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Why I was sad & scared on CBC’s Metro Morning

Why I was sad & scared on CBC’s Metro Morning

Last Friday morning, I took a detour on my way to school to the CBC building downtown.

I wasn’t lost. I had been invited to chat with Matt Galloway on Metro Morning to discuss, you guessed it, Minecraft.

The game has been in the news recently, with the impending Microsoft purchase. That’s what brought me in the door, but I mostly spoke about how I use Minecraft to engage my students with reading, writing and much more.

I also admitted to being very sad and a little bit scared about the future of my favourite game.

Listen to the podcast below to find out why (I come on at around the 9:15 minute mark.)

Not working? Listen to the podcast here.

It was a lot of fun and over before I knew it.  But I’m still sad and scared. Feel free to cheer me up in the comments.

Tank & Fizz’s slimy new cover (and how you can pre-order it, like, right now!)

Tank & Fizz’s slimy new cover (and how you can pre-order it, like, right now!)

I’m always a bit sad on the last long weekend in the summer. Soon, the warm nights and sunny days will give way to icy winds and endless snow shoveling.

But I’m not sad this weekend and I have a group of monsters to thank (and Mike Deas and the folks at Orca Book Publishers, of course.)

Why is that? You ask (you did ask. I heard you.)  It’s because, ZOMG, I can show you the awesome cover for Tank & Fizz 1: The Case of the Slime Stampede!

Here it is:

Tank & Fizz 1: The Case of the Slime Stampede

Check out this cover! I’m kinda thrilled with it.

Isn’t fantastic?

I love how Mike worked all that slimy goop everywhere. That’s what happens in the book. And who’s that ogre spying on our detectives from the shadows? You’ll have to read the book to find out! :)

The Case of the Slime Stampede comes out March 2015, but you can pre-order it today.

Check out the Tank & Fizz page to get all the details on this new series.

What do you think of the cover? Is it slimy enough for you? I’d love to hear what you think, so leave a reply in the comments below.

I’m an award-winning author who writes books for reluctant readers.

I’m also a teacher who likes sharing resources to get kids reading.

Each month, I send out project updates and resources for the reluctant readers in your life.

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Battle for Minecraft Book 1 off to Beta Readers!

Battle for Minecraft Book 1 off to Beta Readers!

Grims in the nether

Praxismaxis researching Battle for Minecraft Book 2: Nether Nightmare. Ack, Slimes!

I’m having a blast writing Battle for Minecraft, my new series of Minecraft novels for kids. Book 1, Descent into Overworld, is finished and in the hands of my beta readers. I’m always looking for more feedback, so if you want to read the ebook for free and tell me how to make it better, sign up to be a Beta Reader!

I’m about halfway through Book 2: Nether Nightmare and currently got the kids in deep trouble. They’re knee deep in lava, surrounded by  ghasts, magma slimes and an army of zombie pigmen. Really not sure how they’ll get out of trouble this time. But that’s half the fun of writing!


How those Minecraft books got my students reading . . .


The three most coveted books on our Grade 1 class library. Are you surprised?

[This post originally appeared on GamingEdus.org, but I figured folks dropping by here might like to read it too!]

If you’ve been near a young Minecraft fan lately, you’ll know that this year’s must-have items aren’t the creeper hoodies or pink piggie stuffies. It’s books. Minecraft books.

They invaded my Grade 1 classroom and help turn some of my reluctant readers to word decoding ninjas. I’m talking about the books pictured above, Beginner’s Handbook, The Redstone Handbook, the Combat Handbook and more.

They quickly became part of my classroom library and my daily reading program for my Grade 1 students. In this post, I’ll show you how I use them with young readers and why I recommend them for any teacher with reluctant-reading Minecraft fans.

The Long Wait

Before we even got our hands on these books, some of my students had a very long wait in front of them. They first showed up at our school during the Scholastic Book Fair in January. Our amazing librarian ordered six copies of the Beginner’s Handbook. They sold out in the first 10 minutes. A few of my Grade 1s, ordered a copy anyway with the hope it would arrive at school ‘soon’.

