Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Laurie Halse Anderson

We had an author visit our school this week: Laurie Halse Anderson, who wrote Speak, Prom, Catalyst, and Fever 1793 for Young Adults and Thank You Sarah and other picture books for the younger set. She was fabulous! I only got to sit in on one of her talks because of my schedule but I learned a lot about writing just listening to what she told the sixth graders. She is witty and candid and really connected with the kids. After talking about her writing process she got them all involved in planning out a character for a possible story. Her web site has a blog and some great links so check it out!

I read Speak last weekend to prep for her visit, and I really liked it. Anderson’s voice rings authentic as her teenage character. She seems a bit more mature and astute than your average teen, perhaps. She sees her teachers with depth and clarity, reading the complexity of their emotional lives. This is somewhat spooky for me as a teacher. I shutter to think that my students read me that easily, although when I think about how much time they have to study me and learn my moods and all my tics and idioms, I realize they may know me better than I know them. The agony of the high school social environment is heartbreaking, and the intensity of this girl’s trauma touched me deeply. This is a book well deserving of the many awards it has won.

I started reading Catalyst and I think it is better for high school more than middle school, because of the mature themes. The leading character is anxious about getting into MIT, which I can really relate to these days as I wait to see where Buster will end up going to collage in the fall.

Fever, 1793 I read a few years ago, and loved it. It is about an epidemic of Yellow Fever in Philadelphia, as experienced by a young woman and her family, and it is very well written. Thank You Sarah is a picture book bought by my library last fall. It tells the story of Sarah Hale, whose hard work established Thanksgiving as a national holiday. It is both amusing and shows the power of all who hold a pen. Prom I haven’t gotten to read yet, because it is always checked out by our students, but it is on my list to snag if I ever see it coming in. I highly recommend this author!

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