Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Blog Tour: The Witch of Woodland by Laurel Snyder

Thank you to Walden Pond Press for inviting me to be part of the blog tour for Laurel Snyder's newest middle grade novel that was published this month, The Witch of Woodland. 

About the book: 
Laurel Snyder, author of Orphan Island, returns with a story of one girl's quest to answer the seemingly unanswerable questions about what makes us who we are.

Hi, whoever is reading this. I'm Zipporah Chava McConnell, but everyone calls me Zippy.

Things used to be simple--until a few weeks ago. Now my best friend, Bea, is acting funny; everyone at school thinks I'm weird; and my mom is making me start preparing for my bat mitzvah, even though we barely ever go to synagogue. In fact, the only thing that still seems to make sense is magic.

See, the thing is, I'm a witch. I've been casting spells since I was little. And even if no one else wants to believe in magic anymore, it's always made sense to me, always felt true. But I was still shocked the day I found a strange red book at the library and somehow...I conjured something. A girl, actually. A beautiful girl with no memory, and wings like an angel. You probably don't believe me, but I swear it's the truth.

Miriam is like no one else I've ever met. She's proof that magic is real. And, it's hard to explain this part, but I just know that we're connected. That means it's up to me to help Miriam figure out what she is and where she came from. If I can do that, maybe everything else in my life will start to make sense too.

Anyway, it's worth a try.

My review: 
Laurel Snyder has always been one of my favorite middle grade authors. Her work is heartfelt and always makes you think without being obviously didactic. In The Witch of Woodland, Snyder writes a coming-of-age story that delves into Jewish folklore while still maintaining a contemporary vibe. We are so entrenched in Christianity being the default in American culture that coming across a contemporary coming-of-age story that looks at Judaism as more than a religion, but also in a cultural context was a beautiful and immersive reading experience. 

About the Author

Laurel Snyder is the beloved author of many picture books and novels for children, including the National Book Award nominee Orphan Island and the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winner Charlie & Mouse. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she teaches in Hamline University’s MFA in writing for children and young adults program. Laurel lives in Atlanta with her family and can be found online at www.laurelsnyder.com.

Download the Educators' Guide

Purchase The Witch of Woodland on Bookshop.org (affiliate link)

The Witch of Woodland Blog Tour Stops: 

May 16

Nerdy Book Club


May 16

Unleashing Readers


May 17

Teachers Who Read


May 18

Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers


May 22



May 23



May 26

A Library Mama


May 30

A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust


Tuesday, February 28, 2023

A First Time for Everything by Dan Santat

This amazing graphic memoir by Dan Santat is out in the world today and if you teach middle school especially, you need this book for your classroom library.

I read this book on my flight back home from NCTE back in November and I have been impatiently waiting to share this book with readers, but no more!
The premise of this book is that the summer before high school, Dan is presented with an opportunity to travel to Europe with a school group for 3 weeks, but he is initially ambivalent. He wants to experience new things, but he's not sure he wants to do it with some of his classmates. But as the trip goes on, he realizes how much bigger the world grows for him as he tries new and forbidden things for the first time (beer, cigarettes, coffee, and even steals a bike... this was the 80s... we were all feral in the 80s 😛), has his first summer romance, and he sees what the world has to offer beyond his small hometown.

I read this book on my flight home from NCTE and it was the perfect book to read on a plane. My experience living in Europe was in my 20s but I saw so much of my own experience in this book and how the world became so much bigger for me. I loved the way the story was structured, I love how it ended in a way that it felt like you were watching a movie, oh, and I also love that I understood most of the German throughout the book and laughed so hard when Dan was baring his soul to Helga, his Austrian host mother whom he lived with for a week and she said "Es tut mir leid, dass ich nicht verstehe was du sagt." This book has so much heart and is relatable in so many ways, whether that's the travel angle, the "middle school was torture" angle or the pining away for a summer romance angle. So many readers will devour this book and I'm so glad it's finally out in the world for more readers to love.

Published: February 28, 2023
Publisher: First Second
Pages: 320
Genre: Graphic Memoir
Audience: Older middle grade/younger YA
Disclosure: ARC received at NCTE 2022

Purchasing the book from the above Bookshop affiliate link supports independent bookstores and gives me a small percentage of the sale. 

Monday, January 23, 2023

2023 Caldecott Predictions

One week from today the 2023 Caldecott Medal will be awarded. 

