Books We Love: Elementary School
A Crazy Mixed-Up Spanglish Day, by Marisa Montes
Who is Marisa Montes?
by Erica Vargas, Volunteer
Marisa Montes was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She got the chance to travel to many interesting places. She spent a few years in France where she discovered her love for books and even learned a new language. She loved to read stories about strong women because they encouraged her to be strong too. Some of her favorite biographies were about Amelia Earhart, Eleanor Roosevelt and Annie Oakley. Marisa always had an active imagination and the books she read inspired her to create her own stories.
Marisa still uses her imagination to create stories, but now she writes them down. She always wanted to write a story about being Latina and she got her chance when she found out that Scholastic was looking for an author to write about a Latino family. Marisa got to work and wrote 3 chapters in one day. The publishers at Scholastic loved them and hired her right away. As she began writing, Marisa not only used Scholastic's ideas, but also incorporated some of her own to create the "Get ready for Gabí" series.
Get Ready for Gabí!
In the first book "A Crazy, Mixed-Up Spanglish Day" Marisa introduces us to all of the main characters, including Gabí who speaks both English and Spanish. We also meet Johnny Wiley who is Gabí's worst enemy. Johnny makes fun of Gabí and it drives her crazy! But Gabí has a secret weapon: her special red boots. Even though she is the smallest kid in the class, her boots make her feel tall and strong enough to do anything-like stopping Johnny from making fun of her. But Johnny still won't stop. Gabí gets so mad that she can hardly even talk. Her English words keep getting jumbled up with her Spanish words. Now she's speaking a mix of both and no one knows what she's saying!
Writing the Gabí series is Marisa's way of sharing her childhood experiences with readers from around the world. Growing up Marisa never had the chance to read a story about a Latino family like hers. Stories about Latino people were all the same: Latinos were usually poor, lived in a big city and did not speak English very well. Marisa wanted her story to be different, so she turned to her own life for inspiration. Marisa grew up speaking Spanish so when she came to the United States she did not speak English very well. In the beginning she jumbled it with Spanish, but she soon learned to speak English very well. When she lived in France she also learned to speak French. Marisa believes that language is power, and knowing more than one language makes you very powerful!
We can see a lot of Marisa in Gabí's character. Gabí mixes her English and Spanish much like Marisa did when she was a little girl. They are also similar in a different way. In the stories Gabí is a very strong young girl who wants to have superhero powers. When Marisa was a little girl, she wanted to be a combination of superhero Wonder-Woman and cowgirl Annie Oakley. She liked the "Presto Change-o" powers of superheroes just like Gabí does. Growing up, Marisa was also greatly influenced by strong women because they taught her not to be afraid of challenges. She hopes that Gabí will help teach kids the importance of being yourself, even if you are a little bit different from anyone else.
Marisa's Favorite Books
Marisa loves the Harry Potter series because she is really fascinated by magic and the supernatural. She also likes the way the characters are well drawn out. Marisa has a long list of favorites, some of which include:
Follow My Leader (James B. Garfield)
The Witch of Blackbird Pond (Elizabeth George Speare)
Ginger Pye (Eleanor Estes)
The Witch Family (Eleanor Estes)
Princess of the Goblins (George MacDonald)
The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
Island of the Blue Dolphins (Scott O'Dell)
Nancy Drew Series (Carolyn Keene)
What's Next for Gabí?
Marisa is currently working on more books for the Gabí series. In Book #2 "Who's that Girl?"(due in stores by the end of September), Gabí discovers that a new family is moving into the spooky house down the street. Gabí decides to investigate and she finds a pink and purple bike just like hers in their yard. It can only mean one thing-a new friend! But the new girl is a little weird. Is she a ghost? Is she a spy? Or does she just like hanging out by herself? Gabí doesn't know the answers yet, but she's definitely going to find out!
Book #3 "No More Spanish!" will be published next year. It seems like a long time from now, but we can tell you this much: Gabí will definitely make a new friend!
We know that there are many adventures that await Gabí in the future and Marisa can't wait for you to share them with her!
Writing Activity for you from Marisa! Write it! Marisa will write Back on the website!
