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Books We Love: Sam and Eva

#bookexcursion, #DiverseKidLit

Huge thanks to Debbie Ohi for sharing a copy of Sam and Eva with our #bookexcursion group! #bookexcursion is a team of nine educators who read and share new children’s and middle-grade titles. For more of my #bookexcursion reviews, click here!

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but Sam and Eva drew in my third graders before I flipped to the first page.

Sam and Eva captures a common friendship problem: when one person wants to join in the fun, but the other person would rather work (or play) alone. Sam draws creative creatures and crazy scenes, but Eva always feels she can top his latest creation. As the tension escalates, readers begin to wonder how the friends will ever find common ground. Sam and Eva surprise us just in time.

From the bright colors to the brilliant illustrations, the visual aspects of Sam and Eva make it the type of book children will pull off the shelf again and again. Author Debbie Ohi does such an amazing job capturing a common childhood moment and turning it into something magical and meaningful. I just know this book will be one my students ask me to read again and again!

Author Interview: Blue Sky, White Stars

#DiverseKidLit, Author Interviews, Diverse Books Club

When I picked up Blue Sky, White Stars on a whim this summer, I was so taken by its representation of the American experience. The words of Sarvinder Naberhaus and the illustrations of Kadir Nelson included so much of what we love about our country. From the Grand Canyon to an old front porch, we can find pieces of America everywhere. In the young boy who goes to a baseball game and in the woman who stands on a graduation stage. In the story of Betsy Ross and the history of Abraham Lincoln. There is so much to celebrate about who we are and who we can be as a nation.

This month, the Diverse Books Club read Blue Sky, White Stars. When both adults and children submitted questions, author Sarvinder Naberhaus generously agreed to do an interview. We find hope and inspiration in her words, and we know you will, too!

Did you have an intended audience for Blue Sky, White Stars? Who do you hope will read the book?

Great question! My original intended audience is always picture book age children. However, when this book was finished, I also felt it was just as much for adults. I always feel picture books are appropriate for all ages. Everybody loves reading picture books. I think they are for all ages, don’t you?

Do you have a favorite page in the book?

Yes, I love Abraham Lincoln’s face with each worry and burden, every fallen soldier etched in the lines of his face.

What inspired you to write about freedom when there are so many topics to write about? -Alexa, Age 11, 6th Grade

I don’t always get to pick my ideas. They come to me, and I usually like them, but I can’t always make them work for the length of a picture book. I was able to come up with enough ideas to make this 32 pages. I feel my ideas pick me.

It’s so important to represent diversity in a book about America. I feel that it was done exceptionally well in Blue Sky, White Stars. Did you carefully place specific characters on particular pages or leave it all in the hands of the illustrator Kadir Nelson? – DBC Member Jeanell

The nice thing about having Kadir Nelson as an illustrator is that you don’t have to tell him to represent diverse people. That being said, when I pictured the illustrations, I did picture different groups of people. I had revised it to include Sacagawea but I was too late in sending to my editor, so maybe she will have to be in my next book. I also wanted to include George Washington and the farmers of the Dust Bowl. I did try to represent a diverse group of people since that is who makes up America and I did write it with that in mind.

What does this book mean to you personally? – Miguel, Age 11, 6th Grade

It means a lot of different things to me. As an American, it represents freedom and the height that freedom can take us (to the moon). As a writer, it means that all my hard work and dedication was worth the years of toil and trouble.

What was going through your mind and how did you feel while you were writing Blue Sky, White Stars? – Aricin, Age 12, 6th Grade

When you write something, you have no idea if it will get published. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even have an agent when I wrote it, and it got a few rejections until my editor took interest. So you never write it expecting it will get published or that anybody will ever see it but you. At the time you are writing, you are just thinking about the story and trying to write it all down as fast as you can so you don’t forget it. I thought it was a pretty neat idea when it came to me, but the words were so few, I knew I would have to include a lot of illustration notes so people would understand what I was talking about. I wrote the illustration notes right along with the words.

What effect do you think it would have if every classroom read this book? – Alexandria, Age 11, 6th Grade

I do hope every class will read this book. I hope they enjoy it. I hope it stirs something within them – whatever their America means to them. My hope would be that we could heal as a nation and come together and love one another. I actually want to ask you that same question. What effect do you think it would have?

To connect with Sarvinder online, you can visit her blog at or follow her on Twitter at Thank you so much, Sarvinder, for sharing your thoughts with us!

