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Author Q+A with Lori Weber

February 22nd, 2012 by Carrie Gleason

Why should Canadian teens read realistic fiction by Canadian authors? Klepto author Lori Weber explains how and why her SideStreets novels are used in Quebec classrooms.

Lori Weberkleptotattoo heavenstrange beautysplit

Q: Since your first SideStreets novel, Klepto, was published eight years ago, you've done dozens of school visits each year. Why do you think it matters that teens meet and talk to Canadian authors such as yourself?

A: Kids love to meet authors from their own area. Most of my school talks and teen writing workshops have been in Quebec, but I've also visited Newfoundland, Ontario, and Manitoba. I myself remember the thrill of reading books set in Canada when I was in high school, back when CanLit was in its infancy. An even greater thrill was reading a book set in Montreal, where characters walked on streets I had grown up exploring. Perhaps that is why I try, whenever I can, to make connections through setting.

 

Q: The Montreal area setting of your novels are very vivid. Even readers who have never been to that city get a great sense of the place and culture. Can you tell us about some of the specific places you chose to write about and how you use these settings in your writing workshops?

A: In Klepto, I focused on a bird sanctuary (Maison Alouette), which is based on one that really exists in Hudson, and on the cages that are lovingly set up to help the birds recover. The students see that the injured birds are a symbol of both the main character of the story, Kat, and her sister, so the sanctuary is a great place for Kat to face herself. During my writing workshops, I ask students to create a portrait of their perfect space. What would it include, if it could include anything? In a workshop on Split, I focus on a scene where the main character, Sandra, climbs Mount Royal at night with her boyfriend, Danny. She leads him to the cross that serves as a beacon for Montreal and is its most famous landmark. We talk about the symbolism of the cross and of the fact that Sandra wants light: she wants to be seen, unlike Danny, who is always pulling her into the dark. The students then write a short scene where their character goes to a location that has meaning and that reflects their emotional state.

 

Q: What about readers outside Montreal, how could they relate the settings of your stories to their own experiences or writings?

A: When I work on Tattoo Heaven, which is a popular choice in the French schools, we also work on setting by looking at Theresa’s bedroom and how everything in it is white. The kids pick up right away on how that is important because in the story Theresa has leukemia and her mom keeps her environment super sterile and lifeless. They then write a description of someone’s room, focusing on its colour and on all the objects in the room that build a profile of the character.

But I also say that readers can apply any Montreal landmark to their own cities as well. For example, in Strange Beauty, I used a lot of history about the building of the Jacques Cartier Bridge in Montreal, because it led to the eviction of the main character’s grandmother when she was a kid. Penny and her grandmother go back to the demolished street in the east end and she pictures the ghost-houses stretching down toward the river. Then I have students write about a day they spent with a grandparent or older relative where they learned something about their family history. They try to work a landmark or piece of setting into their memoir.

 

Q: Why are books with Canadian settings important for readers of realistic fiction?

A: I say this as an author and as an English teacher: we want kids to love books. We want them to think of books the same way they think about video games and movies. And that means we have to be very thoughtful about the books we encourage them to read. Steering them toward books by Canadian authors is one way of getting them into reading because it brings the act of reading closer to home. It is saying that a book isn’t something abstract and disconnected to their lives, but it is something that can reflect their lives and the potential struggles they are having. It isn’t about out there, but about in here, close to home, close to where they live. I have seen students’ eyes light up as they call out, Hey, I know that place. I’ve been there. And a book doesn’t have to have an overt local setting to accomplish this. I talk to students about Canadian books that are set in other parts of the country, or that have no concrete setting. But the fact that the author is Canadian is often enough. I say, Hey, this guy is from British Columbia. Have any of you been there? Six eager hands shoot up in the air. Bingo! Connection made.

Good books for young people are more important than ever, given the force of mass media and the lure of technology. I would go so far as to say they can be an antidote to the more crass commercial values marketed to kids. Why not give the metaphorical medicine a Canadian flavour at the same time?

