The miserable weather has broken here in Pennsylvania, and April made a grand entrance with some truly gorgeous days! I also received the first professional review for We Hear the Dead on April 1, and it was no joke. Kirkus—the big, bad, difficult-to-please giant of the review industry—liked my book! You can read the entire review on the BN product page, but I’ll quote you my favorite line:

“The research is excellent, and the author displays a facility for fluid prose even as she writes in a modified archaic style that lends credence to the first-person conceit of the novel.”

I hope all my reviews are this good—but even if they’re not, I can tell myself: “Well, Kirkus liked it!”

Hopefully, this favorable review will be enough to float me through next week. State testing begins on Wednesday, and my 5th grade is about to face three weeks of tests: two weeks of reading and math, followed by one week of writing.

On Monday, my priority is to remove or cover everything in my classroom that could assist students on a test: writing tips, definitions of literary genres, reminders on what to include in an open-ended response. One year, the state even made us take down the cursive alphabet chart, although they revised their ruling on this later.

Meanwhile, the tests themselves are under lock and key in a specially reserved room. They will be counted and recounted during the testing days. All scrap paper used during the test will be shredded. The state does not require my principal to sleep in the room with the tests, but I’m not so sure that she doesn’t.

Worst of all are the Men in Black. I am not kidding about this. Yes, this is an example of your tax dollars at work. Pennsylvania employs a small army of test security men who randomly visit schools during the testing days. They inspect the official storage room for the tests. They wander through the classrooms, looking for posters displaying punctuation rules that some hapless teacher forgot to remove. Sometimes, they sit down in a classroom and observe the teacher and the students for an entire testing session. I’m sure that helps the students perform better on their tests!

Anyway, I expect next week will be grueling and stressful. But if I have a stupid smile plastered on my face throughout the whole thing, it will be thanks to Kirkus!

Happy Easter, everyone!