#IMWAYR March 13, 2017

This has been another busy week of writing for the Slice of Life challenge and taking care of sick kids at home. Luckily, I was able to squeeze in a lot of reading time with the kids and a little bit of time for myself…


YA Novels

When We Collided, by Emery Lord

This YA novel gets to the heart of the impact of mental illness on relationships. Vivi is a teenage girl who is hiding her demons behind a free spirit during her summer in a beach town. Jonah is a townie who has just lost his father and is trying to keep his family together. When the two meet, they have a dramatic impact on each other’s lives and must learn to each face the pasts that haunt them.
Recommended for: High school and up
Why: Mature themes of mental illness and teenage behavior

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Middle Grade Novels

Bird and Squirrel on Ice, by James Burkes

This was the first book I read in the Bird and Squirrel series, and I absolutely see the appeal for young readers. The story was action-packed and full of adventure as Bird blindly accepted the role of “Chosen One” to defeat a whale who controlled an island full of penguins with his constant demands for fish. Squirrel realizes all is not as it seems and must come up with a plan to defeat the whale and save Bird.
Recommended for: 2nd-4th grades
Why: This is a great series for beginning graphic novel readers

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Picture Books

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, by Javaka Steptoe

This beautifully-illustrated 2017 Caldecott winner tells the biographical story of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Taking readers through his childhood and the events that shaped him into an artist, this book is a very well-written and engaging biography.
Recommended for: 4th grade and up
Why: Good resource for teaching biography for intermediate readers and older

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Mix It Up, by Herve’ Tullet

An interactive book of mixing up colors, this one is a favorite at my house. Kids get to touch, shake, tap, and smear the paint blobs on each page to transform the colors.
Recommended for: Preschool and up
Why: Great for color concepts with younger kids and excellent for use as a writing mentor text when thinking about ‘interactive’ texts with older students

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How I Became a Pirate, by Melinda Long

This is an old favorite that I just shared with my kids this week. Melinda Long’s tale of young Jeremy Jacob meeting an unruly band of pirates on the beach and following them to sea is perfect for any pirate-lovers in your life. Jeremy Jacob is thrilled to be on the adventure until he figures out what he is missing out on at home. Adorable story with outstanding illustrations by David Shannon.
Recommended for: Preschool-3rd grade
Why: The story is highly appealing to younger readers, the dialogue and language of the story would make it a good mentor text for intermediate readers and writers

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I’m Bad!, by Kate and Jim McMullin

We love this series at our house (I Stink, I’m Dirty), and my kids’ recent fascination with dinosaurs led us to this book on the library shelf. The fast pace of the story and graphic illustrations were a hit!
Recommended for: Kindergarten through 2nd grade
Why: Perfect for dinosaur-lovers, this book incorporates some complex vocabulary and would be excellent for using to make predictions

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The Green Umbrella, by Jackie Azua Kramer

Elephant’s green umbrella is keeping him dry in the rain until several friends come by and question him for using their boat/tent/etc. Great book for thinking about perspective and sharing and using your imagination.
Recommended for: Preschool through 3rd grade
Why: The story is easy to follow for young readers and is good for discussions of possession and perspective

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Use Your Imagination, by Nicola O’Bryne

Rabbit tries to come up with a story with the help of wolf, who obviously has an ulterior motive. By the end of the story, Rabbit must use his imagination to get himself out of a very sticky situation!
Recommended for: Preschool through 2nd grade
Why: Great for getting kids to think about story elements and how to use your imagination, as well as making predictions

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Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Story, by Margriet Ruurs

This story of the journey of a refugee family in Syria is powerful. As readers follow the family from their home to safety, the pictures of rock art that accompany the story are absolutely captivating. Wonderful book for explaining the situation in Syria to young readers.

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The Night Before St. Patrick’s Day, by Natasha Wing

We’re getting ready for St. Patrick’s Day at my house, and this book was a great way to kick off the week! As a tricky leprechaun causes mischief around their house, a brother and sister try to find ways to outsmart him and find his lucky pot of gold. Told through the familiar “‘Twas the Night Before…” format, this was a cute book to add to our holiday collection.
Recommended for: PreK through 2nd grade
Why: Fun holiday-themed book

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Reading Progress Check-in

  • 2017 Total Progress: 98/230 books read
    • 24/100 chapter books
    •  4 graphic novels
  • #MustReadin2017 Progress: 21/30
  • My reading goals for the week:
    • Finish another book from my #MustReadin2017 list
    • Reach the 100 book mark on my 2017 Reading Challenge

What is #IMWAYR?

