Sharp As Tacks!

IMG_9168I’ve been thinking about last Tuesday and the fun I had reading with third graders in Connecticut. I’m convinced that third graders are the sharpest people on the face of the earth.

They are incredibly enthusiastic about everything.

Their faces literally shine with unabashed anticipation.

They volunteer for anything.

They sit on the floor with their legs crossed, which, in itself, elicits my admiration. (When I sit on the floor, I usually can’t get up.) (I’m seriously considering investing in one of those medic alert necklaces.)

Their hands are always in the air, wildly waving because something I’ve just said has set off an idea in their heads. (Even if it’s not remotely connected in any way to what I’ve just said.)

They can keep their little arms flailing forever until I finally call on them, again and again and again, ad infinitum.

They love to laugh.


They get me.

Seriously, they get me!

Third graders are sharp!

Flying Horse

A Berkshire Tale is made up of ten interconnected stories about the first year in the life of a kitten. Since Tuesday was March 1st, I read them the chapter for that month which involved flying a ghost kite and being a hero. They loved it. They jumped into the plot, pretending to be sheep and goats and chickens and they asked a ton of questions.

Then they wanted to know about the other stories in the book. Did I have one about Halloween? Thanksgiving? Christmas? I told them about the Christmas story and how it had presented problems which caused a serious case of  writer’s block.

A hand shot up – an eight-year-old who eagerly shared his personal, stressful  experience with writer’s block:  “I just sat there and sat there and sat there and sat there and sat there and couldn’t think of anything to put on that paper.”

IMG_1614Other young heads bobbed and nodded empathetically. They wanted to know how I solved my problem and  I told them about Simon, the cat at the Red Lion Inn. I explained about getting dressed and going to the lobby at  2AM during a snowstorm when everyone else at the Inn was sound asleep. They listened attentively as  I told them how I

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sat on a couch, by the fireplace in front of a Christmas tree with Simon by my side and he helped me to finish my story. Not one of those eight-year-olds screamed, “You talked to a cat, you crazy old woman?” Not one. Their heads nodded, obviously affirming my ingenuity in  seeking sage advice from a black and white tuxedo cat.

They get me!

We then did a project which involved writing invitations:

Dear_____________,   Please read with me. _________________

(Some decided to put in their pet’s name. I told them it was a brilliant idea. One child said she had an alligator.)

They thought the cat reading a book on the cover of the invitation was great. No one brought up the fact that cats can’t read, even if they’re wearing glasses! Teenagers are inflexible on such details. I should know. I spent 20 years teaching high school English and I’ve been rendered fearless by the experience. Nothing scares me. I am invincible! But I digress…..

I gave them all my business card. (Third graders love to get business cards. They resolutely tuck them into their pockets with a “My people will contact your people” attitude.) Then,  I headed over to the next class which was equally invigorating.

When I checked my e-mail that night, I found a note from one of the students.

“Hi, this is Rory. How much is the book you read to us? This is my cat  Finn.”IMG_1426

I wrote back: “Finn is a very handsome cat. I think my cats, Roxie and ZuZu, would get along very well with him.” I included pictures.

Rory sent me three more pictures of Finn with the note, “My cat Finn is a girl. You are so cool.”

Even when I make a mistake, I am forgiven and then complimented.

I love third graders!

They get me!










87 thoughts on “Sharp As Tacks!

  1. What a fun post! I’m glad you thoroughly enjoyed your experience. I’ll soon be doing the same for several grade levels over three one-hour sessions at an elementary school. I’m looking forward to it. I’m enjoying reading your delightful book and just read your Christmas story. You’ve just introduced me to the adorable “packas.” I’ve craved spiced gum drops ever since seeing a picture of them in “A Berkshire Tale.” Your book should come with warning labels! ;-D!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Russ! Oh the fun you’ll have, the places you’ll go ! Well, The packa chapter is finally being made into a separate, larger children’s book. I originally intended for some of the 10 stories to be individual books and am finally doing this. I still have to get an illustrator for the others.
      I’ve completed the mystery and need to edit, but am taking a break for a few days. How is everything in your part of California? Hopefully, no flooding! Thanks for stopping by, Russ. (I’m babysitting this week and will be having fun reading your books, too.)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks, Lori. I was a middle school and high school teacher for much of my life. Teenagers are a different breed and they’re fun but peer pressure often keeps them from being spontaneous. Although they did have their moments! I enjoy teaching and really love the opportunity writing a children’s book gives me to have fun with elementary students. They are open to every crazy thing you throw out there.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. What a brilliant post, Clare. I so enjoyed reading it and loved your enthusiasm. I’m guessing from the response form the children your third grade is about the same as our primary 3 – age 7?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve read A Berkshire Tale with students from ages 5-12,but these 3rd graders were 8 and 9 – the perfect age for the type of book I write. They appreciate the humor and the more challenging vocabulary and the Berkshire settings but don’t feel that a book about a kitten is too young for them.I was going to write a serious post this weekend, but couldn’t stop laughing at the experience. Since my blog started out last year about reading with children, I figured I’d start the second year off with a post on the that topic. Thanks, Mary

