Imagination Station Blog Hop!!

We've had so much fun reading these books and sharing them with you this week.
Guess what. We aren't done yet! Today we're participating in a blog hop! So hop on in and check out this little Q and A session we had with one of the authors, Marianne Hering. 

1. What inspired you to write the Imagination Station series?

Paul (McCusker) had always wanted to write stories about the Imagination Station. When looking to do a kids’ series about it, we chose early elementary to introduce new readers to the Adventures in Odyssey world. We also wanted to touch on a group of kids that didn’t have many Christian books written for their level. There seemed to be a gap from picture books to later elementary readers.

2. The Imagination Station device is well-known to fans of the radio drama Adventures in Odyssey. Why did you and Paul decide to use it in a book series?

It lends itself to stand-alone adventures. It’s a fascinating device. Why wouldn’t he want to write about it? It allowed us to write about settings outside of Odyssey. We’d like some of the books to augment the history kids learn from public school textbooks or TV. The Imagination Station radio dramas are also among the most popular. We thought that kids would like them, that’s all!

3. The first two books focus on the Vikings and ancient Rome. The next two books focus on Kubla Khan and the War of the Roses and now books five and six take readers to the Holy Land and back to Plymouth Rock. How did you and Paul decide which historical events to write about?

Paul and I aren’t the only ones who weigh into the decision. Paul and I have a creative team that also includes Adventures in Odyssey writer Nathan Hoobler, book publishing director Larry Weeden, and marketing manager Brock Eastman. I’m fortunate to have such a well-rounded and experienced bunch helping decide on setting, cover scene, and title. All that said, I do most of the research or verify the other writers’ research for the book’s outline. I’ve written a lot of historical fiction and had many of the ideas for settings and conversations in my mind and heart for years. I try to choose moments in history that reveal a hero’s Christian character and are historically accurate. The exception is book 4, Revenge of the Red Knight, which covered the War of the Roses. Because that war was so convoluted and political, it was difficult to find a well-defined real-life hero we could hold up as a role model. The hero, Sir Andrew, in that book is 100 percent fiction. The other books all have a true-life hero as a role model.

4. How true to history are Showdown with the Shepherd and Problems at Plymouth?

Let me start by informing readers that it’s my intent to answer all of these questions on TheImaginationStation.com website. The historical information is already posted in the parents section for books 1 and 2, and book 7’s material will be posted momentarily. I’m working on filling in the “what’s true and what’s not true” material for books 3, 4, 5, and 6. Hopefully in the next week.

Showdown with the Shepherd expands on the David and Goliath story. For readers who are not familiar with the story, we kept it as biblical as possible while adding three time travelers and a catapult. The Philistines are still gruesome and fearful and want to take the Israelites as slaves. Young shepherd boy David is mocked by his brothers. King Saul is still afraid to fight Goliath himself. David still whomps Goliath with God’s help. (I did get Goliath’s helmet wrong on the cover. The Philistine helmets had a funky topper.--I missed this because I was on vacation when the cover roughs came through and I didn’t check everything as carefully as I should have. Sorry for that. I work hard to get the details of the art to be accurate and feel bad when I overlook an important detail.) The setting was as accurate as I could make it. I did ask my boss to pay for me to fly to the Valley of Elah for “research,” but he wisely thought that would be a waste of ministry resources. :-)

Problems in Plymouth—the events all happened, just over a longer period of time than it did in the book. In reality, these events happened over about a year period. In the book it’s two days. John Billington and his family are real. John did get lost. Mr. Billington didn’t agree with William Bradford on what to do about Indian relations. Chiefs Aspinet and Yellow Feather are real. The Pilgrims did accidentally shoot some innocent Indians. The doctor is real. The issue of the stolen corn is real. The Pilgrims did fear that Squanto was kidnapped, and they set out to rescue him. The Pilgrims did bury their gun powder. The storage room did exist. The meeting house was described accurately as were the cannons. There were several types of muskets models used by the Pilgrims. The details of the first Thanksgiving were basically accurate. We depicted the traditional bell-shaped blunderbuss. However, many Pilgrims probably had muskets without the bell-shaped musket. Marshal Younger and I took some small liberties with the history (besides, of course, Hugh and the cousins). For example I’m not sure who was actually on the shallop that came to rescue John Billington. The dialogue between Bradford and Standish was based on research, but the actual words were fictionalized. We did try to quote Bradford in some places, but his language was so outdated we had to modify it a lot.

