Great deals on quality used books for kids!

The Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick, Maine is having their annual book sale on Saturday, November 16 from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm in the Morrell Meeting Room. All  items are on sale for $1 or less. ONE DOLLAR! You just can’t beat that but to sweeten the deal, if you come, you’ll get to say hello to local author/illustrator Charlotte Agell who will be on hand from 10-noon to sketch children’s portraits. My kids (now teens) still love the portraits she did when they were small. Hope to see you there!

The lovely Charlotte Agell. Her YA, picture books, and chapter book images are below.

We Shall Overcome: With the help of great books and movies that help us remember history

Last night I saw Lee Daniel’s The Butler and it was a privilege.

The story takes on a sweeping scope of civil rights history from the point of view of Cecil Gaines, a White House butler, from his cotton field origins in 1926 to the present day. You can see the timeline here. The film is an amazing juxtaposition of Cecil’s life and the life of his son Louis. Louis, leaves for college and joins the Freedom Riders. He sits at the all white counters of Woolworths.

Teachers interested in this time period should look at Andrea Davis Pinkney’s, SIT IN.

Louis’s activism lands him in prison with Dr. King, and leads him to the Black Panthers.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail is available in book form and on the internet.
Do not miss Rita Williams-Garcia’s, ONE CRAZY SUMMER.

The whole time, his father is serving white presidents and their guests, excelling at a profession that requires him to be invisible. The fabulous editing of this film allows the viewer to see the “subversive, not subservient” (a line from Dr. King in the movie) contribution of the butler on the path to equality. While many in the African-American movie have been concerned about the constant characterization of Blacks as maids and butlers, I found the back and forth between Cecil and his son balancing.

Kadir Nelson’s fabulous illustrations are always awe inspiring.

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The timing of the film release, so close to the 50th Anniversary of The March on Washington, could not have been accidental, and while I wish that my 12 and 14 year olds had been in the theater with me (They wanted to see Percy Jackson Sea of Monsters and came out hating it. “Nothing like the book.”) I’m even more pleased to see that THE WATSON’S GO TO BIRMINGHAM has been made into a Hallmark movie to air on September 20th.


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Mr. Sharp and Mr. Schu have an amazing post and giveaway at Watch. Connect. Read. about the movie. They post a link to teacher resources and a great collection of video interviews with Christopher Paul Curtis, the cast, and other folks involved in the making of the movie. I hope you’ll check it out. The most moving moment in the trailer is this quote from Bryce Clyde Jenkins, the young actor who plays Kenny Watson.

“The thing that I like most about this story is that it’s a real historical event. This allows people to get a perspective of what people went through so people like me could be where they are now. It’s a really life changing lesson. It makes you feel grateful for what you have.”

Go see Lee Daniel’s The Butler. Then, on Friday, September 20th is a Friday make a date with your children, or have a house party and invite the neighborhood to see and discuss The Watson’s Go to Birmingham. You won’t be sorry.

Five Reasons You Should Hire Me to Write the Curriculum Guide for Your New Book!

Many teachers are meeting this week to put last minute touches on their fall curriculum. Some will use the same novels and picture books they’ve used in the past, but some will be on the lookout for new books that will excite their students, shake up their usual plans, and meet Common Core requirements. While teachers enjoy creating their own curriculum, various meetings, new requirements, and weeks of standardized testing often send them looking for prepared activities. When you provide teachers with a Teacher/Reader Guide, they are more likely to buy a class or reading group set of your book to go with it.

Here are five reasons you should hire me to write the curriculum guide for your children’s or young adult book.

