Tag Archives: Donalyn Miller

Love it? Say it! Share it!

This week’s post is a recycled theme. I’ve previously written about the importance of sharing our “Book Love”, but the more authors I get to know, the more passionate I feel about this. The books we love don’t just appear. There is a hardworking author who chose every single one of those words that we are savoring! I frequently see posts on social media where they comment on how a review, tweet, or fan letter has touched them or inspired them.  When you work for months or years, all alone, pouring your heart into a piece of writing, you hope that it is meaningful to some reader out there. Well, dear readers, let’s show them if it is!

I know many who do.  There is a whole nerdy nation of readers who are passionate about books and authors.  One of the biggest tribes is the Nerdy Book Club . Here they are always sharing their love of books and love for their writers. But what are some other avenues readers can take to spread their appreciation for the writers who gift us their words?

Here are a few ways I have tried.

Last year one of my favorite authors, Gae Polisner, (The Pull of Gravity, The Summer of Letting Go, and on Sept. 6 The Memory of Things) reminded me, as I read her blog, about the importance of book reviews to authors. Click below.

Tuesday Feedback: A Little Conversation about Book Reviews Starring YOU

Her message was that authors need us to keep them in the public eye.  Sharing our favorite books on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr will inform our friends and followers.  But how can we expand our Book Love beyond our relatively small circle?  How can we support those authors we love so they can continue their writing careers and bring us even more Book Love??

Our reviews on sites like Goodreads will certainly expand our influence and love, but sites like Amazon have a much stronger impact for sales of books.  THAT is the ultimate way we support our favorite authors.  Love a book?  Let others know!! Don’t know how to post an Amazon review?  Go here.  Don’t worry about sounding like an editorial reviewer from Kirkus, New York Times, Booklist, or School Library Journal. The length and quality aren’t as important as the willingness to do it! Here are a few quick tips for posting reviews for the books you love!

  • (This book) is about brief synopsis (but I think it’s really about)what it means to you. (Your review  doesn’t require a complete retelling-editorial reviewers have already done that! What is this book about for YOU?)
  • If you like_____________this book is for you! Who would like this book?  Who would be a target audience? Why would they enjoy it?
  • I really liked ______________ . Were the characters compelling?  Was the writing engaging?  Was it humorous? Suspenseful? Realistic? Heartwarming? Mention one or two things about the book that made it memorable for you.
  • Mention the author’s name (and illustrator).  Remind readers of the person behind those words who pounded out that plot, those characters, that dialogue, those facts and worked their bums off. Books don’t just happen, someone dreams them and brings them to life-we need to honor that!

THAT’S IT!  Sure you could do more or less.  You could write a review any way you want. Check out how kids do it at The Spaghetti Book Club! The big idea isn’t HOW?…it’s WHEN?!!  When will you take a few minutes and go to the independent or big box bookstore or  the website where you purchased your copy and leave a quick, but important review?  We want to keep this authors “employed” and creating the books we love!

What if I can’t afford to buy the book?  No worries.  I try to be a book patron as often as possible, but my local library knows me by my first name.  I check out dozens and dozens of books a month.  I always make sure to tell the librarian about the books I love the most and that ensures they’ll be recommended to other patrons.  As I said, I’ve also been known to leave a post-it note or note card sticking out to grab readers’ attention, “Hey!  You should check _______ out!  You’ll love it!”

So now that you’ve read my soapbox spiel – click on over to Amazon and post a review for one of your favorite authors!  They deserve it!

What’s On My Book Radar?

Screen Shot 2016-02-27 at 9.00.11 AMSince the day I read A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd, I knew I would pre-order any other book she would publish. Some writers help you visualize, Natalie makes you feel!  She creates characters that you want to befriend (or adopt!) Her writing is almost lyrical. I find myself rereading lines to taste them tripping across my tongue! Some may call it folksy, I find it charming.

The Key to Extraordinary  did not disappoint!! It is a joy to read. It is filled with imagery like this:

If God had a stethoscope, and if He held it up to this part of the dreary world to check for a heartbeat, I hope these are the sounds He’d hear: The sound of boots stomping rhythms out of the dust. The sounds of happy squeals and laughter when people spin out, nearly dizzy from joy. The sound of a scratchy voice, a thumping guitar, a plucky violin.  That’s what pure joy sounds like.”