5. These books are geared towards young readers, ages 7 and up. What is the number one issue that children learning to read struggle with?

Speed processing. The kids who are slower reading learners usually need more help with sight words and fluency. That’s just practice at an accessible reading level. These are just slower readers in general—I’m not counting kids with true auditory processing issues or other learning disabilities, which represent between 3 and 10 percent. Most kids can learn to read better with one-on-one instruction and a loving atmosphere. I’ve posted reading tips on the website for each book and lists of words to practice before tackling a chapter. See TheImaginationStation.com.

6. What kinds of books do you recommend children read?

I don’t only recommend books. There are fabulous magazines out there for this age group. Not all kids like fiction, so magazines draw them in with nonfiction and pictures. There are some good book series out there—I personally give my children the tried-and-true series written years ago, like Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books. My boys enjoyed the Horrible Harry books by Suzy Kline. My daughter was a Gertrude Chandler Warner/Boxcar Children fanatic. Parents can ask librarians to recommend books. One of my sons loves anything about animals in the nonfiction section—I don’t make him read fiction unless it’s for school. I do have to review their books first, and that can take a lot of time, but it’s worth it.

7. What are some ways that parents can help their children develop their reading skills?

(Get their vision checked for not only vision but for tracking issues as well.) Turn off the electronics and make reading a fun time. You can read to them or they can read to you. Make reading an event. Your kids will complain for about two weeks while the electronic addiction wears off. Then they will be better able to engage in literary pursuits. For free reading, let your kids read “easy” books. Don’t judge. If they want to read Hop on Pop twenty times, that means that’s where they are comfortable. If you push your kids beyond what they perceive to be the right level, they will rebel. Better a lot of fluent reading at an easy level than choppy reading at a higher level. Reading with starts and stops is a bad habit to let them get into.

8. What encouragement can you offer parents who may have reluctant or struggling readers?

I can encourage parents by letting them know that there are GREAT reading programs for kids. Most kids, 60 percent, need extra help at home to make it to the fourth grade reading level. That extra help can come from parents who gently and lovingly make reading a family hobby. There is no lack of teaching material, and your school districts should be able to help you find the right tools. The biggest factor in children’s success at school is a loving parent who takes the time to work with their children. One of my sons could not learn to sound out letters quickly enough to “hear” the word. I couldn’t help him, and so I hired a reading specialist who was more of a cognitive trainer and we worked through his auditory glitch. There are some terms to search “phonemic” awareness and “phonograms” that will help parents read more about how to help emergent readers. When the kids know how to sound out words, speed training on sight words can jump start their reading fluency. On the website, TheImaginationStation.com, I’ve prepared this long essay on how use a metronome to speed up your child’s reaction time to sight words. It’s under the book The Attack at the Arena. Don’t give up. Virtually every kid can learn to read well enough to go to college if his or her parent(s) invest in them.

9. What do you hope kids will walk away with after reading Imagination Station?

A smile and a desire to learn more about history and faith in Jesus Christ.

10. Can you give us any “sneak peeks” into what we can expect in future books?
Here’s the not-so-sneak peek. Book 7 is advertised in book 6, and I already have material about it on TheImaginationStation.com. Book 7 is set in ancient Egypt and involves a mummy and a scary tomb. Book 7 is at the printer right now. It’s my favorite cover so far

Book 8 is exciting because we have a new author joining our team. We’re writing this one with best-selling Christian author Wayne Thomas Batson. We wanted to tell a pirate story, and since he’s an expert and had already written some fabulous pirate stories, we asked him to help us. Book 8’s title is Mystery of Starlight Island. Look for Wayne Thomas Batson’s “Focus on the Family approved” pirate books, The Isle of Swords and The Isle of Fire (for upper elementary and tween readers). Go to FocusontheFamily.com/resources and type Wayne Batson in the search box.

Book 9 sneak-peek. We’re going to the most modern setting yet. The kids will be visiting a famous person who lived dur

1 comment:

Michelle said...

Thanks for posting the interview. I love finding out more about the authors, the whys of the books and all!


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