Author: Sara C.

Summer Reading for the Teen (and ‘Tween) in All of Us

I am really glad to get a chance to write a blog entry on books, as reading is one of my favorite things to do. I rarely go anywhere without a book, and I usually have an audio book playing when I drive. Young-adult fiction is a favorite genre of mine, as there is a great deal of imagination and magic to be found in many of today’s books and series. Following are some of the best young-adult books I’ve read lately.

When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead, was the 2010 Newbery Award Winner, and with good reason, as it’s a very entertaining story. There is time travel along with some very realistic pre-teen angst. And there’s just enough intrigue to keep you reading and wondering how it’s all going to end.

I loved the first two books of the Hunger Games series, and I’m sure I’m not the only adult who has pre-ordered book #3 and is looking forward to its August release date. The Hunger Games is the kind of book you just can’t put down. Set in a dystopian society after some unnamed event (or series of events) has changed the world, the story is often sad and violent but gives you much to root for, especially with a main character who is incredibly smart and heroic. I don’t think kids today would find the book too violent, but some adults may have trouble with it. (Our Editor-in-Chief Ina made me tell her if a certain character lives before she would consider picking the book up again.)

I also enjoyed reading Susan Beth Pfeffer’s Last Survivors series. (I read a lot of dystopian fiction for someone who really does not want to experience a disaster of any kind.) In this three-book series, a meteor has hit the moon and knocked it out of orbit, causing a global disaster. I think what is so great and surprisingly hopeful about books like these is that we get to see ordinary teenagers becoming heroes in extraordinary situations. These are the kind of books that really get into your head. (After book #3, This World We Live In, I started thinking about how I could stockpile bottled water and pet food.)

Another noteworthy author writing young-adult fiction is Laurie Halse Anderson. I read three of her books this year and all were very different stories. Chains is historical fiction set in the time of the Revolutionary War and features a young girl who is born a slave and becomes a spy. Twisted and Prom take place in modern times and feature believable and funny teenagers who have to deal with very modern moral dilemmas. Prom was definitely the more light-hearted book of the two, but both were great reads.

I have so many more books I could include, but I think this is probably enough for now. Does anyone out there have other suggestions for books that kids (and adults) would love?

An Education in Creativity

These days it seems that we hear more and more about the lack of art instruction in schools, or the idea that art is extracurricular rather than part of everyday education. This year, my two nephews began attending a school with a particular focus on visual and performing arts. The arts are integrated into the curriculum and are studied on their own as well, which has created an entirely new educational experience for both boys. It has been so exciting to see the effects that this kind of education has had on them.

My nephew Riley finds that most academic subjects come easily to him, and he has had a tendency to think in “black and white.” The arts curriculum has given him the chance to push himself to think more creatively and to do things that do not come as easily to him.

In their school, students create works of art to go along with the subject about which they are learning. Here’s a math project that five-year-old Colin completed at the beginning of his year in kindergarten.


And this is a project completed by six-year-old Riley. His first-grade class read Molly’s Pilgrim by Barbara Cohen. Students then created “pilgrim dolls” at home to show their family heritage. Riley had a great time creating his Irish doll and learning more about his family.

By attending a school with an arts focus, both boys get the opportunity to be exposed to both visual and performing arts in a way that they might not in a more mainstream school.  Students have many opportunities to perform with their classes in both song and dance. 

Colin, who is shy on stage, has had the opportunity to build his confidence and get over his fears.  Colin never once participated in a song or dance in preschool.  However, he participates fully with his kindergarten class.  He is becoming more comfortable dancing and singing in front of other people. Riley, who is not as shy, finds performing a fun activity in which he gains an appreciation for music and dance.  He loves having his parents come to school and watch him perform.

The school’s belief system is what creates a warm environment in which students feel comfortable expressing their creativity.  Students are regularly reminded how important it is to be kind to others and to be thoughtful in their actions.  When students perform on stage or are given awards, the other students applaud and cheer loudly, even giving award-winners high-fives as they return to their seats.

I have absolutely loved seeing how these experiences have benefited my nephews this year, and I can’t wait to see what else is in store for them as they continue their education.

So what do you think? How important are the arts in education to you? How does your school incorporate the arts into the curriculum?


Editors here at TCR fix errors in our books, whether they were included by the author or accidentally created as the book went through the typesetting process. We’re all human and we all make mistakes, but with the help of proofreaders, we hope that we can find and fix all the errors before the books are printed.

Of course, it’s a lot easier for all involved when we can find and fix the errors right away. They happen for all kinds of reasons. My favorites are the errors caused by an author who might innocently use the “change all” function when performing a spell check. Spell check doesn’t always change things as intended. A recent book I edited had references to “the priests and the celery” (rather than clergy) and “the eruption of Mr. Vesuvius.”

It can be really frustrating when something slips past the editor and the proofreaders and is included in the printed book. We all have examples that we’ve found over the years. I always remember the math book which had a graph about animal life expectancy that indicated that rats live a leisurely twenty years while cats only make it to about the age of four.

A few months ago, our editor-in-chief gave me a page from one of our new standardized test books. A customer had emailed that she and her child could not figure out how to complete the following chart, which appeared at the top of the page.

I couldn’t figure it out, and I’m pretty familiar with math. I took a lot of it in school, and my parents were both math teachers (and occasionally my math teachers). So I figured that I should have been able to complete a simple fifth-grade math problem. I had another editor try the problem, and she was stumped, too. We were both coming up with elaborate possible solutions, and had to remind ourselves that this was a book for fifth graders, and the author was a perfectly nice woman who was not out to make kids cry.

We finally decided to contact the author, and in the meantime, I was able to dig up the original page that the author sent to us. It turned out that the chart was typeset incorrectly, and no one noticed. This is what the chart should have looked like:

So much easier! Add the numbers in the second and third rows to get the numbers in the first row. Multiply the numbers in the second and third rows to get the number in the fourth row.

We really do appreciate when customers email us about the errors they have found in our books. We can usually change the page fairly quickly, send the customer a PDF of the corrected page, and include the corrected page when the book is reprinted. That way, the next fifth grader who encounters this chart won’t be quite as frustrated.