  1. I see curriculum creation from both sides of the equation. I have an Masters in Education with a concentration in Teaching and Learning and over twelve years of classroom experience. I have an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts where I focussed on Writing for Children and Young Adults. My novels are under representation and my poetry has been published by national magazines.
  2. I listen well and love collaboration. If you already have a vision for your guide, I’ll listen and give you my honest feedback on how your ideas will work in the classroom. I am an idea person. If you’re not sure what should go into the guide, don’t worry. I love collaboration and will work with you to brainstorm the best guide possible.
  3. I use InDesign, the design industry standard, to create unique, clean, and artistic designs for your guide. With the cooperation of your publisher, I can include design elements and illustrations from your book to create a final document that is consistent for marketing purposes. The final document comes to you as a PDF that anyone can access from a website, that you can send in an email, or that you can print to give away at book signings and class/library visits.
  4. I am a critical reader. One of the most interesting comments I’ve had from clients is that I saw their book as a reader and that they were surprised and excited by the questions I developed. I bring a perspective and distance that is difficult to find for those who’ve been involved in the creation of the book . 
  5. I am experienced. You’ll find testimonials from past clients on my Creative Curriculum page at this website. I’m happy to give you reference contacts as well. Click on the PDF links to see some of the guides I’ve already created. You’ll find my fees & services PDF as well. 

I want to create a guide that gets your book in front of students. Please contact me at annajboll [at] gmail [dot] com. I’d love to speak with you!

The Photo Journalism Continues- Monhegan Island

Yesterday, I posted some pictures of my journey to NYC in hopes that I’d make up for the huge lag in written posts that I’ve made this summer. Today, I’m taking you on a virtual tour of Monhegan Island and Midcoast Maine.

I bid on the ferry ride and stay at the “Trailing Yew” inn through the Maine Women’s Lobby auction. MWL is doing amazing things to support women and families in Maine and I thank them!

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First stop: Mt. Batte in Camden. Think… Down to the Sea With Mr. McGee.


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My cairn from the rocky mountain top at the end of a lovely hike. My husband and I were pleased to find wild blueberries nestled amongst the rocks and nibbled just like SAl. Or were they tremendous mouthfuls like Little Bear?!?


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In Rockland… a fabulous dinner at FOG Bar and Cafe. BBQ Tofu topped with tempura pickle strips on a bed of cilantro pesto cauliflower.

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Followed by breakfast at the Atlantic Baking Company…

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YUM!!!

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On the ferry to Monhegan from Port Clyde.

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The view from our room at The Trailing Yew. Fabulous food, a great group of artist visitors, and oil lamps. So fun!

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The island was all abloom with flowers– the air full of sea roses and balsam scent. These climbing roses caught my eye.

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Me on “Pebble Beach.” The “pebbles” were more like boulders or as we said, dinosaur eggs.

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So majestic and magical! We hiked the trails all around the island and let me tell you… it was some strenuous hiking.

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A wonderful sunset on a VERY hot day. Good-by Monhegan. We’ll be back!

Melanie Crowder, PARCHED Visits Creative Chaos!

Today I am thrilled to have my dear friend and VCFA roommate, Melanie Crowder, here at Creative Chaos to celebrate the launch of her debut middle grade novel, PARCHED!


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Link to the first few chapters of the book!

When I was 17 I took a “gap” year and worked for an organization called American Rivers. American Rivers works to preserve 1% of America’s rivers as free flowing, not dammed or channeled, using the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. During my time at the organization, I learned that water for Denver, Colorado came from dammed rivers far away. I was an East coast girl. I had no ideas that there was any problem getting water. Step one. Turn on tap. Step two. Drink, water garden, wash car, etc. Turns out that my experience was not universal. (Figuring this out is part of growing up, right?)

Millions of people lack safe water right now.

Some people see water as a human right and others see water as a commodity. Still lack of clean water affects humans no matter their socio economic level. It is essential. So, I’ve asked Melanie to take a break from talking specifically about her book. You can find SO much more about her book and her experience as an author at other stops on her fabulous blog tour.

Today, we are going to talk about H2O.

Melanie, thank you so much for being here!

Thank you, Anna!

Living with you was such an education. You live right here in the good old US of A, on Colorado’s Front Range and in Colorado, and EVERYONE is concerned about water. What water limitations do you experience living in Denver?

