The Negation of Polarization; Book by Book

It’s getting messy out there in the world. We are becoming more and more polarized in our beliefs and our stances. We are seeing the rise of fearmongering for those who are “other”.  We are seeing emboldened acts of racism, xenophobia, misogyny, antisemitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, that are being rationalized as normal nationalism. I could write a tome on the topic, but instead I would like to offer a short blog and a collection of picture books that might serve as a small antidote to the mistrust, distrust, misunderstanding, and misconceptions that are slowly poisoning our society. I believe in the power of books to change lives; to stimulate thinking and to open hearts. We are more same than different and yet we should celebrate our differences for the richness it brings to life. We need to love ourselves as well and feel like we belong. Mirrors, windows, sliding glass doors…it’s more than a catchy phrase for diverse books, it is guide for helping us get books into the hands of our children if we are ever going to raise a more compassionate generation.

There are soooo many out there, but I wanted to share a few picture books I have embraced recently. This is just a drop in the bucket of powerful picture books. I would truly welcome YOUR suggestions in the comments or on Twitter and Facebook. I’ve provided links to Amazon below but please visit your local indie bookstores or libraries to check these out as well.

Screen Shot 2019-09-22 at 8.41.28 AM

















Book by book we can change the world!

Please share some titles that you think will help us make this world a more kind and compassionate place for our students to grow and thrive.


Sparking Social Emotional Learning

This week I’m sharing by guest post on the Stenhouse Blog. I believe writing has the power to transform lives, and it doesn’t require a lot of time.

Click the photo below for the link.

Below is a guest blog post from author of Spark! and Close Writing, Paula Bourque.

Screen Shot 2019-09-14 at 11.45.23 AM

I encourage you to subscribe to the Stenhouse Blog to receive cutting edge articles and ideas from literacy, math, and educational leaders each week.

One More Off My TBR Stack

TScreen Shot 2019-09-09 at 7.13.39 AMHE TORNADO by Jake Burt
Fantastic middle grade novel by Jake Burt (Greetings from Witness Protection!) that celebrates the power of creativity and friendship. Bell Kirby is a creative genius at Village Green Elementary School, he is also the victim of a deplorable bully, Parker Hellickson. The problem is Parker’s father is the principal and can’t believe his boy could ever be so evil. Things seem to get a little better for Bell when a new student, Daelynn Gower moves to Village Green. Her unique style quickly draws the attention of Parker
who shifts his target of bullying toward her. Bell is faced with a classic dilemma, does he stay quiet, uninvolved, and safe or does he help Daelynn? As he grapples with this problem he realizes he’s not the only one who has been victimized by Parker and a creative solution to the situation begins to take shape. Jake Burt is an incredible writer who gives readers compelling characters and plot that pull you in and make it hard to stop reading. I read this in one afternoon and loved it. Releases Oct. 1, but I would preorder this one, you’ll want it for a read aloud that will invite powerful discussions about kindness and friendships. Don’t forget to read the author’s notes in the back, you’ll appreciate Jake even more.

What Those Wiggles Might Be Telling Us

If you’ve ever walked into a primary classroom the first weeks of school you have probably observed a squirming tangle of post-toddler tykes trying to sit “criss-cross applesauce” on a rug. You’ll hear multiple moans of “I’m tired!” Try as we might to keep them focused, we find ourselves playing whack-a-mole with our calls to attention.  As teachers we are working to build stamina so that our young learners can focus and pay attention. But what if our efforts are directed more keenly on mental stamina and not as much on physical stamina?

As observed in over a dozen kindergarten and first grade classrooms this week I noticed how difficult it was for so many students to sit on the floor in an upright position. They were tipping over, lying down, rolling around…(in other words, normal kid behavior in most situations). But as I saw the teachers reminding and redirecting in order to get the students’ attention, many were struggling to sit upright in a comfortable position.

What if it’s not attention, but core strength that needs more stamina?

