Reading guide for Not Your All-American Girl

As we talk with students about Not Your All-American Girl, we decided to put together a reading guide. Make sure you check out the activities at the end! We hope this will help readers connect with the book — and with some of the things that are going on in their own lives.A PDF is here: madwenreadingguide

Thanks for reading!

Madelyn and Wendy

ABOUT NOT YOUR ALL-AMERICAN GIRL

Lauren Horowitz has an awesome tryout for the school musical. But when the part goes to her best friend Tara, who did not sing as well but looks like the teacher’s idea of an All-American girl, Lauren, who is Jewish and Chinese American, must examine her own expectations and beliefs about herself to discover what it truly means to be “all-American.”

PRE-READING ACTIVITIES

Learn about the time period when this story takes place (1984) and the cultures involved. Find magazines, newspapers and other materials at that time to show what was in the news. Look at who was represented in TV shows and advertisements; how often were people of color the main character in a movie or ad?.

 ABOUT THE 1980s

Your parents and guardians don’t think of the 1980s as history, but in fact, it is history. Even today will be history tomorrow. Ask the people around you how life was different then. How did people communicate? What were people worried about? How did they get their information? What did they do for fun? What kind of music represents the 1980s to them?

Now compare that with today. How do you communicate? What do you worry about?  

FRIENDSHIPS

Many middle grade stories are about friendships. How do friends treat each other? How important is listening in a friendship? Make a list of the things you appreciate about your friends.

ARGUMENTS

How do you resolve arguments with friends? With family? Have you ever been afraid to speak up about something that bothers you? Why? Create a script where you bring up something that bothers you to a friend or family member. 

FAIRNESS AND EQUALITY

What assumptions do you think other people have made about you or someone else because of race, religion, gender — or even your height? Were these assumptions correct or incorrect? How have you responded? The authors of this story often say that they could never think of what to do in moments when they faced prejudice, but that this story is their second chance at that. 

What do you think you should do to stand up for friends? What do you wish friends would do to stand up for you?

VOCABULARY: 

Bias: A preference for or against an idea or person, without an opportunity to consider other ideas. 

Diversity: The practice or state of including people of different races, social backgrounds, ages, genders, sexual orientations or other identities.

Inclusion: The practice of involving, valuing and respecting others, particularly people who might normally be excluded or marginalized.

Microagression: A microaggression is any kind of slight, snub or insult, whether it is made intentionally or not, which communicates negative or hurtful messages to a person based solely on their identity as part of a marginalized group. 

WHEN CULTURES MERGE

We all have more than one aspect that defines us. For instance, you might be a vegetarian and a bassoonist. In This Is Just a Test, a companion book to Not Your All-American Girl, one of David’s friends is surprised that he and Lauren are both Chinese-American and Jewish: “You can be Chinese and Buddhist or Chinese and Taoist or Chinese and Jewish.” I managed to stop blathering before I paired being Chinese with every religion on earth.

How do the different parts of Lauren’s identity cross over in her life? How does considering one part of your identity affect the other parts of your identity?

ACTIVITIES:

  1. Lauren has a number of buttons that she wears that express her feelings, whether she’s getting ready for a performance or math test, or whether she’s just feeling angry. A button slogan is generally short. Sometimes it uses words and sometimes just a picture. Design a button that describes an emotion, feeling, sentiment or attitude that represents your mood right now.
  2. In Not Your All-American Girl, the students act in a musical. Authors Madelyn Rosenberg and Wendy Shang made up their own musical about hula hoops for this book; what idea, person or time period might make a good musical?  If you were to write a musical, who would be the main character to tell the story?Musicals also have an “I am” song, introducing the main character. A good example of this is “Alexander Hamilton” from the popular musical. Create an “I am” song about yourself. Introduce yourself briefly in song. Create one verse or the whole thing!
  3. When Madelyn and Wendy worked on the book, they made sure to use foods, clothing, muic, and more to give the book an 80s feel. Names of characters also reflect names that were popular at the time. If you were creating a story that reflected the time we’re in, right now, what would you do for the following?
  • Name your character and your character’s best friend
  • Three foods your character would eat
  • List three things your character would wear
  • A piece of technology your character would own
  • A song your character would hear on the radio
  • What type of pet would your character have?
  • What would your character hear on the news? 
  • What are some words your character would know that reflect this time, right now?

4. In a way, a playlist is like a time capsule. Create a musical playlist for the 1980s. If you’d like, have your parents or guardians help. (For reference, here’s a playlist that Madelyn and Wendy made in honor of the book.) Make another playlist of songs you like right now.

