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Friday Five: Books for Women’s History Month

Friday Five

Happy Women’s History Month! Now that it’s halfway through the month, I’m finally getting around to sharing some of my favorite books about women’s history. I keep most of these books in my classroom year round, and they are picked up by both the boys and the girls.

Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls
by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo

After the holidays, one of my students walked into the classroom clutching this book. She couldn’t stop talking about Serena Williams, Ada Lovelace, Cleopatra and other remarkable women. Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls holds the record for most funded book in crowdfunding history, and uses the fairytale format to tell the true stories of 100 inspirational women. My favorite part? It includes blank pages to tell the story of the rebel girl who is reading the book.

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark
by Debbie Levy

I can’t wait for this book to make its way into the hands of little girls around the world. It tells the story of a girl who wanted to change little things, and built her way up to changing big things. This story teaches a powerful lesson about activism. It proudly proclaims that even young children can work to change things in their communities. (Read my full review here!)

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World
Written and Illustrated by Rachel Ignotofsky

Last summer, in an independent bookstore on Cape Cod, the cover of Women in Science caught my eye. The remarkable illustrations in this book draw readers in, but it’s the incredible stories of female scientists that keep readers reading. This book taught me so much about the women who fought for spaces in labs and on research teams. We are all better off thanks to their courage and conviction.

Elizabeth Leads the Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Vote
by Tanya Lee Stone

This book does a remarkable job introducing the women’s suffrage movement and telling the tale of one of its heroes. Author Tanya Stone introduces not only the reasons women pushed for suffrage, but also some of the reasons people pushed back against it. After reading this book, my students were begging to read more about the women who fought for the vote.

Who Was Maya Angelou?
By Ellen Labrecque

I recently found some Who Was books on sale at a local store, and had to snatch up this one, along with the biographies of Amelia Earhart, Rachel Carson, and more. The Who Was series is beloved by students around the world, and Women’s History Month is the perfect time to pull out some special stories.

Do your students have any favorite books about Women’s History? Feel free to share in the comments below!


Friday Five: Books for Black History Month and Beyond

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“I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.”
Martin Luther King, Jr., 1964, Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech

Around February every year, I see lists of great books featuring black protagonists or written by black authors. I love having this opportunity to share books that celebrate some amazing figures in our nation’s history. My hope, however, is that we can use these texts year-round in our classrooms. Kids deserve to see themselves represented in literature, and they also need to see the lives of others represented. My students have all read at least four of the books on today’s Friday Five list, and I can tell you that these books are in high demand year-round. The time is always right to share these stories with our children.

Martin’s Big Words
by Doreen Rappaport

I have always found the words of historical figures to be powerful tools in understanding a person’s impact on the world. The words of Martin Luther King Jr. live on in both our hearts and on stone, and with good reasons. My students were so inspired by the words of Dr. King, and they created posters to share their favorite quotes from the story. The quotes hang around our classroom as a reminder to be our best selves and help others in every way we can.

The Other Side
by Jacqueline Woodson

My students absolutely love Jacqueline Woodson’s books, and I love the way they introduce empathy and understanding to kids. In a New York Times article, author Kwame Alexander referenced Woodson’s books, then said: “If we don’t give children books that are literary mirrors as well as windows to the whole world of possibility, if these books don’t give them the opportunity to see outside themselves, then how can we expect them to grow into adults who connect in meaningful ways to a global community, to people who might look or live differently than they?” The Other Side is an excellent example of how Woodson creates windows and mirrors for kids.
Through My Eyes
by Ruby Bridges
There’s something extremely powerful about hearing someone’s story in their own words. Ruby Bridges’ memoir for children is an incredible collection of moments, feelings and memories. I read Through My Eyes for the first time in third grade, and I was completely hooked. I’ve never forgotten Ruby Bridges’ story. When I met her at a conference in 2012, I had the chance to tell her what an impact Through My Eyes made on me. The book is still inspiring children to reach out of their comfort zones in order to make connections with others.
Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis
by Jabari Asim
In 2012, I met Congressman John Lewis for the first time at the National Book Festival in Washington, DC. I asked him what work was left to be done for civil rights education, and he said “I think it’s important for all of our schools, elementary, middle school but even kindergarten level, really to teach young people about what happened and how it happened.” In our country, we have a tendency to teach a few lessons about the Civil Rights Movement during January and February, then check it off our list of things to cover. We need to make sure that education about civil rights heroes is engrained in our instruction so that students can understand America’s history. Preaching to the Chickens is an amazing new biography from Jabari Asim. It tells the story of John Lewis’ childhood, inspiring children to realize that any kid can grow up to be a world changer.
Who Was Rosa Parks?
Rosa Parks once wrote, “People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.” Rosa Parks’ story is one that often gets reduced to a sentence or two of a black history month presentation. My students love this book because it lets them dig deep into the story of Rosa Parks’ deliberate actions towards creating a better world.

