Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Food Fights, Sea Monsters, and Dodgeball: Let’s Talk About Point of View

This post is for some good friends of mine – fifth graders at the schools I visit. Non-fifth graders – you may read it, too, if you like. 

It’s time we talked about Point of View, or, as we call it in the book world, POV.

Imagine there’s a food fight going on in the school cafeteria. What would you see? When you told your family about it, what would you say?
The Food Fight scene from "The Rat Brain Fiasco" by moi & Sally Gardner.
Splurch Academy book 1. 
First of all, where were you when the fight broke out? And, what role did you play in the fight? Were you:
  1. The kid who lobbed the first catapult of mashed potatoes with your spoon?
  2. The kid who fought back with a glop of slimy spaghetti?
  3. The kid who got the spaghetti in her face because kid #2 was such a bad shot?
  4. A kid at the next table over, yelling, “Food fight! Food fight!”
  5. A cafeteria monitor who hears the ruckus, sees flying sloppy joes and French fries, and thinks, “Not again!”?
  6. The assistant principal, in his office, who hears his crinkly walkie-talkie say, “Um, Mr. Martinez, we’ve got a situation in the caf?”

What you saw, what you did, and how you felt about it would really depend on where you were when the fight broke out. Each of the six people we listed above might go home and tell their families about the fight in very different ways, even though they’re all talking about the same fight.

When discussing stories, we often talk about a character’s point of view. What is it, exactly?

Let’s look at those words closely. Point of view. The point from which you view something. It’s the place (point) you’re standing while you watch (view) something happen.

Nurse Bilgewater and Professor Eelpot battle it out in "The Trouble With Squids."
Splurch Academy book 4.

Imagine this: Two sea monsters – a giant squid and a prehistoric-type sea serpent – are battling it out to the death in an ocean lagoon. Awesome, right? If you’re watching it, what do you see?
Well, that depends. Are you:
  1. Sitting on a cliff a hundred yards from the lagoon, watching something splash in the water?
  2. Standing on the beach, watching tentacles and a scaly tail heave up from the waves and crash down again with a terrific wet slap?
  3. Hovering over the lagoon in a helicopter, filming the whole thing with a news camera with a high-powered close-up lens?
  4. Trying to stay afloat in a little rowboat just a dozen or so yards away from this titanic battle, and nearly getting sucked into the undertow?
  5. The person who was swimming in the lagoon, when the sea serpent grabbed you, and opened his snapping jaws wide, when the squid appeared and snagged you with a tentacled arm to make you his own snack? Yikes!

The place where you were standing (or sitting, or flying, or rowing, or swimming) would determine not only what you saw (viewed), but also what you did, and what you felt. The guy on the cliff might wonder, “What’s making that big splash?” But the swimmer in the water, about to become a monster’s lunch, would be frantic to get away, and terrified every instant.

The term “point of view” uses sight (view) and position (point) as metaphors for something that’s actually bigger than just what your eyes can see, and from what distance. For one thing, you don’t just see a food fight or an ocean battle. You hear it – the squelching sounds and screaming school kids and monster roars. You smell it – the scent of steamy ketchup, or the odor of a gigantic fish. If your mouth was open, and a spoonful of chocolate pudding landed IN your mouth, you’d taste the food fight, too. (Gross. Someone else’s pudding!) You feel it – the plop of sloppy joe in your face, dripping down your favorite shirt, or the splash of ocean spray in your face if you’re in the boat. Or worse – the scrape and slime of cold tentacles and claws on your swimsuit-clad body. Disgusting!  

So “view” here stands for (or is a metaphor for) all of the senses: seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching. But it goes farther than just senses alone. POV/point of view takes into account who you are and what your past experiences have been. Because, as we’ll see, who we are and what we’ve gone through shape how we see things. For example:

