Thursday, April 29, 2021

Amy Miller and Superhero Stories

Earlier this month, Amy Miller interviewed me about my new book, Story Frames for Teaching Literacy. She is the director of the May Center for Learning and also the author of the chapter in my book entitled "Fostering a Growth Mindset: Strengths-Based Superhero Stories." She asked me several questions about Story Frames and at the end of our chat, I had the opportunity to ask her about her chapter. If you've already heard one of my previous talks about Story Frames and would like to skip ahead to the section where she discusses what got her interested in using superhero stories with diverse learners, it starts about 53 minutes into the video. You may access the video HERE. I have transcribed that section below:

Carolee: I recently did an interview with a very interesting author. Her name is Lyn Miller-Lachmann. She wrote a middle-grade novel entitled, Rogue. The main character has Asperger Syndrome and the author has Asperger's as well. That post appeared in April on my blog. Rogue is the X-Men character who can't be touched and can't touch other people. The main character of the story uses this superhero component to explain her experience with Asperger's, so it made me think about your chapter and how you use superhero stories with your students.

Amy: It was the kids who really initiated that because, as I say at the beginning of the chapter, I was not a big superhero fan when I was a kid. I really liked Spider-Man, but mostly I liked Spider-Man because of the visuals associated with him. I didn't really internalize the stories, which is so interesting because I internalized every other story. When we started the Dyslexia Justice League, which is an advocacy group for students with learning differences all across the state of New Mexico, the first thing we did was had a gathering and asked the kids to define the organization. They were the ones who came up with the name of the organization. They came up with the visuals and with the logo which was a superhero. They had heard the phrase that "Dyslexia is My Superpower," and they really loved that notion. So, they really brought the superheroes to the table, and then the more that I started thinking about and had the opportunity to talk to someone here who is a big fanatic who runs a comic shop here in Santa Fe, I recognized that superheroes face adversity and overcome that adversity. Often, that adversity is the source of their superpower. That just resonated so nicely to me and so deeply with my experience of working with kids with learning differences. When you work with kids who have learning differences there is a whole journey of acceptance that not just the child but the whole family goes through. It starts oftentimes with denial and the family not really wanting to know what's going on, thinking that maybe the child will grow out of it - all of those things that we go through as parents when we are concerned that something is going on with our kid. Then, of course, what we really come to learn, what I came to learn as an educator and as a mom of a dyslexic child myself was that the only way to persevere was to go through it and to embrace ultimately that this is who I am and that is not a bad thing. It is not something to be ashamed of. It's something that gives me strength and it is powerful. That was what really launched the whole experience for me was that idea that was so important for the students I work with particularly.

The Dyslexia Justice League has inspired many struggling learners. Thank you to Amy Miller and the May Center for the important work you do.

Watch my interview with another Story Frames contributing author and parent advocate, Mary Jo O'Neill, as she talks about her chapter, "Advocating for Students: The Family Story."

Watch the author panel where three New Mexico children's authors and I discuss Tips for Getting the Most out of Summer Reading and download the free PDF.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021


You may find the video above on YouTube.

It's summer and everyone is exhausted from months of pandemic isolation, hunkering down at home, and neverending Netflix. We want to get outside. We want to play. We want to travel. But many of us are concerned that our kids have missed valuable instruction time over the past several months. We know that summer reading is important, but how do we balance that with having fun in the sun and being with friends? Is there anything more that we can do for our kids to enhance the reading experience besides taking them to the library and the bookstore? Does leisure reading end when summer is over?

Today's discussion is about simple ways to make books come alive. Join me and my lively panel of New Mexico children's authors (Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, Lois Ruby, and Caroline Starr Rose) to explore tips for getting the most out of leisure/summer reading. These authors and their books are featured in my new resource Story Frames for Teaching Literacy: Enhancing Student Learning Through the Power of Storytelling. The authors begin the video with exciting previews of their books which would all make great summer reads. 

My book is primarily for educators, but the focus of today's panel is on families. If you are a teacher, feel free to send this blog link and the PDF downloads home to families to encourage summer reading.

