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Books Between Podcast

Books Between is a podcast to help teachers, parents, and librarians connect kids between 8 and 12 to books they'll love.
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Feb 12, 2018

 

Intro

Hi and welcome to the Books Between Podcast! I believe that books can change your life for the better. I know because books did that for me.

And I want to help you connect kids with those amazing, life-shaping books and bring you inspiring (and fun!) conversations with the authors and educators who make that magic happen.  Every other Monday, I bring you book talks, interviews, and ideas for getting great books into the hands of kids between 8-12.

I am Corrina Allen - a mom of an eight and ten year old, a 5th grade teacher, and excited about two things this week!  First, the Winter Olympics.  And second - today’s announcement of the American Library Association Youth Media Awards including the Caldecott, the Newbery, The Coretta Scott King, and lots more!  I am so excited for those authors and illustrators who will be getting those early morning phone calls. I’ll be streaming it with my class and can’t wait to chat more with you about it!

This is Episode #43 and today I’m talking about some fails, some wins, and bringing you a conversation with author Anna Meriano about her debut novel (and the MG at Heart January Book Club pick) Love, Sugar, Magic!

But first I have some exciting news to share with you — I’m joining the fabulous team at MGBookvillage.org!  MGBookVillage has become THE place for all things middle grade, and I’m so thrilled to be working with Annaliese Avery, Jarrett Lerner, and Kathie MacIsaac who’ve done such an incredible job developing a home for lovers of middle grade that I can’t imagine we ever made do without it!

MGBookVillage has it all; a book-release calendar, a Kids’ Corner, a monthly book club (MG at Heart), an all-day twitter chat on Mondays (#MGBookathon)—and so, so much more.

And from now on it will be the new home of the Books Between podcast and where you can find all our transcripts.

Three Fails & One Win

And now a new segment I am calling three fails and a win. So - I am going to share with you three failures.  And then one thing that went well recently.  I think we all have the tendency to share our achievements and hide our failures, only revealing things that put us in a positive light. Inadvertently, it can lead to people feeling like they aren’t living up to all the amazingness they see on Instagram and Facebook and Pinterest, and next door. It’s an unrealistic view of teaching and parenting and it makes it seem like there are just these amazing rockstar kidlit advocates who have success after success. Nah! In the interest of acknowledging that the most learning happens through our mistakes, I’ll share three of mine with you today. And then I share something good that happened.

Fail #1

Last summer I had an great conversation with Jillian Heise about #ClassroomBookADay and was so inspired to give it a try this year. (If you want to hear that conversation about the power of reading one picture book a day with your students, check out episode 30). So, at the beginning of the year I made this GIANT public display of 280 blank polaroid-style frames - all waiting for me to post colorful pictures of the books we are reading. And I have! Up until about like 40. Now - we have STILL been reading those picture books. Mostly.  We’ve missed a few days here and there, but - ugh that display has embarrassingly just... stalled. And I want to catch up but now I can’t quite remember the order of the titles we’ve read or even the names of them all.  And in fact, one of my eagle-eyed gals noticed that we have Not Quite Narwhal on there twice.  Not my best moment of this year.

Fail #2 -

So last summer, I secretly pre-ordered a certain book for my daughter.  I will withhold the name because it doesn’t really matter but I’ll just say that it was the next title in a fun graphic novel series that my 8 year-old daughter LOVES. She’s picky with her reading, so when she finds something she likes, I RUN to the ball. Well, I thought I was getting the Best Mom Ever award when a few weeks ago the book arrived on our stoop Tuesday afternoon and I gleefully called her into the kitchen as I whipped the book from around my back and held it out to her with a GIANT grin on my face! TA-DA!! And she….backed out of the room cringing. And then told me she’s just not into those books as much anymore.  Okay then - mom win turned into major mom fail.

Fail #3

This is the one I refer to as The Armadillo Book Debacle.

So, a couple weeks ago my daughter comes home upset because she’s going to have to pay $15 to replace a missing library book. Well - High Alert in the Allen household! We tear apart the house looking for it. All the bedrooms, under the couch cushions. I look at school. I call the grandparents! Nowhere is this darn Armadillo book. And my husband and daughter start to think they saw it go in the backpack and back to school. And mistakes happen, so we email the librarian and explain that we think it was returned and could she look? And I just want to say - she was extraordinarily nice about it!  And so - she’s looking all over the school for it.

Yeah, you know where this is going don’t you? A couple months ago we had a party at our house. And, like happens, there comes a point when you have cleaned and scrubbed and dusted and vacuumed and people are just about to arrive! So you switch from cleaning mode to hiding mode. You know,  there’s that one dirty casserole dish in the sink so you shove it in the oven. And there’s a stack of random papers and mail and books that you haul down into the basement. Including an Armadillo book that ended up tucked away in a corner of our basement for two months. My fault.  Awkward email back to the librarian.

 

And…. a WIN!

I have to end on a positive note. So I have this student who I love but he was tough nut to crack when trying to find a book that would hold his interest. In September, I discovered he had liked The One and Only Ivan, so I handed him my ARC of Wishtree weeks before it came out. Nope. I piled book after book after book on his desk - asking him questions about what he liked - to no avail.  It seemed like he was going to be one of those kids that you just hope the next person can help them find books they’ll love because it just didn’t click with you. But, then - I found out that he LOVES wrestling - like WWE wrestling. And a friend on #mglitchat recommended these Choose Your Own Adventure style WWE wrestling books. I order them on Amazon Prime and two days later, I slid one across his desk and his eyes just lit up!  I even caught him reading it as he walked to the bus! He read those books back and forth cover to cover for weeks. And now - he’s on to the second Tapper Twins book and on a roll and YES!!!  (I’ll link to those wrestling books in the show notes if you want to check them out. As far as I can tell there are only two of them - Race to the Rumble and then Night of Champions. Both are by Tracey West)

 

So, maybe my hallway display has stalled out, and I got overzealous with my child, and I embarrassed myself with the school librarian, but I helped that one kid get himself on his way.

Anna Meriano - Interview Outline

This week I had the opportunity to have a fantastic conversation with two authors debuting middle grade novels in 2018. Joining me today is Amanda Rawson Hill. She is the author of the upcoming book Three Rules of Everyday Magic and one of the organizers of the MG at Heart Book Club. Her and I hopped on Skype to chat with Anna Meriano about her debut novel (and the January MG at Heart Book Club pic), Love Sugar Magic.

Take a listen…..

Interview Outline

Love, Sugar, Magic

CA: Your first middle grade novel, Love Sugar Magic, debuted last month. For those listeners who haven’t yet read the book - can you tell what the story is about?

CA: One of things I loved about this book was that passing down of family recipes from mother to daughter generation to generation. So - did I hear that you aren’t actually much of a baker?

CA: Where did the recipes come from?

CA: In your novel, each sister has a special power, depending on her birth order. First born daughters have the gift of influence, second born daughters have the talent of manifestation, and the third borns have the gift of communicating with the dead.  Which gift would YOU want to have?  

ARH: I wanted to get some insight into how you wrote a big family so well...

Your Writing Life

CA: How long ago did you start writing Love, Sugar, Magic?

ARH: You’ve talked a lot about how you worked with Cake Literary, a book packager. I was wondering what the experience of doing that from the beginning with someone else was like compared to when you’re writing a book all on your own.  And how did it affect your creative process?

CA: What is Cake Literary and what is a book packager?

CA: How did you end up connecting to Leo?

JL: I’d be interested to hear about Anna’s experience with her debut group. The Electric Eighteens seem like such a positive and supportive bunch, and they’re so active in promoting one another. I’d love to hear what Anna got out of being a part of such a group — both in practical terms of promotion and things, and emotionally and psychologically, too, since the debut experience can be so confusing and exciting and overwhelming and joyful and terrifying and a million other things, too!

CA: The more I chat with authors about their process, the more I want to share with my students the idea that what they see as a finished story is the very tip of a gigantic iceburg of planning and writing and revising that never sees the light of day. What below-the-surface part of your writing process do you really enjoy? And what parts are challenging?

 

Your Reading Life

CA: Something that I think about a lot is how sometimes it only takes ONE person to really influence a child’s reading life - either in a positive way or sometimes in a negative way. Was there someone in your life who impacted you as a reader?

C: What have you been reading lately that you’ve liked?

 

Links:

Anna on Twitter

Cake Literary website - http://www.cakeliterary.com

Electric Eighteen Debut Group website - https://electriceighteens.com

Anna’s Nerdy Book Club Post is here

The Coco Movie

 

Books & Authors We Chatted About:

The First Rule of Punk (Celia C. Perez)

Goosebumps (R.L. Stine)

Calvin & Hobbes (Bill Watterson)

The Inquisitor's Tale (Adam Gidwitz)

The Gauntlet (Karuna Riazi)

Betty Before X (by Ilyasah Shavbazz & Renee Watson)

 

Closing

Alright, that wraps up our show this week!

If you have a question about how to connect kids between 8-12 to books they’ll love or a suggestion about a topic we should cover, I would love to hear from you. You can email me at booksbetween@gmail.com or message me on Twitter/Instagram at the handle @Books_Between.

Thank you so much for joining me this week. You can get an outline of interviews and a full transcript of all the other parts of our show at MGBookVillage.org. And, if you are liking the show, please leave us some love on iTunes or Stitcher. Or even better - tell a friend about us!

Thanks and see you soon!  Bye!

Jan 29, 2018

Intro

Hi there everyone! Welcome to Books Between - a podcast for teachers, parents, librarians, and anyone who wants to connect kids between 8-12 to books they’ll love.  I’m your host, Corrina Allen - a mom of two, a teacher of 23, and always amazed at how much I learn from my students. Sometimes it’s something profound, or like last week it’s a snack suggestion! So a shout out to Jadyn and Malia for helping my daughters and I get completely addicted to these things called Flip yogurts. Have you tried them? They are these little flavored yogurts with a side sprinkle of sweetness. I have purchased an embarrassingly large amount of these in the past week - enough so that the Wegman’s cashier is giving me the side eye. You have to try them - delicious!

This is Episode #42 and Today I’m sharing with you a great opportunity to participate in the MG @ Heart Book Club, a fantastic interview with author Elly Swartz about her upcoming novel Smart Cookie, and then I’ll share with you some news about the All the Wonders website.

MG @ Heart Book Club

The first thing that I am really excited to tell you about is that I am teaming up with the Middle Grade at Heart Book Club to bring you great discussions and interviews with the authors of each month’s selection.

So you can read along with us all and at the end of the month or sometimes early the following month, MG at Heart will host a Twitter chat to discuss the book together and I’ll host an episode of Books Between featuring that novel.

First, let me tell you about all of the awesome 2018 picks so you can plan out your reading and pre-order the ones you want to get. There are lots of debut authors on this list so I’m excited for us all to meet some new voices in world of middle grade literature. (And remember that links to all of the books mentioned are in the show notes and the transcript posted on allthewonders.com so you don’t have to scramble to write anything down.)

After I list the reading schedule, then I’ll let you know where you can go to get more information about the MG at Heart Book Club.

In January, we are reading Love, Sugar, Magic by debut author Anna Meriano. It is about an 11 year-old girl, named Leonora, in a tight-knit family where all the women are brujas - witches. Leonora soon discovers that she - like her sisters and mother - have magical abilities that manifest through their baking. I’m about halfway through this book right now and I love the family, and magic, and food, and culture. It’s like a mix of the movie Coco and one of my favorite novels, Chocolat. I just know you and your kids will love it!  So, I hope you can join us all for the Twitter chat about Love, Sugar, Magic on Tuesday, February 6th at 8pm EST using the hashtag #mgbookclub.

And February’s read is See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng! Oh my gosh - I just finished the audio version of this novel and I was blown away. Really - you HAVE to read this one!  Or better yet since the premise of the entire book is that it’s recorded on an ipod - get the audio performance! You’ll just fall in love with Alex and his dog, Carl Sagan.  So - stay tuned for the Twitter chat date for that book!

In March, we’ll be reading The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser. This one has been on my TBR pile for ages so I’m glad to have a reason to push it to the top of my pile and get ready for the sequel which, I think, is due out this fall.

April’s book is Varian Johnson’s The Parker Inheritance - which sounds like a fabulous historical mystery. Can’t wait to read that one - it looks amazing!

In May, we’ll be reading Every Shiny Thing by Cordelia Jensen and Laurie Morrison - a contemporary novel in half prose, half verse.

June’s selection is The Mad Wolf’s Daughter by Diane Magras - a Scottish medieval adventure that sounds a bit like The Ranger’s Apprentice with a twist of Tamora Pierce. Doesn’t that sounds amazing?

In July, we’ll be reading Just Under the Clouds by Melissa Sarno about a family struggling to find a lasting home.

August’s pick is Cindy Baldwin’s Where the Watermelons Grow -  a book about twelve-year-old Della Kelly of Maryville, North Carolina, who tries to come to terms with her mother's mental illness while her father struggles to save the farm from a record-breaking drought.

And in September, we are reading The House That Lou Built by Mae Respicio. This one is about a girl who longs to create a space of her own away from the small room she shares with her mother in their grandmother’s house that is home to her lovable but sometimes wild Filipino family. So - she decides to built her own ‘tiny house.”

October’s pick is The Three Rules of Everyday Magic by Amanda Rawson Hill. Listen to this description: “Magic doesn't work the way you think it will, but it's what Kate needs as she confronts friendship trouble, her parents' divorce, and Grammy's dementia in this lyrical middle-grade coming-of-age novel.”

And November’s pick is The Hotel Between by Sean Easley -a story where twins Cam and Cass uncover the secrets of their missing father in a magical hotel whose doors lead its guests to places all over the world.

And stay tuned for the December plans!

So - I hope you are just excited as I am to read some outstanding new middle grade books this year. So - go get your pre-orders in, adjust those TBR piles, and I’ll see on Twitter and in your podcast feed.

If you want to know more about the Middle Grade at Heart Book Club, check them out on Twitter at the handle @mgatheart. And you can find them online at mgbookvillage.org. And a big shout out to the creators of MG at Heart  - Julie Artz, Cindy Baldwin, Laurie Morrison, Amanda Rawson Hill, and Kit Rosewater.

Main Topic - A Conversation with Elly Swartz

This week I am so excited to welcome Elly Swartz to the show - author of Finding Perfect and her upcoming middle grade novel, Smart Cookie.  We chat about her new novel and the unconventional research she did to get the details right along with schools visits, her writing process, and what she’s been reading lately.

Take a listen…..

 

Interview Outline:

Smart Cookie

Your new middle grade novel, Smart Cookie, is released in just a few days - can you tell us a bit about it?

We all loved the Greene Family Bed & Breakfast - Angie wants to know - did you model it after a real place or a real situation?

We all loved the game inspired rooms - Yahtzee and Monopoly and Checkers and Chess!  My daughters and I had so much fun deciding which ones we’d want to stay in.  So, we all want to know - which game-themed room would you prefer to stay in?

And Lena wants to know - why did you decide to call the book Smart Cookie?

I really loved the relationship between Frankie and her grandmother. I also grew up with an energetic, card-playing grandmother who lived with me, so I really connected with the bond between Frankie and her Gram….  

Were you close to your grandparents?

One of the parts of this book that had us laughing out loud (and cringing!) - were all the women that Frankie secretly sets her dad up with from the dating site!

Did you do research on dating sites?

I’ve been seeing a lot of pictures of your school visits lately! What are some of the things you like about visiting with students?

 

Your Writing Life

What is your writing process like?

I saw that you studied psychology and law - do you think anything from your time studying those subjects has helped you become a better writer or made its way into your novels?

What are you working on now?

 

Your Reading Life

Something that I think about a lot is the impact that adults can have on a child’s development as a reader - either in a really positive, encouraging way or sometimes in a negative way...

Was there someone like that in your life who impacted you as a reader?

What have you been reading lately that you’ve liked?

Links:

Elly’s Website - http://ellyswartz.com

Smart Cookie Curriculum Guide

Elly on Twitter and Instagram

Books & Authors We Chatted About:

Ramona the Brave (Beverly Cleary)

Eloise (Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight)

Pippi Longstocking (Astrid Lindgren)

Radio Free Vermont (Bill McKibben)

Love (Matt De La Pena and Loren Long)

Everything I Know About You (Barbara Dee)

The 57 Bus (Dashka Slater)

Turtles All the Way Down (John Green)

Some news

Before we wrap up, I wanted to share with you some news. As you may have heard, Matthew Winner and Blake Hamilton (co-founders of the All the Wonders website) have decided to end the project due to some other demands on their time and energy.

However, all the podcasts happily - including Books Between - will still continue. Nick Patton’s Picturebooking podcast will be found on picturebooking.com. And the All the Wonders podcast will now be called The Children’s Book Podcast with Matthew Winner and will have a home at matthewcwinner.com.  

And for me, this episode will be the last one at www.AlltheWonders.com. All the previous episodes of Books Between and the transcripts will still be there. And, as always, you’ll still be able to find links to every single episode at booksbetween.com.  On the next episode, I’ll have an announcement with some further details about our new home.

For now, I just want to say how happy I am to have been part of the All the Wonders team. And how grateful I’ve felt for their warm welcome into that incredible family. I want to give a special thanks to Matthew Winner who within the first week of this podcast, has always been such an enthusiastic champion of the show and incredibly generous with his time, resources, and advice.

And Matthew, and Blake, and everyone else at the All the Wonders team have made this show so much better than it would have been on its own.

And as much as there is a twinge of disappointment at seeing the end of something so wonderful, instead of feeling like it’s a sad goodbye, I look at it like an evolution of how we all connect and collaborate.

And I am really excited to see what Blake and Matthew have in store next!  Because you all know that the forces behind the awesomeness that was All the Wonders are going to be up to something brilliant!

Closing

Alright, that wraps up our show this week!

If you have a question about how to connect kids between 8-12 to books they’ll love or a suggestion about a topic we should cover, I would love to hear from you. You can email me at booksbetween@gmail.com or message me on Twitter/Instagram at the handle @Books_Between.

Thank you so much for joining me this week. You can get a full transcript of this show and all of our previous episodes at AlltheWonders.com. And, if you are liking the show, please leave us some love on iTunes or Stitcher. Or even better - tell a friend about us!

Thanks and see you soon!  Bye!

Jan 15, 2018

Intro

Hi everyone and welcome to Books Between - a podcast for teachers, parents, librarians, and anyone who wants to connect kids between 8-12 to books they’ll love.  I’m your host, Corrina Allen - a teacher, a mom, and spending a lovely weekend with my family inside away from the bitter cold playing epic games of Sorry and watching all the Star Wars movies. Again.

This is Episode #41 and today I’m sharing with you some fabulous 2018 titles to look forward to this year and an awesome interview with EngiNerds author Jarrett Lerner!

Book Talk - Most Anticipated Middle Grade Books of 2018

Typically in this segment, I share with you a few books centered around a theme. And during the last few episodes I was all about looking back at some of the best middle grade fiction and graphic novels of 2017. (If you missed those, go check out episodes #39 and #40.)

But this week I want to talk about some of the most anticipated books of the upcoming year.  Some are long-awaited sequels or new installments in well-loved series. Some are new ventures for favorite authors. And some are by debut authors. So, buckle up and and get ready to add to your wish list. And just a reminder - before you scramble for a pen and paper. You can find every book mentioned here AND a picture of the available covers AND a link to pre-order them right through the Books Between Podcast link at AlltheWonders.com.  I’ve got your back, I know you’re busy, so it’s all right there for you.  And I’ve come to really love pre-ordering - it helps out favorite authors and it’s like a little gift to your future self.

Two quick things to mention before I start. One - this is just a sampling of all the incredible books coming out this year. I’ll add some links to some great resources in the shownotes where you can find more complete listings of titles to browse through and discover some gems:

http://www.readbrightly.com/middle-grade-books-2018/

https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/98185.Middle_Grade_Novels_of_2018

https://mgbookvillage.org/2018releasedates/

https://electriceighteens.com/

And second - publication dates do change, so while I’ve mentioned the book release month - things sometimes change.

All right - let’s get to it!

Coming in January…

Let’s start with the some sequels because there are some AWESOME sequels coming our way to give us something to look forward to during this dreary month….

  • Linda William’s Jackson’s follow-up to Midnight Without a Moon - A Sky Full of Stars is out this January as Rose struggles with the way to face the rising racial tensions in her community.
  • Ooooo - and the new Fenway & Hattie is out this January!!!  I just can’t get enough of that little dog!  This third one is called Up to New Tricks so definitely snag that one for your Fenway fans - and for you, too!
  • And Gordon Korman’s Supergifted is also set for a January release - this is the sequel to Ungifted - a great book about a boy named Donovan who is mistakenly transfering into a gifted program and has to figure out how to pass as brilliant.  This follow up is about his new friend, Noah.
  • We are also getting another Terrible Two book in January - Terrible Two Go Wild!
  • And a new Spy on History book - Victor Dowd and the World War II Ghost Army!
  • Ah!  And we a get a new HiLo book this January! It’s called Waking the Monsters! (As my husband said - yeah, that sounds like what I do every weekday.) Our 8 year old is SUPER psyched about this new book! - so keep ‘em coming Judd Winick!
  • Okay - and it’s not really a sequel BUT - there is just released a GRAPHIC NOVEL version of the first The Wings of Fire book - ahhhh!!!  It’s illustrated by Mike Holmes and my students are going to FREAK when I tell them  tomorrow.

Some other January releases that are looking fabulous are….

  • Betty Before X  - an historical fiction novel set in the 40s about 11-year-old Betty Shabazz - future civil rights leader.  This one is written by her daughter, Ilyasah Shabazz with Renee Watson
  • Winterhouse by debut author Ben Guterson - this is an urban fantasy mystery set in a magical hotel containing a huge library with secrets to discover.
  • We are also getting the first middle grade book by picture book author Angela Dominguez called Stella Diaz Has Something to Say!
  • Another novel that looks REALLY interesting is called TBH, This is SO Awkward by Lisa Greenwald and it’s told entirely in texts.  So I definitely need to check that one out.
  • And my friend Emily Montjoy has been raving about Just Like Jackie by Lindsey Stoddard so I’m looking forward to my turn with that one.
  • Also - Leslie Connor, the author of the critically-acclaimed All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook, has a new novel out in January called The Truth as Told By Mason Butte - so definitely check that one out.
  • Natalie Lloyd also has a new novel coming out this January! So if you liked A Snicker of Magic or The Key to Extraordinary, look for The Problim Children - which is described as a mix between Lemony Snicket and the Addams Family...
  • Annnd - the new Elly Swartz novel - Smart Cookie!!  I had a chance to read an ARC of this one with my daughters and oh I can’t wait for it to be out in the world!

On to February …

  • One that I’ve had a chance to read ahead of time is Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein by Jennifer Roy and Ali Fadhil.  I’ll talk more about this book later when I have time to really go into depth, but for now I’ll just say - preorder it. A great historical fiction about an Iraqi boy during the first Gulf War.
  • Then we have The Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani DasGupta - a fantasy about a New Jersey girl discovering that she may, in fact, be an Indian princess.
  • The 11:11 Wish by Kim Tomsic looks really fun. It’s about a dorky math nerd who vows to reinvent herself at her new school. And when she makes a wish as the clock strikes 11:11, she gets granted a magical object that might help her.
  • Shannon Hitchcock, author of Ruby Lee & Me has a new novel coming out in February - this one is call One True Way.

In March, there are so books I am really looking forward to! My principal won’t mind if a take a month-long reading sabbatical, right?

  • Like Vanessa is the debut novel by author Tami Charles - it’s set in 1983 and is about a young girl inspired by seeing Vanessa Williams get crowned Miss America and is encouraged by her teacher to enter a beauty pageant.
  • Lauren Magaziner has a new book out in March called Wizardmatch that looks like a fun fantasy.
  • And The Science of Breakable Things by debut author Tae Keller looks really good - a book about a scientifically minded girl competing in an egg-drop contest AND using those skills to try to help her mom deal with her struggles.
  • In March we also get Colby Sharp’s Creativity Project! An “awesometastic” collection of short stories developed from the author’s prompts to each other. It is a fantastic read and such a clever idea!  Definitely one that teachers will want on hand to spark your writers’ imaginations.
  • The Train of Lost Things  by Ammi Joan-Paquette is another favorite of my #BookVoyage friend Emily Montjoy - who has amazing taste by the way. (Definitely go follow her on Twitter @mrsmontjoyreads ! ) So I’m looking forward to a chance to read this one as well.
  • Oh! And the next Dan Gemeinhart novel comes out in March!! It is called Good Dog and I can’t read the synopsis to you or I’ll start crying but it sounds simply wonderful. Of course it is - it’s Dan Gemeinhart!

March lets us reconnect with some favorite characters with a great bunch of sequels coming out.

 

 

 

 

  • And - probably the book that I have been waiting and waiting for. DYING to read with my daughters - is The Wild Robot Escapes - the sequel to Peter Brown’s incredible The Wild Robot!  So - mark your calendars for March 13th, pre-order this one, AND - if you haven’t yet read the first one…. well, what’s the matter with you? Get on that!

In April we have lots to look forward to including sequels, like:

  • The next Moon Base Alpha book called Waste of Space, Janet Tashjian’s My Life As a YouTuber , and Jasmine Toguchi, Drummer Girl will be out. And Adrienne’s Kress’ second Explorers book - The Reckless Rescue!  
  • And the third book in Jason Reynold’s incredible Track series will be out! It’s called Sunny and follows “the chillest dude on the Defenders team”, but one with a troubled life at home that hides behind that sunny smile.
  • And, the debut by Laurie Morrison and Cordelia Jenson, called Every Shiny Thing looks really really good….
  • I’m also looking forward to the new Jewell Parker Rhodes novel called Ghost Boys. It’s about a young boy who is killed by the police when they mistake his toy gun for the real thing. And as a ghost, he witnesses how that event unfolds in his neighborhood and meets other ghosts like Emmett Till. Oh that gives me chills just thinking about it!
  • And - we get a new Kwame Alexander novel this year!  It is called Rebound - the much-awaiting prequel to his Newbery-winning The Crossover. This one about Josh and Jordan’s father, Chuck Bell.

On to the awesome May releases to watch for:

  • Terri Libenson’s new graphic novel - Positively Izzy looks great- it’s the companion to Invisible Emmie.
  • And the The Cobalt Prince, the second 5 Worlds graphic novel will be out.
  • Another May release that I am so so excited about is Most Valuable Players - the next Phil Bildner Rip & Red book.
  • There are three books coming in May that have been getting a lot buzz lately - one is called Bob - written by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead. I can’t wait to see the awesomeness THAT collaboration brings!
  • The second one is Aisha Saeed’s middle-grade debut, Amal Unbound, which is about a Pakistani girl forced into working as an indentured servant to pay off her family’s debts. Friends who have read this one are saying it is  incredible.
  • And then I keep hearing about Front Desk by Kelly Yang. Let me just read you a bit from the description and tell me this doesn’t sound AMAZING! Okay, “Mia Tang has a lot of secrets. Number 1-She lives in a motel, not a big house. Number 2- Her parents hide immigrants. Number 3-She wants to be a writer.”

In June we have some really cool books coming our way:

  • Kate Messner’s new novel Breakout - based on some details from the real-life (and close to home for me) breakout of two prisoners in New York and how the community reacts to that situation. I can’t WAIT for this one!!

 

  • Also - Kate Beasley (of Gertie’s Leap to Greatness) and Dan Santat (of a million books you love, most recently the picture book After the Fall) are teaming up for a book called Lions & Liars - about a boy named Frederick who is sent to a disciplinary camp for troublesome boys. That one looks phenomenal!

 

  • And Laura Shovan’s new book Takedown is coming this June!  Can’t wait to read this novel about a girl who wants to join the wrestling team. I keep hearing people raving about it on Twitter.
  • And Barbara Dee has a new novel coming out in June called Everything I Know About You.

 

  • We also get to read Wendy McLeod MacKnight’s new middle grade novel The Frame-up! I had a chance to read this one this past fall and it is phenomenal. It’s about a young artist who goes to live with his father for the summer and attends an art-camp at the museum where his father is the director. And he soon discovers that the paintings are alive! Truly - after reading this book, I’ll never look at another painting the same way again.  It’s so so good!

 

And thankfully I have July and August off from school, so I can catch up AND snag some summer release books such as….

So after August, specific publication dates get a little harder to come by. BUT - a few things have popped up. Like..

 

 

 

  • Also - I saw, I think... a Sarah Weeks has a sequel to So B. It coming out called Soof? That is definitely on my radar!

 

  • And the big news in my class this week - the 8th Amulet book!!!!!! Woohoo!!!  Oh my gosh - my students cheered when I told them that Kazu Kibuishi announced this on Twitter last week!  It is called Supernova and has a beautiful cover so go check that out and make all your middle grade readers happy by pre-ordering it now.

So so much to look forward to this year! And of course - I’ll keep you posted about all the amazing books headed our way so we can stay up to date. And definitely make sure you check out the show notes and check out those links so you can dive deeper and discover awesome new books that you are looking forward to reading this year.
Main Topic - A Conversation with Jarrett Lerner

This week I am so excited to welcome to the show Jarrett Lerner - author of the fantastic middle grade novel EngiNerds. We chat about his plans for the sequel, the power of the perfect metaphor, and Project Runway!

Take a listen…..

Interview Outline:

Enginerds

Enginerds has been getting all kinds of love lately - congratulations!! I saw Colby Sharp used Enginerds as his example in his 5 ways to support authors you love video.

For those who aren’t (yet!) familiar with Enginerds, can you tell what this story is about?

What was your thought process like when deciding what your robots would look like and act like?

Enginerds is in a long and glorious line of children’s books and movies and TV shows featuring robots.

What are some of your favorites?

We are getting a book two, right?!

Other Middle Grade Projects

So I saw on Twitter last month that you have teamed up with Analiese Avery (@_AJAvery) to launch @MG_BookBot.

How did that get started and what are your plans?  

And I am so excited about your new middle grade focused website -  MG Book Village!  Aside from the twitter hashtags, what are you hoping to include on the site?

Tell me about your KidLit Mentorship Project….

Project Runway

Your Writing Life

What is your writing process like?

What are you working on now?

Your Reading Life

One of the things I talk about a lot with other educators is the power of that one person to really influence a child’s reading life - either in a really positive way or sometimes in a negative way.

Was there someone in your life who impacted you as a reader?

What have you been reading lately that you’ve liked?

Thank You!

 

Links:

Jarrett’s Website - https://jarrettlerner.com

Jarrett on Twitter and Instagram

Books & Authors We Chatted About:

Jasmine Toguchi Series

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus

The First Rule of Punk

Kurt Vonnegut

Baby-Sitters Club

Sweet Valley High

Judy Blume

Beatrice Zinker Upside Down Thinker

Clementine

Ramona

Jerry Spinelli

The Game Masters of Garden Place

Oddity

Other Topics We Chatted About:

MG Book Village Website

#MGBookathon

Electric 18 Debut Group

Project Runway

The Kentaro Dead Cat Scene

Tim Gunn’s Golden Rules

Melissa Roske’s Interview with Jarrett Lerner

Closing

Alright, that’s it for today!