Books We Love: My Brigadista Year

#DiverseKidLit, Books We Love

Did you know that in 1961, 100,000 Cuban youth between the ages of 10 and 19 left school and moved to the countryside to serve as literacy teachers? Did you know that their work raised the literacy rate in Cuba from between 60% and 76% to 96%?

I didn’t, either.

Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, but in taking a closer look at the books I’ve read, most of my historical fiction reads tend to be about American history or European history. I was so excited to read the Katherine Paterson’s latest title, which takes place in Cuba in the 1960s.

Lora, a thirteen-year-old from Havana, decides to leave the only place she’s ever called home in order to serve as a literacy teacher in the countryside. Her journey requires leaving the comforts of home behind in exchange for demanding physical labor and no electricity access. While in the country, she lives with two host parents and their three children. Luis Santana, the father, simply wants to learn to write his own name so he no longer has to sign with an “x.” Having a brigadista in the household, however, may bring danger to the Santana family and to Lora herself.

While the Cuban Literacy Campaign came about under the rule of communist politician Fidel Castro, whose administration oversaw numerous human-rights abuses, the mission of the brigadistas was to bring education to everyone regardless of class. The experiences of the main character in the book represent the experiences of tens of thousands of volunteers who left their homes in order to serve their country and the ideals they held true.

I learned so much about Cuban history from My Brigadista Year, and I am sure this book will drive interest in a fascinating time period of Cuban history.

Classroom Connections

This middle grade title discusses the transfer of power before the administration of Fidel Castro. It may pair well with The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet! and other tales from Carmen Agra Deedy. Deedy is a children’s book author who arrived in the U.S. as a Cuban refugee in 1964, just three years after the events of My Brigadista Year.

My Brigadista Year will be released in October 2017 by Penguin Random House.

Note: I received a digital Advanced Review Copy of this book from Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review. All opinions in this review are my own. Thanks for reading!

Books We Love: Max Tilt Fire the Depths

#bookexcursion, #DiverseKidLit, Books We Love

I’m often looking for books to put in the hands of readers who love adventure stories. Many young readers fly from page-turner to page-turner, seeking mystery and intrigue. I know those readers will find a favorite in Max Tilt: Fire the Depths, the first in a trilogy from author Peter Lerangis.

Max Tilt’s family is going through a tough time. Max’s mother has cancer, and unpaid bills are piling up. When Max’s mother and father go out of town for her medical treatment, Max’s cousin Alex steps in to care for him. Max and Alex discover a trunk in the attic that holds the key to a century-old mystery involving their ancestor, Jules Verne.

A fast-paced storyline takes Max and Alex across oceans, into caves, and onto islands as they seek to discover their family’s secrets. The children are up against a wicked foe, but they meet kindred spirits to help them along the way.

Max’s self-described identity of being “on the spectrum,” combined with his synesthesia, make his interpretation of social situations unique. His wit and his quick thinking make him the superhero of the book, while his cousin Alex is a worthy sidekick.

Readers who enjoy adventure stories will love being a part of Max Tilt’s universe. This trilogy is bound to be a great addition to middle grade classrooms.

Max Tilt: Fire the Depths will be released on October 3rd, 2017 by Harper Collins.

Huge thanks to Peter Lerangis for sharing a copy of Max Tilt: Fire the Depths with our #bookexcursion group! #bookexcursion is a team of nine educators who read and share new children’s and middle grade titles. For more of my #bookexcursion reviews, click here!

Books We Love: Come With Me

#bookexcursion, #DiverseKidLit, Books We Love

As I write this post in mid-August 2017, violent protests have broken out in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Over the past year, students have been walking into classrooms with more and more questions about the world. They feel fear. They feel confusion. They feel helplessness. Wouldn’t it be powerful if, every day, we could do something to replace those feelings with ones of kindness? Connection? Hope?

Come With Me by Holly McGhee tells the story of a little girl who feels scared by the images she sees every day. She’s not sure to engage with a world that scares her. With the help of her parents, she learns to step beyond her fear and build connections with others. While the things she does with her parents aren’t groundbreaking steps towards social justice (she goes to a grocery store and rides the subway), the little girl learns to celebrate togetherness over fear.

Like any book, this book alone is not enough. But it’s a start in discussing social justice and current events with children. As the dedication of the book states, “Come With Me is written in honor of friendship, bravery, and the fact that we aren’t powerless, no matter how small and insignificant we may feel.”