Each Monday this year, I hope to join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers to share all of the reading I’ve done during the week, from picture books to young adult novels.

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#IMWAYR March 6, 2017

I’ve been balancing my reading time this week with writing for the March Slice of Life Challenge over at Two Writing Teachers. Here are the amazing books I read this week:


Middle Grade Novel

Still a Work in Progress, by Jo Knowles

More than anything, this book is an important book for kids to read. When Noah’s sister Emma has a relapse of her eating disorder, his life begins to unravel. He questions himself, his friendships, and his family. As he works to discover who he really is and come to peace with his sister’s disease, Noah learns to trust others and forgive himself. This novel highlights the impact that eating disorders have on families, not only the person fighting against the disease.
Recommended for: 5th grade and up
Why: This book deals with some mature themes that may not be appropriate in an elementary setting; this book would be excellent for book clubs to have a rich discussion

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Picture Books

The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet, by Carmen Agra Deedy

I’ve been hearing about this book everywhere, and I’m so glad a picked it up. When a rooster dares to defy a mayor’s law to be quiet, nothing the mayor can do will silence him. This is a book about courage and using your voice to stand up for what you believe in.
Recommended for: 2nd grade and up, especially good picture book for older readers
Why: While the story may seem simple to younger readers, this book holds an important message about standing up to oppression, even when the consequences are severe

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The Bear Who Wasn’t There, by LeUyen Pham

A hilarious book in which readers spend the duration of the story looking for the main character, a bear, who seems to have just disappeared. Throughout the book, a ridiculous duck tries to convince readers that the story should  be about him, while other animals try to help find the bear (except a giraffe, who is rudely interrupted in the bathroom). Fun, silly read!
Recommended for: Pre-K through 3rd grade
Why: Bold and silly illustrations hook younger readers, while this book gives you a sense of what it means to be an author as the writer of the book jumps in to help find the bear, too

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You Don’t Want a Unicorn!, by Ame Dyckman

I can’t recommend this book to primary teachers enough. This cute precautionary tale about all of the reasons why wishing for a unicorn are a bad idea is witty and clever. Kids will love the illustrations and the unicorn theme.
Recommended for: Pre-K through 4th grade
Why: Younger kids will love the pictures and the story, while older kids will absolutely benefit from using this as a mentor text for teaching opinion writing

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We Are Growing! (Elephant and Piggie Like Reading #2), by Laurie Keller

An absolutely adorable story of a row of grass, each blade trying to be the “est” of something–tallest, curliest, dandiest, and so on. What begins as a story of competition, however, turns out to be a tale of being an individual and standing out because of your strengths. Bonus: Elephant and Piggie!
Recommended for: Pre-K through 3rd grade, especially those who love Elephant and Piggie
Why: 

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Ninja! Attack of the Clan, by Arree Chung

Told in the format of an early graphic novel, this picture book will absolutely appeal to the ninja enthusiasts in your life. All Maxwell wants to do is put his ninja skills to work, but his family is too busy to spend time with him until they realize how much they have let him down.
Recommended for: PreK through 3rd grade
Why: Great for kids who like ninjas, lots of picture support, good introductory graphic novel using speech bubbles with sparse dialogue to tell the story

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Reading Progress Check-in

  • 2017 Total Progress: 88/230 books read
    • 23/100 chapter books
    •  3 graphic novels
  • #MustReadin2017 Progress: 21/30
  • My reading goals for the week:
    • Finish 1 more #MustReadin2017 book
    • Finish reading at least two novels

What is #IMWAYR?

Each Monday this year, I hope to join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers to share all of the reading I’ve done during the week, from picture books to young adult novels.