If you have a question about how to connect kids between 8-12 to books they’ll love or a suggestion about a topic we should cover, I would love to hear from you. You can email me at booksbetween@gmail.com or message me on Twitter/Instagram at the handle @Books_Between.

Thank you so much for joining me this week. You can get a full transcript of this show and all of our previous episodes at AlltheWonders.com. And, if you are liking the show, please leave us some love on iTunes or Stitcher. Or even better - tell a friend about us!

Thanks and see you soon!  Bye!

Jan 2, 2018

Intro

Hi everyone and welcome to Books Between - a podcast for teachers, parents, librarians, and anyone who wants to connect kids between 8-12 to books they’ll love.  I’m your host, Corrina Allen - a 5th grade teacher, a mom of an 8 and 10 year old, and oh so ready to welcome 2018!  

This is Episode #40 and today we are celebrating some of the top middle grade graphic novels published in 2017!

And today’s episode is brought to you by WriteAbout.com - a writing community and publishing platform perfect for classrooms. If you are like me and are looking for an engaging and authentic way for your students to share their ideas with a wider audience, you are absolutely going to want to visit WriteAbout.com to check it out.   

Main Topic - The Top 10 Middle Grade Graphic Novels of 2017

On the last episode, I shared with you my top 20 middle grade novels published in 2017 and unlike last year, where I had only one list, I decided to separate out the graphic novels since I read so so many more of them this year. And also - this way, I can share 30 books with you instead of just 20, so…. More love for more books is a good thing, right?

Okay - let’s dive in! Here are my Top 10 middle grade graphic novels of 2017!

  1. One Trick Pony by Nathan Hale

If you already love Nathan Hale’s work from his fabulous Hazardous Tales series, then you’ll want to check out this book where he ventures into the realm of science fiction! This novel is set in a post-apocalyptic future where these creeptastic alien invaders are devouring every last trace of human-made metals and electronic devices. The only people keeping the flame of civilization going are a small band of survivors trying to outwit and outrun the aliens.  The main character is a girl named Strata who finds a beautiful and rare robot pony named Kleidi which makes her a target of the aliens who are soon chasing after Strata and her brother. One Trick Pony is kind of like a blend between A Canticle for Leibowitz and an Hieronymus Bosch painting - both thought-provoking and beautifully creepy.

  1. NewsPrints by Ru Xu

This is a gorgeous graphic novel with a 1920s flavor and a twist of steampunk that features a young orphan named Blue who is disguising herself as a newsboy for the newspaper called The Bugle. That paper is the only truth-telling news left in the war-torn city of Nautilene. When Blue meets a mysterious boy named Crow, they both need to decide whether to take the path of who they really are or take the path of how others see them. This is a powerful story about truth and ethics and humanity - and the warm, light-infused illustrations are just phenomenal.

  1. Invisible Emmie by Terri Libenson

This debut graphic novel tells the story of the quiet, un-noticed, hero-in-waiting Emmie Douglass who is dealing with the challenges of seventh grade. Things like finding time to go to the bathroom between classes, the awkwardness of changing for gym, not having a cell phone and feeling left out of things, and…. being completely embarrassed in front of your crush. What makes this book stand out is that the chapters alternate between the main narrative of Emmie and the secondary story of Katie. And I loved how Emmie’s parts are text with lots of illustrations in softer blues, and tans, and mauves. And the sections from Katie’s point of view are that more traditional graphic novel format with panels in bright yellows and pinks and greens. The blend of those two styles is really well done and I loved the surprise twist about how they connect at the end.

  1. Swing it, Sunny by Jennifer & Matthew Holm

This is the sequel to Sunny, Side Up, and this book picks up with Sunny’s life right after her summer spent in Florida with her grandfather. She is now back home, it’s September 1976  and this story takes her through the school year, her complicated feelings about her brother Dale, who is now in boarding school, and the challenges of middle school. This is a book that is quick to read but has a lot of nuance to explore on rereads. Many of my students have read this one multiple times. It’s full of small slice of life seasonal stories and the 1970s nostalgia made me smile.

  1. Mighty Jack and the Goblin King by Ben Hatke

This series has totally won my class over - with this second installment having quite the waiting list. This fantasy/fairy tale blend has a lot of humor, heart, and cool characters. In this book, Jack, Lilly, and Maddy have ventured up the beanstalk into a world of goblins and giants and dragons who at turns harm and occasionally help. This is a great adventure story that I especially recommend to kids who want something fun. And I just loved the title character - the Goblin King - and that cameo at the end of this book.

  1. Anne of Green Gables adapted by Mariah Marsden, Illustrated by Brenna Thummler

This classic, I’ll admit, was one that got past me!  But after reading this graphic novel, I know I missed out on something special - this story is wonderful! And Brenna Thummler’s illustrations in vibrant greens with seasonal splashes of pinks and lavenders and oranges are softly stunning. I especially love her scenes of Anne and Diana in the woods with the sunlight dappling the trunks of the trees - it’s just enchanting! If you are already familiar with Anne of Green Gables - you’ll love reliving the magic of her story through this graphic novel.  And if you are NOT yet familiar or have kids who might find the classic text a bit daunting, this is a perfect introduction to this beautiful story about resiliency and imagination.

  1. Brave by Svetlana Chmakova

This book is set in the same universe at Chmakova’s debut middle grade graphic novel Awkward, which is also awesome, but this novel is centered on the character Jensen. In his daydreams, Jensen is a swashbuckling hero with dreams of becoming an astronaut or saving his schoolmates from the zombie apocalypse! But, in real life, he’s having a hard time in middle school - math class is difficult, his art club friends seem to be ditching him, and he’s being harassed by two boys at school. I love this book for its diverse set of characters and for a realistic exploration of harassment - both from bullies and from friends. This one is a must-get for classrooms and libraries serving kids 9 and up.

  1. Real Friends by Shannon Hale with artwork by LeUyen Pham

This one took me a while to get to - mainly because my ten year old daughter made off with it as soon as it entered the house and then stayed up half the night reading it in bed with a flashlight. And - the two copies I brought into school were immediately snatched away - and I have no clue whose hands they’re in now and can only trust they’ll find their way home. Real Friends is an autobiographical novel in a similar vein as Raina Telgemeier’s Smile and Sisters or the Holm’s Sunny Side Up. This book tells the story of young elementary school Shannon as she struggles to break out of her middle child loneliness and make good friends at school and at home. I think what makes this book so powerful and appealing to kids is that Hale clearly understands those seemingly small but socially HUGE details that happen in the lives of friends. Who sits next to who at lunch, who gets invited to whose house, the intentional but unseen-by-the-teachers jabs in gym class, the ranking, and the lying.  And after Shannon’s first Kindergarten friend Adrienne moves and then comes back, she gets attached to what’s called The Group - these popular girls lead by Jen and her friend Jennifer.  Adrienne is clearly IN, but Shannon is sometimes OUT.  I also really loved the sections about Shannon’s family - especially her sometimes contentious relationship with her older sister, Wendy. And how this book is also about learning how to BE a real friend as well as FINDING real friends.

  1. Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani

Oh - how I LOVED this book!  The swirling reds and oranges with shimmers of gold contrasted with those deep blues are simply a gorgeous feast for your eyes. Oh, and the story is pretty awesome, too! It’s about an Indian-American teenage girl named Priyanka. She finds a beautiful red pashmina hidden away in her mother’s old suitcase. A pashmina is an Indian shawl made of finely woven cashmere.  After wrapping herself in this mysterious pashmina Priyanka is transported to a mythic India of her imagination filled with both light and an subtly encroaching darkness. Her journey uncovers the line between fantasy and reality and she discovers some truths about herself, her family, and her future. I really loved how the sections alternate between panels in black and white and the rich, vibrant colors. If you want some behind the scenes info about this book, absolutely check out Matthew Winner’s interview with Nidhi Chanani on All the Wonders, Episode 393 !

  1. All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson

And - my number one most favorite graphic novel of the year is All’s Faire In Middle School!  I have been waiting for a full-length follow up from Newbery honor author Victoria Jamieson and I gotta say - I might even like this one better than Roller Girl. She has a knack for digging deep into the heart and soul of a subculture. First roller derby and here - renaissance festival!  This novel is about Imogene - an eleven-year-old girl who has grown up and been homeschooled within the Florida Renaissance Festival community. Her father works as a knight and she helps her mother run their family’s arts and crafts store there. She also has a little brother and a main thread in this book is a fracture in their relationship centered around his stuffed rat? Skunk? Ferret? Also - there’s tension around the fact that she starts her training as a squire, which mean more responsibility at the faire. And she’s going to public school for the first time and starting middle school. I loved this book so, so much - for the behind the scenes secrets of renfaire life, the fun banter of the Elizabethan speaking characters, the chapter introductions that look like illuminated manuscripts. It was just a full on pleasure to read! And absolutely please check out Jamieson’s conversation with Matthew Winner on Episode 386 of All the Wonders.

So - those are my top 10 middle grade graphic novels of 2017!  

And as I said in the last episode, this list, just like any other, is flawed. It reflects my own preferences and biases. And the constraints of time.

So I’ve probably missed lots of amazing graphic novels from 2017 so which ones were your favorites?

Closing

Alright, that’s it for today!

If you have a question about how to connect kids between 8-12 to books they’ll love or a suggestion about a topic we should cover, I would love to hear from you. You can email me at booksbetween@gmail.com or message me on Twitter/Instagram at the handle @Books_Between.

Thank you so much for joining me this week. You can get a full transcript of this show and all of our previous episodes at AlltheWonders.com. And, if you are liking the show, please leave us some love on iTunes or Stitcher. Or even better - tell a friend about us!

And thanks again to WriteAbout.com for supporting the podcast this month - if you head over to their website you’ll find awesome ideas to get your students writing this year.

 

Thanks and see you soon!  Bye!

Dec 29, 2017

Intro

Hey everyone! This is Books Between - a podcast for teachers, parents, librarians, and anyone who wants to connect kids between 8-12 to books they’ll love.  I’m your host, Corrina Allen - a teacher, a mom of two daughters, and ridiculously excited about the new twinkle lights on my Christmas tree this year.  Sometimes - you have to take joy in the small things.

This is Episode #39 and today we are celebrating some of the best middle grade books published in 2017.

And today’s episode is brought to you by WriteAbout.com - a writing community and publishing platform perfect for classrooms. If you are like me and are looking for an engaging and authentic way for your students to share their ideas with a wider audience, you are absolutely going to want to visit WriteAbout.com to check it out.   

Main Topic - The Top 20 Middle Grade Books of 2017
This year has been another strong reading year for me so far. I read a lot more picture books thanks to participating in #ClassroomBookaDay but I still kept up with my middle grade reads. And as I look at my book list and genre tracker, I notice I read fewer fantasy books compared to last year and way more graphic novels thanks to the CYBILS. And also my plans to boost my nonfiction reading... failed. So this is an all fiction list.  And I decided to separate out the graphic novels this year since I read so many more of them so be on the lookout for another best of podcast very soon featuring just the middle grade graphic novels.   

So, last year at this time,  I read 75 total books including 60 middle grade books with  31 of those published in in 2016. And my top three books last year were Booked, Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, and The Wild Robot as my favorite read last year. (You can find that list here.)

This year (2017), as of December 20th - I have read 91 books, not including picture books. 79 of those were middle grade with 55 of those published in 2017.

A quick word before I begin. Picking JUST 20 was excruciating. And they are not necessarily the most “literary”. I read some beautifully written books this year, ones that are bound to get some top awards, but these are the ones I felt were both well-written and had that special spark that would appeal to young readers.  Even with that - I could easily share with you another 20 (or more!) fabulous books, but then we’d be here all night.

Alright here we go - these are my Top 20 middle grade novels of 2017:

  1. This Is Just A Test by Madelyn Rosenberg & Wendy Shang

This novel is about a boy named David who is preparing for his bar mitzvah while trying to please both his Chinese and Jewish grandmothers. (Not a small feat!)  Oh - and building a nuclear fallout shelter just in case things get out of hand with the Soviets. I loved this book because of its warmth and humor AND because it’s set in 1984. And I am all about that 80s nostalgia lately. (If you want to hear more about this book, check out episode 28 to hear an interview with Madelyn Rosenberg and Wendy Shang.)

 

  1. Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker by Shelley Johannes

This book is about zany (and flexible!) 3rd grader Beatrice whose first day of school plans get derailed when her best friend, Lenny, shows up to school NOT wearing the matching ninja outfit they both agreed on. AND Lenny shows up with a new friend. I loved this book for it’s playful language, fun orange-tinted illustrations, and Beatrice’s great attitude. And since I have my own ninja-clad wall-climbing 8 year old gal at home, I have a special place in my heart for Beatrice.

 

  1. Enginerds by Jarrett Lerner

Speaking of playful books - what is not to love about a robot that blasts cubes out of its butt? But don’t be fooled by the humor - this is one smart book that celebrates the engineering spirit. It’s about a kid named Kennedy who discovers a mysterious box on his front step that assembles itself into a rather demanding robot. And Kennedy and the rest of his enginerd friends have to figure out how to contain this band of rogue robots who have escaped into their town.  Last week I had the honor of chatting with Jarrett Lerner  about Enginerds - and lots of other things - so watch for that episode in January!

 

  1. A Rambler Steals Home by Carter Higgins

This debut middle grade book by Carter Higgins is about Derby Clark who, along with her dad and younger brother, travel around in their Rambler car, selling Christmas trees in the winter. And hot chocolate and gingersnaps and cinnamon sugar donuts out of an old concession stand trailer. In the summers, they make their home in Ridge Creek, Virginia where they set up their concession stand in the parking lot of a minor league baseball team. But this year when they arrive - Derby discovers that her minor league family is different - with mysteries to solve, people to help, and wrongs to make right. This is ones of those books with characters that stay in your heart - and for me, reading so so many books - it’s a rare find when they’re this memorable.

 

  1. A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold

One of my great reading pleasures this year was getting to know the sweet and quirky Bixby Alexander Tam - or BAT for short. And I was excited to hear that there is at least one more book coming!  In this first one, Bat’s mother, who is a Vet, brings home an orphaned baby skunk to take care of and all Bat can think about is how to find a way to prove his responsibility and get to keep him. This book is adorable and poignant and a great fit for younger middle grade readers.

 

  1. Scar Island by Dan Gemeinhart

This incredible adventure is like Lord of the Flies meets Holes with a hint of The Ethan I Was Before.  It’s about a kid named Jonathan who has been sent to an island prison for kids for a crime he admits to committing but does not reveal until the end. On the island he encounters this tough group of 14 misfit boys - all imprisoned on this Alcatraz-type reformatory school for their crimes. Then suddenly, an incident occurs and the adults are all gone and the boys have to figure out what to do. If this one passed you by this year - definitely check it out! It’s got adventure and cool literary references and secret tunnels and oh it keeps you turning those pages!!

 

  1. Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk

This is Lauren Wolk’s second novel after her 2017 Newbery Honor book Wolf Hollow. And oh is this a masterful follow up! And one of those books that had me constantly pausing to research the historical details referenced.  Beyond the Bright Sea is about a young girl called Crow who as an infant washed ashore in an old boat on one of the Elizabeth Islands off the coast of Massachusetts. Other than the reclusive fisherman who is raising her, the other people on the island shun her because they think she came from Penikese Island - the nearby leper colony. When one night Crow spots a campfire on that supposedly abandoned island, she decides to find out for herself what answers that place may hold. This book enveloped me in that world and was full of surprises.

 

  1. Midnight Without a Moon by Linda Williams Jackson

This incredible, important, and beautifully written historical fiction novel takes place in rural Mississippi in the summer of 1955 right after the brutal murder of Emmett Till. That event and its aftermath has shifted the world of the main character -  Rose Lee Carter, her family, and her community.  But this isn’t just a Civil Rights story but the story of young girl dealing with self-doubt and family complications, and trying to decide how to balance making a better life for herself and making a better world for everyone to live in.

And in a society that is asking us all to make those same calculations and bringing to light prejudices that some thought were on their way out, this is must read to understand our country and ourselves. I’d probably recommend this one for maybe ages 12 and up or perhaps a little younger with the understanding that the n-word is used. So some readers might need some context for that  - which would be a fantastic opportunity for much-needed conversation. And the sequel, A Sky Full of Stars, is coming out on January 2nd - a perfect time to read or reread the first book and have the second one ready to go!

 

  1. Forget Me Not by Ellie Terry

This is a novel told in alternating chapters of prose and poetry. The poetry sections are told from the point of view of Calli who is smart, sensitive, and into astronomy. She also has Tourette syndrome (TS) and was advised by her doctor and mom to hide that fact from people. But since she’s just moved to Utah with her mom, Calli is in this stressful position of starting a new school and trying to mask her tics and noises. The other chapters are from the point of view of her classmate and neighbor Jinsong. He is the student body president and the two of them form a fragile friendship that seems like it might be doomed when his friends start to target her. I adored this book and I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by it’s cover (but we all do) - and Forget Me Not has such a gorgeous and meaningful cover. Kudos to Anna Booth for the cover design.

 

  1. Funny Girl edited by Betsy Bird

This collection of short stories is truly laugh-out-loud hilarious. Every one is written by women and about experiences young girls in particular can relate to. But - the boys in my class are loving this book, too!  It’s a great mix of personal narratives, poetry, comics, quizzes, and all kinds of cool formats. Some of my favorites are “One Hot Mess by Carmon Agra Deedy, “Bad Hair Day” by Kelly DiPucchio and “Brown Girl Pop Quiz” by Mitali Perkins. You really can’t go wrong with this book. And if you want to hear more about it, check out my interview with Betsy Bird on episode 32.

 

  1. Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan

This is a lovely and heartfelt story about a Pakistani-American Muslim girl, Amina, who is trying to navigate the complicated tides of middle school friendship where old friends are changing and old adversaries might be changing, too. Amina also has to deal with her rather traditional and more religiously strict uncle visiting their family and figuring out for herself how to express her beliefs and culture and voice in a way that feels right to her. This was Hena Khan’s debut middle grade, and I’m excited to see what else she has in store for us.

 

  1. The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street by Lindsay Currie

This book has taken my class by storm!  I read it in one weekend and loved how much it creeped me the heck out. Every sentence - every detail in that first chapter ratchets up the tension as Tessa arrives at her new (possible haunted?) home in Chicago where things start to disappear, and mysterious figures are drawn in her sketchpad, and her brother’s ventriloquist dummy is… acting strangely.  And I haven’t even told you about the cemetery part yet!! If you have young kids who love a scary mystery - get this book in their hands!

 

  1. Patina by Jason Reynolds

This is Book 2 in the Track series and the follow up to Ghost. Here we the story of Patina “Patty” Jones - one of the new and fastest kids on the Defenders Track team. A girl who is running away from a lot - the taunts of the girls at her fancy new school. But also a girl who is running for a lot - for her mom who lost her legs to diabetes and won’t ever run again. And those stresses can sometimes manifest themselves in what looks like a bad attitude toward others and her teammates. So of course, her coach challenges her to run the event that requires the most cooperation - the relay.  It’s a rare sequel captures my heart as much as the first book but this one absolutely did it. And that first chapter about false starts and false finishes is one that has stayed on my mind a lot this year.

 

  1. Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

Did we have any doubt that this book would be wonderful? I have loved seeing how much my students are enjoyed this story about a brave and wise tree named Red and its loyal band of oddly-named tenants. The more subtle themes of immigration and racism take some coaxing and explaining and rereading to bring forth for them, but the the ideas about friendship are at the forefront of their minds. In a time when we all could use a dose of empathy and hope, Wishtree is the book we need.

 

  1. The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Perez

I really fell hard for this story about a Mexican-American girl reluctantly moving to Chicago with her mom and trying to both fit in and stand out and figure out who she is and what’s worth standing up for. Her fashion choices put her at odds with both her new school and her mother who wishes she could be more “senorita” and less punk rock. But the oh how I loved Malú and her parents and her friends, and I just wanted to go hang out with them in Chicago coffee shops and record stores. And the many zine sections in this book add a uniqueness that makes this book really stand out. (If you want to hear more about The First Rule of Punk, check out episode 33 to hear an interview with Celia.)

 

  1. Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling
    This is a book that I came a little late to but when just about every single one of my middle grade Twitter friends are raving about a book, you know it’s something special. And they were right! And I’ll be honest with you - the moment I was sold on this book was the moment I took off the cover and saw the glorious undies - the cover underneath. But - I should tell you about the plot, too - right? This is a mystery centered around Aven - a girl with a fabulous (and sorta sick) sense of humor who likes to tell people that she lost her arms in a wildfire or an alligator attack. In reality, she was born without them and due to her adoptive parents’ vigilance - she can do just about anything that any other kid can do. But - when they all move so her parents can take over running the Stagecoach Pass theme park, Aven has to start a new school and deal with all that entails. Along the way, she meets a couple other “outcasts” who help her start to solve a major mystery at Stagecoach Pass. I loved this book because of how funny it was and how much research the author did to tell Aven’s story.

  2. Ban This Book by Alan Gratz

I wish I had the guts that this main character has. But - she doesn’t start off so confident. Amy Anne is a shy, sweet fourth grader who loves the library, who loves to read, and who loves From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. It’s her favorite book - and one of my childhood favorites, too. But - when her favorite is banned from the school library - along with more and more books, she forms a secret banned book library that she runs out of her locker. Until…. well, I won’t tell you but it’s fantastic! With twists along the way, references to so many other books, and a special (cameo?) by Dav Pilkey who visits her school. Please get this book and has a great message that might be different than what you think.

 

  1. Posted by John David Anderson

As I’ve mentioned before, when you get a new book by an author whose previous work blew you away (Ms. Bixby’s Last Day), you’re almost expecting to be let down.But Posted is incredible. It’s the story of four middle school friends whose equilibrium is shifted when two things happen. One - a new girl comes to school (Rose) and some of them want her in their group and some don’t. Two - cell phones have been banned due to a recent ‘incident” and one of the four main friends, DeeDee, inadvertently starts a trend of posting sticky notes on lockers to communicate instead. Those two catalysts jump start this series of events that lead to a bike. And a hill. And a post-it. And so much more that threatens to fracture their friendship forever. I loved this book and how the author structured it - how it brought forward past information in a flashback but then withheld the next step and then brought everything together at the end. It just was so well crafted.  

 

  1. Refugee by Alan Gratz

This book was the most powerful, most emotional I read all year. And I’ll admit that it left me a bit of a mess, and there were times I needed to pause. But how Alan Gratz braided the three stories of Josef and Isobel and Mahmoud together was brilliant and beautiful and raw.  Bringing forward one strand and then another and another, binding them together.  The three stories are - Josef a young Jewish boy, who is traveling with his family from 1930s Germany to Cuba on the infamous ship called the St. Louis. Then there is Isobel and her family who are traveling on a tiny makeshift raft from 1980s Cuba to Florida. And finally Mahmoud and his family who are making their way from war-torn Syria in 2015 to Austria. Since I read this book last summer, there hasn’t been a day that’s gone by where I haven’t thought of the courage and resilience of these characters and their brave parents in the face of the harshest realities. And… you know, it’s easy to be judgemental when reading about tragedies from the past, thinking to yourself, “Well, I would have done things differently - I would have stood up for those refugees.”  We often talk about books that encourage empathy - well, to me, this book helped me move beyond just empathy to some action. And if you’re looking to do more as well, please read Gratz’s suggestions at the end of the book about how you can help refugees around the world today. And I’ll link to those resources in the show notes if you want to check those out as well. (Alan recommends donating to UNICEF and Save the Children.)    

 

  1. Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder

If you have spent any time with me over the past year, you have heard about this book. And if you’ve read it, I’ve probably cornered you for a long conversation to compare theories. And because I can’t stop thinking about it and talking about, and dwelling in the glorious uncertainty of it - my favorite book of 2017 is Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder!  On this mysterious eden-like island there live nine children - no more and no less. And every year when the green boat arrives bearing a new young arrival, the eldest child goes. This year, Jinny is now the Eldest and charged with teaching her young Care, Ess, all the rules she needs to follow to survive on the island and maintain that balance. But…  but.  This is a beautiful and compelling novel about goodbyes and childhood and innocence, and so so much more. I was really honored have the chance to chat with Laurel Snyder on the podcast last May when this book was released and if you want in on that conversation, take a listen to episode 25.

Alright there it is. And this list, just like any other, is flawed. It reflects my own preferences and biases and I know there is just no possible way that I could read all the fabulousness in middle grade that was published in 2017. So there will be some of your favorites that I missed. In fact, one of my loves of last year - The Girl Who Drank the Moon - you know, the winner of the Newbery - wasn’t even on my 2016 list.  Because I didn’t finish it until after the episode aired.

Right now, I am almost finished with The Ethan I Was Before by Ali Standish and the audio version of Jack Cheng’s See You in the Cosmos and both are turning out to be incredible! So a quick shout out to some 2017 middle grade releases that are on my To Be Read list:

Top Want to Read Books from 2017

The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Bradley (but first I need to read The War Saved My Life)

Me and Marvin Gardens by A.S. King

Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly

Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar

Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams Garcia

Vincent and Theo by Deborah Heiligman

The Someday Birds by Sally J. Pla

 

Annnd…. lots more that I know I’m missing! So - I want to hear from YOU - what were your favorite 2017 reads and which ones should I prioritize in the new year? You can drop me an email at booksbetween@gmail.com or connect with me on Twitter or Instagram with the handle @Books_Between.

Closing

Alright, that’s a wrap! Look for our next episode featuring the top middle grade graphic novels of 2017.

And, If you have a question about how to connect kids between 8-12 to books they’ll love or an idea about a topic we should cover, I really would love to hear from you. You can email me at booksbetween@gmail.com or message me on Twitter/Instagram at the handle @Books_Between.

Thank you so much for joining me this week. You can get a full transcript of this show and all of our previous episodes at AlltheWonders.com. And, if you are liking the show, please leave us some love on iTunes or Stitcher.

And thanks again to WriteAbout.com for supporting the podcast this month - if you head over to their website you’ll find awesome ideas to get your students writing this year.

Thanks and see you soon!  Bye!

Dec 4, 2017

Intro

Hi and welcome to Books Between - a podcast for teachers, parents, librarians, and anyone who wants to connect kids between 8-12 to books they’ll love. I’m your host, Corrina Allen - a mom of two girls, a 5th grade teacher, and glad to be back after a brief hiatus to refocus and recharge. But - we’ve got a lot of great new books to talk about so you knew I wasn’t going to be gone for long!

This is Episode #38 and today I am chatting about the Wonder movie with a friend of mine, I’ll discuss three new graphic novels you’ll want to check out, and then I’ll answer a question about what to do when all your child wants to read is graphic novels and nothing else.

But first I am excited to tell you that today’s episode is brought to you by WriteAbout.com - a writing community and publishing platform that is perfect for classrooms. If you are like me and are looking for an engaging and authentic way for your students to share their ideas with a wider audience, you are absolutely going to want to visit WriteAbout.com to check it out.   

Main Topic - Wonder Movie

A couple  weekends ago, I had the chance to go see the film adaptation of Wonder by RJ Polacio - one of my all-time favorite books and one I’ve read every year with my fifth graders since it came out in 2012.  And I am sure a lot of you also have a lot of love for this book.  So, when I saw that my #BookVoyage friend, Julie Kirchner, had also seen the movie - I asked her to come on the show so we could chat about it.  As you will hear, Julie is an amazing librarian and an all around amazing person and one of those people really worth connecting with Twitter.

Alright - take a listen.

Links to books and topics we chatted about:

Nerdy Book Club

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Auggie & Me: Three Wonder Stories by R.J. Palacio

The Bad Seed by Jory John

The Wonder Movie website

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Ghost by Jason Reynolds

Patina by Jason Reynolds

Sunny by Jason Reynolds

The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street by Lindsay Currie

Fenway & Hattie: Up to New Tricks by Victoria Coe

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes & Gordon C. James

Dazzle Ships by Chris Barton & Victo Ngai

Red and Lulu by Matt Tavares

Claymates by Devorah Petty & Lauren Eldridge

After the Fall by Dan Santat

Dan Santat’s Interviews on Picturebooking  and SharpRead

Come With Me by Holly M. McGhee and Pascal Lemaaitre

Most People by Michael Leannah & Jennifer E. Morris

 

Book Talk - Three New SciFi/Fantasy Graphic Novels

In this section of the show, I share with you three books centered around a theme and discuss three things to love about each book. This week I want to share with you three brand new graphic novels with scifi /fantasy elements - Fish Girl by David Wiesner and Donna Jo Napoli, NewsPrints by Ru Xu, and Mighty Jack and the Goblin King by Ben Hatke.

Fish Girl

Let’s start with Fish Girl! This is the first graphic novel for both Caldecott medalist David Wiesner and linguist and children’s book writer Donna Jo Napoli. Fish Girl is about a young mermaid trapped inside a huckster’s multi-story aquarium on the boardwalk of an ocean-side town. But- she doesn’t REALIZE that her captor isn’t really Neptune, God of the Seas and when Fish Girl secretly becomes friends with one of the visitors, things get dicey. Here are three things to love about Fish Girl:

  1. The simplicity and softness of the story. That isn’t to say that it doesn’t have depth or nuance, but I liked that the plot was quieter, easier to follow, and set mainly in the aquarium. And because the mermaid girl can’t speak, a lot of the emotion and backstory is conveyed in her expressions and gestures and in her internal thinking.  
  2. I loved how the mermaid is portrayed and drawn. So - I’m always a little leery of mermaid depictions because they can tend to look sexualized with clamshell bras and such. But - it is always clear that Fish Girl is just that - a young girl. One who likes pizza and creating handmade jewelry for her new friend. I love the decision to keep her young.
  3. I just loved the other sea creatures who have become her family - how they protect and rally around her. Especially the orange octopus who has his own hidden talents. Plus - octopuses (octopi?) are just - amazing. And not the first time they’ve been a symbol of female empowerment and freedom. If you’re a fan of Mad Men, you know what I mean.

Fish Girl is a beautiful graphic novel about breaking free from the limits others place on us, it’s about identity, and the power of friends to broaden our world and make us see things from a new perspective.

NewsPrints

Our second new graphic novel featured this week is NewsPrints by debut author Ru Xu. This is the story of Blue - a young girl disguising herself as a newsboy for the newspaper called The Bugle. The only truth-telling paper left in Nautilene - a city struggling through war. When Blue meets a mysterious boy named Crow, they both make some some decisions about revealing who they really are.  Here are three things to love about NewsPrints:

  1. I love the semi-steampunk setting with the inventor’s studio filled with, well - steam and parts of various flying machines and blueprints strewn everywhere. But then there’s this 1920’s flavor. I really, really love that blend.
  2. The birds! There’s this cute little yellow - canary? - called Goldie that flits around Blue and plays a part throughout the story. And the swirling, circling crows that inexplicably turn up at odd moments.
  3. The message this book has about the truth, about the the power of the news, and about our ethical obligations toward artificial intelligence. And if there even are any.