When I came home from school last night and saw this book sitting on the kitchen counter, I ripped it open and dove right in.  Part of me wanted to slow down and savor it, but I just couldn’t. As I got into it, I was compelled to see what Emma’s Destiny Dream was, and how it was going to be realized. I wanted to see if the mysterious boy would ever speak again.  I had to know if they could save their family bakery, the Boneyard Cafe.  I was curious if the ghosts in their backyard cemetery were real. I needed to know what the key in her dream unlocked!

If you love stories with multi-generational families, compassionate characters, traditions, and eccentricity,  I think you will love it, too!  The Key to Extraordinary is extraordinary. It will satiate a hunger you didn’t even know you had!

Beyond Thankful

Since it is the eve of Thanksgiving and there are so many other tasks demanding my attention, my blog this week will be a simple gratitude journal.  I cannot possibly list all that I am thankful for, so I will focus on my time at NCTE in Minneapolis this past week.

I am thankful…


…That I could bring a colleague.  Andrea made this experience so rich and meaningful.  I am lucky that I have such great teachers to collaborate with. I love my job, and the teachers who make it so rewarding.



…That I had a “dream team” for my panel presentation on Close Writing.

They each brought incredible insights to their close writing process and showed us that there is no “ONE RIGHT WAY” to be a writer.  Thank you to Sarah Albee, Linda Urban, Lester Laminack, Kate Messner, and Selene Castrovilla.  Andrea and I learned so much from you all.

…That I got to meet the authors who have touched my life so profoundly.

Katherine Applegate brought me to tears with the story of The One and Only Ivan and her latest incredible book Crenshaw. Kate DiCamillo has brought a bit of magic to every story she’s written. I have been a fan since Because of Winn Dixie and haven’t stopped loving her work.  Lynda Mullaly Hunt is the most compassionate author I know and can call friend. Her books One for the Murphys and Fish in a Tree are must-reads for every teacher.  They allow us to see our students in profound ways -and now that I know how much they reflect the heart of this author, they are even more special. And Cynthia Lord is a true gift to kid lit lovers.  Her books Rules, Touch Blue, Half a Chance and  A Handful of Stars bring the stories of ordinary children with very real problems to life for our students in ways that help them know they are not alone-that someone understands.


…That I got a chance to connect with those Nerdy Book Club peeps

that feed my soul (and my Amazon cart!) with their passion for kid lit.  Colby Sharp, John Schumacher (Mr. Schu), and Donalyn Miller (the Book Whisperer) have so much energy and knowledge.  It was truly infectious!

…That I learned from some amazing authors and educators at panels and

roundtables.  I tried to take photos, and notes, and sketches as fast and furious as I could at times, and at other times I just ‘absorbed’ the experience and savored the moment.

…and finally I am incredibly thankful for the people at Stenhouse who helped me put my ideas into a book that will be out next month.

To say it was a surreal experience would be the understatement of my life. When I saw the lineup of authors to meet and chat at the Stenhouse booth I was blown away.   I am mindful of the quote,

“To those whom much is given, much is expected.”

I will strive to give back to the degree that I am given, to be humbled and grateful by the experiences I am fortunate to have, and to remember to thank those who have been a light in my life.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

What’s On My Book Radar?



I was able to get the most recent “True Story” fairy tale adventure from Liesl Shurtliff.  RED: The True Story of Red Riding Hood.  This fantastical tale was my companion for the plane ride home.  I love the twists and turns of re-imagined fairy tales-Liesl has a wonderful way of bringing fresh insights to old and familiar tales.  Look for this book April of 2016!


Manuscript Mentors

IMG_1908As I was finishing up the last of the proofreading and edits of my manuscript for Stenhouse (Close Writing: Developing Purposeful Writers in Grades 2-6) I solicited some ideas on Facebook from my author friends: “Calling on all my writer friends for any advice on final edits of a manuscript. Any tips on what works for you would be welcome as I venture into new waters here.”
I hoped to get a response or two.  I was a little overwhelmed with the wonderful advice from so many authors I look up to!

