being a teacher, being me, Reading, Reading Identity, Student dreams

Spending Time in the Small Moments

I have been spending time in the small moments lately in class. The moments where I get to connect with a student one-on-one, small peeks into who they are, what they are willing to share. I find myself speaking more quietly, smiling bigger so that hopefully my eyes can show how grateful I am for their time, their words, their trust. And we have slowly been building some sort of us, a community pieced together by the stories we share and don’t share.

At the cornerstone of what we do is our reading conference. Not just because these small conversations allow me to get to know my students as readers, but because they allow me to get to know them, period. A greeting, a question about how 7th grade is going and what is happening in their life and then we are off, speaking about who they are as readers, what they are working on and the motivation they have behind the work they are doing. They tell me proudly of successes, sometimes shyly of perceived failures and I reassure as much as I can; it’s okay if you haven’t read any books in a while, it’s okay that you don’t like reading ( we will work on that together), it’s okay if you have never found a book, if your brain is loud when you read, if you just don’t have the energy. It’s okay if you just read graphic novels, if you dislike magical fantasy, if you have yet to find an author that speaks seemingly just to you. It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s okay I repeat as a way to hopefully make them believe it. To help them know that they are who they are and I am so glad they are here in our classroom together. However they showed up, whoever showed up. We are on a journey, a journey!, and wherever you are is where you will start.

I have to remind myself of this journey as I feel the silent urge to move faster. To get further. To teach more. To “catch up.” Who are we supposed to catch up to anyway? I have to remind myself to stay in the small moments, to use my eyes to express what the mask hides. To reach out in all the ways that we have at our fingertips, to assure and to ensure. To share my own stories as an invitation for them to share theirs. To handle their words with the care they deserve, to handle them with care.

And so I write down notes and I ponder how can I serve these kids best? How can I help them pick up their pieces of their reading journey and thread together a new pattern, one that continues the successes that they have, one that mends their perceived shortcomings so that they can see that no matter what they carry into the classroom, they are readers. Because so many of them don’t see that. So many of them have convinced themselves that because they do not like reading, then they are not readers. They dismiss their own habits of consumption of text. They scoff at the one book that they did like, seeing it as fluke rather than a goal that they accomplished. They fail to see their own journey as readers as the testament to their own determination that it really is. These kids, our kids, who see themselves as kids who hate reading don’t even recognize their own strength. How still showing up into a space filled with books, how still book shopping despite the many books they have tried, how still trying just one more book is nothing but resilience on display. Is everything I hope every reader has; perseverance to keep trying despite how awful it might have been. To have hope in books. To have hope in themselves. To have hope in our year together.

And so I will stay in the small moments, in weighing how I speak, how I read the room. How I am paying attention to the subtle shifts in dynamics and the subtle shifts in trust. In finding time for all of the conversations, not just for me but for them as well as we build this year together. Their words are gifts, no matter how they are spoken. These kids are gifts, no matter how they show up. Read on. Speak on. Dream on.

I am excited to be heading out on the road again to be with other educators in-district or at conferences, while continuing my virtual consulting and speaking as well. If you would like me to be a part of your professional development, please reach out. I am here to help.

being a teacher

Where Am I Sharing Ideas These Days?

You may have noticed that I have not been sharing as much on this blog as of late. While there is a variety of reasons for it including the death of my father, the school year planning starting, and just trying to not work as much as I have in previous years, I am still actively sharing ideas, just in other formats.

So where can you find more ideas from me these days?

Conferences – I am so excited to be back out with school districts, professional organizations and conferences, whether in-person or virtual. While I continue to teach fulltime in 7th grade and have no plans for changing that, I am able to take some time to go and coach other educators and also speak on any of the work we do. In the next few months, I will be with educators in New Jersey, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, and Iceland. If you would like me to be a part of your professional development, please just reach out.

Instagram – I use this platform almost every single day, whether it is to share book recommendations under #PernilleRecommends, snapshots from my classroom or sometimes personal life, or even questions to think about the practices we uphold. This is where I share the most and where you will find the most peeks into the teaching I do. To follow me there, go here.