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This just reads like a tonic on the page! Third graders (who I understand are 8 year olds) are whippet sharp and eager and I’m unsurprised that they ‘get’ you because you are that person too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Osyth. I am, as I’ve said on many occasions, an adult child. I have a strange sense of humor and 8 and 9 year olds actually laugh out loud when I do something or ask them to do something out of the ordinary. It makes me want to stay with them in the classroom all day.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you Osyth. I grew up at a time when a girl’s career choices were: nurse, teacher, secretary and then marriage. Luckily, teaching was something I enjoyed although, looking back, I think I would be much better at it now. Retirement gives such a good hindsight perspective, doesn’t it? How are you faring?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m fine. Ray has been paying for my healthcare here since the day we married and I have finally got to cash some of it in! I am a Leukaemia survivor so I now have a lovely Oncologist here to keep an eye on me and I have had dental surgery (two rancid teeth removed and we are discussing the possibility of posts), a colonoscopy which against the odds I actually quite enjoyed and I have the mammo to come at the end of the month. I come from the land of the broken National Health Service so this is all very good. In France I avoid going to the doctor where possible on account of their obsession with suppositories (!!) I thought of you though when Ray got a deer tick and we had to leg it to St Auburn for the anti-B. So unless I holler loud you are off the hook …. but never say never 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Well, you are in Boston and the hospitals are really good there. I think you were very wise to get all of your medical cared for and do some precautionary health care, too.I was up at Mass Eye and Ear two weeks ago for my post retina surgery check. All is well. See you soon!(Smart to keep a check on that deer tick!)

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I have never forgotten your Lymes story, believe me. And I am very glad that your retina surgery has been successful. And yes! You will see me soon. And I will see you soon. And I am tremendously excited at the prospect. As is The Bean 😀

        Liked by 1 person

    1. The two of us are quite young at heart. The day I read to them was one of those early spring days and you could feel the sun coaxing the flowers out of their winter beds. So, to go inside red brick school building and feel the same sunshine was truly refreshing. Thank you. Do you have the coffee pot on? I’m going to be visiting today.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What an experience Clare! I totally agree. I volunteer into a literary program with third graders and I just love it. I can well imagine how they ‘get you’. Kids at this age are fearless with prodigious curiosities. They deserve our honesty and equal enthusiasm.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Just returned from this morning’s school session with the third graders. I wish we could ‘free learn’ more but they have a set curriculum which must be followed. We sat inside today because of the heat so we had the watchful eye of the class teacher upon us. When we read outside in the school garden there is more deviating, more happy dances to celebrate getting something right and more distractions like bugs or plants or the groundsman. They ask me the most intimate and amazing questions.
        I will soon have the opportunity to talk gardens with the kindergärtners. My daughter has volunteered us both for the setting up of a garden space in near their classroom with vegies and chooks (chickens) That will be such fun. I love this age group too.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It’s funny to watch a cat with chickens. When I was a young child my bantam hen ‘Henny Penny’, used to peck all around my black Persian cat called Smutty’. He didn’t flick so much as an eyelid nor a warning tail. But he wouldn’t tolerate the other chickens. Curious, eh? So maybe ZuZu would be less predator and more buddy after all. She has such a sweet nature.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. At Easter one of the treats in a child’s Easter basket is candy in the shape of a baby chick. Yellow on the outside and made of marshmallow. Very sweet and very sticky. In the book, Nick offers ZuZu one of his peeps and she runs home to tell her mother,”I would never eat a baby chick, even one made of marshmallow. But I did lick it, Mama.” They now come in different colors.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Yes, schoolchildren are lovely at that age. I spent a couple of years with 8/9-year-olds (they’re in Year 4 at that age here). Their enthusiasm is boundless. You – and your lovley book – certainly scored a hit with them. I loved readibg this post, Clare. You told the story so well and I couldn’t help smiling all the way through. You obviously have a way with you that appeals to children. And of course, you write wonderful stories they can relate to. I can underatand why you love these days going into schools.. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks,, Millie. I really do like being around all kids. I find them intriguing and they stir up ideas in my head for more stories. It is now the season for visiting classes and reading and sharing. I thought I’d start my second year of blogging on the same note as the first when my primary message was Reading with children is important. Since WordPress 101 my blog has expanded to Conversations with Kindred Spirits (like the chats we so often have late at night.) Are you still in the writing phase of your 3rd book or have you reached edit mode?