Lynda Mullaly Hunt Set a day aside and read the entire thing out loud. You hear things you don’t hear when he read silently. Good luck!

Franki Sibberson By final edits, I’ve learned that I need to let go and know I can’t do everything I want to do in one piece of writing (even though it is a BIG piece of writing!). So I work to make what I’ve already said the best that it can be instead of thinking of all the things I didn’t say and trying to add those in. If that helps at all!

Cynthia Lord Change the font and print a copy. It will look different enough that your eye will read every word again–if it looks familiar your eyes sometimes read what you think it says, not exactly what it does.

Charlotte Agell I love the Cynthia tip. Different fonts make me THINK differently. They are like the clothing of my words – punk, staid, all-purpose, snazzy…

Lester Laminack I find it helpful to put it aside and write a summary/note to myself what I hope the reader leaves with. Then I read the whole thing with that in mind.

Jennifer Richard O’Grady I tackle the smaller edits, the easier things first. That gives my brain more time to chew on the bigger questions. From time to time stop and savor the moment. Your dedication got you to this stage!

Sarah Albee Do a find/replace for words you suspect you use too much. I’ve horrified myself with this exercise, finding I use certain words way too often. Also search-and-destroy too many semicolons, or whatever your personal perils may be!

Kate Messner When I review copy edits, I take a blank piece of paper to cover up everything beneath the line I’m reading – helps me to slow down. Also, read aloud.

Donalyn Miller Appreciate all of the great advice here. I take a close look at really long sentences to decide if they make sense or need to be revised/shortened for clarity.

Maria Padian Hunt down adverbs. Wherever possible, replace them with stronger verbs that don’t need modifying, or give the character a physical gesture that conveys the meaning you’re after. Same with the verb “to be.”

Lynn Plourde My agent taught me this trick . . . you can delete “that” most of the time (i.e. I didn’t know that she lived in town . . . I didn’t know she lived in town). Btw, since I’m at the final edit stage on my MG novel–I’m savoring all this advice you’re getting, Paula!

Gae Polisner The biggest help is to put it away for a month or three and read it fresh then, but very few of us have the luxury or patience to do so.

Melissa Stewart Highlight your verbs in a different color and make sure ewach one is as strong and precise as it can possibly be.

Meg Frazer Blakemore Give yourself breaks and walk around, even if it’s just around your house.

David Lopez Read it backwards in a mirror, turn around three times and then set it on fire. Laugh with glee.

Ammi-Joan Paquette So many great comments here already! I would just add that it’s not easy, taking the plunge to “let go” and launch your baby out in the world. It’s helpful to remember that you have been diligent, and thoughtful, and thorough–you’ve done your best, and it’s GOOD. That’s why you’ve gotten this far. Once you give it that final read, and make any last changes that jump out, let it go with confidence. It’s ready to fly!

I wanted to save (and savor) their sage advice, not only for thisIMG_2205 project but for all writing moving forward.  They didn’t have to respond, but their passion for writing is so evident when they rush in to support another writing.  And so I am feeling thankful today. Thankful that the final proofread manuscript was sent back to Stenhouse, thankful for those amazing people who work there that will turn my words into a book, and thankful for all those authors who were willing to mentor me on my journey. It has truly taken a village to raise this ‘baby’!

What’s On My Book Radar?

23604418I am so excited that our recent school book fair had Kate Messner’s latest Ranger in Time: Danger in Ancient Rome. This copy is sitting by my bedstand waiting for me to finish this blog, log off, and pick it up!  I think this is such a fun and informative series.  I know the painstakingly careful research Kate does for her books, so I know I will learn something new with each of Ranger’s adventures.  If you haven’t discovered this series yet for yourselves, I encourage you to grab a copy of this and Rescue on the Oregon Trail

Virtual Summer Camp 2015

When you live in an amazing state like Maine, “Staycations” are a favorite, especially in the summer.  Winters are long here, and we often don’t want to give up a single day of our Maine summers.  Though there were several conferences and camps I would have truly enjoyed going to, I elected to attend them virtually.  Thanks to social media it’s not only possible, it’s easy!

