Monday, June 18, 2018

It's Monday! What are you reading? 6-18-18

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.

I finished reading with my ears:

Posted by John David Anderson
A wonderful story that will particularly appeal to those in-between readers who are too old for middle grade novels but not quite mature enough for young adult fiction. Posted is a wonderful story that examines middle school friendship dynamics - bullying, bystanders, adding a new friend to a circle, and the pain of friends who outgrow each other.

Picture books that stood out in the pile:

Drawn Together by Minh Le, illustrated by Dan Santat
A young boy and his grandfather have difficulty communicating (whether that's a language barrier or just a generational one is ambiguous, but likely intentionally) but find drawing as their means of connecting with each other. A story with a beautiful message and equally beautiful illustrations. I could see this one being in Caldecott contention. My only criticism is that I found the middle of the story a little muddled and confusing, but the ending was absolutely stellar.

I'm Sad by Michael Ian Black, illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi
“I don’t like you just 
when you’re happy
I like you all the time.
When you’re sad or angry
or bored or anything else.”

A perfect, simple story for kids and adults alike that reminds us all that it’s ok to be sad and sometimes we just have to let ourselves be sad without feeling the need to constantly put on a happy face for everyone.

The Girl with a Brave Heart: A Tale from Tehran by Rita Jahanforuz, illustrated by Vali Mintzi
A beautiful folk tale with parallels to Cinderella, but with a much more powerful message: when people are sad, they can't always communicate what they need and so we must listen to their heart instead of what comes out of their mouths.

Niko Draws a Feeling by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Simone Shin
A young boy named Niko draws lines and shapes and scribbles to represent all sorts of feelings he experiences in the world. A lovely story that can help kids grasp the idea of abstract thinking. Would be a great prompt to get students to visually represent an abstract feeling on paper.

The Big Umbrella by Amy June and Juniper Bates
A book that you think to yourself, "Well, this is weird," as you're reading it, but then as soon as you finish and close the book, you then mull over how despite the text's simplicity and oddness, the story and the message are so deep and timely.

I Walk with Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness by Kerascoet
The new girl Vanessa is bullied on her way home from her first day at school and one of her classmates can't stop thinking about her for the rest of the night. While the story is wordless, the images are powerful and can help spark conversations about what empathy means and how we can find the courage to follow the voice in your head that tells you to do the right thing.

Maximillian Villainous by Margaret Chiu Greanias, illustrated by Lesley Breen Withrow
Poor Maximillian doesn't seem to fit in with his family's villainous ways. When his parents give him an ultimatum, he manages to find a way to be villainous in his own kindhearted way.

Currently reading:

Rebound by Kwame Alexander
Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics by Dan Harris

Monday, June 11, 2018

It's Monday! What are you reading? 6-11-18

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.

Last week I was devastated by the news of Anthony Bourdain's death. So I wrote a piece about what he meant to me:

Remembering Anthony Bourdain with No Reservations

Last week I finished reading:

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
Written with an incredible point of view: the collective LGBT voices who died tragically and unnecessarily as they observe modern day LGBT youths struggling and going about their lives. 

Picture books that stood out in the pile: 

Take Your Octopus to School Day by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Diana Schoenbrun 
How can you not love a kid with a pet octopus named Thurgood? 

No Hugs for Porcupine by Zoe Waring
Prickly porcupine is sad that no one will hug him, but soon one of his woodland friends will find a solution to show his affection.

Play with Me! by Michelle Lee
Nico and Pip both have different ideas of what “play with me” means. One wants to play games, the other wants to play the cello.

Valensteins by Ethan Long
Love doesn’t have to be about hugs and kisses. Sometimes it’s just sitting quietly looking at the moon together.

I Just Want to Say Good Night by Rachel Isadora
A tale as old as time: it’s bedtime and a little child does whatever she can to avoid going to bed. In this case, saying good night to everyone and everything in her village. Loved the nod to Good Night Moon.

The Funeral by Matt James
A lovely examination of death and sadness and how children remind us that even in death, life goes on.

Currently reading:

Rebound by Kwame Alexander

Currently reading with my ears:

Posted by John David Anderson

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Remembering Anthony Bourdain with No Reservations

I remember the first time I ever heard Anthony Bourdain's name. It was 2005 and my husband and I had just moved back home to Michigan from his three year assignment Germany. I saw a commercial for this new show on the Travel Channel called No Reservations. Feeling a sense of loss of our time globe-trotting around Europe, I heard his tag line, "Be a traveler, not a tourist" and I already knew that I liked him before I watched his show.

