Saturday, March 30, 2013

Author Skype With Ellis Weiner

The story goes like this:

Teacher goes to library. Teacher immediately falls in love with a new book. Teacher abandons current classroom read aloud for said new book. Students fall in love with the new book, too. Teacher has to  buy several copies for students. Teacher has a sneaky idea. Author plays along.

That's the short version of how we got to Skype with Ellis Weiner, author of The Templeton Twins Have an Idea. 

But seriously. Have you heard of this book? My students and I have been obsessing over it for the past few weeks. The Templeton Twins Have an Idea has everything you'd want in a new middle-grade series. It's clever. It's silly. It has a recipe for meatloaf! My students love The Narrator's snarky voice, the crazy inventions created by Professor Templeton, and the Twins' ability to outwit the evil Dean brothers. I love the unconventional-ness of this book (it has three prologues and cheeky 'Questions for Review' at the end of each chapter), the random puzzles and witty references sprinkled throughout, and how it was able to completely captivate twenty-five young people within the first page and sustain their interest to the very end. We also used this book to practice inferring (among many reading skills); analyze how the author's voice and word choice affects the story; and discuss concepts of energy, force and motion. If you're looking for an intelligent and fast-paced book with a definite "nooooooo!" factor (as in, "nooooooopleasedon'tstopreading!"), this is it. 

After a few sneaky emails to Ellis Weiner (unbeknownst to my students), we were in business for an author Skype a few days after we were scheduled to finish up his book. I broke the news upon reading the last chapter and you would have thought I had just announced Taylor Swift or Justin Beiber was coming to play a secret show in our classroom. That's how big of a deal this book was to my students. 

During our Skype session we asked all sorts of questions:
  • What inspired you to create the Templeton Twins?
  • Did you always want to be an author?
  • What are your  hobbies?
  • Did you ever have a ridiculous dog?
  • What was your life like as a kid?
  • What's your writing process like?
  • How has technology changed the way you write?
  • Have you ever been to Seattle?
  • Are you more of a sports person or a video games person?
  • If you won a million dollars, what would you spend it on?
  • Do you have any friends that are author's, too?
  • How'd you get so funny?
  • What advice would you give kids today?
My students even had the fun idea to prepare three 'Questions for Review' à la The Narrator to end our call. We had a lot of fun trying to emulate his style. 

Ellis Weiner talking with my students about the
 upcoming second book of the Templeton Twins series. 
Thank you, again, Ellis, for taking the time to talk with us and for writing such an engaging, witty, and hilarious book. The call was definitely the highlight of our week, and we are most certainly Templeton Twins fans for life!  

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