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Mentor Texts

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Rebecca G. Aguilar | Writer
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I noticed a request on another Book Talk thread for titles ALL writers should read and found some great recommends for books on craft. In addition to reading how-to-write books, we can use mentor texts.

During a recent NF conference for newbies, organizer Pat Miller called on us to use mentor texts as roadmaps for learning more about writing nonfiction for younger readers, middle grade and YA.

If you aren't an elementary or secondary educator, mentor texts are models of good writing students read to learn theme, main ideas, voice, word choice, punctuation and parts of speech. New writers by extension can use models of good writing in their genre... not to copy authors whose books are admirable... but as guides for improving their own writing, too.

One of the books I've been using as a mentor text is The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion & the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming, a particularly exceptional model for well-researched biography and history in a riveting narrative style.

What mentor texts have you found are models of good writing in your genre?
#1 - December 16, 2014, 05:24 AM
« Last Edit: December 22, 2014, 05:43 AM by RebeccaGAguilar »

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Hi Rebecca.  I don't write NF but found your post interesting.  I've used books from writers of fiction who I think are exceptional (not just 'blockbusters') in much the same way--as a study guide.  That said, I'd read ANYTHING by Albert Marrin. 
#2 - December 16, 2014, 05:47 AM

Rebecca G. Aguilar | Writer
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Hi Rebecca.  I don't write NF but found your post interesting.  I've used books from writers of fiction who I think are exceptional (not just 'blockbusters') in much the same way--as a study guide.  That said, I'd read ANYTHING by Albert Marrin. 

Albert Marrin writes history and biography for kids, yes? There are certain authors who have a special way of connecting with readers. We hope to emulate what they do and reading their books becomes a form of study and a source of inspiration.
#3 - December 16, 2014, 05:57 AM

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Yes, Rebecca.  Albert Marrin writes history & biography for kids--up to teens.  IMO, he's one of the best.
#4 - December 16, 2014, 06:44 AM

Rebecca G. Aguilar | Writer
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IMO, he's one of the best.

There are always at least 3 reasons why a favorite author can serve as a model of good writing. Starting with an interesting question, strong back matter and writing in a narrative style (The Family Romanov reads like YA!)... this is what makes Candace Fleming's book an exceptional mentor text for me.
#5 - December 16, 2014, 07:01 AM
« Last Edit: December 16, 2014, 11:30 AM by Rebecca G. Aguilar »

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Thanks for the suggestion; I'll have to pick up the book.  (Also helps to be covering an interesting moment/people in time--and the Romanovs certainly were!)
#6 - December 16, 2014, 08:26 AM

Rebecca G. Aguilar | Writer
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Thanks for the suggestion; I'll have to pick up the book.  (Also helps to be covering an interesting moment/people in time--and the Romanovs certainly were!)

And thanks for posting your mentor text here! I like to know what others are reading, too!
#7 - December 16, 2014, 08:28 AM

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Oooh, I love anything by Candace Fleming. Really looking forward to her book on the Romanovs.
For mentor texts I like to use Brenda Guiberson's PBs and Joyce Sidman's poems, esp. when I'm working with children. But they're great reminders for me as well :)  I have a huge collection of NF at home and use a variety of books as inspiration. Biographies are my favorites.

Vijaya
#8 - December 16, 2014, 02:26 PM
BOUND (Bodach Books, 2018)
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Rebecca G. Aguilar | Writer
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Oooh, I love anything by Candace Fleming. Really looking forward to her book on the Romanovs.
For mentor texts I like to use Brenda Guiberson's PBs and Joyce Sidman's poems, esp. when I'm working with children. But they're great reminders for me as well :)  I have a huge collection of NF at home and use a variety of books as inspiration. Biographies are my favorites.

Vijaya

I can picture the response to FROG SONG or WINTER BEES in a classroom! PB authors and poets we love know exactly how to connect with younger readers. And I certainly want to emulate that magic!
#9 - December 16, 2014, 04:48 PM
« Last Edit: December 18, 2014, 12:21 PM by Rebecca G. Aguilar »

I think 'mentor texts' can cross genre lines, yes? For example, it's very hard to write as good a sentence as P.G. Wodehouse, and being a children's writer, I still look to him for those kinds of sheer mechanics.