 

NewsPrints is gorgeous and if you know a child who liked The Nameless City or Compass South, this would be a great title to put in their hands next.

Mighty Jack and the Goblin King

Our third graphic novel suggestion this week for those who love a fairy tale inspired fantasy is Mighty Jack and the Goblin King by Ben Hatke - the sequel to the must-read Mighty Jack.  So, if you haven’t read that one yet - first of all - get on that. And second of all, I’m about to reveal a spoiler for the first book so…. you know, you might want to skip ahead a few seconds if that would bother you. Okay -  Mighty Jack and the Goblin King begins with Jack and his friend Lilly in pursuit of the ogre that abducted Jack’s sister, Maddy, and carried her up the beanstalk into another realm. Now, I’ve read Jack and the Beanstalk so I thought I knew what they would discover in this other world. But, no….  completely and wonderfully different than what I was expecting! Here are three things to love about Mighty Jack and the Goblin King.

  1. Lilly’s story with the goblins. At the very beginning, she and Jack get separated and she ends up rescued(?) by a clan of goblins and on the brink an arranged marriage with their king.  And the goblins are this weird mix of cute and gross and sweet and disconcerting.
  2. The magic eight ball and the old mustang that Lilly finds in the goblin’s junk heap. And how both of those objects come into play later on in the story.
  3. That surprise ending!! I finished this book in the waiting room of doctor’s office and I embarrassed myself by squeaking loudly when I got to that page.  

 

The Mighty Jack books have been a huge hit with my students and my kids. And I love them because they have depth paired with a lot of action and humor. So if you have kids who loved Amulet or Hilo - this would be a great series to introduce to them next.

Q & A

Our last segment this week is Question & Answer time. This question came up multiple times during my parent-teacher conferences last month and honestly - it’s my MOST asked question about reading.

Question:

My child only wants to read graphic novels. How can I get them to read something else?

Answer:

Does that sound familiar to you?  Well, first off - reading a graphic novel IS real reading. It’s less and less common every year, but I still sometimes hear parents and teachers and even librarians disparage graphic novels as not “counting” as “real” reading. Ugh!!  I mean - really??? I wish I could hand them Nathan Hale’s Treaties, Trenches, Mud & Blood and SHOW them that graphic novels are not “cheating” - they add layers, they add complexity, they add context for really challenging concepts and vocabulary.  Students are learning inferencing by interpreting the body language and facial expressions of characters…. Really, there is SO much complex thought happening when you read a graphic novel. (And honestly - I find the adults who are griping about them, haven’t read any.)   And graphic novels lend themselves to being read over and over again because the first time, you are reading for plot and then you notice the interplay between the text and the images on further rereads. So - if your son or daughter is like mine and rereading Dog Man over and over - let them!  And maybe ask them what new things they are seeing.

 

Now, with that said, I do think it’s important to encourage everyone - including children - to read a variety of genres and formats. And developing the stamina and focus to read and comprehend longer chunks of text is a vital skill to have. So for kids who really love graphic novels, but would benefit from some practice with longer stretches of text, I do have some really great suggestions that still include illustrations and graphic elements but are more on the continuum toward a traditional chapter book or novel.

Frazzled series by Booki Vivat - fantastic and funny realistic fiction books about a girl named Abbie Wu dealing with the tribulations of middle school.  Tons of black and white drawings on each page and short chapters keep you turning those pages. I featured Book 1 on episode 8 if you want to know more, but I just finished Book 2 last week and loved it just as much. It’s called Frazzled: Ordinary Mishaps and Inevitable Catastrophes.

Invisible Emmie by Terri Libenson is another great option that includes alternating chapters of comics and text. This is also a middle school story about fitting in and finding your place.

There’s also Olga and the Smelly Thing from Nowhere by Elise Gravel. (And I think the sequel just came out.) I haven’t yet read this one myself but a lot of my heavy graphic novel readers are also picking this one up.

Series like Timmy Failure, The Tapper Twins, The Terrible Two, or The House of Robots might be catch their fancy - they are funny and have lots of illustrations and graphic elements to break up the text a bit.

Another option might be to hand them the full novel version of a graphic novel they already like. For example, my 5th graders are loving the new Baby-sitters Club graphic novels and were thrilled when I brought in the “old school” originals from Ann M. Martin. They didn’t know that there was a whole series of books out there. I was flabbergasted by that, but they’ve been out of print for awhile, so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.

Those are a few suggestions to tempt graphic novels readers.  But - if they don’t bite. It’s okay. Just get them another graphic novel.

Closing

Okay - that wraps up our show this week. If you have a question or an idea about a topic we should cover, let me know. You can email me at booksbetween@gmail.com or message me on Twitter/Instagram at the handle @Books_Between.

Thank you so much for joining me this week. You can find an outline of interviews and a full transcript of all the other parts of our show along with all of our previous episodes at AlltheWonders.com. And, if you are liking the show, please help others find us too by telling a friend, sharing on social media, or leaving a rating on iTunes or Stitcher.

And thanks again to WriteAbout.com for supporting the podcast this month - if you head over to their website you’ll find awesome ideas to get your students writing this year.

Thanks again and see you soon!  Bye!

Oct 23, 2017

Intro

Hi everyone and welcome to Books Between - a podcast for teachers, parents, librarians, and anyone who wants to connect kids between 8-12 to books they will love. I’m your host, Corrina Allen - a mom of two and a teacher of 23. And last weekend, I had the huge pleasure of meeting and having lunch with Amy Skelding from the KidLit Drink Night Podcast! We had apple cider martinis and spent hours chatting about Parks & Rec and Harry Potter and Wegmans and everything we’ve been reading and everything we want to read. So if you haven’t yet had the chance to check out her show, Alan Gratz - the author of Refugee and Ban This Book, is her most recent guest and he is just phenomenal. So make sure you subscribe to Kid Lit Drink Night.

This is Episode #37 and today I am welcoming author Orli Zuravicky to the show to chat about her paranormal middle grade series Happily Ever After, and then I am sharing with you three new books about the power and perils of friendship.

Before we start today’s interview, I am excited to tell you that this month’s episodes are sponsored by WriteAbout.com - a writing community and digital platform that is perfect for classrooms.  And their school platform can connect every child in your school to build that community of writers. Write About for Schools makes it really easy for kids to read and respond to each other’s published writing.  So, if you or someone you know is looking for a way to bring your school together by celebrating student authors, definitely check out WriteAbout.com. And at the end of the show, I’ll share with you the fall themed creative writing that my students are writing about.



Main Topic - A Conversation with Orli Zuravichy

Today I am so happy to welcome Orli Zuravicky to the podcast. She is a senior editor at Scholastic and the author of several books including the recently published middle grade series Happily Ever Afterlife. Take a listen.

Happily Ever After Series

Your new middle grade series Happily Ever Afterlife was released last year and now has two new books coming out this fall.

For those listening who aren’t familiar with the series, can you tell us a bit about it?

 

One of the reasons that I love paranormal stories is that phase of figuring out the rules of the world the story is set in. For example, there is no interaction between the ghost world and the previous world, once someone becomes a ghost, they stay that age forever….

How did you decide on the parameters of the afterlife in this book?

With a book that is essentially about a middle school girl dying, it could have gone very dark. But it’s an upbeat and fun read. How did you strike that balance to avoid having the story be too morbid?

What is next for Lucy and the others students at Limbo Central Middle School?

 

Scholastic

So you work at Scholastic!

What do you do there?

What is your day like?

So I follow you on Instagram - which I recommend everyone do - and I have a couple questions:

What amazing polish do you have on your nails right now?

 

I notice you have a lot of Parks & Rec references on there -

Who is your favorite character?

 

Your Writing Life

You previously wrote a couple of board books..

What made you decide to try a paranormal middle grade?

Right now my 5th graders have been working on writing narratives - personal narratives and stories.

What is one piece of advice you would give them about how to make their stories come alive?

 

What are you working on now?


Your Reading Life

What were some of your favorite books as a child?

What have you been reading lately that you’ve liked?

 

Thank You!

 

Episode Links:

Orli Zurvicky’s website

Books We Chatted About:

Lyle, Lyle Crocodile by Bernard Waber

Corduroy by Don Freeman

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans

Eloise by Kay Thompson & Hilary Knight

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace

Baby-Sitters Club Series

Sweet Valley High Series

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Diary of Anne Frank

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

 

Book Talk - Three Novels about the Power and Perils of Friendship

In this section of the show, I share with you three books centered around a theme and discuss three things to love about each book. This week I am featuring three books about the power and perils of friendship. They are Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker by Shelley Johannes, Brave by Svetlana Chmakova, and Real Friends by Shannon Hale.

 

Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker

 

Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker is the first in a new series by debut author Shelley Johannes. It’s about a unique middle child who climbs out of every box imposed on her, loves the word WOW, and has a knack for seeing the positive possibilities in any situation.  Beatrice has big plans for her first day of 3rd grade, but…. those plans get derailed when her best friend Lenny shows up to school NOT wearing the black ninja outfit to match Beatrice’s AND with a new friend, Chloe. Suddenly, Lenny seems less interested in their top-secret playground mission and more interested in sparkly clothes and playing veterinarian with her cool new friend.  Here are three things to love about Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker:

  1. The playful language!  Johannes really gets the tone right here.  There’s light touches of rhyme and alliteration and it’s just fun to read!  Here’s a bit from the beginning to give you a taste:  “Beatrice Zinker always did her best thinking upside down. It worked like magic, and she never questioned it. It worked like poof. It worked like presto. It worked like shazam - on every problem, every pickle, and each and every jam.”
  2. The illustrations!  I just love the movement and the shapes and the orange tints throughout. There’s long-legged Beatrice suspending from trees, her strict triangular teacher, Mrs. Tamarack and cute wide-stanced Lenny. There are pictures on just about every page!
  3. Beatrice’s attitude!  When we first learn of her super secret spying mission, it’s not entirely clear what her plans are.  But, the way that plays out and how that ties in with the situation with the new girl, Chloe… I don’t want to say too much and spoil it for you, but…I love it! And I think you and your students will, too.

 

This book about an upside down zany girl who has a knack for seeing the upside in everything would be a great read aloud and perfect for kids in about grades 2-5.

 

Brave

 

Another new book touching on the themes of fraught friendships is Brave by Svetlana Chmakova. This graphic novel is set in the same universe at Chmakova’s debut middle grade graphic novel Awkward, but this novel focuses on the character Jensen. In his daydreams, Jensen is a swashbuckling hero with dreams of becoming an astronaut or saving his schoolmates from the zombie apocalypse! But, in real life, he’s having a tough time in middle school - math class is hard, his art club friends seem to be ditching him, and he’s being harassed by two boys at school. Here are three reasons to love Brave:

 

  1. The diversity of characters! Throughout the pages there is a huge range of skin tones and hairstyles. One of the trio of friends who run the school newspaper, Akilah, wears a hijab. She is absolutely my favorite character aside from Jensen. (And I really hope she gets her own book someday!) She’s bold and wants to be a voice for justice. And she also handles her friend and vlog co-host, Jenny, very well. Jenny can be, umm… a little intense. I also love the diversity of body types all throughout. Our main guy, Jensen, is overweight and some of the bullies call him cruel names because of that. Or rather - I should say - because they’re jerks and the insults just reference that. And I love how the story is not about Jensen wanting to lose weight to attempt to fit in. And characters that you think are going to fill a stereotype surprise you! Like Jorge - Jensen’s partner in English class who at first glance, seems like a big jock who just wants to do a project on baseball. But the sports part is actually not what he wants to focus on! The depth in the minor characters in this book are really remarkable.
  2. How this book really sheds light on the fact that friends can be some of the biggest harassers! And I think the author does a deft job of helping readers reflect on bullying through the survey Jensen takes as part of the social studies project Jenny is working on called The Lizard Brain Culture in Middle School. In a very accessible way, it brings forth ideas like normalized behavior and in our society where cultural norms and gender norms and political norms are changing quickly, I think the reflecting that happens in this book is a good thing.
  3. The small thread in this book about the dress code. At one point, Felicity gets suspended for wearing a skirt deemed too short. So, the school is in an uproar and they put together a petition to get her back. Personally, I loved that several of the teachers were just as upset and used the opportunity to have their class discuss it and discuss the long history of controlling what women wear.

 

Brave  warms your heart, makes you laugh, and gets you thinking about what you want to see in the world. The call-backs to the first book, Awkward, are fun if you’ve read it, but kids absolutely don’t have to have read Awkward at all to enjoy this book. If you have a child who loves to draw or one who has trouble finding that group to fit into or a child who has been a target of bullies, Brave would be a perfect story to share with them. And - I just saw the other day that the third book will be out next fall. It features Jorge and is called Crush. Can’t wait for that one!

Real Friends

And finally - THE hot graphic novel read of this summer (the one that my daughter was up half the night reading with her flashlight) was the autobiographical novel Real Friends written by Shannon Hale with artwork by LeUyen Pham. This book tells the story of young elementary school Shannon as she struggles to break out of her middle child loneliness and make good friends at school and at home. This book is about the power of friendship - in both a positive and a negative way.  Here are three things to love about Real Friends:

  1. How Shannon Hale understands those seemingly small but socially HUGE details that happen in the lives of friends. Such as who sits next to who at lunch, who gets invited to whose house, the intentional but unseen by teachers jabs in gym class, the ranking, and the lying… ugh… After Shannon’s first Kindergarten friend Adrienne moves and then comes back, she gets attached to what’s called The Group - these popular girls lead by Jen and her friend Jennifer.  Adrienne is clearly IN, but Shannon is sometimes OUT.  
  2. How this book is not just about Shannon learning how to make good friends, but also about her learning how to BE a good friend. Early on after her first real friend Adrienne, moves away, she makes friends with Tammy. A girl that I think is in foster care and there’s hints about how challenging her life is. Tammy joins Shannon’s class and they become friends but Tammy is FAR more attached to Shannon while Shannon is still pining for Adrienne and is cold to her and makes her feel bad when they say good-bye for that last time. I appreciated that this book was honest with her own mistakes. And when I was finished reading, I wondered a lot about Tammy.
  3. The Wendy section. The final chapter is about Shannon’s older sister Wendy who can be amazing but who also has this incredible mean streak - hitting and \ scaring and forced tickling. Shannon feels like there’s this wild bear unleashed in their home that no one else sees. And that doesn’t exactly change but evolves in a way that I think a lot of children can relate to who have complicated relationships with their siblings. That piece of the story reminded me a lot of Swing It, Sunny so if you have fans of that book, this would be another great title to have them check out.

 

So if you are looking for some great new books to introduce to your readers that have the universal and timeless theme of friendship absolutely check out Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker, Brave, and Real Friends.

 

Closing

Alright  - that wraps up our show this week. We have some great interviews and book talks coming up this fall on topics like the Anne of Green Gables graphic novel and the timeless appeal of The Baby-Sitters Club. And our Q&A section will be back next episode!

Thank you so much for joining me this week. You can find an outline of interviews, and a transcript of all the other parts of this show along with all of our previous episodes at AlltheWonders.com.  And, if you like the show, please help others find us too by telling a friend, sharing on social media, or leaving a rating on iTunes or Stitcher.

And thanks again to WriteAbout.com for supporting the podcast this month - when you visit their website you’ll find fantastic ideas to get your students excited about writing. Tomorrow I am surprising my students by bringing in 6 pumpkins - one for each group. Their goal - to write a story featuring that pumpkin. It could be spooky, it could be funny and it includes my students who don’t celebrate Halloween. We’ll have some special guest judges and the winner of each group gets to keep the pumpkin.

 

See you in two weeks!  Bye!

Oct 9, 2017

Intro

Hi and welcome to Books Between - a podcast for teachers, parents, librarians, and anyone who wants to connect kids between 8-12 to books they will love. I’m your host, Corrina Allen - a mom of two daughters and a 5th grade teacher in Central New York. My goal is to help you find fabulous books for your kids and help create a community where we all can support each other as we build those readers.

This is Episode #36 and today is all about graphic novels!

Before we start the show today, I am excited to tell you that this month’s episodes are sponsored by WriteAbout.com - a writing community and digital platform that is tailor made for students of all ages.  Their school platform can connect all your classrooms for shared writing topics. So if your school is like mine and has certain themes for each week, Write About for Schools makes it really easy for every class to read and respond to each other’s published writing.  So, if you or someone you know is looking for a way to bring your school together by celebrating student authors, definitely check out WriteAbout.com. And at the end of the show, I’ll share with you what my class plans to write about this week.



Main Topic - CYBILS

Before we jump into the book talks for the show - a little bit of news. I am so excited to be a round one judge for the CYBILS this year in the graphic novels category, so I am taking a deep dive into as many middle grade graphic novels published in the last year as I can get my hands on. Phew!

So if you are not familiar, the CYBILS are the Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards.  This award started in 2006 and aims to recognize the children’s and young adult authors and illustrators whose books combine the highest literary merit and popular appeal. There are about a dozen categories and subcategories within Picture Books to Middle Grade to Young Adult.  Nominations take place from October 1st - October 15th so you still have time to go to cybils.com and nominate your favorite books. Finalists in each category are announced on January 1st and winners are revealed on February 14th. So be on the lookout for those.

Last year’s middle grade winners included Ghost by Jason Reynolds, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary by Laura Shovan, Shadow Magic by Joshua Khan, and Lowriders to the Center of the Earth, Book 2 by Cathy Camper and Raul the Third. So, some pretty fabulous choices.

I’ve been following the CYBILS for a long time and using their lists as a resource, but this is my first time participating as a judge, and I’m honored to be working alongside a great team, including our very own Mel Shuit from All the Wonders! So, in other words, expect to be hearing a lot more about the great graphic novels of the past year. Starting…. now.

Book Talk - Three Fresh New Graphic Novels

In this section of the show, I share with you three books centered around a theme and discuss three things to love about each book. This week - as promised - it’s all about graphic novels! And since my aim is to keep you up to date on what’s new and fresh and really good in the world of middle grade, here are three new graphic novels to introduce to your readers.  They are Swing It, Sunny by Jennifer & Matthew Holm, Invisible Emmie by Terri Libenson, and All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson.

Swing It, Sunny

First up is Swing It, Sunny - the much-awaited sequel to Jennifer & Matthew Holm’s Sunny, Side Up. This book picks up with Sunny’s life in September 1976 - right after the summer she spent with her grandfather down in Florida in the first book. This story is all about Sunny’s life back at home, her complicated feelings about her brother Dale, who is now in boarding school, and the challenges of middle school. Here are three things to love about Swing It, Sunny:

  1. Seasonal Slice of Life stories. Unlike the first book which was set just in the summer, here we have Sunny starting school, getting fall allergies, reluctantly dressing up as nurse for Halloween, making loom potholders for Christmas gifts…. And small but poignant moments of that year in her life. My 10 year old was wishing for bigger events with a stronger resolution at the end. And for that reason she said she prefered the first book. But, personally, I liked the rhythm and pacing of this book with small moments told over the course of a year.
  2. How it explores a complicated relationship between siblings, and the impact that has on the rest of the family. After her older brother, Dale, ends up in a military boarding school for doing drugs and getting into big trouble - at one point Sunny says to her mom, “I miss him. But I don’t miss what it’s like when he’s here.” And I think a lot of kids - in some way or other - can connect to that.
  3. I LOVED all the 1970s details!!  I will out my age here and say that I was born in November 1976, a bicentennial baby, so this book felt like stepping back into the avocado green and rust brown and orangey yellow shades of my childhood. When having a TV dinner (cooked in the oven by the way!) was cause for excitement. I’m sure that qualifies this book for “Historical Fiction” status, and kids are obviously not going to have that nostalgic feeling that I had, but I loved all the TV shows referenced - Six Million Dollar Man and Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch and General Hospital… there are so many tiny little details from the antennas on the tvs to the Jiffy Pop pan, to the vintage Golden Grahams cereal box…  Ahhhh….. There’s so much more. But I’ll let you discover all of it.

Swing It Sunny is absolutely a must-have graphic novel for kids 8-12.  And they don’t have to have read Sunny, Side Up to enjoy this one, but if you have the first book on hand, I’d recommend starting there so you have the background about what happened the summer before.

Invisible Emmie

Another great new book is Invisible Emmie by debut author Terri Libenson. This book tells the story of the quiet, un-noticed, hero-in-waiting Emmie Douglass who is trying to deal with the challenges of seventh grade. Things like finding time to go to the bathroom between classes, the awkwardness of changing for PE class, not having a cell phone and feeling left out of things, and…. being completely embarrassed in front of your crush.  Here are three reasons to love Invisible Emmie:

 

  1. How relatable Emmie is - especially for girls! From the frustration with your curly hair to that anger at yourself for not speaking up in your own defense. I think most girls (and boys!) feel that pressure of fitting in and comparing yourself to your peers, your friends, and to that perfect version of yourself that you wish you were.
  2. How this book alternates between the main narrative of Emmie and the story of Katie. And I loved how Emmie’s parts are text with lots of illustrations in softer blues, and tans, and mauves. And the sections from Katie’s point of view are a more traditional graphic novel format with panels and done in brighter yellows and pinks and greens. The blend of those two styles is really well done.
  3. How Emmie’s and Katie’s stories come together in the end! As I was reading, I kept theorizing how they were going to connect, and then I started to notice some of the same characters show up in both sections.  That ending and the message of that ending was powerful. Loved it!

Terri Libenson’s  Invisible Emmie is funny, heartfelt, and great for kids who love books like Raina Telgemeier’s Drama or Bubbles by Abby Cooper. And I can’t wait to see what this author does next!

All’s Faire in Middle School

Our final graphic novel is one that my students and I have been anticipating for a long time - and oh was it worth that wait!. It’s All’s Faire in Middle School - by Victoria Jamieson. You might know Ms. Jamieson from her incredible Newbery Honor book - Roller Girl.  This novel is about Imogene - an eleven-year-old girl who has grown up and been schooled at the Florida Renaissance Festival where her father works as a knight and she helps her mother run their family’s arts and crafts store. But - this year two things are changing. One - she starts her training as a squire, which mean more responsibility at the faire. And two - she’s going to public school for the first time and starting middle school. I loved this book so much I am completely breaking my rule of three things. So, here are six things to love about All’s Faire in Middle School:

  1. The behind-the-scenes look at the renaissance festival. The jousting, the human chess game, the mud pit, the juggling, and the sword play.   And how Imogene is taught by the other actors to do what’s called “street” -  how to walk and talk and pull visitors into the fun as though they were all REALLY living in a Renaissance village filled with colorful characters.
  2. The Elizabethan flavored talk at the fair is so much fun to read. Here, let me give you a sample for you.. This is from page 27. This is when Cussy, an actor who plays a hermit, is teaching Imogene how to interact with the shopkeepers as she walks around the faire. “Good Morrow, and well met, baker! Prithee, hast thou any fresh loaves this morning?”
  3. The gorgeous chapter introductions that are in the style of an illuminated manuscript. They are so beautiful!  
  4. How this is a story about a family that is poor. Imogene is always a bit torn between her pride in her Ren Faire lifestyle and embarrassment that her family is picking her up in a beat-up old car. Or that she gets dropped of at the shabby apartment complex. Or that they can’t really afford those cool shoes and jeans that would help her blend in more at school. Yeah - relatable. For many many kids.
  5. The nuanced struggles and mistakes that Imogene deals with in middle school and at home. She makes BIG mistakes. At one point she harnesses her talent of drawing to be cruel in order to make others laugh. And has to deal with how much she hurt people.  At point she lies to her parents about school work, and gets in huge trouble.  And then - she does something so mean to her little brother that overcoming that one rash act is going to take a lot. But, you know - I see sibling conflict and peer conflict up close every day. And Jamieson gets it right.
  6. The small thread about the romance novel. There’s a scene where Imogene and her new friends sneak read part of a romance novel and later she writes the word sex in her journal and then quickly crosses it out. The words from the novel aren’t explicit at all but the context of that thread is so relatable for a lot of preteen and teenaged kids. That impulse to want to know more and yet not feeling really ready for that is handled so well here with a light touch that I’d say would probably be appropriate for most kids in grades 5 and above.

 

Honestly, I could go on and on about all the reasons I loved All’s Faire in Middle School but instead I think that time would be better spent having YOU just go get it and read it and put it into the hands of kids who are going to love it. And if you ever have the chance to go to a Renaissance Festival - please do it!!  My family always attends the Sterling Renaissance Festival in northern New York, and it is such a blast. We get our hair braided, enjoy a giant turkey leg, and just have fun transporting yourself to another era.  And make sure you check out Matthew Winner’s interview with Victoria Jamieson on episode 386 of the All the Wonders podcast where they talk about All’s Faire and her inspirations for this story. It’s so good!

Closing

Okay - that wraps up our show this week. We have some great interviews and book talks coming up this fall.  I’ll also be chatting about flexible seating, Shelley Johannes’ Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker, Shannon Hale’s Real Friends - and of course - even more great new graphic novels.

Thank you so much for joining me this week. You can get find a transcript of this show and all of our previous episodes at AlltheWonders.com.  And, if you like the show, please help others find us too by telling a friend, sharing on social media, or leaving a rating on iTunes or Stitcher.

And thanks again to WriteAbout.com for supporting the podcast this month - when you visit their website you’ll find fantastic ideas to get your students excited about writing. My school is doing the Positivity Project this year where each week we focus on one character strength. So my students will be writing about how they and others show Perspective.

See you in two weeks!  Bye!

Sep 25, 2017

Intro

Hi everyone! This is episode #35 and today I am sharing with you a LIVE recording of an interview I did with the incredible Mira Bartók where we discuss her debut middle grade novel, The Wonderling. This was recording at ALA on Sunday, June 25th and I have been eager to share it with you and since The Wonderling is released tomorrow, now seems like the perfect time.

Before we begin today’s interview, I am excited to tell you that this month’s episodes are sponsored by WriteAbout.com - a safe, digital writing community where students are just one click away from starting a new writing piece. And if your school uses Google like mine does, you will be happy to know that your students (and you!) can log-in with your Google account. I love that that my students can share their writing with peers locally or globally. And we all know that a real audience makes a real difference.   So, if you or someone you know is looking for an engaging and authentic way to help students write every day, absolutely check out WriteAbout.com. And at the end of the show, I’ll share with you what my class has been up to lately.

A couple quick notes before I share the interview. First, I huge thank you to everyone who came to the live recording of our show, to Mira for being a great guest, and all the fabulous folks at ALA and Candlewick (especially Andie and Anna) who helped coordinate this. Second, this is a LIVE recording in a very large and noisy space so I hope you bear with the bit of background bustle that you hear, but I promise that hearing what Mira has to say is so worth it. Take a listen.

Interview Outline


I am really excited about the finished artwork in the final version of The Wonderling!

Did the art come first and inspire the story or was it the other way?

The Wonderling has this fantastic darker flavor to it at some points - in a similar way to Roald Dahl. And the cruel Miss Carbunkle reminds me of one of my favorite villains Miss Trunchbull.

Did you like darker books as a child?

One of the fascinating aspects of this book is the wielding of power. For example, Miss Carbunkle bestows small little favors or a bit of extra food to some of the prisoners in the orphanage as a way of pitting them against each other.  

Can you talk a bit about how power is used by characters in this story?

One of the aspects that I loved about this book was the role that music played in it. Songs are forbidden in Miss Carbunkle’s orphanage and then - music plays a bigger and bigger part as we get into the story.

Can you talk a bit about how music has played a part in your own life and how those experiences may have influenced this story?

 

The Wonderling isn’t even released yet (it come out September 26th) - but, did I hear that already it’s going to be made into a movie?

There comes a point in the story when Arthur realizes that he can understand the mice around him when others can’t and so he starts to translate for his mouse friend, Peevil. So they have this profound exchange about cats and Arthur says something like “maybe if I can understand them someday, they won’t hiss at me when I walk by.”

In our world, or maybe just in the context on this story - do you think that understanding each other and developing empathy is enough to avoid conflict or are there some problems too big for that?

There is a scene in the story where Arthur (still named Number 13) meets his first friend, Trinket, this fierce little bird-like creature. And she tells him the story of King Arthur and Merlyn and mentions that “there’s not really one way to tell it.”

When you were writing The Wonderling, were there other versions or storylines that you played with or did you come into it knowing exactly where you wanted to take the story?

 

A thought that struck me as I was reading The Wonderling was how powerful imagination can truly be.

How has that force played a part in this story and maybe in your own life?

As Arthur and Trinket begin their journey, they run across this boy named Pinecone. And he finds them sleeping under a tree and wakes them with a wooden sword and asks, “Are you a tinker, trader, forager, or foe?”

As a writer, are you more of a tinker, trader, forager, or a foe?

When we first meet Arthur in the Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures, that is his name from his tag around his neck. And even later when he’s in a rather dire situation, that number 13 get attached to him again - he just can’t quite shake it!

Is 13 unlucky for you?

What are you reading now?

Audience Q&A

Closing

Okay - that wraps up our show this week. You can find an outline of interviews and a full transcript of all the other parts of our show along with all of our previous episodes at AlltheWonders.com. And, if you are liking the show, please help others find us too by telling a friend, sharing on social media, or leaving a rating on iTunes or Stitcher.

And thanks again to WriteAbout.com for supporting the podcast this month - when you visit their website you’ll find fabulous ideas to get your students writing this year. My class has started with Personal Narratives and I love that I can find and pin ideas to our class page to help students who might have a little trouble coming up with something on their own.

Thanks again and see you soon!  Bye!

Episode Links:

https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780763691219

Mira Bartok’s’ website:http://www.mirabartok.com

Sep 11, 2017

Intro

Hi and welcome to Books Between - a podcast for teachers, parents, librarians, and anyone who wants to connect kids between 8-12 to books they’ll love. I’m your host, Corrina Allen - a mom an 8 and 10 year old, and just finishing my first week back to school with my new 5th graders. And….YAWN!  Is there any tured that’s like that first few days of school tired?  I am gonna get some coffee and I’ll be right back….

This is Episode #34 and today I’m talking about studying genre and then I welcome author Danielle Davis to the show to chat about her debut middle grade novel Zinnia and the Bees, and finish up with a question about book recommendations for an advanced 6th grade reader.

But before we jump into the show, I want tell you that this month’s episodes are sponsored by WriteAbout.com - a writing community and publishing platform that is just perfect for classrooms. It is incredibly easy to use and set up - and boy am I appreciating that at the beginning of the year!  I am also loving how engaged students are when they see their word count grow. And how that pushes them to write even more. And from my end, I love how I can analyze those word count statistics either as a whole class or filter for individual students.  So, if you’ve been searching for an engaging and authentic way to help your students write every day, definitely go visit WriteAbout.com to check it out. And at the end of the show, I’ll share with you my current favorite feature.


Main Topic - Studying Genre

As I start our new school year rolling and we are setting up our reading journals and discussing goals, one of the first things we do is have a quick crash course in identifying genres. So today I want to chat with you about why it’s a good idea for students to study genre, which genres to study, the difference between genre and format, and finally I’ll share some ideas and resources to get your students learning more about different genres.