Do you have something special that makes you feel better about yourself,
especially when you're feeling sad?
It can be something you wear, like Gabí's red boots, or something you do, like draw, or write in a diary. Or maybe it's a pet you like to spend time with like Gabi and her cat, Tippy.
Whatever it is, please write us about it.
And remember, nothing that makes you feel better about
yourself is silly, so please tell us about your "Special Something!"
New! Submission for Marisa!
New York, NY
"First day of school!" I shouted as I woke my parents up. My mom looked at me as if I was a monster. "What happened to you?" she asked in a scared way. "What?" I didn't know what she was talking about. I turned around very slowly and I looked in the mirror. "Oh my gosh, look at me, I'm covered in bug bites! My head is heavy too!" " You're not going to school today young lady." "But mom all my friends will be there and besides, my bug bites don't itch at all, really, please" "Okay." I went into my room to get dressed, mom told me to wear a dress but I said no, I was a tom-boy.
I really wanted to see my best friend, Amy Gates. She was a tall girl with long blond hair and a tomboy like I was. She and I would play all day together when we were younger. But now we have to do home work together. I'm so anxious to get in her classes.
Beeeeeeeeeeeeep beep beep beep beep . Oh no the bus is here and I am still getting dressed! I looked out the window and I see the bus leave the street. Oh no you don't! I didn't have a very nice bus driver. He leaves after 2 minutes if you are not there! "Mom, can you" oh yeah, mom has a new job and dad is at work too! I guess I have to walk to school today. I thought it was okay but right as I walked out the door .It started to pour! I ran under a tree then another but it wouldn't stop raining. I was doomed and drenched. But somehow it seemed to get harder wherever I went!
Finally, I got to school but I heard my name on the loud speaker. I went to the principle's office, and he said I had a year of detention! Just for being late! I went to my classroom and I couldn't believe my eyes. I am in the worst class ever! Bad teacher, bad kids! Not even one class with Amy. Oh no oh no oh noooooooooooo!"
"Wake up Hun, first day of school don't want to be late". My mom shook me awake and I realized it was just a dream!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Do you have funny dreams? Can you remember one? Send us your funny dream.
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Books We Love: Middle & High School
Teen Angst? Naaah . . ., by Ned Vizzini
Who is Ned Vizzini and What has he Written?!
Ned Vizzini is author of the Teen Angst? Naaah..., a compilation of essays based on his experiences in High School. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Ned was a regular kid who wrote essays about his life (mostly just to vent), had his own Nirvana fan site, was a big magic addict, and liked computers. He got his professional start when he was 15 by submitting one of his essays to a local free alternative newspaper. Pretty soon his stuff was being published alongside some of New York's hottest new authors-even though he was the only in High School! As a columnist for The New York Press, Ned wrote about his day-to-day life attending New York's Stuyvesant High School; and, by age 17, Ned's writing had been published in The New York Times Magazine. After graduating High School Ned took a year off before beginning at Hunter University to write Teen Angst? Naah.... The book is Ned's look back at Ned. It covers everything from his relationships with friends, family, and girls, to going to the prom. After the book's publication Ned became not only a literary hot property, but also a teen hot property. He was written about in newspapers and magazines, everything from GQ to Teen People, from the Omaha World Ledger to the Los Angeles Times. Since then, Ned has been attending college, speaking all over the country about his writing, and working on his next book.
Ned's new book comes out in June. We'll have a preview soon so if you're already into Ned...
Be More Chill
Ned's newest book, entitles Be More Chill, is due out in 2004. This time Ned has written about a completely fictional character- Jeremy Heere, a high school student and complete dork, who through an amazing discovery learns how to always be cool. It is being described as a "cautionary tale for our times about the pleasures and risks of being cool."
Learn more about Ned from Ned by visiting http://www.NedVizzini.com
(including seeing some streaming video of Ned dancing! Definitely worth a visit)
Read Ned if you like...
- David Sedaris
- Can relate to someone who: plays in a band, does work in computer and web programming, went to high school in New York, has been venting on paper since he was a kid
- Nintendo Music - especially the theme for Zelda or Mario
- Catcher in the Rye
- Reading stuff written by your friends, or people who might be your friends, or just really good stuff written by a peer.