I grew up in Oregon, where between lakes and rivers and the mighty Pacific, there is no shortage of water to dip your feet or your whole body into. When I moved to Colorado over ten years ago, it was the strangest thing—on a summer day nearing 100˚, I couldn’t find a single place to cool off in the water. The creeks were too shallow for swimming, the rivers in town were too polluted (here is an article on the Platte River’s sordid history), and to my amazement, many of the reservoirs were fenced off specifically to keep people out. Sure, I had read Cadillac Desert in college, but now I was living in it, and for a west coast girl with no place nearby to swim that wasn’t a concrete box filled with chlorine, I may as well have been in the middle of the apocalypse!

How is water rationed in drought conditions?

Water isn’t rationed here, so much as divvied up. I can run the water inside my house all day if I want, because I have paid for it. But it is illegal for me to collect water from my roof and use it to water my tomato plants. That water belongs to someone who has a deed for the creek at the end of my street. Colorado water laws date back to pioneer days, when ranchers and farmers diverted rivers into miles of irrigation ditches and dammed reservoirs to keep their crops and herds alive through the scorching summers. Hence, every drop of water that falls from rainclouds or melts from peaks 14,000 feet high is owned by someone.

Unfortunately, old ways die hard. And we’re still making changes in a reactionary way. Rather than enforcing consistent rationing policies, we wait for a severe drought to limit the duration and time of day when people can water their lawns.

Colorado is made up of transplants from all over the country—people who have been drawn here by the mountains and our work hard/play hard way of life. And all of us transplants have to adjust to the fact that it just doesn’t rain here like it does on the coasts where we came from. (And that having a lawn in the high desert is in itself a ridiculous concept!)

What if you just don’t follow the rules?

You can get a ticket, but honestly, I don’t think people are paying much attention to the restrictions. We’re still a long way from where we should be. It’s going to take a big cultural shift for people here to see water as a thing to be preserved, instead of a thing to be used.

but I am beginning to see more xeriscape cropping up, and the laws are very slowly evolving. And I have to hope that discussions like this will raise awareness, sound the alarm, and bring about change. Here is an article that paints a frightening picture for the entire Western US if we don’t begin to take water conservation much more seriously.

Water in a drought-ridden area could be leveraged as power. How is water used to exploit and control in PARCHED?

In PARCHED, to quote Megan Cox Gourdon of the Wall Street Journal, “fresh water is not so much the coin of the realm as the only thing of value.” To give you a little backstory for how PARCHED’s setting came to be so dire, first mining poisoned the aquifer under the city that the people relied on for drinking water, while rising sea levels turned the coastal river brackish and displaced entire communities. Then a drought hit and wells dried up. Chaos resulted. Anyone with the means to flee did, leaving the city to be ravaged by gangs.

These gangs controlled what little water was left. When a society collapses in on itself like this, it is the children who suffer most. That is where PARCHED begins, with two children whose lives have been utterly devastated; two children who must battle their grief, their instinct to distrust, and the elements if they are going to survive.

I’ll point you to another article, this one about water in Yemen. When I was writing PARCHED, at times it was almost as if I flinched while I typed. I knew, because of the research I had done on my book’s setting, that the premise was frighteningly realistic. I didn’t want it to become real. I want us as a global society to pull back from the edge and set a different course before we go sailing over that cliff.
People who are working in water engineering and education suggest a Multi part solution to bring clean water to those who don’t have it that includes technology, education, empowerment, and accountability. What examples of this do you see in Denver?

Technology: Just this spring, the Colorado legislature passed a greywater bill that is a big step in the right direction. Put simply, greywater is the process by which water at a facility is used more than once before it is sent to the treatment plant. For example, the water that goes back down the drain at a drinking fountain can be used a second time to water the trees at a park. In a home, rinsewater from a washing machine or shower drain (in which biodegradable products are used) could be diverted for landscape irrigation.

Education: Denver Water has been working to change water consumption habits through advertising campaigns for years. Denver Public Schools has an entire sustainability department.