The authors featured today are also retired educators and librarians. They helped me come up with a list of tips for enhancing leisure reading. The list of our FIVE TIPS is below. To access the expanded and printable version discussed in the video, see the PDF download. 

Five Tips for Getting the Most Out of Summer Reading

1. Be a Book Lover
2. Provide Access to Books and Other Reading Materials
3. Encourage Exploration
4. Read Books Together
5. Make Reading Connections

Amy Miller, Director of the May Center for Learning, was not able to be part of our video as was originally planned, but she and I did hold a separate interview that may be accessed HERE. Find out what inspired her to use superhero stories with struggling learners. 

For further exploration, see my previous blog posts where authors Lois Ruby and Caroline Starr Rose talk about their writing styles and the differences between being a Panster vs. a Plotter.

See author Vaunda Micheaux Nelson's post on her blog - Poetry Break! Enjoy the Moment. During our panel, she also mentions one of her favorite books for encouraging reading aloud Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox, as well as The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared by Alice Ozma who shares her experience of being in fourth grade and making a promise with her father to read 100 books aloud with him in 100 days. The experience was so meaningful that they continued reading books together until she graduated from high school. 

Reading aloud is not just for little kids!

To find out more about the books written by the authors in this video, visit the links below.

Story Frames for Teaching Literacy: Enhancing Student Learning Through the Power of Storytelling by Carolee Dean.

Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

A Race Around the World: The True Story of Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland (She Made History) by Caroline Starr Rose.

May B. by Caroline Starr Rose.

Steal Away Home by Lois Ruby

You may download a complete list of the 32 children's books explored in Story Frames for more great ideas for summer reading.

For suggestions from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Associatin (ASHA) on how to improve language, literacy, and learning over the summer, visit ASHA SUMMER TIPS.


Thanks to the following bookstores for supporting the recent release of

Story Frames for Teaching Literacy

Collected Works Bookstore and Coffeehouse, 202 Galisteo St., Santa Fe, NM 87501 (505-988-4226). Thanks to the bookstore for their generous support of my book and of Amy Miller, contributing author to Story Frames and director of the May Center for Learning. During the entire month of May 2021, CW will donate 15% of all book sales when the purchaser mentions the May Center (unless the publisher's discount to CW is less than the industry standard).

Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Coronado Mall, 6600 Menaul Blvd. NE, Albuquerque, NM 87110 (505-855-7799). B&N will donate a percentage of sales in the store on May 26 (and online on May 26-30) to the May Center for Learning for scholarships to the Summer LEAP Program which will be held at the Albuquerque Academy. Use the code when 12609863 ordering books. This code may be used at any B&N nationwide, so spread the word. 

Second Star to the Right, 1545 S. Pearl Street, Denver, CO (303-733-3773). On Tuesday, June 1, the bookstore will host a live, online event at 7pm Mountain Time when I travel north to talk with Colorado children's authors/illustrators Andrea Wang, Dow Phumiruk, and Beth Anderson. We will explore writing personal narratives and memoir. Find out more about the event and find the Event Brite Signup HERE.

Watch for more bookstore collaborations coming late summer and early fall.

To receive a FREE writing template PDF for kids, sign up for my newsletter HERE and have fun with summer writing!

Monday, April 26, 2021



Freaks, Geeks, and Asperger Syndrome: A User Guide to Adolescence was written by Luke Jackson when he was 13 years old. He has Asperger Syndrome and also has a brother on the autism spectrum and another with AD/HD. His book provides tips on bullying, friendship, dating, and relationships. He also talks about how and when to talk to others about being on the autism spectrum. The insights this book provides are useful to parents and teachers as well as to people with AS. The book is 216 pages long and for ages 11-18.

In Rogue by Lyn Miller-Lachmann. Kiara, an eighth-grade girl with Asperger’s is shunned at school and expelled after a violent outburst. She finds friendship with a neighbor boy until dark family secrets (his parents run a meth lab) threaten to destroy more than the budding kinship. Kiara finds inspiration with the X-Men character, Rogue (a mutant who unintentionally hurts anyone she touches until she learns to control her superpower). Kiara eventually discovers that she might just have special gifts of her own- The author, Lyn Miller-Lachmann, has Asperger’s Syndrome which lends authenticity and perspective to the story. Read my interview with Lyn HERE. 241 pages for grades 5-10. 