Feel free to share your favorite books in the comments below!

Friday Five: Books I’m Looking Forward To in 2017

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It’s hard to believe that 2016 is coming to an end. After an absolute whirlwind of a year, I’m looking forward to 2017 and the fresh start that will come with it. Just one look at Mr. Schu’s Book Release Calendar tells me that 2017 is going to be a great year for books.

Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets 
by Kwame Alexander

One of my highlights of 2016 was seeing Kwame Alexander’s remarkable speech at the International Literacy Association Conference in Boston. One thing he said that day has stuck with me since, and has really changed my teaching philosophy this year. He said, “The mind of an adult begins with the imagination of a child.” I think it’s so key that we give students reading experiences that help them imagine the worlds of others. Alexander’s new book, Out of Wonder, will celebrate great poets (like Rumi, Emily Dickinson, and Maya Angelou) through tribute poems. I can’t wait to share this one with my class after its release in March 2017!

When Jackie Saved Grand Central
by Natasha Wing

Coming on March 7th, this picture book about Jackie Kennedy’s fight to save New York’s Grand Central Station looks perfect for my classroom! My students love learning about people who took action to change history. We live in a town that was founded in 1651, so we have many historic landmarks in our own community that residents are fighting to save. I know my students will be inspired by this little-known, yet powerful story!

Happy Dreamer
by Peter H. Reynolds

Many of my students knew Peter Reynolds from reading the Judy Moody books in second grade, but I may have started a class-wide obsession when I read The Dot on International Dot Day this year. My students love how Reynolds’ books celebrate creativity and being yourself. Many of my students identify with Reynolds’ rich characters. We can’t wait for Happy Dreamer to join the Peter Reynolds basket in my classroom library!

Our Story Begins
Edited by Elissa Brent Weissman

My students are always asking me when I decided I wanted to be a teacher. So many of them have questions about what they want to be when they grow up, and how they are going to get there. Our Story Begins will share writing, pictures, and stories from the childhoods of famous authors, including Kwame Alexander and Linda Sue Park! The teaser for this book on Simon and Schuster asks a great question to readers: “Your story is beginning, too. Where will it go?”

by Kelly DiPucchio

Another highlight of 2016 was meeting Christian Robinson at the Boston Book Festival. My class absolutely loves his illustrations in School’s First Day of School, Last Stop on Market StreetThe Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade, and more. In fact, School’s First Day of School is a front runner in our Mock Caldecott project! Robinson’s illustrations always add so much to the words. This follow up to DiPucchio and Robinson’s Gaston is sure to be another great read.

Are there any 2017 releases you can’t wait to read? Feel free to share in the comments below!

Friday Five: Gifts for Book Lovers

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In my family, April is the start of birthday season. We celebrate over twelve birthdays between April and September, so I’m already starting to think about the gifts for my loved ones (not to mention my friends who are graduating and celebrating other life milestones). Since I spend an embarrassingly high amount of time looking at amazing gifts on Pinterest, I thought I’d share five of my favorite gifts for book lovers.

Phone Case
from Chick Lit Designs

It is seriously taking every single ounce of willpower I have not to spend money from this month’s budget on this Secret Garden phone case from Chick Lit Designs. With a card holder and pocket inside the case, this gift is adorable and practical. Not to mention it has the name of the book on the spine, and a quote from it on the back. (The quote from The Secret Garden is one of my favorites: “She made herself stronger by fighting with the wind.”) The Secret Garden is super meaningful to me because my aunt played Martha in the original Broadway cast of the stage version, and I met my boyfriend when we both performed in the play at my high school.  Chick Lit Designs also has cases for Mary Poppins, Cinderella, Gone with the Wind, Pride and Prejudice and more… Beyond adorable!

Library Embosser
from Horchow

Oh my gosh, as a frequent lender of books (and also as a teacher) I am in love with this book embosser from Horchow. This helps you keep track of your books, and it somehow seems really classy in comparison to sticker bookplates (although I love those, too)! This would be perfect for a teacher or that friend who lends books to your whole social network. This could also be a great gift for newlyweds as they combine their lives and their libraries.

Tote Bag
from Out of Print

For Christmas this past year, my grandmother gave my aunt this gorgeous Nancy Drew tote from Out of Print. I’m not sure that I hid my jealousy well. (Side note: if you love books, go follow Out of Print on Instagram as soon as you can.) These totes are the perfect gift for book lovers who are on the go!

