Category Archives: Twitter

Why Middle Grade Fantasy Novels can be Educational

Olivia Brophie and the Pearl of Tagelus by Christopher Tozier

Olivia Brophie and the Pearl of Tagelus by Christopher Tozier

Fantasy novels get the rap for being escapist fluff.  We all know that. Warlocks, vampires, elves, and psychic savants hardly seem to be the stuff that PhDs are made of.  That’s why kids and adults love to read fantasy. They don’t like to think, right?

Scholarship on this subject has focused on how the fantasy genre impacts the development of childhood imagination and emotional maturity . Very little has been said about the power of fantasy as a springboard to academic education.

A big motivator to write my first middle reader fantasy was noticing how spectacular children are at learning and understanding complete nonsense. (insert joke here…) Fantasy novels are chock-full of ridiculous words defying pronunciation much less intuitive understanding. Yet within the context of the story, these words make sense to them. In fact, many readers of fantasy revel in the specialist vocabularies:  place names with no vowels, magical objects that can’t be pronounced, and entire fictional languages.

I find middle-grade readers to be the most vocabulary-tolerant of any reader. One reason for this may be that everything is a little harder for them to read. They are faced with new vocabulary on a regular basis so it really doesn’t put them off when they need to look up a word or take special care to sound something out.

Adults on the other-hand, often lose the patience necessary to investigate a word.  Adults want the machinery of the art to disappear behind the story. Instead, their preferred challenge lies with subtext and abstraction. Perhaps this is why we, as adult writers, often underestimate our middle grade readers.  We take too much care to avoid frustrating them with difficult words.  Just like the protagonists in fantasy books, getting challenged and emerging victorious at the end is part of the fun.

These four proper noun words are from hugely successful middle reader fantasies.  You probably can rattle off a bunch more.

  • Muggles
  • Quidditch
  • Anaklusmos
  • Smeagol

If readers can handle “Dumbledore” then why can’t they handle real words?  Why can’t they handle Latin (scientific) names?  Fantasy has a highly specialized and developed vocabulary. Science has a highly specialized and developed vocabulary. I believe the two can combine without turning into SciFi. Two examples that came immediately to my mind were the “holothurians” in the classic Water Babies and “tesseract” in A Wrinkle in Time. Not exactly words used in everyday conversation.  Yet learning those words helps expand the reader’s knowledge and understanding of our world.

In Olivia Brophie and the Pearl of Tagelus, the characters meet a creature called an anaspidean. Although the name sounds like an alien and the whale-sized creature is clearly fantastic, it is actually a real animal (albeit smaller in scale.) The anaspidean is a great way to introduce students to mollusks.  What do you suppose a reader is going to find if they look up the word anaspidean in a dictionary or online?

Fantasy novels also employ plot-driven teaching.  In Olivia Brophie and the Pearl of Tagelus, Olivia is introduced to the Florida scrub and the Floridan aquifer. She interacts with many of the animals that make Florida unique and special. These aren’t lessons that Olivia sits through in a classroom. They are simply the worlds that she participates in. To the casual reader, the aquifer is just the magical location of the secret city of Junonia. It isn’t mechanically any different than entering Narnia through a door in the back of a wardrobe or the characters in a magical book coming to life and causing havoc in our world. But the fact that aquifers are real things does make a difference.  Junonia generates interest in the geology beneath Florida, the Cenozoic Era, and issues of groundwater and springs.

Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series introduces students to Greek mythology, even if the idea of a stories being used to teach stories is a bit reflexive. Riordan’s books are not modernizations,  they use characters and situations from classical myths to drive entirely new stories. This is what makes them appealing. They aren’t trying to teach you anything, yet the fun, exciting fantasy introduces the readers to classical literature.

There is a limit to how much educational material can be presented in a novel and still keep it readable. The key of course is to engage the reader first. The book has to be a good read. Fantasy novels are not textbooks but they can be a great supplement to an educational curriculum.

Christopher Tozier was awarded a 2011 Individual Artist Fellowship from the State of Florida. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Olivia Brophie and the Pearl of Tagelus is his debut novel, the first in the Olivia Brophie Series.  It is available at your favorite bookstore or online. You can learn more at www.oliviabrophie.blogspot.com  and www.christophertozier.com. Join us for a Twitter chat on March 6th at 3:30p EST to chat about why fantasy can be educational during our #flfantasy chat, use #flfantasy to join in.

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Filed under Author chats, Florida, publishing, Twitter

Your Ultimate Florida Playlist

Twitter Chat August 24th at 1pm with @AlissonClark (#flplaylist)

What’s on your ultimate Florida playlist? Whether it’s a song about Florida or a tune that puts you in a Sunshine State of mind, we want to hear about it. We’ll talk about songs that name-check Florida people and places, music and lyrics that make you feel like you have your toes in the sand, or odes to the state’s history or environment. Favorite musical events, venues and destinations in Florida are fair game, too!

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On a Florida Beach We Saw….

This is phrase that brought a visitor to our site recently. I thought it was a great phrase and it gave me an idea.

Wouldn’t it be fun to share with everyone what you recently saw on a Florida beach?

I’d love for you to share pics or stories about something you recently saw on a Florida beach. You can do this by commenting here or sending pics to us via Facebook or Twitter. I look forward to hearing from everyone!  (Let’s keep this G-rated of course!)

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Filed under Travel, Twitter

Do penguins have knees?

A popular question we asked on Twitter recently was, “Do penguins have knees?” Learn this and more in Those Perky Penguins by Sarah Cussen. It’s due out this fall.

Those Perky Penguins is part of Pineapple Press’s Those Amazing Animals series.