5. And finally, because we’re all spending too much time inside, if you own a hula hoop, get it out and see how long you can keep it going. Can you sing and hula hoop at the same time?

Posted in brother-sister books, classroom activities, classroom visits, judaism, Not Your All-American Girl, teacher guides, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Books in 2020

Publishing a book in 2020, I’ve felt like the proverbial salmon. Not that I’ve ever been a salmon, but ugh. How do you travel around to support your book? (Spoiler alert: you don’t.) How do you visit classrooms to talk to kids? (You don’t do that either, and even if you did, they wouldn’t be there.) I’ve tried a few videos and virtual visits, but here’s another spoiler alert: it’s not the same.

My brain is where it should be: on the pandemic, on my family, on the election, on those who have it so much worse than me. I’ve been working at my full-time job in affordable housing, and every day, I talk to people who are struggling.

It’s hard to tweet “buy my book” at time like these. But my writing career feels like it’s fading. And those books that came out this year? They were important to me. Also? They were good. So I’m going to spit three times and brag about them here on my quiet little blog.

I’m going to tell you that I think Cyclops of Central Park, illustrated by Victoria Tentler-Krylov, should be on the New York Times Best Illustrated Books list. I have the art from that book all over my wall and I never get tired of looking at it. Victoria’s New York is where I want to be right now.

I’ll also tell you that a few parents have said they are using the book I wrote with Wendy, Not Your All-American Girl, to talk to their kids about racism. Those characters are so alive inside my head and I hope more people will find them.

I hope these books will have a shelf life. That authors who had books come out in 2020 will get some sort of a do-over. Because we all have more books to write. And simply put: it’s harder to sell those books if the books we’ve just published are sitting in bookstores where booksellers are working their butts off but nobody is browsing because of COVID. (Free them! Free all the books!)

I have a lot of wishes right now. Most of them have to do with our collective health, both as humans and as a nation. But one of them has to do with these books. My friend Sharlene says when you want something you should put it out to the universe. So that’s what I’m going. Hey there, universe. Please be kind to these books.

 

Posted in #kidlitwomen, art, cyclops of central park, illustration, Not Your All-American Girl | Leave a comment

Cover Reveal: One Small Hop

Signed preorders: https://www.onemorepagebooks.com/one-small-hop

MR: Prior to ONE SMALL HOP (Scholastic, May 2021), I was steeped in the 1980s for two books with writing partner Wendy Shang. ONE SMALL HOP is set in the future, but I haven’t shaken the 80s, which might be why Billy Idol’s Dancing with Myself has been stuck in my brain for the last two days. That made me think: How about Interviewing with Myself? It doesn’t quite work as a song (too many syllables/the meter is wrong) but I need to reveal the cover for my upcoming book somehow, and that would be a good way to do it, right?

Self: Solid!

MR: Solid! So, OK, let’s start with that vibrant cover. What can you tell us about it?

Self: That I absolutely love it. And that when I first saw it, it reminded me a smidge of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (space + world + brilliant green), which made me love it even more. The art is by Joyceline Furniss and the designer was Baily Crawford, who also designed the cover for Not Your All-American Girl. Alph (the frog) has a Mona Lisa smile, don’t you think? He obviously knows something we don’t.

MR: Talk a bit about the story.

Self: Ahab wants to save the world. But his parents are pretending that the climate isn’t changing and his sister cares more about her Friday night date than the fact that the ocean has been declared off limits. Fortunately, Ahab has friends. And a bicycle. And he has Alph. (More details about this middle-grade novel at the end of this post.)

MR: You’ve been working on this book for a long time now, right?

Self: So long. And I’ve had the concept even longer. When we first moved into our house in Arlington 14 years ago, we discovered that the small pond in back had bullfrogs, and I decided I’d write a story about them one day. I’ve made it a point to include frogs in stories in the intervening years, but I’m pretty sure it’s been building up to this.

Detail from How to Behave at a Tea Party, illustrated by Heather Ross

MR: This book is considered science fiction. What made you decide to go there?

Self: Every time I do a school visit, a kid asks me: What’s your favorite genre? My answer is Fantasy and Science Fiction. But I tend to write realistically. Weirdly, I even consider my first novel, about a talking canary, to be “realistic fiction,” though I know that’s not quite the case. This time around, I felt that to talk about the things I wanted to talk about, the world had to be ahead of where we are now; to think about the future, I had to go there.