1538725First up is nErDcampMI.  I am determined to roadtrip my way across the coun1621704_667566729951571_1638043617_ntry for this one someday, but the next best thing is following the tweets of my favorite nErDy campers (Katherine Sokolowski, Donalyn Miller, John Schumacher, Cindy Minnich, Teri Lesesne, and Lesley Burnap -among others. Another way to learn along with these campers is by visiting the IDEA BOARD where participants brainstormed topics to explore and archived their notes/resources. Colby Sharp is the amazing educator who organizes this camp and one of the founders of The Nerdy Book Club.  If you love books you can follow the blogs of these nerds and get your nerdy on!

You can see a complete listing of EDcamps at: EDcamp Calendar 2015

summit-logo_0Next up were the Scholastic Reading Summits scattered across the country from Boston, to Austin, to Birmingham and more. Featured speakers included:

Again, I could follow along on twitter with the hashtag #readingsummit or check out these RESOURCES on the website.



Last week was the first summer conference for the newly renamed International Literacy Association  (formerly International Reading Association).  Previously they have held this conference the first week of May, but this year it was summer in St. Louis.  Having grown up in the Midwest, I knew that could be H-O-T!  Twitter was again my go-to entrance ticket to this event!  Following the hashtag #ILA15 I was able to see photos, read quotes, and link to videos. Still looking for notes and resources from this one!

As you can see, you don’t have to go far for professional development. Sure, it’s great to go in person, to experience the camps and conferences with other passionate educators.  But when you can’t, there’s no reason to be left out!  We can be as connected as we choose to be.  I’ll be at NCTE 15, but this summer I chose virtual PD-fun and free!

What’s On My Book Radar

My #bookaday challenge is going great! You can follow my daily reads on Facebook: Book-a-Day Summer 2015. One book I have been recommending to many is The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare.  Harry Potter fans will find many similarities, as we follow three young mages (gifted with magic) who enter the Magisterium when they turn twelve.  I worried at first it would be too much of a copycat series, but those worries vanished as I was pulled into this adventure.  First of five, I highly recommend this Maine Student Book Award nominee!


My new favorite picture book is Little Red Henry by Linda Urban!  I love this twist on a familiar story.  Rather than looking for help, Henry is looking for independence…something his family doesn’t seem ready to offer! This will be a fun read aloud for classrooms and livingrooms!




Book-A-Day 2014

Hey All You Nerdy Book Club teachers or just Nerdy Readers…You are probably out of school by  now (even if you live in Maine)!  It’s time to think about the Sixth Annual Book-A-Day 1621704_667566729951571_1638043617_nChallenge!  

Established by Donalyn Miller (The Book Whisperer), it began as her public commitment to continue reading and sharing books with other readers all summer long.  The goal is to read one book a day, each day and post about it.  Sounds daunting at first, but her rules are simple…

  • You set your own start date and end date.
  • Read one book per day for each day of summer vacation. This is an average, so if you read three books in one day (I know you’ve done this!) and none the next two, it still counts.
  • Any book qualifies including picture books, nonfiction, professional books, audio books, graphic novels, poetry anthologies, or fiction—children’s, youth, or adult titles.
  • Keep a list of the books you read and share them often via a social networking site like Goodreads or Twitter (post using the #bookaday hashtag), a blog, or Facebook page. You do not have to post reviews, but you can if you wish. Titles will do.


So as you can see…ANY book qualifies.  I couldn’t possibly do it without a cache of picture books on hand, books I might not otherwise check out…  I learned some really fun things like:    Every major league baseball is treated with something very common yet very secretive!  10303374_10204293324792974_5521659285391223163_nOR  A major concert artist gave a performance at a D.C. metro stop and the reaction was surprising!10439432_10204252689937128_548567021298871530_n

I am savoring some YA books I’ve been waiting to read…

looking-for-alaska 18267071

And diving into an engaging “Not This, But That” series that includes titles such as:9780325049045 9780325051147 9780325049038

The only thing keeping the volume of reading down for me this summer, is a new goal of writing everyday.  Immersing myself in this new venture has been exciting, exhausting and sometimes frustrating.  Being able to relax and escape back into a book has taken on a whole new importance!