That first show in Paris was a revelation and hooked me from the very beginning. He wasn't there to visit Notre Dame or the Eiffel Tower or show untraveled Americans the underwhelming Mona Lisa at the Louvre. He was there to immerse himself in the culture. He was there to humble himself to the people at their table. He was there to tell stories. And what a storyteller he was.

Through his entire stint on television, whether it was on Food Network, Travel Channel, or CNN, you never got the sense that he was trying to promote himself or that he sold out on his values. He was just naturally curious about people and the world and he wanted to share his learning with his audience.

But that natural curiosity came at a price.

Over the past few days, so many people have wondered how we could be depressed since he had the life so many would dream of: traveling the globe, eating and making award-winning television. But here's the thing. Anthony Bourdain epitomized the distinct difference between what it means to be nice vs. what it means to be kind. Niceness is a facade, a role you play to be accepted in polite society. Niceness is how you behave to someone's face while being someone entirely different behind their back. I know plenty of nice people.

I don't know that many kind people. Because kindness isn't just what you say. It's what you do. There's no bullshitting kindness.

Anthony Bourdain wasn't nice. He was crass, irreverent, and biting. He told it like it was and pulled no punches.

But Anthony Bourdain was kind. He spoke up for marginalized voices and wasn't too proud to admit when he was wrong. He visited "parts unknown," not to show off other cultures like zoo animals, but to show how, around the table, we all want the same things: family, friends, and community.

But after a while, kindness can take a toll. It can wear you down. Because when other people hurt, you hurt too.

I'm sorry you hurt, Tony. I'm sorry that you felt like the only way to end your pain was to end your life. Your presence in this world brought light to dark places and now our world is a little bit darker in your absence. Godspeed, dear Tony. Even though I never knew you, you felt like a friend. You were a friend to us all. A friend who wasn't afraid to tell you harsh truths that you didn't always want to hear, but a friend just the same.

Read more about Anthony Bourdain:
Don't Eat Before Reading This - The New Yorker April 1999
Kick Out the Jams - Bourdain's Tumblr after his visit to Detroit. It's one of my favorite pieces of writing by him.

Anthony Bourdain and the Power of Telling the Truth - The New Yorker June 8, 2018
The Best of Anthony Bourdain - The New York Times June 8, 2018
Anthony Bourdain Was the Kind of "Bad Boy" We Need More Of - The New York Times June 8, 2018

Monday, May 28, 2018

It's Monday! What are you reading? 5-28-18

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.

Happy Memorial Day! It's so hard to believe it's almost June! We only have seven days of school left before summer break and I am so excited to have a break but I'm also going to miss going into school every day. Luckily I'm keeping the library open one day a week so hopefully students will come in and utilize the library. 

Last week I posted:

This Moment is Your Life (And So Is This One) blog tour

Picture books that stood out in the pile last week:

The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds
Words are powerful and the more words you know, the more you can take ownership of your own thoughts and feelings. I am so delighted that Peter Reynolds created a book that communicated this powerful concept.

Misunderstood Shark by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Scott Magoon
"The ocean gets its saltiness from the tears of misunderstood sharks." This book is too funny.

Currently reading:

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

This Moment is Your Life (And So Is This One) blog tour


    Don't just do something, be here.

The key to happiness is being able to find comfort in this moment, here and now. When you are completely present and not distracted by regrets, worries, and plans, even for a little while, you begin to feel more confident and can deal more easily with everything you experience. This is mindfulness: paying attention to this very moment, on purpose and without judgment--simply being present with curiosity.

This engaging guide, packed with simple exercises and endearing full-color artwork, provides a handy starting point for bringing mindfulness into your daily life. Chapters on meditation, yoga, and mindful breathing explain the benefits of these practices, and you are free to pick and choose what to try. There are quick exercises throughout, and a more extensive tool kit at the end of each chapter. The final chapter offers satisfying five-day challenges that map out ways to pull all of the book's mindfulness techniques together in your day-to-day life.

With the appeal of a workbook or guided journal, and full of examples relevant to tweens and teens today, this book will be your trusted companion as you begin the valuable, stress-relieving work of being still with skill.


Mariam Gates has a master's degree in education from Harvard University and has been teaching children for more than twenty years. The founder of Kid Power Yoga, she now devotes herself to training children and adults in yoga and mindfulness. She is the author of the picture books Meditate with MeGood Night Yoga, and Good Morning Yoga. She lives with her husband, Rolf Gates, and their two children in Santa Cruz, California.


Libby VanderPloeg is an illustrator and designer living in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. She grew up in Grand Haven, Michigan, on the edge of the Great Lakes, and since then, she has lived in Grand Rapids, Chicago, New York, and Stockholm. She's created book covers and editorial illustrations for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Design*Sponge, among others, and as well as a line of cards and prints that she sells via her Etsy shop and in stores.

