August 17, 2014
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!
, multi-school Minecraft server
, reluctant readers
August 1, 2014
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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July 26, 2014
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.
, graphic novels
, writing news
July 13, 2014
They say write what you know.
I know Minecraft and I know writing for kids. Combining the two seemed like a natural fit and the beginnings of a really fun project.
The Battle for Minecraft saga begins . . .
With an idea brewing, I sat down and spent the last month plotting and writing. The result is the Battle for Minecraft saga, a three book series for Middle Grade readers (age 8 – 14 years) set in the world of Minecraft.
It’s still a working title and much could change, but my goal is to have Book 1: Assault on Overworld, available in ebook by September 2014, with a print edition to follow very quickly.
What’s it about? Excellent question. Here’s a blurb for Assault on Overworld:
Things got serious when the creepers blew up the school cafeteria.
Before that Hamid, Ant and Jaina were three typical Minecraft-loving kids. Now, they are trapped inside the mysterious Minecraft world known only as the Seed racing to stop more monsters from spilling out of the game and into the real world.
The Battle for Minecraft has begun . . .
The first book in the series is finished and ready for Beta Readers. Speaking of which, I’m looking for Beta Readers.
Being a Beta Reader means a sneak peak at the book before it is finished. You read the book and offer feedback on things like plot, character or whatever you like or don’t like. It’s lots of fun and you’ll get a free digital copy and thank you in the finished book.
I’m hoping to get feedback from as many Minecraft fans as possible, so sign up to be a Beta Reader and tell your friends about it, too.
How is this even possible?
When I tell people I’m writing a Minecraft book, they’re usually suspicious. And rightly so. Here’s how I came to the decision that a Minecraft book is something I must write.
In the last few months, I’ve been contacted by two separate publishers about writing Minecraft books. Both books were “unofficial” projects, meaning they were working under Mojang’s generous Brand & Assets Guidelines.
Both deals also fell through, which actually turned out to be a good thing.
I had already been thinking about a Minecraft novel for young readers. I had seen Minecraft novels for kids like this, this, and this appear on Amazon and waited for them to be taken down for copyright infringement by Mojang (the makers of Minecraft).
But they didn’t. More books appeared and readers seemed to like them.
Turns out Mojang is pretty open about using the name Minecraft and their creations (like creepers, endermen, etc). That’s why you see so many Youtube channels with Minecraft content. As long as you don’t claim to own the Minecraft name and characters, it seems you can build on their universe.
That freedom got the mouse in my head working overtime. The result is my upcoming Battle for Minecraft series, which I’ll publish through my publishing company Feeding Change Media.
I’m not sure where all this will lead, but I know I’m having fun. And for writers (and GI Joe fans), that’s half the battle.
What do you think? Would you read a Minecraft novel written by me? If you’re a teacher, would you share with your students? Let me know in the comments below.
, video games
June 18, 2014
Does Hugh Howey get fan mail with googly eyes? No, he does not.
I know authors for adults get letters from their readers, but I doubt Margaret Atwood’s fan mail is created with crayons and comes with googly eyes. And that’s her loss.
I love getting letters and emails from readers and recently an amazing teacher in the US contacted me to say two of her students, Zoya and Elijah, were big fans of my Max Finder Mystery you-solve-it comic series. They love watching the short comic mysteries on Tumble Book Cloud Junior and they wanted to tell me all about it.
In addition to the amazing covers to their letters (seen in the photo above), Zoya and Elijah each took the time to write me and let me know exactly why they liked the mysteries and which ones were their favourites.
Check them out (click on the image to make it bigger):
An awesome letter from an awesome fan! Click image to make it bigger.
Max Finder fans write amazing letters! Click image to make it bigger.
Thanks for making my day with your letters Zoya and Elijah! There is a package of Max Finder goodies on its way to you. Enjoy and happy reading!
If you’re a teacher or a parent who knows a fan of any of my books, I would love to hear from you. You can email me at: mail [at] liamodonnell [dot] com to say hello or to get my mailing address. I will always write back!
, max finder mystery
, my awesome fans
June 7, 2014
Last week, I sent the manuscript for Tank and Fizz #2 off to the amazing folks at Orca Book Publishers. To celebrate, I thought it’d be fun for you to meet another character from the series.
Today, we meet another one Slick City’s dynamic detectives: Tatanka Wrenchlin, the tinkering-troll!
Tatanka “Tank” Wrenchlin
Ten year old Tank is a troll who shares Fizz’s class and his desire to get to the bottom of mysteries. The two make an odd pair, with Tank standing head and shoulders over her goblin best friend, but there’s no duo better at finding lost mittens or missing lunches in all of Gravelmuck Elementary.
Like all trolls, Tank has an unquenched desire to know how things work. She cannot resist taking things apart to see the gears, pulleys or circuits inside. Due to some unfortunate events, like rewiring the school PA system to broadcast the MudBall Champions instead of Principal Weaver’s daily affirmations, Tank is forbidden to bring tools into school.
In fact, in most places in Slick City, trolls are regularly relieved of their screwdrivers, circuit testers and I/O receiver modulators, due to their inability to resist tinkering. Tank’s knack for building contraptions, writing code and generally hacking the network connecting the computers in her school, is a boon to a detective like Fizz.
, middle grade fiction
, orca books
, tank and fizz
, writing news
June 1, 2014
One of my biggest worries when writing Ganked, was that non-gamers wouldn’t get it.
Ganked is a straight-ahead YA mystery, but steeped in the world of video games and as a result packed with gamer terminology. But I didn’t want all the talk about MMOs, PvPing and Ganking to get in the way of the story and make it unreadable to non-gamers.
After reading Amy Mathers’ review of Ganked on the Marathon of Books site, I think I’ve unlocked that achievement (that’s another gaming reference.)
Amy isn’t a gamer but that didn’t stop her from enjoying the book. Here’s some of the nice things Amy said about Ganked:
“From witty humour to dramatic action scenes, it was an entertaining read with a great mystery. Definitely a must read for teen gamers.” – amysmarathonofbooks.ca
I couldn’t be happier.
I’m also very happy (and honoured) to be included in Amy’s Marathon of Books project.
Amy is reading a new Canadian YA book every single day during 2014 to raise money for the Canadian Children’s Book Centre and establish a Canadian teen book award. Her inspiration comes from two Canadian icons:
Inspired by Terry Fox’s and Rick Hansen’s Canadian journeys, Amy Mathers decided to honour her passion for reading and Canadian teen literature while working around her physical limitations through a Marathon of Books. Realising that Terry Fox could run a kilometre in six minutes during his Marathon of Hope, she figured out that she could read ten pages in the same amount of time.
Thus, on her journey, ten pages will represent one kilometre travelled across Canada. Amy will be reading teen fiction books from every province and territory, exploring Canada and promoting Canadian teen authors and books by finishing a book a day for each day of 2014. – amysmarathonofbooks.ca
It’s an inspiring challenge and one I’ll be watching (and supporting) for the rest of the year, as Amy travels west across Canada.
I encourage you to check out the many ways to support Amy on her marathon of reading across our great (and large!) country.
Thanks, Amy for including my little addition to Canadian YA lit to your amazing journey!
, canadian children's book centre
, geeked out mysteries
, marathon of books
, video games
, writing news