Come With Me will be released in September 2017 by Penguin Kids.

Huge thanks to Holly McGhee for sharing a copy of Come With Me with our #bookexcursion group! #bookexcursion is a team of nine educators who read and share new children’s and middle grade titles. For more of my #bookexcursion reviews, click here!

Books We Love: wishtree

#DiverseKidLit, Books We Love

Katherine Patterson’s latest book, wishtree, begins with the following dedication:

for newcomers


for welcomers

I can’t think of five better words to start readers off on an incredible journey. wishtree is a story told by Red, an oak tree that has been standing in a small community for over two hundred years. Red has seen many things: homes being built, kids walking to school, and the coming and going of animal and human families. Every year, people in Red’s community hang paper wishes on the tree’s many branches. Red has seen dreams come true, but when there is concern that the tree is going to be cut down, Red wants to grant one more wish to make a difference in the world before leaving it. Red’s going to have to find a friend for Samar, a girl whose Muslim family hasn’t been warmly welcomed into the community.

This book is for the young and the old, the pessimists and the optimists, the allies and the oppressed. If this book made its way into the hands of our nation’s leaders, I have to believe a change could be made.

We have an obligation to connect young readers with these stories. The books we put into children’s hands today determine how they choose to live their lives tomorrow. wishtree inspires us all to live our lives with kindness, decency, and a whole lot of hope.

wishtree will be released in September 2017 by Macmillian Children’s Publishing Group.

Note: I received an Advanced Review Copy of this book from Macmillian Children’s Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review. All opinions in this review are my own. Thanks for reading!

Diverse Books Club: September 2017 Picture Books

#DiverseKidLit, Diverse Books Club

For those of you who saw my friend Madeleine’s post over at Top Shelf Text yesterday, you know that I’m thrilled to be taking on the role of Children’s Lit Moderator for the Diverse Books Club. More than ever, we need diverse books. The members of the Diverse Books Club are dedicated to learning about the world and our fellow humans. We value diversity in all its forms. Our mission is to be those worthy role models that our children deserve.

As an educator, I have a responsibility to expand my horizons and guide my students as they do the same. If you follow me on Instagram, you know that socioeconomic diversity and diversity in ability are near and dear to my heart. While I’m coming from that lense, our membership of over 300 readers comes from many different perspectives. I’m thrilled to be on this journey alongside you all. I’m looking forward to conversations that will challenge me, and reading experiences that will broaden my understanding of the world.

Whether you are an educator or a parent, you may be looking for ways to address themes of diversity with young people. Each month, I’ll be bringing you a curated list of picture books to share with the littles in your life. You’ll then have an opportunity to discuss these books with fellow readers in our Goodreads group. We’re hoping that these books serve as a jumping off point for you and your littles as you explore our monthly themes!

September Theme

As Madeleine announced on Saturday, given recent events, our theme for September will be books about race, the history of racial oppression in America, and current civil rights events.

September Picture Book Selections

I am so excited to share this month’s picture book selections with you. While there are so many different books that could fit into this month’s theme, I’m hoping the selections below are a start.

Henry’s Freedom Box
Written by Ellen Levine
Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

This is a book that came highly recommended by a DBC member. (If you’re a part of DBC, you can recommend picture books here!) Goodreads describes it as “a stirring, dramatic story of a slave who mails himself to freedom by a Jane Addams Peace Award-winning author and a Coretta Scott King Award-winning artist.”  The starred Kirkus review said that “this is a story of pride and ingenuity that will leave readers profoundly moved.”


Minty: A Story of Young Harriet Tubman
Written by Alan Schroeder
Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

Continuing with representations of slavery in children’s literature, this speculative story about Harriet Tubman’s childhood was published in 1996. It appeared on many book lists and received the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award in 1997.


Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave
Written by Laban Carrick Hill
Illustrated by Bryan Collier

I recently took a course on children’s nonfiction in which we discussed at length representations of slavery in children’s literature. What can make this category so problematic is that children’s books on slavery are most often about enslaved people who escaped to freedom. This can leave children assuming that most enslaved people escaped, or that it was the norm to make an escape attempt. This month, we wanted to include a text about the man known as Dave the Potter, who lived and died a slave in South Carolina. Dave’s opportunity to learn a trade was unique, and adds to the conversations we have with children around slavery in picture books.


