Author Feature-Karen Harrington

 


Spirit of Texas Reading Program

Middle School

Featured Author

Karen Harrington

Karen Harrington

Courage for Beginners
Sure Signs of Crazy

Karen Harrington was born and raised in Texas, where she still lives with her husband, children and one sneaky dog. She is at work on her next set-in-Texas novel, MAYDAY, out in spring 2016 from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. 


 

Find her on the web:

Author website

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Book Trailer

Sure Signs of Crazy

 

Courage for Beginners


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Book Quiz

Courage for Beginners 

Printable Copy

  1. What disorder does Mysti's mother suffer from that prevents her from leaving the house? 
    1. Acrophobia
    2. Agoraphobia
    3. Obsessive-Compulsive disorder 
    4. Arachnophobia
  2. What disastrous event sets off a series of changes in Mysti's life? 
    1. Her father is injured falling out of a tree. 
    2. Her little sister develops a serious disease. 
    3. Her mother suddenly moves out. 
    4. Her best friend is in a car accident.
  3. Mysti's best friend Anibal decides to conduct a social experiment at the beginning of the school year. What does he claim is the goal of his experiment?  
    1. To convince Sandy to go to the fall social with him. 
    2. To become the most popular kid in school. 
    3. To avoid being bullied. 
    4. To convince Mysti to go to the fall social with him.
  4. What country does Mysti dream of visiting? 
    1. Italy 
    2. Spain 
    3. France 
    4. Egypt 
  5. Which of these does NOT describe Rama Kahn? 
    1. She thinks that Anibal is a wannabe hipster. 
    2. She plans to be a surgeon when she grows up. 
    3. She thinks that Facebook is a waste of time. 
    4. She plays the violin. 
  6. What "sign" gives Mysti the courage to walk to the grocery store for the first time by herself?
    1. A dog riding a skateboard rolls past her house.
    2. She sees a shooting star. 
    3. She finds a four leaf clover in her backyard. 
    4. A hot air balloon safely lands on her street. 
  7. Why does Mysti cover her Alamo project with a replica of the Louvre Museum? 
    1. She was embarrassed about her Alamo project. 
    2. She couldn't remember what the assignment was. 
    3. She didn't want her partner to get credit for the project. 
    4. All of the above 
  8. Mysti secretly takes pictures of "Woman Who Goes Somewhere" and wonders where the woman is going dressed in such bizarre clothing. What does she discover the woman is doing? 
    1. She is training to compete in a power-walking competition. 
    2. She is taking food to an elderly neighbor. 
    3. She is feeding a cat. 
    4. She is starring in a makeover TV show. 
  9. What incident in the past caused Mysti's mother to avoid leaving the house? 
    1. She was in a car accident.
    2. She was robbed at gunpoint. 
    3. She was attacked by a dog. 
    4. She got lost in a new city.
  10. What is Mysti's talent for her school's Talent Show at the end of the book? 
    1. She reads a poem that she wrote. 
    2. She recites the Gettysburg Address by President Abraham Lincoln. 
    3. She recites Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. 
    4. She reads a letter by William B. Travis, a commander at the Battle of the Alamo.

Sure Signs of Crazy 

Printable Copy

  1. Sarah says "If my dad and I were the kind of family who stood out on our front lawns making friends with the paperboy or waving across the street as we a watered our plants, we'd know plenty of interesting people." What keeps Sarah and her dad from meeting people? 
    1. They move fairly often.
    2. Sarah's father is an English professor. 
    3. Sarah has an unusual fascination with learning new words. 
    4. All of the above.
  2. Why does Sarah keep two diaries? 
    1. She has a nosey friend who goes through her things. 
    2. She is afraid that what she writes in her "real" diary will hurt her father's feelings. 
    3. She uses one diary to write letters to a boy she likes. 
    4. She writes one journal to give to her mother.
  3. Why doesn't Sarah want to spend the summer at her grandparents? 
    1. She feels like she is old enough to stay by herself. 
    2. There is nothing to do at her grandparents. 
    3. Her grandparents don't understand her interests. 
    4. All of the above. 
  4. What does Sarah have in common with Finn? 
    1. They both deliver pizza. 
    2. They both talk to plants. 
    3. Neither one of them have had a "first" kiss. 
    4. They share a fascination with words. 
  5. Who does Sarah feel closest to at the beginning of the book?  
    1. Her grandmother 
    2. Her aunt 
    3. Her plant 
    4. Her friend, Lisa.
  6. What does Sarah dread most about 7th grade? 
    1. She will have to live with her grandmother. 
    2. She has to complete a genealogy project. 
    3. She is the only girl without pierced ears. 
    4. She needs new clothes and shoes. 
  7. Why does Sarah start writing to Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird? 
    1. Her English teacher, Mr. Wistler, assigned a summer project to write to a character from a novel. 
    2. She admires the way Atticus handles tough situations.  
    3. She wants to win a green Ipod. 
    4. All of the above. 
  8. How does Sarah's father disappoint her? 
    1. He won't talk to her about her mother. 
    2. He drinks too much. 
    3. He won't let her get her ears pierced. 
    4. All of the above. 
  9. How does Sarah figure out something is not right at Mrs. Dupree's house? 
    1. Mr. Dupree slams the door on his way to work. 
    2. Mr. Dupree's car hasn't moved in several days. 
    3. Mrs. Dupree can't stop eating apples. 
    4. Mr. Dupree gives her a pen he has made from pink wood.
  10. What two demands does Sarah make of her father? 
    1. He must stop drinking and take her to see her mother. 
    2. He must stop drinking and move to a new town. 
    3. He must let her get her ears pierced and take her to see her mother. 
    4. He must start dating and talk to her about her mother.