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#IMWAYR February 27, 2017

An  incredibly busy week slowed me down a bit, but I did manage to read some great titles this week:


YA Novels

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, by John Tiffany (based on the work on JK Rowling)
As the original Harry Potter books were released, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on each one. But I’ve intentionally waited awhile on this title, most likely because of the many mixed reviews I’ve heard. Unlike the original books, this one (for those who don’t know) is in play format and not written my Rowling herself. While it wasn’t a bad read, it definitely didn’t come close to the original books.
Recommended for: Harry Potter fans, 8th grade and up
Why: Potter fans will appreciate an opportunity to read about grown up Harry, even if the book itself is not as good as the original series

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Flying Lessons and Other Stories, by Ellen Oh (editor)
An incredible anthology of short stories centered around issues of diversity, Flying Lessons was an outstanding read. Featuring stories by Kwame Alexander, Jacqueline Woodson, Walter Dean Myers, Matt de la Pena, and others, these stories went beyond just topics of diversity to reach anyone who has ever struggled to find their place in the world.
Recommended for: 7th grade and up
Why: These short stories contain some complex and more mature themes

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Written in the Stars, by Aisha Saeed
It’s been a long time since there has been a book I absolutely couldn’t put down, but this one grabbed me over the weekend and wouldn’t let go. When recent high school graduate Naila’s secret relationship with her boyfriend Saif is discovered by her overprotective parents, they take her away from her home in Florida for a summer back in their native country of Pakistan. However, Naila has no idea the horrific fate that is waiting for her there as her parents assume complete control over her life and her future.
Recommended for: Mature high school readers
Why: (SPOILER ALERT) This book revolves around a forced marriage with some violent scenes

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Middle Grade Novels

Fenway and Hattie, by Victoria Cox
After hearing nothing but amazing reviews of this book, I finally ordered a copy. Told from the perspective of Fenway (the family dog) as he endures a move to a new home, this book focuses on the changing relationship between Fenway and his human girl, Hattie.
Recommended for: 2nd-4th grades
Why: Great chapter book for exploring perspective and relationships between characters

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Picture Books

The Secret Project, by Jonah Winter
An absolutely thought-provoking, amazingly organized nonfiction picture book about the development of the atomic bomb, The Secret Project is a book I can’t wait to incorporate at the right time and place into my classroom. This is a book that will absolutely provoke questions and promote rich discussions, giving readers a wealth of information while also leaving them wanting to know much more.
Recommended for: Upper elementary and middle school
Why: Readers need some background understanding of the atomic bomb for this book to be meaningful

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Giraffes Can’t Dance, by Giles Andreae
When Gerald the Giraffe must confront his belief that he can’t dance in front of a group of laughing jungle animals, he is absolutely discouraged. However, as he loses his self-consciousness and begins to have more confidence in himself, he soon discovers that the only thing holding him back from dancing was himself.
Recommended for: Preschool through upper elementary
Why: This book is simple enough for the youngest readers to follow while also teaching a meaningful lesson to older elementary readers

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Reading Progress Check-in

  • 2017 Total Progress: 81/230 books read
    • 22/100 chapter books
    •  3 graphic novels
  • #MustReadin2017 Progress: 21/30
  • My reading goals for the week:
    • Read 2 additional novels
    • Finish 1 more #MustReadin2017 book

What is #IMWAYR?

Each Monday this year, I hope to join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers to share all of the reading I’ve done during the week, from picture books to young adult novels.

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#IMWAYR February 20, 2017

This week I’ve been reading:


Middle Grade Novels

Every Single Second, by Tricia Springstubb

Torn between old friendship and new, 12-year-old Nella’s life is turned upside down when tragedy strikes her neighborhood. As she examines her relationships with friends, family, and her aging great-grandmother, Nella learns essential lessons about life, love, and forgiveness.
Recommended for: 5th-8th grade
Why: This novel begins to explore middle school themes (relationships, friendships, family dynamics) and has a complex plot that will appeal to middle school readers

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Picture Books/Early Chapter Books

Mercy Watson to the Rescue, by Kate DiCamillo

You simply can’t go wrong with a series by Kate DiCamillo. Introducing my kids to Mercy Watson this week was definitely a highlight (even though my almost 3-year-old announced the first night that she “just hates that pig”–because I wouldn’t finish the book all in one sitting). This first  book in the series introduces us to Mercy and her antics as she climbs into bed with Mr. and Mrs. Watson, causing their bed to begin falling through the ceiling. Mayhem ensues as the neighbors and emergency responders get involved, leaving readers grinning ear to ear with the perfect conclusion. We’re absolutely looking forward to getting our hands on more from this series!
Recommended for: Pre-K through 3rd grade
Why: Great read aloud series for the youngest readers that will easily transition into the perfect independent reading series for 2nd and 3rd graders; perfect mentor text for thinking about characters and plot

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Mighty, Mighty Construction Site, by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld

My kids absolutely love Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site, and I was so excited when this book showed up on my porch this week (I pre-ordered before Christmas and completely forgot about it). This book has the same cute rhyming qualities as the first, engaging readers in a day in the life of construction equipment. My kids were both grinning ear-to-ear by the end and immediately requested a reread.
Recommended for: Preschool through kindergarten
Why: The content of this book (construction) will appeal to a younger crowd and the language is fantastic for building vocabulary

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Paul Meets Bernadette, by Rosy Lamb

A sweet story about a goldfish named Paul who only swims around and around in his fishbowl until Bernadette arrives and “shows him the world.” This book was recommended to me by a friend and was a cute post-Valentine’s Day read.
Recommended for: 1st-4th grades
Why: Beautiful paintings draw the reader in, good for discussing perspective and character changes

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The Ninjabread Man, by C.J. Leigh

Fun adaptation of the story of the Gingerbread Man–ninja style. After the sensei bakes a very special batch of cookies, each of the ninjas-in-training have their special skills put to the test. My ninja-loving pre-K son requested several reads of this one!
Recommended for: Preschool-2nd grade
Why: Appeals to readers familiar with the Gingerbread Man, especially those who are ninja-obsessed

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There’s a Giraffe in My Soup, by Ross Burach

When a little boy’s soup arrives at his table with a giraffe inside, hilarity ensues. A delivery mix-up between the restaurant and the local zoo results in one interesting animal dish after another making its way to the table.
Recommended for: Preschool-1st grade
Why: The story is cute and simple to follow and will appeal to younger readers

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Reading Progress Check-in

  • 2017 Total Progress: 75/230 books read
    • 18/100 chapter books
    •  3 graphic novels
  • #MustReadin2017 Progress: 20/30
  • My reading goals for the week:
    • Finish 2 novels
    • Finish Pernille Ripp’s new book (still working on this goal from last week!)

What is #IMWAYR?

Each Monday this year, I hope to join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers to share all of the reading I’ve done during the week, from picture books to young adult novels.

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#IMWAYR February 12, 2017

This week I’ve been reading….


YA Novels

Girl in Pieces, by Kathleen Glasgow

This book sat on my nightstand for awhile, simply because I knew it would take a lot of emotional energy to read–and I was right. This YA novel follows Charlie, a young girl completely on her own, as she is released from the hospital for self-harm and tries to find her way in a world that has already seen more heartache and suffering than anyone should endure in a lifetime. The writing is real, and though this book was heart wrenching, the depth of the story and the trials Charlie endures left a lasting impression on me.
Recommended for: High school and older
Why: Very mature language and content

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Middle Grade Novels

It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel, by Firoozeh Dumas

In this semi-autobiographical coming-of-age novel, Dumas engages readers in experiencing life as a young girl from Iran in the late seventies. Trying to balance embracing her cultural heritage and assimilating to American culture during a time of unrest in her home country, Cindy’s story is one of finding friendship and of finding herself. I learned more about the relationship between Iran and the United States from reading this novel than I ever did in a history class. Dumas’ writing is witty, honest, and open.
Recommended for: Late middle school or high school
Why: Great for discussions about identity, especially related to cultural heritage and immigration

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Picture Books

Freedom in Congo Square, by Carole Boston Weatherford

This lyrical book tells the tale of Congo Square, the heart of New Orleans where slaves were allowed to gather on Sundays. The bold illustrations and rhyming lines build anticipation throughout a week as slaves look forward to their time together in Congo Square.
Recommended for: Upper elementary or older
Why: This book is excellent for discussions about slavery, civil rights, and African culture. The information at the front and back of the book provides a complete history lesson on the significance of Congo Square.

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A Crankenstein Valentine, by Samantha Berger

Our favorite grumpy character Crankenstein is back in this picture book to express his hated for any and all things related to Valentine’s Day. From heart-shaped lunches to gifts for his teacher, Crankenstein wants nothing to do with the holiday until he finds a kindred spirit. Fun bedtime story with lots of requests to reread this week!
Recommended for: Preschool through 3rd grade
Why: Fun Valentine’s Day read that would be good for exploring discussions about likes/dislikes with elementary-age readers

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Slugs in Love, by Susan Pearson

