July 31, 2019

Have Swag Will Travel: MY QUIET SHIP, by Hallee Adelman

by Hallee Adelman and Sonia Sanchez
I'm excited to bring you another post in my blog series, Have Swag, Will Travel: Tips for Planning Book Events.

Today's guest, author Hallee Adelman, shares her school visit experiences related to her picture book, MY QUIET SHIP, illustrated by Sonia Sanchez (Albert Whitman & Company, 2018).

Have Swag, Will Travel
by Hallee Adelman

My debut picture book, My Quiet Ship, launched October 2018. Since I love sharing the book with classrooms, Dawn asked if I could provide a glimpse of my school visits with tips for other authors.  Thanks, Dawn!

For some background, I have taught elementary through university students, so I always think of any book as both the story on the page and the “after-page” reflections, activities, or impact. That’s why when I visit a classroom my goal is not only to reach as many students as possible with the text, but also to go beyond sharing my book. I strive to encourage students and maybe even their teachers to write, read, create, or wonder.

My Quiet Ship touches on a sensitive topic: yelling in the home. While all students might not have heard their parents yelling, all of them understand the feeling of having a sound that they wish they could quiet down.  For this reason, the students and I begin by sharing bothersome sounds: barking dogs, loud siblings, chirping birds (this one surprised me), speeding cars, and even funny snores. Together, we make those sounds in a playful way.*

*School visit tip: Before doing anything with students that requires noise-making or movement, I’d recommend starting by setting the tone with the class.  Often, I start by doing a clap back. I clap a pattern that kids need to repeat. We do lots of patterns which is not only fun, but also useful if the class needs a reminder that we’re going to move on to the next activity.  I also let the students know when we are going to start the sounds by saying something like “When I say 1,2,3,GO we are going to make the sound of a speeding car.” After our cars are roaring loudly, I can then use the clap back technique to get the students’ attention again and allow for us to keep moving forward.

After we’ve honked and zoomed and arff-ed, I share that when I was a little girl, the sound that I wished I could quiet down was the sound of my parents’ yelling. Some kids nod as if they understand and others listen attentively.  I explain that it was my wish, combined with my former students facing their own parents’ yelling, that inspired me to write My Quiet Ship.

Before we read the story, I show the students two random pictures: a penny and a heart. I tell them that by the end of our time together, they will know how these two things can help them select their own topics for writing a story.  Shifting gears, we discuss the parts of the book (front cover, back cover, spine) and the name of the book’s illustrator and its publishing house. Since the amazing illustrator of My Quiet Ship, Sonia Sanchez,  is from Spain, I ask if anyone knows how to say “Thank you” in Spanish so that we can send a loud “Gracias, Sonia,” overseas.*

*School visit tip: If there is a topic like “parts of the book” that ties into student curriculum and is an easy tie-in for me to mention/reinforce, I like to make that  connection. Students who speak other languages are often excited to share their native language’s phrases with their peers.

Then we read as if we were all part of a performance. I have different students play different parts (e.g. Quinn, Pilot, Mom, etc.) and the rest of the class becomes my “crew.” They help to make other sounds from the book--like the rumbling of the rocket ship or the countdown to blast off. When we are finished reading, the students and I make a nice, soft, quiet sound together. This contrasts the beginning sounds we made and also gets the students ready for a calm, reflective discussion.*

*School visit tip: I type out reading parts like a simple script and cue the students before they read. Often, I’ll send this script in advance to the teacher so that he/she/they can select students that will feel most comfortable reading those parts in front of the class. For schools that have projectors, I made a digital/power point version of the book that I can show on screen. 

Post-reading, we talk about the idea of a “Quiet Ship,” a space like a fort or a pillow tower that can help if things feel noisy or uncomfortable or can provide a quiet place for someone to think, color, or imagine. Many students describe what their already constructed “Quiet Ships” look like and how they built theirs. Others report how they use one, perhaps to get homework done or to get away from loud sounds.

Then we get back to those pictures of the penny and the heart. Students make guesses about what the images have to do with picking a topic for their own writing. I remind them about what I said earlier: When I was a little girl I __ __ __ __ ed that I could quiet down the sound of my parents yelling.  Students help fill in the blank. They often realize that a penny reminds them of making a wish. So we discuss the difference between a regular wish that is easy to get (e.g. I wish I had a pencil, I wish I could brush my teeth) vs. a “PENNY WISH”--or a most important wish that if someone had ONLY ONE penny to throw in a fountain, that is what he/she/they would wish for.  In order for a wish to be a “PENNY WISH” it must pass a “HEART CHECK”. These heart check questions are: Would I make this wish from my whole heart? Would I try almost anything to make it come true? Is it hard to get? Does thinking about it make me feel a very strong emotion?  We talk how penny wishes can make good starting points for a story because if they pass a heart check, and someone has so many feelings around it, then most of the time readers will feel something from their hearts too. Together we stand up and take our imaginary pennies and throw them into imaginary fountains as we launch our penny wishes.*

*School visit tip: I like to find moments where kids can stand up or perhaps switch from a carpet area for reading to their desks for additional discussion. I’ve found that these “resetting” or “resettling” moments make nice transitions and allow students to stay engaged or get ready for new information.