Twitter – I continue to use Twitter to share questions, share ideas, and also have my posts crossposted from Instagram. This is where you will see longer threads of thoughts as well as links to other incredible resources shared by others. To follow me there, go here.

Facebook – I have a like/hate relationship with this platform but I do love the groups I have created on there for the massive ideas that are shared. Whether it is for the Global Read Aloud or for the Passionate Readers Facebook group, I share classroom documents and unit plans here for the most parts as well as post questions. There are thousands of people in these groups willing to share, join us if you want.

My books – I have written four education books since 2015 and many of my ideas can be found detailed in there. I am currently writing a fifth book as well, which is also taking up a lot of my time when the space is there for it. It is so exciting to dive back into the world of book writing and to get longer ideas down when thinking about how to build reading identity as part of a child’s personal journey. We shall see when it and if it comes out.

Of course, the blog will continue, however, only when I feel the need to write. So until the next idea comes in, see you in the other spaces!

being a student, being a teacher, Student, student choice, writing, Writing Identity

Using Oral Storytelling Kits with Middle Schoolers

A few years ago I traveled to do a day of learning with passionate educators in Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows in British Columbia. After flight cancellations and changes in airports, Denise Upton, one of the district’s helping teachers, graciously agreed to pick me up and take care of me during the stay. While together, she told me excitedly about Story Workshop, oral storytelling grounded within playful literacy, that they were doing with children as part of their literacy approach. She shared all of the work that they did with students in order to give them natural materials to manipulate and create stories with before they ever sat down to write. She spoke of Indigenous oral storytelling traditions and how they were working on bringing the rich traditions of the peoples’ whose land their school buildings sat on and whose tribal members were within their school population back into the classrooms as a way to honor, teach, and preserve a broader envisioning of writing I was inspired and intrigued. Particularly, after she told me how they were using these material kits with their upper grade levels as well and that the response they had was incredibly positive. After a whirlwind visit, the idea sat in the back of my mind for a while, hoping to someday become something I wanted to do with my own 7th graders.

Well, after a year of teaching unlike any other, after too much screen and not enough togetherness. After once again teaching kids who repeatedly told me how much they hated writing, how writing was so hard, whose sentences were forced across the pages, I decided that some day was now. With a commitment to reconsider every unit and every idea we build our classroom learning on, taking our writing in a much more tactile and playful direction was exactly what I need right now to get excited about next school year. Hopefully, my incoming students will think so as well.

So with a loose idea of what it was Denise had shared with me, the seeds started to grow; what if I build some oral storytelling kits for kids to use in partnerships, trios, or by themselves before we begin to write? What if I collect natural materials for them to manipulate and play with as they share stories from their own lives and also from their imaginations? Surely someone had done this before?

The answer is yes, many have! None of my ideas shared here are really original but I got so many questions on social media when I shared the kits I was building that I figured a blog post would be nice. If you are learning about Indigenous storytelling, there are so many wonderful resources shared, such as this one. If you google “Loose Parts”, you can see a lot of information. If you follow the work of Angela Stockman, she has been sharing so many ideas for years and is truly inspirational. If you are trained within Montessori, you know this work. If you know Reggio Emilia principles, then you know these ideas. If you have worked with younger grades, you probably do this already. There are so many resources out there, so dig in and learn.

My purpose for these kits are to get kids talking more before they write out stories, whether they be stories from their own lives or stories they invent. I want them to build scenes or entire stories together or individually depending on the exploration we are doing. I want them to play with their imagination and ot be forced into written production as quickly as we have done in the past, I want them to build community through story, I want them use their hands more. I want English to have more joy and I want it to authentically fit into the identity-centered work we already do in our literacy explorations.

Building the Kits

I had a million ideas right away and needed a way to ground them so I started by focusing on ideas for what to put in them and also building the kits to give me a more tangible sense of what it would look like. I hate so much that educators are almost always forced to purchase things out of their own pocket, so I spent school budget money to purchase the toolboxes. I bought two different kinds, five altogether, so that I can share them between tables – I typically teach 28 students at a time, so I wanted to make sure that I had enough kits to share materials between 10 different groups if need be. I also needed the kits to not take up too much space in our classroom, be easy to store and move, as well as have different size compartments. The first kind I bought was this one and the second kind was this one.