Why study genre?

So, why study genre? We’ve already got a lot on our plate and a curriculum that is jam packed. Why is it important for students to know the difference between science fiction and fantasy? Or to know a mystery when they see one?

  1. Studying genre helps students expand their reading habits and get introduced to genres they might not have tried yet.
  2. Studying genre also expands students’ views of each genre and helps them realize that NOT all books in a genre are the same. Not all fantasy is about dragons or set in a medieval world. Some have cats like The Warriors series and some are even set in modern times!  And often, books are a blend of more than one genre - Historical Fiction AND Action-Adventure like the I Survived Series. Or Science Fiction with a twist of Mystery like Space Case.
  3. Studying genre helps with comprehension. Knowing how a certain type of book tends to go helps you figure out the plot, make predictions, and pick out themes and delve into character more deeply. For example, if you are reading a Fantasy you’re going to be on the lookout for a quest narrative, special magical objects, maybe a good character who turns out to be bad, and a theme that might be really about Good vs. Evil. If they are picking up a mystery, they’ll want to be searching for clues and twist endings. If reading historical fiction they might be looking for lessons that would resonate today. Studying past turning points helps us figure out who we are. Knowing those common tropes and knowing why those genres are important helps students dig so much deeper and can even change them as a person.
  4. And finally, learning about genre helps kids develop their own reading identity and figure out what they really like. Learning the language and vocabulary of genre is important so they have a name for the kinds of stories they want to read and can then go ask for it at a bookstore or the library or when they search online. So if they know that they like Magical Realism, they can ask the clerk to help them find more of those kinds of books.   Last week I was thinking about how the power of knowing the vocabulary can help you find what you like. My ten year old and I have recently been binge-watching A LOT of Project Runway. And I do not have any kind of background in sewing or fashion terms. For me, when I go shopping, I just kind of wing it and know what I like when I put it on. But after watching several seasons of Project Runway in a row you start to pick up the names of various fabrics and cuts and styles. And I realize - a-ha!  I do NOT like high-low hems or mermaid dresses. BUT - that kind of skirt that always seems to look okay on me? That’s an A-line skirt! SO now, when I go shopping and a clerk asks if they can help me, I will say, “Yes! Show me your A-line skirts and dresses, please!”  Basically what I’m saying is knowing the words for what you like is hugely helpful in efficiently getting you more of that.

Which genres to study?

I tend to focus on how the characters, setting, and plot are all clues to help you figure out the genre. And the fiction genres I focus on are realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, action/adventure, traditional literature (like folk tales, tall tales and fairy tales), science fiction, and fantasy. With a strong emphasis on how sometimes they can blend. And I don’t go into depth at 5th grade, but I do mention westerns, horror, and romance. And I’ll tell you - that Science Fiction/Fantasy genre always seems so imperfect.  I mean - a book with talking animals in it. IS that… fantasy? I wouldn’t put Charlotte’s Web with Eragon. So…. we do talk about how there is nuance and fuzziness in those categories and I introduce terms like speculative fiction, paranormal, magical realism and urban fantasy. I don’t expect mastery here. But - if they can read a book like, say, The Seventh Wish. And say things like “Well, it could be realistic fiction because it’s about a typical family in modern times going through real-life challenges but it might be fantasy because the fish gives out magic wishes.” That is what I’m looking for. Not certainty but the ability to have a discussion around genre and recognize the major elements of each one.

What’s the difference between genre and format?

One of the points of growth for me is really recognizing the difference between genre and format. Poetry and graphic novels are NOT really genres. You can have a novel in verse that is a memoir like Brown Girl Dreaming or realistic fiction, like Moo. And graphic novels span every imaginable genre from traditional literature in Fairy Tale Comics to fantasy in Amulet and science fiction in Hilo to realistic fiction in Roller Girl. And as much as I know that…. I still separate them out because their format does make them so unique. And so many of my students just gravitate toward those graphic novels. So I want to make it easy for them to find. And just last week, after much consideration, I finally caved and shelved Nine, Ten, Towers Falling, Eleven, and the other 9/11 books in historical fiction. (And now I feel really old!)

Some ideas & resources

We’ll wrap up this segment by sharing a few ideas about how to reinforce the study of genre in your classroom or library or with your kids at home! Here are 6 ideas to get you started:

  1. Keep track of those genres on a chart or graph. I have a circle tracker that I love to use that I’ll link to in the shownotes. It’s colorful and flexible and fun!
  2. Give students a stack of books and have them sort them by genre or identify the genre if they are all the same. And encourage them to use the vocabulary they’ve learned to back up what they’re saying. And look at the cover and back description of the setting, characters, and plot for those clues.
  3. Another way to go is to give them a stack and tell them the genre. And then THEY have to create a definition based on the books in that category. And then they can present to their peers. If you don’t have physical books to use, I’ve cut out pictures and blurbs from Scholastic flyers and you could also have them search a genre category on Amazon or Goodreads.
  4. Have students work together to create a genre display. Last year, right around Halloween I had a group of kids work on a mystery/paranormal display for our classroom door.  Kids could also work on a video project or a Google Slideshow to teach others about genre.
  5. I used Kahoot last year to reinforce genre and my students loved it! Kahoot is an online quiz site where teachers can create any type of quiz and students log-in with a Chromebook or ipad and take the quiz and get live results together. It’s fun, it’s interactive, and they have really awesome music on that site!
  6. Have kids make #BookSnaps highlighting the genre of the books they are reading!  I talked more about #BookSnaps in episode #19 which was all about alternatives to reading logs. But basically, kids take a picture of their book, maybe annotate it with a photo editing tool and post it to social media. So, you could direct them to simply post the cover and name the genre. Or you could ask them to find some evidence inside the book to back up why they think that book fits the criteria for that genre. And take a picture of page that offers a clue and then annotate it to explain. I use SeeSaw for #BookSnaps but older kids might like SnapChat or Twitter.

Those are a few things that I have tried and plan to explore this year as I help students grow into self-aware and self-directed readers. But - I know how incredible my listeners are and I am sure you all have some fabulous ideas about how to teach and reinforce genre. Please share them with the rest of us! You can tag me on Twitter or Instagram - our handle is @books_between or email me at booksbetween@gmail.com . And I’ll share out some of your ideas.


Interview - Danielle Davis

Today I am thrilled to welcome Danielle Davis to the podcast. She is the author of the recently released middle grade novel Zinnia and the Bees. We chat about knitting, composting, and the surprising origins of her novel!

Zinnias and the Bees

Your debut novel Zinnia and the Bees was just released this month and I am so excited for my students and kids all around the world to meet these characters.

For those listening who haven’t yet had a chance to read the book, can you tell us a bit about it?

 

This is an alternating point of view novel like none other that I have read...

How did figure out that you wanted to include the bees’ perspective?

 

What sort of research did you do to make sure you got those details right?

 

So, I have to ask about…. KNITTING!

 

Your Writing Life

Your blog is called “This Picture Book Life”.

So how did you end up writing middle grade?

 

How does the final version of Zinnia and the Bees differ from earlier drafts?

 

What is your ideal writing space like?

 

What’s next for you - another middle grade or will you venture into Picture Books?


Your Reading Life

 

You read a TON of picture books AND middle grade books!

 

What drew you to focus mainly on picture books?

 

Is there a type of story or a genre that others like a lot but you’re just not that into?

 

What were some of your favorite books as a child?

 

What have you been reading lately that you’ve liked?

 

Thank You!

 

Q & A

Our third and final segment this week is Question & Answer time.

Question:

Today’s question was texted to me from a friend at school. She asked, “I have a friend who’s looking for some book recommendations for her going into 6th grade boy. He is an advanced reader and loves sports and music.”

Answer:

I had five suggestions - Ghost by Jason Reynolds which would appeal to the sports side - plus, it’s just amazing and if they like it, there is the newly released second book called Patina which is just as fabulous! Posted by John David Anderson is also incredible. And Solo by Kwame Alexander which would be great for a kid who likes music. But - that one veers a little more toward YA. So - while I love that book, maybe take a peek at the content and consider waiting maybe a year or two. I also recommended the March graphic novel series by John Lewis. I think that trilogy is so timely and should be read by everyone so I just have to give a push whenever I have the chance. And finally, I Am Drums by Mike Grosso is phenomenal for music lovers. I just loved that book and can’t wait to see what else he writes.

 

Closing

 

Alright - that wraps up our show this week. If you have a question or an idea about a topic we should cover, let me know. You can email me at booksbetween@gmail.com or message me on Twitter/Instagram at the handle @Books_Between.

 

Thank you so much for joining me this week. You can find an outline of interviews and a full transcript of all the other parts of our show along with all of our previous episodes at AlltheWonders.com. And, if you are liking the show, please help others find us too by telling a friend, sharing on social media, or leaving a rating on iTunes or Stitcher.

 

And thanks again to WriteAbout.com for supporting the podcast this month - when you visit their website you’ll find fantastic ideas to get your students writing this year. Some of my favorite features are the feedback tools - including voice recordings for students to get immediate and personal suggestions from you right as they are writing.

 

Thanks again and see you soon!  Bye!

 

Episode Links:

 

Danielle Davis’ website: http://www.danielledavisreadsandwrites.com

Danielle’s This Picture Book Life: http://thispicturebooklife.com

 

Zinnia and the Bees Pom Pom Craft: http://thispicturebooklife.com/pom-pom-craft-zinnia-bees-courtesy-sealed-kait/

 

Zinnia and the Bees: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781623708672

 

Books & Things Mentioned in the Interview:

 

Bees: Nature’s Little Wonders by Candace Savage: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781553655312

 

The Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780763679224

 

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kid: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780142001745

 

The Girl in the Flammable Skirt by Aimee Bender: https://www.indiebound.org/search/book?keys=the+girl+flammable

 

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780385720960

 

Alethea’s blog - Read Now Sleep Later: http://www.readnowsleeplater.org


Roald Dahl books: https://www.indiebound.org/search/book?keys=Roald+Dahl

 

Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780547076805

 

Du Iz Tak by Carson Ellis: https://www.indiebound.org/search/book?keys=Du+Iz+Tak

 

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780312367541

 

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780679734772

 

The Red Tree by Shaun Tan: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780968876831

 

Benjamin Dilley’s Thirsty Camel by Jolly Roger Bradfield: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781930900608

 

Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly

 

The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez:  https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780425290408

Aug 28, 2017

Intro

Hi and welcome to Books Between - a podcast for teachers, parents, librarians, and anyone who wants to connect kids between 8-12 to books they’ll love. I’m your host, Corrina Allen - a mom of two girls, a 5th grade teacher, and yeah...starting to have those back to school bad dreams where I’ve arrived at school and I have no lesson prepared or all the furniture has been removed from my room or I’m suddenly teaching Kindergarten!

This is Episode #33 and today I’m talking about launching a reading community in those first few weeks of school and then I welcome author Celia C. Pérez to the show to chat about her debut middle grade novel The First Rule of Punk.

But first I am excited to tell you that today’s episode is sponsored by WriteAbout.com - a writing community and publishing platform that is perfect for classrooms. If you are like me and are looking for an engaging and authentic way to make sure your students are writing every day, you are absolutely going to want to visit WriteAbout.com to check it out.   My favorite thing right now is the thousands of ideas across various genres and formats to inspire your students to write more and write more thoughtfully. So - at the end of the show, I’ll share with you a few of my favorite writing ideas I found on WriteAbout that will get my students excited about writing about their reading this year.



Main Topic - Launching a Reading Community

As the summer winds down and I head back to school, I have been thinking a lot about how I want to make this year different. Make it count. Make it matter. And be more focused and intentional about cultivating that reading community from the start. So today I’ll share some thoughts about how to really develop a strong community of readers before school starts, on that first day, and in those first few weeks.

Before School Starts

Cultivating that new community of readers started this week before I even met my students. I finally got into my classroom this week after our custodians have been busy waxing and cleaning. (Everything revolves around that waxing schedule, right? There was one year I came this close to shimmying through the window to get into my room!)

This morning, I was able to walk through the door - so things are good! And before my new 5th graders even step foot into the classroom, there were three things I knew I needed to take care of:

  1. Make sure I have scheduled time every day for them to read and for me to read to them. From the very first day. And treat those times as sacrosanct.
  2. Make sure they can see themselves in our classroom library. On recent episode (#28 if you want to scroll back in your feed and listen) I talk about the diversity audit that my students did to analyze the books in our library. And over the summer, I have been working on adding a better variety of titles. When I dust off those shelves and put those books in those genre bins and select some enticing titles to feature face out, making sure those books are as diverse as my class and as diverse as their world is crucial.
  3. Create those displays that will get them excited about the reading they’ll do this year. In the hallway right before they enter our room, they’ll pass this giant #ClassroomBookADay display that I have been diligently working on. A big shout out to Lori Lewis in the #ClassroomBookADay Facegroup group who shared (for free!) this cool display of polaroid picture templates for each of the 180 books we’ll be reading this year. So I have been cutting and trimming and measuring and tapping and it’s an impressive display and a promise of what’s to come. And as in year’s past, I also create a “My Reading Life” display for the door where I showcase covers of some recent reads and some all-time favorites. And eventually that will be turned over to my students for their own displays. And of course I always have my own “Mrs. Allen is Currently Reading….” chalkboard display.

On the First Day

That first day is so crucial in setting the right tone and really conveying your priorities by your actions and what you pay attention to.  On the first day of school, I have two goals:

  1. Get to know my students as much as possible. Pronounce their names correctly, start to learn their interests and passions and strengths. And start to build that trusting relationship. Because if I am going to ask them to open themselves up and take risks as readers (and writers!) this year, they have to know that I care about them and want to know their authentic self.
  2. I want them excited to come back.  Gone are the days when I used to start with an extensive review of the syllabus and grading procedures and setting up the rules. Nope. We are having fun. There will be music and movement and an engineering challenge.

And at least one read aloud - probably two! And a chance for them to do some book tastings and exploring what’s available in our classroom library. And - some down time when they can dive into those books and start to build back up that stamina for focused independent reading.

During the First Weeks

During those first few weeks is when that classroom culture of reading really starts to emerge as routines and relationships are established. Within that first week, I like to give a reading survey to get a sense of their likes and attitudes about reading. This is also really important because a carefully crafted survey can give you great data when you compare the answers to those questions at the end of the year. I used to give a paper one but now I use a Google Form. If you want to take a look at a really good sample, Pernille Ripp has a great one on her site that I will link to for you.

But don’t dismiss the power of casual conversation about books during those snippets of time throughout the day like arrival and dismissal and in the hallway. Absolutely share what you are reading but that authentic reading community happens when kids can share with each other their thoughts and feelings and reactions (both good and bad) to that book they brought home last night. A huge part of fostering that reading culture is providing engaging and authentic ways for kids to talk about the books they are choosing to read.

The days of me assigning a diorama of Hatchet or a cereal box craftivity about Wonder are done.  So instead, we’ll have book clubs, we’ll write blog posts and share them with a real audience, we’ll use WeVideo to do booktalks and post them on a YouTube channel, we’ll Skype with authors and other classes for the Global Read Aloud, we’ll create #BookSnaps of our favorite parts, and we’ll tweet our favorite lines and tag the author and cross our fingers for a response! And - most importantly - we’ll do even cooler things that are ideas my students bring with them!

So - I am so so excited for fantastic year of reflecting and growth and learning with my students and with you. I would love to know how you launch your school year to cultivate a community of readers.

You can tag me on Twitter or Instagram - our handle is @books_between or email me at booksbetween@gmail.com . I would love to hear from you.


Interview Outline - Celia C. Pérez

Today I am really really excited to welcome Celia C. Pérez to the podcast. She is the author of the recently released middle grade novel The First Rule of Punk. We chat about her inspirations for the novel, zines, and The Wizard of Oz!

The First Rule of Punk

Your debut middle grade novel, The First Rule of Punk, has been getting all kinds of buzz - everyone is talking about this book!  I just cannot wait for the world to meet Malú.

Can you tell us a bit about this girl - and a bit about her story?

One of the aspects that makes this novel so unique are the zines that are included between some of the chapters. And - I will be honest and tell you that the word “zine” was something I had heard of but the mental image I had was nothing close to the truth. So - for those, like me, who might not be aware...

What are zines?

And what was your process like for creating the zines that are in The First Rule of Punk?

When Malú and her mom move to Chicago, one of the first things they do is scope out and find the neighborhood coffee shop and the neighborhood library.

What was your childhood library like?

There is this tension between Malú and her mother about how to dress and behave. She thinks her mom wants her to be this ideal Mexican-American “senorita” and Malú want to dress in a more edgy style.

Did you feel that cultural tug-of-war in your own family?

I noticed this recurring thread of The Wizard of Oz in the book!

Are you a fan?

I was so intrigued by Malu’s worry dolls - can you tell us a little more about them?  

So, I have to ask…. cilantro or no cilantro?  


Your Writing Life

What were some of the challenges with writing this book?

What’s next for you - do you think you’ll stick with middle grade?


Your Reading Life

What were some of your favorite books as a child?

What have you been reading lately that you’ve liked?

Thank You!

 

Closing

Okay - that wraps up our show this week. If you have a question or an idea about a topic we should cover, let me know. You can email me at booksbetween@gmail.com or message me on Twitter/Instagram at the handle @Books_Between.

Thank you so much for joining me this week. You can find an outline of interviews and a full transcript of all the other parts of our show along with all of our previous episodes at AlltheWonders.com. And, if you are liking the show, please help others find us too by telling a friend, sharing on social media, or leaving a rating on iTunes or Stitcher.

And thanks again to WriteAbout.com for supporting the podcast this month - if you head over to their website you’ll find awesome ideas to get your students writing about their reading this year. One of my favorites is: “You have to choose a character from a book you’ve read to lead a group or team you are part of. Who do you choose and why?” (I know who I’d pick!) But I think the prompt I’m going to start with this year is the one called “My Life As A Reader – Memories of Reading” Definitely check that one out when you head over to the WriteAbout site.

Thanks again and see you soon!  Bye!

 

Episode Links:

Celia’s website: http://celiacperez.com

Witch's Sister by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright

Encyclopedia Brown Series by Donald J. Sobol

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

Tex by S. E. Hinton

Rumble Fish by S. E. Hinton

That Was Then, This is Now by S. E. Hinton

The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser

The Red Velvet Underground: A Rock Memoir, with Recipes by Freda Love Smith

The Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling

Aug 22, 2017

Intro

Hi everyone and welcome to Books Between - a podcast for teachers, parents, librarians and anyone who wants to help connect kids between 8-12 to books they will love.  I’m your host, Corrina Allen - a mom, a teacher, and really excited that I got to see the solar eclipse this afternoon! Here in Syracuse we had about 70% (ish) coverage and my daughters and husband and I hung out in the backyard with glasses our neighbors so kindly gave us and we saw the light dim and the shadows get eerie. I couldn’t quite get the colander trick to work but that’s okay - I loved all of your photos of your experiences that you shared online.

This is Episode #32 and today, as promised last week, I’m sharing with you a conversation with Betsy Bird - librarian, host of the new Fuse 8 n’Kate podcast, and the editor of the fabulous new short story anthology called FUNNY GIRL!  We chat about the book, what makes her laugh, our least favorite picture books, and, and......I challenge her to a fart noise contest!

Take a listen….

Interview Outline - Betsy Bird

For those listening who may or may not be familiar with you, can you give us a little introduction of who you are and what you do in the world of children’s literature?

Where does the name Fuse 8 come from?

Funny Girl

You’ve mentioned that Funny Girl was the result of noticing that kids wanted funny books and there weren’t too many options written by women. So you proposed the idea to your editor..

Once this project was a go, how did you go about finding authors to contribute and what was your criteria when you pitched the idea to them?

Have you read any of the stories with your own kids ?

So, you’ve mentioned that girls are often discouraged from using humor as a coping mechanism. In your own life - either now or as a kid - what were some times when using humor has helped you?

It was interesting - when I got the book and looked at the Table of Contents and I was browsing all the authors, i was thinking “Ooooo...this is going to be awesome!”

But - the authors whose stories made me laugh the most, were NOT the ones I was expecting! I actually loved that - it helped me find new people to get to know.

Aside from stories like those in Funny Girl, what are some things that make you laugh?  What’s your sense of humor like?

Fuse 8 n’ Kate Podcast

So you have a new podcast!  What made you decide to jump back into podcasting?  

What is a popular picture book that you don’t like?


Your Reading Life

What were some of your favorite books as a child?

As a parent, how do you make time for reading with your family? And what does that that look like?

What have you been reading lately that you’ve liked?

Where do you see a gap in the world of children’s books?

Thank You!

 

Closing

Alright - that wraps up our show this week. We have some great topics and interviews and book talks coming up including some thoughts on building a community of readers, conversations with Celia Perez about The First Rule of Punk, and Alan Gratz about Refugee AND Ban This Book.  So be on the lookout for those.

And if you have a question or an idea about a topic we should cover, I would love to hear from you. You can email me at booksbetween@gmail.com or connect on Twitter/Instagram at the handle @Books_Between.

Thank you so much for joining me this week. You can find an outline of interviews and a full transcript of all the other parts of our show along with all of our previous episodes at AlltheWonders.com.

And, if you are liking the show, please help others find us too by telling a friend, sharing on social media, or leaving a rating on iTunes or Stitcher.

Thanks again and see you soon!  Bye!

 

Episode Links:

Betsy Bird ’s Fuse 8 Production Blog on School Library Journal

Listen to Fuse 8 n’ Kate Podcast here on iTunes or Soundcloud

Betsy’s Books:

Giant Dance Party

Wild Things!: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature

Funny Girl

 

Books and Other Things We Discussed:

Sipping Spiders Through a Straw: Campfire Songs for Monsters by Kelly DiPucchio & Gris Grimly

Akilah Hughes’ YouTube Channel - Akilah, Obviously!

Accident by Andrea Tsurumi

If I Ran the Zoo by Dr. Seuss

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson

Paeony Lewis’ blog post comparing Picture Books in bookshop chains in the US and UK

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss

Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss

In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak

Bumble-Ardy by Maurice Sendak

Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

Love You Forever by Robert Munsch

Curious George

Furious George Goes Bananas: A Primate Parody by Michael Rex

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder

The Birchbark House by Louise Erdich

A Time to Keep by Tasha Tudor

Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn

Ghost Cat by Mark Abley

The Girl With the Silver Eyes by Willo Davis Roberts

Cam Jansen

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Patina by Jason Reynolds

Betsy’s blog post about Patina

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder

Betsy’s blog post about Orphan Island

Betsy’s Blog Post “Where Are All the Black Boys?”

Aug 14, 2017

Intro

 

Hello and welcome to Books Between - a podcast all about celebrating children’s literature! If you are a teacher, parent, or librarian who wants to help connect kids between 8-12 to books they will love - then you are in the right spot!  I am your host, Corrina Allen - a 5th grade teacher, a mum of an 8 and 10 year old, and baking brownies and bundt cakes and obviously binge-watching a little bit too much of the Great British Baking Show lately. And I will apologise to my British listeners for this atrocious accent. On the other hand, I do rather blame your show for my potentially not fitting into any of my school clothes since I have been craving nothing but carbs… So, if you hear me slip into a weird Britishesque accent today - I’m sorry. Too much Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry in my head!

 

This is Episode #31 and Today is all about exceptional anthologies and collections that your middle grade readers are going to love.

 

Main Topic - Exceptional Anthologies and Short Story Collections



Today we are talking all about anthologies and short story collections. First off, we’ll begin with definitions. I used to think those were interchangeable terms but I have come to realize they are not. Then, I’ll share with you some fabulous titles you might want to check out, including some really, really exceptional new releases. Then we’ll chat about some reasons why you should consider including more anthologies and short story collections in your school or classroom library.






Definitions

 

According to my favorite dictionary (Merriam-Webster - mainly because they have a hilarious Twitter account!) an anthology is “a collection of selected literary pieces or passages or works of art or music” and then it goes on to say “a published collection of writings (such as poems or short stories) by different authors”   And that’s the key - anthologies include stories by different authors! The Guys Read Series is a good example of this.

 

On the other hand, a collection is a book of selected writings (maybe poems, maybe short stories, maybe essays…) all by the same author. Cynthia Rylant’s Every Living Thing is an example you might know.

 

But….I will say, I see those terms used as synonyms A LOT.

 

Fantastic Anthologies and Collections To Add to Your Library

 

And now - a selection - a sampling - a smorgasbord of anthologies and collections to add to your library or introduce to your children. And before we begin, I just want to give a huge thank you to everyone who offered ideas for this list when I put out a call on Twitter and Facebook for suggestions. In particular, you will not be surprised to know that Donalyn Miller was on it with a fabulous list of suggestions.

 

Let’s start with some classics and older releases.

 

Best Shorts: Favorite Short Stories to Share

This anthology was but together by Avi and includes stories by Natalie Babbitt, Rafe Martin, Lloyd Alexander, and lots more.  And it includes a great mix of time travel, and animal stories, and legends and a touch of the supernatural. In particular, “The Woman in White” by Patricia McKissack is one to check out.

 

Every Living Thing by Cynthia Rylant

This is a collection of 12 stories - each one about how people’s lives are changed by an animal. This is a classic collection - and if you have kids who are animal lovers, this is definitely one they might enjoy.

 

Gary Soto has a number of incredible collections - Baseball in April and Local News are among the ones that would be good for middle grade readers.

 

My Life in Dog Years by Gary Paulsen

Up until last year, Hatchet was on our 5th grade required reading list and for those kids that really connected with that book, this collection was a great next book for them. Each story centers around Paulsen’s relationship with a special dog in his life. So this are also great examples of smaller memoirs.

 

Another great dog anthology is Because of Shoe edited by Ann M. Martin who also contributes a piece. This one features nine fictional stories that appeal to a variety of age ranges.

 

The People Could Fly  by Virginia Hamilton

Oh how I loved this book when it first came out! This is a collection of 24 retellings of black American folk tales - everything from animal stories to supernatural tales to stories of enslaved men and women seeking freedom.

 

In a similar vein, Patricia McKissack has two collections worth checking out -  Dark Thirty and it’s companion, which she wrote later, Porch Lies. Dark Thirty includes ten horror-themed stories with a Southern Historical flavor. And Porch Lies still has that eerie quality but also more humor.  If you have a child that likes the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Series, these would be a couple books to put in their hands next.

 

Then there is Red Ridin’ in the Hood by Patricia Santos Marcantonio. This one was strongly recommend by Matthew Winner and with one quick glance at the description online, I can see why. This is a collection of eleven classic fairy tales retold with a twist of Latino culture. Let me read you the description of the title story: "Red Ridin' in the Hood," moves the setting to the barrio, where Red decides to brave dangerous Forest Street in order to reach her abuelita and encounters the menacing wolf in a thumping Chevy lowrider.” I have GOT to get my hands on that!

 

If your students or children are into graphic novels, there are several really great collections.

 

The Comic Squad Series have been favorites with my 5th graders. Right now there are three of them - Recess, Lunch, and Detention which just came out last month so I need to pick that one up before heading back to school.

 

Also - definitely check out Fairy Tale Comics! This is a very cool collection with some awesomely weird stories in it. If your kids like that one, there is also Fable Comics and Nursery Rhyme Comics.

 

So - if your students and children are like mine, they LOVE the Amulet Series by Kazu Kibuishi. And I recently discovered - again thanks to Matthew Winner - that he has edited a series of graphic novel anthologies called the Explorer Series. (Why have I not heard of these before? They look incredible!) Each of the three books has a different theme. So the first is “Mystery Boxes”, the second is “Lost Islands” and the third one is “Hidden Doors”. The list of comic contributors is outstanding -  like Raina Telgemeier, Faith Erin Hicks, Dave Roman, Jen Wang…. I gotta go get these!



Been There, Done That - is a really special anthology which has fictional stories by award-winning and best-selling authors and also includes the real-life story that inspired those narratives.  I LOVE how this could show kids how you can mine your own life for stories. This is one of those books that I’m like - how did this get by me? This is GREAT!

 

The Guys Read Series - This group of seven anthologies is edited by Jon Scieszka and each one has a different theme like Terrifying Tales, The Sports Pages, Other Worlds, Funny Business, and the most recent one Heroes & Villains. And, despite their name, they include stories by both men and women. For example, Dan Gutman, Kelly Barnhill, Matt de la Peña, Neal Shusterman, Shannon Hale, and so so many more!

 

And now onto some really fabulous new collections and anthologies that your kids are going to love.

 

The Time We Ran Away  - This anthology is put out by Scholastic and I think is offered as the free book for Book Club orders over $50 this September.  It includes eleven short stories by best-selling authors like Angela Cervantes, Sarah Weeks, and Dan Gemeinhart.  I can’t seem to find it anywhere else (yet) so I think you’re going to have to get this one through Scholastic for now. https://clubs.scholastic.com/the-time-we-ran-away-10-book-pack/9781338253467-rco-us.html

 

Flying Lessons  

This anthology edited by Ellen Oh includes new stories by Kwame Alexander, Kelly Baptist, Tim Tingle, Grace Lin among so many others. It was released last January.  And I got it the day it came out and had wonderful intentions of reading it right away. And then - how can you say no to a line of kids reading over your shoulder and wanting to borrow it? So - all I can say is that what I read was good and it was passed from kid to kid to kid until school let out. Clearly - it’s a winner.

 

Another new anthology that I LOVED this summer was Our Story Begins: Your Favorite Authors and Illustrators Share Fun, Inspiring, and Occasionally Ridiculous Things They Wrote and Drew As Kids . Well - that pretty much says it all! This book is edited by Elissa Brent Weissman and I especially loved the images of the author’s hand written stories and diary entries and sketches from when they were young. And also hearing about the inspiration of a new typewriter or a teacher’s supportive comment on a report card or the chance to enter a writing contest. It’s fascinating to see the beginnings of these 25 writers’ journeys.  

 

If you have students who like something a little dark, a little twisted - then Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods by Hal Johnson is one they are going to love being scared by. This collection is “20 Chilling Tales from the Wilderness”  told from the perspective of a cryptozoologist - a person who studies legendary beasts like Big Foot or the chupacabras. One reviewer called these “faux-lore” which is perfect.  My ten-year old and I really love listening to the podcast Lore together and I think this will really be up her alley. It comes out August 22nd so be on the lookout for that next week.

 

And finally - Funny Girl - edited by Betsy Bird. In fact, in our very next episode, I have the great pleasure of sharing with you a conversation with Betsy Bird about this book and LOTS of other things.  We talk a fair amount about it  in our interview so I think I’ll just say here that you should definitely go get it. It is truly laugh out loud funny. And oh do we need some humor in our lives. So definitely get this one and I’m...I’m hoping for a Volume 2!



7 Reasons Why You Should Include More Anthologies and Collections

 

I am going to say up front that I don’t have a ton of these in my classroom. But - I loved them as a child and I’ve noticed lately that my own daughters have been picking more and more of them up. I thought - I need to really expand that part of our library. So here are 7 reasons why you might want to consider including more anthologies and collections.

