Saturday, April 21, 2007

A Great Day With Angie Sage

Thank you, thank you, thank you to HarperCollins and Cover to Cover Children's Books for sponsoring Angie Sage's day with our 4th and 5th graders.

Angie Sage is the author of the Septimus Heap series, a fantasy series about the seventh son of the seventh son in a family of wizards. In the first book, MAGYK, we meet the Heap family, Marcia (Mar CEE uh) Overstrand (the Extra Ordinary Wizard), and Aunt Zelda (a white witch). Knowing that the series is named for Septimus Heap, readers will not believe that he actually dies in the first chapter, but their questions about him will not be fully answered until the last pages of the book. I listened to this book while driving to and from school, and I often found myself either wishing for a longer commute, or sitting in the parking lot/driveway unable to stop listening! The British accent of the reader definitely added to the experience.

I read FLYTE with my eyeballs (instead of my ears), and it was just as delightful as MAGYK. If you were paying attention in MAGYK, you know exactly who the dark stranger is at the beginning of FLYTE, but again, it takes the whole book for the mystery to unwind. In the meantime, there is new evil with which to contend, and some old evil comes back in bits and pieces. The green rock that Jenna gives to Boy Four-One-Two in MAGYK surprises everyone and causes quite a stir.

I ran out of spring break before I had a chance to read PHYSIK, but it is top on my list for summer vacation! From what Angie said about it in her presentation, I am expecting some time travel, and a new avocation? vocation? for Septimus.

One of the perks of the dust jacket of the hardcover of PHYSIK is that the reverse side is a map of the world of the series. All three books include maps, something Angie said is very important in imagining, writing about, and reading about an imaginary world. It is one of the ways that world comes to life in the mind of the author and the reader.

Here are some of the things our students and teachers love about Angie Sage's books:
  • the vivid descriptions make it easy to visualize characters and settings
  • the way she plants clues for the reader
  • the maps
  • the bits at the back of MAGYK that tell what happened to some of the characters after the story ends
  • the bits at the back of FLYTE that tell what happened to some of the characters BEFORE the story begins
  • the characters -- some very good, some very evil, and some in between
  • all the sevens that are hidden in the first book, and the fact that each book in the SEVEN book series will have 49 (7x7) chapters
  • the short chapters and cliffhangers that make it nearly impossible to stop reading

In this picture, Angie (who I think is equal parts spunky Marcia Overstrand and gentle Aunt Zelda) is sharing the matchboxes she creates for each of her books. She fills the matchbox with small cards upon which are written the name of one character in the book. When she gets stuck in her writing, she takes out the cards and uses them to visually see the connections between the characters and to get ideas to help the story move along.

Her presentation gave the children a fascinating insight into the ways a writer's world and life make their ways into her books. She showed us a satellite picture of her home in Cornwall, England. The whole bottom section of England was shrouded in fog, which was visible from space. How perfect that fog features strongly in her stories! In another, she showed us some big helicopters flying over her town (there is a naval base nearby). While she didn't make the connection at the time she was writing, she now sees that these helicopters are like the dragons in her stories -- and now as then, everyone looks up when one flies by! She showed us the old woods near her house, and the narrow winding channels of the creek near her house. In her books, the woods became deeper, denser, and bigger, and the creek channels became the Merrim Marshes.

The day before Angie visited, our fourth graders performed the dress rehearsal of their spring program for the whole school. The theme was, "The British Invasion," and the songs and movements they learned were all from the British Isles. The first song they sang was "God Save the Queen." I couldn't believe my ears! The perfect welcome for Angie Sage! Here you see our (fabulous) music teacher leading the fourth graders in the first two verses. Angie was touched and impressed. Most Brits, she said, only know the first verse, so to hear 10 year-olds in the U.S. singing TWO verses...well, the same would be true if we traveled abroad and heard a group sing all the verses of "My Country 'Tis of Thee."

Here's a small indicator of the impact of Angie's visit on our students: I had announced that I would end the book sale the day before her visit (so that the autographing schedule could be locked in). Despite this, at least one child brought money for a book on the day of the visit, and I knew the books would still be in my room for at least a couple of days after the visit, so I let the teachers know that the sale would continue the next day(s), but without, of course, the opportunity for autographs.

Half again as many books were sold the day after Angie's visit than were sold in the weeks before.

Clearly, Angie and her books inspire readers! Lucky for us that we got to experience the "magyk" of Angie Sage!


  1. How wonderful! I was fortunate enough to meet Angie on Wednesday and see her presentation as well as those matchboxes. I may just have to steal that idea!

    The dustcover/map is gorgeous!

  2. Very cool that you saw her Wednesday! She was here Thursday...anybody in Dayton want to weigh in on her Friday visit? Anybody from the rest of her week-long tour?


  3. Thanks again for the great book sources. I am afraid I am going to have to get a after school job just to buy my books!:)

  4. Anonymous7:12 PM

    What a great visit! Thanks for sharing it. I wish I could have been there. I've only read Magyk so far (I also listened to it), but I'm saving the other two books for a binge read sometime.


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