A is for Activist
Written and Illustrated by Innosanto Nagara

This board book was described by the School Library Journal as “an unusual offering that may plant the seeds for and spark discussions about activism.” We’re excited to hear your thoughts on how this book blends a format for our youngest readers with topics that older children are just starting to explore.


Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Written by Doreen Rappaport
Illustrated by Bryan Collier

While this book often appears in classrooms during Black History Month, we believe it deserves a place on your bookshelves year round. Author Doreen Rappaport’s inclusion of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s own words makes this book incredibly powerful.


Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Méndez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation
By Duncan Tonatiuh

Seven years before Brown v. Board of Ed, Sylvia Méndez won in her legal fight to desegregate her local school. While Méndez’s case is little-known, this book reminds us that when we fight for justice for one group, it can sometimes pave the way towards justice for another. Kirkus reviews called this book “a compelling story told with impeccable care,” and it received a Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Honor in 2015.


Blue Sky, White Stars
Written by Sarvinder Naberhaus
Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

I first read this book over the summer, and I instantly sent it out as a recommendation to fellow educators, activists, readers, and Americans. In a time where we can feel so divided, this book celebrates American diversity as an asset. A tribute to our multiculturalism and unity, this book may be exactly what we need right now. I hope you and your littles enjoy it as much as I did!

I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on this month’s picture book selections. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below as well as on our Goodreads group. I’m so excited to chat with you all soon. Thanks for joining us on this journey of learning and discovery!

Diverse Children’s Literature


Note: You may have noticed a new link on my menu bar called “Diverse Children’s Literature.” This will be a constantly evolving place for me to collect resources and share recommendations. After compiling my initial list, I’ve decided to share the page in it’s current state with you below. As the page evolves, you can find the latest updates at this link. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Feel free to share additional resources and suggestions, and thank you  for joining me on this journey!

“The mind of an adult begins in the imagination of a child.”
-Kwame Alexander

As an educator, it is my responsibility to teach my students the skill of empathy. By the time my students leave my classroom, it is my hope that they feel a little bit more connected to the world around them. In order to reach that goal, I need to provide reading material that can serve as a window into the lives of others. I also need to provide reading material that can serve as a mirror to reflect students’ own lives. It is my responsibility to add diverse literature to my classroom.

We Need Diverse Books (a fantastic resource for teachers, parents, and readers of all ages) seeks to define diversity with the following statement:

We recognize all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, Native, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities.

Below, you’ll find resources to help you in your journey to read diverse children’s literature and provide it to your students. You’ll also find links to the diverse books I’ve recommended on Miss Magee’s Reads. Please feel free to leave comments below with your own resources and recommendations.

Thank you for joining me on this journey towards diversifying our reading and connecting with each other. As author Kwame Alexander has written, “We are at a crossroads, trying to figure out what’s next, and in order to get to the other side, we have to wade in the water.” Thank you for wading in the water with me.

Articles & Editorials

New York Times: On Children’s Books and the Color of Characters by Kwame Alexander

New York Times: Mirrors for My Daughter’s Bookshelf by Sara Ackerman

Online Resources

#ReadingWithoutWalls Challenge

Reading Without Walls is a challenge led by National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Gene Luen Yang. It asks readers to do three different things: 1. Read a book about a character who doesn’t live like you or look like you.
2. Read a book about a topic you don’t know much about.
3. Read a book in a format that you don’t usually read for fun (a chapter book, a graphic novel, a book in verse or an audio book)


More than ever, we need diverse books. The Diverse Books Club is a group of readers dedicated to learning about the world and our fellow humans. The group values diversity in all its forms. This Goodreads group has selections for each month, and you can follow along on Instagram using #WeNeedDiverseBooksClub.


#DiverseKidLit Linkup

Every month, book bloggers come together to share diverse children’s literature surrounding a theme. You can find this linkup at this link. Feel free to add your own posts to the linkup, or just enjoy the posts of others.

My #DiverseKidLit Reviews and Recommendations

Let’s Do Better: Diversifying Our Reading

#DiverseKidLit, Literacy in the Classroom

“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” -Maya Angelou

I vividly remember the moment when I first encountered this startling infographic:

I started asking myself a lot of questions. In curating a classroom library, what experiences were becoming visible for my students? Were all of my third graders seeing reflections of their own lives in the books that filled our classroom? Were my students getting a chance to see the world through the eyes of people of different cultures? Races? Socioeconomic backgrounds? Genders?

