• Linda Ulleseit, author

  • NaNoWriMo!

High Maga by Karin Rita Gastreic

High Maga 2One of my favorite authors announces something new! Karin Rita Gastreich is the author of Eolyn, one of the most wonderful Young Adult fantasies I’ve read. See my review of Eolyn here. High Maga is the second book in the series and is just as well done. Although it’s already been released, the author has just released an audio book version. Have a long drive to work? An audio book is the perfect companion!

Karin Rita Gastreich is my featured author this month, so stop by every Saturday to read more about her and her book. Can’t get enough? Stop by her blog tour for more excerpts, interviews, and prizes!

Here is a synopsis of High Maga:

Karin Rita Gastreich (author)                   Darla Middlebrook (narrator)

Sisters in magic, Eolyn and Adiana seek to revive a craft once forbidden to women. When war strikes at the heart of the kingdom, their fledgling community of magas is destroyed; its members killed, captured or scattered.

In hopes of defending her people, Eolyn tries to escape the occupied province and deliver to King Akmael a weapon that might secure their victory. Trapped by the invading army, Adiana is taken prisoner and placed at the mercy of the ruthless Prince Mechnes.

Even as their world is torn asunder, Eolyn and Adiana cling to a common dream. Courage and perseverance guide them toward a future where the Daughters of Aithne will flourish in a world set free from the violence of men.

“War propels the book forward, and the characters are at their best when the events engulfing them are at their worst.” –Publishers Weekly

Chapter 13 (excerpt)

 Ghemena awoke cramped and shivering, huddled against Tasha and Catarina. Outside she heard the shouts of men broken by occasional laughter, heavy footsteps and the whinny of horses. Her tongue felt like it was covered with sand, and her arms were numb from being bound. She tried to move her hands, but found a sickly sensation of nothingness where her fingers should have been.

Sitting up, she looked around the bare tent, illuminated by a thin shaft of light streaming through a break in the canvas. Catarina and Tasha slept, bodies curled side by side on the hard dirt floor, faces swollen from the many tears they had shed. With growing dread, Ghemena realized Mistress Adiana was not with them. She shuddered at the memory of Renate’s headless corpse and closed her eyes to shut the image out.

Tasha whimpered and stirred. She lifted her head, tangled dark tresses hanging in her rounded face, and stared with bleary eyes at their grim surroundings before focusing on Ghemena.

“Where’s Mistress Adiana?” she asked.

A painful lump in Ghemena’s throat would not let her speak. She bit her lip, working her arms and wrists against each other, trying to get the blood to return to her fingers.

Tasha moaned and hid her face against Catarina’s shoulder. “This was supposed to be a dream. I was going to wake up, and have it all be a very bad dream.”

“We’ve no time to cry,” Ghemena replied sharply. “We have to get out of here as fast as we can.”

Tasha dragged herself away from Catarina’s sleeping figure and sat up. She pointed to her bound arms with her chin. “How are we supposed to escape tied up like this? And where would we go if we did? You saw the town last night. Nothing’s left of it, and those horrible men are everywhere.”

“I have a way to find Maga Eolyn, but I have to free my hands first.” A burning sensation moved through her palms, followed by the prick of a thousand pins on her fingers. Ghemena knew this was a good sign.

“What way?” asked Tasha.

“A magic way. She showed it to me before she left. I’m going find her and tell her what’s happened, and then she’ll come to rescue you.”

“You mean we can’t go with you?” Tasha’s brow furrowed and she glanced nervously at Catarina. “Don’t leave us alone here. Please.”

Ghemena stopped fidgeting and gave Tasha a worried frown. “I don’t think it’ll work with more than one of us.”

“Why not?”

“Maga Eolyn never said anything about taking more than one person.”

“That doesn’t mean it’s not possible.”

“No,” Ghemena conceded doubtfully. “I guess we can try.”

“Promise me you’ll try, Ghemena.” Tasha’s eyes were wide beneath her dark brows. “Promise me you won’t leave without us.”

Ghemena looked at her friend. Tasha had always been the quiet one, happy in the company of her friends, forever trying to make peace between Ghemena and Catarina.

“We’re sisters,” Ghemena said. “We must be loyal to each other, right?”

Tasha grinned and nodded.

“So you see, I won’t leave you alone. I can’t.”

“How does the spell work?” Tasha asked.

“Well first, I have to get my hands free.” Ghemena scooted around on her rump to show Tasha her back. “Can you see the knots? Maybe you can chew through them.”

Tasha wrinkled her freckled nose. “Chew through them? What kind of an idea is that?”

“Well, I don’t have a knife. Do you?”

“It’d take me days to chew through those chords, and I’d have no teeth left at the end of it.”

“Tasha, just do it. Please.”

Tasha scowled, but she eased over toward Ghemena, then fell heavy on her side behind the girl’s back.

“Ow!” Ghemena winced. “You’re supposed to bite the chords, not my wrists!”

“Well it all looks the same in the dark. Hold still, will you? You’re only making it harder.”

A sudden flood of harsh light interrupted their efforts. Tasha gasped and Ghemena looked up, squinting, at three figures silhouetted in the tent entrance.

“By the graces of Mikata, what is this?” The voice was lilting and feminine. As Ghemena’s eyes adjusted, she saw the slight figure of a woman not much older than Mariel, clothed in a simple rose colored dress. She had fine brown skin and hair the color of wheat, neatly braided and coiled. Her expression was kind, with a knowing smile and soft eyes set in an oval face. “Our little mice are trying to escape!”

