Friday, April 19, 2013

Skyping with Laurel Snyder

On Monday, we had the fantastic privilege of Skyping with Laurel Snyder about Bigger Than a Bread Box, which I read aloud to a class of fourth graders.  There are so many amazing things we learned from this Skype session!  First, I will focus on what an amazing book BTABB is. 

Bigger than a Bread Box

My Goodreads review:

Reread. I chose this as a read aloud this year, and I'm so glad I did! It is perfect to read aloud - full of suspense, magic, heartache, realistic family and school problems, etc. Time and time again the kids protested when I stopped for the day. I just finished it with one my classes this week. I love when kids point out things I didn't notice the first time I read something.  One girl heard the description and saw the illustration of the bread box having roses on it and pointed out the symbolism in the beautiful rose having thorns. Wow. Hadn't thought about that at all, but how perfectly that goes with the plot and theme! Kids also talked about the gulls being symbols of anger at first and then home. Originally read 10/27/11, original review: This book wasn't what I expected at all. I thought it was going to be a book about magic, but it was really a book about a 12-year-old girl caught up in her parents' problems, learning about family, herself, and home. Rebecca is growing up in Baltimore, enjoying seagulls, books, and playing with her best friend, Mary Kate. However, everything changes when her mother drags her and her little brother off to Atlanta to live with her grandmother after a fight with her father. Rebecca doesn't even have time to say goodbye to Mary Kate. Once in Atlanta, miserable and looking for a phone with which to call her dad, Rebecca goes up to her grandmother's attic. While rummaging around, Rebecca finds an old, tin bread box that catches her eye, and she brings it down to her room. She realizes when she wishes for things that are smaller than a bread box, they appear inside! On a Friday, her grandma decides to enroll her in her new school. Then she decides she needs to stay at school that day! Rebecca is horrified that it's mid-morning on a Friday! Luckily, she thinks she's hit the jackpot when she's introduced to an obvious cool girl, Hannah, and her "posse." However, Rebecca thinks she sees their true colors right away when they start teasing Megan about her curly, red hair. Meanwhile, Rebecca keeps wishing for things like a phone, iPod, a perfect gift for her mother, a small t.v., etc., and they show up in the bread box. Things get really complicated, though, when she wishes for a jacket just like Hannah's. I can't tell you more, or this will be a spoiler. Let's just say, this isn't just any story about magic. I love that Snyder includes "Hungry Heart" in the story, by Bruce Springsteen, of whom I'm a HUGE fan!
Now, on to the Skype visit:
Words of Wisdom:
- Laurel told us the story of her childhood in which her own parents divorced, and she started writing. 
Lesson:  Take something difficult or painful and find a way to make something good.
- She told us about her best friend in grade school and how they shared their writing and dreams about writing.
Lesson:  Writing is meant to be shared!
- Laurel went to college to become a writer, but she wasn't happy.  It was too serious, and she was writing for other people.  She decided to go back to what her true calling was, writing fun and magical stories. 
Lesson:  Do something that you're passionate about and find what gives you energy.
- It took nine years for her to publish Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains.  Her manuscript was rejected over 40 times, but she kept making improvements to her writing based on the comments and criticism she received.
Lesson:  Don't give up and learn from others to make yourself better.
- Laurel writes when she turns off all her technology.  She told us her first writing idea happened when she was on a long car ride and she got bored.  She told us, "Let yourself be bored!"
Lesson: Creativity happens when your mind is quiet.
- Laurel writes a lot.  Most of what she writes never gets published.  She also draws even though she doesn't think she's good at it.
Lesson: Takes risks and learn to fail.  You don't have to be perfect.  Have fun and be creative!  If you create a lot of things, it helps you work out feelings and ideas, and something really special might emerge!
Laurel took her time with all the kids as they asked her questions - elaborating and explaining.  She made each student feel special!  We were ALL inspired and excited by her visit.  The next day, the kids each wrote a thank you note.  I loved reading them, and I know Laurel will, too.  Here are snippets:
"I was taking your advice, and I was trying to get bored.  I was looking at my ceiling and saw a shadow that looked like a scroll.  I decided I would make a story about some kind of secret scroll.  I sat on my bed to think of a name for my book.  I came up with Charles and the Secret Scroll.  Thank you for giving me and other kids good advice." - Carter
"I liked your dog!  She was sooooo cute!  You also really inspired me not to give up and to follow my dreams.  I want to be an author just like you when I grow up." - Maddie
"I liked your story and how Rebecca's face on the cover looked like you!  I also liked how you named Lew after your son." - Jenna
"It really surprised me when Rebecca yelled at her mom.  I would never have the courage to do that.  I would definitely have the courage to YELL at my brother, though." - Morgan
"Thank you for showing us your dog, Lucy.  That trick she could do with her ears was so cute. LOL!" - Justin
"You inspired me and probably the entire class to never give up.  Thomas Edison failed 100 times before he got the light bulb to work.  You failed (no offense - I'm just trying to find examples) 49 times, but did you give up?  NO you kept on writing until you got it right." - Alec
"This was my first time Skyping with anyone, but I was especially excited to Skype with an author!  My most favorite character of all in Bigger Than a Bread Box was Rebecca because she stood up for herself when Hannah was being mean." - Jenna M.
"Thank you for Skyping with us.  You helped me with my life because my parents split up.  You are very kind and funny, so for my first Skype experience that was very interesting and fun.  I was the short person who asked you who was your favorite character and why." - Alessandra
"What surprised me was that you were a writer in 3rd grade!  If I tried to write in 3rd grade and share, I would be soooo embarrassed - just like you!" - Jake
"I can't believe how you came up with Bigger Than a Bread Box.  It's weird how people come up with stuff like that." - Sarah
"I loved your book!  It is now one of my favorite books.  My favorite character was Rebecca.  I liked how curious she was and how she stood up for herself.  I also liked Lew.  He was funny." - Audrey
"I loved your illustrations.  They were so creative and mythical.  I especially liked Sparklefart.  I think it would be really cool to start a book about Sparklefart." - Rebecca
"Thank you for Skyping with us and right that night I took my composition notebook and started to write a book called Magic Comes With a Price.  I am so glad that you Skyped with us because you are the one that inspired me." - Braden
"Something that you said that surprised me was that you said being bored is good, but I kind of get that because if you're never bored you don't have any room for imagination in your world, and imagination is good for some writing." - Christian
"Thank you for Skyping with us.  I learned to never give up and to pursue you dreams.  I was really inspired by your story and I hope I could be like you one day." - McKenna
"You inspired me to never give up.  I will just keep trying.  I want to have a book published, but I will have to keep trying.  I'm looking forward to the companion novel." - Savannah
We CAN'T WAIT to read her next novel, a companion to Bigger Than a Bread Box, called Seven Stories Up.  THANK YOU so much, Laurel Snyder, for your generosity, creativity, and inspiration!


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