Books We Love: Read, Read, Read!

#bookexcursion, Books We Love

There are certain poetry books that I return to over and over again in my classroom. Books with poems that reflect my students’ experiences show up as read-alouds every year. The books then find worthy places on our classroom bookshelves where they are adored by dozens of third graders. Read! Read! Read! by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater may become an instant classic, too.

This book is a celebration of what it means to be a reader. Much of the book explores the magic of the written word and how we carry it with us as we grow. While many of the poems are inspiring, they are funny and clever, too. The poems are inclusive of many different reading experiences, from the child whose favorite reading material is on the cereal box to the child who lost a grandmother, but found healing in Charlotte’s Web.

As I read the poems, connections to students past and present were swirling around in my head. Amy Ludwig VanDerwater has given us a gift: poems that will meet readers where they are on their reading journeys. Every child reading this book will find a poem that makes them feel celebrated. It is my hope that this book finds its way onto the bookshelves of classrooms and homes, and into the hands of young readers everywhere.


Read! Read! Read! will be released in September 2017 by Wordsong Books.

Huge thanks to Amy Ludwig VanDerwater for sharing a copy of Read! Read! Read! 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: After the Fall

Books We Love

We talk so often with children about the importance of “trying again.” We expect children to pick themselves up and jump back in after they fail. While we focus on the importance of not giving up, we sometimes gloss over the challenge of processing failure. We don’t acknowledge the lasting emotional damage that can come from a difficult situation. We, as teachers and parents, have the opportunity to show children that learning from your failures can help you try again.

I don’t want to spoil this one for you, because it’s just too good. Dan Santat has already established himself as a favorite author in my third grade classroom, and this latest book does not disappoint. In classrooms, this book will lead to many conversations on the meaning of failure, and the importance of perseverance. It is also a great fit for adults, as Santat describes the book as a metaphor for his wife’s struggles with anxiety. After the Fall is inspiring for all ages.

For more on After the Fall, see the starred Kirkus review, and the cover reveal interview.


After the Fall will be released in October 2017 by Roaring Book Press.

Note: Huge thanks to Roaring Book Press for making an Advanced Review Copy (ARC) of this book available to read at the International Literacy Association conference. All opinions in this review are my own. Thanks for reading!

Books We Love: Max Tilt Fire the Depths

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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!

Using Your Classroom Door to Create Reading Community

Literacy in the Classroom

One of my goals for the 2017-2018 school year is to create a powerful reading community in my classroom. In thinking about how to change my classroom to reflect this goal, I thought I’d start from the moment my third graders walk through the door each day.

On the last day of school in June, we had a “Sneak Peek” day where my new students visited my classroom. There was one question I made sure to ask every child: what was your favorite book from second grade? This gave me great information about my students as readers. Coming into the new school year, I wanted to find a way to remind my students about the positive reading experiences they had in second grade.

On my classroom door, I made a tag for each student with their name and their favorite book from second grade. These door tags started conversation from the first day. “You read that book in second grade, too?!” “Yeah, I loved it! What did you think about the part where…”

I also wanted to give my students a glimpse into my life as a reader. On the bottom half of the door, I decided to show the covers of all the books I read this summer. With some help from my former students, I taped more than 80 book covers on the door:

The conversations around these books have been powerful, too. My students were drawn to the display, and have asked me about many of the pictured books. When I asked students to make “To Be Read” lists for the first few weeks of third grade, many of them walked over to the door to copy down some titles from my summer reading. I’ve even had former students stop by to chat about shared reads after looking at the door.

I hope my door sends a simple message to my students: You’re a reader, and I am, too. Let’s grow as readers this year!

Books We Love: Come With Me

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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

and

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!

Books We Love: One Mixed-Up Night

#bookexcursion, Books We Love

Nerds on an adventure?

The description of One Mixed-Up Night immediately caught my eye. Two sixth-graders, Frankie (short for Francesca) and Walter, decide to spend the night at IKEA. It’s less an act of rebellion and more an act of imitation; the two children are inspired by From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Frankie, our narrator, hopes that a night of adventure will bring back some of the spark that’s been missing from Walter’s eyes over the past few months. It seems like Walter hasn’t been saying what’s on his mind. Over the course of the night, Frankie realizes that there are some things she hasn’t been saying as well.

This fast-paced book kept my attention throughout, and I know it will do the same for middle grade readers. Frankie and Walter are often wise beyond their years as they discuss lessons they’ve learned over the course of their friendship. The book is filled with foreshadowing that will keep readers riveted, but it also slows down enough to add depth.

Just a note: if you’ve never read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, you can understand and adore One Mixed-Up Night without understanding all the references. Although I’m ashamed to say it, I’ve never read From the Mixed-Up Files, but after One Mixed-Up Night, the classic is definitely going on my reading list!


One Mixed-Up Night will be released in September 2017 by Random House.

Huge thanks to Catherine Newman for sharing a copy of One Mixed-Up Night 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: Draw the Line

Books We Love

Have you ever thought about the power we give to lines? We use them to connect, and we use them to divide. They make up paths from place to place, as well as borders that separate. In Draw the Line, two boys are each drawing their own lines when they discover that some magical things can happen if they team up. In order to create something amazing, they’re going to have to let go of the things that stand between them.

The fact that this book is wordless creates so many possibilities for its use in the classroom. It will inspire countless conversations on friendship, community, and communication. Younger readers can use the book to discuss how they connect with others, while readers through high school age can connect this story to current events. Readers of all ages can imagine the thoughts and conversations of the two artists. How might words help them achieve their goal? How might words stand in their way?

I can only imagine the impact this book would have if it were put in the hands of every child and adult. This is a book that is desperately needed in today’s world. Draw the Line will inspire us all to live our lives drawing lines of connection.


Draw the Line will be released in October 2017 by Roaring Brook Press.

Thanks to Roaring Brook Press for making an Advanced Review Copy of this book available at the International Literacy Association conference.

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

#DiverseKidLit

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)

#WeNeedDiverseBooksClub

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