Read a story by a teen author, picked by Ned himself!
By Erica B., age 14
It's a New York City afternoon in the fall. It's after lunch and all of Salk School of Science's students are out in the schoolyard. Some are kicking around a crushed coke can while others are jumping rope or practicing for the talent show that isn't for another seven months. Some sit around and talk while others make an attempt at putting a game of football or basketball together. Then there is that one kid who does nothing that is anything like what the other's do. He is the outcast that everyone secretly admires (or maybe it's just me). He grips the fence enclosing the yard like prison bars and yells out at strangers. He screams obscene things as some look on in amazement, horror or disbelief. Some passer bys laugh and others give him the finger either way he continues, getting more offensive every time. I was one of those people looking on in amazement. I stood there and smiled. I was horrified yet so amused. This was my first encounter with Lucas, it seems. It was my first impression and he is still that boy to me, that angry, offensive, clever, funny...creature.
Lucas has been like a cool older cousin to me in a way...well more like a distant cousin who doesn't get along with me. Well, let me explain. Okay, say you've got this really cool older cousin who says and does everything you want to say and do but you don't have the guts to do. This cousin of yours also has a very...clever fashion sense. Well, you think he's has a cool style about him. But you guys don't talk very often, in fact hardly ever. Maybe he thinks he's too cool to be seen talking to you or maybe it's because you're a little afraid of him. Who knows? So if that makes any sense at all, that it how it is with Lucas for me, except he's not my cousin. He is a stranger that I once went to school with. The sad thing is that I write about him and he probably doesn't even remember me.
I often say (to myself) that Lucas has "inspired" me but I think I could find a better word for that. I guess I just admire him in a way but I acted as if I disliked him. He would talk to me and I wouldn't know what to say so I would either just listen and nod or let my friend speak for me and I'd play along. Stupid, stupid girl I was! Playing along with my friend would sometimes mean making rude comments, but it never seemed to bother him, something I always wanted to be able to do. Towards the end of his Eighth grade year, right before he graduated he was talking to me again and was actually being friendly. I was so shocked I had no idea what to say so I said nothing...again! But I figure if I talk about him enough he'll come back and I can start over.
He came to school with a Green Day t-shirt one day. I always loved band t-shirts but I had no idea who Green Day was. Of course I was too afraid to ask Lucas so instead I went home and looked through my brother's many cds. It was called Nimrod. I was so excited I'd found it. I was about to find out who Green Day was; I was about to find out what sort of music Lucas liked. It was like detective work and I was about to solve the mystery. I listened to it and fell in love...with the cd of course! I liked it so much I stole it from my brother. I would sing the songs I'd learned every day hoping that Lucas would hear me and think I was cool but he never did and I only appeared to be talking to myself. Great. Then a few weeks later he goes running through the halls wearing the same t-shirt with the word "sucks" written below "Green Day", screaming, "Green Day sucks". Fabulous. Just when I thought we had something in common.
It's the middle of sixth grade and I'm walking to my locker while talking to my friend. She keeps talking as my eye catches sight of a boy in a skirt buying a soda. Then I bump into a blue column. Lucas wore a skirt to school. I was so shocked, but I seemed to be the only one that still paid any attention to him.
I was in math class and asked to go get some water. I left the room and found Lucas sitting outside the office. I asked him why he was sitting out there and he said simply that he got in trouble. Then the principal came out and I had to leave because you're not supposed to talk to the troubled children. I found out he'd cursed out the principal and was being suspended. Brilliant! I'd always wanted to tell that woman off! She was so insanely stupid. I remember thinking how funny it was that he was smiling the whole time the principal was yelling at him.