When Marylou falls head-over-tail in love with Herbie, her heart is filled with poetry and she begins to leave him love notes written in slime. However, Herbie’s replies continue to be lost and Marylou believes her love is unrequited until Herbie finally has an idea that brings the two slugs together.
Recommended for: Kindergarten through 3rd grade
Why: Cute Valentine’s Day book, fun for kids old enough to appreciate the back-and-forth note writing that finally brings the two characters together

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Strictly No Elephants, by Lisa Mantchev

A boy who loves his tiny pet elephant is rejected from the neighborhood Pet Club for not having a “normal” pet, so he sets out to create his own Pet Club that opens its doors to all kinds of pets.
Recommended For: Preschool through 3rd grade
Why: The story is simple enough for all readers to understand and is great for sparking discussions about inclusivity

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A Hungry Lion (Or, A Dwindling Assortment of Animals), by Lucy Ruth Cummins

I love books that seem predicable but have twists throughout, and this picture book definitely meets that criteria. Fun little story to read with kids about what happens when a hungry lion finds himself among several innocent little animals.
Recommended for: Kindergarten through 5th grade
Why: Little kids will love the animal story, while this book will also make a great mentor text to show older writers how to have a sense of audience and write the unexpected

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There’s A Bear in My Chair, by Ross Collins

This story about a mouse who is offended that a bear has taken up residence in his chair has a simple plot that is accentuated by words that rhyme with “bear” throughout the book.
Recommended for: Preschool to 1st grade
Why: Easy to follow text with opportunities to talk about rhyming and word families

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One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree, by Daniel Bernstrom

When a little boy is unfortunately eaten by a snake under the eucalyptus tree, he knows there’s only one way out. This picture book builds as the snake gobbles up animal after animal until he can’t hold any more.
Recommended for: 1st or 2nd grade
Why: Story events are predictable and there are some great moments to explore perspective and word choices

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Reading Progress Check-in

  • 2017 Total Progress: 69/230 books read
    • 17/100 chapter books
    • 3 graphic novels
  • #MustReadin2017 Progress: 19/30
  • My reading goals for the week:
    • Finish Pernille Ripp’s new book
    • Read 2 novels

What is #IMWAYR?

Each Monday this year, I hope to join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers to share all of the reading I’ve done during the week, from picture books to young adult novels.

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#IMWAYR January 30, 2017

Although this week has been crazy, I really focused on hitting some reading goals and finishing my two chapter books. Here’s what I’ve been reading this week:


Professional Books

I am co-teaching a professional development course right now on integrating technology intentionally and authentically into Reading Workshop. Amplify (Ziemke & Muhtaris, 2016) and From Pencils to Podcasts (Stover & Yearta, 2017) are supporting out work throughout this class. Both books give practical, relevant, and easy-to-implement strategies for transitioning to a Digital Reading Workshop in elementary classrooms.


YA Novels

OCDaniel, by Wesley King
This is somehow the third book I’ve read about OCD in the past several weeks (I’ve also read Finding Perfect and The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B), and just like each of the other books, OCDaniel really gave me some perspective on what it means to truly experience obsessive-compulsive disorder. Daniel, a 13-year-old who is dealing with the typical stresses of adolescence (fitting in, liking girls, navigating his relationship with his family), is also struggling with hiding behaviors that are not typical–numbers that he is suddenly unable to write anymore, a night time Ritual that takes him hours to complete, and panic attacks that leave him feeling left out, confused, and unlike any of his peers. Until Sara, known by classmates as “Psycho Sara,” seeks him out to ask for his help in untangling her own confusing family situation. As these two battle their mental illnesses together, an unlikely friendship forms–and they begin to discover what really matters. I highly recommend this book to older middle school or early high school readers, especially those contending with mental illnesses of their own.

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Middle Grade Novels

The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog, by Adam Gidwitz

The Inquisitor’s Tale has been on my #MustReadin2017 list and it jumped to the top of the stack this week when it was named a 2017 Newbery Honor winner. This book tells the story of three unlikely friends–a peasant girl with visions of the future, a young monk with superhuman strength, and a Jewish boy with healing powers–who are on a quest with their holy dog in France in 1242. Their story–as told through the voices of travelers in an inn who have encountered the trio–follows the children and their dog across France, through castles and churches, and into the presence of kings, lords, priests, knights, and dragons. Through its unique setting and original cast of characters, this book will spark interesting discussions about today’s issues of diversity, prejudice, and justice. Although I don’t recommend this as a classroom read aloud (definitely read it yourself first if you’re thinking of reading it to a group of students), this would be a fantastic book club book for fifth grade and up.