After all the launches, from “Quiet Ships” to “Penny Wishes,” I take questions from the students. Questions range from “How old are you?” to “Have you written other books?” to “How long does it take you to write a book?” to  “How does your writing get turned into a book?” Because of some student questions, I’ve created additional slides and images that show how things progress from idea to manuscript to finished product. Depending on the age of the group, I love mentioning my writing group, agent, editor and the other amazing people on the publishing/sales/marketing team so students see 1) that being a writer requires a lot of great minds, and 2) that it’s not just their teachers who say revision is important.*

*School visit warning: If you are older than 19, the kids’ mouths might drop open in full shock/horror at the sound of your actual age.

By the end of our time together, some students will start thinking about their “Penny Wishes” and future writing topics, while some will be drawing or brainstorming their own quiet ships. Others might feel proud that they helped with the reading, or that they asked a question, or that they taught me something new.

In addition to leaving the class with a piece of my heart, I also leave behind a “Penny Wish” brainstorm page for students who like to write; “My Quiet Ship” drawing sheets so students can playfully draw or imagine where their quiet ship would go; and some fun swag that includes a kazoo. Maybe if they make enough noise, and it drives someone else crazy, they’ll be able to share the idea of quiet ship for someone who needs one. 


This is such an excellent post, Hallee. I learned so much from you. I loved your book before, but now I really, really connect with it. It is so obvious that you have experience teaching learners of all ages, and now everyone who reads this will benefit from your expertise. I especially appreciate how any educator (e.g. a teacher, librarian, community educator, or a parent) could easily lead a lesson around your book just by following your detailed notes and tips in this post. For this reason, I will also add this post to the lesson plans featured in my Start to Finish Story Time series. 

Readers: Hallee is offering a giveaway! Comment on this blog post or share it on social media and tag @DawnProchovnic and @HalleeAdelman by August 7, 2019 to enter the giveaway of a signed copy of My Quiet Ship book and a Pop up Rocket Play Tent.

To make your own quiet ship or to download a free lesson plan, head over to www.myquietship.com. Hallee’s next book, Way Past Mad, steams out in Spring 2020. 

Hallee Adelman is committed to bettering the lives of children and families through education and story. With a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Learning Technologies, Hallee has taught university and elementary students, having been nominated for the Disney Teacher of the Year Award on multiple occasions. Hallee has also served various organizations related to children and/or education such as Franklin Institute, Please Touch Museum, and Simon’s Heart. My Quiet Ship (2018) was her debut picture book. Her next book, Way Past Mad, is due out Spring 2020. Hallee loves sharing writing tips with educators, children, and teens. She is married with two children and two dogs.

Random fact: Hallee does work in film and is the producer/director of an upcoming documentary (Our American Family, 2020).

Have Swag Will Travel is an occasional feature of Dawn Babb Prochovnic's blog. Dawn is the author of multiple picture books including Where Does a Cowgirl Go Potty?, Where Does a Pirate Go Potty? (forthcoming, 2019), and 16 books in the Story Time With Signs & Rhymes series. Dawn is a contributing author to Oregon Reads Aloud and a frequent presenter at schools, libraries, and educational conferences. Contact Dawn using the form at the left, or learn more at www.dawnprochovnic.com.


  1. Such a great post. As a teacher and a librarian, I can say this advice is fantastic. I love the curricular tie-ins and I appreciate the classroom management tips such as the movement and clap back strategies. These will help authors who do not have education backgrounds so much and help them keep this area of school visits in mind as it is easy to overlook. I especially love how Halle gets the students to think and create beyond the text! And all while making a tough topic approachable.

    1. I couldn't agree more! Hallee's tips are applicable to her story, AND to anyone who wants to glean some pro tips!

  2. All of your suggestions are wonderful Thank you for sharing! As a former reading specialist who has read books to many groups of students, I really connected with all of your techniques and know how helpful they are. I'll definitely be checking out My Quiet Ship.

    1. Dear Rose,
      You are the winner of the giveaway. Please DM me within the next week using the contact form on the left of the blog, or via social media: Twitter @DawnProchovnic / FB: @DawnProchovnicAuthor to provide your mailing address so Hallee can send your prizes.

  3. I love the concept of the story and the description of your classroom visit is wonderful. Thanks so much for sharing.