The sixth grade ended and so did Lucas's skateboarder image. When he came back the following year he'd turned punk. He had the spiked hair and leather jacket. I always liked that look but never had the guts to chop off my hair, dye it some crazy color, and wear the short skirts with torn fishnets like those cool girls around Astor place. Lucas had the look and the lifestyle or so I'd heard. Always getting into fights, getting drunk and going to crazy parties. And I believed it all until I saw his baby picture. He had this cute bowl cut, what seemed like a school uniform, and his hands around his face mid-peek-a-boo. I just couldn't believe such an innocent looking child could be so wild. But what did I know? All I knew was that he was constantly getting kicked out of class and would sometimes come to my class and sit in the back.
One morning while my Lit class was discussing a children's book called The Carrot Seed , Lucas walked through the hallway sporting a Mohawk. We heard a girl scream, then he smiled and continued walking.
In Spanish class the seventh and eighth graders all had to make an altar for the day of the dead. We seventh graders were walking around and looking at the one's the eighth graders had done and I came across Lucas's altar. He'd made it for Sid Vicious. I quickly tried to read and find out who he was but I was afraid my friends would see me lingering at his project and think I liked him or something. So I quickly walked away wondering who the hell Sid Vicious was. I looked him up over the summer after Lucas had graduated and left before I could tell him anything. I remember the last time I saw him. He was dressed up and talking on a cell phone and I remembered him saying how he hated people with cell phones.
Sid Vicious was from an English punk band from the 70's called The Sex Pistols who dies just before his 21st birthday of a heroin overdose. On the same page there was a book called Rotten by John Lydon. Lydon was Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols and Sid's best friend. I went out and bought the book, read it and loved it. Everything about this guy is cool. He's so clever and he's survived so much. He's survived meningitis, countless beatings from angry football hooligans and his mother's death. I admire him so much and he reminded me of Lucas.
In the eighth grade my humanities teacher, Mr. Wizner, read Lucas's memoir to the class. Turns out he was kicked out of one of his elementary schools for wearing a Grateful dead t-shirt to school. He thought his teacher had tricked him into getting kicked out and he said that that was when his hate and fear for authority figures all started. Then because he wasn't allowed back to school and his teachers thought he was a little slow Lucas was sent to a "special" school. There he met people like he'd never met before, just like I had at Salk. To me, it seemed as though everything had happened to him because of the Grateful dead t-shirt and I'd discovered music and so much more because of his Green Day t-shirt. If we have nothing at all in common this would be our only tie that binds. Everything started with a t-shirt.
New! Poetry submission
Hand talking, by Erica B.
Her hands were like humming birds
as she spoke
her gentle voice speaking words
infusing her partner
with words of wisdom
gained from years of experience
as if the world's existence depended solely on her rapid words
and her slender fingers extending from her expressive hands
were aid for the deaf
And she was looking out for everyone
she spoke loud enough
for all to be enlightened
Send us your poems to post!!
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New! Book Review
A Review of: Eragon, By Christopher Paolini
by Lucas K., Age 11
New York, NY
Eragon is a great book; I can't believe it was written by a 17-year-old. I highly recommend it to any one who likes fantasy, my favorite book genre.
The story is about a boy, Eragon, who, while hunting, finds a dragon egg. The egg hatches, and Eragon finds himself with his very own dragon, a dragon who immediately has a personality. Together, the two come up with her name: Saphira. Unfortunately, as Saphira is the only dragon not under royal control, evil king Galbatorix tries to hunt down both Saphira and Eragon. They are forced to flee from their home village and into a quest that will make Eragon a Dragonrider.
I really like the part where Eragon fights the shade. It was very exciting.
This is one of my favorite books I've ever read. I like that it was written by a kid, and that he did such a good job. I can't wait for the second book.
Have you read Eragon? Did you like it? Write to us and tell us why.
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New! Marianne Curley Answers a Reader's Questions
by Eleanor S., Age 13
New York, NY
It has been a pleasure to answer your questions. Living all the way over here in Australia, I don't get to interact with my international readers very much at all. Thank you for choosing me and giving me this wonderful opportunity to do so.
What was growing up in Australia like?
I grew up on two different farms. The first lined the banks of the Hawkesbury River. My older sister and brothers and I used to swim in the river almost every day. There was an incredible freedom on this property. It was very private, expansive and full of wildlife. I remember my brothers catching an owl, as well as a multitude of other bird life, lizards, goannas and possums. They always let them go or my sister and I would scream at them until they did! The second property wasn't as isolated and didn't have the natural beauty of the river property, but there was still an incredible freedom there.