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Picture Books

Pink is for Blobfish, by Jess Keating
One of the goals I set for myself this week was to read something nonfiction, so I was really excited when this arrived on my desk on Wednesday. Not only does this book hook readers with a focus on pink, but every page introduces a new and weird animal to learn about. From naked mole rats to snakes to the blobfish itself, Keating has filled this book with vibrant photos, a bright layout, and tons of cool and interesting facts about each animal. Thinking about the number of times the words gross and cool popped into my head as I read, I can’t wait to add this one to a classroom library!Image result

Henry and Mudge and the Snowman Plan, by Cynthia Rylant
My kids’ school celebrated Screen Free Week last week, so I naturally thought there’s no better time to introduce some first chapter books. We all snuggled up to read Henry and Mudge and the Snowman Plan together, and of course my kids fell in love with big sloppy Mudge. I couldn’t tell at first how “into it” my son was (he’s almost 5 and a bit obsessed with Legos and Ninjas right now), but I caught him paging back through the book later, soaking in Henry and Mudge and their adventure. Henry and Mudge have always been a great part of any primary classroom library, and this book is perfect for a snowy winter day!

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Boom Snot Twitty, by Doreen Cronin
I have long been a Doreen Cronin fan (Diary of a Worm; Click, Clack, Moo), but this book was a bit different from her others. My kids loved the pictures and the Snot’s silly character, but the plot itself was a little difficult to follow.

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Stuck, by Oliver Jeffers
When Floyd’s kite gets stuck in a tree, he is determined to throw things at it to knock it down–over and over and over, until the tree is full of all sorts of silly items. This book will be a fun read with my own kids, and would be great to use for problem-solving and STEM lessons in the classroom to emphasize trying different solutions to a problem.

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Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed, by Mo Willems
Another Mo Willems book to add to my list of favorites! This adorable story tells the tale of Wilbur, a naked mole rat who is ridiculed and rejected because he dares to be different and wear clothes. This book will be an excellent text in the classroom to open dialogue with students about being yourself and not always having to follow the crowd.

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Leonardo the Terrible Monster, by Mo Willems
No matter how hard he tries, Leonardo is just not good at being a monster. Desperate to be terrible, he researches scaredy-cat kids until he finds a little boy named Sam. But even though Leonardo has his sights set on “scaring the tuna salad” out of Sam, things definitely don’t go as planned. This book was a really fun read with my kids (we were all laughing out loud–and I had to read it three times in a row!), and once again Willems does not fail to tell a cute story with a powerful lesson.

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Reading Progress Check-in

  • 2017 Total Progress: 54/230 books read
    • 13/100 chapter books
    •  2 graphic novels
  • #MustReadin2017 Progress: 15/30 (Halfway done!)
  • My reading goals for the week:
    • Read another graphic novel
    • Finish 2 more #MustReadin2017 books

What is #IMWAYR?

Each Monday this year, I hope to join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers to share all of the reading I’ve done during the week, from picture books to young adult novels.

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#IMWAYR January 23, 2017

Squeezing in time to read is getting trickier as the demands of the spring semester are starting to pick up! I’m being very conscious about setting aside at least a few minutes each night to read for enjoyment (and sneaking in some time here and there on the weekend whenever I can, too). Here’s what I’ve been reading this week!


YA Novels

Ashes, by Laurie Halse Anderson

Guilty confession: I skipped the middle book in this trilogy. I read Chains last summer and was excited to get my hands on a copy of the third and final book in the series this week. Ashes is the final installment in Revolutionary Era story of Isabel, a teenage slave who begins a journey seeking freedom and soon finds herself facing more challenges than she ever imagined. As the country is on the verge of war, Isabel and her friend Curzon set out to find her sister, Ruth, who has been deceitfully separated from her by their owner. As Isabel and Ruth are reunited in Ashes, together they must face the challenges of war, love, suffering, and learning to forgive as they find themselves in the heart of the Battle of Yorktown. I highly recommend this book for 5th grade and up, especially for readers who are fans of historical fiction (and for anyone who is a Hamilfan!).