Out just this month (April 6) is a new book by Temple Grandin- The Outdoor Scientist: The Wonder of Observing the Natural World. This book is 208 pages long for grades 3-7 and contains 40 outdoor projects as well as information about Temple and other scientists who explore the natural world. 

Calling All Minds: How to Think and Create Like an Inventor, also by Temple Grandin, looks at the science and methodology behind various inventions and shows kids how to think like an inventor. Temple talks about the inventions she created as a child. It is 240 pages long and is for kids in grades 3-7. Read more about Temple Grandin and her other books in last week's post.

See books for kids written about the life of Temple Grandin in my April 11 Blog Post.

This last book is not specifically written for kids. It has received both criticism and accolades. I will share both sides of the conversation. The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy With Autism was written by Naoki Higashida, a thirteen-year-old boy on the spectrum. He is described as being nonverbal, though to clarify, he is able to read out loud as is described by the translator, David Mitchell in the notes at the end of the book. It is unscripted conversations with which Naoki struggles. Even answering simple questions verbally is a challenge. He reportedly wrote his book (a Q&A interspersed with short, fictional stories) by pointing to letters on an alphabet grid that someone else transcribed into words and sentences. The book has received praise for providing unique insights into autism. It has also received criticism by those who question the validity of the methods used to elicit the answers to the Q&A saying it feels a bit too much like Facilitated Communication (FC) which has been debunked as pseudoscience. In FC an assistant guides and supports the hand of a non-verbal person as they point to letters. That was not the case with Naoki, but he did point to letters on a board in response to questions as opposed to typing them on a computer keyboard or communication device.

ASHA (American Speech-Language-Hearing Association) discourages the use FC and Spelling to Communicate. Read the ASHA  perspective to learn why. They do support independent typing as well as other forms of augmentative and alternative communication that are more independent in nature.

David Mitchell, the best-selling author of Cloud Atlas, translated Why I Jump into English with his wife, K.A. Yoshida. Mitchell appears in a video interview talking about his experience with the translation. He first became acquainted with Naoki's story when trying to better understand his own son with autism. He then set out to translate the book from Japanese into English so that he could share the story and its insights with his son's teachers. Watch his interview on YouTube and read his Q&A HERE

At the end of the English translation of the book, Mitchell talks about conversations he has had with Naoki using his communication board. He also says that Naoki is a motivational speaker who reads aloud from a prepared script. He does not answer questions from the audience verbally, though. He types those responses. I looked on YouTube but could not find any examples of these motivational talks. If anyone is aware of any, I would like to know.

A 2020 documentary film of the same title inspired by the book features 5 other young people with autism. Watch the TRAILER to learn more. 

Read this blog post by the National Council on Severe Autism which raises concerns about the movie. 

Saturday, April 17, 2021

INTERVIEW WITH LYN MILLER-LACHMANN (Talking About Asperger Syndrome)

Lyn Miller-Lachmann is the author of the middle grade and young adult novels Gringolandia, Surviving Santiago, and Rogue, with two new novels, Moonwalking and Torch, forthcoming in 2022. She also edited Once Upon a Cuento which is a collection of short stories for young readers written by emerging Latino authors. She lives in New York City. She is joining me today to talk about her young adult novel, Rogue

Carolee: How did your experiences with having Asperger’s impact writing Rogue, a story about a girl with Asperger Syndrome? 

Lyn: I was diagnosed with Asperger’s 15 years ago, a diagnosis that has since 2013 been folded into the autism spectrum. At that time, I’d published one novel, with another recently accepted by the same publisher. Neither of them had autobiographical elements; in fact, I’d avoided writing a protagonist like myself because I didn’t want to remember the bullying and exclusion I experienced as a child. My diagnosis changed that. Finally, I had an answer for why I was different, why I had trouble understanding and following rules, why so many of my peers took advantage of me or bullied me for sport. I wanted to write a novel to show kids like me that they are not alone. Rogue is based on a choice I had to make when I wasn’t much older than Kiara—to keep doing something I knew was dangerous and wrong in order to be part of a group, or to stop letting these kids use me even if it meant being on my own and bullied again. 

