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Word After Word After Word Hardcover – May 18, 2010

4.4 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 2-5 When a writer spends six weeks in a fourth-grade classroom, Lucy begins to understand the power of the written word. Colorful Ms. Mirabel introduces the students to the idea that writing can change their lives and inspires them to find their own stories and to write them. Lucy doesn't believe her life is interesting enough to write about, but Ms. Mirabel insists that everyone has an important tale to tell. She begins by reading passages from famous pieces of literature that eloquently describe places, characters, and moments in time. After school, Lucy and her friends Evie, Henry, and Russell discuss the tumultuous events that have shaped their own lives, including Lucy's mother's cancer, Evie's parents' divorce, and the death of Henry's dog. MacLachlan creates marvelous characters, children who can empathize with and support one another and who produce amazing poetry that captures their sadness and courage. The result is a tale that draws readers into a dichotomous world that is serious and lighthearted, sad and happy, real and unreal. Children will enjoy the lively characters and warm friendships depicted in this early chapter book, and it will make a memorable read-aloud to help teach the important story elements that will encourage young readers and writers to explore the world of words as they find their own voices. Carole Phillips, Greenacres Elementary School, Scarsdale, NY
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Ms. Mirabel, a visiting poet, works with a fourth-grade class over several weeks as they first discuss why people write poetry and then attempt to express themselves in verse. “I, myself, write to change my life, to make it come out the way I want it to,” states Ms. Mirabel and thus, she becomes a catalyst for the students’ growing awareness in writing and gives them a means to cope with changes in their lives. Narrator Lucy, whose mother is recovering from cancer treatments, often meets her friends to talk about their hopes, their fears, their families, and their charismatic poetry mentor. Children reading the book may long for such friends, who talk so openly about serious matters, support each other in direct and indirect ways, and find plenty to laugh about, too. As the story draws to a close, even the adults in their lives are drawn into the magical power of words. Showing great respect for both her readers and her craft, Newbery Award winner MacLachlan makes every word count in Lucy’s smooth-flowing, economical narrative. Though a number of characters cry along the way, the story is anything but sad, and even poignant is too soppy an adjective for the swift, subtle depiction of characters’ realizations, revelations, and connections. A memorable chapter book. Grades 2-5. --Carolyn Phelan

Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 - 10 years
  • Grade Level: 1 - 5
  • Lexile Measure: 450 (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books; 1 edition (May 18, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060279710
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060279714
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #186,277 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Patricia MacLachlan was born on the prairie, and to this day carries a small bag of prairie dirt with her wherever she goes to remind her of what she knew first. She is the author of many well-loved novels and picture books, including Sarah, Plain and Tall, winner of the Newbery Medal; its sequels, Skylark and Caleb's Story; and Three Names, illustrated by Mike Wimmer. She lives in western Massachusetts.

In Her Own Words..."One thing I've learned with age and parenting is that life comes in circles. Recently, I was having a bad time writing. I felt disconnected. I had moved to a new home and didn't feel grounded. The house, the land was unfamiliar to me. There was no garden yet. Why had I sold my old comfortable 1793 home? The one with the snakes in the basement, mice everywhere, no closets. I would miss the cold winter air that came in through the electrical sockets."

"I had to go this day to talk to a fourth-grade class, and I banged around the house, complaining. Hard to believe, since I am so mild mannered and pleasant, isn't it? What did I have to say to them? I thought what I always think when I enter a room of children. What do I know?"

"I plunged down the hillside and into town, where a group of fourth-grade children waited for me in the library, freshly scrubbed, expectant. Should I be surprised that what usually happens did so? We began to talk about place, our living landscapes. And I showed them my little bag of prairie dirt from where I was born. Quite simply, we never got off the subject of place. Should I have been so surprised that these young children were so concerned with place, or with the lack of it, their displacement? Five children were foster children, disconnected from their homes. One little boy's house had burned down, everything gone. 'Photographs, too,' he said sadly. Another told me that he was moving the next day to place he'd never been. I turned and saw the librarian, tears coming down her face."

"'You know,' I said. 'Maybe I should take this bag of prairie dirt and toss it into my new yard. I'll never live on the prairie again. I live here now. The two places could mix together that way!' 'No!' cried a boy from the back. 'Maybe the prairie dirt will blow away!' And then a little girl raised her hand. 'I think you should put that prairie dirt in a glass bowl in your window so that when you write you can see it all the time. So you can always see what you knew first.'"

