Summer Reading List for Middle Graders

June 8th, 2017 by Gannon & Wyatt

As another year of school wraps, we at Travels with Gannon & Wyatt have put together an exciting summer reading list for middle graders. The beauty of long summer days is that they give us plenty of time to play outside, hang out with family and friends, and read!  So grab a book, fire up your imaginations and embark on  an epic adventure! Happy reading everyone!

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

Imagine walking two hours each way in a country ravaged by war to collect water for your family. Told from the perspective of two 11-year olds in Sudan, this is one of the most moving books we have read in a long time. Based on a true story, we highly recommend this short novel to all young readers.

Old Yeller by Fred Gipson

A heartwarming and tragic tale of young boy and a mischievous stray named Old Yeller. As faithful and brave as a dog can be, Old Yeller helps young Travis navigate the dangers of the Texas frontier. A Newbery Honor book and a classic, Old Yeller should be on every youngster’s reading list.

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

Ever dream of setting off into nature and living off the land? Another Newbery Honor book, My Side of the Mountain tells the tale of young Sam Gibley. Fed up with life in New York City, Sam  sets off to live in the deep woods of the Catskill Mountains and journals about his experience.

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

The story of 12-year old Artemis, super-genius and criminal mastermind, is just good fun. The first book in this series opens in sweltering Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, with a moody Artemis and his heavily armed butler on a mission to restore his family’s fortune.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Dog Days by Jeff Kinney

If you’re looking for a good laugh, book #4 in the series is a hilarious summer read. In Dog Days, young Greg, a boy who prefers the indoors, is forced outdoors to participate in a number of summer activities that inspire “family togetherness.”

Hoot by Carl Hiaasen

Another humorous tale about a boy who relocates with his family from Montana to South Florida, this book is really about the price of development in paradise. Hoot includes an amusing cast of characters, including a renegade eco-warrior, a school bully and a bumbling police officer. It also makes readers think about the damage we often inflict on nature in the name of “progress.”

The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

For those young readers (and adults) who appreciate a masterful work of literature, there may be no better choice. Set in the harsh backwoods of Florida, a landscape teaming with hungry wolves, bears and alligators, The Yearling tells the high-stakes tale of young boy and his adopted fawn. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, The Yearling has been hailed as a great work of American literature. [ideal for slightly older readers, ages 12+]

We look forward to seeing some of you on our school tour next year! We hope you enjoy our summer reading list for middle graders. Remember, the more you read, the more you know, and the brighter your future!

Disneynature’s Born in China Comes to Theaters

April 19th, 2017 by Gannon & Wyatt

Disneynature’s latest movie, Born in China, comes to theaters April 21! This epic film takes viewers to some of the most spectacular wildernesses in China and features three of the country’s most iconic creatures — the giant panda, golden monkey and the snow leopard.

Just as Travels with Gannon & Wyatt brings “the magic of the natural world and faraway cultures to the imaginations of young readers and their families,” Disneynature’s film series brings the majesty of the natural world to the big screen. Each film showcases a different environment and the animals that call it home, enlightening viewers to the importance of environmental conservation.

Born in China is the ninth film in the Disneynature series. Other films include Bears, Chimpanzees, African Cats, The Crimson Wing, and Oceans. In all these films, the cinematography is beautiful and the stories are fascinating, making for the kind of wholesome, educational entertainment the whole family will enjoy.

The release of Born in China intentionally falls on the eve of Earth Day. If you didn’t know, Earth Day is a worldwide celebration designed to promote environmental and climate literacy. This year Earth Day will be celebrated on Saturday, April 22. So, this weekend help make the world a better place by doing something positive for mother nature. Maybe recycle some bottles and newspapers, or pick up some litter, or even plant a tree.

BORN IN CHINA MOVIE TRAILER

The World of a Snow Leopard

March 3rd, 2017 by Keith Hemstreet

The world of a snow leopard is not well known to humans. The main reason is that the habitat of a snow leopard is extremely uninviting. One of the rarest and most elusive animals on earth, the snow leopard lives in the Himalayan Mountains. Extreme cold, snow, rock slides and avalanches make it difficult for humans to observe the snow leopard in its natural habitat. Photographers and film crews have camped out in the mountains for months, only to leave without even catching a glimpse of a leopard. This is why the video below is so incredible. It offers a view into a world seldom seen by humans.

