BY JOHN SNYDER
OF PASCACK PRESS
PARK RIDGE, NEW JERSEY —— “It’s your story. Tell it.”
That’s the message the Girl Scouts and a local author are telling local Brownies at Our Lady of Mercy Academy, and the theme is resonating.
According to fourth-grade Academy teacher Christina Gordon, the second-grade scouts, Troop 6962, enjoyed her recent presentation on finding and incorporating themes in writing—and about her journey as a children’s author.
“I think they took that it’s a lot of work,” Gordon told Pascack Press in a telephone interview on Jan. 30. “But it’s also so rewarding.”
The effort is part of the Girl Scouts’ “A World of Girls Journey,” which invites girls into the world of storytelling “to inspire and motivate them to become leaders and find ways to make the world a better place,” says the scouting materials.
Last Friday they were to decide what change they would like to make in their world as a troop and how they’ll make it.
Gordon said she talked about the positive influence women have on society and how to find themes in books: others’ and her own.
She said readers can identify a book’s themes through the author’s word choices, the illustrations, and considering “how a character might feel,” she said.
She said the exercise also speaks to critical reading and thinking.
Gordon, an avid reader as a child, has undergraduate degrees in elementary education and English, and a master’s in special education.
She’d wanted to teach since kindergarten and likes stories that incorporate messages to increase readers’ self confidence.
In her 15 years teaching, she’s taught kindergarten, second grade, and now fourth grade. She leads an afterschool enrichment workshop called Little Authors in which students in grades 2–4 write their own books.
She’s also the author of “Extraordinary” (2014), “Handshake” (2015), and the forthcoming picture book “Pirate Billy and the Search for Amazing,” all from Page Publishing.
“Extraordinary” follows the story of Becky, an angel who worries she has nothing to bring to her community’s semiannual talent show but learns she doesn’t have to stand out far to stand for herself.
“Handshake,” on a theme of bullying, finds its conflict in the buildup to a junior high school’s drama club performance, where three girls who think they’re all that learn lessons of their own.
“Pirate Billy and the Search for Amazing,” which Gordon said she sees as a series, follows a boy pirate (and his crew) who searches for just the right treasure for his sister, whom he adores.
Amazon categorized “Extraordinary” as religious fiction in part because of the angel on the cover, but Gordon said her fantasies—and their themes—speak to boys and girls from any background.
She explained that Page Publishing, a boutique publisher in New York, gives her control over her books’ production, even the page design, pictures, and cover.
She walked the Brownies through the publishing process, even the care that goes into revising and editing.
“The marketing part is still very new to me. The school is planning a Barnes & Noble day, where I might be asked to sign books,” Gordon said.
Gordon said “Extraordinary” came to her in 2012 during Hurricane Sandy, when school was closed for a week.
She paired her passion for storytelling with encouragement she’d received from the parents of kids she’d tutored, who told her she should write children’s books.
“The idea blossomed in my mind,” she said.
She’s not planning to leave teaching, she said. She’s going to keep writing, though, and spreading the love of the word in action.
Our Lady of Mercy Academy serves families with kids in prekindergarten through eighth grade. For more information, visit olmacademy.org.
For more information on the Girl Scouts of Northern New Jersey, visit gsnnj.org.
Photo courtesy Our Lady of Mercy Academy