Thursday, July 23, 2009

Teens Rewrite Mice Don't Taste Like Chicken

Yesterday, I conducted a workshop at Lower Macungie Library in Macungie, PA.  With the assistance of ten talented young ladies (including Erin Stephens, Children's Librarian extraordinaire), we rewrote a portion of Mice Don't Taste Like Chicken. To prepare, I briefed the crew in CRAFT vs. CRAP.  Writing is a craft.  "An artful placement of word with intention"as author Lester Laminack says.  We discussed CReating Artful Focused Technique (CRAFT) vs. Chaotic, Random Awful unPlanned (or their acronym for CRAP).

I reviewed the scene:  Best friends Drew and Jackson are cleaning the mouse cages in Mr. Cross' classroom during the first week of school.  Jackson is a smart aleck while Drew fights to remain responsible.  I facilitated, they created.  Here is the product:

            “This really sucks! Why exactly did Mr. Cross give us this job again?” Jackson said. He leaned against the table next to the mouse’s cage.

            “Well, we’re doing this for extra credit. Why do you have to be such a smart aleck?”

            “I didn’t want to do this stupid job. I’d rather be in gym class pumping basketballs for the rest of the day.” Jackson dashed to Mr. Cross’ chair and sat down. He swung his head back and swiveled around.  “You’re such a teacher’s pet, Drew.”

            Drew meandered over to the cage and removed the lid. He picked up a scooper and scooped up a wad of shavings.

            Jackson scooted the chair beside Drew. “I can’t believe you’re actually touching that!”

            “I’m not touching it!”

            Jackson grasped Drew’s wrist and sprinkled the shavings over his head. “Haha! Doodoo head!”

            Drew’s eyes squinted, his face reddened and he clenched his fists. Drew flung his arm across the table. Glass shattered. His eyes glistened with tears. The blood trickled down his hand.

            Jackson shrieked and sprinted across the room.  Mr. Cross appeared in the doorway. Jackson collided with him and fell to the floor.

Kudos to my fantastic crew of Danielle, Isabel, Hirra, Bethany, Veronica, Sarah, Madeleine, Fiona, and Maggie!  Bethany, we accomplished your goal of Drew's anger issues :)  Isabel...has your face regained its color yet?


"Live, Learn, Teach"

Monday, July 20, 2009

Hunting Prometheus

The Florida Everglades have been invaded.  The invaders:  an estimated 100,000 Burmese pythons native to the rainforests of Southeast Asia.  With no natural predators to speak of in Florida, these pythons consume rats, deer, and other native species.  In a rare case, an escaped pet python strangled a 2-year old girl in Central Florida.

But how did the invasion occur?  Enter, the pet owner.  Burmese pythons are not your average snake.  These massive creatures reach sizes exceeding 26-feet long and 200 lbs.  Pet owners purchase Burmese pythons without full knowledge of the care necessary, then later release the snakes into the wild because they can no longer manage the size and care of the snake.  Also, some Burmese pythons managed escape from pet stores after Hurricane Andrew ravaged the area in 1992. 

In my new middle grade fiction novel, Mice Don't Taste Like Chicken, Drew's teacher, Mr. Cross, owns a 13-foot Burmese python named Prometheus.  I experienced Prometheus firsthand as a sixth-grader in my own classroom.  He's the real deal--13 feet of solid snake muscle.  But my teacher purchased him knowing full well the care Prometheus required. Prometheus never injured a soul aside from the rats fed to him.

Florida officials began a hunt last week to eradicate Burmese pythons like Prometheus from the area to protect their native species.  Captured snakes will be euthanized on the spot and not returned to the pet trade.

for footage of a capture.

My question:  Is this fair?  Do you believe officials are justified in removing Burmese pythons from the Everglades?  Share your thoughts here.

"Live, Learn, Teach"

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