The Travels with Gannon & Wyatt team has never been to the Himalayas, but it is high on our wish list. We would love to include in the series a Travels with Gannon & Wyatt: Nepal, Tibet, or Bhutan, or maybe just Travels with Gannon & Wyatt: Himalayas. Imagine Gannon and Wyatt on a Himalayan expedition in search of the snow leopard. During the expedition, they’d might trek to a camp at the base of the tallest mountain in the world, Mt. Everest, climb an 8,000 meter peak, traverse glaciers, dodge avalanches, encounter wolves, eagles, blue mountain sheep, all the while searching for the mythical snow leopard. They would also meet lots of interesting people from this region of the world, and learn all about the Sherpa Culture, or that of the Nepalese, Tibetans or Bhutanese. What an amazing setting for an adventure, right?

It is estimated that there are approximately 4,000-6,500 snow leopards in the wild today. Like all endangered species, they could use your help. To read more fun facts about the snow leopard and lean how you can help protect this majestic creature, check out the World Wildlife Fund Species Overview.

Below is an scene from the BBC’s Planet Earth Documentary Series. It features what is likely the most spectacular footage of a snow leopard ever caught on film. Enjoy! (WARNING: Parts of this wildlife footage may be considered graphic, as it shows a snow leopard stalking and killing a blue sheep).

 

Seven Great Quotes on Writing

February 22nd, 2017 by Keith Hemstreet

Below is a collection of seven great quotes on writing. When I speak at elementary and middle schools, I tell students that a big part of writing is “rewriting.” As Ernest Hemingway himself said (and I’m editing out the expletive he used), “The first draft of everything is crummy.” The first step in the writing process is to get your story on paper with a begging, middle and end. But that’s just a start. After you have a first draft it’s time to begin the next phase, rewriting, which is every bit as challenging as writing the original draft, maybe even more so.

Author Ernest Hemingway was an avid traveler and wrote his novels in a variety ofinspiring around the world.

Author Ernest Hemingway was an avid traveler and wrote his novels in a variety of inspiring locations around the world.

Another piece of advice I pass along students, especially those who are interested in one day becoming a writer, is that there are two things they need to do: 1) Read, read, read…and 2) Write, write, write! I mean, all the time! Myself, I am also constantly seeking advice from the greatest writers who ever lived. After all, is it possible to find a better mentor than Mark Twain or Harper Lee? I don’t think so.

I hope you enjoy these bits of wisdom from some of the great literary icons. And happy writing to all!

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time — or the tools — to write. Simple as that.” —Stephen King

The difference between the almost right word and the right word is … the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.
—Mark Twain

Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. —Anton Chekhov

Author Harper Lee, and the cover of To Kill a Mockingbird, 50th Anniversary Edition

Author Harper Lee and the cover of To Kill a Mockingbird, 50th Anniversary Edition

I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.
—Harper Lee

The work never matches the dream of perfection the artist has to start with. —William Faulkner

If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it. —Elmore Leonard

First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him!
– Ray Bradbury

Writing Travels with Gannon & Wyatt

January 31st, 2017 by Keith Hemstreet

Writing Travels with Gannon & Wyatt is an adventure in itself, given all the work that goes into each book.

Wyatt with our knowledgable friends, Antonio and Bee, in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Wyatt with our knowledgable friends, Antonio and Bee, in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

The series is often described by educators as “realistic fiction.” That means the books are a mix of imagination and reality, or fictional adventures in realistic settings.

While the brave characters in Travels with Gannon & Wyatt novels often cross paths with sinister villains and tend to get themselves into some wildly dangerous situations, the descriptions of the landscape, wildlife and local culture are all very true to life.

At schools across the country, students ask how we come up with our stories. The imaginative process is just one part of it. A whole lot of travel and research are also involved. To explain how we go about it, and more importantly, the goal of the series, coauthor Patti Wheeler and I have written a short explanation below.

OUR PROCESS, OUR MISSION

Part journal, part fictional adventure story, Travels with Gannon & Wyatt brings the magic of nature and faraway cultures to the imaginations of young people and their families. Each exciting installment is part of a global journey that subtly instills the importance of conservation, cultural understanding, and strong family values.

Prior to writing each book, we travel to the location where the story takes place. While there, we meet with cultural and environmental experts, socialize with locals, ask questions, and listen. We take lots of photographs and video, and write down everything we learn along the way. When we return home, we review our material and dream up a fun, high-stakes adventure story that we hope our readers will really love.

The fictional characters that guide Gannon and Wyatt on each journey are proud representatives of their cultural and embody skills important for today’s youth—critical thinking, clear communication, collaboration, and creativity. These characters are curious, smart, and compassionate.

Our hope is that this method of storytelling and research produces a uniquely entertaining novel, one that not only educates, but encourages readers to begin their own journey of global discovery—a journey that might one day inspire them to help make the world a better place.