Photo of Penguin © Vulnificans/Dreamstime.com

Illustration © Steve Weaver

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Twitter chats, again

Our Twitter chat post was used as a resource in a recent blog post about Twitter chats on The Social Media Explorer. I thought I’d post it again in case you missed it. The chat with Bruce has already ended but I’m trying to line up some more chats soon! 

One of the new things we have tried out recently are twitter chats. The hashtags we have used so far are #familytrav and #chupacabra. We’ll be doing our next Twitter chat with author Bruce Hunt, @BruceHuntImages, on March 16th at 12 noon EST.

Bruce kindly pointed out that a lot of people might not have participated in a Twitter chat and might not know how to. I certainly should have considered this more before I started one. I sort of winged it after taking a look at some chats done by others–so I learned on the fly by trying it out. I will now reveal myself as a dork–but it was exhilarating to get responses and questions and helpful tips from others. Sometimes you feel like you are talking to yourself on Twitter! I think this 3rd chat will be even better…mainly because I am getting better at it. Then I can have my first two guinea pigs (@FLGhostDoc and @AlissonClark) back for another chat!

I took a look on the Internet and found several great resources on chats. I’ll list them at the end. So far I’ve used TweetDeck for the chats. It’s been great because you can load up search columns with the hashtag name and the name of the person you are interviewing and keep track of everything really easily. I’ve found that it has been a little confusing with all the @’s and #’s in the past though. I think that maybe it works best when only I do the @name and everyone else does the #hashtag only. It gives you more characters to talk with and simplifies things a lot. Then if you are responding to someone specifically in the chat you can save the @name just for them. At least that is what I think I will do this next time.

So basically I’ve rambled around to this procedure for a Twitter chat that I think works well:

1) Start following us at @PineapplePress and the person we are interviewing’s @name. That way you can see all future #hashtag mentions too in case the chat continues in the future.

2) Sign up for Tweetdeck or something similar so you can set up a search for the #hashtag. (Recommendations on software more than welcome!) Then read up on how to get the most out of the searches your software can do for hashtags and people’s names, etc…

3) When the time comes for the chat start asking questions and saying things with the #hashtag in them so we can see them. If you want to say something specifically to me then use @PineapplePress (and the same goes for the participant).

4) Then you have to wait a while. There’s a time delay sometimes as we think of something to say or the software updates tweets. Be ready for time lags and repeated questions sometimes–it’s all good though. You’ll get your answer eventually. Don’t feel bad if we miss a question–sometimes it happens. Just retweet! We aren’t ignoring you.

5) Feel free to add in relevant tips or comments. I learned something from each of our chats from participants. It doesn’t have to be all questions.

6) Once the chat is over–feel free to keep on talking with us! We want to hear from you. Then give me some suggestions for other chats you want to see happen. I’ll see what I can do. If it’s about Florida then I’m sure I can find someone to discuss it.

Here are those links I mentioned:

http://mashable.com/2009/12/08/twitter-chat/

http://smallbiztrends.com/2010/08/how-to-participate-in-twitter-chat.html

http://samanthaogborn.com/?p=90

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Filed under Author chats, Twitter

Twitter chats

One of the new things we have tried out recently are twitter chats. The hashtags we have used so far are #familytrav and #chupacabra. We’ll be doing our next Twitter chat with author Bruce Hunt, @BruceHuntImages, on March 16th at 12 noon EST.

Bruce kindly pointed out that a lot of people might not have participated in a Twitter chat and might not know how to. I certainly should have considered this more before I started one. I sort of winged it after taking a look at some chats done by others–so I learned on the fly by trying it out. I will now reveal myself as a dork–but it was exhilarating to get responses and questions and helpful tips from others. Sometimes you feel like you are talking to yourself on Twitter! I think this 3rd chat will be even better…mainly because I am getting better at it. Then I can have my first two guinea pigs (@FLGhostDoc and @AlissonClark) back for another chat!

I took a look on the Internet and found several great resources on chats. I’ll list them at the end. So far I’ve used TweetDeck for the chats. It’s been great because you can load up search columns with the hashtag name and the name of the person you are interviewing and keep track of everything really easily. I’ve found that it has been a little confusing with all the @’s and #’s in the past though. I think that maybe it works best when only I do the @name and everyone else does the #hashtag only. It gives you more characters to talk with and simplifies things a lot. Then if you are responding to someone specifically in the chat you can save the @name just for them. At least that is what I think I will do this next time.

So basically I’ve rambled around to this procedure for a Twitter chat that I think works well:

1) Start following us at @PineapplePress and the person we are interviewing’s @name. That way you can see all future #hashtag mentions too in case the chat continues in the future.

2) Sign up for Tweetdeck or something similar so you can set up a search for the #hashtag. (Recommendations on software more than welcome!) Then read up on how to get the most out of the searches your software can do for hashtags and people’s names, etc…

3) When the time comes for the chat start asking questions and saying things with the #hashtag in them so we can see them. If you want to say something specifically to me then use @PineapplePress (and the same goes for the participant).

4) Then you have to wait a while. There’s a time delay sometimes as we think of something to say or the software updates tweets. Be ready for time lags and repeated questions sometimes–it’s all good though. You’ll get your answer eventually. Don’t feel bad if we miss a question–sometimes it happens. Just retweet! We aren’t ignoring you.

5) Feel free to add in relevant tips or comments. I learned something from each of our chats from participants. It doesn’t have to be all questions.

6) Once the chat is over–feel free to keep on talking with us! We want to hear from you. Then give me some suggestions for other chats you want to see happen. I’ll see what I can do. If it’s about Florida then I’m sure I can find someone to discuss it.

Here are those links I mentioned:

http://mashable.com/2009/12/08/twitter-chat/

http://smallbiztrends.com/2010/08/how-to-participate-in-twitter-chat.html

http://samanthaogborn.com/?p=90

Leave a comment

Filed under Author chats, Twitter