  1. What if you’re the guy in the boat, and the girl in the clutches of the two sea monsters is your twin sister? How do you feel? Suddenly you’re not just trying to row your boat away. You’re trying rescue someone you love. Relationships affect POV.
  2. What if you’re the person in the helicopter with the video camera, and you’re a scientist, and you’ve spent your life saying there are still huge sea serpents in the ocean, and nobody has ever believed you? What if all your scientific colleagues have laughed in your face at marine biology conferences? And suddenly, there it is in the water – the monster! – proof that you’ve been right all along. What do you do? Do you capture that monster fight on video to prove other scientists wrong, and publish the discovery that will make you famous? Or drop down a rope ladder and try to rescue the girl in the water? Desires affect POV – in this case, the desire to succeed in one’s career vs. the desire to help others in danger.
  3. What if you’re the kid in the food fight who had the mashed potatoes thrown in your face, and you just moved to the U.S. from another country, and you don’t speak English, so kids have been picking on you a lot, and you’re super homesick and sad? Do you fight back because you have HAD ENOUGH, or do you slip away and lock yourself in a bathroom stall for a private cry? Past experiences, and especially past emotions, affect POV.
  4. What if you’re the cafeteria monitor, and it’s your job to maintain order at lunchtime, but there have been a couple of incidents lately, and you’ve been warned that if you don’t stop fights from breaking out, you could lose your job? Fears affect POV – this case, fear of losing one’s job.

Who we are shapes what we see. Our past experiences color what we see. And not just see: hear, smell, taste, and touch. And what emotions bubble to the surface. And how we explain it to ourselves and others. And what we choose to do about it.

Everyone has their own unique point of view, their own POV. Twenty-five kids in gym class playing dodgeball will all experience the game differently. The competitive types will go for the kill every time. Others will dread the humiliation of being smacked with a ball.

I think we just discovered another thing that affects POV. Personality.

Is there anything that doesn’t affect POV? I wonder. The weather affects how we see the world. A gloomy day can bring anyone down, and make them pessimistic. Sometimes our health does – for me, things always look a lot worse when I have a stomach bug! Yuck. Sometimes money affects our POV. If I said to you, “What are you going to do this Saturday?” you might have some ideas. But if I said, “On Friday you’re going to win the biggest jackpot in lottery history. What will you do Saturday?” I suspect that your Saturday plans would change in a massive way.  Even your species affects your point of view. If somebody spilled gravy all over the kitchen floor, most humans would be annoyed, but most dogs would be overjoyed! Gravy gravy yum yum.

Point of view really means how each person experiences the world and the things, people, and events in it. Clearly, it needed a shorter name.

The FrankenSquid from "The Trouble With Squids."
Splurch Academy book 4. 
Here’s what’s important about point of view: every person has one, and it’s as real and as true to them as yours is to you, and mine is to me. Every life is unique, and every point of view is valid.
I’m not saying there’s no right or wrong. Facts may be correct or incorrect. Explanations may be wise or foolish. Some choices can be good or bad, kind or cruel. But understanding point of view helps us see that people are complicated, that events are complicated, and that before we criticize or judge another person, we should remember that they see the world differently than we do. Our way of seeing isn’t the only way.

The best stories are the ones where POV feels very real and convincing because the author has created a believable life, history, and mind. As we watch the story unfold, we can say, “I myself would never rob the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London, but I can see how, for a person like them, in their situation, it had to be done!” (To save them from being stolen by space pirates. Obviously.)  

Stories are based on the idea that spending time inside another person’s point of view is fascinating. Getting to know a character is fun. The better we understand someone’s POV, the more we care about what happens to them. Understanding POV won’t just make you a better reader or writer. It can make you a kinder friend and a more understanding human being. That’s the kind of people our little planet needs. Maybe you’ll think twice before hurling mashed potatoes. Maybe, instead of filming the sea monster, you’ll drop the rescue ladder.

Writing Prompts:
  • Think of a situation in your life – at school, at home, in the community – where you and another person have a very different point of view about what happened. Write a paragraph describing your point of view. Then write a paragraph from the point of view of the other person, the one who disagrees with you.
  • Think of the food fight. Imagine the first person who threw the food, and the person who first had food thrown at them. Who are they? Why did the first one throw the food? How did the second person feel to have food thrown at them? What did they do about it? Write a paragraph from the first kid’s point of view (using the “I” first-person voice, as though you are that kid) to help us understand why they started the food fight. Next write a paragraph from the second kid’s point of view (again using the “I” first-person voice, as though you are the second kid) and tell us about the food fight from their perspective.
  •  Think of the sea serpent battle. The girl has been rescued; she didn’t die. Phew! Now, pretend you’re a news reporter. Interview each of the people involved: girl in the water, her twin brother in the boat, the scientist in the helicopter, and the guy watching it from a clifftop some distance away. Write the questions you would ask them, and write their answers, showing how they each had a different point of view about the same event. Try to show how things like distance, desires, fears, and relationships affected what they saw and how they felt about it.  