I absolutely loved Mariam Gates's picture books Good Morning, Yoga and Good Night, Yoga, so I jumped at the chance to read her newest book for middle grade and young adult readers. I have been searching for a book on mindfulness to share with my students and this book definitely filled that need. I will definitely be sharing some of the mindfulness exercises with my students.

This Moment is Your Life (And So Is This One) by Mariam Gates, illustrated by Libby VanderPleog
Published: May 22, 2018
Publisher: Dial
Pages: 248
Genre: Nonfiction
Audience: Middle Grade/Young Adult
Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher

If you buy this book or any book through Amazon, it is my hope that you also regularly patronize independent bookstores, which are important centerpieces of thriving communities. While I am an Amazon Affiliate, that by no means implies that I only buy my books through their website. Please make sure you are still helping small, independent bookstores thrive in your community. To locate an independent bookstore near you, visit IndieBound

Monday, May 14, 2018

It's Monday! What are you reading? 5-14-18

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.

Last week I posted: 

How to Trick the Tooth Fairy blog tour + giveaway

Picture books that stood out in the pile last week:

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Boy by Tony Medina
Beautiful and profound

Lost in the Library: A Story of Patience and Fortitude by Josh Funk, illustrated by Steve Lewis
Readers who loved the after-hours view of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler will find their heart in Josh Funk's latest picture book as Patience and Fortitude, the lions who keep watch over the New York Public Library, go on an after-hours adventure of the building they protect.

Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James E. Ransome
Beautiful, simple text and soul-stirring illustrations

Help Find Frank by Anne Bollman
Frank the French Bulldog has run away and we must help find him! A fun interactive picture book for any dog lover, but particularly those who love dogs of the smooshy face variety. (I just so happen to have a smooshy face dog named Frank, too). Here's a picture of my Frank with Help Find Frank:

Thursday, May 10, 2018

How to Trick the Tooth Fairy blog tour

Welcome to Day #4 of the How to Trick the Tooth Fairy Blog Tour!

To celebrate the release of How to Trick the Tooth Fairy by Erin Danielle Russell and illustrated by Jennifer Hansen Rolli on May 1st, blogs across the web are featuring exclusive content from Erin, as well as 5 chances to win a copy of How to Trick the Tooth Fairy!

My Top 5 Favorite Picture Books
by Erin Danielle Russell

1.  Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson. This book really spoke to me as a kid who loved drawing on the walls with crayons! …And, my mom’s lipstick too.

2.  Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg.  This book was really exciting to me, and even a little scary, because the pictures looked so real!  I felt like I was playing the game, Jumanji, every time I read the book.

3.  The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg.  Who wouldn’t want to ride on a magic train to meet Santa Claus?  Van Allsburg’s artwork is always amazing!

4.  The Berenstain Bears series by Jan and Stan Berenstain.  I used to ask my dad to read me a Berenstain Bears book almost every night because they were funny and really cute.

5.  The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith.  I’d never heard of a fractured fairy tale until I read this hilarious book.  Now I prefer them to the originals!


Blog Tour Schedule:

May 7th — Mrs. Mommy BookNerd
May 8th — Books My Kids Read
May 9th — Chat with Vera
May 10th — A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust
May 11th — Word Spelunking

BuyAmazon | Indiebound
Follow ErinWebsite | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram
From the coauthor of Dork Diaries comes a witty and engaging picture book about a prankster who wants to pull off the best prank of all—pranking the Tooth Fairy!

Kaylee loves pulling pranks: from dropping water balloons on passers by to even tricking Santa Claus, she’s a prize-winning prankster!

But is she the Princess of Pranks? No! That title is held by none other than the Tooth Fairy. But when Kaylee loses a tooth and the Tooth Fairy goes about her usual tooth-taking business, Kaylee pranks her with a fake frog. As Kaylee and the Tooth Fairy try to out-prank one another, things get way out of hand, until the two finally see eye and eye and decide to share the crown!

About the Author: Erin Danielle Russell has been writing stories since she learned how to spell. When she grew up, she became coauthor of the New York Times bestselling Dork Diaries series with her mom, Rachel Renee Russell. She currently lives in Virginia with her husband, Jacob, and her spunky teddy bear, Stanley. When Erin’s not writing or daydreaming, she likes to cook, travel, play video games, and watch cartoons.

About the Illustrator: Jennifer Hansen Rolli grew up with lots of siblings who were waiting around corners with a trick or two up their sleeves. Today she lives with her own pranking family in Newtown, Pennsylvania (which is really a very old town). She is the author/illustrator of the picture books Just One More and Claudia and Moth. You can find more of her work at


  • One (1) winner will receive a copy of How to Trick the Tooth Fairy
  • US/Canada only
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