I interrupt my normal rants, thoughts, and stories for unpaid sponsorship today. Well, he has given me a few books, but they had NOTHING to do with my blog, so it still counts. I am so excited to write about two books by a good friend, John Goff! How cool is that, to actually KNOW a published author? Well, 10 years ago, when I met him, he was just a regular male 3rd grade teacher. He has taken his love of teaching and knowledge of kids and turned them into two wonderful, yet different children’s books.
How many of us have written books in our head, or even written them down, and then did nothing else with them? Well, John wrote a couple of books, one he liked and one he didn’t. After hours and years of working on it, he finally sent it off to agents, publishers, and anyone else you would send a manuscript. He received LOTS of rejection letters, until he didn’t. It only takes ONE person to believe in you, and he found that person. Yay!
Years ago, John handed me a binder and asked me to proofread his book, One Bad Thing. Being a grammar and English nerd, I couldn’t say no, so of course, I jumped at the chance. I read it a few times. The first time, I forgot I had promised to proofread, and I couldn’t put it down. I had to know how it finished. I was so into the characters, I needed to know everything was going to be OK before I went to bed. Over the course of a week, I read the book at least two more times, being extra critical of his large Dartmouth-educated words, and other grammatical errors. (John, you know I had to put in a little Dartmouth jab in there, at least I didn’t mention their football team.)
One Bad Thing is a book starring 3 characters, told from the perspective of John Fogg, a good kid who is dared by the school bully, Max Kingsley to do “one bad thing” by the last day of school. Another student, Peter I. Gallagher aka PIG, who is new to the school, and a known “trouble maker” from his old school, is the judge of whether John finishes the dare or not. This book is a must for a fourth through seventh grade classroom library. It’s not a book that kids should just read though. There are many dilemmas the main character faces that heed awesome classroom discussion, with kids even as young as 3rd grade. I mean, is it that hard to be bad? Should anyone try to someone they are not? Can people really change and how hard is it to shed our past mistakes? Those are just some of the discussion points that One Bad Thing brings up. I normally read this book to my third graders in late January when they were getting tired of winter, and school and our routines. Plus, the whole class giggled, and perked up when I read pages 17-20. One Bad Thing served as a wonderful reminder about being the person you are and behave how you want others to remember you. Seriously, read this book, and then read it and discuss it with your elementary school child. I can’t wait until my kids are old enough to really discuss it!
Onto The Takeover! Shortly after John handed me the first binder, I begged to read his first manuscript. I LOVED One Bad Thing so much, I couldn’t wait to see what else he had written. “It’s really rough. I think the story is there, but… Let me know what you think,” was all John said. I took it home and as soon as the kids were in bed, I started reading. I mean, I tried to read it. I did read it, but, uh, well, I couldn’t finish it. We are good enough friends that I actually told him that! Have you ever told an author your couldn’t finish their book? Oh, I felt so bad, but we are real friends.
Anyway, I was REALLY excited when he told me that the book had been reworked, essentially rewritten, and finally published this past April! I kept asking John to buy his book, all spring, then through the summer. Finally, when I went to Maine, he gave me his second book, signed and everything! Honestly, when I started reading it last week, once again, I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN, for different reasons than the first.
The Takeover takes place at an upper elementary school. It is about the worst students it the school, placed in the worst teacher’s classroom, and how a little guidance, and ONE adult who believes in them can change everything. Kids will LOVE this book because the characters are naughty, but not so naughty it’s NOT funny. There are also unbelievable pieces to the book, which I think so many children authors forget to include. Kids LOVE ideas of taking over a class and still learning more from each other than the grown-up. John wrote this book for kids, and it really feels like it’s through the eyes of a child. It has been awhile since I have seen that in new children’s books.
Teachers will LOVE this book because it is great to give to kids to read alone, or it would be an excellent small group book too. It’s also a fabulous group read aloud book because of the many moral discussions that it fosters. It’s a WONDERFUL reminder to teachers: “Are we being the teachers we said we would be during college? Do we reach our students, or has it turned into a job?” It really struck a chord with me, because I could hear pieces of my tired teaching self in Mr. Duff, the worst teacher ever. I am guessing, we have all had Mr. Duff moments, how do we get over them, before they ruin us? Now that I think about it, this would be an excellent STAFF book club book too! Either way, it is another wonderful addition to any fourth through sixth grade library.
How do you buy these books? Well, since you all don’t know John, you can order One Bad Thing through Amazon.com. The Take Over is available through BarnesandNoble.com. Both books are available through Bryson Taylor Publishing.
Ok, enough writing about books, I am off to read a book and you are off to buy these books!