I don’t think it is an either/or proposition, but I wondered how we could help our kiddos develop more core strength. I think the first step may be to talk to them about it. Maybe a conversation like…

Hey kids, I notice it is hard or a lot of us to sit upright for awhile on the rug. We need to build up our bodies’ muscles so that we can sit comfortably and have stronger bodies. The muscles in our tummies and back are called our core. We use our core to help us sit and move. Try to tighten up your tummy muscles. What you are feeling is part of your core.

Then we can remind and encourage students as they fidget that they are working on building up their core, the more they sit upright the stronger it is getting. We can also try to implement a few core strengthening activities (and perhaps talk to our phys ed teachers about some games and activities as well)

Here are a few resources I researched. Not surprisingly they come from parenting and child development sites. They might good for us to share with our students’ families.

The Easiest Core Strengthening Exercises for Kids

9 Exercises for Kids to Improve Core Strength and Conditioning

Another idea might be to consider variations in sitting posture for our students. I know space is often limited, but are there opportunities for students to try a non-criss-cross-applesauce posture? This video goes over 4 basic ground positions:

  • Cross Sit Position
  • Bent Sit Position
  • Side Bent Sit Position
  • Long Sit Position

I am certainly not advocating that students need to sit still and upright like robots in order to be paying attention. (The teacher in the photo above recognizes that we don’t all have to sit the same way to attend and learn.) And I’m not saying this will cure all attention issues. Human beings are complex critters. We know some of our kiddos lack healthy diets and sleep regimens, are struggling with issues of trauma, may suffer from ADHD or mental illness, or are developmentally delayed. These can all contribute to a lack of attention. But giving our student some awareness and tools to help them build stronger bodies and minds is what we are all about as teachers.  There are benefits to floor sitting that can help with strength, flexibility, and physical fitness. Let’s tap into them. I’d love to know what you’ve tried and what works for your kiddos.

Here’s to a strong start to this school year.

One More Off My TBR Stack

Song for a whaleSONG FOR A WHALE by Lynne Kelly
Twelve year old Iris is a genius at fixing up radios, what makes it even more remarkable is that she is deaf. Iris feels isolated as the only deaf person in her school and a father who barely knows sign language. She becomes fascinated with Blue 55, a whale who is
unable to speak to other whales. Iris empathizes with him and devises a plan to sing to him using what she knows about radio frequencies and technology. But Blue 55 lives in the Pacific and she lives in Texas. Thus begins an unlikely adventure with her deaf grandmother who is grieving the death of her grandfather. Together they try to find ways to heal their loneliness and that of Blue 55. A great book for anyone longing for connection. Based on the life of a real whale (Blue 52).

Embracing the Novice Inside Me

I’ll be embarking on my 32nd year of teaching this week. I’ve learned so much over the years, and as a coach I am always eager to share ideas and experiences with others. But the more I know, the more I know I don’t know–and this is humbling.

One goal I have this year is to focus on being a learner. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I have ever closed myself off to new learning or felt as though I’ve “arrived”. I just want to approach it with a more humble and open heart this year-to take time to see my schools and my community through my novice eyes to help me notice and grow. Screen Shot 2019-08-26 at 7.56.43 AM

I was listening to a recent episode of one of my favorite podcasts (Hidden Brain – “You 2.0 Rebel With a Cause“) and they were talking about research on how experience could be costly. In one study the FDA put out guidance to cardiologists regarding a procedure that was harmful to patients and they found the more experienced the surgeon, the less likely they were to change their behavior, suggesting “when we gain experience we often feel like the expert and we think that we know better even when we hear information or when we see evidence that speaks to the fact that we are wrong. And so having that  learning mindset as with any experience is so so important.  And of course that’s difficult to do precisely because once you know something you ask yourself why should I go back to becoming a beginner?”

It made me wonder, “How often have I inadvertently ignored information or evidence that might help me grow because I feel like an expert?” After 32 years, is it even possible to think like a beginner? I expect it will be fascinating to try it from time to time. I won’t disregard all of my knowledge and experience, but I can certainly try to create some space in which I walk in the shoes of my students, our novice teachers, and my colleagues to see their realities without feeling the urge to impart some wisdom or support before speaking out.