Carolee: It was very brave of you to share so much of your personal experience in the story. One of the benefits of writing about our personal experiences through fiction is that the reader connects with the truth and honesty behind what we write, but at the same time never knows how much of the story is truth and how much is fiction. Why did you decide to write about your experiences as fiction rather than as a traditional autobiography? 

Lyn: I’ve fictionalized in service to the story, in order to create a book that readers will want to read. In Rogue, I began with a “What if?” Like Kiara, I tried to sit at the popular girls’ table in seventh grade thinking that’s how I could become popular, and one of the girls pushed my lunch tray to the floor. I did nothing in response, just stood there crying, but for decades I asked myself what would have happened if I’d picked up the tray and smacked her in the face with it. I would have salvaged my dignity, but I would have also gotten into a lot of trouble. So at the beginning of Rogue, Kiara does pick up the tray and hit the bully with it. And it creates a big problem for her, because she’s suspended for the rest of the school year. She wants to have friends and to belong to a group, but now she’s even more isolated, and the New Kid who moves in around the corner really is her last chance to make a friend for a long time. 

Carolee: Amy Miller, director of the May Center in Santa Fe, NM, wrote a chapter for my new book, Story Frames for Teaching Literacy. Her chapter is “Fostering a Growth Mindset: Strengths-Based Super Hero Stories.” The May School is for students with learning differences. Amy heads a project called The Dyslexia Justice League and one of the ways she helps students to discover their “superpower” is to teach them to write superhero stories. In Rogue, the main character, Kiara, finds that she has special talents and unique gifts. She does this partly by identifying with the mutant X-Men character named Rogue. Do you have any suggestions for young writers about writing their own superhero stories or about writing stories in general? 

Lyn: No matter what you write, the most important thing to do is to read. It will give you ideas and help you figure out what kinds of stories and characters you like and don’t like. A lot of times, the characters that feel closest to you—whether or not they’re superheroes—are the ones most like you. For instance, the X-Men character Rogue is most like Kiara because she can’t touch or be touched and she learns about emotions and what to say or do from watching others. Sometimes, the characters you respond to are the ones who do the things you wish you could do, like be good at sports if you are not. Writing your own story is your chance to be someone different, or be yourself but rewrite the past or possess a special power you don’t have in real life and see what you can accomplish with it. 

Carolee: Speaking of heroes, early in Rogue, a friend of Kiara’s family gives her a book by Temple Grandin entitled Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior. She tells Kiara that Temple has a “special talent” for understanding animals. Temple Grandin, an animal scientist on the autism spectrum, becomes a role model and a hero of sorts to Kiara. Tell us a little bit about the people who have been your real-life heroes. 

Lyn: Temple Grandin is one of my heroes as well, ever since I read Dr. Oliver Sacks’s profile of her in The New Yorker in the 1990s and recognized so much of myself in her. Although I wasn’t diagnosed until almost ten years later, it meant a lot to me to see someone who had become as successful as she had and whose different ways of seeing the world has had such an impact on the way we treat the animals we raise for food. In general, my heroes are people who have defied convention and authority to make a positive impact on the world. Many of them are human rights activists, people who have resisted brutal dictatorships to bring democracy to their countries (like my protagonist’s father in another one of my novels, Gringolandia) or who have fought for the rights of people with disabilities and others who have been excluded or faced discrimination. 

Carolee: Is there anything else you would like to say to young people struggling to find their place in the world? 

Lyn: Do what you love, pursue your dreams, and find the people who understand you. And when you do find those people, try to be a good friend as well. Being a good friend is one of the things I still strive (and sometimes struggle) to do. It’s at the heart of Kiara’s journey in Rogue and of JJ’s journey in my forthcoming middle-grade verse novel Moonwalking, which I’ve written with my friend Zetta Elliott. 

Carolee: Thank you for joining us and for sharing your experiences as a person with Asperger’s. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading Rogue and look forward to Moonwalking and Torch. You are a hero who is making a positive impact on the world with your stories! 