 

  1. Anthologies are gateways to discovering other amazing authors. So a child might pick up Guys Read: Funny Business and be drawn to the Jeff Kinney story,  “Unaccompanied Minors” but then get introduced to the amazing Christopher Paul Curtis or David Lubar and suddenly discover their new favorite author.
  2. On the other hand, a collection of writing pieces all by one author is great when you want to go more in depth and dig into everything they have to offer. Often authors who are known for, say, novels or a certain genre - will play around in short pieces and try something new. Like poetry or a personal essay. I feel like a collection gives you a good sense of who an author is and more of a window into their life. Anyone who loves Gary Paulsen should read My Life in Dog Years.
  3. Anthologies and collections can help kids gain some reading traction if their stamina hasn’t been so great. They can get that satisfaction of finishing a story or an essay in a short amount of time and start to build up to longer texts. Especially at the beginning of the year or after a break, starting with something shorter can be a great idea. When I’ve had reading lulls in my ownlife, short stories can really kick-start me again.
  4. They are great for trying out new genres and new formats without the investment in a longer novel. My youngest daughter wouldn’t necessarily pick up a biography but she LOVED Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls. And although most of my students really love graphic novels, I’ve had more than few turn up their noses at that format. So I’ve handed them books like Comic Squad or Fairy Tale Comics and ask them to just try one story.
  5. Anthologies and collections introduce a greater variety of stories and perspectives into your life. On the last episode when I was chatting with Jillian Heise about #ClassroomBookADay, I was thinking about how reading a picture book each day can bring more so much more diversity into a classroom. And collections can do the same thing. In fact I was talking with my husband about this last night and he said it perfectly, “Would you rather get a box of all the same chocolates or would you rather get sampler with a dozen different flavors?” Yeah - I’m going for the flavors! And I might leave the cashew cluster for someone else, but that’s okay.
  6. Coming at this from a teacher’s point of view, reading the short stories and essays found in anthologies and collections are wonderful to offer as models for students’ own writing. With my 5th graders, we use the TCWRP Units of Study and our first writing unit is Narratives. And of course, I want to give them lots of examples and mentor texts. So I’ll take the first couple of weeks to read to them lots and lots of short narratives to really imprint in their mind what a good narrative sounds like and feels like. What the pacing and plotting is like in all kinds of narratives - from funny to serious.
  7. And finally - anthologies and collections are perfect for when you don’t want to jump into a long book yet or you only have little snippets of time to read.  I think they are great for traveling. If you’re on the bus or a plane, you can finish a full a story and don’t have to worry about rereading to pick back up the threads of a plot. In a classroom, if students are in book clubs and a couple members of the group have fallen behind in their reading and need to catch up, you don’t want the other students to start a new novel. So offering them a book like Flying Solo or Funny Girl is a great option.



Closing

 

Okay - that wraps up our show this week. We have some great interviews and book talks coming up. Next week is the amazing Betsy Bird. And after that you can look forward to a conversations with Celia Perez about The First Rule of Punk and Danielle Davis - author of Zinnia and the Bees. I’ll also be chatting about Jason Reynold’s Patina and some really great new graphic novels. So be on the lookout for those.

 

And, if you have a question or an idea about a topic we should cover, I would love to hear from you. You can email me at booksbetween@gmail.com or connect on Twitter/Instagram at the handle @Books_Between.

 

Thank you so much for joining me this week. You can find an outline of interviews and a full transcript of all the other parts of our show along with all of our previous episodes at AlltheWonders.com.  

 

And, if you like what you hear and value the podcast, please leave a quick review or rating on iTunes or Stitcher.

 

Thanks again and see you soon!  Bye!

Jul 31, 2017

Intro

Hi everyone and welcome to Books Between - a podcast for teachers, parents, librarians, and anyone who wants to help connect kids between 8-12 to books they’ll love. I am Corrina Allen - a 5th grade teacher, a mom of two, and spending some rainy summer days with my gals playing Blokus and Canasta and Mario Kart and dreaming of the beach….

This is Episode #30 and today I am sharing with you a conversation with Jillian Heise about Classroom Book A Day. We chat about all the wonderful things that can happen when you read one picture book a day to your class. And yes - even upper elementary AND middle school kids!  I had considered holding on to this episode a little longer, but realized that lots of you start school in August and would want to start planning things. If you’re like me, you need some time to mull things over and see how everything’s going to fit together.

So before we get started, I want to let you know a couple things up front. First, at the end of the conversation we mention some resources where you can find out lots more information about #ClassroomBookADay - especially Jillian’s main post about it from her website where she so generously shares her slideshows. And the #ClassroomBookADay Facebook Group. I joined that last month and the community there has been extraordinarily helpful. So - if you are interested, I’ll see you there. And I’ll post links to those right in our show notes and on the All the Wonders site.

 

Second - Jillian talks about A LOT of incredible books today and I know that, like me, you’re going to get excited about them and want to jot down all the titles! But - I’ve got your back. Every single title mentioned is posted and linked right in the show notes.

Okay - let’s dive in!

 

Main Topic - Interview with Jillian Heise

 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got inspired to start the #ClassroomBookaDay.



#ClassroomBookaDay is about making time each day in your classroom to read a picture book.

What do you see as the benefit of focusing more on picture books?



I’ve seen these incredible displays of teachers’ #ClassroomBookaDay reading where they post a cover of each book on grid on a bulletin board.

How do you display the #ClassroomBookADay in your school?

 

How do you see the display of the books as an important of aspect of #ClassroomBookADay?

 

How do you make time to read one picture book every day?

 

What is your routine like for reading the books with your students?

 

What about folks who don’t have their own classroom - librarians, literacy coaches, administrators?

 

180+ days is a lot to fill!  How do you choose titles?

 

What are some of your favorite books for the first week or so of school?



Where can people go to get more information?

 

Aside from picture books, what have you been reading lately that you’ve liked?




Closing

 

Alright - that wraps up our show this week. If you have a question or an idea about a topic we should cover, I would love to hear from you. You can email me at booksbetween@gmail.com or connect on Twitter/Instagram at the handle @Books_Between.

 

Thank you so much for joining me this week. You can find an outline of interviews and a full transcript of all the other parts of our show along with all of our previous episodes at AlltheWonders.com.  

 

And, if you like what you hear and value the podcast, please leave a quick review or rating on iTunes or Stitcher.

 

Thanks again and see you soon!  Bye!

 

Episode Links:

 

Heise Reads & Recommends: www.heisereads.com

BALB Literacy Consulting: www.balblit.com

 

Facebook #classroombookaday group: www.facebook.com/groups/classroombookaday

 

Slideshare with Previous Presentations: www.slideshare.net/mrsheise

 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/heisereads

 

#classroombookaday Origin Story & Updates: http://heisewrites.blogspot.com/2014/09/180-bookaday-read-alouds.html

 

Nerdy Book Club Post - https://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com/2017/07/03/classroombookaday-the-power-of-shared-picture-book-stories-by-jillian-heise/



PIcture Books Discussed on the Show:

 

To the Sea (Cale Atkinson)

I Want My Hat Back (Jon Klassen)

Mr Tiger Goes Wild (Peter Brown)

Explorers of the Wild (Cale Atkinson)

Pardon Me (Daniel Miyares)

That Neighbor Kid  (Daniel Miyares)

Float (Daniel Miyares)

That Is My Dream (Daniel Miyares)

Barnacle is Bored (Jonathan Fenske)

Poor Little Guy (Elanna Allen)

A Hungry Lion, or a Dwindling Assortment of Animals (Lucy Ruth Cummins)

Sam and Dave Dig A Hole (Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen)

Creepy Carrots (Aaron Reynolds & Peter Brown)

The Monster’s Monster (Patrick McDonnell)

Blizzard (John Rocco)

Each Kindness (Jacqueline Woodson & E.B. Lewis)

The Invisible Boy (Trudy Ludwig & Patrice Barton)

14 Cows for America (Carmen Agra Deedy: Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah & Thomas Gonzaalez)

Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey (Maira Kalman)

The Little Chapel That Stood (A.B. Curtiss & Mirto Golino)

My Teacher is a Monster (No, I am Not.) (Peter Brown)

Wild About Us (Karen Beaumont & Janet Stevens)

My Friend Maggie (Hannah E. Harrison)

Happy Dreamer (Peter H. Reynolds)

A Tiger Tail (Mike Boldt)

Strictly No Elephants (Lisa Mantchev & Taeeun Yoo)

Be a Friend (Salina Yoon)

Let Me Finish (Minh Lè)

School’s First Day of School (Adam Rex & Christian Robinson)

How To Read a Story (Kate Messner)

Dear Dragon: A Pen Pal Tale (Josh Funk & Rodolfo Montalvo)

Beautiful (Stacy McAnulty & Joanne Lew-Vriethoff)

Where Oliver Fits (Cale Atkinson)

Blue Sky, White Stars (Kadir Nelson & Sarvinder Naberhaus)

 

They All Saw a Cat (Brendan Wenzel)

The Legend of Rock, Paper, Scissors (Drew Daywalt & Adam Rex)

Penguin Problems (Jory John & Lane Smith)

Not Quite Narwhal (Jessie Sima)

Jabari Jumps (Gaia Cornwall)

Dad and the Dinosaur  (Gennifer Choldenko & Dan Santat)

I Like, I Don’t Like (Ale Ale & Anne Baccelliere)

 

MIddle Grade Books Discussed:

Patina (Jason Reynolds)

Miles Morales: Spider Man (Jason Reynolds)

Wishtree (Katherine Applegate)

The Gauntlet (Karuna Riazi)

Fergus & Zeke (Kate Messner & Heather Ross)

Beatrice Zinker Upside Down Thinker (Shelley Johannes)

The Bad Guys (Aaron Blabey)

 

YA Books Discussed:

War Cross (Marie Lu)

Legend (Marie Lu)

In a Perfect World - Trish Doller

The Names They Gave Us (Emery Lord)

Long Way Down (Jason Reynolds)

All American Boys (Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely)

The Hate U Give (Angie Thomas)

Dear Martin (Nic Stone)

Jul 24, 2017

Intro

Hello everyone and welcome to the Books Between podcast! If you love to read, if you are a fan of middle grade, if you want to connect kids between 8-12 to books they’ll love, then you have found the podcast for you! I’m your host, Corrina Allen - a mom of an 8 and 10 year old, a 5th grade teacher, and lately - spending a lot of time on the sidelines of lacrosse fields and tennis courts. But - that gives me more time to read!

This is Episode #29 and today I am welcoming author Corey Ann Haydu to the show to chat about her recent middle grade novel, The Someday Suitcase, and then in the book talk segment, I’ll be chatting about two fantastic new books about friendship.

Main Topic - Interview with Corey Ann Haydu

This week I am excited to welcome to the show Corey Ann Haydu. She is both a Young Adult AND Middle Grade author.  Her most recent YA novel The Careful Undressing of Love was released just this past January. And you might know her from her debut middle grade book Rules for Stealing Stars.  On today’s show, we chat about snow globes, guilt reading, cheese and - of course! - her latest middle grade novel The Someday Suitcase.

The Someday Suitcase

Tell us about The Someday Suitcase - what is this book about?

One of the aspects of this book that I loved was how it shows that a true, deep best friend can bring a little magic into your life.   

Did you have a best friend growing up?

Clover is a very science-minded person.

Do you have a science background?

There is often this mix and a bit of tension between magic & science in the book.  

Do you see science and magic as compatible?

I loved all the metaphors in this book - like the snow globe! At one point Clover’s teacher says, “Sometimes you have to turn something over and upside down to really see it.”  

How did you pick the snow globe to be a central part of the story?

This is a book about so many things! Friendship, and science, and codependency, and snow, and but maybe ultimately about realizing that a loss can also help reveal a different part of yourself that has been dormant.  I don’t want to reveal too much of what form that loss takes for Clover and Danny, but…

Can you talk a bit about how you decided on the ending?

 

Writing Life

You recently moved… I can imagine that a move might be fairly disruptive to writer.

What were the top three things you had to have in place so that you felt like you had a writing space again?

I saw somewhere (maybe Instagram) that you had posted this really inspiring quote from the book BONE by Yrsa Daley-Ward and it says, “If you’re afraid to write it, that’s a good sign. I suppose you know you’re writing the truth when you’re terrified.”

Did any part of writing The Someday Suitcase scare you?

When we first started talking a few months ago, you mentioned how your first school visits were a combination of exhausting and exhilarating.

When you are visiting schools, how do you keep that balance between bringing your full passionate self and also maintaining your energy level?

 

Your Reading Life

What have you been reading lately that you’ve liked?

How do you decide what to read next?

 

Book Talk - Two Fantastic Books about Friendship

In this part of the show, I share with you a few books centered around a theme and discuss three things to love about each book. (Yes - I love the number three! But also - I just need limits!) This week I can’t wait to share with you two books that have been on my mind lately. Both feature girls just venturing into middle school. Both are about what happens when friendships collide over crushes. And both are ultimately about reclaiming a part of yourself that was lost. So, they are - 14 Hollow Road by Jenn Bishop and Bubbles by Abby Cooper.

14 Hollow Road

First up this week is 14 Hollow Road by Jenn Bishop. You might know her from her previous middle grade book, The Distance to Home. This novel is about Maddie. And the night of the sixth-grade dance, a tornado hits parts of her town and destroys her home. And the home of her neighbor and crush, Avery. So - it turns out that a kind couple in the area with rooms to spare lets both families stay in their home for the summer. So - Maddie has to live with her crush. And somehow convince him to like her back instead of that other girl he asked to slow dance with.  Here are three things to love about 14 Hollow Road:

  1. The parts about Hank, her sweet dog who goes missing the night of the tornado. And I won’t reveal what happens there but even though things can’t get resolved exactly happily, how that situation plays out with the collar and with Avery was touching.
  2. When Maddie gets her period! Oh. My. Gosh. And - oh the aftermath when she wants to go swimming but thinks people will see the pad but she’s not ready for a tampon and then wonders if people will know why she’s not swimming. And then she doesn’t even want to go to the pool party at all! The gals reading will either really laugh in recognition or get a sample of what’s to come. And - I just want to say one thing. Please don’t discourage boys from reading this book just because it of the period thing. Guys need to know what’s up - and really, what better way than a light moment in a story to start to figure things out? Let’s please work to end that stigma.
  3. Throughout this book there are these small tender moments. I don’t want to say too much but, there’s a scene where one character is feeling devastated and vulnerable and the other character in that situation just holds their hand. And it was a small moment, but exceptionally sweet.

14 Hollow Road is a fabulous realistic fiction novel about friendship and change and resiliency. And - I wish I could remember who it was to give them credit - but I heard another author say that the last page of 14 Hollow Road is perfection. And, oh -  were they right!

Bubbles

Our second book this week is Bubbles by Abby Cooper! (You might remember her debut novel Sticks & Stones from last year.) This book makes me appreciate the term “speculative fiction” because the premise of this is - what if you could see people’s thoughts above their heads? What insights could you gain? What obligations would that put you under? How accurate is it? And...do you even want to know? Even before reading this book, I was firmly in the camp of “I don’t want to know what people are thinking!”  I’ve read those Sookie Stackhouse books - I know the bad is going to outweigh the benefit of knowing people’s thoughts. (By the way - Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire series - not middle grade! Do NOT get those for your 8-12 year old. But you, adult listener - they’re fun. Especially #4 when the witches erase Eric’s memory and he doesn’t realize he’s the bad guy/vampire! Ahhh…. Okay - I digress!)

Anyway - on to Bubbles!  This book is about 12 year-old Sophie Mulvaney whose life is in turmoil when her mom loses both her job and her boyfriend within a very short period of time. And then Sophie get assigned a school project to do something that pushes herself to take a risk at a time when she’s not feeling very adventurous. And then - she starts seeing thought bubbles above people’s heads - and everything takes off from there! So, here are three things to love about Abby Cooper’s Bubbles.

  1. The little nuggets of history and trivia! It’s a small thing, but makes this book clever and unique. And when Sophie starts to feel a little stressed, remembering and connecting her life to historical facts is a way she copes. For example, at one point she says, “I was crankier than Napoleon must have been after the battle of Waterloo, which he lost really bad.” And then, actually earlier - at the beginning of Chapter 7, Sophie is considering whether or not to go see a therapist about her bubble issue.
  2. The natural portrayal of characters working on their mental health. Sophie’s mother is dealing with some depression after leaving her job as a TV reporter and a tough breakup with a guy who still lives nearby. And that manifests itself in ways that will be familiar to some kids - tiredness and withdrawal from the things she used to love. Sophie and her mom were the Adventurous Girls and now, she would rather stay home. And the solutions to those struggles are not presented as quick or easy, but doable with help. I really think this is a type of book that could help lessen the stigma of mental health issues and a book kids can relate to either because they see themselves or they might recognize things their friends or family are going through.
  3. How this book helps you realize that even if you could read people’s thoughts, you still don’t know the backstory behind those thoughts. And what’s really motivated people. This book really gives readers a lot to think about in that way. It would be a great book club read.

Bubbles and 14 Hollow Road both brought me back to those middle school days when your relationship with your friends is everything. And how threatening and scary and socially isolated you can feel when a friend seems to be slipping away from you. In Bubbles, Sophie’s friend Kaya seems to be taken over by another girl, Viv. And in 14 Hollow Road  Maddie’s feel left out when her best friend Kiersten is spending more time with Gabriella. And then throw an in-common crush into that mix and ugh! It’s awkward and confusing and just one of those rocky experiences you have to figure out. Also - both of these books get that shaving your legs dynamic absolutely right! At least - it resonated with me. When suddenly your friends start shaving and you feel a hairy troll and how it’s just hard to talk to your mom about. I think I snuck my mom’s razor and shaved my legs like a year before she technically allowed me to. (My mom listens to the podcast, so… sorry mom!) These two books would be great options for a mother-daughter book club. My friend, Julie, did that with Abby Cooper’s first book Sticks & Stones and oh I just love that idea!  

 

Closing

Alright - that wraps up our show this week. If you have a question or an idea about a topic we should cover, I would love to hear from you. You can email me at booksbetween@gmail.com or connect on Twitter/Instagram at the handle @Books_Between. There’s always lots of great conversations happening there so, please jump in!

Thank you so much for joining me this week. You can find an outline of interviews and a full transcript of all the other parts of our show along with all of our previous episodes at AlltheWonders.com.  And, while you are there, please take a listen to Matthew Winner’s latest episode of the All the Wonders podcast (#372) where he chats with Hena Khan - the author of Amina’s Voice.  

And, if you like what you hear and value the podcast, I would really appreciate a quick review or rating on iTunes or Stitcher.

Thanks again and see you soon!  Bye!

 

Episode Links:

Corey Ann Haydu's website

Other middle grade books we chatted about:

The Girls from Ames: A story of women and a forty-year friendship by Jeffrey Zaslow

Braced by Alyson Gerber

My Life with the Liars by Caela Carter

The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price by Jennifer Maschari

A young adult book we chatted about:

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

 

Author Leanne Shapton's website

Jul 10, 2017

Intro

Hi and welcome to Books Between - a podcast for teachers, parents, librarians, and anyone who wants to connect kids between 8-12 to books they’ll love. I’m your host, Corrina Allen - a mom of two girls, a 5th grade teacher, and lately I am ALL about the 80s. Have you seen the new Netflix series GLOW? It  stands for “Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling” - it’s full on 1980s amazing. Now, I never really got into wrestling myself but I love this show. It’s fun and self-deprecating and takes you back.  

Before we jump into the show I just want to mention that the day this episode is released - Monday, July 10th - I am in Michigan at Nerdcamp for the next two days! So, if you are there too - please come say hi! And if not, I’ll be posting lots of updates on my Twitter feed (@corrinaaallen) so you can see what NerdCamp is all about.

This is Episode #28 and Today I share with you my experience doing a diversity audit of my classroom library and then I welcome authors Wendy Shang and Madelyn Rosenberg to the show to chat about their new middle grade novel THIS IS JUST A TEST, which is set - in the 80s!

Main Topic - Diversity Audit

First up is how things went when I did a diversity check of my classroom library. If you listened to the last episode (#27 with librarian Sarah Threlkeld) you heard us chatting about this activity she did with her students to reflect on the diversity found in their school library. And I think even way back to Episode 18, I mentioned reading this fantastic blog post over at Lee & Low Books that shared how one teacher helped her class analyze the books in their room to find out how different genders and races are represented. I’ll include a link to that article and the main framework of what I did is pulled directly from there. So I want to be clear - this is not my idea, but I’m sharing how it went for me with the idea that you might want to try it, too.  First I’ll run through the process and then discuss my major takeaways, and how I’ll do it differently next year.

 

The Process:

First, I showed my 5th graders two infographics. Both have been shared widely on social media and you’ve probably seen them, but I’ll post them on the website so you can find them easily. The first one was a black and white image called “The Diversity Gap in Children’s Books” and it shows a bar graph of the percent of kid’s books in the past 21 years that contain multicultural content. And shows that sadly steady around 10% from 1994 to 2014. 2014 was a slight tick up to 14% but well below where it should be. This picture, which is put together by Lee & Low Books also includes pie charts that show the percent of the US population that are people of color and a projection that the U.S. population will be 57% minority in 2060, which really brings into focus the disparity.

 

The second infographic I showed them is from ReadingSpark and called “Diversity in Children’s Books 2015” and is in color with illustrations showing the percents of various groups featured as characters in kid’s books - 73.3% White and 12.5%  Animals/Trucks, 7.6% African/African American, 3.3% Asian Pacific/Asian Pacific Americans, 2.4% Latina/o, and then 0.9% American Indian.

 

So, we gathered on the rug and huddled around the Promethean board where I had the images displayed. And I simply asked my students to look carefully at them both and to chat with a partner about what they noticed. I explained terms where necessary, but otherwise I just let them have a look and asked them to make some observations.

 

And from there, I pivoted the conversation to enlist their help in analyzing our own classroom library so that their information could help me when I ordered new books.  And - I was truly moved by their eagerness. These ten and eleven year olds were ready to roll up their sleeves and dig in to see how our books stacked up.  And we started by thinking about this, “What questions do you have about the diversity in our classroom library?”   And they said things like:

How many books do we have by and about Native Americans?

How many books have an African American main character?

What genre has the most diversity?

Are there more books about people of color than BY people of color?

Do we have more books featuring boys or girls?



I’ll be honest with you - their questions went beyond the scope of what I had planned. They went pretty deep and the data we pulled really only started to answer the questions they had.  

 

So once they had some questions in mind, I had them pair up and grab one bin of books from our classroom library to start sorting through. Our bins are sorted by genre. I used a Google Sheet to record the genre of that bin and some other information.  First, they separated out all the books with people on the cover and analyzed just those. Then they counted how many covers included a person of color and jotted that number down. And then they counted how many covers featured at least one girl. And from there, generated percentages using a calculator - which they enjoyed, but then I quickly learned that we needed a refresher on how to figure out percents.

 

As each pair worked, they added their data to a shared Google Doc so we could see the information come to life in real time.  It was exciting and the kids were so engaged! I think that when they feel like they are doing real work, important work, and are helping you out in a genuine way, they are all in. And some recognized the injustice in the situation and were eager to start to set things (not right) but on a better path.  

 

Our takeaways:

So - what did we discover? First up, I’ll give you some examples of the data (flawed as it is). Starting with gender.  One thing that stood out was that 81% of the biographies were about men. Not good. That’s changing immediately.  Also, realistic fiction seemed to have a better balance of girls and boys with most of those bins featuring kids of different genders. And Fantasy, which I thought was going to be worse, actually only between 9% and 50% only with boys on the cover. That was better than I was anticipating because sometimes that genre is known for a lack of gals. (And a quick side note about that. Now that I’m moving away from thinking about gender as a simple binary of boy or girl, I’m also wondering about better methods for categorizing and doing this type of analysis. So - if you have thoughts on that, please do let me know. There is a whole group of folks out there that want to be doing better and if you have an idea about how to make that happen, I’m absolutely listening.)

Okay - on to the data pulled about race and ethnicity.  The percentage of books with no people of color at all on the cover was pretty high. The best category seemed to be realistic fiction which had percentages like 21%, 43%, 63% and one bin at 93%. Some of the least diverse categories were Fantasy with 79% , 80% and 100% of the books in those bins featuring only white people, and graphic novels with 85%. So, now it’s pretty clear where are some particularly troublesome areas and when I go to purchase books, those genres will be my focus.



So, what did the kids say? Well, I think I’ll give you a sampling of some of their comments:

In the words of one of my girls, “We have a lot of books about white boys in this room!” Yes, we do! And most of them are fantastic, but adding other voices is only going to help so that every kid can see themselves and see the wide range of experiences in our country and in our world.

“A lot of books have shadow people on the cover.” They were referring to silhouettes, and this observation lead to some great discussion about what the publishers might intend with that. They were questioning how to categorize those types of covers and if we needed another category.

 

Another big topic that came up was that some forms of diversity weren’t being accounted for in this exercise. And that all stemmed from the debate about what gender pile to put the book George in. Do we go by the clues on the cover which might suggest a boy? Or do we account for what we know of the story (which is about a transgender girl) and my students said, “We need another category, Mrs. Allen.”  Many students mentioned that religion or disability wasn’t included in what we were looking for. Also, because we only used the visual of the cover, that is really limiting.  A cover that includes a girl or a person of color does not mean that character plays a big part or that they are portrayed in a great way. Were they just the sidekick?

 

Ideas for Next Time

  1. Do this earlier in the year. (We jumped in during the second to last week of school. I want this to be on kids’ minds much earlier.)
  2. Connect with another class doing the same thing and share results. I think that could be powerful.
  3. Include more categories (maybe religion, disability, LGBTQ)
  4. Do some analysis in other places  (This could be a great teacher/librarian collaboration in the school library. Also examine the public library, a local bookstore, Scholastic flyers, or online stores.)
  5. Take this to that next step and have kids research and recommend titles to fill out the gaps in our library. So that they are playing a part in creating a more diverse selection of books that they will love.



Mainly, I was just acutely aware of how limited this exercise was. And yet - I am so glad we did it. The data we gleaned is not going into some peer-reviewed journal, but it gave these kids (and me!) a taste of that data analysis. And, the best part,  it lead to even more questions - and now they know that it’s a question they should ask about the books surrounding them!  And our shared spreadsheet is messy - some percents aren’t accurate and some kids categorized a little differently. But, my hope, is that when they find themselves in a library or bookstore and pick up a book, they’ll remember this and maybe carry those questions and discoveries forward with them and start to (seek out - no! That’s too weak) start to demand more books that reflect our cultures and our communities.

 

And for us, let’s not shy away from this work, as uncomfortable and complicated as it sometimes can be.

And as always, I really want to hear your ideas about this topic. You can tag me on Twitter or Instagram - our handle is @books_between or email me at booksbetween@gmail.com and I’d love to hear and share your ideas.



Interview - Madelyn Rosenberg & Wendy Shang

Today I am so excited to welcome Madelyn Rosenberg and Wendy Shang to the podcast. They are the authors of the recently released middle grade novel This Is Just a Test.  We chat about their collaboration process, epic Thanksgiving dinners, Trivial Pursuit, and all our favorite fashions from the 80s.  Take a listen.

 

This is Just a Test

Your middle grade novel, This is Just a Test, was just released this past June 27th - congratulations!

What is this book about?

 

I loved David and his story but I think for me, my favorite part of this book was that it was set in the early 80s with big hair and boom boxes and Boy George!

What was your research process like in order to make sure that the setting was authentically 1983?



Some quick questions about the 80s….

Favorite 80s band?

Favorite Atari Game?

Favorite 80s TV Show?

Favorite 80s Fashion?

 

Trivial Pursuit plays a big part in this book because David and his two friends Hector and Scott are competing in this big Trivia Tournament and they play the game to practice.

What is your favorite Trivial Pursuit category?

 

Not everything about the 80s was light and fun - one of the major pieces of this book is the looming threat of the Cold War and David’s anxiety after watching The Day After - a pretty scary movie that shows the effects of nuclear war.

Did you see that movie and did it have the same impact on you?




Your Writing Life

How did you two come to know each other?

 

What was your collaboration process like for writing This Is Just a Test? Did you meet in person or do most of your work online?

Your Reading Life

What were some of your favorite books as a child?

 

What have you been reading lately that you’ve liked?




Closing

 

Okay - that wraps up our show this week. If you have a question or an idea about a topic we should cover, I would love to hear from you. You can email me at booksbetween@gmail.com or message me on Twitter/Instagram at the handle @Books_Between.

 

Thank you so much for joining me this week. You can find an outline of interviews and a full transcript of all the other parts of our show along with all of our previous episodes at AlltheWonders.com.

 

And, if you are liking the show, please help others find us too by telling a friend, sharing on social media, or leaving a rating on iTunes or Stitcher.

 

Thanks again and see you soon!  Bye!

 

Episode Links:

http://blog.leeandlow.com/2016/07/07/part-1-having-students-analyze-our-classroom-library-to-see-how-diverse-it-is/

 

Undefeated by Steve Sheinkin

 

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781596439542

 

Today Will Be Different - Maria Semple

 

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780316403436

 

Short - Holly Sloan

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780399186219

 

Unidentified Suburban Object  - Mike Jung

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780545782265

 

Jun 26, 2017

Intro

 Hi everyone and welcome to Books Between - a podcast for teachers, parents, librarians, and anyone who wants to connect middle grade kids between 8-12 to books they’ll love.  I’m your host, Corrina Allen - a mom of two, a 5th grade teacher, completely in love with the Wonder Woman movie! When I was a kid, I had the Wonder Woman lunch box and dressed up as her in one of those old vinyl costumes and I love how fierce yet moral she is in this movie.

 And - if any of you of are headed to NerdCamp in Parma, Michigan this July, I will be there and please do come over and say hi! It’s my first time and I’m so so excited to meet everyone and immerse myself among so many like-minded people.

 Also - something exciting showed up at my front porch yesterday. It was the June OwlCrate Jr. book box and I know that the theme this month is Gizmos & Gears but I have no idea what’s inside. Here, we’ll shake and take a listen…. As I mentioned last week, our episodes this month are supported by OwlCrate Jr. - a book subscription box just for kids 8-12 - or anyone who is still a kid at heart! Each month has a different theme and includes a fantastic newly released book with fun and creative goodies all connected to the theme of that middle grade book.  If you head over to owlcratejr.com you can see some samples of past boxes, and if you use the code BOOKSBETWEEN, you can save 15%. And - at the end of the the podcast today - I will be opening this book and together we will find out what’s inside!

 

This is Episode #27 and Today I am welcoming fellow podcaster and librarian extraordinaire Sarah Threlkeld to the show. We chat about her podcast, Happy Reading, Little House in the Big Woods, what middle grade books we’ve been reading lately, and geek out a little bit on library circulation stats.

If you haven’t yet checked out her middle grade podcast called Happy Reading - you are in for a treat and I know you are going to love it just as much as I do. I’ll put a link to her show in our show notes so you can find it right away.

Take a listen….

Sarah Threlkeld - Interview Outline

 

Happy Reading Podcast

How did the Happy Reading Podcast get started?