 

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Academic Program 

Printable Copy

Dear Mysti, Dear Sarah

Introduction/Purpose of Program

In each of Harrington's books, the main characters are faced with a variety of social dilemmas. In the style of Dear Abby, students will work in pairs or small groups to write advice columns from the perspectives of Mysti and Sarah based on the situations in the respective books.

TEKS

Grade 6

110.18.

(3) Reading/Comprehension of Literary Text/Theme and Genre. Students analyze, make inferences and draw conclusions about theme and genre in different cultural, historical, and contemporary contexts and provide evidence from the text to support their understanding. Students are expected to:

(A) infer the implicit theme of a work of fiction, distinguishing theme from the topic;

(B) analyze the function of stylistic elements (e.g., magic helper, rule of three) in traditional and classical literature from various cultures.

(6) Reading/Comprehension of Literary Text/Fiction. Students understand, make inferences and draw conclusions about the structure and elements of fiction and provide evidence from text to support their understanding. Students are expected to:

(A) summarize the elements of plot development (e.g., rising action, turning point, climax, falling action, denouement) in various works of fiction;

(B) recognize dialect and conversational voice and explain how authors use dialect to convey character; and

(C) describe different forms of point-of-view, including first- and third-person.

(14) Writing/Writing Process. Students use elements of the writing process (planning, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing) to compose text. Students are expected to:

(A) plan a first draft by selecting a genre appropriate for conveying the intended meaning to an audience, determining appropriate topics through a range of strategies (e.g., discussion, background reading, personal interests, interviews), and developing a thesis or controlling idea;

(B) develop drafts by choosing an appropriate organizational strategy (e.g., sequence of events, cause-effect, compare-contrast) and building on ideas to create a focused, organized, and coherent piece of writing;

(C) revise drafts to clarify meaning, enhance style, include simple and compound sentences, and improve transitions by adding, deleting, combining, and rearranging sentences or larger units of text after rethinking how well questions of purpose, audience, and genre have been addressed;

(D) edit drafts for grammar, mechanics, and spelling; and

(E) revise final draft in response to feedback from peers and teacher and publish written work for appropriate audiences.

(17) Writing/Expository and Procedural Texts. Students write expository and procedural or work-related texts to communicate ideas and information to specific audiences for specific purposes. Students are expected to:

(A) create multi-paragraph essays to convey information about a topic that:

(i) present effective introductions and concluding paragraphs;

(ii) guide and inform the reader's understanding of key ideas and evidence;

(iii) include specific facts, details, and examples in an appropriately organized structure; and

(iv) use a variety of sentence structures and transitions to link paragraphs;

(B) write informal letters that convey ideas, include important information, demonstrate a sense of closure, and use appropriate conventions (e.g., date, salutation, closing).

Detailed Description of the Program

After reading one or both the books, students will pick two to three situations from the book of their choice and write "dear Abby-like" columns with the other character responding. For example, Mysti would write "Dear Sarah" and ask for advice on how to respond to a situation from Courage for Beginners. Sarah would write "Dear Mysti" asking for advice on situations from Sure Signs of Crazy. Students will then creatively present their products using skits, newspaper columns, TV interview, etc.

Program Related Books to Display or Book Talk

  • Young, Sue. Writing with Style. New York: Scholastic Reference. 1997. Print.
  • Potter, Ellen and Anne Mazer. Spilling Ink: A Young Writer's Handbook. New York: Henry Holt & Co. 2010.
  • Other writing guides as available
  • Epistolary Novels

List of Supplies

  • Sample advice columns, like Dear Abby or Ann Landers.
  • Copies of Sure Signs of Crazy and Courage for Beginners.
  • Paper, pens, pencils
  • Word processing devices (computer, tablet, etc.)
  • Chart paper

Resources (print and electronic)

  • "How to Write Your Own Advice Column
  • Young, Sue. Writing with Style. New York: Scholastic Reference. 1997. Print.
  • Potter, Ellen and Anne Mazer. Spilling Ink: A Young Writer's Handbook. New York: Henry Holt & Co. 2010.