178 comments:

  1. So awesome. Can I use in my creative writing class?

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  2. I am not a 5th grader and not a teacher but I still enjoyed this philosophical lesson a lot. Thank you!

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    1. Thank you, Elena! I'm so glad you stopped by.

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    2. This is a very creative peace of writting and it helps me a LOT in class! This inspires me to write a book soon,by the way, does being an author very busy? Im also reading one of your books "The Scandalous Sisterhood Of Prickwillow Place" its really good so far!! Can't wait to read another one of your books!!!!!!

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  3. Thank you for this. It will really help me with my story

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  4. Awesome!I really liked it,and I'm kid number4.

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  5. That is such a cool lesson

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  6. i am a fifth grader and enjoyed this very much, thanks!

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  7. Thank you for the advice about POV. It is very interesting to think about all the different points of view and how different things affect POV. Is it OK if I use these ideas to write my own stories?

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  8. I read one of your splurch academy it was awesome! I am doing a book report on it.

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  9. I really liked you blog I thought it had a lot of details I could really picture myself in all of he situations.

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  10. hi julie berry see you later i love your little lesssons

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  11. I really like the story about the food fight.

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  12. you are an amazing writer how do you write like that!?

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  13. I really liked your idea about the sea monster and the octupus fighting, and your ideas about point of view for 2 different people watching it happen!!!!!!!!!!!

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  14. that was awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  15. Thanks for writing this Julie, it is very informative and interesting. I love it!

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  16. this was a very good blog :)

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  17. Thank you so much for this, Julie. I love the illustrations so much! Since I was absent the time of day you visited my school, this is like a replacement for the AMAZING stuff I missed.

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  18. I really enjoyed the sea monster fight great detail keep up the good work:D ;) ._. by the way im a fifth grader.

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  19. that was amazing!!! who knew that your stories were so interesting!! I should really get started on reading your books!!

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  20. that is sooo amazing and intresting

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  21. wowowowowowowowowowowowowow

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  22. I really like your books

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  23. there were so many point of views.Cant wait to meet you at chenery.

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  24. your stories look fun! Can't wait to meet you in chenery!!!

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  25. this is amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  26. cool you are such a good writer!!!!

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  27. so cool can't wait to see you at chenery!

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  28. Great job i like this a lot!

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  29. this is crazy good!

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  30. I enjoyed it keep it up!

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  31. Your writing is AMAZING!I love how you ask people what they would do if they were in that senerio.I am going to go read all of your books right now. Thanks for that wonderful experience!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    1. I think that's what's really great about stories. They invite us to consider someone else's situation as if it were our own. That process always always helps us get to know the person better, and feel more kindness for them. We need more kindness in our world. So we need more readers!

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  32. This blog realy inspired me to write something to do with POV! It is an awesome blog and i would love to see more!

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  33. Hi Julie! karen here from Chenery. Our kids are starting to meet you by reading this FABULOUS blog post! Check out their comments!

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    1. You got it, Ms. Duff! I am on the job. :)

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  34. You just inspired me to start writing too.Even though I will never be as good as you but I will always keep trying

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  35. I loved that it was awesome.

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  36. amaaazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  37. loved your work keep it up!

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  38. I liked the part with the sea monsters

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  39. I really loved your blog it was very inspiring and it really helped under stand point of view.

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  40. very good. Nice job!!!!!!!!!!

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  41. Great lesson,it really inspires me!

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  42. This story is fantastic but i think was a bit confusing,Also i very grate full that you wrote this.

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  43. i think your blog was great i am going to read your book soon and i cant wait.

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  44. Good blog! I really liked how you show pictures so we can visualize how it looks like we were there. I understand what point of view. Thanks!

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  45. i liked the food fight part and how people can see things in many many many many different ways

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  46. your blog was awesome. It is very informational It inspires me i love it

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  47. I think it's very true and helps me think about POV in a lot of ways

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  48. Love this blog! Super Awesome! Really inspiring! Helped me understand about point of view. Thanks so much!

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  49. clear and understanding.funny to! good job.

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  50. I love your work. It was great and I understand the point of view now!

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  51. love your blog and the pictures really help me visualize whats happening.

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  52. lol the cafiteria food fight was funny. describes pov well

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  53. Your blog makes me understand more about you,your books,and what you want people to think about you and others.

