selected works

professional books for classroom teachers
The 1970s' VW Beetle Owner's Manual found in the glove compartment of every Bug gave drivers security in knowing that whatever went wrong, there was always a quick fix to get them back on the road. The Writing Teacher's Troubleshooting Guide uses the same clear, concise format to offer practical ideas for helping students who may be out of gas, idling for too long,or just plain stuck in a rut. Lester and Reba first help you "notice and name" particular struggles that writers may have, identify possible causes, and then offer specific tools to nudge writers toward their next level of development. Their vast knowledge & appreciation for children's literature is showcased in the mentor texts they suggest to support your teaching. Don't let minor breakdowns stall your student's writing journey. With the Writing Teacher's Troubleshooting Guide in your back pocket, you'll always have a quick repair to keep them moving forward.
Professional books for classroom teachers
Bullying Hurts is not your same-old antibullying guide. Lester and Reba show how the read aloud, a familiar and proven instructional technique, can be used as a powerful way to neutralize bullying behaviors, create community in the classroom, and help you meet the Common Core State Standards all at the same time. Bullying Hurts does more than help children gain insights and language needed to confront and neutralize the behaviors of bullies. It convinces us that by working together, we really can prevent bullying.
Children's Literature
Review from Publishers Weekly: Three Hens and a Peacock Lester L. Laminack, illus. by Henry Cole, Peachtree, $15.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-56145-564-5 What might have been an ordinary be-yourself story is enhanced by Laminack's (Snow Day!) surprisingly thoughtful storytelling. Three hens on the Tuckers' farm are sick with envy when a peacock shows up and attracts the attention of passersby, drawing customers and electrifying the farm's roadside stand business. Laminack characterizes the hens with a fine ear for their Golden Girls outrage; they sound quite human. "We do all the work around here," fumes one. "I'd like to see that peacock lay one single egg." "Exactly," agrees another. "He just struts around screaming." The hens trade places with the peacock, dressing up in beads and ribbons and trying to attract customers--with predictable results. The warmth of the story is a bit overshadowed by the goggle eyes of Cole's (One Pup's Up) barnyard characters; the illustrations go for big guffaws and slapstick instead, and largely succeed. The final spreads--which suggest further complications with the arrival of an ostrich--add a final touch of humor, effectively keeping the book from feeling message-heavy. Ages 4–8. (Mar.)
Just the possibility of a snow, the mere mention of snow in the forecast can send the imagination spinning. Children (of all ages) will delight in the anticipation of a day with lots and lots of snow and----NO SCHOOL!
The 100th Day of School is a BIG event for young children everywhere. And Jake, like most children has been working on his very special collection for a long time. But in the excitement of the big day Jake rushes out to catch the bus and leaves something very important behind. Find out how a very caring principal helps save the day.
A heartwarming tribute to the love of a grandmother and the importance of making memories.
"...tender depiction of a life well-lived, which speaks to the value of maintaining loving relationships, even when they are altered by Alzheimer's disease."
--Booklist
Although he is happy about having a loose tooth, Trevor worries when his classmates tell him some of the ways others might try to pull out the tooth.
Professional Books for Classroom Teachers
A close look at spelling instruction and assessment in the writing workshop
A thorough overview of establishing and maintaining the writing workshop in the K-6 classroom
Bringing picture books and read-aloud into the curriculum to build vocabulary and both broaden and deepen conceptual frameworks for units of study in the content areas.
You'll find 14 ready-to-use mini-lessons to introduce your students to techniques and literary elements. Carefully selected anchor texts provide inspiration for exploring each technique and element. In addition, a professional workshop to use on your own or with colleagues will deepen your own knowledge base. This "workshop-in-a-book," also perfect for literacy coaches and teacher leaders, demonstrates how to read like a writer, identify "craft moves," and form theories about why the moves were made. The DVD features Lester explaining how writers practice audible and visual craft, using "Satudays and Teacakes" to illustrated both. The DVD also includes downloadable forms that you can share with your students to explore author's craft and to monitor their evolving understanding. Use the DVD to have Lester talk directly to the class, or use the book to present the lessons yourself. Either method will help you teach your students to develop their own "craft moves," which will enliven and refine their writing.
A year long focus on poetry for the K-2 classroom. Includes a big book of original poetry and two guide books to create a poetry environment, a focus on reading poetry and a formal unit of study on writing poetry.
The premise is simple yet potent: you can make every read aloud intentional, so the book becomes the richest opportunity imaginable for not only inspiring your students with the magic of story but also stretching them instructionally. With Lester as your guide, you'll learn how to help your students observe and explore what the author did, how he or she did it and why.

Saturdays and Teacakes

"Every Saturday morning, the young narrator pedals his bike through town, passing familiar landmarks like the bank and the gas station, until he reaches his grandmother's house. The two share a special day talking, doing chores, and finally baking and feasting on Mammaw's special teacakes. Drawing on his childhood in Heflin, AL, the author splendidly re-creates these nostalgic scenes, carefully bringing the memories to life by describing the sunny kitchen, the crunch of gravel under bicycle wheels, and the sweet aroma of the cakes. The brilliant watercolor paintings glow with light and idyllically capture the world of yesterday. Older readers may enjoy sharing this book with their grandparents, and teachers might incorporate it into lessons about writing descriptive memoirs."
--Linda L. Walkins, Mount Saint Joseph Academy, Brighton, MA; copyright 2004 Reed Business Information--School Library Journal

