Arlene is on the SCENE

Archive for the ‘All About Arlene’ Category

If you can believe it, we still have over thirty schools on the schedule for us to visit between now and the end of the school year. Amazing!

We’ll do a week in my home state of Rhode Island in April, visiting twelve schools from South County to Providence. We’re even going back to my old elementary school, Sherman. Can’t wait!

After Rhode Island, we’ll be Illinois, then New York, and finally, Dallas. In between I’ll be going to schools locally in Maryland and Washington, DC. Each school brings a new energy to our School Outreach Program, and every new reader is one more partner in our mission to find a cure for Charcot-Marie-Tooth.

DSCN0139I had a great time today at Stonegate Elementary in Colesville, MD. I even met the president and vice-president of the SGA. Arlene would be so excited!

The only thing that was disappointing about today’s visit was that no one told me it was Crazy Hair Day! But there was great school spirit in the library, with some pink locks and spikey ‘doos.

I hope the students I see like the book, and don’t forget that the sequel, Arlene, the Rebel Queen is now available! And once you’ve read the books, think about posting a review on Amazon, for Arlene On the Scene or RebelI know reader reviews always help me choose my next book!

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…the day is finally here. Meet Bill and Pete!

That’s right, you can finally read my very first book, Bill and Pete Go Into Space. I have to apologize for my handwriting and how the words are a bit faded.  Those of you who have heard me speak know that I wrote this story BillPete.cover02262013_00000long, long ago, in the ancient times before computers, Ipads, and Microsoft Word. Copyright date is 1978, and I was just a mere nine years old, about the same age as many of the students I meet.

When I posted it on the site this morning, I re-read it. Yikes! It doesn’t sound very good to me now. Kind of a space-age version of David and Goliath, with a little hint of my favorite show as a kid, PuffnStuff, although way less creative. And wow, there are a lot of mistakes! Spelling, grammar, punctuation. Guess I had more learning to do.

So I’m a little embarrassed to put it up here, but then again, maybe that’s a good thing. One of my main points when I talk to students is that when the environment around us is supportive, when we are all practicing our empathy, I can feel safe in sharing my true self, in embracing who I am. And I love writing. Sometimes I’m not that great at it. So?

You can click here to read “Bill and Pete Go Into Space.” Like I said, I personally don’t think it’s amazing. What it could probably use are some PICTURES! If you want to send me your drawings, I would love to see them. If you say it’s okay, I’ll post them online. You can email them to me at carol at hnf-cure.org, or click here to email me directly, and I can send you an address where you could mail me a copy of your picture.

Go Bill and Pete! 🙂

CLC Seal of Approval simsilvfoilWhile it’s not available in stores quite yet, Arlene, the Rebel Queen is being deemed a good read by some! Children’s Literary Classics gave the sequel to Arlene On the Scene its Seal of Approval, saying it “belongs on every youngster’s reading list.” Read the full review.

We’re so pleased that they liked the book but more importantly, that they understood our point. Well, pointS. We had a lot of them. We wanted to talk to kids about change, and that making change happen can be complicated and risky. As we finish honoring Martin Luther King, swear Barak Obama in as president, and head into African-American history month, let’s be honest–change is huge. It can be frightening. But we can learn so much from looking back on changes we’ve been through, and recognizing the sacrifices made by the leaders of change.

But given that, you–yes, YOU–can be an agent of change. We all can. And should! In our homes, our schools, our communities, even the world. Rebel Queen was written to demonstrate to young readers that they have the power to make positive changes in their corner of the world. Right now!

Finally, we wanted to talk about the interpersonal relationship between Arlene and her friend Lauren. Watching our daughters weave their way through the jungle that is the tween/teen social scene, Marybeth and I wanted to dive right in to these issues–how do friendships evolve over time? How does one navigate through a waning friendship and emerge with self-confidence in tact? And what does difference and disability add to that dynamic?

Well, not to say we answered all those questions. As Mr. Goldberg says in the book, many of life’s biggest questions simply don’t have answers. Asking the question and thinking about it, that’s the point. Arlene isn’t thrilled with this idea, but she rolls with it. Which in the end is what she learns we have to do with change.

Liu_RebelQueen_FrontIt’s almost here! The sequel to Arlene On the Scene will be available March 26th,  pretty much everywhere. If your bookstore doesn’t have it in stock, tell them they should order it! 🙂

Kids are always asking us, what will the sequel be about? Well, the story is about change: how to make it and how to take it. Arlene and her friends land in a heap of trouble when they try to lead a revolution to make Greenwood School more “green.” There are new characters: Mr. Goldberg, the new fifth grade teacher, and Arlene’s Uncle James, who is a little different, just like Arlene. Oh, and the really tough change is that Arlene and Lauren kind of “break up.”

amazon buy buttonBut if you ask me, this book is about something bigger than just these plot points. While the first book told the story of Arlene learning how her disability can be part of a positive and powerful vision of herself, the sequel is about Arlene unleashing that very power. This book is about how one person–one young person–make that one young person who happens to live with a disability–can indeed change the world. Thank you, Margaret Mead, for pointing this out.