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  54. really inspiring for people who want to write!!!!!!!!

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  55. This is a beautiful peace of work but this is also a bit confusing,I would like it if you could make them not as confusing. Thank you, a 5th grader

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    1. That's really good to know. Good job sharing feedback that offers both the positives and the negatives but in a respective and constructive way. You offered a suggestion, to make it less confusing. I will try to do that in the future. I do tend to write things that are long, with long sentences and biggish words. Sometimes I need to be more careful about that.

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  56. hi i think that was very useful for me now to know about point of view is i like it please make more

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  57. this blog is amazing you are a super good writer and blog maker and author!!!

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  58. this blog is really good. you are so good at writing story's and blog's.

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  59. i liked it so much thank you for posting your blog
    it is so good. good work

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  60. wow that was amazing you did a great job. It gave me a lot to think about. I can't wait to see more

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  61. this was very interesting I will try reading one of your books!

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  62. this blog was so helpful! I love to write! thank you so much for the advice. i will really try these things!

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  63. I love what you said about point of view (POV) it was really inspiring and I definitely agree.

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  64. The blog was very good! I loved the pictures! And really enjoyed reading this blog.

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  65. i love how you gave a lot of details it makes you live it thank you for the tips

    why so long though

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  66. wow that was a really good blog thx i enjoyed it

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  67. Hi! I love how the lunch lady was kind of reluctant to stop the food fight!

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  68. love it great learnning tool

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  69. I love writing and that really inspired me to try one of your tips!!Very, Very, cool!!!!!!

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  70. I think it was really great and fun to read and I think it was really interesting and I think more people should read this.

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  71. Hello!!!!! This blog is really inspiring and I love the point of view idea.I started writing a book about a year ago that is from a specific point of view and this advice will really help me on it! THANK YOU!!!!!

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    1. That's great to hear. Keep up the writing. I'm glad you're thinking about a specific point of view when you write. That's so important.

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  72. It was amazing! And it gave me a lot to think about. I hope to read one of the books you have written before. I'm sure they are great!^^ I am looking forward to seeing you on the week of October 16!:)

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  73. I definitely have had a different point of view then someone before so this is appealing to me! :)

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  74. Julie Berry,
    This was a very great and interesting blog and i really enjoyed reading this. The illustrations are very good!!!
    -5th grade student

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  75. this is really cool, i never really thought of it that way before. Its nice of you to just make a vlog to let people think and get more interested in reading,thank you!

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  76. Julie Berry, you are so inspiring!

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  77. Julie Berry,

    I want to do a blog myself when i'm older and this one is very good and great to read hopefully when i'm older I can have a blog just like this interesting and great to read.

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  78. You are awesome! I really really want to be an author and an illustrator (or a cartoonist) when I grow up! You've given me great advice! I like to write short stories, and now I'm inspired; by you!

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    1. I'm glad to hear you're writing short stories. Keep it up! I wish I'd done more writing like that when I was young. You're gaining great experience. And draw non-stop! I know that's what my sister Sally would tell you, I'm sure.

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  79. I learned so much about POV from you, I think if I didn't read this I wouldn't know anything about POV

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  80. This blog is very cool.

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  81. wow Julie I really liked this and am now exited to right some more

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  82. This is awesome!I really enjoyed it

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  83. I thought this was very interesting

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  84. This was SO interesting to me! Thank you for inspiring me!

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  85. Its really Awesome! Really creative and funny
    -fifth grade student

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  86. i really like your books

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  87. sounds good!! Love it !

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  88. I like that you right from point of view i'm very
    inspired

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  89. I am a CFG. I love how you described every scenario a character could be in

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  90. Great Job Writing this! I had fun reading it and thinking about the different perspectives.

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  91. i think i feel the same way about point of view

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  92. your books are crazy good yee$$$$$$$$$$$ the food fight is good part so coool$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ good books

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  93. your books are good

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  94. I think that this is blog has a learning curve to it and you should keep on teaching kid you to be a good writer

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  95. I love the food fight part!

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  96. I love you're blog! I also agree about how dogs like food on the floor. I have a dog and he loves fallen food so I agree! Chicken Noodle Soup yum yum!

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  97. Thank you so much for this inspiring lesson, it made me laugh, smile and think about how amazing all this writing is!! I think that you should do a blog about Harry Potter; it's so crazy good :) Thanks Julie!!!! Great writer BTW!!!!!