Australia is a very outdoorsy and sports-loving country. Most children enjoy an active outdoor life involving a multitude of sports and other outside activities.
Where in Australia did you grow up?
I have always lived in New South Wales. I was born in Windsor and lived in a small rural town called McGraths Hill. When I was six a flood washed away the family home and I spent two years living in the picturesque township of Richmond. My family then moved to a five-acre property on the fringes of Sydney to a town called Plumpton. When I married my husband John we moved to a new suburb called St Clair. I now live on the north coast of NSW in Coffs Harbour.
Has your childhood influenced the way you write?
I believe it has very much. Living on farms proved to be quite a lonely existence. I was a shy and sensitive girl and didn't make or keep friends easily. I discovered books when I was about eight and they opened up new and wonderful worlds for me.
What were your first unpublished stories like?
I wrote five books before Old Magic. The first was set in the present, where my two main characters stumbled into a future world where the people had been reduced to living under ground and the earth was ruled by an evil woman. The second involved a spaceship crashing into earth where the two teenage inhabitants had to find a way to live in our world. All but one were set in present day with fantasy elements, and all were written through two or more viewpoints. These early manuscripts were fundamental in developing and refining my present style.
Did you ever want to be anything but a writer?
When I was 16 I did a secretarial course at a college of adult education and I admired my typing teacher so much that I decided I would one day be a teacher like her. I kept this goal in mind while I attained the necessary five years work experience. But it wasn't until quite a few years later, when my children had started school, that I took the appropriate courses and became a teacher of adult education.
When did you decide to become a writer and why?
I'm probably the only writer who hasn't known she wanted to be a writer all her life. And I can't even say why I decided to become one. I do remember one particular day when I was thirty and had just finished reading a novel that dissatisfied me. I put the book down and thought how hard would it be to write a novel myself? I decided to try to write a manuscript just to see if I could. I wrote 55 000 words in six weeks and enjoyed the experience so much, I knew it was a career I wanted to pursue. I proceeded to take writing courses and started submitting manuscripts to an agent three years later.
Your books are very historical but also have some fantasy in them. Why did you choose to write using both?
I have a love of history and my favorite genres are historical fiction and fantasy. I found combining the two irresistible.
When you start a book, do you already know the ending, do you know what you are going to write, or do you make it up as you go along?
I generally always know the ending. It is not set in cement, but I have a fair idea of how I want a novel (or a trilogy) to end. I usually spend about a month writing a plan and getting to know my characters - where they come from, what they look like, what their families are like, etc. The plan might change a little as I begin to write and the story unfolds, but essentially it ends at the same place.
When you write your books, which come first, the stories or the characters?
My characters always come first. It is only when I have developed a strong visual image of them that the story line starts to generate.
Are any real life scenarios incorporated into your books?
Undoubtedly there will be one or two, but I don't purposefully incorporate real life scenarios unless I am writing an historical scene, and then I try to be as accurate as possible.
Have you ever published anything besides a novel like poetry, or short stories for a magazine?
I had an article published in a writer's magazine once about writers using computers. I have also had a book review win first prize in a competition, and a short story win second prize in a short story competition many years ago. Recently I contributed a short story called The Star to the UK War Child Anthology called Kids Night In, which was published by HarperCollins in July 2003.
As an adult, what kinds of books do you like to read now?
I still like reading young adult books. I think they cross all barriers and have wonderful things to say. I also enjoy Tim Winton novels, Sara Douglas's Axis Trilogy, Michael Chrichton's Timeline, novels by Barbara Erskine, Fiona Mcintosh, Nicholas Evans, Jane Smiley and John Grisham.
Are there any special places you like to write?
I find inspiration in nature. I live in an amazing place, surrounded by nature's finest - beaches, rivers, mountains and rainforests. There are many walks and scenic places to just sit and admire God's handiwork. The Coffs Harbour region is truly a writer's inspirational paradise.
Do you have questions for your favorite author? We'll help you try and get answers!
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