We sincerely hope you enjoy Travels with Gannon & Wyatt, and as always we thank you for your support.

Happy Travels!

Nuuk, Greenland: One of the great pleasures of travel is meeting new people.

Nuuk, Greenland: One of the great pleasures of travel is meeting new people.

Happy Holidays from Travels with Gannon and Wyatt!

December 22nd, 2016 by Gannon & Wyatt

Happy Holidays from Travels with Gannon and Wyatt to you all the young explorers out there! As we wind down another wonderful year of adventure, we’re already looking ahead to an exciting 2017. The authors will be hard at work on upcoming books, including Australia, Cuba, Iceland and the American Southwest. They are also exploring a possible research trip to China for book #11 in the series!

Collect all six books in the series...and keep an eye out for Gannon and Wyatt's next adventure!

Collect all six books in the series…and keep an eye out for the next adventure!

Adventure Bus Tour & School Visits
Also keep an eye out for the Adventure Bus, which will be on the road this spring and summer. And don’t forget to contact us if you’re interested in a Skype classroom visit, or even an in person author visit at you school. This fall the authors made appearances at schools and festivals in Georgia, Wyoming, California, Oregon and Washington, and they don’t plan to slow down anytime soon.

A Note of Gratitude
As always, thank you to all our readers and their parents for embracing the magic of the natural world and faraway cultures. We are grateful for your support.

Never stop reading, writing, or exploring because, as Gannon & Wyatt like to say, “The World is Our Classroom!” Happy Travels to all!

Authors Patti Wheeler and Keith Hemstreet love visiting with young readers

Authors Patti Wheeler and Keith Hemstreet love visiting with young readers

Earth’s Wildlife Vanishing

October 27th, 2016 by Gannon & Wyatt

The earth’s wildlife is vanishing. According to the World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Report, there has been a 58 percent decline in vertebrate populations between 1970 and 2012. At this rate, it could be 66 percent by 2020. Vertebrates include mammals, reptiles, birds, amphibians and fish.

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So, what’s killing off the world’s animals at such an alarming rate? Sadly, humans are the greatest threat to wildlife. Colby Loucks, Senior Director of WWF’s Wildlife Conservation Program, links the problem to “habitat loss, overexploitation, pollution, invasive species and climate change.” Fact is, we are clear-cutting forests, over fishing, and poaching some of the world’s most magnificent species.

Below are some of the most alarming statistics published in the report:

• The African Elephant population has declined 30 percent in just seven years
• Populations of freshwater species have declined 81 percent
• A massive section of the Great Barrier reef has died
• It requires 1.6 Earth’s to provide the goods and services we use each year

READ WWF’S LIVING PLANET REPORT

Leopard
The situation is frightening, but there are still reasons to be optimistic. If humans are largely responsible for the decline, a collective effort to save the world’s wildlife could be very effective in reversing the situation. Knowledge is power. As more people come to understand that healthy ecosystems are critical to our own well-being and survival, more people will take action to protect the earth’s wildlife and environment. So, what can we do now? Learn more about the issues, then take action by spreading the word and supporting conservation. Together, we can preserve the wondrous diversity of our planet for generations to come.

Travels with Gannon and Wyatt Authors Visiting Schools Across America!

September 23rd, 2016 by Gannon & Wyatt
Wheeler and Hemstreet visiting students Oklahoma

Wheeler and Hemstreet visiting students in Moore, Oklahoma

Conducting research for Travels with Gannon and Wyatt, Patti Wheeler and Keith Hemstreet have traveled to the far corners of the globe. Now, the authors are visiting schools across America. During school visits, the authors tell captivating stories, discuss the writing process, read an excerpt from one of the books, show photos and video from around the world, and explain to students the importance of reading and writing.

Interested in setting up a Skype visit for your class, or maybe even having Patti or Keith visit your school? Go to our homepage at gannonandwyatt.com and click “Contact Us”

Keith Hemstreet author Sacramento California

Keith Hemstreet speaking to students in Sacramento, California

Here’s What Teachers and Librarians are Saying:

A wonderful presentation! The kids have been checking out your books from the library and bringing them back in a day or two. They’re binge reading them and have nothing but wonderful things to say! Also, I’ve spoken to friends at some of the other schools you visited and they feedback from kids and teachers has been wonderful. You did a great job getting the kids excited about reading and world travel. We are all very appreciative!” —Catherine Rechs, Librarian, Sacramento, California School District, CA

It was the best presentation we’ve ever had at this school. —Mark Zeiler, Language Arts Teacher, Orlando, FL