So I’ll throw down the gauntlet to my friends and followers.  Can YOU read a book a day?  Give it a try, it’s a challenge I think you’ll enjoy!  If you want to post, use the hashtag #BookaDay on your favorite social media site.


Happy Reading!!

25 Book Challenge

How about a New Year’s Resolution that doesn’t require us to give up food and drink we love?  What about a resolution that increases opportunity for what we love and spreads that passion to others?  Sound good?  The 25 Book Challenge might be just what you and your classroom need!

Children get better at reading BY reading.IMG_4426

The research shows that children who read more have higher vocabularies, score better on standardized tests, show greater verbal intelligence, demonstrate greater declarative knowledge, have expanded world knowledge, improved memories, have reduced stress and increased empathy.*

So HOW do we get our students to beHIGH VOLUME readers?

1.      It becomes the expectation.
2.      We create the conditions to make it happen.


The Expectation

If we really want our students to develop lifelong love of reading they need to develop reading habits.  In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell examined what factors led to high levels of success. From his research he hypothesized the “10,000 Hour Rule”.  His claim was that the key to success was practicing a task for at least 10,000 hours.  (That’s 600,000 minutes)  If our students only read 20 minutes a day it would take them 30,000 days to meet his criteria (82 years!). If they read for 2 hours a day it would only take 5,000 days! That’s about 13 ½ years.  Just about the amount of time we have children in public school.

2 hours a day is not unreasonable for most of our kids, IF we have time in our school days devoted to immersion in reading.  I’m not talking the old model of ‘the book flood’ where you just have books available and reading takes place through osmosis.  But time with REAL reading tasks could replace some of the isolated skill work students are sometimes asked to do.  Reading aloud to our students EVERY day would be part of this time.

Time can be difficult to track however.  Unless you have a stopwatch with start and stop and recording features it becomes cumbersome to log the minutes spent reading each day.  What IS easy, is tracking the number of books you read.  This is something your students can do independently. Setting a high expectation for volume reading IS a reasonable goal for teachers to have for their students, we need to find ways to help students rise to our expectations.


WHY 25 or 40?

Donalyn Miller (The Book Whisperer) requires her students to read 40 books each year. We don’t have a complete school year left, so 25 books is somewhat arbitrary, but the reasoning is consistent.  We have about 20 weeks of school left starting in January.  That is asking students to read about 1 book a week and then 5 more.  If a student reads a particularly long book one week, he or she could read a few shorter books the next.  Some students may say, “ha…that’s easy, I’m going to read 40 picture books.”  I’d say, “GREAT! That’s 40 books you probably never would have given the time of day.”  I also believe that when they see the books their peers are reading, that they will diversify their selections.  The goal is attainable for all if we set up the conditions for success.

The Conditions

How do we create conditions to promote success?   Here are what I think are essential elements we need to consider  to help  our students become HIGH VOLUME readers this year.

1.    Have LOTS, and LOTS, and LOTS of books available for your students. 
2.     Have LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of time for reading (during the school day!)
3.    Have a manageable accountability system.
4.    Promote an environment that is PASSIONATE about reading-                                                                                       LOTS, and LOTS, and LOTS of passion!


How you do this is as varied as there are classrooms in this country, but I’ve put together a unit with ideas that might help.  Clink here 25 Book Challenge for the unit.   I would also encourage you to read The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller and Igniting a Passion for Reading by Stephen Layne for more inspiration and ideas.

I would LOVE to hear how you have ignited a passion for high volume reading in your schools.  Please leave ideas, suggestions or questions in the comments section.


* Research References

What’s on My Book Radar?

With Christmas vacation coming up, I have already reserved a pile of books from my local library.  I am going with these Nerdy Book Club Recommendations:Screen Shot 2013-12-18 at 12.59.02 PM Screen Shot 2013-12-18 at 12.59.59 PM Screen Shot 2013-12-18 at 12.58.07 PM Screen Shot 2013-12-18 at 1.01.32 PM

The 2013 Nerdy Award Ballots are out!  You have until Saturday Dec. 21st at 11:59 pm to vote.  Here’s the link the Nerdy Award Ballots so you can weigh in your favs this year!