What are your plans for the podcast?

 

Little House in the Big Woods

Before you read the book, what was your impression of the Little House Series?

Okay, so - what did you think? 

How do we handle books like this (problematic classics) in classroom?

Librarian Life

I saw on Twitter recently that you were geeking out over your end of the year circulation stats! What info did you discover?

As a librarian, what were some activities or projects or ways to connect kids to books that worked well this past year?

 I heard you are starting a new full-time librarian job this year - what grade levels will you be working with?

 What are some things you are excited about doing differently for the upcoming school year?

 

Your Reading Life

What else have you been reading lately that you’ve liked?

What books are you looking forward to?

 

Interview Links

Happy Reading Podcast: http://happyrdng.blogspot.com

 

Little House in the Big Woods

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780064400015

 

The Honest Truth

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780545665742

 

Olga and the Smelly Thing From Nowhere

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780062351265

 

The Hour of the Bees

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780763679224

 

The Seventh Wish

http://www.indiebound.org/search/book?searchfor=The+Seventh+Wish

 

The Explorers

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781101940051

 

Three Pennies

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781481471879

 

Forget Me Not

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781250096272

  

The Unbreakable Code

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781627791168

 

Mr. Lemoncello’s Library

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780307931474

 

Macy McMillon and the Rainbow Goddess

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781772780338

 

The Terrible Two Go Wild

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781419721854

 

Wolf Hollow

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781101994825

 

Beyond the Bright Sea

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781101994856

 

Masterminds

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780062300058

 

The Wild Robot Escapes

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780316382045

 

I Hunt Killers (YA)

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780316125833

 

This Would Make a Good Story Someday

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781101938171

 

Amulet Series

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781338045642

 

 

Mr. Schu’s Book Release Calendar

https://calendar.google.com/calendar/embed?src=5n3m4522bidf16damifeio1g7k@group.calendar.google.com&ctz=America/Chicago&pli=1

 

 

Closing

 

Okay - we have reached the end of the show and, as promised, I am opening up that OwlCrateJr box and we are going to find out what’s inside.

 

 

And thanks again to OwlCrateJr for supporting the podcast this month - don’t forget to head over to owlcrate.com and use code BOOKSBETWEEN to get 15% percent off your subscription!

 

Alright - that wraps up our show this week. If you have a question or an idea about a topic we should cover, I would love to hear from you. You can email me at booksbetween@gmail.com or message me on Twitter/Instagram at the handle @Books_Between.

 

Thank you so much for joining me this week. You can find an outline of interviews and a full transcript of all the other parts of our show along with all of our previous episodes at AlltheWonders.com.

 

And thanks again to OwlCrateJr for supporting the podcast this month - don’t forget to head over to owlcrate.com and use code BOOKSBETWEEN to get 15% percent off your subscription!

 

And, if you are liking the show, please help others find us too by telling a friend, sharing on social media, or leaving a rating on iTunes or Stitcher.

 

Thanks again and see you soon!  Bye!

Jun 12, 2017

Intro

Hi and welcome to Books Between - a podcast for teachers, parents, librarians, and anyone who wants to connect middle grade kids between 8-12 to books they’ll love.  I’m your host, Corrina Allen - a mom of an 8 and 10 year old, a teacher to eighteen 11 year olds, and we are all in the home stretch for summer vacation. It’s almost here. And - if any of you of are headed to the ALA Conference in Chicago this summer, I will be be there on Saturday and Sunday to interview author Mira Bartok about her new middle grade book The Wonderling. So - if you will be there, look for that and I hope we can meet in person.

This is Episode #26 and Today I am welcoming author Caroline Starr Rose to the show and then in honor of Father’s Day coming up, chatting about some of our favorite fictional dads and two fabulous new books featuring awesome fathers.

But first I am excited to tell you that today’s episode is supported by OwlCrate Jr. - a book subscription box just for kids 8-12. My daughters and I have been loving it! Every month has a different theme and it is such a treat to have a package waiting on your doorstep with a box full of - not only an awesome newly released book but fun little items all connected to the theme of that middle grade book.  If you head over to owlcrate.com you can see some samples of past boxes, and if you use the code BOOKSBETWEEN, you can save 15%. I hope you check them out - I really think you’re going to love it!  

This week I am welcoming to the show Caroline Starr Rose - author of the recently released middle grade historical adventure Jasper and the Riddle of Riley’s Mine. We chat about the inspirations behind her latest novel, encouraging kids to read more, and we reminisce about Little House on the Prairie.

Caroline Starr Rose - Interview Outline

 Your latest middle grade novel, Jasper and The Riddle of Riley’s Mine, was just released this past February.

Is this your first novel that is not written in verse?

Tell us about this new historical adventure - what is Jasper & the Riddle of Riley’s Mine about?

 

One of the things I really loved about this book was they way the boys speak - using “ain’t” and “them” instead of “those”, “it’s his own dern fault”...

How did you capture the voices of Jasper and Melvin?

I just noticed that you have a new picture book on the Pony Express coming out this fall, yes? 

I saw that you taught Social Studies and English.  

A lot of our listeners who are teachers and librarians and homeschooling parents are always trying to find ways to connect subjects to really maximize the limited time we all have.

When you were teaching full time, how were you connecting social studies and English?

Is there anything that you used to do as a teacher that now, looking back - you regret?   Anything you would go back and change?

Even though you aren’t in the classroom anymore, your passion for connecting readers and educators with the right book is clear. I especially love the “Classroom Connections” section on your website where you interview authors about their books and include a specific section on how that book would be a good fit in a classroom.

How do you think that we as parents and teachers can raise kids who love reading?

How is having a teenager reader different than having a middle grade reader at home? As someone who has gone through those years and is now out the other side, what can we expect?

 

You recently posted on your website a quote from Donalyn Miller (one of my inspirations as well!). It said, “I am as much a composite of all the book characters I have loved as of the people I have met.”

Which book characters are you a composite of?

 What have you been reading lately that you’ve liked?

 

Book Talk - Two Novels Featuring Fantastic Fathers

In this section of the show, I share with you a few books centered around a theme and discuss three things to love about each book. This week, with Father’s Day coming up, I thought I would focus on books with great dads. I know it’s such a trope with kids books that the parents get killed off or are otherwise out of the picture so that the main characters can go off on adventures unimpeded, but we’re breaking away from those books today. First, I’ll go into some detail about two newer releases that I have been loving - Amina’s Voice and Beyond the Bright Sea. And then chat about other favorite dads from both modern and classic books.

Amina’s Voice

This week I am starting with Amina’s Voice by an author who is new to middle grade - Hena Khan. This is a lovely and heartfelt story about a Pakistani-American Muslim girl, Amina, who is trying to navigate the complicated tides of middle school friendship where old friends are changing and old adversaries might be changing, too. Amina also has to deal with her rather traditional and more strict uncle visiting their family and figuring out for herself how to express her beliefs and culture. Here are three things to love about Amina’s Voice:

  1. Amina’s family! Her father - who is rather strict, does NOT care if he embarasses his kids by asking a million questions at Open House, but stands up for his daughter at a moment when she needs it. At first I wasn’t sure about him, but oh he grew on me! Her mom, who spends days preparing tons of traditional Pakistani food for their visiting uncle. That doesn’t quite go as planned. And Amina’s older brother, Mustafa, whose interest in trying out for the basketball team instead of joining something like Chess Club causes some friction at home. There was so much to relate to in those family moments in Amina’s Voice.
  2. That ending! I don’t want to give away too much but something bad happens in Amina’s Muslim community and the way things come together in the end makes me wish that every kid could read this story as a template of what to do in that kind of situation. It  didn’t shy away from difficult realities or make problems seem easy to solve yet it was uplifting and perfect.
  3. That this novel offers Muslim students and students from the Middle East with a main character whose background and customs might be a reflection of their own, or have pieces they can relate to. I so wish that I had this book six years ago to offer to my own Amina. She was a student of mine when I taught 6th grade and Muslim. And may have connected to this Amina’s story but she was from Bosnia so although the religious details about the Imam and Sunday school and learning passages from the Quran may have been a connection, the food and other cultural details might not have been. So while this book is absolutely a great addition to any library, I just hope that people don’t stop there and think they’ve covered a niche. It’s one girl’s story and I just can’t wait to see what else this new imprint of Simon & Schuster, Salaam Reads, will bring to the kidlit community so we have more and more stories to offer kids.  

 

Beyond the Bright Sea

Our second book this week is Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk whose novel Wolf Hollow won a Newbery Honor last year. And this book is, I think, another contender. It reminded me a little bit of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society with a touch of Orphan Island in there. This book about a 12 year old girl called Crow who as an infant washed ashore in an old boat on one of the Elizabeth Islands off the coast of Massachusetts. She is now 12 and being raised by a reclusive fisherman and painter who she calls Osh. And the other people on this tiny close-knit island essentially shun her and will not touch her or touch anything she has touched because they think she came from Penikese Island - the nearby leper colony. And this chain of events suddenly takes off when Crow sees a fire on that nearby island and starts to get curious about where she came from. It’s so good! Here are three things to love about Beyond the Bright Sea.

 

  1. The timeless quality of the setting. It reminded me of Pax in that way because there are very few clues at first in the way the islanders dress or how technology is described. Eventually, you do discover precisely when everything is happening but the journey of figuring that out is part of what I liked about the book.
  2. It brought to light some real history.  It took me until half-way through to realize that the leper hospital described in the novel actually existed. And they did really dynamite it and burn it down and transform it into a bird sanctuary for awhile. But the small cemetery does remain. I love a book that brings to light a forgotten story from history.
  3. Crow’s adoptive father who she calls Osh. He has his own secrets, his own complicated backstory, but his quiet, earnest protection of her makes you love him immediately. He’s from another land, speaks in a native language that no one on this New England island knows and we really feel for him as he is so deeply afraid of losing Crow - the one thing that has keep him anchored and steady. And as she ventures out to attempt to find her parents, it’s hard for him at first. And - I don’t want to spoil anything for you but oh when you find out what his name means…. Love him!

 

Both Amina’s Voice and Beyond the Bright Sea are outstanding reads. If you have a kid who enjoyed Finding Perfect or Like Magic or Sticks & Stones - Amina’s Voice would be great next book to introduce them to. And if you have a child who enjoyed Midnight Without a Moon or Wolf Hollow - Beyond the Bright Sea might be the perfect next book.

 

Q & A

Our third and final segment this week is Question & Answer time.

 Question:

This question stems from a conversation I had with some students who have started to notice that in lots of books they are reading the parents are missing, dead, or otherwise out of the picture. So that had me thinking about counter examples and I came up with some but wanted other opinions, too. So I put the question out there on social media and asked: “Which middle grade books have you read that had great dads?”

 

Answer:

And actually - there were a ton! Let’s start with some classics:

  • Obviously one of the first mentioned was Ramona and Her Father. Loved him! I still remember that scene when he’s trying to draw his foot…
  • Pa Ingalls from the Little House series
  • Mr. Weasley from Harry Potter - such an honorable man who took on so much risk to protect Harry

And some more modern novels with dads we love:

  • Papa (Hans Hubermann) from The Book Thief is one of my all-time favorite fathers
  • And one new book that came up over and over again and one that has been a classroom favorite with my 5ths is The Crossover - what a great relationship he had with his twin boys.
  • Another book that was mentioned a lot was The Family Fletcher series and the two awesome dads heading up that family. I haven’t read it yet but that title is moving up my TBR list.
  • Melanie Conklin’s Counting Thyme and the newly released Moon Shadow by Erin Downing are both books that I’ve been dying to read that so many mentioned as having a great fathers.
  • The dad from Gertie’s Leap to Greatness and the dad in The Penderwicks and Mr. Pullman from Wonder and the dad from Ida B and Wolf Hollow!

 

I know there are tons and tons more - so I hope you jump on social media share your favorite middle grade dads.

Closing

Alright - that wraps up our show this week. If you have a question or an idea about a topic we should cover, I would love to hear from you. You can email me at booksbetween@gmail.com or message me on Twitter/Instagram at the handle @Books_Between.

Thank you so much for joining me this week. You can find an outline of interviews and a full transcript of all the other parts of our show along with all of our previous episodes at AlltheWonders.com.

And thanks again to OwlCrateJr for supporting the podcast this month - don’t forget to head over to owlcrate.com and use code BOOKSBETWEEN to get 15% percent off your subscription!

And, if you are liking the show, please help others find us too by telling a friend, sharing on social media, or leaving a rating on iTunes or Stitcher.

Thanks again and see you soon!  Bye!

 

Episode Links:

Caroline's Official Website: https://carolinestarrrose.com

Jasper and the Riddle of Riley's Mine Teaching Guide

Where in the World Are We Reading? Activity

Stone Mirrors: The Sculpture and Silence of Edmond Lewis (Jeannine Atkins)

Wonder: A novel (Emma Donoghue)

Insight (Tasha Eurich)

Three Pennies (Melanie Crowder)

 

May 29, 2017

Intro

 

Hi and welcome to Books Between - a podcast for teachers, parents, librarians, and anyone who wants to connect middle grade kids between 8-12 to books they’ll love.  I’m your host, Corrina Allen - a teacher, a mom, and just back from a trip to our local greenhouse to pick out flowers for our window boxes. I always feel like summer is finally around the corner when I look out and see geraniums and petunias.

 

This is Episode #25 and it’s early!  I had the opportunity to chat with Laurel Snyder about her new novel Orphan Island and so many other things - the need for more upper middle grade books, indie book stores, what she’s been reading lately. It was supposed to last for 30 minutes but, well, we got talking, and it was a great conversation and rather than chop it way down and pair it with some book talks or other information for a more traditional show, I thought I’d just give you an episode of all Laurel Snyder.

 

So here it is.

 

Laurel Snyder - Interview Outline

 

Orphan Island is released May 30th and I am really excited for that because now I will have MORE people to talk to about this story!

I’m wondering, what plans do you have for the Orphan Island publication day and having published several other middle grade novels and picture books - do you have certain traditions or routines on days that books are released?

 

 

What is Orphan Island about?

 

I saw your Nerdy Book Club post explaining why you decided to leave the ending rather open and keep some mysteries unsolved. It made me wonder….

Have you had the grownups clamoring for a sequel?

 

 

When you were first drafting this novel - did the backstory, the “rules of the island” ever change or did you know right away how it was all laid out?

 

 

 

One of the parts of Orphan Island that particularly resonated with me as a parent and teacher was that tension between being protective and giving children the freedom to make mistakes.

As parent, is that something you’ve struggled with yourself?

 

If you were to live on the island, what would be your favorite thing? And what would be the thing you found most challenging?

 

 

One of the goals of this podcast is to share ideas about how to help kids find (and eventually learn to discover themselves) books that they’ll love.

 

You mentioned before that you see a need for more really good upper middle grade books...

 

 

You’ve mentioned that you are are teaching creative writing this spring in the MFA program at Hamline University. I’ve heard so many people say that you never really know something until you have to teach it to someone else.

How has your writing changed as a result of your teaching?

 

I have noticed in my conversations with authors and educators and parents a feeling in the past six months that we are living through a critical time in our nation and therefore they feel a shift in their writing or teaching or parenting.

Have you felt that way yourself?

 

 

 

Your Reading Life

 

You have been an advocate of small independent bookstores. And I’m sad to say that we no longer have one in Syracuse.

What are your favorite indie bookstores?

 

What have you been reading lately that you’ve liked?

 

 

 

Closing

 

Okay - that wraps up our show this week. If you have an idea about a guest we should have or a topic we should cover, I would love to hear from you. You can email me at booksbetween@gmail.com or message me on Twitter/Instagram at the handle @Books_Between.

 

Thank you so much for joining me this week. You can find an outline of interviews and a full transcript of all the other parts of our shows along with all of our previous episodes at AlltheWonders.com.

 

And, if you are liking the show, please help others find us too by telling a friend, sharing on social media, or leaving a rating on iTunes or Stitcher.

 

Thanks again and see you soon!  Bye!

 

 

Charis Books - http://www.charisbooksandmore.com

Little Shop of Stories - http://littleshopofstories.com

 

A Capella Books - https://www.acappellabooks.com

 

The Ivy Bookshop - http://www.theivybookshop.com

The Bird in HAnd  - https://birdinhandcharlesvillage.com

 

The Children’s Bookstore - http://www.thecbstore.com

 

The Red Canoe - http://redcanoecafe.virb.com

 

Avid Bookshop - http://www.avidbookshop.com/welcome

 

Prairie Lights Book Store - http://www.prairielights.com

 

The Canning Season

 

York - Laura Ruby

 

Rebel Souls

 

https://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com/2017/05/24/what-i-was-thinking-about-by-laurel-snyder/

 

 

http://laurelsnyder.com

May 22, 2017

Intro

Hi everyone and welcome to Books Between - a podcast for teachers, parents, librarians, and anyone who loves middle grade books.  I’m your host, Corrina Allen - a 5th grade teacher, a mom, and a HUGE Guardians of the Galaxy fan! I just saw the second movie last weekend, and I loved how the writers constructed a story to make me love a character I had previously hated. And I loved how this story shows how an empathic character can be deeply powerful without toting a gun or fighting. Plus - my favorite band is Fleetwood Mac!

This is Episode #24 and Today we are discussing lots of ideas for summer reading and I’ll be chatting with author Nanci Turner Steveson about her new novel Georgia Rules.

Main Topic - Summer Reading

Our main topic today is summer reading! For me,  my school year up here in New York doesn’t end for another five weeks but lots of my friends are already wrapping up their school year so I thought it would be a good time to discuss this topic. And whether you are a parent, or a librarian, or a teacher there will be something in today’s show that you will find useful.

First, we’ll talk about defining the purpose of summer reading and the importance of planning. Then we’ll talk about ways to ensure access to books for kids and end with some fun summer reading ideas.

Purpose

The first thing to really think about is what purpose summer reading should serve for kids. In my view, summer reading should be all about fun and free choice and continuing to build a community of readers. And not earning trinkets. The prize should be the book, the shared experience, not some cheap piece of junk from a chintzy looking treasure box.  Whatever you decide to do to encourage summer reading, please keep the focus on fun and not guilt tripping kids into reading. As we approach the end of the school year and kids dive into busy or unpredictable schedules, maintaining that reading momentum is key. If you are like me and saying good-bye to outgoing students, it feels a little like they are fledging and you’ll be encouraging more reading independence. Or, maybe you are thinking about activities with incoming students. In that case, your goal might be to welcome them into a new community of readers and to start to build or maintain those relationships heading into a new year.

Planning

One of the most effective things that you can do to get kids reading over the summer is to help them make some reading plans before school ends and to fill up their To Be Read list with titles they are excited about. Suggested book lists can be nice - especially if they are created by other students. (You know how it is - kids are going to listen to each other way more than they’re going to listen to us!)

If there are some movies coming out over the summer that are based on books, definitely mention those and maybe show the trailers. For example, I know there’s a new Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie and Captain Underpants and then Wonder is coming out in the fall.

One thing that I like to do is to try to get kids hooked into a new series right at the end of the year so they are motivated to read the rest of the books into the summer. My school has started using the Units of Study from the TCRWP and our final unit in 5th grade is Fantasy Book Clubs. So they are totally getting hooked on Gregor the Overlander and Wings of Fire and Warriors and already starting to research the sequels.

And - speaking of Fantasy, have you seen the new Wizarding World Book Club being launched this summer through Pottermore? That sounds awesome and every year I have three or four kids who are just getting started in the Harry Potter series so I feel like I relive reading that series every year.  I’ll include a link in the show notes for all of my fellow Potterheads to check out.  So making a great TBR list is one major part of planning summer reading.

Another part is to think about some Summer Challenges. Maybe share the Reading Without Walls Challenge which encourages readers to expand their reading horizons by reading a book about a character who doesn’t look or live like you, a book about a topic you don’t know about and a book in a format you don’t normally read for fun. Scholastic also has a Summer Reading Bingo Card that might be fun to print out and try with spaces like Read With a Flashlight, Read Outside, or Read Aloud to an Adult - those are fun but what might be even cooler would be to have kids design their own Summer Reading Bingo cards!

One last word about planning. Definitely share your own summer reading plans with your students and your kids. They are really more likely to follow through if you join them and make your commitment public.

Access

Alright so you now know your purpose and you and the kids have a plan. Let’s talk about helping them have access to those amazing books they want to read. One great idea that I know a lot of teachers and librarians are doing is to coordinate a Book Swap at the end of the year where kids bring in books from home, share them in some central spot and then take what they want.

Another idea for teachers is to give each child in your class a book as an end-of-the-year present.  I did this for the first time ever last year. I went to my local Scholastic Warehouse during their year-end sale, and I picked out a book that I knew the child had not yet read but I thought they would really like. And I brought with me my clipboard of Status of the Class sheets from the entire year so I had a record of exactly what they had read and I had a decent idea of what they would like. Then I added a personalized note inside, wrapped each one up, and added a Krazy Straw and a some ribbon. Now, depending on your class size or your budget, that is not always an option. When I taught in a middle school with over 60 students, I just couldn’t do that.  Now, I have just one class and also I don’t buy lots of other things so I can splurge a little at the end of the year.

 

Another way to get more books into kids hands over the summer is to open up your classroom library or the school library over the summer. Some schools I know have library hours once a week. Some handle the issue of access by letting each child take out ten books over the summer. If you can do this, I think it’s a fabulous idea. Why let the books just sit around?

 

However, if that is not possible or you’re not there yet another thing you can do is send home a resource sheet to let parents know where they can get books over the summer. List the locations of local libraries, of any Little Free Libraries in the area, and also the links to online places where they access books and articles. Definitely don’t forget about digital reading. Places like Wonderopolis or Newsela or any other online databases or subscription site they use during the school year. Often those passwords will work right over the summer. And don’t forget to plug the audio books! Sometimes a summer trip is the perfect time to try out an audio book.

 

Bringing books out into the community is another fantastic way to get more books out to more kids. You could set up one or more Little Free Libraries near the school. A lot of my local libraries are placing satellite Little Free Libraries around in various parks. If you’re up for a bit of planning - and maybe it won’t happen this summer but put it in the back of your mind for next year - a bookmobile would be another great method of outreach and making sure that every kid can bump into some books over the summer! Julie, a librarian friend of mine, took a bookmobile out to a local breakfast spot on the weekends. A local ballpark where they have summer rec games going on would be another great spot. I’m thinking of summer festivals and 4th of July spots or the Farmer’s Market!

 

Basically, you want to make sure kids have books in their hands before they leave school and know exactly where to go to get more.

 

8 Summer Projects & Activities

Let’s talk about some cool summer projects and activities that you can do with students or your own kids. Here are eight ideas for summer reading projects:

  1. Have students write a letter or postcard to you over the summer telling you about a book they loved. You can supply a template if you want and a pre stamped and self-addressed envelope before the end of school.
  2. Do a Library Crawl! I chatted with you about this back in January on Episode 14, but my daughters and I challenged ourselves to hit 16 libraries during the summer of 2016. And we posted pictures on social media along the way, included some Little Free Libraries, and it was a lot of fun. This idea is more geared toward parents but you might find a way to do something similar as a teacher or librarian.
  3. Host a meetup at your local library or bookstore. Set a few dates ahead of time and join your students for a quick get-together to share what you’ve been reading and pick out some new titles. Usually libraries have summer programs going on, so you could time those meetups to match the library schedule.
  4. Meet at school for a Breakfast & Book Swap! Make some pancakes, chat about books, and get some ideas of what to read next.
  5. Share your reading on Social Media. You could encourage kids to share pics of their books on Snapchat or Twitter or Instagram and maybe use a school hashtag. Also - if you use Google Classroom or Seesaw, often students can still log-in to use those over the summer. So, why not take advantage of that and continue to share what you’re reading through June, July, and August?
  6. Summer Book Clubs! If you have multiple copies of the same book, put together a book club that meets a couple times over the summer.
  7. Is an idea called Books on Blankets that I first saw on Stacey Reidmiller’s site Literacy for Big Kids. And basically, they host a get-together once a week over the summer with a read aloud, popsicles, and kids get a free book! Families bring a blanket and sit out on the grass and enjoy a great story together.
  8. Is a similar idea but instead of having a read aloud at your school, do a read aloud station at, say, your local Farmer’s Market. It doesn’t have to be for the whole day - maybe just half an hour! Or really, any place where lots of kids gather over the summer. Just gather some books in a totebag, lay out a beach blanket, put up a sign, and start reading!



You may not be ready to take on some of these ideas, yet. I am definitely not quite ready for some of them. But, every year I feel like I’m adding another piece. But - please keep in mind that you don’t have to do everything yourself. I certainly would find it hard to commit to going to my school once a week for the entire summer. But, I could get together with some my colleagues and some PTO members and we could each take one week.  

 

My challenge to you and to myself is to find one area where you could encourage more pleasure reading this summer. And I know you’ll get just as much out of it as your kids will.

 

And of course, I want to hear about your summer reading plans and ideas. You can tag me on Twitter, Instagram, and now Facebook - our handle is @books_between or email me at booksbetween@gmail.com and I’d love to see what you’ve got going on this summer.



Interview - Nanci Turner Steveson

 

Today I am excited to welcome Nanci Turner Steveson to the podcast. She is the author of Swing Sideways and the newly released Georgia Rules.  We chat about why she set her new middle grade novel in Vermont, the theatre, and her favorite kind of pie. Take a listen.

 

Welcome to the podcast!

I heard that your first novel, Swing Sideways, was nominated for the Wyoming Indian Paintbrush Award! Congratulations!

 

Georgia Rules

Your second middle grade novel, Georgia Rules, is released today.  I am so honored to be chatting with you on your launch day!

Tell us about Georgia Rules - what is this story about?

 

At the beginning of the book, the catalyst that prompts Maggie and her mom to move to Vermont is that her step-father has decided to divorce them and have a boyfriend move in. And I just want to say that situation of a family breaking up and one of the parents moving on to a same-sex relationship is becoming more common - or at least more openly acknowledged. And I am glad that it’s in this book - I think Georgia Rules is the first book I’ve read that’s shown a breakup in that way.



There is this tension between the more formal “Georgia Rules” that Magnolia has been brought up with in Atlanta and the more casual, country vibe of Vermont.

Which one is more in line with your upbringing?

 

I loved the Vermont setting - it reminded a lot of Central New York actually.

Have you ever lived in Vermont?

 

The Parker family is known for their pies.

What is your favorite pie?



Your Writing Life

You’ve mentioned that you got a late start in publishing and that your first novel, Swing Sideways, wasn’t published until you were older.

Were you writing all along and just stuck with it until you had a breakthrough or did you also come to writing later as well?

 

What drew you to writing middle grade?

 

Theatre

I’ve noticed that you are involved in the theatre! =

What do you do - act? Or more technical aspects?



What sort of chapter books did you like to read when you were a kid?

 

What about have you been reading lately?

 

Thank You!






Closing

 

Okay - that wraps up our show this week. If you have a question about how to connect middle grade readers to books they will love or an idea about a guest we should have or a topic we should cover, I would love to hear from you. You can email me at booksbetween@gmail.com or message me on Twitter/Instagram at the handle @Books_Between.

 

Also, this past week I was honored to be a guest on the What Book Hooked You? podcast where I chatted with Brock Shelly about The Book Whisperer and lots of other things. I’ll link to that in the shownotes if you want to check it out.

 

Thank you so much for joining me this week. You can find an outline of interviews and a full transcript of all the other parts of the show along with all of our previous episodes at AlltheWonders.com.

 

And, if you are liking the show, please help others find us too by telling a friend, sharing on social media, or leaving a rating on iTunes or Stitcher.

 

Thanks again and see you in two weeks!  Bye!

 

https://www.pottermore.com/news/wizarding-world-book-club-coming-soon-to-pottermore

 

http://www.cbcbooks.org/reading-without-walls/



http://oomscholasticblog.com/rules/2017ScholasticReadingBingo.pdf

 

https://littlefreelibrary.org

 

https://newsela.com

 

http://www.literacyforbigkids.com/blog/summer-reading-the-authentic-way

 

May 8, 2017

Intro

 

Hi everyone - welcome to Books Between - a podcast focused solely on middle grade readers and to help teachers, parents, and librarians connect them to books they will love. I’m your host, Corrina Allen - a mom of two, a 5th grade teacher and still basking in the glow of getting to see Neil DeGrasse Tyson LIVE when he came to Syracuse! He talked about science in the movies and was utterly hilarious. If you ever have a chance to go see him, please do it!

 

This is Episode #23 and Today I am welcoming author Victoria Coe to the show and then chatting about two excellent new May releases that you won’t want to miss, and then answering a question about middle grade classics in the classroom.

 

Main Topic - Interview with Victoria Coe

 

Today I am honored to welcome Victoria Coe. She is the author of the amazing and fun Fenway & Hattie series which was just picked as one of the 2017 Global Read Aloud choices.  We chat about pets, Beverly Cleary’s Ribsy, what makes an author visit go smoothly, and lots of other things! Take a listen.

 

Global Read Aloud

We’ve been working on having you come on to the show for a few months now but I am actually glad that the timing worked out for now so that I could talk to you about the Global Read Aloud! I admit, I actually screeched when I saw the announcement that Fenway & Hattie was selected for 2017!

 

How did you find out that Fenway & Hattie was picked?



From the very first pages, I knew the Fenway & Hattie was a book that begged to be read out loud! Even when I was reading it by myself alone, I found myself mouthing the words and already figuring out where I would pause to let my students figure out what’s happening.

 

Could you tell us what the book is about for those listening who haven’t read it yet?

 

It wasn’t until I finished reading the book that I noticed the “1” written on the spine, so I was really excited to know that it will be a series and we’ll get to spend more time in Fenway’s world! I know the second one has come out already - Evil Bunny Gang.

 

Did I see that Book 3 was announced recently?

 

In Fenway & Hattie, one of the funny aspects of the story is the names that Fenway gives to the family. So, the dad is “Fetch Man” and the mom is “Food Lady”.

 

So - in your home, what would your pets call you?



There is just something about dog books that have the potential to connect so deeply with an audience. In fact, you wrote a post on the Nerdy Book Club site called “How Ribsy Changed My Life”.

 

What was it about that dog and that book that fascinated you?

 

I follow you on Instagram and Twitter and I have to say that I love and appreciate that you and so many authors share aspects of their life - your writing process, your inspiration, your frustrations sometimes!  Recently I’ve seen a lot of pics of school visits.

 

What is a Victoria Coe school visit like?

 

So we have a lot of teachers and librarians listening who plan author visits.

 

What are some things that you appreciate and like as a visiting author?



One thing that I am always trying to encourage in my students is developing a rich reading life.

 

How do you make time for reading in your life and what have you read lately that you’ve really liked?





Book Talk - Two Excellent New Novels

 

In this section of the show, I share with you a couple books centered around a theme and discuss three things to love about each book. This week I want to share with you two fantastic novels just released last week. Both are books about the seismic changes that can happen when someone new comes into your life.  They are Three Pennies by Melanie Crowder and Posted by John David Anderson.