Our school recently finished our Mock Caldecott unit and our school selected... 

Knight Owl by Christopher Denise

But having done Mock Caldecott for a few years now and having studied previous winners and honors as well as having served on a book award committee before (I served on ALAN's Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award committee for five years), I have my own opinions on which books I think might win.
My prediction for the medal: 

Berry Song by Michaela Goade
The artwork in this book is so stunning there are literally page spreads I would frame and hang up in my house. Like this one, for example:
If this book wins, no one will question it. It is an obvious choice. But depending on the makeup of the committee, I have a second possibility...

My outlier prediction for the medal:

Gibberish by Young Vo
Where Berry Song takes your breath away with its traditionally beautiful illustrations, Gibberish is something new and innovative and like nothing I've ever seen before. It also just happens to tug at my personal heartstrings because as a person who has lived in another country where I didn't know the language, the main character's struggles were incredibly real to me. But the way Young Vo communicates this feeling of being in a world of confusion is what stands out here. This book could tip the scales if there are enough people on the committee who are looking for something fresh, new, and different. 

Honor predictions:

Knight Owl
by Christopher Denise
What Denise does with lighting in his illustrations for Knight Owl is what makes these illustrations distinguished, but the adorable, brave owl is what made this book our students' choice to win for our school's Mock Caldecott. While I totally understand why they chose this book, I personally am getting Caldecott honor vibes from it. 

Kick Push by Frank Morrison
I don't have any basis for this prediction other than kids love it, it's a teensy bit subversive since the artwork has a street art vibe, and every year I always like to make an unexpected prediction because the year I had a feeling about The Rough Patch by Brian Lies but DIDN'T put it on our Mock Caldecott list because I hadn't heart anyone talk about it, I decided I will now always make at least one prediction that is a little outside the box (though not too outside the box since it's also one of Betsy Bird's predictions too). 

Hot Dog by Doug Salati
It's a book that a lot of people are talking about. It's giving Caldecott honor vibes. I can't explain why. It's just a feeling I have. 

Blue: A History of the Color as Deep as the Sea and as Wide as the Sky by Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond, illustrated by Daniel Minter
This book has mesmerizing illustrations that kids absolutely love, but the text is what trips me up on this one. It's a book that a lot of kids loved flipping through but not actually reading. So I guess it depends on how much the committee considers the text when deciding on this one. 

Farmhouse by Sophie Blackall
I know a lot of people are predicting that this one will win, but I will always root for an underdog and the fact that Sophie Blackall has already won two Caldecott medals in the past eight years means I'd rather Farmhouse win an honor. Would I be surprised if it wins the medal? No. Do I want it to? Also no. 

Those are my predictions. What are yours? 

Purchasing books from any of the above Bookshop affiliate links support independent bookstores and gives me a small percentage of the sale. 

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Favorite Books of 2022

A couple days ago I started to write a post with all of my favorite books of the year. And then I got super overwhelmed because there were so many. So I decided to just share one from each category: picture book, middle grade, young adult, and adult and let you know that if you want to know more of my favorite books from 2022, feel free to follow me on Goodreads.

Favorite picture book of 2022...
Gibberish by Young Vo
Gibberish tells the story of a young boy named Dat who is new to the English language and what that feels like to be the new kid at school who doesn't understand everyone. That story arc isn't new, but the way Young Vo tells it and illustrates it is unlike anything I've seen before. His use of black and white cartoonish illustrations for Dat's surroundings along with emojis for dialogue that he doesn't understand really immerses the reader into Dat's world of unknowing. As Dat becomes more attuned to the English-speaking world and begins understanding more, his surroundings become more colorful and less cartoonish.

This book is brilliant and so incredibly innovative... and it's really hard for me to say a book is innovative given the number of picture books I read every year. This book is still my top contender for the 2023 Caldecott medal.

Favorite Middle Grade of 2022...
Hummingbird by Natalie Lloyd
Hummingbird is Natalie Lloyd's most personal and vulnerable book to date, as it is about a girl who has the same disability: osteogenesis imperfecta, also known as brittle bone disease. This book is about a young girl named Olive who has been homeschooled her whole life and convinces her mom to send her to the local public school despite her mom's fears over Olive's fragile body.

As with all of Natalie Lloyd's books, it is full of magical realism. There’s a teacher in the story that says a pen is a direct line to a person’s heart. Well, Natalie Lloyd’s pen draws a whole lot of lines to readers’ hearts.