According to a study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at UW Madison, only 14.9% of children’s books published in 2015 were about people of color. In 2016, that number jumped to 22%. While this shows progress in publishing, I wanted to explore whether or not my own reading was beginning to diversify.

Since the start of 2017, I have read 101 children’s books. 55 of those books were fiction, while 46 were nonfiction. To begin analyzing my own reading habits, I looked at representations of race and ethnicity in my fiction reads.

What I found was troubling. In the 55 fiction books, there were 62 featured characters. Nearly 70% of those protagonists were white. Only 9 protagonists were African or African-American. Another 9 protagonists were talking animals or objects. 6 characters were Latinx or Latinx-American. There were only 3 Asian Pacific or Asian Pacific-American protagonists. Out of the 62 protagonists in the 55 books, there were zero American Indian or First Nations characters.

I worry about the messages we send to children when we make it hard for them to find stories depicting the lived experiences of others. I worry about making children feel like their own experiences are unrepresented in the books that are available to them. I worry about the implications of being a teacher who has spent half a year reading fiction books in which 84.9% of the characters are either white, a talking animal, or a talking object. And while analyzing my reading habits opened my eyes to the lack of racial diversity in the fiction books I’ve read this year, I imagine the the findings would be similarly concerning if I examined representations of gender identity, religion, sexual orientation, or disability.

As a reader, a teacher, and a citizen of this country, I need to do better. I need to seek out books that tell the stories of people whose lives look different from my own. I need to use resources like We Need Diverse Books, the Coretta Scott King Award, and the American Indian Youth Literature Award, among others. I need to ask for recommendations, look at booklists, use my local library, and get these books into my classroom.

Over the past few months, there have been glimmers of hope in my reading life. wishtree by Katherine Applegate explores how a community can heal after a hate crime against a Muslim family. Hello Goodbye Dog teaches young readers about therapy dogs and how they assist students with disabilities. Girl Rising helps young adult readers learn more about education equity around the globe. As these new books are released, we have the opportunity to put them in the hands of the children who sit in our classrooms.

At the International Literacy Association conference this summer, I was inspired by the work of National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Gene Luen Yang. His Reading Without Walls challenge asks readers of all ages to reach outside their comfort zones. There are three parts to the challenge: read a book about a character who doesn’t look or live like you, a book about a topic you don’t know much about, and a book in a format you don’t usually read. While the concept is simple, the impact is powerful. Can you imagine the changes that could be made if we all spent time expanding our reading horizons?

We are living in a world where we have to know better, and then we have to do better. We have to seek out diverse reading experiences when they don’t land on our newsfeeds or in our classroom libraries. We have to break down the walls of our classrooms to connect our students with the world around them. The books we put in children’s hands today determine how they live their lives tomorrow. Now that we know better, let’s do better.

Books We Love: Hello Goodbye Dog (+ Giveaway!)

#DiverseKidLit, Books We Love

This week marked a book birthday for Hello Goodbye Dog, an amazing new picture book from Maria Gianferrari and Patrice Barton! I fell in love with this book, and I can’t wait to read it aloud to my class this fall. In a time where we are hoping to add diverse books to our bookshelves to more accurately reflect the experiences of our students, Hello Goodbye Dog is a perfect fit for elementary classrooms.

Zara and her adorable dog Moose are almost inseparable. Moose loves saying hello in the joyful way that only dogs can. When Zara heads off to school, however, Moose has trouble saying goodbye. He repeatedly finds ways to show up at Zara’s school to say hello. Since it’s clear that Moose is most content when comforting others, his owners take him to school to become a therapy dog. At the end of the book, the children in Zara’s class are happily reading to Moose, who has now become the class reading dog.

Besides the fact that the story itself is incredibly precious, Gianferrari’s words add so much meaning to the rich text. Metaphors for loneliness will help readers understand Moose’s feelings. Vivid details in the text add action to the story. In addition to being a great read aloud, this book would make a strong mentor text for showing feelings in writing.

Gianferrari’s words and Barton’s illustrations create a story that is so needed in our classrooms today. Hello Goodbye Dog serves as a valuable mirror for students in our classrooms who are supported by therapy dogs, and provides a window for students who may not have the same experience. This is a must-add for your classroom bookshelves!

Since I am so in love with this book and believe it should be on classroom bookshelves everywhere, I’m giving away a finished copy! You can enter by tweeting, leaving a comment, or signing up for my email list through the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Note: This giveaway is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with the publisher, author, or illustrator of “Hello Goodbye Dog.”