"When I left the library, I went home to write. What You Know First owes much to the children of the Jackson Street School: the ones who love place and will never leave it, the ones who lost everything and have to begin again. I hope for them life comes in circles, too."

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I thought this book was amazing. I have long known that words have the power to change lives, but never have I seen a children's book that expresses that sentiment as eloquently as this one. This book follows a group of fourth graders and their experiences with a visiting author who instructs them on the power of words. They talk about landscape and character and what is real versus unreal. Each child takes something different away from the magical Ms. Mirabel's lesson. One uses it to cope with her mother's cancer, another to deal with the death of his dog, and yet another comes to terms with her new adopted baby brother. There are a lot of stories told in this slim little tale. It's a wonder to me that the author does it so effectively in so few words. Okay, so the poems these fourth graders write are probably quite a bit better than any fourth grader I know could come up with. That's okay though, because the story they tell and the message they convey are important ones. Ms. Mirabel's description of the difference between real and unreal should be used in every classroom.

This book is unique in that I think it will appeal to anyone grade 2-4. This one stands out as a big kid story told for smaller kids, and would be perfect as a class read aloud; especially if you were starting work on poetry. If you do family read alouds - this would be great because a wide variety of ages could take different things from it. A big recommend.
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Format: Hardcover
As a mother who screens everything her 11-year-old reads, I saw stars from all the writing guides I had to go through in order to find one that appealed to budding writers and did not read like a text-book. In "Word After Word After Word" by Patricia MacLachlan, I found it. I wish we'd had this book as *our* textbook at school. I detest outlines, too, although I do see how they could help tremendously in writings of more than 2,500 words. In any case, I couldn't wait to hear what said daughter had to say about the book as well, and she came up with both the rating for the book in this review as well as the words below:

"The book, "Word After Word After Word" by Patricia Maclachlan is a great book for budding writers.

"When Ms. Mirabel visits Lucy, Henry, Evie, Russell and May in their fourth grade class, she brings with her a whole new way of using words to describe life, and as the kids learn to express their thoughts in words and poems, they find themselves looking at their own lives differently. From getting the kids to write about a new baby to them writing about a mom with cancer, this book is the perfect remedy to every writing problem.

"My favorite part was when Evie thinks of a fake name for her neighbor Sister Mary Grace in the middle of the book: Sister Sassy Demello - because I also enjoy making up names.

"My favorite poem was the one by Russell, about his dog who died, because my dog died, too, and I understand how his pain. Also, I enjoyed Patricia Maclachlan's detailed descriptions of Ms. Mirabel's colorful and funny clothes."
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One of my favorite authors has done it again. She knows the heart and inner wisdom of a child while being able to re-open adult eyes to our own child still within. A quick, simple read that touches deeply. Shows how the magic of words can be shared. It also shows how we are influenced by our teachers and one another. Would be a conversation starter in any group or family read together.
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I am a fourth grade teacher, and I teach writing to my sometimes reluctant students. So it was with great eagerness that I purchased this book. I expected to read it aloud to my class, and anticipated that they would be inspired to write by the sheer magic of the work.

But this slight book read as inauthentic to me. The characters didn't seem like any of the fourth graders I've known, taught, and loved over the years, even my little ones who have wanted to bring their writer's notebooks out to recess each day. How the students in Miss Cash's class spoke and, especially, what they wrote, read more like the words of college educated adults, not real human children.

Beautiful poetry fills this book, but not for one minute did I think that the children in that class would have actually written those words.

There is value in this story. The language is lovely. The children are kind to each other. The spirit behind it is well-meaning as all get-out. And I will still read it to my class.

I just wish that Patricia MacLachlan had made this more about the real, and less about the unreal. (Read it and you'll get the reference.)

But try it, you might like it.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book, and slid it into the back seat of my car knowing my 7 year old son would pick it up. All went according to plan. He picked it up. Looked at it, began to read, and quickly wanted to know WHY I would put this book in the car, since there was no action, magic or mystery. Yet, he continued reading, brought the book into the house when we arrived home, and finished it. Within two days, he was asking where his journal was. At this point he writes several times a week. Sometimes just lists, sometimes short stories, sometimes funny poems. The point is, though, he is writing! Thrilled that this simple book could be so inspirational to a 7 year old!
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