Monday, April 20, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Jen Vincent at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye and Ricki Ginsburg at Unleashing Readers cohost It's Monday! What are You Reading? weekly on their blogs.  To see what others are reading and recommending each Monday, or to participate, be sure to head over to these blogs.

While I was at a small bookstore, I picked up a copy of The Extraordinary Mark Twain by Barbara Kerley and illustrated by Ethan Fotheringham. This would make a wonderful mentor text for information writing units because it is almost two stories in one. The book contains inserts written from Twain's daughter, Susy, who had a different perspective to share about her father. It is a wonderful example of narrative nonfiction, as well as a great teaching tool about how perspective and bias impacts what we think is true and how we express our ideas. 

I also read Julia, Child by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Julie Morstad. A loosely interpreted biography of Julia Child, this story focuses on an imagined friendship, weaving culinary concepts together with themes about life and living. It's another great example of narrative nonfiction for developing creative information writers. 

I have to admit that I spent more time during my vacation writing than reading. It’s hard to find time to do both when adventures and outings beckon. However, I did pack and read What a Writer Needs by Ralph Fletcher. This book was published in 1993, and somehow I missed it. I’m not sure even now what prompted me to take it from my shelf and read it, but I am so glad I did. Ralph Fletcher is confirming as a writer, as a teacher of writing, as a writer who reads, and as a reader! He breaks down the habits and mindsets of writers with such clarity, simplicity, and wisdom. This is a book that you will read and walk away with inspiration as well as practical ideas for teaching writers of all ages. 

Over the year, my high school daughters have asked me to read their essays many times, and I have been consistently struck at the clinical voice (or lack of voice) in their writing. Saddened by it, actually. Deeply saddened by it. Ralph Fletcher writes about the destruction of voice in writing instruction. Maybe they are writing about topics they care very little about. Maybe they are spending too much time on research and not enough time digesting and wondering about their research. Maybe they do not spend time orally rehearsing or even mentally rehearsing how their writing is going to go. Anyway, I digress...if you haven’t ever read What A Writer Needs, read it. And if you have read it, consider reading it again. 

Happy Reading,


  1. I might be tempted into this Julia Child book, but we've already got two books about her in our library!

  2. The Fletcher book is a favorite. I'm so taken by his recent books that I haven't read it in a long time. Perhaps I will this summer, Melanie. I still have it, all marked up! The bios are wonderful, I agree. As for your daughters. Some of my former students say there is no room in their classes for 'real' writing as we did, only the dry five paragraph essay, sentence by sentence, etc. Perhaps your daughters are following what they've been taught to write? And also maybe their voice will return when they move on to other classes? Larkin's voice in her blog seems strong to me.

  3. Like Linda, Ralph Fletcher's book is sitting on my professional book shelf. Teaching gifted students, I hear voice all day long and love it. Sometimes I worry that I am not preparing them for the real world, though. The voice can get in the way of a well-structured essay. It's all in balance. Your girls learned how to perform what would get them the good grade. I also agree with Linda. Their voices return when they write about their interests.

  4. The Extraordinary Mark Twain was an excellent read. I hope to have a copy myself for my own classroom. Thank you for your suggestions on using it in the classroom, such as narrative nonfiction and perspective. When I read it, I tunnel-visioned on using it for biography.

  5. I didn't realize there was another Julia Child PBB! Wow. Will have to look for that one.