Empowerment: Citizens are working to keep Hydraulic Fracturing at bay, and municipalities are working to ban the practice within their boundaries. (Read more about the issue here.)

Accountability: This is the big question mark. We have a stubborn streak in the Mountain West. As CO State Senator Chris Romer said, after a failed attempt to pass a rainwater harvesting bill, “Welcome to water politics in Colorado. You don’t touch my gun, you don’t touch my whiskey, and you don’t touch my water.”
What didn’t I ask you that you’d like to say?

Only that lately I hear people referencing “first world problems” and “third world problems” i.e. not being able to find the right shoes to go with that dress versus not having access to indoor plumbing. I don’t love these terms (though I think people use them to remind themselves to be grateful for our quality of life; to not sweat the small stuff). I think these terms are one more way of putting people into “us” and “them” categories. But I’ll use those terms now, because I think they fit the way we think about water.

We think of water as a third world problem. A problem that “they” have, “over there.” But water is everybody’s problem. Sure, there are degrees. Many people in the developing world don’t have access to clean running water, which leads to problems ranging from child mortality to a lack of educational opportunities for girls. However, in this country, where access to running water is taken for granted, the purity of that water absolutely should not be taken for granted. Our way of life is poisoning our fresh water supply—from prescription drugs and pesticides to oil and gas exploration. This is a problem for all of us, in every corner of the globe. It’s a problem that deserves our attention.

Get ready for Melanie Crowder’s visit tomorrow!

Tomorrow!!! I’ll be hosting Melanie Crowder debut author of PARCHED (which just received the silver Parent’s Choice Award), so… all this week I’ve been posting about water.


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Water is Life

Want to know more? Visit the UNICEF Clean Water Campaign site.

Read this quick summary of the book and then go HERE to read the first few chapters! Warning: You’ll want to read the whole thing!

Using multiple narrators, Melanie tells the story of two children, Musa and Sarel, who struggle to find water, forge a friendship, and survive in a land stricken by extreme drought. The book is a beautifully written, slim volume. In addition to the themes of friendship and survival, the two children and a pack of dogs, lead by the third narrator a Rhodesian Ridgeback named Nandi, delve into issues of family and loyalty. Did I mention beautifully written and wonderfully paced? Oh yes, and beautifully written. You MUST read this book and give it to teachers and librarians and middle grade students.

Water week on Creative Chaos: Melanie Crowder visits on Friday

On Friday, I’ll be hosting Melanie Crowder debut author of PARCHED (which just received the silver Parent’s Choice Award), so… all this week I’ll be talking about water.


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I do not consider Melanie’s book a dystopian or alternative world story because millions of people lack safe water right now.

42 million in Latin America and the Caribbean

355 million in Africa

551 million in South, West, and Central Asia

210 million in Southeast, East Asia and Oceania

See this map. http://water.org/water-crisis/water-facts/water/

If you’d like to follow Melanie Crowder’s Blog Tour, take a look at the schedule below:

Melanie Crowder’s PARCHED Blog Tour

Book Review Wednesday: Deadweather and Sunrise, by Geoff Rodkey

If your brother is named Adonis, your sister, Venus and you are named Eggbert, you know you are starting out life at a disadvantage. The disadvantaged youth in this situation is the main character in DEADWEATHER AND SUNRISE (G.P. Putnam, March 2013), Book One of Geoff Rodkey’s, The Chronicles of Egg trilogy.


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Egg lives on Deadweather Island. Yes, the name does say it all– hot, heavy air is stalled above his volcanic island home. His father runs an ugly fruit plantation with pirate laborers. Egg aches for intellectual stimulation, which he fails to get from the new tutor who is almost as obnoxious, dumb, and lazy as Egg’s siblings. The pirates that populate the waters around the island and the port towns are thieves and murderers, and I appreciated that Rodkey maintained their nefarious ways.