One of our frogs. Our neighbors named him Frank.

MR: You wrote some novels by yourself, but your last two novels have been with writing partner Wendy Shang and before that, you wrote a book with Mary Crockett. How did it feel to write a novel alone again?

Self: I talked to myself an awful lot.

MR: How did the pandemic underscore the writing of this book?

Self: This book was completed before the pandemic – we were going over copyedits at that point, I think. But the pandemic shows us all how the world can change in a minute. I mean, the world is constantly changing but most of the time, we’re not really hyper aware. Writers put those bits into their stories constantly – we’re keen observers, after all — and maybe later, we look back and say “Oh, remember that detail? That was so 2018! Remember when we thought this or when the political landscape was that? Remember when scooters were everywhere or when they invented the Segway? Remember when we ate fudge pops? Remember when we dabbed?” But in this case, everything changed drastically, over the course of a weekend, really. Suddenly, there we were, sewing masks with fabric and shoelaces, businesses shut down, the streets and highways empty. I think that makes science fiction and fantasy more real – more realistic – for everyone.

MR: Preorders help a book have legs, yes?

Self: Yes! If you want a signed copy, please order through One More Page. They ship!

https://www.onemorepagebooks.com/one-small-hop

You can also order from an indie near you, from all traditional online retailers, and most anywhere books are sold.

(Marketing jingle: Order today! Read it in May!)

MR: And about those other book details that you mentioned?

Self: Right!

When Ahab and his friends find a bullfrog in their town — a real, live bullfrog, possibly the last bullfrog in North America — they have several options:

A. Report it to the Environmental Police Force. Too bad everyone knows the agency is a joke.
B. Leave it alone. They’re just a bunch of kids —what if they hurt it by moving it?
C. Find another real, live bullfrog in a secret location. Talk their parents into letting them bike to Canada. Introduce the two frogs. Save all of frogkind.

Ahab convinces the rest of the group that C is their only real option. Because if they don’t save this frog, who will? Their quest, which will involve fake ice cream, real frog spawn, and some very close calls, teaches Ahab that hope is always the logical choice and that science is always better with friends.

With humor and empathy, acclaimed author Madelyn Rosenberg builds an all-too-imaginable future ravaged by climate change, where one kid can still lean on his friends and dream up a better tomorrow.

Perfect for fans of Carl Hiaasen’s classic Hoot, this humorous adventure story set in a not-so-distant future celebrates the important differences we can make with small, brave acts.

Thanks to the team at Scholastic for making this happen, especially Lisa Sandell and Olivia Valcarce.

Posted in #kidlitwomen, climate change, frogs, kidlit, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A poem for poem in your pocket day

A poem I wrote this morning

Disinfectant

It is hard to make a decision

in relentless rain

when you have no idea how things are

normally

when normal is a stray dog, anyway.

You saw it through the window

on a highway once

before it disappeared

in the scrub.

“Go with your gut” we say.

You want to punch us

in ours.

No blame here.

We struggle to help

We being parents

We being friends

We being the guy behind the mask

at the grocery checkout

We being the people who say

“This is your life.”

“These are your years.”

“There are no bad choices.”

You are smart enough to know that

(though they may be true)

these are all clichés.

Spit on them, then.

Disinfect yourself

from our dreams

(if the stores have even restocked on disinfectant.)

Ramen

reddit

milk tea

money –

all go into a spreadsheet

that pretends this is obvious

or logical

that pretends this isn’t hard.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Writing prompt: For the birds

Hi, all. A new writing prompt today. You can write a poem or a paragraph or even turn this one into a comic. What I want you to do is look at the animals around you — birds, squirrels, pets, deer. Watch them for a few minutes and imagine a conversation they’re having with someone else. It could be another animal. It could be you!

Here’s something I wrote this morning based on two cardinals that I like to watch from my office window. If you have something you’d like to share, please let me know, I’d love to see it!

Before the Rain

He might say: Come this way.

And she might ignore him

For awhile

Before flying down and taking a peck

At the railroad tie

Before flying up and balancing triumphant

On the phone wire.

She might say: You’re late again

And he might ignore her

Before raising his wings in an almost-shrug

A way of secretly showing off his red,

A way of making her wonder why he’d never been

a model in an LL Bean catalog

(fall, not spring).

They’ve been together, these two

For all of the seasons now

And he hasn’t put a ring on it

Not even a Swarovski crystal.

She might say: It doesn’t matter.

She might mean it.

(Photos by my kiddo)

Posted in writing, writing prompts | Leave a comment