Even writing this post makes me feel a bit vulnerable, and that’s probably a good first step in empathizing and understanding the learners in our lives. I can recall all too well, how anxious and insecure I was as a new teacher all those years ago. I had a horrible experience. It’s one reason why I wanted to become a coach, to support teachers in the way I needed (and yearned for) support. I would never wish my first year on anyone, and I never wanted to go back to that experience, but revisiting from this safe space might be just what this 32 year veteran needs to keep a fresh perspective and an active growth mindset.

Screen Shot 2019-08-26 at 7.56.19 AMEvery year I work with incredible veteran teachers, passionate new teachers and curious kiddos who can teach me so much. I know learning is a two way street if we drive carefully. This year I’m looking forward to traveling down that two-way street of learning to see how much we can all grow on this journey.



More Off My TBR Stack

Screen Shot 2019-08-26 at 7.49.48 AMThere are too many books to choose from this summer to share only one here (on my END OF SUMMER BLOG) You can see reviews of  my summer reads here at my GOODREADS SUMMER READING 2019

Would love to hear some of your favorites that I can add to my fall TBR!

“Burnt” Out? This Summer PD Will Revive You

Last week I participated in one of the best professional learning experiences of my life. I lived on an island in Maine for three days, enrolling in a course called “Lighthouses Across the Curriculum”.  I wasn’t sure what to expect but I quickly found myself in PD Heaven with a small group of inquisitive, curious, and adventurous educators. img_9249img_8741

Our instructor, Elaine Jones, is the ‘keeper’ of Burnt Island Lightstation in Boothbay img_8628Harbor, ME. She is a super hero to me. She runs the entire island from the lighthouse, to the keeper’s house, to the educational center she had built there. She designs and teaches the courses for educators  and she runs a “living” history museum two days a week on the island that recreates the lives of the keeper and his family from the 1950’s. (She also is in charge of the Maine State Aquarium). Plus she captains the boat that transports participants to the island and to surrounding lighthouses. She literally does it all!

img_8427For three days we learned about lighthouses and the lives of the keepers and their families but we also incorporated history, geography, biology, literacy, physics, and map skills (and more). We were immersed in island life and a deeper understanding that could never come from reading about it all. We were given a notebook that filled with our new learning, book recommendations, sketching,  poetry, and where we recorded our science experiments. (We even got creative with tempera paints and shaving cream to decorate our covers)





















If you live in or around Maine, I highly recommend you check out the summer course offerings. They vary from year to year a bit, but this summer you could choose from “Innovative Learning through Nature, Inquiry, and Mindfulness”, “Lighthouses across the Curriculum”, and “Visual Literacy through Gouache”. I had really hoped to take the img_8385first course, but it filled too quickly, but  I was thrilled with the Lighthouse Course. If you can’t visit, you can use some of the free Marine Educational Resources offered by Elaine.

It was certainly a summer experience I’ll never forget. You can check out my Google Photo Album here if you’d like to see more.   BURNT ISLAND COURSE 2019

This poem by Rachel Lyman Field really sums up my experience.

If once you have slept on an island
You’ll never be quite the same;
You may look as you looked the day before
And go by the same old name,
You may bustle about in street and shop
You may sit at home and sew,
But you’ll see blue water and wheeling gulls
Wherever your feet may go.
You may chat with the neighbors of this and that
And close to your fire keep,
But you’ll hear ship whistle and lighthouse bell
And tides beat through your sleep.
Oh! you won’t know why and you can’t say how
Such a change upon you came,
But once you have slept on an island,
You’ll never be quite the same.


One More Off My TBR Stack

Image may contain: bicycle, text and outdoorTHE PARKER INHERITANCE by Varian Johnson
Candice Miller finds a letter addressed to her grandmother that opens up a mystery about a young girl from dozens of years ago named Siobhan Washington and an injustice done to the black community of Lambert, South Carolina. Her grandmother, Abigail Caldwell, was vilified and fired from her job as the town’s first black city manager when she tried to solve the mystery. Now Candice, with the help of her friend Brandon begin to piece together the clues. Whoever solves the mystery will inherit a fortune to help rebuild the town of Lambert and right a wrong done to some of it’s citizens. Dueling plot and timelines uncover both overt and subtle racism (and discrimination) now and then. A total page-turner with complex characters and serious issues woven in masterfully will leave you loving this book. This brilliant book has it all! A 2019-2020 MSBA Nominee.




nErDing Out!