Across the waters is the island of Sunrise where the weather is as beautiful as the people who live and visit. Most beautiful to Eggbert is Millicent Pembroke, 13-year-old daughter of local businessman, Roger Pembroke. Pembroke’s wealth and adoration of Eggbert’s father quickly endears him to their family, but the reader comes to understand that Pembroke’s friendliness may be a cover for a hidden agenda.

There is plenty of humor in Deadweather and Sunrise. At the “street meat” vendor, Eggbert is stuck eating the cheapest fare while his tutor, brother, and sister use most of the money. The following exchange between the tutor and the street vendor had my kids in stitches:

Percy turned his head to look at me. I tried to seem bored, because I knew the hungrier I looked, the crueler his order would be.
“Got any pickled rat?”
I must have looked like I was starving to death.
“Sir, this is a reputable establishment. We serve no rat.”
“What’s your bottom shelf?”
“Innards.”
“What kind?”
“It’s a mix. Brains, pancreas, bit of spleen–”
“Give us that.”
“Comes on a bun.”
“Skip the bun.”

Say “Bit of spleen,” out loud. Okay, now say it to an 11 and 13-year-old boy. I swear you’ll get belly laughs.

The beginning of the book is a little slow to start. Rodkey is a seasoned screenwriter, Daddy Day Care and RV, and for me the first act included too much scene setting and backstory. Once I got caught up in the story, Rodkey had me rooting for Eggbert. Throughout his journey, Egg meets with all kinds of people. He loses his family, is threatened with death, meets vicious pirates and even more vicious cruise boat tourists. He makes friends, falls in love, finds treasure, and battles the bad guys.

Eggberts growth comes in part from his realization that all of us– wealthy, worker, or pirate– are human and as such, we all have a dark and often self-serving side. At least, he notes, the pirates are what they say they are.

From the Chronicles of Egg press release:

Egg - Rodkey head shot 1Geoff Rodkey grew up in Freeport, Illinois, a place with no ugly fruit plantations, volcanoes, or gainfully employed pirates, although someone did briefly want to kill him when he was a teenager. He currently lives with his family on an island just off the coast of North America.


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The second in the trilogy, NEW LANDS (May 2013), has already been released.

Sporty Girl Books blog debuts tomorrow June 1st!

When I saw on Twitter that my friends Kris Asselin and Stacy Mozer were starting  Sporty Girl Books group blog:

“…devoted to girls (and the people who love them) who love reading, writing, talking, watching, and playing sports.

I said sign me up! Well, no. That’s not what I said at all. I said, “I’d love to do a guest post every once in a while.” But if you know me, and many of you do, you know that I have problems with one word. “No.” So when they said, do you want to join the group, you’ll only have to post once-a-month. I said, “Sure!”

You know what? I am not sorry at all. Kris and Stacy also recruited Robin Hall another up and coming writer, yoga instructor, rock climber and all around athlete, and I’ve had a blast getting to know her. Over the last weeks we’ve hammered out a new logo (see below), content ideas and blogging schedule (we’ll each post once-a-month).

At SPORTY GIRL, we want to give all girls the chance to love, watch, play, read, and write about the sports they love. We look forward to the day when the words, “You play like a girl,” is the best compliment anyone can receive.

The blog debuts tomorrow, June 1st and you can expect interviews with authors, profiles of girl athletes, book reviews, essays, current event tie-ins, and (drum roll please) GIVEAWAYS! In fact, to start things off we’ll have a rafflecopter giveaway of some of our favorite and new sporty girl books. The contest will run through the month. What do you have to do? Follow the Sporty Girl Books blog and our Twitter feed @SportyGirlBooks. For extra points you can follow our personal blogs and Twitter feed as well.

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Most important we need you to spread the word to all the sporty girls in your life. We’d love for the girls to be involved in the blog. In the “Your Stories” section of the blog, girls can write about their own athletic stories, good or bad. (All stories will be reviewed before publication.)

So come visit us, enter the giveaway, and spread the word!