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Middle Grade Novels

Some Kind of Happiness, by Claire Legrand

When Finley Hart is sent to live with her grandparents for the summer, surrounded by family she has never met while her parents work on some “marital issues”, the only way she copes with the changes in her life are by writing stories of the Everwood, a magical forest inhabited by mystical creatures, darkness, and an orphan girl. Soon Finley has drawn her cousins and new friends into her imaginary world, entering dangerous territory as she digs up secrets from the past that the Hart family would rather keep buried. This book had me hooked until the very last page, drawing me in with the depth of both the story and the emotions running through it. This novel is a perfect read for students in upper elementary and middle school.

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The Distance to Home, by Jenn Bishop
This book is Bishop’s debut novel, and it’s amazing. It is set up as parallel stories: Last Summer, when Quinnen is dealing with her changing relationship with her teenage sister and fighting to lead her baseball team to the championship, and This Summer, when Quinnen is drowning in her grief after losing her sister and turning her back on everything she used to love. This novel is both heartbreaking and hopeful, and is another outstanding addition to any upper elementary/middle school classroom library.

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Picture Books

Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret, by Bob Shea
Ballet Cat is absolutely the best thing to happen to graphic novels for early readers since Elephant and Piggie. My kids absolutely loved Dance, Dance, Underpants, and this book gained almost as many giggles at bedtime. As Sparkles the Pony gathers the courage throughout the story to tell Ballet Cat his secret, he is completely unaware that Ballet Cat has a secret of her own. This is a fun book about friendship and trust that will absolutely be loved by primary readers.

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Build, Dogs, Build: A Tall Tail, by James Horvath
My kids love this trilogy of books about a construction team of dogs. Build, Dogs, Build: A Tall Tail is an adorable story about a canine construction crew who must demolish a building and construct a skyscraper. Not only does this book incorporate a lot of great vocabulary words in a fun, lyrical context, but kids also fall in love with searching for Jinx the cat on each page to see what trouble he has gotten into. This book is a great addition to a primary classroom library!

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Float, by Daniel Miyares
I have to confess that I have a terrible habit of speeding past the illustrations in picture books, so it takes a special book to make me slow down and appreciate the details in the pictures. Float, the first wordless picture book I’ve read in awhile, is a beautifully illustrated book about a little boy who takes a paper boat out to sail on a rainy day. Miyares’ thoughtful use of spacing and color really drew me into this story, and this is a book I would love to use with students for an illustration study!

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Bad Kitty Does Not Like Candy, by Nick Bruel
I loved including the Bad Kitty series in my classroom library when I taught primary grades, and I am loving introducing this series to my own kids now. In this story, Bad Kitty is offered several different foods, many quite silly, but his eyes are only on a giant jar of candy–until he actually gets his paws on it and realizes that things aren’t always as wonderful as you expect. This book was a simple and fun bedtime story.

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Dear Dragon, by Josh Funk
After seeing this book pop up on several lists at the end of 2016, I added it as one of a few picture books on my #MustReadin2017 list. This is a fast-paced rhyming book of letters between a little boy and his pen pal who is, unbeknownst to him, a dragon. This would be a fun book to include in an early elementary classroom, especially with its bright and busy illustrations.

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Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs, by Mo Willems
I may not have mentioned before how much I absolutely love Mo Willems, but…I absolutely love Mo Willems. Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs is one of few titles written by Willems that I had not previously read, and I really enjoyed sharing it with my kids at bedtime this week. While some of the sarcasm and obvious foreshadowing was lost on my preschoolers, they loved the bold pictures and the simple twist on a familiar story (and, of course, finding the Pigeon hiding in the story). This is a book that I’m positive early elementary readers would absolutely love.

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A Pocket for Corduroy, by Don Freeman

This book was one of my favorites as a child, and I was excited to share it with my own kids this week–and was thrilled that they fell in love with it just as much as I did. They had millions of questions about why Corduroy got lost in a laundromat, why he wanted a pocket, and why there was a box of soap. My son even commented at the end how much he loved the pictures and asked if I could tell him about the illustrator. I love that this book still holds as much charm and appeal for this generation as it did for mine!

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Reading Progress Check-in

  • 2017 Total Progress: 46/230 books read
    • 11/100 chapter books
    • 2 graphic novels
  • #MustReadin2017 Progress: 12/30
  • My reading goals for the week:
    • Read something nonfiction
    • Finish 2 more #MustReadin2017 books

What is #IMWAYR?

Each Monday this year, I hope to join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers to share all of the reading I’ve done during the week, from picture books to young adult novels.