Interview with Clare Hodgson Meeker, Author of Soccer Dreams

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Clare Hodgson Meeker is an award-winning author of 10 published books and over 20 magazine stories for children. She teaches writing and makes author appearances in schools and at conferences around the country. http://www.claremeeker.com

Thank you for joining us today, (your name). Can you please start off by telling us a bit about yourself?

I was born and raised in New York and graduated with a B.A in Music from Boston University. After receiving a law degree from Hofstra University, my husband and I moved to Seattle, Washington where we currently live. I left the practice of law to raise two children and begin a second career writing books for children. I am also a founding member of The Righteous Mothers, a female vocal group that has performed nationally and internationally for many years. You can hear our music at our website, http://www.righteousmothers.com.

When did you first get bit by the writing bug?

I was lucky to have wonderful teachers in grade school who encouraged me to write. In third grade, I wrote a play called Murder By Death that my classmates and I performed. It was a heady experience seeing your words acted out, particularly when one of my classmates forgot to break his fall from a ladder and landed face first on the floor. My fifth grade teacher encouraged me to send a story I had written and illustrated to a publisher in New York. I received a kind rejection saying “Please come back to us when you are older,” and have been writing ever since.

Why did you decide to write stories for children?

I realized when I began reading picture books to my own children how much they enjoyed the playfulness of words and the power of a good story to communicate ideas and help them learn about the world around them. I wanted to write stories about the people, places and subjects that I found fascinating and share what I learned with kids.

Do you believe it is harder to write books for a younger audience?

Children, particularly younger audiences, enjoy plots that are action-oriented with less emphasis on description. Pacing is very important. If it takes too long to get to the problem, you will lose a young reader’s attention. Also, when you are writing picture book text, you have to leave room for the illustrator to tell the story. That is why description should be kept to a minimum so that the pictures can add their own dimension to the story.

What is your favorite part of writing for young people?

To me, the best picture books are like poetry. I enjoy the challenge of making every word count. Even my most recent book, Soccer Dreams: Playing the Seattle Sounders FC Way, is a free verse chapter book for ages 7-12 years old. I was inspired to write in this format by a sports story I read called “Smile Like Jeter “ by Maria Testa. I loved the way she crafted scenes that had a minimum number of words, but still conveyed strong action and emotion. The shorter word count is particularly attractive to boys who are reluctant readers and are looking for books about sports.

Can you tell us what your latest book is all about?

Soccer Dreams combines a fictional story about a boy from Kenya who moves to Seattle and helps build a winning soccer team with inspiring teamwork tips and quotes from Major League Soccer’s Seattle Sounders FC coach and players. 10-year old Todo is looking to make new friends. He is thrilled to meet a group of kids who share his love of soccer, but he struggles with an overconfident striker named Peter who sees Todo as an unwelcome competitor. His schoolmate Anna, a skilled defender on a girls soccer team, knows first-hand that Peter is a ball hog. Together, she and Todo make a plan to bring their two teams together. But Todo’s coach has his own strategy for building teamwork that involves his favorite team, the Seattle Sounders FC. Mixing fiction with actual photographs and personal stories of the Seattle Sounders coach and players, this book is licensed by Major League Soccer and is endorsed by the Sounders team.

What inspired you to write it?

I was fascinated by the fact that like my main character Todo, the Sounders players came from all over the world and spoke different languages, but still managed to work together as a team and win the U.S Open Cup championship in their first year. The beauty of soccer is that you don’t need expensive equipment to play the sport. All you need is a ball. As Steve Zakuani, one of the Sounders players says, “Once you get out the field, everyone knows what to do.” It’s a common language that you speak with your feet.

Where can readers purchase a copy?

The enhanced ebook with bonus audio interviews of the current Sounders FC captain and goalkeeper is available on all digital platforms including the Amazon Kindle, the Barnes & Noble Nook, and Apple iPad.

You can also purchase the hardcover book from your local independent bookstore (PartnersWest is the distributor) as well as online at MLSGear.com, the SoundersFCPro shop.com and at Amazon.com.

What is up next for you?

I have an article about the Hawaiian Monk Seal coming out in October in The National Wildlife Federation’s “Ranger Rick” Magazine. I am also preparing a book proposal about the Hawaiian Monk Seal and the efforts by government scientists and the local Hawaiian community to save this critically endangered species from extinction.