Favorite YA of 2022...
The year is 1932 in Berlin and now that Hilde is eighteen, she must leave her orphanage and set out on her own. She quickly discovers, however, that finding a job is near impossible in these economically depressed times. But fate intervenes one night when she meets Rosa, who brings Hilde to Café Lila where she meets a cast of characters that soon become her chosen family.

As Berlin falls further and further into the authoritarian grip of the Nazis who are scapegoating Jews and the queer community, Hilde along with the employees and patrons of Café Lila continue to remain quietly hopeful and defiant... until trouble comes loudly knocking on their door.

Just as the title suggests, this YA historical fiction in verse by Kip Wilson is dazzling. Berlin is my favorite city on earth, mostly because there has always been a provocative, defiant, avant-garde, and counter-cultural energy about it. That was true in 2004 when I visited for the first time, and it was certainly true when this novel takes place.

But just as this book is a window into 1930s Germany, it's also an alarming mirror to societies, including American society, that allow idealogues and populists to rise to power.

Favorite Adult Book of 2022...
Just like Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking changed my life as it asked me to celebrate my introversion rather than admonish it, so too did Bittersweet change my life by bringing awareness to those of us walking the earth who have a tendency towards melancholy and why that’s actually a good thing.

I’ve never felt so seen and understood as when Cain talks about why people with bittersweet personalities find such joy and satisfaction listening to sad music… because longing is active. It moves us. It compels us. It makes us feel like a missing piece of your soul was just added to the puzzle that is your life. So the next time I sit down at the piano to play Moonlight Sonata and feel that sense of longing despite the fact that I’ve played it dozens of times before, or the next time I get chills listening to a song I love for the first time, I’ll remember why I continue to be moved by the bittersweet.

I was so enamored by this book that after I finished it, I went on a three day hyperfixation of playing and creating a playlist of bittersweet music.

What were your favorite books of 2022?

Purchasing books from any of the above Bookshop affiliate links support independent bookstores and gives me a small percentage of the sale. 

Sunday, December 11, 2022

How to Speak Animal giveaway


Learn about the secret language of wild animals in this exciting and informative guide from the experts who brought you How to Speak Cat and How to Speak Dog.

We know animals can’t speak and express themselves in the same way as humans … but even the smallest and quietest animals have incredible ways of communicating with each other. With wildlife veterinarian expert Dr. Gabby Wild as a guide, How to Speak Animal helps kids understand how animals communicate through sound, body language, and behavior. It’s full of expert insights and real-life stories of humans exploring ways to “talk” to animals, from teaching great apes sign language to speaking “dolphin.” Packed with super-engaging animal photography that helps illustrate key concepts, this fascinating bookprofiles more than 60 different creatures―from birds to mammals to reptiles and more―and their amazing ways of communicating with each other.

If you’ve ever wondered why gorillas beat their chests and make hooting noises, what it means when chameleons change color, or why some elephants twist their trunks together, this is the book for you!


About the Authors

Website | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | YouTube

DR. GABBY WILD earned her bachelor of science and doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) degrees at Cornell University. She completed her veterinary internship training at Metropolitan Veterinary Hospital in Akron, Ohio, and received her master’s of public health (MPH) from the University of Minnesota. She is a published genetics researcher and uses her research background to screen zoonotic disease transmission among wildlife, domestic animals, and people. To help maintain a healthy planet, she monitors herd and individual health for rising epidemics. Dr. Wild balances her Western medicine practices with traditional Chinese medicine in an effort to blend both methodologies. Acclaimed for her role as “the veterinarian” on Animal Jam, the world’s largest online “playground,” with 54 million players, she creates educational videos and teaches children internationally about wildlife conservation and medicine. When not in the wild, Gabby works as a Wildlife Health Program veterinarian for the Wildlife Conservation Society at the Bronx Zoo and is a training veterinary surgeon at the Veterinary Medical Center of Long Island. She lives in New York City.

Website | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest

AUBRE ANDRUS is an award-winning children's book author with dozens of books published by National Geographic, Lonely Planet, American Girl, Disney, Scholastic, and more. She has also ghostwritten books for young YouTube stars. She currently lives in Los Angeles with her family. 