A few days later, instead of the ordered books, our librarian received this note from Scholastic:


Scholastic’s note to anyone foolish enough to order the Minecraft books.


I guess this Minecraft thing is kind of popular? This was February. I now had to tell a group of 6 year olds that they had to wait three months for a book they already paid for. They were confused. We hadn’t even done time yet in math and three months was an unbelievably long time to ask them to wait. At the time, we were buried under miles of snow in an endless winter. So, I explained to them that when the snow melts and flowers appear, so will the Minecraft books. That helped. A little.

It was a long, cold winter.

Avid Gamers = Engaged Readers

When finally spring did arrive, the books finally arrived and also began to appear in bookstores across town (the ones still around.) My students brought them to class by the armload.

I bought a few for my class, slapped my name on them (things go missing fast in my classroom!) and they quickly became the go-to item during our morning reading time.

Once these books made an appearance my students who would normally wander the classroom spending 10 minutes “looking for a book” were reading right away. The text is written at a higher reading level than Grade 1 but their engagement with the subject, in this case Minecraft, pushed many readers to try bigger words or run to the dictionary to find the meanings of unfamiliar words.

I also did impromptu shared reading activities with some of the kids. We read passages together with me filling in the larger words. Suddenly I was having quick reading sessions with some of my most reluctant readers. Our work at decoding a paragraph about mining for coal, often led to connections with lessons we had done previously – recognizing ‘ing’ at the end of some words, or identifying the ‘ch’ sound in others.

These on the spot phonics lessons arose naturally, connected to the students’ real world experiences and made the learning much more meaningful. I find this is often missing when I sit students down as a group and do some straight phonics work. It’s hard to keep that stuff engaging.

Non-Fiction Studies Through Lava Pit Traps

The books also made great subjects for our investigations into non-fiction texts.

The books have all the elements of a good non-fiction book, including an easy to read table of contents and plenty of labels on pictures and diagrams. While we had already studied non-fiction texts through our science unit on living things, the students were thrilled to see the same text features in a book about other subjects.


The Redstone Handbook is packed with non-fiction text features and procedural writing examples.

The Redstone Handbook was particularly useful for our work around procedural writing. The students noticed many of the features of good “How-To” books in the redstone guide. Elements like step-by-step instructions and “you will need” list of ingredients were all quickly spotted by the students. Many went on to create their Minecraft How-To books, with guides on how to build your first shelter and more.

As the year wound up and my classroom books were packed away, these three titles were the ones my kids were still asking for on the last day. To me, that’s the sign of engagement and growing readers. Over the summer, I’m going to pick up the rest of the books and see where they can take our learning.

What about you? What Minecraft or video game books have you used in your classroom? Tell us about it in the comments below!

I addition to writing kids books and teaching Grade 1, I share resources for teachers and parents to get their reluctant readers reading through my regular newsletter Reading Change.

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Happiness is a book reprinted


The Reprint Three: these reprint editions of my books landed in my mailbox last week.

With all my experimenting with ebooks and print on demand (POD) publishing, there is still nothing that can replace the thrill of having your books get reprinted by your publisher.

That’s what happened last week when the books in the photo above landed on my doorstep.

Publishers reprint books when they’ve sold all their existing copies or are coming close to selling out. To an author that means your books is actually selling. That’s a good thing.

I’m thrilled because my Graphic Guide Adventure series has been out for a while and almost all of them are into reprints. Hooray!

Wild Ride, first published in 2007 is in its third reprinting, while this is the first reprint for Food Fight and Power Play. That’s kind of cool.

So, a big thank you to the amazing folks at Orca Book Publishers who do so much to tell folks about my books. And huge grats and thanks to the fantastic Mike Deas, whose illustrations are a big factor in why the books continue to sell.

I look forward to the same success with my new series with Mike: Tank and Fizz. If you haven’t seen the sneak peaks of art Mike is sharing on our Tank and Fizz tumblr blog, you’re missing out on some monstrous fun.

Happy reading!