Posts Tagged: McKinley Avenue School

Two Great Reviews of Eleven

Checking in with a short post today to indulge in a little humblebrag.

This week saw an embarrassment of riches in my inbox.  But not so embarrassing that I won’t tell you about them.


Reviews of Eleven by Tom Rogers

First was a glowing review in DOWNTOWN Magazine NYC, a news and culture magazine based in…can you guess?…downtown New York.

“It helps explain the tragedy to young adults in a simple, yet moving manner. Tom Rogers has told the story in a way that most parents and educators have struggled to accomplish. It’s a thoughtful and important book for readers of all ages.”

To be honest, I’ve always been concerned about how the book would be received by those who experienced 9/11 at close range and who continue to live with daily reminders of that time.

Getting a thumbs-up from downtown was a relief and a thrill.

Lazy Hippie Mama

Yeah, you read that right.

The “Lazy Hippie Mama” is Elizabeth Comiskey, a Midwestern mother of four whose charming and witty blog is consistently ranked among the top three “mom blogs” in the nation, in the home schooling category.*

I’m not much of a hippie (my hair is WAY too short), but I can certainly get behind her manifesto:

“One Woman’s Attempt to Save the Earth, Promote World Peace, and Raise Productive Citizens Without Expending Too Much Effort”

Reviews of Eleven, by Tom Rogers

LHM published an enthusiastic review of Eleven this week.

“The author did an extraordinary job of presenting the human side of what happened on that day….I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Eleven to anyone for themselves or their child….I intend to have my 5th grader read it this September.”

Moms tend to be the gatekeepers for what kids read at this age, and I was delighted to get this endorsement from such a committed parent.

“A great platform for a discussion about 9/11″

Both reviews of Eleven emphasized the book’s value to teachers and parents as a way to talk to their kids about a difficult subject like 9/11.

As the new school year begins and we approach the next anniversary of 9/11, I’m already looking forward to working with the many schools that will be teaching Eleven this year.

If you’d like to arrange an author visit at your school, in person or via email, phone or Skype,  just hit me on email ( or Twitter (@tomrogersbook).

Thanks! Eleven book cover - Tom Rogers*rankings from Top Mommy Blogs

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Who is The Man in the White Shirt?

The sixth-graders at McKinley Avenue School have been diligently working through Eleven this semester. (You can read more about them and see pictures here.)

Mr. Shapiro's class with Eleven

One of the central mysteries in the story revolves around a character known only as The Man in the White Shirt.

Midway through the book, our amateur sleuths were asked to say who they thought The Man in the White Shirt could be, using details from the text to support their arguments.

Bryan C. does an excellent job of citing evidence to show that The Man in the White Shirt could be Alex’s dad.

Ashanti W. can see both sides of the argument. (She meant to say page 150, not 550.)

Christian D. believes we don’t have enough evidence yet to make a judgment.

Mr. Shapiro was proud of the work they did. (Mr. Videographer, though, was still learning the difference between portrait and landscape mode.)

At the end of the day, everyone got a round of “fireworks applause.”


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“I’ve Never Read a Whole Book Before”

Today, I’m going to brag about my kids. All thirty of them.

The students in Mr. Shapiro's class have been studying Tom Rogers' book, Eleven.

Mr. Shapiro’s Class, Room 26, McKinley Avenue School

Since January, I’ve been teaching Eleven to the students in Jeff Shapiro’s sixth-grade class at McKinley Avenue School in South Los Angeles.

Room 26 scholars

They are serious scholars, every one.

Mr. Shapiro is an old friend and has been a fifth- and sixth-grade teacher at McKinley for fifteen years. For as long as he’s been teaching, I’ve been coming to visit his classes and to speak at McKinley’s annual Career Day about reading, writing, revising (a topic loved by no student ever), movies, cartoons, and college, while trying to creatively evade every kid’s favorite question: “How much money do you make?”

McKinley exterior

As I said, Mr. Shapiro and I have been friends forever. His wife cuts my hair. I sometimes pick up his kid from the school bus stop. And Jeff and I played tennis for years, until he blew out his knees. I still bring him bags full of old tennis balls, which he puts to use in creative ways.

Tennis balls

You would think old friends should be able to ask each other anything, but you would be wrong. He was instrumental in giving feedback on early drafts of the book, but the instant the book came out, we turned into wallflowers at a school dance, each of us too nervous to ask if the other would be willing to help teach it. The answer, of course, was “Yes….” (That sentence ends with a part of speech we call the “silent idiot.”)

The Man in the White Shirt (with camera-shy Ernesto behind)

The Man in the White Shirt (with camera-shy Ernesto behind)

But let’s get back to the kids. When we started, they knew almost nothing about 9/11, mainly because most hadn’t even been born then. Some needed work on reading skills. Some needed work on being quiet. (You know who you are, guys.) But every one of them embraced this challenge with gusto, and I’ve been consistently surprised and moved by their enthusiasm. As Mr. Shapiro likes to say, we are getting out our shovels and digging deep, using the book to teach Common Core English/Language Arts standards–not just vocabulary and similes and metaphors, but also more abstract concepts like figurative language, imagery, and theme.

Check out Amie, citing text to support her argument that strangers acted differently to each other on 9/11.

And what do I get in return? Major swag.

Noemi, Vivian, Ashley V., and the author, with the rubber-band bracelet they made him.

Noemi, Vivian, Ashley V., and the author, with the rubber-band bracelet they made him.

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