Thank you so much for coming to our little school and visiting us. The kids loved everything! They are so excited to read their new books and I know I will not be able to keep the 9 that I have on the shelves. —Mandy Weythman, Taylor Elementary, Palisade, CO

Thank you so much for your presentation, Patti! I spent 3 years in Africa because my family and I were missionaries when I was younger. Africa is close to my heart and I’m thankful my students have a piece of it from Gannon and Wyatt. —Nikki McCurtain, Plaza Towers Elementary, Moore, OK

Your excellent presentation to our school district met with rave reviews from students, teachers and parents alike. I loved how you were able to capture a large audience and make the books and writings come alive. Your presentation was just the right mixture of slides, story telling, and interactions. Your love of reading, writing, traveling, and learning about new places and cultures was so positive and the books are the perfect fit for sharing non-fiction information with a mystery and adventure story line. The emphasis on appreciating and taking care of our world with it’s many diverse cultures and issues is priceless. The teachers in our district have loved the teacher’s guide available with the books and have incorporated them into their yearly teaching units. Thank you, Keith. You helped create memories that will last a lifetime! —Lynda Willings, Librarian, Eunice Smith Elementary School, Alton, IL

Our parents couldn’t say nicer things about you! Parents, Teachers and students loved you and your presentation! —Velva Behrman, Loma Elementary, Loma, CO

Thanks for a great presentation. The children really enjoyed it and are all excited to read more books! —Dana Pingatore, 4th Grade Teacher, Aspen Elementary School, Aspen, CO

We love you and your books! Keep writing and come back to visit us again! —Dottie Smay, Librarian, Shorecrest Preparatory School, St. Petersburg, FL

Just wanted to Thank You again and let you know that you were a big hit with the kids and the teachers. My students devoured the books they purchased from you and many are planning to order the whole set. —Joey Salyards, California Montessori, American River Campus, Sacramento CA

Thank you again, everyone LOVED your visit and we hope to have you visit next year! —Sarah Smith, Mesa View Elementary, Grand Junction, CO

Just wanted to touch base after your visit and tell you how much we are all enjoying your books. We have now read Botswana, Great Bear, Egypt, and are currently reading Ireland. The students are loving them! —Rachael Mullen, Chillicothe Elementary, Chillicothe, IL

THANK YOU, Keith! The teachers raved on and on about you for days. —Jennifer Douglass, Theodore Judah Elementary, Folsom, CA

Patti Wheeler visiting her alma mater, Pickettville Elementary School, Florida

Patti Wheeler visiting her alma mater, Pickettville Elementary School, Florida

Keith Hemstreet tells students about the time they were nearly stampeded by a rhino in Botswana

Keith Hemstreet tells students about the time they were nearly stampeded by a rhino in Botswana

Patti Wheeler interacts with excited elementary school students

Patti Wheeler interacts with excited elementary school students

The Spectacular State of Utah

September 12th, 2016 by Gannon & Wyatt
Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park

Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park

We at Travels with Gannon & Wyatt are almost always working on multiple projects at the same time and this month has been about as busy as they come. Hawaii went on sale September 6, we’re wrapping up a third draft of Australia, beginning a first draft of Cuba, and recently hit the road to start gathering research and photography for our book that will be set in the American Southwest.

We began our exploration in the beautiful state of Utah, home to red rock canyons, winding green rivers, snow capped peaks, big horned sheep, bears, mountain lions, sidewinder snakes, and a host of other desert creatures. Utah is rich in Native American history and culture and claims five of America’s most iconic National Parks — Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Bryce, and Zion — also know as the “Mighty Five.” Those interested in the colorful characters of the “Wild West” will also appreciate the fact that Utah is the location of Robber’s Roost, the one-time hideout of the infamous bank robbers Buch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Just about everywhere you go in Utah the scenery is stunning, so we decided to share a few of our early photos with you. Happy Travels!

Dead Horse Point State Park

Dead Horse Point State Park

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park

Another angle of Mesa Arch at sunrise

Another angle of Mesa Arch at sunrise

Mountain Biking Moab's "Mag 7"

Mountain Biking Moab’s “Mag 7”

Journal Entry: Mauna Kea Hawaii

July 21st, 2016 by Gannon & Wyatt

The following is a journal entry written by Keith Hemstreet during the team’s research trip to Hawaii.

March 11, 2014
Kona to Mauna Kea Hawaii

Day #1, woke at 3:30 AM because of 4 hour time change. Still dark. Lie in bed looking out the window. As the sun began to light the sky, I stepped out onto the lanai. A thousand birds sang. The air was warm but pleasant. Little yellow lights like stars still lit the slopes of the 8,275 ft volcano, Hualalai. Somewhere behind it, the largest volcanoes on earth, Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea.