Deal With It: Bullying and conflict

February 22nd, 2012 by Carrie Gleason

We share 3 effective new ways of using the Deal With It bullying and conflict books, as told to us by educators like you.

bullyingcyberbullyingcliquesfightingteasinggossipracism

 

 

 

 

 


Recently we've had the opportunity to attend library trade shows and literacy conferences to talk to teachers and librarians to find out how they are using some of our books in schools and libraries. We wanted to share with you 3 real-world tested ways our Deal With It books are being used:

1. By Vice Principals or Principals in disciplinary situations. Have you had a case where cyberbullying, racist attitudes, fighting, or other conflict has unexpectedly popped up? School principals and VPs have to always be prepared for showing students better ways to deal with conflict. Educators have reported great success using appropriately themed Deal With It books in situations when two or more students have needed to learn constructive ways of dealing with their problems with one another. By having the students in conflict work through some of the situations, quizzes, and scenarios presented in the books together in meetings or as assigned work, the students began to see how their role in the situation could have been different, and how better to monitor their own feelings and behaviours in similar situations in future.

2. By teachers in special needs classes with older students. The Deal With It series is aimed at ages 9-12, but students who are in high school and upper middle school who have special needs due to behavioural or intellectual exceptionalities also relate to these books because of their graphic style, minimal text, and interactive approach. Questions and situations are not too young for older students dealing with self restraint or self-control issues. Some classroom projectors allow you to project images from book on a display in order to promote small-class discussion (such as in a home school program).

3. In drama units or as a starting point for drama presentations. Each of the Deal With It books is clearly divided into four main sections: a 101 section that defines and gives background information to the conflict, followed by three role sections: a bully, a target, and a witness. Within each section are scenarios and questions which relate to that particular role. In drama class, have students do planned one-minute skits or unplanned "improve" based on any of the questions. This will allow students to think on their feet — and learn how to effectively deal with a hypothetical bullying situation before they really happen!

For lots more ideas on how to use the Deal With It books, see the Teacher's Guide section of our website.

Unstoppable! Real athletes who overcame discrimination

February 22nd, 2012 by Carrie Gleason

Discrimination and bullying go hand in hand. In these sports biographies, kids will discover how young athletes faced down discrimination and racism to go on to be winners.

queensA group of teenage girls in small-town Ontario are told that "girls don't play hockey". Within the decade, their team, the Preston Rivulettes, went on to be the best of their time and are now revered as pioneers of women's hockey

 

iginla• He was the team's only black player growing up — but Jarome Iginla looked to the few black NHL players that came before him as role models. Now the NHL's first black captain (Calgary Flames), Iginla is know as a player who gives back to numerous charities to ensure that kids from all backgrounds get the opportunity to play in any sport.

 

something to proveAt an NHL draft, team managers are reluctant to take a chance on a player with diabetes — they see it as a weakness, "too much of a risk" they say. But young Bobby Clarke goes on to have a decades-long NHL career with the one team that took a chance on him. He served as team captain for the Flyers and later GM … and he is known as one of the toughest, roughest players the game has ever seen.

 

tootoo Jordin Tootoo: The highs and lows in the journey of the first Inuit to play in the NHL in the same series, is an 2012 American Indian Youth Literature Award Honour Book.

He Said/She Said — Teenage bullies

February 22nd, 2012 by Carrie Gleason

girl fightgone bad

Two just-published novels for teens look at bullying from the bully's point of view. As one reviewer said about Girl Fight, "This book hits timely topics, and hits them hard. The rawness of the language and emotion make it a difficult read, but an important one." (Resource Links Vol. 17, No 2) In a debut novel by Toronto writer Faye Harnest, the main character is a bully who attacks others physically. As a reader, we can expect to not want to feel empathy for a bully, but as we follow main character Zadie's struggle not to lash out at people and her ultimate demise when she becomes the target herself, we can't help but feel for her.

