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Fiction
Nonfiction
Featured book:
The Kids' Baseball Workout

 

Publishers of educational materials have hired me to write many short books covering a range of topics and literary genres. Elementary and middle school teachers use these 16- to 48-page fiction and nonfiction books to supplement the curriculum, encourage reading and reinforce grade-appropriate comprehension skills.

FICTION

Greetings from Nowheresville
Humor, Grade 3
Scott Foresman

The assignment: Write a travel guide to a strange place. Include vocabulary words: almanac, state, calendar, mysterious.

I came up with the notion of an anti-vacation in Nowheresville, the self-proclaimed "Boring Capitol of the World," an intentionally unexciting place where keeping your eyes open while sightseeing is a challenge. The editors went with my cover idea to spoof the old-style "Greetings From" postcard and kept most of the gags. But they cut one of my favorite potshots: "Upon arrival in Nowheresville, tourists are lulled to sleep by the music of Z-Z-Z Top." (What economy! A joke by adding a single "Z.")

Sample pages

 

When in Rome
Historical fiction, Grade 4
Scott Foresman

The assignment: Have a modern-day kid learn about a foreign culture's manners and customs. Comprehension skill: Comparisons.

I sent an 11-year-old wisenheimer with "barbaric" table manners time-traveling to Rome circa 200 A.D. My editors were impressed because I cleverly slipped in a number of similies and metaphors and larded the story with V or VI historically accurate facts about ancient Roman customs. I considered it a triumph of noisome comedy to have the main character belch loudly after a meal -- considered the polite way to show appreciation and praise -- and the teachers couldn't complain!

Sample pages

 

Pound Pals
Fantasy, Grade 5
Scott Foresman

The assignment: Write a tale from the point of view of two animals. Comprehension skill: Visualization.

I wondered, "What if that notoriously kitsch picture of dogs playing poker came to life?" . . . and came up with this epistolary tale (a series of letters) about two street-wise dogs, fast friends from the city pound, whose lives go in separate directions and seemingly against character: A tough bulldog adopted by a society matron and a chic terrier farmed out to the country.

 

Sample pages

 

What a Vacation!
Play, Grade 5
Celebration Press

The assignment: Write a funny play about a family on vacation. Comprehension skills: Theme and predicting.

Concocting a comedy about all the little things that can go wrong during a typical family vacation to a cabin by the lake -- and do -- was relatively easy -- and fun -- for me given my scriptwriting background. The hard part was making sure the play served a three-fold purpose:

1) Be read, individually, like a book
2) Be read aloud in class, like a staged reading
3) Be simple enough to produce as a class play

 

Sample pages

NONFICTION

Inside a Radio Station
Grade 2
Sunshine Books/Wright Group-McGraw-Hill

The assignment: Take a peek behind the scenes at the people and equipment that make radio "magic."

To give the book the feel and vibrancy of radio, the Disc Jockey's patter and typical on-air sounds appear in print. Young readers actually see what they'd be hearing during a broadcast.

Sample pages

 

Iditarod: Dogsled Race Across Alaska
Grade 2
Sunshine Books/Wright Group-McGraw-Hill

The assignment: Describe the famous dogsled race, its place in Alaskan history, and the community spirit it generates -- in less than 900 words!

Educational publishers often require that writers of "little" nonfiction books include such elements as a table of contents, map, glossary, checklist, etc. I also selected the photos, wrote the captions, and devised the layout.

Sample pages

 

African America Cowboys: True Heroes of the Old West
Grade 4
Celebration Press

The assignment: Write a revisionist history demythologizing old west cowboys while emphasizing African-Americans' substantial contribution.

Yippie-yi-oh and YIPES! I had less than two weeks to put together this book. That included research (all facts double-sourced!), writing, selecting photos, writing captions, structuring the book to adhere to strict pedagogical line counts per page, and calculating syllables per sentence to comply with reading level parameters.

Sample pages

 

Hot Gobs!: The Art of Glassblowing
Grade 6
Scott Foresman

The assignment: Explain the creative process and science behind a craft, using a narrative approach. Comprehension Skill: Author's Viewpoint.

I intertwined two storylines. The dramatic throughline follows a group of kids at a glassblowing demonstration in a "You Are There" manner. Woven between each stage of the demonstration is technical information about glassblowing.

Sample pages

 

 

Coming in 2004

 

Funhouse Mirrors and Optical Illusions
Grade 4
Four Corners/Pearson Education

 

Explore the World Around You: Earth Science Experiments
Grade 6
Four Corners/Pearson Education

 

For more about children's books, check out the Children's Book Council

http://www.cbcbooks.org/html/aboutauthors.html

 

 

 

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