Three Pennies

 

I will start with Three Pennies by Melanie Crowder. This novel is about an eleven year old girl named Marin who was abandoned many years ago by her mother and has been bounced around the foster system in San Francisco since she was four. And she’s come up with these rules for survival which essentially boil down to this; BE INVISIBLE. Don’t bother the adults, don’t fight with other kids, but that makes for an incredibly lonely existence and a situation where a kid can all too easily get swept aside and forgotten. And at age 11, there’s little chance she’s going to get adopted. All Marin has from her mother are three things: fading memories, a ceramic piggy bank with one coin rattling inside, and a copy of the I Ching. Marin is constantly casting her three pennies and using the book to try to find her way back to her mother. But, the I Ching is also called The Book of Changes and Marin’s eleventh year is full of unexpected turns. Here are three things to love about Three Pennies:

 

  1. Dr. Lucy Chang! She is Marin’s latest foster parent - a kind but clinal woman. And single. The reason why she’s single comes out in a dinner conversation where Marin tries to be rude to Lucy (because she fears being adopted and losing hope of that reunion with her mother.) Lucy is a science-minded surgeon and precise, but I love how she uses that in the service of being kind toward Marin.  For example, she shares these great analogies of the human body. Let me read you a couple.
  2. The owl in the story. Every few chapters we get a brief scene from the point of view of a young rehabilitated owl living among the tall buildings in San Francisco and observing what happens below. It’s a quieter and softer part of the book but I love how those chapters weave through the main parts of the story and especially how the owl connects and comes together with the other characters at the end.  
  3. And I can’t talk about that owl without mentioning the stunning cover art by artist Victo Ngai. It is vibrant with the golds and warm browns of this owl with piercing teal eyes. It’s a stunner of a cover and the artist has done work for The New Yorker and The New York Times - and her work is amazing. I’ll post a link to her site in the show notes so you can check it out.

 

Three Pennies is a beautifully written and gentle book about finding family. If you have kids who might love One For the Murphys or Counting by 7s, but you want something a little shorter and maybe easier to read on that same theme, this book is a great option.

 

Posted

 

Next up this week is a book I have been waiting to get my hands on - Posted by John David Anderson, who you might know from his most recent middle grade novel - Ms. Bixby’s Last Day. This story is about a tight-knit group of four middle school boys. Their nicknames are Frost, Bench, DeeDee, and Wolf. The story is told from Frost’s point of view. He earned his nickname (from Robert Frost) because he won a poetry contest in 5th grade. His parents are recently divorced. His close friend is Bench and he got his nickname because he’s always warming the bench for every team he’s on. He’s big and kind of their protector. No one messes with them when Bench is around. Then there is DeeDee who’s small, kinda geeky, dramatic and the Dungeon Master when they play D&D. Hence his nickname, DeeDee. And finally, Wolf. He is a lanky, quieter kid who’s a piano prodigy and got his name from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Each of them are kind of outcasts and outsiders in their own way.  But - they have found each other - their tribe as Frost calls it - and support each other. Until a new girl, Rose, shows up and things get thrown into turmoil in unexpected ways. Interconnecting with that dynamic is the fact that all cellphones have been recently banned at Branton Middle School and post-its have become the new contraband form of communication. And what starts off as DeeDee posting fun sticky notes on his friend’s lockers snowballs into this mess of a situation where their friendship is really tested. This is one of those books that the more you read, the more you want to slow down and savor the story, the language - and just spend time with these characters. Well - some of them.  There are so so many things I want to say to rave about this book! I have to limit myself to three - but honestly I could list at least 30. So, just as a small sample, here are three amazing things about John David Anderson’s Posted:

 

  1. How much Anderson GETS middle school and the inner life of middle school kids. Before coming to teach 5th grade in an elementary school, I was a 6th grade teacher in a middle school for 8 years. And I used to joke that middle school is the Social Serengeti. There are predators and prey and you better do whatever you can to get cover within a group. And Posted absolutely captures this. Frost calls it the Middle School Minefield. And, oh the antics these four boys get involved in! From making homemade dynamite in their driveway to accidentally microwaving a can of Spaghettio’s and almost burning down the house. These are the stories every kid can relate to - and I’m sure they have some similar ones of their own.
  2. How well Anderson builds suspense by withholding information and slowly revealing it in pieces later on.  For examples, there are these various messages written on post-its throughout the story, phrases thrown at one of the characters, and an awful text that gets a girl suspended (which is the catalyst of the cell phone ban).  Anderson doesn’t reveal what those messages are at first, but describes everyone’s reactions to it.  Or he tells the consequences of a conversation, but the details come out more slowly - I LOVED it!Just like he did with Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, Anderson is masterful at sliding the pieces of the puzzle into your view until you start to see the picture yourself.
  3. How this book reminded me of the Netflix series Stranger Things. I know that sounds odd because they’re two completely different genres! But - both are about four close friends used to their own routines when a vulnerable yet powerful girl is suddenly in their midst. And how they handle that disruption and the decisions they make about who to protect could either fracture their friendship or bring them closer together. And - there’s lots of Dungeons & Dragons references!



When you get a new book by an author whose previous work blew you away, you’re almost expecting to be let down. Posted was everything I was hoping for, and I think this one might actually be even more of a winner with kids because the conflicts are centered so clearly on their lives. Ya gotta get this one!

 

Q & A

Our final segment this week is Question & Answer time.

 

Question:

This question comes from Annamaria on Twitter “Hi, @Books_Between  I'm looking for "classics" to fill a bookcase in my classroom. Have Dahl, L I-Wilder, CS Lewis, few others. Rec's? Thx!”

 

Answer:

Alright - yes! Here are a few titles and authors you might want to add.

  • The Indian in the Cupboard (and the sequels)
  • Harriet the Spy
  • All the Beverly Cleary books! (Ramona books, Ribsy books, Mouse & the Motorcycle)
  • The Wizard of Oz series
  • Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry
  • The Wind in the Willows
  • Where the Red Fern Grows
  • A Wrinkle in Time - that one is also a series
  • E. B. White (Charlotte’s Web, The Trumpet of the Swan, Stuart Little)
  • The Hobbit
  • The Hundred Dresses
  • Louisa May Alcott (Little Women and Little Men)
  • The Boxcar Children Series
  • Christopher Paul Curtis (The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963 and Bud, not Buddy)
  • Black Beauty
  • Lots of the E.L. Konigsburg (books like From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler)
  • Frances Burnett’s The Secret Garden and A Little Princess
  • Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys
  • Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle Series
  • Some really like the Betsy-Tacy series - I haven’t read them but would feel remiss if I did not mention them
  • Mary Poppins Series
  • Anne of Green Gables books
  • Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass
  • All the Judy Blume books! (well, wait - careful, she does have some adult books out, but definitely Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Blubber)  

 

You know, in looking at this list, there are so many that I grew up loving but I recognize that in many “classics” lists, the titles and authors do lack diversity and also, where you do find some diverse characters, they’re often not portrayed that well. So in considering including classics in your library, that is an aspect to think about.

 

So, listeners - I know I have forgotten some. What other “classics” would you add to this list and especially, what are some more multicultural “classics” that should be included?  We will absolutely revisit this again with some updates.

 

Closing

 

Alright - that’s it for our show this week. If you have a question about how to connect middle grade readers to books they will love or an idea about a guest we should have or a topic we should cover, please let me know. You can email me at booksbetween@gmail.com or message me on Twitter/Instagram at the handle @Books_Between. Also, we have just launched a newsletter. So if you are interesting in more middle grade goodness, I’ll post a link to sign up for that in the shownotes.

 

Thank you so much for joining me this week. You can get find an outline of interviews and a full transcript of all the other parts of the show along with all of our previous episodes at AlltheWonders.com.

 

And, if you are liking the show, please help others find us too by telling a friend, sharing on social media, or leaving a rating on iTunes or Stitcher.



Thanks again and see you in two weeks!  Bye!

 

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Nutcracker-Mice-Kristin-Kladstrup/dp/0763685194

 

https://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com/2015/09/15/how-ribsy-changed-my-life-or-it-all-depends-on-your-point-of-view-by-victoria-j-coe/

 

FENWAY AND HATTIE resource padlet: https://padlet.com/victoriajcoe/mr9wmo96cm65

 

https://theglobalreadaloud.com/2017/04/07/and-the-winners-are-global-read-aloud-choices-2017-gra17/

 

Info about my author visits: http://www.victoriajcoe.com/school-visits

 

author page at PenguinRandomHouse.com where you can click on all three books for a description and order/preorder links: http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/authors/2109553/victoria-j-coe

 

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780380709557

 

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781481492065

Apr 24, 2017

Intro

Hi everyone and welcome to the Books Between podcast! If you are a middle grade teacher, a librarian, a parent of a child between 8 and 12 - or anyone who just loves to chat about kids’ books - then you are in the right spot!  Our focus is generally middle grade books but occasionally we veer into picture books or YA.  I’m your host, Corrina Allen - a mom of two, a 5th grade teacher and enjoying our Spring Break! It’s been low key but relaxing.

This is Episode #22 and Today I am welcoming author Adrienne Kress to the show and then chatting about three fantastic books featuring famous people or people who should be famous.

Main Topic - Interview with Adrienne Kress

Today I am honored to welcome Adrienne Kress. She is the author of the newly released action-adventure mystery called The Explorers: The Door in the Alley. And in our conversation we chat about traveling, the difference between writing Young Adult vs. Middle Grade, and high tea. Take a listen.

A few weeks ago as I was preparing to read The Explorers and I knew we would be chatting, I hopped on your website and whoa! You are a woman of many talents - not only an author but an actor, a playwright, producer/director…

How do those roles all work together? What is your day like?

I was reading your bio section in the back of the book and you mention that both of your parents are English teachers and yet I read an article where you described yourself as a reluctant reader as a child.

What was that like for you?

Let’s talk about The Explorers ! Your middle grade book is coming out Tuesday, April 25th.

Tell us what it’s about!

I am excited to get the final version and see the artwork - not only how the artist envisioned the characters and setting, but I was really intrigued by the placement on the pages…

Can you tell a bit about that process?

One of the things that fascinated me about The Explorers Society with the huge multi-floor library built around this giant tree and rooms dedicated to the interests of the explorers. One person explores deserts and one focuses on leaves and another one is interested in sewers.

If you were to join the Explorers Society, what would you dedicate your life to exploring?

You ended this novel with one heck of a cliffhanger!!!

When is Book 2 coming out? Do you know yet?

Not only do you write middle grade books, but you also have YA books out as well.

When you set out to write a book, do you already know ahead of time whether it will be Young Adult or Middle Grade? What is that process like for you?

Coffee or Tea?

What is your reading life like now?  What have you read lately that you’ve really liked?

If people wanted to follow you and find out more about your work , where should they go?

 

Book Talk - Three Books Featuring Famous People or People Who Should Be Famous

In this section of the show, I share with you three books centered around a theme and discuss three things to love about each book. This week we are focusing on stories about amazing people - both historical and modern. They are Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, Who Wins? 100 Historical Figures Go Head-to Head, and Spy on History: Mary Bowser and the Civil War Spy Ring.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls

This week I’ll start with Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls. I’m almost embarrassed to admit where I saw this book first. Umm… it was a Facebook ad. I guess that tells you two things - 1) I spend too much time on Facebook and 2) Facebook knows me disturbingly well!  And - and I guess I’ll add a third - sometimes Facebook ads really do work. I saw Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls scroll across my feed and thought - “Yes! I want that book for my daughters. But - I also want it for me.”  So, let me tell you about it. It is 100 tales of extraordinary women illustrated by 60 female artists from all around the world. It’s written by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo - both women entrepreneurs whose idea for this book stemmed from the fact they wished they had grown up with more female role models. The book became the most funded book in crowdfunding history.

Here are three things to love about Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls:

  1. How each one-page biography is written like a mini fairy tale. It’s such a different take on a biography compilation. Let me give you a few examples: “Once there was a little girl who didn’t speak for five years. She thought her words could hurt people and promised herself to never make a peep again. Her name was Maya.” That’s Maya Angelou.  Here’s another one. “Once there was a girl who wanted to drive a car. She lived in Saudi Arabia, a country where religious rules forbid women from driving. One day she decided to break the rules.” - That’s Manal Al-Sharif, the women’s rights activist. I just love them - and there’s something about telling these women’s stories like this that elevates them to a heroic level and makes you feel like you can slay your own dragons.
  2. The variety of stories and the women you get to learn about. For instance, the book includes artists like Frida Kahlo and Coco Chanel but also tattoo artist Maud Stevens Wagner. There are well-known political figures like Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Evita Peron but we also get know about Somali politician Fadumo Dayib and Indian Queen and Warrior Lakshmi Bai. There are mathematicians, and surgeons, and drummers, and spies, and chefs, and mountaineers, and one elementary school student - Coy Mathis, born in 2007. And I’ll leave her story for you to discover.
  3. And finally - at the very end there is a place to write your own story and draw your own portrait. How powerful is that?

 

Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls would be a great gift - especially for girls, but could absolutely be enlightening for boys as well. As I was reading some to my daughters, I had my teacher hat partially on and was thinking that this would be great for Women’s History Month next year. We could read one brief story every day and expand our knowledge of some women who should be known and celebrated for their accomplishments.

Who Wins? 100 Historical Figures Go Head-to Head

Next up this week is 100 Historical Figures Go Head-to Head created by Clay Swartz and illustrated by Tom Booth. This is an awesomely fun mix-and-match flip book set up as a game where we imagine important historical figures competing in a variety of interesting scenarios. It’s a really sturdy spiral bound book made up of three panels. On the left and on the right are the people. The bottom half features a drawing of that person facing inward toward their opponent and some quick descriptors. For example, we have Harry Houdini (Mr. Magic: Entertainer, Illusionist, Adrenaline Junkie) facing off with Cleopatra (Queen of the Nile: Pharaoh, Feminist, Diva). And  - the bottom lists how each person rates across 7 categories: Wealth, Fitness, Wisdom, Bravery, Artistry, Leadership, and Intelligence. For example, Houdini rates as a 7 for wealth and Cleopatra is a 9. Houdini is a 10 for fitness while Cleopatra is only a 6. So you have some basis for debate. Then the top of each side includes a short biography of each person and a couple “Little Known Facts”.  Then - the middle describes the battle scenario. There are things like: Summiting Everest, Slam Dunk Contest, Rap Battle, Brain Surgery, Wrestlemania, Selling the Most Girl Scout Cookies. On this page, Houdini and Cleopatra are going head to head about who could Sneak Into Area 51! Hmmmm….  I don’t know. Houdini’s really good at escaping from places, and didn’t Cleopatra sneak into see someone rolled up in a rug? Or am I just thinking of the Elizabeth Taylor movie and that is actually a myth.  That’s a tough one.

But that’s what’s fun about this book!  If you’re not already sold, here are three more awesome reasons to love 100 Historical Figures Go Head-to Head:

  1. You - and your kids - are never going to get bored with this book! There are 100,000 possible combinations, and I can attest that with my own kids, the conversation starts with the match-up and then spirals into discussing other situations.
  2. And did I mention? It’s full color!! It’s gorgeous and really designed well. The three panels are not just basic rectangles - they are done in a zig-zag pattern that somehow keeps the pages from sliding over each other too much. They nestle together.
  3. The potential to springboard some cool projects and discussions off this book! Again, I’ve always got my teacher hat on and I kept thinking that it would be really cool to act some of these out. Thomas Edison vs. Mother Teresa in a Hot Dog Eating Contest! Or… if your school is like mine, we often have a biography unit. Perhaps your students could take their biography subject and give them a rating in a few categories and have them face off in different situations. And it doesn’t have to be a lengthy thing, maybe just a quick find a partner and “Okay, Who would do better living on a desert island? You’ve got two minutes to chat and back up your ideas.”  Or - for your own children, this would be the perfect book to stash in your car.

Spy on History: Mary Bowser and the Civil War Spy Ring

Our last book this week is Spy on History: Mary Bowser and the Civil War Spy Ring by Enigma Alberti with illustrations by Tony Cliff.  This is an interactive historical narrative about an African American spy, Mary Bowser, who infiltrated the Confederate administration. She posed as an illiterate slave in Jefferson Davis’ White House during the Civil War and sent information to Union Generals. Truly an unsung hero of American history. This is based on true events and the history is accurate, but it is dramatized into a suspenseful story.  Here are three things to love about Mary Bowser and the Civil War Spy Ring:

  1. The interactive part. Readers actually get to solve a mystery in this book! It comes with spycraft materials like a cipher wheel, red acetate paper, and a white vellum sheet that when you line it up correctly can be used to help crack the code on certain pages.  It is SO cool! And comes with a sealed answer key if you get stuck.
  2. How this book angles history from the perspective of a black enslaved woman. History is told by those in power and for far too long, we have been denied the point of view of most women and most people of color, and I am so glad children get a chance to meet and know Mary Bowser.
  3. And finally, what I liked most about this book was that I couldn’t read it. Now, what I mean by that is that I attempted to read it, but it very quickly got snatched out of my hands. I started reading on the couch and as soon as the words, “OOOoooo...there’s codes in this…” came out of my mouth, my daughters were huddled behind me reading over both my shoulders. Then… they climbed over the back of the couch and into my lap to “help” me flip through the pages. And then they saw the grid of letters and snatched it away to go solve it without me! Argh!

Mary Bowser and the Civil War Spy Ring is a little bit like a combination of a Mail order Mystery and Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales. If you know a kid who loves a mystery, who loves cracking a code, who loves a suspenseful story - then this one is a winner.

A couple quick announcements before we close today. I’ve skipped the Question & Answer segment the last couple of weeks mainly because I didn’t want to have the episodes run too long. I know several of you have sent questions. Thank you! And I’ll be back on track answering those next time.

Also - I discovered new website for you to check out! It’s teacherswhoread.blogspot.com It just launched a few weeks ago and it’s a great site if you’re looking for more middle book recommendations or engaging literacy ideas to try out in your school.

Closing

Alright - that’s it for our show this week. If you have a question about how to connect middle grade readers to books they will love or an idea about a guest we should have or a topic we should cover, I really love to hear from you. You can email me at booksbetween@gmail.com or message me on Twitter/Instagram at the handle @Books_Between.

Thank you so much for joining me this week. You can get find an outline of interviews and a full transcript of all the other parts of the show along all of our previous episodes at AlltheWonders.com.

And, if you are liking the show, please help others find us too by telling a friend, sharing on social media, or leaving a rating on iTunes or Stitcher.

Thanks again and see you in two weeks!  Bye!

http://teacherswhoread.blogspot.com

http://www.adriennekress.com

Apr 10, 2017

Intro

 

Hi everyone! Welcome to Episode 21 of Books Between - a podcast for teachers, parents, librarians, and anyone who loves middle grade books!  I am Corrina Allen - a teacher, a mom, and a big podcast fan.  And I’ll tell you - I have been absolutely sucked into the new STown podcast for the past week! And have probably spend too much time and stayed up far too late looking at pictures of hedge mazes, sundials, and antique clocks. So, I know you like podcasts - definitely go listen to STown.

 

Since April is National Poetry month, our show today is all about celebrating the power of poetry! I’ll share with you a couple poetry resources to help you enjoy poetry more with your students and kids, and then chat about some fabulous books - from picture books to poetry anthologies to novels in verse.  

 

Main Topic - Celebrating the Power of Poetry

 

I will straight up tell you that I was slow to appreciate poetry in the way it really deserves. I was always a voracious reader even as a kid, but I rarely ever picked up any poetry when left to my own devices.  I guess I always thought of it as a complicated puzzle or containing some secret message that I was just too obtuse to figure out.  I even had this ridiculous idea that all poetry was romantic.  Yeah - I know - WRONG!

 

So, I have been on a mission lately to shed my own misconceptions and make SURE that I am not passing those along to my own children or my own students. It is still very much a work in progress for me, but I thought today I’d share with you a few ideas about how to include more poetry in the lives of your kids - not only during National Poetry Month, but all year long.

 

Rethinking Poetry

First off, I think that rethinking reading poetry is the biggest step. Helping kids understand that poetry can be about ANYTHING (not just love) is a major step. The best way to to do this? Start by reading lots of varieties of poetry with them. I know we are all pressed for time, but reading a short poem every day (or even start with every week!) would take less than a minute and can often be done in those “gap times” like waiting in the hallway or waiting for the bus to arrive. (And later on, I’ll share with you some places to get those poems.)  Also, I used to think that as a teacher, I would have to hammer the heck out of a poem and make sure my students had yanked that thing apart and knew the theme, the rhyme pattern, the symbols, the point of view of the author and on and on and on until… well, it just wasn’t enjoyable anymore. For me or my students!

 

The event that recently cemented for me the fact that teaching poetry doesn’t have to be like that was Laura Shovan’s live Facebook Event hosted by The Nerdy Book Club. It was called “It’s National Poetry Month: Let’s Teach Poetry!” and you can find an archive of that event through their facebook page and I’ll also include a direct link to it in our show transcript. So anyway - Laura Shovan is a poet-in-the-schools for the Maryland State Arts Council’s Artist-in-Education program and the author of the novel in verse The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary. In this video, she walks through how to teach the poem “Weather” by Eve Merriam. The whole thing is worth checking out, but I just wanted to share with you a few highlights:

  • Read the poem aloud and ask students what THEY notice, what stands out to them, what got them thinking or feeling. And every time I have done this over the past week, my students will catch aspects of the poem I would never have considered.  I love the advice of having students take the conversational lead.
  • Reinforce the vocabulary of poetry naturally through the conversation around the poems, rather than a separate stand alone lesson. Incorporating terms like “couplet” and “stanza” into the discussion can save time and solidify their meaning for kids.
  • The idea of poetry as layers - layers of sound, of story, of point of view. And how reading a poem several times allows you (and your kids!) to discover more within those multiple readings.

 

And Laura Shovan makes this wonderful analogy of a poem as a waterfall - some students are going to want to jump into the water and experience it with all their senses, some are science minded and might want to take samples to examine and pick apart under a microscope, and some students want to stand back admire the beauty of that waterfall with awe and wonder.  And all of those responses are are just fine. And we don’t have to do every single one of them every time we read a poem together. If you want to learn more, check out Laura’s website at www.LauraShovan.com -

 

Another fantastic resource that links reading and writing poetry is Kwame Alexander’s Page-to-Stage Writing Workshop. And I highly recommend this if you want to harness the power of poetry to boost the level of writing excitement with your kids. This is a teacher’s guide that will get your kids writing, publishing, and presenting their poetry - and the best part is that it’s not JUST another book on teaching poetry. It includes videos of Kwame Alexander - both for teachers and for your students to watch. And if you’ve ever had the chance to hear  him speak, you know the energy he brings.  It’s like having a Newbery-Award winning author right in your classroom giving you a mini-lesson on poetry. Actually it’s not LIKE that, it actually IS that!  Absolutely check that out!

 

I’ll close by quoting a bit from Kylene Beers’ forward of Page-to-Stage, “Poetry - what I’ll call the neglected genre - draws us into ourselves as it simultaneously lets us give back to the world a fresh understanding , a new vision, a re-vision of one moment. Kwame puts it better when he explains that poetry lets us ‘write our own journeys, find our own voices.’”  

 

So I’m excited and inspired to include more poetry in my classroom and get kids writing more.  As always, I would love to hear what you are doing to foster a love of poetry  with your students and kids.  You can tag me on Twitter, Instagram, and now Facebook - our handle is @books_between or email me at booksbetween@gmail.com and I’d love to hear and share your ideas.

 

Book Talk - Fabulous Poetry Books & Novels in Verse

 

In this part of the show, I chat about books centered around a theme and of course this week is all about fantastic poetry books, anthologies, and novels in verse for middle grade readers. And - since National Poem in Your Pocket Day is Thursday, April 27th - this will give you some awesome options for you and your students to tuck in those pockets.

 

Poetry Books

Bravo! Poems About Amazing Hispanics by author Margarita Engle with illustrations by Rafael Lopez. I really love this book - the drawings are fantastic and bold and each poem is from the point of view of the person being featured so it really feels personal.

 

One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance the latest by Nikki Grimes which is a collection of her original poetry interspersed with classic poetry of the Harlem Renaissance. Grimes is amazing - just go ahead and get all the Nikki Grimes - you can’t go wrong with her work!

Speaking of can’t go wrong poets, Kwame Alexander has two new poetry picture book collections out.  The first is called Animal Ark: Celebrating our Wild World in Poetry and Pictures and features photographs of endangered species. This one good for young readers as well as older kids. Then he’s also collaborated with some other poets  (Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth along with artist Ekua Holmes to put together a beautiful collection of poems celebrating poets called Out of Wonder.

 

Another poet to look for is  Lee Bennett Hopkins - his work is simply outstanding. I love his general collections but his themed books are really cool. Check out My America: A Poetry Atlas of the United States - a collection of fifty poems celebrating various regions in the country. Or Marvelous Math - a collection of math themed poems, or Spectacular Science - a book full of poems on all sorts of science topics. What is cool about these books is that if you have them on hand, you can easily flip and find a poem that relates to a subject you are studying in class. A poetry break during Math or Science?  Yes, please!

 

And if you are looking for something clever and funny, take a look at Keep a Pocket in Your Poem by J. Patrick Lewis. They take classic poems and pair them with a parody poem. So for example, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is paired with “Stopping by Fridge on a Hungry Evening” . It’s cute, funny, and may even inspire some of your kids to give a parody poem a try!

 

And if you want to enjoy some excellent poetry with a jazzy, hip hop flair - please, please go snag a copy of Hip Hop Speaks to Children: a celebration of poetry with a beat. It’s edited by Nikki Giovanni and includes a CD with many of the authors reading their poems - including Eloise Greenfield, Gary Soto, Langston Hughes, James Berry - and so, so many more. A couple things I really loved - one, they make the explicit connection between music, lyrics, and poetry and include lots of poems that we might originally view simply as songs.  Like “Rapper’s Delight”! And Queen Latifah’s “Ladies First”! It’s so, so good! And secondly, some of the tracks include the authors introducing their poem and giving you a little background. For instance, before Pedro Pietri reads “Love Poem for My People”, I was really stuck by how he mentioned that he wrote it many years ago and is STILL working on it.  Powerful, powerful messages for kids - you definitely want this one on hand!





Novels in Verse:

 

Well, you can’t talk about novels in verse without mentioning the amazing Sharon Creech. There are of course Love That Dog  and Hate That Cat - perennial classics in any classroom or library. But, I want to give a plug for her latest novel, called Moo. It’s the story of twelve -year-old Reena and her seven-year-old brother, Luke who are suddenly uprooted from their life in New York City and wind up moving to very rural Maine, and reluctantly trying to bond with a super ornery cow. There were certain aspects that reminded me a bit of Home of the Brave. I think those two would make a great novel-in-verse pairing.

 

And of course, I would be remiss If I didn’t mention Kwame Alexander’s two novels in verse - The Crossover and Booked. I feel like I have gushed so much about those two books on this podcast and how much students love them that I am almost risking overdoing it. So, you already know they are amazing, right?

 

Also previously mentioned on the podcast, but definitely need to be included on this list are Ellie Terry’s Forget Me Not, which is a novel that is half verse / half prose from two points of view.  If you want to know more about that novel, I went into more depth in the last show which was Episode 20.  And in Episode #8, I featuring Laura Shovan’s The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, which is fantastic not only for the story but because it has dozens of poetry prompts right in the back. LOVE it!

 

Another author that writes poetry for kids across a wide range of ages is Nikki Grimes. I already mentioned her picture book work, but her novels Words With Wings and Garvey’s Choice are phenomenal. And accessible to kids who might find the brief poems and open space of each page really appealing. They are quick but powerful reads. A short poem, a short story, can pack a lot of punch.

 

And of course, Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming and her earlier book Locomotion and so many others are written with such passion and love that they stay with you, long, long after you’ve set aside those books.

 

A couple novels in verse that I haven’t read yet but have been bubbling up are The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai. I keep bumping into rave reviews and reflections on these two books - argh - I think I just need to take a reading sabbatical and work through my To Be Read pile. Wouldn’t that be nice?  

 

Well - I could go on and on - and I know I’ve missed a lot on this list, but I do need to cut myself off at some point. But, that leaves the door open for YOU!  What poetry books or novels in verse are your favorites and why do you love them? I’ll open some threads on our various social media sites and let’s continue the conversation there!

 

Closing

 

Okay  - that wraps up our show this week.  If you have topic or a book you think we should cover, please let us know. You can email me at booksbetween@gmail.com or message me on Twitter/Instagram at the handle @Books_Between.

 

Thanks again for joining me this week. You can get a full transcript of this show and all of our previous episodes at AlltheWonders.com including links to every book and every resource I talked about today. And, if you’re enjoying the show and finding some value in what you hear, please help others find us too by telling a friend, sharing on social media, or leaving a rating on iTunes or Stitcher.



Thanks again and see you in two weeks!  Bye!

 

 

https://www.facebook.com/nerdybookclub/videos/1501455839895985/?pnref=story

 

http://laurashovan.com/2017/04/its-national-poetry-month-lets-teach-poetry/

 

https://shop.scholastic.com/teachers-ecommerce/books/kwame-alexanders-page-to-stage-writing-workshop-9781338026818.html

 

Mar 27, 2017

Intro

Hi everyone! Welcome to Books Between - a podcast for teachers, parents, librarians, and you! Thanks for joining us today! This is a show all about middle grade books, and raising enthusiastic readers.   I am Corrina Allen. I’ve been teaching for over 13 years mainly grades 5 and 6. And I am a mother of two girls. And we just celebrated my oldests 10th birthday this weekend. She got her ears pierced and I had an amazing FAIL attempting to make a pink and blue checkerboard cake for her. Pictures are on Twitter if you want to see the carnage. All I gotta say is that Wegmans came through in the clutch with an amazing vanilla whipped cream cannoli filled caked.

This is Episode #20 and today we are discussing the new Beauty & the Beast live action movie and featuring two brand new sweet contemporary fiction novels.

Announcement - Book Drive

But first, I have a quick announcement and an opportunity to do something really kind. Some of you may have heard the story about the Pleasant Run Elementary robotics team called the PantherBots. They were competing at their district's high school among a bunch of other schools and got first place. And during the competition and after the challenge as they were leaving and in the parking lot, this group of 9 and 10 year olds and their families, were told “Go back to Mexico” and subjected to other racist comments. Two of the kids are African-American and three are Latino.

So - the reason that I am bringing this to our attention is that author Shannon Hale is calling for a book drive in support of the team and the school. I’ll link to her page  directly, if you want more details, but let me read to you her request:

Hey friends! Like me, many of you were horrified by this news report:

We want to show love for this school and their outstanding robotics team in the form of a book drive. This is a Title 1 school with a very diverse population. Authors, you can sign books to Pleasant Run. Anyone else who can donate is much appreciated! Picture books, early readers, chapter books, and middle grade books most welcome, especially those written by and featuring people of color. Also early readers in Spanish would be a bonus as they have a dual immersion language program for some kindergarten classes. Mail books to:

Pleasant Run Elementary

1800 N Franklin Rd

Indianapolis, IN 46219

If you have books more appropriate for middle or high school, this diverse district would love those too!