Gone Bad by Lesley Choyce offers a similar story from a boy's point of view. In this story, Cody and his friends are bullies who enjoy beating up people who are different than themselves. But through association with a girl and a new band, Cody begins to realize he has to think before he acts and that violence will not get him what he wants.

Want to make Girl Fight and Gone Bad part of a classroom read or book club selection? Click here for a downloadable discussion guide (.pdf) for these two books.

New bullying-themed sports fiction

February 22nd, 2012 by Carrie Gleason

breakawaymaking select

Bullying doesn't only happen in the school yard -- it happens when kids leave school and go to the rink, the pool or the soccer pitch, or even when they go home. It's not always easy to decide what's bullying and what's not. Books can help kids in these not-so-easy-to-figure-out-times to identify bullying.

In two recently released sports novels Making Select (by Steven Barwin) and Breakaway (by Trevor Kew), the bullying behaviour is coming from an unexpected place — the home. In both books, the main character, a hockey player in one and a soccer star in the other, has to identify and then break free of an overbearing parent's influence to decide their own path. How to stand up to an overbearing parent who has a child's best interests at heart is something that these characters have to figure out so they can be their own person -- and follow their own athletic dreams.

Special offer — Bullying-themed novel sets!

February 22nd, 2012 by Carrie Gleason

Good fiction addresses bullying themes in ways kids can relate to. Save on these sets of bullying-themed novels.

Set #1 Grade School Bullying-Themed Novels: 8 TITLES for just $30

(for grades 2-6; ages 7-12)

lillylilly new girlrafiigreat playdaredeil morganjudeginger princesszach and zoe

These eight paperback novels feature bullying as a theme, with contemporary settings and characters kids will easily relate to. Includes Zach and Zoe: Bully and the Beagle, winner of the Chocolate Lilly Award (2011) and finalist for Atlantic Canada's Hackmatack Children's Choice Award. Five other titles in the set are Canadian Children's Book Centre Best Books selections. Regular price for the set is $57.60. Special set price $30.00

Lilly Traps the Bullies

Captain Lilly and the New Girl

Raffi's New Friend

Great Play, Morgan

Daredevil Morgan

The Luck of Jude

The Ginger Princess

Zach and Zoe: Bully and the Beagle

Special Price: $30.00

You Save: $27.60

Order now!

 

Set #2 Middle School Bullying-Themed Novels: 16 TITLES for just $90

(for grades 7-8; ages 9-14)

girl fightgone badskankscabkleptooutnew bloodout of time

 

making selectbreakawayswim to winshut outfadeawaygoaltwo minutespower play

This paperback set includes realistic teen fiction and sports novels featuring boys and girls. All are aimed at reluctant readers, with reading levels of 3.0-5.0. Every title incorporates a realistic bullying theme. Many are Best Book selections by the Canadian Children's Book Centre. Regular retail is $159.20. Special set price $90.00.

Girl Fight

Gone Bad

Skank

Scab

Klepto

Out

New Blood

Out of Time

Making Select

Breakaway

Swim to Win

Shut Out

Fadeaway

A Goal in Sight

Two Minutes for Roughing

Power Play

Special Price: $90.00

You Save: $69.20

Order now!

 

Set #3 High School Bullying-Themed Novels: 8 TITLES for just $50

(for ages 13 and up)

These books feature both boys and girls, and are great for reluctant readers with reading levels of 3.5-5.0. Each is a realistic portrayal of kids faced with bullies and bullying. The stories include challenging but true-to-life situations kids face today: homophobia, sucide, and bullying. They will spark lively classroom discussions, and they can help kids dare to talk about tough real-life situations. The set is specially priced at $50. Regular retail is $79.60.

girl fightgone badskankscabkleptooutnew bloodout of time

Girl Fight

Gone Bad

Skank

Scab

Klepto

Out

New Blood

Out of Time

Special Price: $50.00

You Save: $29.20

Order Now

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