Do you have anything else to add?

I am launching a new In-School Field Trip author presentation around my Soccer Dreams book called “How to Build Teamwork on and Off the Field.” Set in an assembly or classroom format, I talk about the teamwork tips that are practiced in the major league soccer world and how they can be applied to group dynamics in the classroom. Students then break up into groups and practice using these tips, including setting goals, identifying each other’s strengths and working together to accomplish each team’s goals. The idea of the in-school field trip is to provide the excitement and the hands – on learning of an out-of-school field trip at a much more reasonable cost. If you need more information, visit my website at www.claremeeker.com. You can contact me directly through the site.

Celebrate Black History Month with a Good Book

thestoryofrubybridgesCelebrate the 50th anniversary of the first African American child to integrate a New Orleans school with this paperback reissue!

The year is 1960, and six-year-old Ruby Bridges and her family have recently moved from Mississippi to New Orleans in search of a better life. When a judge orders Ruby to attend first grade at William Frantz Elementary, an all-white school, Ruby must face angry mobs of parents who refuse to send their children to school with her. Told with Robert Coles’ powerful narrative and dramatically illustrated by George Ford, Ruby’s story of courage, faith, and hope is now available in this special 50th anniversary edition with an updated afterword!

  • Reading level: Ages 4 and up
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks; Rep Anv Sp edition (September 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0439472261
  • ISBN-13: 978-0439472265

What do all these people have in common: the first man to die in the American Revolution, a onetime chief of the Crow Nation, the inventors of peanut butter
and the portable X-ray machine, and the first person to make a wooden clock in this country? They were all great African Americans. For parents and teachers
interested in fostering cultural awareness among children of all races, this book includes more than 70 hands-on activities, songs, and games that teach kidsAA
about the people, experiences, and events that shaped African American history. This expanded edition contains new material throughout, including additional information and biographies. Children will have fun designing an African mask, making a medallion like those worn by early abolitionists, playing the rhyming game “Juba,” inventing Brer Rabbit riddles, and creating a unity cup for Kwanzaa. Along the way they will learn about inspiring African American artists, inventors, and heroes like Harriet Tubman, Benjamin Banneker, Rosa Parks, Langston Hughes, and Louis Armstrong, to name a few.

  • Reading level: Ages 7 and up
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press; 2nd edition (June 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1556526539
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556526534

black starsAFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY COMES TO LIFE

Discover why young people all over
the country are reading the Black Stars biographies of African American heroes.
Here is what you want to know about the lives of brave black men and women
during the Civil Rights Movement:
* LOUIS “SATCHMO” ARMSTRONG
* MARY MCLEOD BETHUNE
* MAJOR GENERAL BENJAMIN O. DAVIS JR.
* W. E. B. DUBOIS
* LIEUTENANT HENRY O. FLIPPER
* MARCUS GARVEY
* MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.
* THURGOOD MARSHALL
* ROSA PARKS
* ADAM CLAYTON POWELL JR.
* PHILIP RANDOLPH
* PAUL ROBESON
* JACKIE ROBINSON
* BOOKER T. WASHINGTON
* IDA B. WELLS-BARNETT
* CARTER G. WOODSON
* WHITNEY M. YOUNG JR.

  • Reading level: Ages 11 and up
  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (November 15, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 047122068X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471220688

Coretta Scott King winner Andrea Davis Pinkney brings her talents to a brand-new Dear America diary about the Civil Rights Movement.Dear-America-With-the-Might-of-Angels-198x282

In the fall of 1955, twelve-year-old Dawn Rae Johnson’s life turns upside down. After the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, Dawnie learns she will be attending a previously all-white school. She’s the only one of her friends to go to this new school and to leave the comfort of all that is familiar to face great uncertainty in the school year ahead.

However, not everyone supports integration and much of the town is outraged at the decision. Dawnie must endure the harsh realities of racism firsthand, while continuing to work hard to get a good education and prove she deserves the opportunity. But the backlash against Dawnie’s attendance of an all-white school is more than she’s prepared for. When her father loses his job as a result, and her little brother is constantly bullied, Dawnie has to wonder if it’s worth it. In time, Dawnie learns that the true meaning of justice comes from remaining faithful to the integrity within oneself.