Check out an excerpt from the book here. Get yourself a copy, and if you’re local or if I’m coming to your school soon, you know I’ll be happy to sign it for you, talk with you about what you thought of the story. My ideas come from real life, and the kids I’ve talked to during these past two years have driven the content of this book, from the Green Team at Olney Elementary, to the great essays written by students at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, to my friends in my home state of Rhode Island: Kizirian Elementary, Washington Oaks Elementary, Narragansett Elementary–so many great ideas from all the kids I’ve met! I keep a treasure box of the thank-you letters and cards I receive from students, and every last one is in there. Just like we talk about when I visit your school, we are all so incredibly connected. I don’t give a speech; we have a conversation.

Don’t forget to keep us in mind for an author visit and presentation about disability and difference this semester. Just send me an email. And don’t forget to get your copy of Arlene, the Rebel Queen.

The art of rebellion lives on!

Wow what a fun time we had recently at Fallsmead and Arcola Elementary Schools here in Montgomery County, MD. I spoke to over 300 students at each school and had a blast. At Fallsmead, many of the kids had read much of the book, so they were really into the story and character. I received amazing letters from them, with so many great questions for me! I’d love to answer them all, but I’ll answer the most important one: yes, I’ll come back as soon as the sequel is out. I have to drop off a copy for your library! Then I can answer any other questions you have. Don’t forget, you can always contact me here by email.

I have to send a special thank you to the student at Fallsmead who taped coins to her letter to be donated to find a cure for Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. I gave that right to the Hereditary Neuropathy Foundation. Thank you so much!

At Arcola, the kids and I had a great time! Of course, I wished I had known it was pajama day! But it was great to meet all of you, with your great questions and enthusiasm for writing. You had great ideas for the sequel–and prequel! I can’t wait to come back and drop off a copy of the sequel in March. Let’s see if it meets your expectations!

We had a great time this weekend at Barrington Books‘ Children’s Festival! They do an amazing job of hosting events like these. When you walk into their store, you see why independent bookstores are where it’s at. From the variety of book offerings, to the amazing stock of gifts and things, to the knowledgeable and incredibly helpful staff, it’s clear that big box stores will never replace an oasis like this!

The other thing that indie stores like this offer is a strong connection to the community. It feels like home walking into the place. Staff give a warm hello, ask how your mother is doing, or whether your son won the big baseball game last weekend. That’s the kind of place it is.

Finally, our fellow panelists were amazing: Mary Jane Begin, Peter Mandel, Patty Bowman, Eileen Rosenthal, and Grace Lin. It was great to meet you! Read all about the panel–including a fascinating “Inside the Writer’s Studio” commentary–at Barrington Books’ blog (say that three times fast). Also a big thank you to Anika Denise who moderated the panel. Check out her books and blog too!

I watched the debate along with the throngs. First thought, what a way to spend an anniversary. 🙂

But when I sat down to watch, I called the kids in. At ages 13 and almost 12, I figured it’s about time. Time for them to participate and engage. They need to pay attention to what’s happening around them, learn to keep learning, and become part of the discourse.

OK, well, it was a challenge. The older one checked her email, glancing up once in a while, and the younger one arranged his mini-M&M’s into shapes on the coffee table. But then they did begin to listen, especially to my shouts at the television. And then the 13 year old went off: how are you going to lower taxes for everyone and still have enough money to pay for everyone?! The younger one looked up at me to ask, “Wouldn’t Obama have done that already?”

Ah, there it is. The healthy questioning that is the foundation of this country. (It’s true. See Stan Mack’s great new book.) The refusal to simply accept what the government or the leaders or the establishment says just because they’re appear to be at the top. The masses have something to say too. We have brains. And our leaders have no secret formula. It’s all up for debate.

I’m hoping that our next book in the Arlene series, Arlene, Rebel Queen, can help to empower our children to ask questions, speak up, think for themselves. Arlene and her friends learn the right–and wrong–way to create change. The goal is to convince the young that they have a voice in all this too.

One of my favorite songs, my favorite groups, speaks to this beautifully:

On Children by Sweet Honey in the Rock

 


Free Teacher's Guide! REVISED for Common Core!

Teachers: Print script from "Rebel Queen" for classroom.

Download Extension Activity here

If you've heard of Bill and Pete, click here

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Arlene On the Scene is proudly sponsored by the Hereditary Neuropathy Foundation.

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