Following up on last week’s post …I made it to nErDcamp Michigan! It was everything I’d hoped for-and more. There were basically 3 parts to the conference.


Day 1 were the featured speakers and presenters. We started with an incredible panel called “Feminism for All” that really resonated with me. I created a sketchnote to capture some of my big takeaways.img_7861


I was especially intrigued by the concept of Intersectionality; the idea that that people are often disadvantaged by multiple sources of oppression and that when we focus on one at a time (gender, race, sexual orientation) we are fighting small battles separately rather than trying to lift all and elevate all voices.




We then heard 3 great nErDtalks by authors Minh Lê,  Cece Bell, and Laurie Halse Anderson. They were inspiring advocates for the power of kidlit and for teachers to make a difference in the lives of their students.  Minh spoke so beautifully about our need to counteract dehumanization through story and books. Cece shared how she looked for books with characters like her, and how important it is for our students to be able to find themselves in books. Laurie gave a brutally honest talk about the critical need for information on healthy sexuality and TALK BEFORE TOUCH. If you haven’t read her book SHOUT, I beg you to check it out. Such an important text.

Then The Book Whisperer, Donalyn Miller fired up the crowd with the charge to “Make good trouble when you leave here”. Her message is that teachers need to be more engaged to advocate for the lives of our students. I love her quote, “Every exchange of book to kid contains hope.”

We then broke out into sessions from featured presenters. I was lucky enough to be one of those presenters and shared my passion for writing and my desire to expand our definition of writing so that all learners have a place at the table. You can see my full presentation on THINKING THROUGH OUR FINGERS here.

The day finished with author signings and lots of free books. I was in kidlit heaven. Getting a chance to meet and talk with authors about their work was inspiring. Here are some of the authors I met at nErDcamp, there were so many others I didn’t photograph!   AUTHOR PHOTO ALBUM

Day 2 We built our idea board. People lined up to propose session ideas and thenErDcamp team created a Google Doc menu of each session. There were so many to choose from, but the great thing is if you can’t be in two places at once  you can read the notes attached to the Google Doc for all sessions!

I offered a session on sketchnotes that  filled a classroom with eager teachers. It was so gratifying to have several share their first attempts at sketchnoting later in the day and post to Twitter with the hashtag #nErDysketchnoter!

Day 2 ended with nErDcampJr. THIS WAS INCREDIBLE. 1500 kids in grades 1-12 signed img_8027up for mini-workshops with kidlit authors. Each child got to work with 3 different authors, have a pizza dinner, and watch a ‘Draw Off’ with kidlit illustrators. I was a group volunteer who took “Team Ibis” to meet and work with Matt Tavares, Jon Sciezka, and Jennifer Torres. All of this was FREE for these students. Thanks to the work of the nErDcamp team organizing an army of volunteers and truckload of donations!

This was definitely two days I’ll never forget. If you get a chance to attend a nErDcamp, don’t pass it up. There will be one in Maine Sept. 28th. Look for registration to nErDcampNNE soon!

One More Off My TBR Stack


THE PARIS PROJECT by Donna Gephart

I was so fortunate to get an ARC of this book at nErDcamp. Donna Gephart is such an ally to kids whose stories need to be told, who need to see themselves in the stories they read, and a gift to the kidlit world. In this novel we meet Cleveland Rosebud Potts whose greatest desire is to attend the American School of Paris and live a life of culture. She’s created a checklist of six tasks that she thinks will help her attain her goal, but nothing seems to be going right. Her sister is trying to get into college far away in Vermont, her mom is working extra jobs, her best friend from elementary school has turned on her, and her closest friend Declan has a crush on someone Cleveland is angry with…but worst of all her Dad has done something that has made life almost unbearable for the Potts family. Donna Gephart has a way of breaking your heart and putting it back together so compassionately by touching on so many challenging issues our children are dealing with. Set to be released October 8, 2019-If you are curating a collection of ACES (Adverse Childhood Experiences) stories you just might want to pre-order this one!



nErDcampMI or Bust!

