While a book doesn’t have to be too many moons old to be considered a “classic,” a little bit of story aging needs to take place to harness that true nostalgic feeling that is automatically attached to the word classic. Classic books can be like a magical time traveling device that takes readers back to times past— just like new books, they can also reflect on cultural themes and affairs from the time of publication and still feel very relevant. They often give a glimpse into how things were and can also provoke discussions on how far we’ve come, and then inspire young minds to imagine how far we could possibly go.

 How do we help kids select books they are likely to enjoy?

When reading for pleasure (which numerous studies say influences a love of learning and improves social and empathy skills, among many other amazing benefits), I recommend starting with a book that is based on a theme or story line that interests the individual. When you go to the library or bookstore, find the librarian or bookseller and have your child share their age, some interests, and, if possible, share the title of a book they have previously enjoyed. This will very easily assist a knowledgeable librarian/bookseller in helping to identify a book that could be of possible interest. The next step: read the book synopsis. Sound good? Try it! Doesn’t sound quite right? That’s ok! Let the librarian/bookseller know what isn’t working and keep going until you find that book of interest that sparks some excitement. Raising kids who read for pleasure can take a village—find your village, work together and you’ll get there.

By finding a book of interest, a child is more likely to enjoy the reading experience and happily go for the next book (and the next, and the next, and the next). Libraries are great, because you can check out a few books (or lots) at a time. If a book is not making a connection with your reader and they’ve given it a chapter or two, in my opinion, there doesn’t need to be pressure to finish it—move onto the next one. The goal is to find books they love. Finding books they love can definitely lead to reading for pleasure, which, as mentioned above, can lead to kinder human beings and improvement in academic areas. So … remove the pressure and surround your child with as many options as possible. Something will take!

If you want to get started on this “finding the right book” quest pronto, I have put together a list of books, 101 Books to Read before You Grow Up (Quarto/Walter Foster Jr., 2016), sorted by age and genre that can be used as a literary journal to discover books of interest, to keep track of favorites, and it also provides “what-to-read next recommendations” for when a favorite is discovered. The journal can be taken to the library/bookstore to help the librarian/bookseller make even more recommendations based on likes, dislikes, and notes can be recorded by readers on the pages.   When selecting the books to be included in 101 Books to Read before You Grow Up (Quarto/Walter Foster Jr., 2016), I chose a combination of classic and contemporary picture books, beginning chapter books, graphic novels, and middle grade novels represented. With plenty of options, there is a starting point for which all readers can find a book style of interest, and then also expand on their preferred style of book and discover new reading pleasures.

I chose each of the books for their powers to entice kids to wonder, laugh, cry, and they will almost always close the book with a smile. Readers can discover both new and classic books that incite kindness, courage, and making good choices. Books that remember the struggles of those that came before us, and books that encourage us to always dream of the fantastical future ahead of us and those that will come after us. So go ahead and grab a copy from your favorite bookstore, head to the library and get those kiddos reading for pleasure!

IndieBound: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781633221697&aff=childbkreview9

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2cEPtJT

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/101-books-to-read-before-you-grow-up-bianca-schulze/1123427825

Bianca Schulze is the founder of The Children’s Book Review, a resource devoted to children’s literature and recognized by the American Library Association as a ‘Great Website for Kids.’ She is a reader, reviewer, mother and children’s book lover. Combined with her love of books and experience as a children’s bookseller, Bianca’s goal is to share her passion to help grow readers.

Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, she now lives with her husband and three children near Boulder, Colorado.

TheChildrensBookReview.com | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest | Google+

Would you like a copy of Bianca’s new Book?  Leave a comment and the promise that you will write a review of the book and your name will be entered in the random drawing.  The winner will be announced on this blog on Wednesday 2-21-18.

World Read Aloud Day: Join the Fun.

Today is WORLD READ ALOUD DAY.  What better way to celebrate the wonder and joy of books than to read some aloud to your favorite kids.  Don’t have kids?  Go to a classroom or local library and volunteer to read a favorite picture book or a chapter from a middle grade novel.

I will be reading a chapter from my own MG historical WHEELS OF CHANGE  to students in two classes: Darlene Andre’s 3rd grade class in  Kenoka, Wisconsin and Antoinette Lubrano’s 4th grade class in Morristown, NJ.

Ms. Lubrano’s 4th grade class in Morristown, NJ

Enjoy your favorite book and spread the joy!  Happy World Read Aloud Day!

Ms. Andre’s 3rd grade class in Kenosha, WI.