I think 'texts' could every cross medium lines. Steven Spielberg has a lot to teach anyone about how to tell a good story.
#10 - December 18, 2014, 04:56 PM

Rebecca G. Aguilar | Writer
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Very excited to see the New York Public Library has released its annual list of 100 Recommended Children's Books for 2014! Tagged by age group, genre or subject, this wonderful list would be highly worth perusing to expand your book shelf to new MENTOR TEXTS!!!

http://childrens100.nypl.org/2014/
#11 - December 19, 2014, 08:10 AM

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Hey Rebecca.  I retweeted your NY Library 100 list.  Must hurry before 2015 comes around with another list.  0_0
#12 - December 19, 2014, 09:11 AM

Rebecca G. Aguilar | Writer
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Hey Rebecca.  I retweeted your NY Library 100 list.  Must hurry before 2015 comes around with another list.  0_0

Thank you so much for the tweet! I see you are getting acclimated on Twitter! Please follow me: https://twitter.com/RebeccaGAguilar!
#13 - December 19, 2014, 09:19 AM

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Oh, geez.  Did I not do that?  :slaphead  Will amend that detail right now. 
#14 - December 19, 2014, 09:49 AM

Rebecca G. Aguilar | Writer
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Hope everyone is having a good holiday!  :xmascheer

So excited to have received the 2015 Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market for Christmas! As I was reading through it this morning, I found some excellent advice under "Quick Tips for Writers & Illustrators." I'd like to share one tip relevant to mentor texts I plan to follow to the letter.

Quote
8. READ! READ! READ! While you're at the bookstore, pick up a few things or keep a list of the books that interest you and check them out of your library. Read and study the latest releases, the award winners and the classics. You'll learn from other writers, get ideas and get a feel for what's being published. Think about what works and doesn't work in a story. Pay attention to how plots are constructed and how characters are developed or the rhythm and pacing of picture book text. It's certainly enjoyable research!
#15 - December 25, 2014, 10:42 AM
« Last Edit: December 25, 2014, 10:47 AM by RebeccaGAguilar »

Rebecca G. Aguilar | Writer
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I think 'mentor texts' can cross genre lines, yes? For example, it's very hard to write as good a sentence as P.G. Wodehouse, and being a children's writer, I still look to him for those kinds of sheer mechanics.

I think 'texts' could every cross medium lines. Steven Spielberg has a lot to teach anyone about how to tell a good story.

Happy holidays, Sean!

Mentor texts are different, I think from reading widely, as you suggest. Or taking in media from different sources, not just those in our genre.

I recently picked up a book on creativity written by a knitting blogger. She doesn't have anything to say about topics that sell in the NF market or about pitching ideas to children's book publishers.

This knitting blogger does have loads to say about doing the work of creativity, the fear of failing and the growth encountered when embracing the dark parts of creative struggle. She writes in a natural voice and speaks from authentic experiences. Plus, she suggests creatives find good sources of bibliographies to mine... i.e., find somebody doing something brilliant in your field, your interest... your genre!



#16 - December 25, 2014, 12:08 PM
« Last Edit: December 25, 2014, 08:25 PM by RebeccaGAguilar »

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I just want to pop in and add that there is a wonderful book called MENTOR TEXTS: TEACHING WRITING THROUGH CHILDREN'S LITERATURE.

Here is the Amazon site:

http://www.amazon.com/Mentor-Texts-Teaching-Childrens-Literature/dp/157110433X
#17 - December 27, 2014, 07:45 PM
Legend of The Beaver's Tail '15
Schnitzel: A Cautionary Tale for Lazy Louts,  '16
Moo La La! Cow Goes Shopping, '17
Piece by Piece, '17

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Thank you all for the great tips about mentor texts! You're amazing! :)
#18 - August 24, 2015, 07:59 AM

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