It’s been on my bucket list for six years and I’m finally going to nErDcampMI. The brainchild of teacher/author Colby Sharp, this “uncamp” is free to attend but tickets “sell out” incredibly fast. Teachers from all across the country trek to Parma, Michigan to learn along with some of the nerdiest people on the planet. Kidlit lovers like me will be in heaven, surrounded by a jillion of the most amazing authors and illustrators of our favorite books.

Thanks to a nudge by my author friend Clare Landrigan, (and the fact that my son’s summer soccer days are behind us) I finally booked a ticket for Michigan. It takes a lot for me to leave Maine in the summer and I know this will be totally worth it. Having Clare for a travel/learning buddy will make the experience even more priceless.

I submitted a proposal for Day 1 and was delighted that it was accepted. Day 1 is like a traditional education conference with featured speakers,  while Day 2 is an (un)conference that is self-designed by participants who decide what topics they want to learn about. My session is called “Thinking Through Our Fingers: Reimagining Writing Possibilities”.Screen Shot 2019-07-01 at 3.53.10 PM

I’m on a bit of a mission to expand our definition of writing so that everyone has a place at the writing table. I want us to see the value in all types of writing that can help us explore thinking and feeling, that can help us communicate more, and that is FUN! I’ll proudly be sharing the work that teachers and students have been doing in our Augusta Schools and hopefully come back with even more ideas from nErDy teachers at camp. Here are the sketchnote handouts I’ve created for my session:

I’ll be sketchnoting during other sessions and look forward to sharing new learning with colleagues who couldn’t attend. Summer is a great time for teachers to refill their buckets and I know this will be a huge part of my summer rejuvenation.

One More Off My TBR Stack

Continuing my audiobook summer series I was able to listen to two audiobooks as I traveled to visit my parents in Wisconsin this past week but I’ll share one here.


The Tattoist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

Based on interviews with Holocaust survivor Ludwig Sokolov (Lale–Lah-lay), who became the Tätowierer (tattooist) who permanently marked arriving prisoners, after it is discovered he speaks several languages. He managed to survive over 2 1/2 years in Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps while risking his own life to exchange jewels from murdered Jews for food to help keep fellow prisoners alive. One day he tattoos the number 34902 on the arm of a frightened girl named Gita. He vows that he will survive and one day marry her. But the Germans don’t care about the hopes and dreams of their prisoners and the odds are against Lale and Gita as they experience and witness unspeakable atrocities. I didn’t think I’d want a ‘heavy’ book for my summer reading, but this one was amazing. The audiobook is read by Richard Armitage and he brilliantly conveys the voices of German, Russian, Slovakian men and women with a complete range of emotions from fear to intimidation to hope.


Just “To Do” It

I am a list maker. I have been for years. I have “To Do” lists for work, home, and travel that have helped keep me organized and sane as I juggle day to day responsibilities. I’ve tried a more creative and visually enticing  bullet journal, but already have sketchnote books and a personal journal that consume a bit of time. I may try it again one day, as I love the look of them, but I didn’t want it to become one more “To Do” on my to do list.

Also, I often create lists when I first wake up in the morning (or even when I wake during the night) and a chicken-scratched-grab-a-pen-without-turning-on-the-light-scribble-list is often the preferred method of writing. So I keep an open notebook and pen on my bedstand to keep the process easy. I need to get thoughts/tasks/shopping lists out of my brain and onto the paper to free up more dream bandwidth.

But I discovered it is kind of fun to look back through old lists that have documented times in my life. It gives me a snapshot into what was going on and what I had for priorities. Rather than ripping out pages and tossing them, I decided to keep those notebooks intact. Gives me a chance to reflect and remember in a way my journal doesn’t. These seemingly unimportant items would never make it into my daily diary and yet they convey aspects of my life that conjure memories as easily as my narratives.