All the boxes are removable in both kits so we can spread them out on the different tables as needed.

Once I had the boxes, then I got more serious with my materials. I had a few guidelines I wanted to follow:

  • Natural materials whenever possible
  • Different sizes of things to use
  • Material that doesn’t necessarily look like “one” thing in order for them to be used for many things
  • Low cost and easy to replace

Then I wrote a list, there are so many lists floating on the internet but I posted mine to Instagram and got even more ideas as well as a huge “Duh!” moment. Notice on my original list, I have nuts on it. That is not going to work at all for some of my students due to their allergies. After a helpful educator made me see the light, I updated my original list.

I knew that if I felt like spending a ton of money, I easily could just order all of these things but I don’t want to. So, instead I turned to my local Buy Nothing Facebook group and asked if anyone had any materials they could donate. So what you are looking at in the kits above, almost everything is donated from kind strangers or friends who happened to have materials lying around. Amazing!

So right now in the kits I have:

  • Seashells, all sorts, all sizes.
  • Pine cones – I need to gather more.
  • Small popsicle sticks – they are pointy and I don’t know if I love that.
  • Wine corks that do not have wine labels on them.
  • Small cork buttons.
  • Wood buttons – I bought a giant bag off the internet.
  • Wool yarn in different colors – I have cut lengths of string in a variety of lengths.
  • White rocks.
  • Feathers – I think I may add more of these.

I also purchased felt mats in green, gray, and brown for the kids to use as a background. They can use more than one if we have enough left over, again I went with natural tones as a way to center us in nature even if the story takes place in a different setting.

Things I would still like to add:

  • Glass beads of some sort
  • Beach pebbles for more color
  • More cork
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Wood slices
  • Acorns
  • Large popsicle sticks

Ideas for use

So while the kits themsleves are a lovely work in progress and bring me happiness right now as I plan, what matters more than the stuff in them is making space for them to be used with our students. So as I planned for the first two weeks of instruction (I do this in order to be able to walk away for awhile, not because I want to work all summer), I planned with the kits in mind.

My two week plan can be viewed here, but please know that it is so much a work in progress, that some of the ideas in it are my own and others are based off of the incredible work others have kindly shared, and that I have given credit to those whose work I am borrowing from or copying. Please feel free to also borrow or use my ideas, just give credit. The kits will be utilized, hopefully, on the third day of school in an activity where students continue to think of the stories they carry and start to build scenes from their own lives that they then, in turn, share with their peers at their tables. After their initial appearance, they will continue to be integrated into our work as we start our first longer writing exploration; personal narrative. Students can use events from their own lives or springboard events from their own lives into a fictional story.

I also want us to think of how the kits may help us work within the emotions we have tied up with our writing, how we can use them to go deeper into story and how stories can weave us together even when we don’t see eye to eye. I am hoping that as we explore our own identities and how that makes us view and react to others, these tangible items will ground us and make us feel safer within our burgeoning community. I am hoping that having these tactile explorations will bring more playfulness into our classroom, as well as more joy. We will also create expectations of how to use the kits with each other. My main focus for that is to be respectful of the material and of what is shared within their stories, but I will ask the students to also think of how to use the materials, how to clean up in order to preserve the kits, and how to work together. It really all ties into the community work we do throughout the year.

My own children helped me eagerly build the kits and have since then also used them. It has been amazing to see them build scenes, stories, and whole worlds using just these materials and then walking me through their stories that they now see so clearly. Even my son who has repeatedly that he hates writing has been using the kits and telling me his stories. I hope I will see the same willingness to try in my 7th graders.

So there you have, my entry in oral storytelling kits. I will share more ideas as I use them with students, but for now, the kits are being built, the ideas are coming together, and the work is just beginning. Have you used kits like this before? Do you have any ideas or questions? I would love to hear your thoughts.