      1. Oh, I’ve a long way to go before the writing stage is finished. I still don’t spend long enough working on it. I’m also putting together a collection of my flash fiction stories, and writing others that haven’t been published on my blog to go with them. So, all in all, I’m ‘bitting and bogging’ far too much. I need to focus! Black mark to me. 😦

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I missed you, too, I’ve read the posts on your Dad and your brother and just want to put my arms around you. I think going on a trip with your man is a good idea. Celebrate! (Strange about the words they reject on Facebook pages? I liked Trudy’s Treasures)

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh, Lucy. You are quite an exciting person. And you have two exciting little people in your life to read and write stories with. I think your Strawberry Girl Tales would make a great book. And it could have a Purple Cover!💜Love, Ethel

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks, Ethel. Yup, PP and I lead quite the life! And PPJr will only add to the fun! Really? You think I should write a book????? Of course, with purple strawberries on the cover! I’d have to recolor my tattoo too!!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh, as a mom of a daughter finishing second grade, I thank you. Each year I’m afraid of what the next grade will bring but this sounds delightful! Now that she’s a real reader I must get her a copy of your book!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think second graders are great, too. But I believe it will only get better and you will have lots of fun together. If you do get the book for her, please make sure that she knows she can email me or write a blog comment with any questions she may have about the characters, settings and writing process used with A Berkshire Tale. I am now taking out each individual story, adding more illustrations and making them into larger, hard-covered childrens’ books.The first one will be the alpaca story which is the January chapter in the book. I originally had planned to start with the separate stories, but a publisher suggested I put them into one complete book and then extract each one. I’m convinced she was right. Thanks for your lovely comment and I’ll be by to visit with you soon. Clare

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Her birthday is coming up in May, so I’ll get her a copy for that. She will love it. I may also get a copy for her school library, because in her mind you’ve really made it as an author when your book is in the library.

        It’s exciting to hear how your book is growing and changing! I love alpaca yarn and our family is a bit obsessed with their cute flat faces. I can’t wait to see what the new books are like!


      2. I’m really excited about the alpaca book. It should be out by June. It will be a much larger format with more of my photos, but the text from the original chapter of A Berkshire Tale will remain the same. As for the other chapters, I’m going to try to find an illustrator. This is an added expense for a self-publisher like me, but sales from the original book and the alpaca book will hopefully enable me to do this. As for the mystery- I’ve put it aside for the time being, as it needs serious editing. I’m not sure when it will be published but expect some time this summer? Thanks, so much for your interest in it. I’ll send a card to your daughter to place in the book if you’d like. Clare


  7. This brought back memories for me, Clare, when my kids were in grade school and I’d sign up as a parent volunteer to read a favorite book during “March is Reading” month. The questions! “Who is your favorite princess?” “What color is your phone?” Neither of which had anything to do w/ the book I had read, but were essential questions nonetheless. I’m glad you had a such a great experience…and with your own book!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Absolutely delightful! Love your interaction with the Third Graders! I could just hear that little boy saying, ” “I just sat there and sat there and sat there and sat there and sat there and couldn’t think of anything to put on that paper.” LOL I love the Writing Invitation project! And your humor is great: “I gave them all my business card. (Third graders love to get business cards. They resolutely tuck them into their pockets with a “My people will contact your people” attitude.)” You are a very giving person with lots of enthusiasm! Such wonderful writing! I must get your books for my grandchildren. They are 8 and 6.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you , Jane – If you do get a book, make sure you read it with them. It is very calming. I think the 8 year old will really appreciate it. I am taking chapters out of the book and making them into books for younger children. The text will remain the same, but more photos, larger and more colorful. The January chapter on Alpacas will be out in late Spring. I find children to be electric!


  9. And that, my dear, is why I spent nearly 30 years as an elementary school teacher. Sometime around the middle of third grade, kids start to understand sarcasm as well – which is why they then “got me,” too! Middle schoolers scared the bejesszus out of me! Love your writing style! Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. What a wonderful way you have with children. They are truly blest to have you share your time and talent with them and I get the feeling from reading your post that you walk away at the end of the day with a smile on your face. Thanks for taking time to visit the Salon today.

    Liked by 1 person

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