  • Reading level: Ages 8 and up
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Inc. (September 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0545297052
  • ISBN-13: 978-0545297059

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01-02 Golden Sower Award Masterlist (YA Cat.) and 00 Pennsylvania Keystone to Reading Book Award (Intermed. Cat.)

Like every other kid in his class, Joe Stoshack has to write a report on an African American who’s made an important contribution to society. Unlike every other kid in his class, Joe has a special talent: with the help of old baseball cards, he can travel through time. So for his report, Joe decides to go back to meet one of the greatest baseball players ever, Jackie Robinson, to find out what it was like to be the man who broke baseball’s color barrier. Joe plans on writing a prize-winning report. But he doesn’t plan on a trip that will for a short time change the color of his skin–and forever change his view of history and his definition of courage.

  • Reading level: Ages 8 and up
  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins (February 2, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380800845
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380800841

Gary’s Gray World by Ryan J. Cunningham

Gary's Gray World A special book that celebrates the important bond between children and parents is what you’ll find in Gary’s Gray World by Ryan J. Cunningham.

When Gary’s father’s work keeps him from attending the annual father and son baseball game, Gary can’t help but be disappointed. He carpools with a friend, but when it starts raining, Gary finds himself lonely and afraid. Gary’s father rushes to the field, discovering the importance of spending time together.

This delightful story touches the heart with its gentle reminder of the importance of family. Too often we rush through our day, not remembering to stop and smell the roses. Gary’s Gray World captures that sweet sentiment in an enjoyable and engaging way. The artwork by Chrissy Fanslau adds so much to this story. She captures some great emotions on these characters’ faces.

Both parents and children will enjoy this one.

Rating:  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Paperback: 38 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; Lrg edition (July 16, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1463670168
  • ISBN-13: 978-1463670160

Purchase at Amazon!

I received a free paperback copy of this book from the author. The author paid me to promote this book with a virtual book tour through Pump Up Your Book. This fee did not include any type of review. This review contains my honest opinions, for which I have not been compensated in any way.

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Short Story Review: Throw Like a Girl, Catch a Date by Christen Anne Kelley

A fun, light short young adult read is what you’ll find in “Throw Like a Girl, Catch a Date” by Christen Anne Kelley.

Lacey has built up a reputation as the girl who can knock them out of the park. Right now, though, all the girls are buzzing about prom and Lacey doesn’t have a date. Who needs a stupid prom date anyway. When she literally runs into Tom–a guy who hasn’t spoken a word to her in four years–for some reason she can’t get the nerdy Dungeons & Dragons playing guy out of her mind.

This is the first Little League Short Story by Kelley that I’ve read, but it won’t be my last (I have another on my Kindle). The author has blended a great plot with two characters you are wishing and hoping will get together. Lacey’s attitude and Tom’s awkward behavior make for several funny moments. What I enjoyed most is that Kelley really seems to understand this market, what’s on their minds, and things that are important to them.

I’ll definitely be on the look out for other stories by Christen Anne Kelley!

Rating:  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Publisher:Blue Cedar Publishing
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
  • Language:English
  • ASIN: B005C20A1U
  • SRP:  $.99

I purchased a Kindle version of this short story from Amazon. I received no monetary compensation to provide this review.

B is for Baseball: Running the Bases from A to Z from Chronicle Books

B is for BaseballBatter up! From Chronicle Books comes an alphabet primer that is sure to be a home run with young baseball fans. From autograph to knuckleball and from left field to zinger, this book filled with vintage photos from the American Baseball Hall of Fame and illustrations from David Habben, is one that should be on the shelves in every young baseball lover’s home.

Babe Ruth, Yogi Berra, Joe Dimaggio, Jackie Robinson, and other baseball greats fill the pages of this primer alongside terms like error, infield, and tag. And the back jacket includes a five-question quiz for kids to test their knowledge.

Just one in a series of alphabet primers from Chronicle Books, B is for Baseball will leave readers yearning to learn more about America’s favorite pastime.

Rating:   🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Publisher: Chronicle Books
  • ISBN-10: 0811860965
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811860963
  • SRP:  $15.99 (U.S.)