The classroom didn’t look all that different from ten years ago. There were the individual desks some looking like Hender could be sitting in the ones with papers spilling out; the alphabet in cursive, yes they still teach kids to write by hand; various posters with sayings about motivation and teamwork, they’ve been around a long time; and kids, lots of them—27 with one absent.
The teacher introduced me and apologized for not letting me know they still had the final three chapters to read out loud. This was fine because the last 17 pages bring the plot to a fast moving end. Despite this being the second to last day of school these kids listened intently for 18 minutes as I completed the story for them in my first public interpretation of my own words. After hearing the final sentence there was silence but then applause. I was not sure if the teacher had set them up to be polite but it was appreciated nonetheless.
Next up was a short 10-minute feedback sharing session. The kids had also been writing comments on each chapter in their own one page feedback form that I took with me.
- Boys liked the humor especially Hender’s literal reaction to the English language and Jonson’s character.
- Girls were more into asking questions about the future of the relationships established, Hender and his dad, grandmother, and Ella. Jonson and Everly. Jonson’s life away from Hender was mentioned too.
- The setting
- We wanted to read more about Hender and his new life but it had to end where it did.
- More technology
- Boys: Chapters are too long (One boy expressed the fact his Mom made him read one chapter of his current book each night so the shorter the better.)
- Are any of the characters based on your life? (The characters personalities came from a combination of kids I have taught or mentored. They are not based on one person or anything about myself growing up.)
- How long did it take you to write Awesome Sauce? (Three months to write, 20 more to rewrite)
- What happens next in Hender’s life? (When I first saw the story of Hender in my head, I thought of him as a next generation kid who is going to get in some serious trouble with technology.) Does he do better in school? (Hender will never be your typical student but will get by with the help and encouragement of teachers, family, and Jonson.)
- What happened to Jonson when he was up in Canada for six weeks? (A whole other book as Jonson has quite an adventure himself. There was never time to share it in Awesome Sauce so I kept it in the background.)
- Can you make a lot of money being an author? (If you become an author to make money you are in it for the wrong reasons. You have to love writing stories because it can be a lonely and challenging experience with many hills to climb before you see any checks written with your name on them.)
- Did you know this is our last day of school? (Actually I thought you had one more day but lets go with that.)
Okay I think we are done with our little critiquing session but I had the information needed to finally put ‘THE END’ on the last page of Awesome Sauce. Based on the 5th graders recommendations I decided to make one more revision that would end up taking weeks to complete.