"A young boy recalls the Saturdays he would bike to visit his Mammaw. In language rich with the sounds, smells, and tastes of days gone by, the story takes us down the road, through the town to his grandmother's hug of welcome. He cuts the lawn while she tends the garden. Then they have some lunch, and it's time for 'something sweet to eat.' With his help, she makes the dough and bakes the teacakes he enjoys so much. These vivid memories he 'won't ever forget.' The sentimental tale gets additional emotional strength from the large watercolor scenes which at times resemble color photographs. The pictures describe the idyllic small town with friendly folks, flower-bordered roads, and Mammaw's house and garden. The furnishings are right out of the mid-twentieth century. The sequence of images tells a story rich in the joy of a boyhood and the valuing of the special relationship between the generations. And the recipe for those delicious-looking teacakes is available on line."
--Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz, Children's Literature,

"Laminack (The Sunsets of Miss Olivia Wiggins) takes a sweet trip down memory lane in this ode to his grandmother... Set in Alabama in 1964, the slice-of-life story reveals the emotional connections forged by a boy's weekly bike trips to visit his grandmother 'Mammaw.' They share meals, time on the porch swing, yard work and making teacakes (the recipe for which is on the publisher's Web site). Tactile descriptions help engage readers ('[The dough] was smooth and pale yellow and smelled like fresh cotton candy at the county fair')...Soentpiet (My Brother Martin) creates an appealingly wholesome, Mayberry-esque vision of the town, with flower-filled yards, smiling gas station attendants and Mammaw's gleaming red and white kitchen. A high-intensity light seems to shine on his wide-ranging palette of watercolors, giving a souped-up, faintly surreal glow to these scenes of loving intergenerational ties..."
--Publishers Weekly

"Readers will have a hard time resisting this cover: a grinning boy of nine or ten is lord of the pile of treats in front of him: teacakes he bakes with his grandmother as the culmination of their Saturday visits. Also on the weekly agenda: mowing Mawmaw's lawn and enjoying sandwiches crafted with her just-picked tomatoes. Set in 1964 in Heflin, Alabama, there's little tension in this vignette--riding his bike there safely through the rural countryside is the hardest part of the boy's day. The impeccably rendered paintings illustrate with astonishing historical accuracy the slightly long text and capture the details of the time: gasoline pumps and automobiles in the service station, the boy's bicycle, and kitchen furnishings that suggest an even earlier time. The author crafted this as a tribute to a childhood tradition with his grandmother, to whom the book is dedicated; while not all of us had his childhood, filled with sunshine and smiles, this nostalgic look back offers up the childhood many of us wish we'd had."
--Kirkus Reviews

Author’s Note: Saturdays and Tea Cakes
Lester L. Laminack

There are special moments in our lives that glow like embers in a dying fire. Embers that can be rekindled with a single breath of air.

It might be a sound…
The sound of a voice, the creaking of an old screen door, the incessant grind of aluminum rockers on a concrete porch floor or the rhythm of wipers on a night drive in the rain.

It might be a smell…
The smell of bacon and eggs and coffee and biscuits, the smell of grass freshly mown, the whispering scent of rose water, or the fragrance of gardenia walking silently on twilight air.

It might be an image…
The sight of a young boy pedaling up hill on a shiny red bike, layers of pink and purple and orange sherbet sky at the end of day, pine trees—tall ones with great girth—carpeting the earth with rust brown straw or an old woman bending over her flowers tossing out weeds like unwanted mail.

It might be something you touch…
The warm smooth surface of a mug of hot chocolate on a through-to-your-bones-cold-day, the peach-fuzzy-feel of an old baby blanket found in the bottom of a trunk, the steam bath of summer pavement after a light rain or the bee-sting-prick of a rose thorn.

It might be something you taste…
The tart sweet filling of key lime pie, the salty crunch of chips, the first bite of a vine ripened tomato or the sour surprise of lemonade poured too soon.

Special moments lie glowing in our memories. Glowing and waiting for us to find the secret door into that place where memories are like embers. Glowing and waiting for us to fan them into flame to burn again brightly in the pages of our notebooks.

These glowing embers, these dormant memories are tied to some special moments—moments that can become glimpses into a life—moments that can become a memoir.

This story, Saturdays and Tea Cakes is that kind of story. It was a special memory tucked away and treasured—a glowing ember that was fanned into flame by the smell of cookies baking at a grocery store in the town where I live.

That smell, the smell of fresh cookies baking, was my trap door, my secret passageway into that place where memories, like embers, lie waiting for you to fan them into flame with a moment of pause and attention and care.

I walked around the grocery store that day focused on that smell. I’d go back and sniff and think. I knew of course that it smelled like fresh cookies but I just couldn’t reach the memory that smell was evoking.

Finally, as I closed my eyes and stood there with my hands on the shopping cart I breathed slowly and let that sweet fragrance reach way back in my childhood and fan those glowing embers into the flame of story.

I wrote this book to honor my grandmother, my mother’s mother, my mammaw. As a child I loved the time I spent with her because, like no other grown up, she had the time to make me the center of her attention, to make me feel so very special.

Everyone should have at least one person who can make him or her stand taller, feel bolder and smarter and to know that no matter what nothing can separate you from that love.

This story is true, a memoir from my childhood. Every word is as true as my memory can recall it. This story takes one small period of time from my whole life and gives you a glimpse into that cherished time.

I believe that memoir is a gift, a special gift because the writer is inviting you into his life, inviting you in to share his cherished moment. Inviting you to pause and give attention and care to your own cherished moments.



Think of special moments in your life. You may have a souvenir from a vacation or trip or maybe you have a photo from camp or a family gathering. Look at one of those photos or hold one of those souvenirs and try to recall the special moments you and your family wanted to hold on to. A memoir is like a souvenir in a way. It is a memento—a reminder. A memoir helps you to hold on so you will remember and so that others may know that it mattered.