Purchase Links:

Amazon (audio book)           Barnes and Noble        Kobo

The Oxford Comma

commaAn Oxford comma is quite possibly the most debated bit of grammar. What? Controversy in grammar? Let me explain.The Oxford comma is that last comma in a series of three or more items.

Example: I went walking with my dogs, John, and Bob.

That comma after John is the Oxford comma. Some people think it’s unnecessary, but look what happens to the sentence if it’s taken out.

Example: I went walking with my dogs, John and Bob.

In the first example I am walking with my dogs and two people named John and Bob. In the second, my  dogs’ names are John and Bob.

The Oxford comma is primarily used in America, while in England it’s not used. It’s also not used in journalism. Prominent style guides like Strunk & White’s Elements of Style use it.

I’ve always been taught that a series of items needs the comma before the and, so I use it. I also teach it. This year is the first year I’ve had students question me on the Oxford comma. Oh, they didn’t know what it was called, and they didn’t know it by name, but they’d been taught it isn’t necessary. I told them, with gritted teeth, that I would accept the punctuation either way. This is hard for me since I am a punctuation perfectionist. I see their sentences without that comma and want to go all red ink on them.

Now the school year is ending and I feel it is my duty to fully explain this controversy. My students are used to punctuation being black and white: Capitalize the first letter in a sentence; put a period at the end; comma in a compound sentence. For the first time, they will be given a choice about a comma. I won’t tell them it’s wrong to use the Oxford comma, but I will give them the ultimate directive: Put a comma if it is needed for clarity. If the sentence makes people wonder what you mean, like in my example, put the comma. If you don’t want to think about whether your comma is needed or not, put the comma. If you want to get an A+ in grammar always (in America), put the comma. If you go to college in England, don’t put the comma. There. Grammar clear as mud. You’re welcome.

Novel Madness 2015 WINNER

holesNovel Madness has become a spring tradition in my 6th grade classroom. Each year, quite a variey of books are selected to be the class’s top 16. Holes has been on the list ever year, but this is its first win.

2015 Winner: Holes by Louis Sachar

2014 Winner: Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

2013 Winner: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

2012 Winner: Maze of Bones by Rick Riordon

This year I polled the class after the vote. Half the class has read our winner, Holes, and only about a quarter of the class has read its rivel, The Giver by Lois Lowry. A handful had actually read both, although most of the class had seen at least one of the movies.

Novel Madness 2015 Round Three: Semifinals

book turning pages_animatedYesterday my class narrowed the field to four books vying for the title of 2015 favorite novel of all time. Are you keeping track of your favorites? Listed below are the matchups for today’s Round Three vote. Tomorrow (Thursday, April 2) is the final!


Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart vs. The Giver by Lois Lowry

Holes by Louis Sachar vs. BFG by Roald Dahl


My students are quite excited by this Novel Madness process. To read blog posts about their books and their experiences, go to http://kidblog.org/MrsUlleseitsClass/.  Make sure to leave them a comment!

Novel Madness 2015 Round Two


My sixth grade class in in the midst of choosing their favorite novel of all time. I call this annual event Novel Madness. They started with 16 novels, all brainstormed by the students. To see the original list, click here. Pairs of students wrote persuasive essays and presented them. The class voted.

The following books made it through to Round Two and are being pitted against each other. Which of your favorites made it? Which are you surprised to see?

Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo vs. Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

The Giver by Lois Lowry vs. Ghost Files by Apryl Baker

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli vs.  Holes by Louis Sachar

Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling vs. BFG by Roald Dahl


Results from Round Two will be posted on Wednesday, April 1.


Novel Madness!

It’s that time again. March Madness for basketball, and Novel Madness in my classroom. The students whittled down a long list to come up with their top 16 favorite novels. Students will write persuasive speeches to convince their classmates to vote for their book. By Easter, we’ll have a winner–stay tuned!

Round One:

Wonder by R. J. Palacio vs. The Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo

Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien vs. The Giver by Lois Lowry

Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan vs. Holes by Louis Sachar

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli vs. Maze Runner by James Dashner

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan vs. BFG by Roald Dahl

Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling vs. Diary of a  Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

Ghost Files by Apryl Baker vs. Dork Diaries by Rachel Renee Russell

Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart vs. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins


There are some old favorites here that come up every year, but as usual there are some new ones, too. Which is your favorite? Round One ends Friday and I will post the results of all these matchups then.

Tech Inspiration


I just returned home after attending the CUE 2015 conference in Palm Springs, California, for Computer Using Educators. Conferences are always inspiring, and this time I picked up a bunch of new ideas I can use immediately! Among the tech coming soon to my classroom:

1. Minecraft.edu  This is an educational version of the popular game. We are already using it to build landmarks in ancient civilizations. Now I can use it in language arts–imagine building a scene from a novel!

2. Google Classroom   Truly on the way to a paperless classroom, this allows students to receive assignments, complete them on Google Docs, and turn them in. They can provide feedback, save them to their own Goodle Drive, and create Google Forms. I can also use Google Forms for online quizzes!

3. Kidblog  A safe way for students to each have their own blog. Teachers monitor content, of course. We’ll also participate in Quadblogging, where four classes share a month. One class blogs for a week while the other three focus on commenting on the blogs. Then the second class blogs for a week, and the others comment, etc. What wonderful feedback!

4. Skype  is a marvelous face-to-face opportunity for students. I envision Skyping with a park ranger next year before visiting Alcatraz, with another class participating in NaNoWriMo, maybe with the NaNoWriMo director or even the vice mayor of San Jose!

Four ways that will challenge me to engage more students and teach them digital citizenship through daily Internet use. Now I just need to hijack the iPad cart…or get one of my own.


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