Book Coasters
from Out of Print

I can think of so many friends who would love these book cover coasters from Out of Print. They are perfect for book clubs. They also come in three other sets: one with a sci-fi theme, another with punk rock authors, and as an adorable library card set.

Book Shirts
from Litographs

Litographs is a super cool company. At first glance, the image above just looks like a cool print on a t-shirt. But if you look closer, you’ll notice that the grey color is made up of 40,000 words from A Little Princess. Now you can wear your favorite books as clothes. (Also, the shirts are hand-pressed in Cambridge, MA, so if you’re a Bostonian like me, you’re supporting a local business!)

Need more suggestions?

My amazing friend Madeleine over at Top Shelf Text made a list of great books as graduation gifts, and also shared these adorable book totes from Barnes & Noble.

Any other book products you love? Comment below – I’d love to check them out!

Friday Five: Books I’m Looking Forward to in 2016

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There are so many exciting books coming out in 2016! Four of these are children’s books, and one takes me back to my childhood. From an inventive scientist to a beloved children’s book author, the subjects of these books are sure to captivate children and adults alike.

Ada Twist, Scientist
by Andrea Beaty

Andrea Beaty is one of my favorite authors of all time. My third graders are always commenting on my love of Rosie Revere, EngineerWe have probably read the book 5 times in my class this year, and students often chose to re-read it during independent reading. I even dressed up as Rosie for halloween this year! Long story short: If you haven’t read Rosie Revere, Engineer yet, get on it! My class also loves Iggy Peck, Architect: another story from Beaty that addresses the same themes of perseverance and scientific discovery. My whole class can’t wait to hear about the next student from Lila Greer’s classroom at Blue River Creek: Ada Twist, Scientist! The book will be released on September 6th, and yes, I already preordered it.


Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White
by Melissa Sweet

When I was a kid, I loved reading biographies. Although fiction was my first love, I also enjoyed reading about real people and the real, incredible things they accomplished. E.B. White accomplished some incredible things, and I can’t wait to see his story come to life in this new book from Melissa Sweet. I recently read this interview with Melissa Sweet about her research and writing, and it sounds like she this biography is going to be cherished by all who loved White’s books. (Not to mention, in researching this title, I discovered that Melissa Sweet has the coolest website ever. I mean, THIS quote on the front page is amazing!) Some Writer! will be released in October 2016.

Piper Green and the Fairy Tree: The Sea Pony
by Ellen Potter

Last summer I got my hands on the first two books in the Piper Green series by Ellen Potter. I reviewed Piper Green and the Fairy Tree on the blog, and the sequel completely lived up to the first book. Piper Green is a spunky young girl who children can relate to. I can just tell that she is going to be a favorite of young readers (girls and boys!) for a long time to come. I can’t wait for her next adventure to be shared with us on August 16th!

What Are You Glad About? 
What Are You Mad About?: Poems for When a Person 
Needs a Poem
by Judith Viorst

Okay, so  What Are You Glad About? What Are You Mad About? was already released in February… but since I haven’t picked up a copy to read yet, I’m including it with the books I’m looking forward to! From the author of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, this book of poems addresses the different emotions that children go through. I love this teaser: “Did you wake up this morning all smiley inside? Does life taste like ice cream and cake? Or does it seem more like your goldfish just died And your insides are one great big ache?” I also love the fact that the book is in memory of Elaine Konigsburg. <3

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts I & II
by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne & John Tiffany

I feel like this one just goes without saying. I grew up in the Harry Potter generation, and as an educator, I see the effect the stories are having on a new group of young readers. So many of my friends hated reading until they picked up a Harry Potter book, and I think it’s because of the incredible world J.K. Rowling was able to create. Although I’m trying to keep my expectations low to avoid the disappointment that inevitably comes with sequels and continuations, I can’t wait to see what’s next for the Harry Potter universe.

Are there any 2016 releases you can’t wait to read? Feel free to share in the comments below!


Friday Five: Maps from Literary Worlds

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At the Boston Book Festival last weekend, I finally had time to stop in to see the Literary Landscapes exhibit at the Boston Public Library. I absolutely loved the concept of the exhibit: displaying the illustrated worlds of some of our favorite fiction books. Unsurprisingly, many of the maps on display were from children’s books. One of my favorite things about children’s literature is the magical and imaginative places that authors create through words and pictures. For this week’s Friday Five, I’m sharing five of my favorite maps from the Literary Landscapes exhibit. I’d love to hear which literary maps have helped create your favorite literary worlds!