Town of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

Town of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

Smaller than Mauna Kea by 117 feet, Mauna Loa is the mythical home to Pele the Fire God.

Send my wife, Heidi, a picture of the view. She asks about the haze obscuring part of the mountain. It is volcanic smoke, also called “Vog.”

Walk along coast. Buy a coffee and yogurt. Sit at a small table outside and write in my notebook. A giant magnolia tree hangs over the road, its berries smashed into the asphalt. A Hawaiian Palace, built in 1800s, sits across the street. A bird lands on my table and hops around while I write. On the table next to me, a neon green lizard.

Drive to Mauna Kea, “the white mountain” via Saddle Road. Spectacular views as I climb higher from Kona Coast. Dark lava flows run down the slopes to the sea. I pull over to photograph thinking this may be one of my favorite places on earth. Driving higher, the air cools. I see traces of snow atop Mauna Loa and pull over to take photos. Driving higher, I watch the temperature drop on the digital car thermometer. Rolling hills with yellow flowers on both sides of the road. Temp in the mid-60s. I’m at approximately 4,000-5,000 feet when I begin to feel a slight chill. I roll down the window further and John Lennon’s Imagine comes on the radio, making this one of life’s perfect moments.

Lava Flow outside the town of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

Lava Flow outside the town of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

Pass a Military Base. Two helicopters in flight. Drive over old, blackened lava flows. I see wildlife off the side of the road. A dozen animals amongst the lava rocks. Again I pull over and quietly approach to photograph. Some kind of big horned sheep that I will have to research. I take a few pictures, but they quickly notice me and run away.

Take a left on Mauna Kea Road and wind my way up to the Visitor Center, which sits at an elevation of 9,200 feet. Temp 54°F. Weather station inside center. Temp at summit is 32°F, 0°C. Wind speed 15 mph with gusts to 25 mph, making the wind chill somewhere between 15°F to 20°F. I dress in my pants, fleece, winter jacket and wool ski cap.

Can walk on trail and snow, but not on the cinder. They do not want footprints on cinder. This is part of an effort to keep the sacred mountain pristine. Sign reads, “Leave the landscape as you found it. Do not disturb the stones.”

At the station, I talk to the ranger. He tells me the animals I saw were Mouflon, which look just mountain rams. They are not native to Hawaii. Mouflon are from Corsica and were brought over by Captain Vancouver as a gift to King Kamehameha.

Telescopes atop Mauna Kea are some of the most powerful on earth. They study black holes, dark energy, planets, stars. World class location for astronomy. Because of tropical inversion, it is almost always out of the clouds (clouds sit below). This area has one of the highest percentages of clear nights in the world. Scientists atop Mauna Kea have discovered hundred of planets and mysterious galaxies at the end of the viewable universe.

There is stargazing at visitor’s center. Video starts at 6. Stargazing at 7. Free.

Reaching 13,000 Feet on Mauna Kea

Reaching 13,000 Feet on Mauna Kea

The drive to summit from visitor center is just over 8 miles, but takes 25 minutes. Steep roads. Partially paved. Mostly dirt. I can feel the high altitude. My heart seems to flutter and I wonder if I’m ascending too fast. Maybe I am. Just two hours ago, I was at sea level. This could be dangerous, I think, but I do not stop. I want to summit while my blood cells are still used to the high-altitude of Aspen, Colorado. When I see snow off the side of the road, I become as giddy as a child. I pull over immediately and touch it, stand in it, make a snow ball and toss it. Incredible to me to actually hold in my hand the Snows of Hawaii!

Finish the drive to the top. Park right next to one of the observatories. There is a snowman built atop the asphalt, at the edge of the parking lot, near an observatory. Begin taking pictures. Breathtaking views. Freezing. No gloves. My hands freeze instantly. Painful, but I am too happy to care. I descend onto a snowfield across the road, walk around on the snow, then take a short hike up the trail to the summit. There, I photograph the natural area, away from the telescopes. At the summit, elevation: 13,796 feet, I find a snowman with a palm frond scarf and photograph. Then I upload a photo of my shadow in the snow to Instagram with following caption: “You know that big volcano in Hawaii? This is me standing on top of it.”

Snowy slopes of Mauna Kea

Snowy slopes of Mauna Kea

Our latest book, Travels with Gannon & Wyatt: Hawaii, is available September 6. Pre-order today by clicking HERE!