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    1. HP is good that is a good idea

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    2. I agree! (*WINK WINK*) HP is AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    3. Great suggestion, to blog about Harry Potter! I'll give it some thought. Thanks for your note. I'm glad to know the blog post affected you in so many ways. Keep on reading and writing!

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  98. This article was cool. It was awesome to read!

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  99. i think that was a really cool blog

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  100. -Julie
    i really love this blog about POV and it really inspired me to think about this lesson!

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  101. i love your writing! It inspires me to write!

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  102. I love this blog! Thank you for making me understand Point Of View better! I love your writing! I am extremely inspired by you.

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  103. I really like the parts where it says who you are in these kind of situations #POV

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  104. gr8 art!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    i love how u use POV in such interesting way

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  105. you are an awesome writer!i love writing and you have inspired to write funny and creative books!

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  106. The food fight is really interesting for me and this lesson was amazing. About the point of view that was also very interesting to read. Thank so much Julie Berry.

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  107. Hi Julie! I am very inspired about how you encourage and people. I think your writing is great and humorous. Your writing about POV is awesome and inspiring, thank you for what you've done! Thank you!

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  108. I liked your blog and the squids and food fights.

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  109. I never thought about it this way. It was so interesting and cool

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  110. Really helpful for the POV. So inspiring!!!!!!THANK YOU SO MUCH JULIE!!!!!!!

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  111. Julie I love your blog, YOUR THE BEST :)

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  112. Thanks, Julie! Your books are very creative!

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  113. your books are very creative

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  114. I liked the blog when you were
    talking about point of view.

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  115. I like the way you use things from your books to get your point through.

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  116. this is so good i am going to read more .

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  117. wow Julie great job. I learned a lot about point of view. The artical was so helpful!! :)

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  118. Your books are so good!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  119. I loved your blog Julie! Wonderful lesson! Thanks a ton! :)

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  120. very interesting.

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  121. I read the blog and enjoyed it somuch... even though I dont have any books from you I think its great to yous your mind!

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  122. I think your books are good I should start reading them. This blog is really good.

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  123. Hey Julie, do you think you can write a blog about pizza, dogs, and trains?

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  124. It looks very nice and looks so cool and it is intrseting?

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  125. This is SO SO SO helpfull

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  126. thank you Julie for that paragraph about pov and that monster i loved that

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  127. I love your work it has inspired me to do all of these wonderful things and i know all the books I am going to write in class thanks to you!!! Thanks for everything that you have ever done!!

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  128. Love,love,love,love,love,the sea monster and food fight part.

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  129. point of view is a very importaint skill

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  130. Dear Julie Berry, I loved the POV post. I really learned a lot and I gained more knowledge by reading the food-fights-sea-monsters-and-dodgeball text. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with me. I look forward to having you come to Chenery and I know your lesson will be very inspiring. Thank you!

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    1. Thank you for your very kind note! I hope you enjoy the presentation and workshop we'll do together.

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  131. POV is helpful because I love writing

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  132. I will be happy to try your books!

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  133. i cant wait when you come

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  134. how did you find such amazing picturs

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  135. The way you introduce book is just so awesome I will read the books that you introduce and your books are my 1 favorite books!! Keep up the good work!

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  136. I'm very inspired of all the books you wrote!

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  137. I love this and thanks for being so inspiring!!!

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  138. I loved the food fight part so much!

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  139. i am a fifth grader and i love you books

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  140. thank you for help use understand pov julie

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  141. now i know how to write point of view you must of spent a long time on this.

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  142. #pov is amazing to know about

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  143. Thanks, Julie! I am one of the Chenery art teachers. I look forward to using this blog as we create graphic novels!

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    1. I am ready to learn

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    2. Fantastic! I, too, am working on learning more about graphic novels. I hope this is helpful to you. If I figure out more about them, I'll post more here. :)

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  144. i am a big fan !!1!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  145. I found this very cool to learn about POV

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  146. You have inspired me to create better books, comics, and graphic novels. Can't wait to meet you. Plus, my mom is a writer and i think this blog would help her.
    :)

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  147. Lol, this is awesome, i love it!!

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  148. i just read 1 of your books and am in the middle of another i LOVEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE 'em can't wait 2 read more there A-MAZ-ING ;););)

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