An Ancient Mappe of Fairyland Newly Discovered and Set Forth
Bernard Sleigh

This map is absolutely worth zooming in on with the tools on the Boston Public Library website. Sleigh’s amazing map includes “places from nursery rhymes, fairy tales, Arthurian legends and the folktales of many cultures.” The illustrator who made the map was a big fan of fairytales and mythology. According to the BPL website, the author first made this map to entertain his kids, using their favorite stories to create the landscape. Zooming in, I spotted Peter Piper, Rapunzel, the Seven Dwarfs, Lancelot, and Hercules. It’s fun to search for your own childhood favorites in this map!


Map of the Hundred Acre Wood
E.H. Shepard

Winnie the Pooh‘s illustrations are memorable for a number of reasons, but I absolutely love this map of the Hundred Acre Wood because of its adorable signature at the bottom: “DRAWN BY ME AND MR SHEPARD HELPED.” E.H. Shepard was the legendary illustrator of the A.A. Milne classics. I also love the labeling on the map, which includes such places as “Where the Woozle Wasn’t” and “Sandy Pit Where Roo Plays.” Children connect places with memories, and I love how this child-centered map does the same.


Jacqueline McNally

The novel Peter Pan; or, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up was published in 1911, and Jacqueline McNally’s reimagining 100 years later manages to convey the wonder of the classic story. From the phrase “second star to the right and straight on toward morning” to the pirate ship of Captain Hook, McNally included some of the most memorable parts of this children’s literature favorite. I can just see this beautiful map hanging in a children’s library or classroom!


Map of the Countries Near to the Land of Oz
John R. Neill

When I saw the musical Wicked on stage last year, one of the coolest parts of the set was the curtain. Displaying a map of the land of Oz, the curtain itself created an atmosphere of wonder as soon as we walked into the theater. I love how John Neill’s 1914 map of Oz is extremely simple in comparison to some of the other maps. Void of illustrations and pastel colors, it seems more grown up than some of the other maps, but it still manages to capture a sense of being “far, far away.”


Map of the Island of Tangerina and Wild Island
Ruth Chrisman Gannett

I’m far overdue for a reread of My Father’s Dragon, especially since so many of my third grade students consider it a favorite of theirs. Seeing this map at the exhibit brought me back to the 2nd grade, when our teacher shared the worlds of Tangerina and Wild Island with us through a read aloud. Much like the Winnie the Pooh map, I love how this map is memory based, including such places as “my father fell asleep under this tangerine tree” and “my father walked right between two wild boars.” My absolute favorite note on this map is “my father doesn’t know what’s on this side of the island.” As the best literary maps do, it leaves so much to the imagination.

Do any of your favorite books include maps of their imaginary worlds? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Note: Map reproductions courtesy of the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library.

Friday Five: Can’t Miss Historical Fiction

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When I was a kid, I used to love how books could transport me to so many different time periods. I loved spending an afternoon with Samantha (from the American Girl Series) in 1904, then spending the evening back in 1999. As I’ve grown older, I’ve still found historical fiction to be one of my favorite genres. For today’s Friday Five, I’d like to share with you five of my favorite historical fiction books. Some are for kids, some are for adults, but all of them help us imagine life in a different time period, and often use it to understand our lives today.

by Brian Selznick

A unique read given that the pictures take place in the 1920s and the words take place in the 1970s, Wonderstruck isn’t your typical historical fiction read. Instead of relying on the current events of a given time period to drive the story, what matters in this book is the separation in time between the 1920s and the 1970s, with the reader wondering how the story of one connects to the other. In the 1920s, we meet a deaf girl named Rose who idolizes a famous actress named Lillian Mayhew. In the 1970s, we meet Ben, a boy who is deaf in one ear and runs away to New York in an attempt to learn about a father he never knew after his mother passes away. Both the 1920s and 1970s are portrayed brilliantly through visual representations and written descriptions. This book is a great read for 4th-6th graders and adults alike.

All the Light We Cannot See
by Anthony Doerr

When I was only about 10% of the way into this book, I was telling everyone I knew that it was one of my top reads of 2014. Doerr’s incredible use of language to describe the settings really takes the reader back to the World War II era in which this book takes place. You will fall in love with the two main characters: Marie, a blind girl living with her locksmith father in Paris, and Werner, an orphaned boy living in Nazi Germany. The way in which they cross paths is beautiful, heartbreaking, and hopeful all at once.

Number the Stars
by Lois Lowry

Taking place in World War II-era Copenhagen, Number the Stars tells the story of two friends whose bond is threatened by the Holocaust. One of the friends is Jewish while the other is Christian, and the Christian friend and her family work tirelessly to protect the young Jewish girl from the Nazis. This is a beautiful depiction of the ways the Danish people saved thousands of lives during World War II.

