As some of you know, I decided not to go back to teaching this year so that I’d have more time and energy to focus on my family and my writing. While that was absolutely the right decision for me at this stage of my life, I’ve missed working with kids and being a part of a school community, and I’ve also missed using my teacher brain.
I don’t think I realized quite how much I’d missed using my teacher brain until two things happened recently. First, I started working on an educators’ guide for Cordelia Jensen and my middle grade novel, Every Shiny Thing. I loved thinking about the kinds of questions I would ask students and the activities I might assign if I were teaching the book, and I’m excited to share more about the guide closer to the book’s publication date.
The other thing that made me realize how much I’ve missed thinking about books from a teacher’s perspective is that I was asked to join four middle grade authors who run Middle Grade at Heart. Middle Grade at Heart is a book club geared towards teachers, parents, kids ages 8-13, and middle-grade-literature-loving adults. The team chooses a different middle grade novel each month and encourages people to read the book. At the end of the month, they put out a terrific newsletter, complete with an author interview, discussion questions, and activities, a recipe, and more, and then they host a Twitter chat about the book.
They feature excellent, varied books—so far their selections have included The Someday Birds by Sally J. Pla, Midnight Without a Moon by Linda Williams Jackson, One Shadow on the Wall by Leah Henderson, Forget Me Not by Ellie Terry, Alan Cole Is Not a Coward by Eric Bell, and All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson—and the content they create is absolutely top-notch. You can see the previous issues of the newsletter here.
Middle Grade at Heart needed a new team member because they have joined up with MG Book Village, an exciting new website where middle-grade book lovers can share and connect, so they asked me to help out and I eagerly accepted. We will now post three times a month on the MG Book Village site: one post at the beginning of each month to introduce the new book club choice, a writer’s toolbox or check-in post in the middle of the month, and a book review at the end.
The January book club pick is Anna Meriano’s delightful debut novel, Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble. I got to read an ARC over the summer, but I had so much fun re-reading the book this month with my teacher’s hat on. It was a blast for me to think about what young (and not so young!) writers can learn from analyzing the craft choices in the novel and what kinds of questions I might ask and activities I might create if I were reading the book with a group of students. And incidentally, I wish I could read this book with a group of middle school students; I think it would be an ideal read-aloud or book club pick for fifth or sixth graders.
If you’re a middle-grade enthusiast, parent, or teacher, I hope you’ll consider reading the book along with us! You can check out this month’s writer’s toolbox post, which analyzes the enchanting storytelling in Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble and offers tips for kid and adult writers about using character-specific figurative language to enhance voice. You can also subscribe to the newsletter here (this month’s will go out on January 29th) and follow @MGatHeart on Twitter and Instagram to stay in the loop about all of the content we offer and the Twitter book club chat.
I’m grateful for the chance to use my middle school teacher brain again in this way and honored to be part of this team that’s spreading enthusiasm for great middle grade books!