And then Shannon lists their address which again, I will link to for you.

I saw that and I knew that you all would want to help. Maybe you have a book on your desk or bookshelf right now that you could spare.

Hey - send it media mail - it’s cheap. For a couple of bucks you can let this community know that they are supported, we have their back, and do something tangible to bend that arc toward justice.

So, I’m going to get on that this week and mail out some awesome books, and I hope you will, too.

 

Main Topic - Beauty & the Beast

Today I’ll be giving a brief overview and review of the new live-action version of the familiar fairy tale, listing a few other versions middle grade readers might want to check out, and discussing some ways you could do some analysis and comparing with your kids and students.

 

Have you ever been to a Movie Tavern? They recently opened one up near us and it is decadently wonderful. You can have a full meal, maybe a cocktail (I personally like the milkshakes), and enjoy a movie while you relax in a recliner. It is everything that is wrong and right with America.

 

Anyway - my mother treated myself and my sister-in-law and my kids to a girls’ brunch and Beauty and the Beast viewing last weekend, and I thought I’d let you all know how it is. I’m making the assumption that you’re familiar with the story so expect a couple plot spoilers.

 

First off, I do want to acknowledge that the Beauty & the Beast story is - shall we say “problematic”?  I enjoyed the Disney version when it came out when I was a teenager, but later as an adult the sexist and kind of abusive aspects of it always rubbed me the wrong way. So, I was looking forward to seeing how this new movie featuring Emma Watson as Belle and Dan Stevens as the Beast chose to depict the story.

So here are my thoughts:

  • I loved the opening which shows the prince (played by Dan Stevens) getting ready for a ball and dressing in full Louis XVI-style regalia with powdered wig, full make-up, and a little black mole. It reminded me a bit of the series Versaille on Netflix. So far so good!
  • I’m also noticing now that the cast seems a little more diverse than the original. Madame de Garderobe is played by Audra McDonald and Plumette is played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw - both women of color. The background characters are a bit more diverse so that seems to be going in the right direction but I would have like to have still seen more.
  • The other thing that struck me here was the witch’s curse is SO brutal to the poor innocent people working in the palace. Aside from the turning-into-furniture bit, the fact that she erased the memory of them from their loved-one’s minds is just heartbreaking. To know that your family will forget you.
  • Then we meet Belle, Emma Watson sings - I thought with a clear, beautiful, natural voice. Overall, I thought her performance was outstanding. Although - there is a moment early on where she is twirling atop a grassy hill singing in her barefeet and my 7 year old leans over to me and says, “She’s going to get a tick on her feet!”
  • Belle’s inventor role is explored a lot more here - it’s not just her father. So thumbs up for that. She invents a washing machine which gives her more time for her books and to get in trouble for teaching a young girl in the village to read. (Good point for discussion right there.)
  • And - Gaston. His handsome hyper-masculine character is utterly obnoxious and he treats Belle like the ultimate prey. He is just vile! But - Luke Evans does a fantastic job with him. His backstory is more filled out., which is interesting. He was a soldier, and there’s hints of PTSD there with this darker interpretation.  And the “Gaston” tavern number is so much better than the original - full of people and the characters are vibrant and it’s funny. I think probably the best song sequence of the movie.
  • During this scene, I also like the new envisioning of the LeFou character (played by Josh Gad, the voice of Olaf). There’s more depth to that role and of everyone, he maybe changes the most throughout the movie. Now, he’s the character that the director has said is involved in a “gay moment” in the movie. And - I guess you could interpret LeFou’s actions toward Gaston in that way, and there’s a scene at the end where he dances briefly with another man. But I think the controversy, if you can even call it that, is really overblown. I’m glad Disney didn’t edit anything out for release in other countries, but on on the other hand, I don’t want to give them too much credit either. The situation is treated like a joke and maybe just another in a long line of gay characters depicted as fools. But generally, I really liked that performance and want to see more of Josh Gad.
  • Back to the plot! Belle’s father (played by Kevin Kline) is attacked by wolves - this might be the scariest moment of the film and he takes refuge in the castle, takes a rose from the garden, and the Beast freaks out and imprisons him.   The horse leads Belle back where she tricks her father, takes his place, and the story carries on from there.
  • In the castle - Chip is simply adorable and if I were Plumette, I would totally go for Ewan McGregor as Lumiere, too. I was skeptical of how live people would interact with dancing teapots and clocks and such, but it was done well and not as creepy as I worried it would be. And the “Be Our Guest” routine was lovely.
  • The relationship between the Beast and Belle has always seemed a weird portrayal as romance, but I had a couple thoughts as I watched this version. First, it reminded me a lot of Pride & Prejudice where it takes Elizabeth Bennet going to Mr. Darcy’s home and seeing how his staff universally loves him and sacrifices for him, that starts to shift her viewpoint. And you see this in the Beauty & the Beast film when Mrs. Potts describes his childhood to Belle and explains how he’s better than his horrendous first impression. Second, never underestimate the allure of a magnificent library and the power of reading aloud to connect people. Belle reads to him and reconnects him with books and that was a point where she started to see his humanity.
  • Expanding on Belle’s backstory and explaining what happened to her mother and the symbolism of the rose was another really great part of this movie. It’s a short scene, and I don’t want to spoil it for you but explains why her father is tormented by the memory of her mother.
  • A quick word about the famous yellow dress. Here it is thankfully toned down and simplified - no mass of ruffles. I was more enthralled with the jewelry, to be honest with you - especially her climbing earrings. I’ve been seeing more and more of those - you know, the ones that go up the ear. I love those, but I don’t think I could pull them off to be honest with you.
  • And I’ll end my thought with a couple serious notes. First, ugh, Gaston’s firing up the villagers who’ve known Belle all their life really brought home how easy it is to get people roused by claiming there’s something dangerous.
  • Okay - so, I am known as a bit of a crier at movies. And I held it together for most of the film. Until the end when Mrs. Pott’s is frantically searching for Chip as all the enchanted servants are turning completely into just objects. And she, essentially dies with her last thoughts a desperate worry for her son. But then, as you know - they are released from the curse. And Emma Thompson, who plays Mrs. Potts, wraps her arms around her son and says, “You smell so good!”  and wow - you just realize how these people have suffered - not being fully human. So that was my tissue moment.
  • In short - I thought this was a great movie - I liked it way better than the Disney version. And I think I’ve even forgiven Dan Stevens for leaving Downton Abbey.

 

Analyzing & Comparing other Beauty & the Beast versions

 

If your school follows the Common Core Standards, one of our major goals is to help students learn how to compare different versions of a story and analyze multimedia representations of that story. Even if your district hasn’t adopted those standards, it is still a worthy goal and one of the more fun ones to teach. And fairy tales like Beauty & the Beast are perfect texts to explore.  They’ve often changed (a lot!) over the years, and each generation and place has it’s own interpretation. What’s more interesting than simply having your students or children point out the differences, is asking them to think about WHY the author decided to change it. A quick word of caution though - those original fairy tales were DARK and much more violent. So definitely preview anything and use your own judgement about what’s appropriate. It’s probably best to start with just comparing one scene a couple different versions and then you can select something that’s okay for your age group.  

 

For example, in the earliest French version of the story from the mid 1700s, the rose doesn’t drop any petals to mark time, and the Beast proposes to Belle every night in the castle. Also, there is a magic ring that will guide Belle back to the palace. Oh - and all those enchanted objects like Mrs. Potts, Chip, Lumiere, and Cogsworth? They are nowhere to be found in any version before the Disney movie.  Same with Gaston and LeFou. Not mentioned at all.  Instead, the villains of the original story are Belle’s sisters who conspire to keep her away from the Beast out of jealousy.  The whole story about how Disney decided to come up with Gaston is a fascinating read - they even had a contest among the animators to see who could draw his chest hair the best! (Links to that story in the show notes!)

 

Alright -there’s obviously some great fodder for discussion and analysis. Also - while you wait for this new version to be released outside of the theatre - use the soundtrack and a print out of the lyrics!

 

In  the meantime, here are a few more versions that are worth checking out.

 

Let’s start with some Picture Books:

  • Beauty and The Beast: A Pop-up Book of the Classic Fairy Tale by Robert Sabuda  This is a gorgeous book illustrated in the style of stained glass.
  • Then there’s the new 2017 picture book called Beauty and the Beast by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Meg Park. This one has a stronger focus on Belle’s courage and the illustrations in blues and purples are beautiful.
  • Then there’s the version by by Max Eilenberg  and Angela Barrett who’s the illustrator with lush watercolors and a curiously creepy depiction of the Beast.
  • If you’ want to see something more gilded and ornate, then the version illustrated by Kinuko Craft is worth exploring with your kids.
  • There’s also a Beauty & the Beast version set in West Africa by H. Chuiku Lee.
  • And Laurence Yep has a Chinese adaptation called The Dragon Prince

 

If you are looking for a chapter book version:

  • I noticed in our recent Scholastic form some backstory books by Disney featuring the villains and the one called The Beast Within tell the story of how he came to become so bitter and monstrous.
  • Disney has also released As Old as Time: A Twisted Tale by Liz Braswell that is a different take on Belle and includes more of her mother.
  • And finally - for something modern and fun, Wendy Mass’ s third book in the Twice Upon a Time series is a Beauty and the Beast adaptation and is getting really good reviews



But, I am sure there there are many more! I’m always looking for another great fairy tale adaptation, so please let me know your favorite.  You can tag me on Twitter, Instagram, and now Facebook - our handle is @books_between or email me at booksbetween@gmail.com and I’d love to share your ideas.



Book Talk - Two New Contemporary Fiction Novels

 

In this part of the show, I chat about books centered around a theme and discuss three things to love about each book. This week the two books on my mind the most are two new contemporary fiction releases:  A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold and Forget Me Not by Ellie Terry.

 

A Boy Called Bat

 

Our first featured book this week is a sweet, sweet book called A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold. It’s about a 3rd grade boy named Bixby Alexander Tam (B-A-T - Bat for short), his older sister, Janie, and their mom who is a vet. Well, one day Bat’s mom brings home a tiny newborn skunk and immediately Bat is entranced and just wants to take care of him - feed him formula and help him figure out how to go to the bathroom, keep him cuddled up in a sling, and basically be with him all the time. But - this baby skunk is scheduled to go to the rescue center in a month. And Bat is going to do whatever he can to keep this skunk himself. It is an adorable book with some deeply poignant touches. Here are three things to love about A Boy Called Bat:

 

  1. How this book understands the challenges of kids with divorced parents. For Bat and his sister, that means every other Friday they go to their dad’s to spend the weekend. His dad calls him “sport”, which he hates, and makes a weird, smelly chili in the crockpot and Bat has to watch baseball on tv. And the change in routine makes Bat feel uncomfortable. And as a kid of divorced parents, I could really relate to some of those scenes. And I am sure that kids you know could also connect to those sections.
  2. Bat’s relationship with his older sister. Like a lot of siblings they are a mix of friendly and frustrated. Janie is, I think, in middle school and watches Bat a couple days after school when their mom has to work late. And Bat is particular about his snacks and wants to tell the same stories over and over again and sometimes it’s hard for Janie to be patient. Especially when Bat does something to one of her t-shirts. But then…. there are sweet moments, too. One especially stands out when they are both at their dad’s apartment, stuck watching baseball, and Bat braids Janie’s hair for her. And it’s a small but a sweet moment between siblings that are very different.
  3. Bat - he is earnest and kind of quirky. His social interactions are sort of awkward. For example, he’s sometimes too honest and doesn’t quite get most figurative language. He’s definitely a literal thinker. He sometimes flaps his hands when he gets upset, and loud noises tend to bother him. And as those behaviors started to build up throughout the book, I started to wonder - what’s the deal with this kid? Does he have Asperger's or autism? I kept waiting for the author to clarify that, but the more I think on it, the more I’m glad that Elana Arnold did not pin a diagnosis on this boy. And simply let us come to know and love him as an individual. And yet - I’m glad to have another book in our library like Rain Reign or A Whole New Ballgame or Counting by 7s with a character that might be on the autism spectrum that kids can get to know. And it’s at a lower reading level than those other books - probably best for about ages 7-11. But would make a great read aloud for Kindergarten or 1st grade.

 

A Boy Called Bat is a heartfelt book with characters you love, and I hope that we haven’t seen the end of Bixby Alexander Tam.



Forget Me Not

 

Our next new release is the middle grade debut by Ellie Terry called Forget Me Not. The setting is Utah and our main character is Calliope - called Calli by her family. Callie is smart, into astronomy and poetry and sensitive. She also has Tourette syndrome (TS) and was given some advice by her doctor and mother to hide that fact from people. But she is so eager to connect with and make a long-lasting friendship. Because Calli moves a lot - her mom likes to just pick up and go once her relationships turn sour - Calli is in this position of starting a new school and trying to mask her tics and noises. But, she has formed a bond with Jinsong - her classmate and neighbor. However, he is not so sure about being open about their friendship, especially as his friends start to target her. Here are three reasons you and your kids will fall for Forget Me Not:

 

  1. How this book is like a duet between the voices of Calli and Jinsong. The chapters alternate between their points of view with Calli’s section in verse and Jinsong’s parts in prose - each with their own font. I really liked how that helped you differentiate between the two characters.
  2. I appreciated how this was an honest take on bullying in schools. The children who are harassing Calliope are being cruel, but often have their own story that if you got to know them, you might have some empathy. I know that there is absolutely never any excuse for harassment but sometimes those kids that can be the nastiest are going through some tough stuff. Also - considering the bystander angle, this book really shows how hard it is to stand up to people when they’re being mean - even if you’ve signed one of those pledges like Jinsong has as part of his role as student body president. His choices and regrets I think are a more honest portrayal of how those situations really tend to go down.
  3. The gorgeous cover. And I know it’s a seemingly small thing, but when a cover is done right - it draws you into the book and after you read it, the images reveal something deeper than you first noticed. This was one of those books that as soon as I saw the cover, I was entranced by it. So this cover is a deep shaded midnight blue with bright reddish poppies circling the title along with blue forget-me-nots and orange paper lanterns, moon, stars, telescope, rock - all the little mementos from Calli’s story. The more I look at it, the more I just love the sense of a bright garden in the moonlight.

 

Ellie Terry’s Forget Me Not is warm and good-hearted and offers a unique point of view for kids, and I love that this novel can shape their opinion about those with Tourette syndrome and hopefully widen their perspective beyond the unfortunate stereotypes. Terry herself has TS, and I’d love to read you just a bit from the Author’s Note in the back:



Closing

 

Alright - that’s it for our show this week. Don’t forget to show the students and robotics team at Pleasant Run Elementary some love.  If you have topic you think we should cover, I would really love to hear from you. You can email me at booksbetween@gmail.com or message me on Twitter/Instagram at the handle @Books_Between.

 

Thanks again for joining me this week. You can get find a transcript of this show and all of our previous episodes at AlltheWonders.com.  And, if you’re enjoying the show and finding some value in what you hear, please help others find us too by telling a friend, sharing on social media, or leaving a rating on iTunes or Stitcher.



Thanks again and see you in two weeks!  Bye!

 

http://www.movietavern.com

 

http://shannonhale.tumblr.com/post/158705257850/book-drive-for-school-of-robotics-team-champs

Mar 13, 2017

Intro

 

Hi and welcome to Books Between - a podcast for teachers, parents, librarians, and anyone who loves middle grade books.  I’m your host, Corrina Allen - a mom of two daughters and a 5th grade teacher in Central New York. My goal is to help you find fabulous books for your kids and help create a community where we all can support each other as we build those readers.

 

This is Episode #19 and today we are discussing ways to get away from reading logs and featuring three incredible science fiction/fantasy graphic novels.

 

Main Topic - Rethinking Reading Logs

 

Our main topic today is rethinking reading logs. This topic has been on my mind for a couple of years but I recently got fired up about it again when I came across a great article by Shaelynn Farnsworth called “6 Alternatives to Reading Logs”. (As always, I’ll link to that in the show notes.)

 

First, we’ll define what a reading log is, chat about why they are popular and sometimes valuable, we’ll discuss some potential problems with traditional reading logs, and then I’ll share eleven great alternatives that you can start using tomorrow.

 

What is a Reading Log?

Traditionally, reading logs are a worksheet where students record the titles of books they’ve read, including a daily tally of minutes or pages. Usually, teachers ask parents to sign them. For example, my 2nd grade daughter has a weekly sheet where she colors in a box for every ten minutes she’s read at home. She writes a reflection on the bottom and we’re supposed to sign it every week. Lately this kind of reading log has gotten some pushback - from both teachers and parents. You probably have an opinion about them.

 

Why are Reading Logs popular?

What’s the purpose and the benefit? Some of it may have to do with teachers just going on autopilot and using practices they are familiar with from colleagues or their own schooling. That’s why I used them for so long. I think also we teachers are looking for tangible evidence that kids are reading and reading outside of school. Also, reading logs are a way to communicate the importance of reading to students and parents and an attempt to get families involved in nightly reading routines. Because many strong readers do record at least some aspects of their reading, and we have this instinct to track habits we want to encourage in ourselves - your eating habits or steps on a Fitbit. Also - sometimes Reading Logs are used to try to motivate kids to read more and to award prizes. I think that can work for short periods of time - we recently had a two week reading challenge at my school where everyone - kids and staff - were challenged to read 100,000  minutes in two weeks. It was quick and fun but not for the whole year. Tracking reading can be a powerful tool when kids know the purpose and it’s for their own reflections and not a “gotcha”. If you want to learn more about some authentic ways to track reading, we covered that in Episode 8. I’ll drop a link to that in the show notes or you can just scroll back down in your app after you’re done with this episode.

 

What are some downsides to Reading Logs?

Reading Logs - especially the year long parent signed minute tracking type can be problematic. You and I know that lots of them are faked. Heck - I’ve even “fudged” my own children’s! Now - to be clear - I didn’t lie about how many minutes she read or faked a signature or added on more time. But sometimes it got to be Sunday night and we’d forgotten to jot down the minutes and so we’d estimate how much she read each night and use different colored pens so it’s not obvious we filled it all in the night before. If I am doing that, you know for darn sure that most families are doing something similar at least some of the time. And if there’s a penalty for not turning them in, it creates a situation where kids are punished for home environments that make it difficult for them to get daily signatures. And it can create contention at home. And I never want reading time to be a battle. Also - when the numbers of minutes or books read are publically displayed with a child’s name attached  - that can be embarrassing for kids. I have a FitBit and I am trying to get in more steps daily. I recognize that my health is important, but I’m not doing great with that yet. Do I want my stats posted all over the walls of the school for everyone to see? No - I do not. So please don’t do that to kids.

 

What can we do instead?

Because responding to reading, signaling the value of reading, and getting students, families, and communities involved in building reading habits are worthy goals. I’m coming at this from a place of wanting to do better myself and specifically to use more technology.  So here are 11 ideas you can start using tomorrow instead of reading logs:

  1. Reading Journals Have children keep a journal of their reading instead. Keep it simple and have them record a quick thought about their reading a few times a week and then share. That’s even more powerful if you keep a reading journal, too!
  2. Status Updates Do a daily “Status of the Class” where each kid (and yourself) does a quick share of the title, page number and what’s happening in the book they are currently reading. For my class, that’s our daily routine after lunch as kids are getting resettled.
  3. Quotes Have students share thought-provoking quotes from their novels or powerful facts from their nonfiction reading on a “Graffiti wall”. Basically you dedicate a white board or put up some black bulletin board paper and get some fun markers and have your class (and you!) mark down your thoughts.  Status of the Class and the Graffiti wall, I think were both originally mentioned in Donalyn Miller’s The Book Whisperer.  If you have not read that book yet, please please go do that before anything else.
  4. Books Talks Invite students to give brief book talks sharing and promoting books they’ve recently read. Often, kids are going to listen to their peers more than you. I like this idea because it helps them practice showing excitement about books, and I hope they’ll carry that enthusiasm out into the world and feel more comfortable talking up books with their family and friends because they’ve practiced doing that in the classroom.
  5. Blogging Get students blogging about their books and reading lives. There are so many possibilities here: book reviews, top ten lists - or top 3 lists (keep it simple!), drawings, you know those BuzzFeed quizzes that ask you which Harry Potter character are you most like? Students could make their own! There are so many cool things kids could do that if you just put it out into the world with a real audience, their engagement and incentive to actually do deep reading and quality work will go up. For me, this is my main goal the rest of this school year. And I am inspired by fellow teachers who have spoken about the powerful things that happen when outside people and authors comment on those blog posts and engage with their students.
  6. Seesaw - I have fallen in love with this app. It’s awesome. Essentially it’s a digital portfolio that students all ages can use. It’s free and kids can get to it on tablets, phones, computers, or Chromebooks. The feed can stay private to your class or be published on a blog. There are SO many ways kids can respond to reading with Seesaw - I’ll just name a few.  They could take a picture of themselves holding their current read and then add an audio clip of them reading aloud a favorite scene. They could snap a picture of a page and annotate it with drawing tools - maybe circling some powerful language or a favorite quote. They could record a video of themselves doing a booktalk. It’s an incredible tool.
  7. Social Media Have students share their thoughts about their personal reading on Social Media - whether that’s a class Twitter account, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat - and whatever else is the next new thing! You could have kids snap a pic of the cover of their book and write a 140 character review. Or share a powerful quote. If they have photo editing software or are using Seesaw, they could mark it up and annotate it. In Shaelynn Farnsworth’s article “6 Alternatives to Reading Logs”, she mentions the hashtag #BookSnaps to connect with other readers and for you adults listening - check it out to get some really game-changing ideas. I want to make sure to mention #BookSnap founder Tara Martin - she’s my exciting new Twitter Professional Development find this week so absolutely go follow her and get inspired.
  8. Interviews - Students can interview a classmate (or sibling or parent) about a favorite book or a current read. Come up with a couple questions, record the interview in a journal, or record a video, and share. This one takes more time and you probably won’t be to do it everyday but it’s a fun way - maybe every month or every quarter -  to change it up and have kids practice having conversations with each other about books and reading.
  9. Online Trackers - Instead of a traditional reading log, have students track their reading on a site like Biblionasium or if their older, Goodreads. These are sites where kids can make recommendations, write reviews, participate in challenges, and really take something boring and dry and turn it into a practice that can last beyond the school year.
  10. Book Trailers - This is a huge favorite. Have kids create a video promoting a book they love. If they can share it with a wider audience than just your classroom, even better.
  11. Pictures from Parents & Family - A couple weeks ago we had a week long Winter Break at my school. And the day before, I sent an email home asking families to send me a funny or interesting or cozy picture of their kid reading over winter break. I just did it on whim, and honestly - I wasn’t expecting too much. BUT - over break, my email box was flooded with pictures of kids reading in snow forts, reading to their little sister or their puppy - one boy was reading on the ferry with the Statue of Liberty in the background. I was crying over these pictures - I was so moved by how many families embraced this and were joyful about sharing those images with me. Now we are going to take those photos and make a video to promote reading in our school.

 

I hope that you were also inspired by these ideas and now have a seed of something exciting you want to try in your school or with your kids. Some of these ideas I’ve been doing, but I’m starting to see that any one of them will eventually lose its appeal and it’s good to have a variety so kids can see all different ways that reading can be important in their lives and maybe they’ll carry on one of these ideas on their own. And as always, we are learning together and helping each other out, so please share with us your ideas for alternatives to traditional reading logs.  You can tag me on Twitter, Instagram, and now Facebook - our handle is @books_between or email me at booksbetween@gmail.com and I’d love to share your fabulous ideas.



Book Talk - Three Amazing Science Fiction / Fantasy Graphic Novels

 

In this section of the show, I share with you three books centered around a theme and discuss three things to love about each book. This week is all about the graphic novel - specifically science fiction / fantasy graphic novels. And I can attest - these books are going to be winners in your classroom, library, or home. They are Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi, Hilo by Judd Winick, and the newly released One Trick Pony by Nathan Hale.

 

Amulet

 

I am starting with Amulet. I am going to admit that I was slow to the Amulet series and didn’t even have a set in my classroom until this year. I know, I know - how I could have overlooked this series is, in hindsight, beyond me. But at some point last summer a friend chided me saying, “Really, you teach 5th grade and don’t have Amulet in your room?” She was right!  Alright - some background about the plot. The story revolves around a young girl named Emily.  After a horrific family tragedy in which her father dies, she and her younger brother Navin and their mom move to a mysterious house once owned by Emily’s eccentric - and missing - great-grandfather. While cleaning up and investigating the house, Emily and her brother find a powerful amulet, end up trapped in another dimension, and have to save their mother from a gruesome tentacled monster - all while fighting their own monsters along the way. With some help from some unexpected, umm….  creatures. Here are three things to love about Amulet:

 

  1. The color palette. This is just a gorgeous book to immerse yourself in! There are cool shades of blues and grays, touches of teals mixed with warm ambers and browns and pinks. Like the colors of a hazy sunset over a blue-gray ocean. Just vibrant, rich warm and cool colors playing off each other.
  2. The creatures and plants in the Amulet world are COOL. Giant pink parachuting mushrooms, a skulking silver eyed elvish villain, adorable rose colored slugs, a menagerie of weird robots, and an unexpected pink bunny(?) named Miskit. I think he’s a bunny - my students thought he was a robot maybe I’m wrong there.    
  3. How completely Amulet sucks kids in. When I was basically TOLD to get this series for my students, I had planned to read book one first. Uh - no. They immediately snagged it from me and from there every book in the series was passed from kid to kid to kid - this web of children all connecting around this one incredible story. At one point in my class, over half my students were reading an Amulet book. It’s one of those moments in your class when you see them forming a community of readers and it just makes your heart sing. So - finally, last week, most of my class was far enough into the series that book one, which is called The Stonekeeper by the way, was finally available. I took it home before anyone could snag it again. And my 9 year old swiped it from the coffee table. And my 7 year old snatched it after that. Honestly, it’s a miracle I’ve gotten to finish the thing!

 

Amulet is clearly a must-have graphic novel for any classroom library grades 3-8. It’s kind of like a mix between Journey to the Center of the Earth and Zita the Space Girl. And - a bit of advice. Don’t even bother just getting book one - get the whole series because you and your kids won’t be able to stop.

 

Hilo

 

Our next science fiction graphic novel is Judd Winick’s Hilo. This is a fun, fast-paced, sometimes wonderfully silly series of three books (so far!) about a young kid named DJ who discovers a robot boy, called Hilo, who fell to earth. And DJ and his friend, Gina, have to help this kid figure out who he is and what he’s doing on Earth. And of course - have awesome adventures fighting off menacing robots. My kids and my students really enjoy these graphic novels. Here are three reasons why we all love Hilo:

 

  1. The diverse cast of human characters. Our main guy is DJ Lim - an Asian-American kid surrounded by high-achieving siblings and just discovering his own confidence. The story is told from his point of view. The scenes at DJ’s home with his family are some of my favorite parts. His best friend is an African American girl named Gina. It’s nice for middle grade kids to see a strong friendship between a boy and girl. And Gina has some similar struggles going on with her family. She also feels a bit in the shadow of her driven cheerleading twin sisters. DJ and Gina make a great duo.
  2. The “fish out of water” details in the story. Hilo is a robot from another dimension who looks and sorta acts like a boy, but he doesn’t really know his powers and certainly doesn’t know how to behave in the human world. Or at school. He is very, uh enthusiastic about eating weird combinations of food like rice and milk - and he’s enthusiastic and loud about everything really! He takes apart DJ’s dad’s car and paints his house polka dots.
  3. The humor and hilarious catch-phrases. Hilo shows up wearing silver underwear  - at one point his head flies off his body. There are fart and burp jokes galore and Hilo loves the words Outstanding and Hazzah! Really  you’ll be smiling through this whole book.

 

Judd Winick’s Hilo series is cheerful, positive, laugh-out-loud funny and great for kids who love books like Big Nate and Bone. It’s kind of like a cross between Calvin & Hobbes and Mork and Mindy.



One Trick Pony

 

Our final featured sci fi / fantasy graphic novel is one that I have been waiting and waiting to read. It is called One Trick Pony - by Nathan Hale. You might know Mr. Hale from his awesome Hazardous Tales historical graphic novel series. If you don’t - you’re gonna love those too! This novel is set in a post-apocalyptic near future where alien invaders are devouring every last trace of human-made metals and electronic devices. All that’s left of humanity are small bands of survivors trying to outwit and outrun the aliens.  The main character is a girl named Strata who finds  a beautiful and rare robot pony when she’s out scavenging with her brother and her friend. Strata insists on keeping the horse even though the presence of something technical makes them a target of the aliens who are soon chasing after them. Here are three things to love about One Trick Pony:

  1. Kleidi, the robot pony. She is gorgeously golden and pops out in Nathan Hale’s distinctive two tone yellow/gray coloring for this novel. She adds comic relief when she only listens to Strata and no one else. And plays a surprising role at the end of the book. I gotta say, the ending shocked me - in a good way. It took a twist I was not expecting at all.
  2. The aliens. These are seriously scary multi-limbed, disjointed, frightening giant blobbing aliens called Pipers that release bubbles to capture electronics they scavenge from the earth. And if you’re holding to that technology - you could lose your limb. They are like a cross between the creature from the Alien movie and an Hieronymous Bosch painting. It’s creepy good!
  3. The concept of the caravan. The main character, Strata, lives with this traveling band of “digital rescuers” who save data and technological devices before the aliens can get to it in the hopes that one day civilization can be rekindled. That idea is so, so powerful and timely when you think of efforts to suppress scientific data now. Our own digital rescuers are heroes. I know all you teachers and librarians and book lovers listening can relate when I say that the burning of the library at Alexandria stills shatters a part of my soul to think of all that knowledge lost. And I love how Nathan Hale captured that concept in this graphic novel.

 

In One Trick Pony, Nathan Hale has masterfully combined two seemingly disparate elements - a girl and her pony story and a fierce science fiction battle book. And it is wonderful! It releases tomorrow - Tuesday, March 14th so go treat your kid, your class, yourself with this fabulous book.



Closing

 

Alright - that’s it for our show this week. If you have a question about how to connect middle grade readers to books they will love or an idea about a guest we should have or a topic we should cover, I really love to hear from you. You can email me at booksbetween@gmail.com or message me on Twitter/Instagram at the handle @Books_Between.

 

Thank you so much for joining me this week. You can get find a transcript of this show and all of our previous episodes at AlltheWonders.com. While you are there, check out the recent post featuring 20 Books About Refugee & Immigrant Experiences. And, if you are liking the show, please help others find us too by telling a friend, sharing on social media, or leaving a rating on iTunes or Stitcher.



Thanks again and see you in two weeks!  Bye!

 

 

http://alicekeeler.com/2017/01/30/6-alternatives-reading-logs-shfarnsworth/

 

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780470372272

 

http://www.tarammartin.com/resources/booksnaps-how-to-videos/

 

http://www.allthewonders.com/books/books-for-better-stories-of-immigrants-and-refugees/

 

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