The Invention of Wings
by Sue Monk Kidd

Before the Civil War, many people in the United States were fighting for freedom in more ways than one. The Invention of Wings explores the meaning of the friendship between a slave and her owner. When both girls were young, one was given to the other – and the owner has spent her whole life since then working to bring freedom to both slaves and women in the United States.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret
by Brian Selznick

I usually wouldn’t include two books by the same author on one list, but Brian Selznick has truly mastered how to portray different parts of history in middle grade literature. The pictures in Hugo Cabret give us a vision of a time gone by: where trains were the main form of travel and train stations were a microcosm of life. Hugo is an orphaned boy who is trying to make sense of the things his father left behind, and he meets some amazing people who help him along the way.

Do you have a favorite historical fiction read that I missed? Let me know in the comments below!


Friday Five: Children’s Books with Strong Girls and Women

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I’m a firm believer that every child needs a role model. Sometimes, the best ones are found between the pages of books. I’ve found that the girls in my classroom are always looking for spunky, smart, quirky, and brave heroines to identify with in their free reading. They also look for women and girls who have depth to their characters. Today, I’m spotlighting 5 of my favorite books that feature strong women and girls. Some of them were my favorites as a child, others are more recent releases. Please feel free to comment below with some of your favorite books with strong heroines – I’m always looking for suggestions!

The Madeline Series
by Ludwig Bemelmans

“In an old house in Paris
That was covered in vines
Lived twelve little girls in two straight lines.”

When I was a kid, I used to have a Madeline doll that I carried around with me. I absolutely loved reading about Madeline and her adventures with her classmates. In the first book, Madeline shows true bravery when she gets her appendix out. Madeline is a leader, and the other students want to follow in her footsteps. More recently, I’ve loved reading about Madeline’s adventures in Madeline at the White House – a story of Madeline in one of my favorite cities!

Pippi Longstocking
by Astrid Lindgren

When I studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark, I took a class entitled “The Rebel Child in Scandinavian Children’s Literature.” Created by the brilliant Swedish author Astrid Lindgren, Pippi Longstocking is a perfect example of the rebel child. She represents a child who doesn’t always follow the rules or stick to traditional ways of doing things, but this rebellious nature allows her to learn from her mistakes and realize what truly matters. Pippi is very loyal to her friends Annika and Tommy. Pippi is a very memorable character due to her unconventional manners, her superhuman strength, and (who could forget?) her awesome red pigtails!

Rosie Revere, Engineer
by Andrea Beaty

I recently reviewed this book on the blog, giving it a 5 star rating for its fantastic message, beautiful poetry, and amazing illustrations. What really sticks out in this book, though, are the incredible characters. Young Rosie has dreams of becoming a great engineer, but in a world that keeps telling her “no” in one way or another, she files away that dream and chooses to give up. One day, however, her great aunt Rose (based on Rosie the Riveter) shows her that she really can do anything if she takes it one step at a time and never gives up. Both Rose and Rosie are strong female characters, which makes this a great read for any young lady in your life.

by Kevin Henkes

When I was a little girl, I used to be self-conscious about how my name didn’t sound quite like anyone else’s. When I picked up Chrysanthemum, that completely changed. Chrysanthemum is constantly teased by her classmates because she has a name that “scarcely fits on her nametag.” Over time, Chrysanthemum gets very down in the dumps about who she is, but encouragement and support from her parents helps her get back on her feet. Eventually, everyone’s favorite music teacher reveals that her name is Mrs. Delphinium Twinkle, and she is going to name her baby girl Chrysanthemum. Chrysanthemum’s classmates realize that a long name is nothing to be ashamed of. I really love this book because it’s primarily about coming to terms with who you are. (Plus Delphinium Twinkle might be the coolest name for a character in a book, ever.)

by Roald Dahl

Saving my absolutely favorite for last, Matilda is such a fantastic book for finding strong women. Growing up as a 90s kid, I loved the live action movie, and I recently saw the amazing West End musical adaptation in London. Matilda is a memorable story that will, without a doubt, be passed down for generations. The character of Matilda has unexplained magic powers, but what most people remember about her is that she is incredibly bright. She spends her free time in a library and knows how to do tricky math problems in her head. She absolutely thrives in the classroom, even though she has a very difficult home life. Luckily, she finds a wonderful role model in the form of Miss Honey – a teacher who believes in her and guides her on her journey. A book that features a brilliant little girl and a kind, witty and helpful woman is a great fit for anyone looking for strong female characters!

Who are your favorite heroines in children’s literature? Feel free to share in the comments below!