Professional Resources (for librarian and teacher use)

Program Flyers, Posters, Advertisements, Bulletin Board Ideas, Templates, Rubrics, etc.

  • Bulletin Board Idea – Use images of the book covers and create a two column bulletin board with headings "Dear Mysti" and "Dear Sarah" and post question stems that each character might ask.
  • Assessment rubric example
  • Advice Column Rubric

 

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Active Programs

Printable Copy

We've Got Talent

The main characters in Karen Harrington's Courage for Beginners and Sure Signs of Crazy are forced by challenging situations to go beyond their comfort zones. They make new friends, confront uncomfortable circumstances, and take on potentially embarrassing experiences. With this program, teens will get the chance to pluck up their own courage and show off their diverse talents and skills.

Activity Introduction

The purpose of this program is to showcase participants' talents and encourage them to overcome any fears they may have about performing in front of a crowd for a Talent Show. Whether they sing, dance, recite poetry, or juggle, everyone will get recognition for having the courage to get up in front of a crowd at this talent show. Teens who prefer writing or art to performing will also be able to display their skill at an Artists & Writers Reception.

Books to Display or Book Talk

  • Acting for Young Actors: The Ultimate Teen Guide by Mary Lou Belli
  • Learn to Speak Music by John Crossingham
  • Poetry Speaks Who I Am, edited by Elise Paschen
  • Writer to Writer: From Think to Ink by Gail Carson Levine
  • 200 Projects to Strengthen Your Art Skills by Valerie Colston

Activity Supply List

  • Stage area
  • Chairs and tables
  • Microphone & speaker
  • Display space for writing and art
  • Participant ribbons
  • Food/Beverages (optional)
  • Invitations (optional)
  • Programs (optional)

Detailed Description of Activity

The main focus of this activity is a Talent Show. Set up will include a stage area for the performances, with a microphone if available, and chairs set up for the audience. A librarian or other adult should be designated as emcee for the show and will introduce each act.

Patrons should register in advance. In order to keep the event length under 1½ hours, it is recommended that the show be limited to 12 acts, with a maximum length of 4 minutes each. Participants should be asked to arrive an hour before the Talent Show starts to review the order of the acts and prepare any props. In the spirit of encouraging the kids to overcome their fears, the audience will be asked to join in an icebreaker activity at the beginning of the show. "Tooty Ta" is a simple icebreaker that the audience can easily follow along with (see link in resources). Asking the audience to join in this silly activity will help put the performers at ease and promote a fun atmosphere at the event. The emcee should encourage cheering and applause for each act.

The Writers & Artists Showcase is an opportunity for kids/teens to display their writing and artwork prior to the Talent Show. The Showcase can take place in the same location as the Talent Show, about 30-60 minutes before the show begins. Food and beverages can be served during the Showcase. Set up will include tables or other display space for artwork.

Writers and artists should drop off or email their writing samples and artwork to the library about a week before the event. Writing samples will be copied and stapled together in advance to pass out at the Showcase. Artwork will be set up on display. Participants should plan to attend the showcase to answer questions and receive compliments on their work and to support the other writers/artists.

Advertising for the Talent Show and the Showcase can take the form of posters, flyers, and personal invitations from participants.

Each participant in the Talent Show and Showcase should receive a ribbon or other small token recognizing them for having the courage to exhibit their talent and skill in front of an audience.

Incentives

  • Participant ribbons

Activity Resources

Activity Resources for Teens, Teachers & Librarians

 

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Passive Programs 

Printable Copy

Sure Signs of Crazy: Write to an Author

Introduction/Purpose of the Program

In Sure Signs of Crazy, Sarah Nelson spends time writing to Atticus Finch, a fictional character from Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. For this activity, teens will get to write to the authors behind their favorite book characters.

Detailed Description of the Program

The librarian will set up a letter-writing station for teens to write to their favorite middle grade authors. The station can will include letter-writing supplies, a list of popular middle-grade authors' addresses, and letter writing tips and advice. Teens will get to practice their letter-writing skills and learn how to address an envelope.

After letters have been written and sealed in an addressed envelope, they can be dropped in a collection box. The librarian can periodically pick up envelopes from the box to stamp and mail.

Program Related Books to Display or Book Talk

  • Same Sun Here by Silas House and Neela Vaswani
  • Saturday Boy by David Fleming
  • Word After Word After Word by Patricia MacLachlan

List of Supplies

  • Paper
  • Stationary
  • Envelopes
  • Pens or pencils
  • Stamps
  • Collection box
  • Letter writing tips
  • Author address list

Resources (print and electronic)

Professional Resources (for librarian and teacher use)

Program Flyers, Posters, Advertisements, Bulletin Board Ideas, Templates, Rubrics, etc.

 

If you have questions or comments for the Young Adult Round Table, contact the YART webmaster

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Created on Apr 12, 2015 | Last updated July 15, 2015