Screen Shot 2019-06-30 at 11.29.37 AM

I am on a mission to expand our definition of writing with teachers and students. Here is yet one more example of authentic writing that probably deserves more respect and recognition.  It can be used for in-the-moment and short term organizing, or a fun way to document our daily lives, or for whatever works for you.

Do you keep lists? I’d love to hear about your process.

WRITING IS WRITING! Let’s celebrate it all.

One More Off My TBR Stack

Screen Shot 2019-06-30 at 9.50.06 AMBORN A CRIME  by Trevor Noah

Continuing my love of audiobooks this summer… Reading the memoir of someone so young, I wondered what lessons I could learn or how I might be enlightened from this narrative. It was eye opening. Living under Apartheid in South Africa was something I’d read briefly in headlines while in college, what I did not know was that being Black and being Coloured were two very different things, and that the system of oppression and discrimination varied depending on someone else’s (often random)interpretation of your color. If you are looking for a bio on how Trevor became a comedy star in America, you’ll probably have to wait for the sequel. This is a fascinating look at his young life overcoming tremendous obstacles even as Apartheid officially ended. Loved the audiobook since it was read by Trevor Noah himself. Check it out!

Curb Your Jealousy

So I’ve taken about two months off from blogging because I really wanted to focus on something important. My son, my youngest, was finishing his senior year in high school and I wanted to minimize my commitments to things outside of our family and his waning days as a senior. At first I felt the tug to keep up with Twitter chats, book groups, blogs, and professional development, but taking time to prioritize helped me realize how short and precious life is and reminded me that taking a pause is not the same as giving up interests and activities. I had the best time watching my boy finish strong and loved being in the moment for each moment.

I also became more aware of how FOMO (fear of missing out) can eat away at the joys  we have right in front of us. Missing out on a great Twitter chat or a retirement party couldn’t compare to watching my boy play baseball or receive academic recognition. I let it go, let myself be fully in the present moment.

Summer is a season where FOMO can run rampant, especially with teachers and their friends. Because we have no flexibility in our time off, our vacation plans are condensed into these few weeks and months. We try to make the most of it with adventures, experiences, and even purchases. Every day I see posts from friends who are sharing the joys they are experiencing, and almost every day I see some response that says, “jealous”.

I know it may seem innocuous to many people, and this post may seem overly “PC” but I encourage us all to pause and seek a more supportive response for our friends and loved ones. Our envy or jealousy does not add to their joy or help lift them up. I know many of these comments are meant as a humorous reply, but then I notice how the encouraging comments such as, “so happy for you” or “love that your family had this adventure together” can better express how much we love and care about our friends and are truly happy for their well-being and joys.

Another consideration to these responses is how they affect us.

  • Are we really jealous? If so, that’s something we can work to address-life is too short to live with the burden of envy. Comparing our lives with others’ crowds out our own feelings of gratitude–an important source of joy. Remember, people aren’t sharing their struggles as much as their happiness. No one’s life is accurately portrayed on social media and many aspects we would not be envious of at all.
  • Are we just kidding? It may come off as passive-aggressive if it diminishes the joy of others. Do we find it humorous when we are on the receiving end of these comments? If we are going for humor, maybe we could put a little more creative effort into our responses.

Teachers often carry around a misguided guilt for having “so much time off” as it is. We hear, “must be nice” so much we often feel the need to rationalize our schedule and explain to others that we aren’t being paid for that time. We shouldn’t have to, but it is a reality.

I don’t want to shame anyone who has responded to others’ social media posts or conversations in this way. I have done it myself without much thought to how it might be received. I know this post may irk a few people who think I’m being overly-sensitive. That’s okay if it helps them think more about how our actions affect others, and ourselves. Our world needs more loving kindness and every small gesture we put out into it can create a ripple that is ever extending. Let’s be happy for one another. Let’s lift each other up. Let’s pause before we post. Let’s embrace an attitude of gratitude!