  • Three (5) winners will receive a copy of How to Speak Animal
  • US only
  • Ends 12/18 at 11:59pm ET
  • Enter via the Rafflecopter below

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Monday, November 14, 2022

Explorer Academy Book Blitz and Giveaway

BuyGoodreads | Trailer

A heart-pounding final showdown changes the life of Cruz Coronado forever in the seventh and final book in this thrilling fact-based fiction series.

Amid assignments that take the Explorer Academy recruits from the iceberg-filled waters of Antarctica to the bone-dry deserts of Argentina, Cruz Coronado is scrambling to complete the last piece of the cipher. With Nebula agents and the elusive explorer spy still out there, his opportunity to recover his mother’s world-changing formula is slipping away. But as Cruz has learned from his time aboard Orion, true explorers must never give up.

Even after completing dozens of high-risk missions and traveling to all seven continents, Cruz could never prepare himself for one ultimate surprise.

Explorer Academy features: Gripping fact-based fiction plot that inspires curiosity with new technology and innovations; amazing inventions and gadgets; a cast of diverse, relatable characters; secret clues, codes, and ciphers to track down within the text; vibrant illustrations; elements of STEAM; National Geographic explorer profiles in the "Truth Behind" section.

Check out the Explorer Academy website featuring videos, comic shorts, games, profiles of real-life National Geographic Explorers, chapter excerpts and more. 


"Sure to appeal to kids who love code cracking and mysteries with cutting-edge technology."  

"A perfect blend of adventure with real science and technology!"
New York Times #1 best-selling author Rick Riordan

"A fun, exciting, and action-packed ride that kids will love."
—J.J. Abrams, director and screenwriter of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Lost, Alias

"Inspires the next generation of curious kids to go out into our world and discover something unexpected.”
—James Cameron, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and acclaimed film-maker


About the Author

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

TRUDI TRUEIT has written more than 100 books for young readers, both fiction and nonfiction. Her love of writing began in fourth grade, when she wrote, directed, and starred in her first play. She went on to be a TV news reporter and weather forecaster, but she knew her calling was in writing. Trueit is a gifted storyteller for middle-grade audiences, and her fiction novels include The Sister Solution, Stealing Popular, and the Secrets of a Lab Rat series. Her expertise in kids nonfiction encompasses books on history, weather, wildlife, and earth science. She is the author of all the narratives in the Explorer Academy series, beginning with Explorer Academy: The Nebula Secret. Trueit was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, and lives in Everett, Washington.



  • Three (3) winners will receive the COMPLETE 7-book Explorer Academy series and an Explorer Academy map, showing all the places around the world that Cruz and his classmates visit over the course of the series!
  • US/Canada only
  • Ends 11/27 at 11:59pm ET
  • Enter via the Rafflecopter below

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Monday, October 17, 2022

It's Monday! What are you reading? 10-17-22


It's Monday! What are you reading? Is a wonderful community of readers, teachers, and librarians. Hosted by Jen over at Teach Mentor Texts along with Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers, participants share their reading adventures from the past week along with their reading plans for the week ahead.

My Monday posts are generally just a highlight of what I've been reading during the week so if you'd like to see all that I've been reading, follow my Goodreads page.

Y'all... I have been so all over the place with my reading. I can't seem to commit to just one book. So this is what I am currently reading in bits and bobbles:
The Honeys by Ryan LaSalla

Chlorine Sky by Mahogany L. Browne

I recently read and loved: 
Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson
ZJ's dad, a professional football player, is experiencing headaches, memory loss, and mood swings at a time when the world didn't know about CTE yet. While this is a quick read as it is a novel in verse, it is absolutely heartbreaking and can be triggering in places.

The Family Business by Lenore Appelhans, illustrated by Ken Lamug
Lucky the Racoon is excited to join the family business of dumpster diving to find their food, but when he finally gets to join his siblings, he gets more than he bargained for when humans are always chasing them off. A fun story about honoring your gifts and talents rather than forcing yourself to go against your own disposition.

I Am Quiet: A Story About the Introvert in All of Us by Andie Powers, illustrated by Betsy Petersen
Quiet kids often live rich, inner lives and what we often think is shyness is actually just a kid who likes spending time inside their own imaginations.

Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civils Rights Movement by Angela Joy, illustrated by Janelle Washington
This picture book biography on Mamie Till-Mobley, the mother of Emmett Till, is incredibly well-written and emotionally captivating. A must for every school library and history classroom.

Purchasing books from any of the above Bookshop affiliate links support independent bookstores and gives me a small percentage of the sale.