Lyn: Thank you for inviting me!

Read about books for kids written by Temple Grandin in last week's post as well as books written about her life - Books for Kids by (and about) Temple Grandin - Celebrating World Autism Month.

Sunday, April 11, 2021


Temple Grandin is a professor of animal sciences at Colorado State University and specializes in the humane treatment of livestock animals. She has written numerous scientific papers about the humane treatment of animals as well as books about caring for and understanding animals such as Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals and Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior.

Temple is also autistic and often speaks at educational conferences about her experiences growing up on the spectrum. She has written books on that subject for adult audiences such as Thinking in Pictures: My Life with Autism and Emergence: Labeled Autistic

She has also written books for kids, mostly about the sciences, but weaving in her personal experiences such as Calling All Minds: How to Think and Create Like an Inventor pictured above. This book looks at the science and methodology behind various inventions and shows kids how to think like an inventor. Temple talks about the inventions she created as a child. It is 240 pages long and is for kids in grades 3-7. 

Out just this past week is a new book by Temple - The Outdoor Scientist: The Wonder of Observing the Natural World. pictured above. This book is 208 pages long for grades 3-7 and contains 40 outdoor projects as well as information about Temple and other scientists who explore the natural world.

Many other people have written books for children about Temple Grandin and her experiences with autism. How to Build a Hug: Temple Grandin and Her Amazing Squeeze Machine written by Amy Guglielmo and Jacqueline Tourville and illustrated by Giselle Potter, is a 48-page picture book for grades PreK-3.

The Girl Who Thought In Picture: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin (Amazing Scientists)  written by Julia Finley Mosca and illustrated by Daniel Rieley is for grades K-5 is told in rhyme with cartoon illustrations and is 40 pages in length.

For middle-grade readers, there is Who Is Temple Grandin? written by Patricia Brennan DeMuth and illustrated by Robert Squler. This book is from the Who Was series and is 112 pages in length for grades 3-7. The black and white illustrations provide a nice addition to the story. It is written like a narrative of Temple's life from her early struggles with autism to her great achievements as an adult.

Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery has a foreword written by Temple Grandin.  It is 160 pages long and for grades 5-7 and is written as traditional non-fiction with numerous facts and photographs.

Watch for next week's post where I will interview another author on the autism spectrum - Lyn Miller-Lachmann who has been diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. Her book, Rogue, is for grades 7-10 and features a main character with Asperger's who identifies with the X-Men character, Rogue, because she has so much trouble fitting in with her peers. She eventually discovers her own unique gifts and this helps her begin to find her place in the world.

Friday, April 2, 2021


It's April 2, 2021 - World Autism Awareness Day and the start of World Autism Awareness Month. You can find out more about how to increase understanding and awareness of autism at In future blog posts, I will be talking about how to use narratives to work with students on the autism spectrum and sharing children's books featuring main characters with autism, but for now, I would like to take a minute to celebrate the official book birthday for Story Frames for Teaching Literacy which is now available at Brookes Publishing and also at It is already out of stock at Amazon, but they will be getting more books in soon. You may also order this title through any bookstore if you want to support local retailers. 

According to today's Amazon rating, Story Frames is #1 in Elementary Education. Yesterday, based on pre-orders, it was the #1 new release in Special Education. 


Amazon Ratings 4/1/21 and 4/2/21

Thank you to my friend, Jill, for the lovely birthday lunch and the flowers in the photo above. Thanks to all of my friends, family, colleagues, and the amazing team at Brookes Publishing who have supported this project throughout the years. Remember, if you sign up for my online newsletter, you will receive a code for 20% off of Story Frames when the next edition of my newsletter comes out later in April.

Brookes Publishing hosted a live webinar/coffee chat last Wednesday where I had the chance to talk about Story Frames and answer questions about the book. Later this month I will post a link to the recording of that webinar.

Before I go, I want to give a shout-out to the most famous person with autism that I know, the amazing Temple Grandin. There are several books written about her for children including the following:

Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery.  It is 160 pages long and for grades 5-7. Watch for next week's post where I will share more children's books about Temple. Bye for now - I have more celebrating to do!