One More Off My TBR Stack

Screen Shot 2019-06-20 at 10.36.11 AMWHERE THE CRAWDADS SING by Delia Owens

Reading also took a back seat these past two months. I turned to audio books to feed my insatiable need-to-read. I downloaded this book on Audible and it drew me in right from the start! I cannot begin to tell you how much I LOVE this story and the character Kya who was slowly abandoned by each member of her family, starting with her mother, and left to survive in the swamps of North Carolina. She is befriended by Tate, who also lost his mother and he teachers her to read and encourages her passion in biology and botany of the marsh life. But in 1969, the handsome, womanizing, former football hero is found dead and the locals immediately suspect the mysterious “marsh girl”. The story weaves back and forth from Kya’s childhood to the trial that will determine her fate so seamlessly and suspensefully. Delia Owens love of nature paints a lush backdrop to this incredible story of heroic grit and survival. The Audible Audio version narrated by Cassandra Cambell is amazing!

I LOVE Authors! Do You?

This week I was in author heaven as I was able to connect with some of my very favorites in a variety of venues.

On Monday I attended a Booksource Book Tasting in which authors Cynthia Lord and Charlotte Agell shared their latest books and talked a bit about their process.IMG_E0936

On Tuesday two of my schools sponsored an author visit by Matt Tavares and I got to watch him put on 4 amazing presentations for groups of students from preK to 6th grade. He shared how he comes up with his ideas, how he researches his subjects/topics, and the countless revisions in his writing and drawing that lead him to his masterpieces. IMG_0993

On Wednesday I asked author Dusti Bowling to Skype with a group of 4th grade girls who were part of a lunch bunch reading club and were having their last get together for Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus.IMG_1057

Today I Skyped with author Sarah Aronson in preparation for a surprise Skype visit on IMG_E1077Monday with some 2nd graders. I’ll be reading her new book Just Like Rube Goldberg as part of a Readathon launch at one of my schools. As part of that Readathon I am also keynoting to students on the topic I LOVE AUTHORS.  I want them to realize and appreciate that every book they read and love was created by someone with an idea and the determination to work hard until it became a book.

I’ll be passing out these bookmarks to kids and discussing how we can show our appreciation. As an adult I can post an Amazon review, a Facebook share, or a Goodreads entry. But students often don’t have a social media presence or global contacts so their influence is much more local and intimate. I listed some ideas to get them started, but I want them to think of even more.

I love using mentor texts, but it is just as important  for students to have real mentors! Helping to bring authors into their lives in person, via Skype, or by visiting their websites can show readers that ‘wizard behind the curtain’ and help them to appreciate those words, those illustrations, and those books even more. It can also help them to aspire to be published writers themselves when they humanize their concept of author.

So thank you to all the authors who have helped me share the love of reading, the passion for books, and the desire to write with students over the years. You’ll never know how much of an impact you’ve made on their lives–and mine!

One More Off My TBR Stack

Get yourself a copy of this book and you’ll see why I think Cynthia Lord is one of the most talented middle grade writers out there today. She takes seeds from her real life and creates stories that shine a light on the human experience, especially for those who aren’t normally in the spotlight. Emma wants to go to “real school” (she’s been homeschooled). She’s lonely now that her older brother is going to highschool and doesn’t have as much time for her anymore. On the eve of the first day she and her game warden father rescue a stray rabbit. She convinces her parents to let her keep “Lapi” until they can find the owner-if ever. Starting school at 5th grade in rural north west Maine, she finds friendships and cliques have already been established but she strikes up a friendship with Jack, who does not seem to fit in. As the story unfolds, Emma learns what real friendship is about “you have to BE the friend you want to have”. As always, Cindy’s stories have so many layers that can connect with a variety of readers: loving care for pets and strays, feeling excluding and wanting to fit in, nurturing empathy for people who seem different from ourselves, and always in the context of a super satisfying story! As a bonus in this one, you’ll learn facts about lagomorphs and it is set in the amazing state of MAINE! Do your students a favor and get a copy of this in your classroom library ASAP! I don’t think it will stay on the shelves.