I am excited to be heading out on the road again to be with other educators in-district or at conferences, while continuing my virtual consulting and speaking as well. If you would like me to be a part of your professional development, please reach out. I am here to help.

being a teacher, books, Reading, Reading Identity, Student

The Favorite Books of Middle Schoolers According to My Students 2021

In a year unlike any other I have taught, I was curious to see how reading would be changed for our students, and changed it was. It makes sense too, with COVID impacting so many aspects of our lives, why not our reading lives as well? From kids not reading at all, to kids with no access to books, to feeling fully overwhelmed and finding little joy in the pages of books to those who burrowed deeper and read more than ever before, we faced it all and tried to do the best we could. We drove books out to kids, book talked our hearts out, gave space for independent reading time both virtually and in class, and continued our work discussing and exploring our reading journeys.

There were a lot of repeat favorites this year but also many favorites which did not get discovered because kids were not in class with us, some not at all, others only for a short amount of time. Many turned to whichever books they had at home if they had any or books they had read in the past. Which means that it was a hugely dominant year for white authors and creator, I think this speaks to what kids have access to at home as well and what they have read in the past as they gravitated toward old favorites. I noticed this early on in the year, which is why I used most of our book talks this year to highlight BIPOC authors and creators (which I do anyway every year).

As always, I loved seeing what made the cut because I simply could not do the work I do without the help of these incredible books.   Some of these are fine for all 7th graders, some are more mature, I am including them all so that you can make your own decision.    All parents are informed of the range of books that are present in our classroom library so that students can choose something that speaks to them.  Not all of these books are in my library but are books that the students have found and read independently.

Other things I noticed were:

  • The most requested authors continue to be Jason Reynolds, Angie Thomas, Tahereh Mafi, Rick Riordan, Jeff Kinney, Alan Gratz, and Dav Pilkey.
  • Middle grade books were a huge hit which also speaks to what the students felt emotionally ready for. Typically we have way more YA read in 7th grade than any other genre but not this year.
  • Free verse books and graphic novels were still the most popular formats of books.
  • Social justice books continue to carry a deep impact and are passed from hand to hand but many kids also wanted fun or really fast-paced books this year that didn’t take on heavy topics because they felt the world was heavy enough as it is.
  • Kids reading interests range widely, some students gravitated toward more traditional literature this year while others solely devoured lighthearted middle grade – this shows the incredible need for a broad and inclusive selection for all of our students.

To see the list from 2016 go here

To see the list from 2017 go here

To see the list from 2018, go here

To see the list from 2019, go here

To see the list from 2020, go here

I have gathered the list for shopping purposes at Bookshop.org – a fantastic website that partners with independent booksellers and pays them a higher percentage for anything they sell than Amazon. So please consider using them when ordering books or if you need to use Amazon please consider using this link.

Without further ado, here they are as reported by my seventh graders this year.

Amazon.com: The Gilded Ones (9781984848697): Forna, Namina: Books

Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity-and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki-near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat.Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be-not even Deka herself.

Four students picked this one!

One touch is all it takes. One touch, and Juliette Ferrars can leave a fully grown man gasping for air. One touch, and she can kill.

No one knows why Juliette has such incredible power. It feels like a curse, a burden that one person alone could never bear. But The Reestablishment sees it as a gift, sees her as an opportunity. An opportunity for a deadly weapon.

Juliette has never fought for herself before. But when she’s reunited with the one person who ever cared about her, she finds a strength she never knew she had.

After Ember is rescued from a devastating house fire, she longs for a forever home. But every family that adopts the yellow Lab puppy brings her back, saying she is untrainable, has too much energy, or is just plain destructive. After three failed placements, young Ember is out of options.

The Sterling family runs a ranch that turns rescued dogs into rescue dogs. They’re willing to take a chance on the young Lab, not knowing that Ember’s first rescue will test her skills and strength beyond imagination…

Will Tyler may not be the biggest running back around, but no one can touch him when it comes to hitting the hole and finding the end zone. And no one can match his love of the game. When Will has a football in his hand, life can’t touch him–his dad isn’t so defeated, his town isn’t so poor, and everyone has something to cheer for. All of which does him no good if the football season is canceled. With no funding for things like uniforms and a well-maintained playing field, with every other family moving to find jobs, there just isn’t enough money or players for a season. It’s up to Will to rally the town and give everyone a reason to believe . . .

September 11, 2001, New York City: Brandon is visiting his dad at work, on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center. Out of nowhere, an airplane slams into the tower, creating a fiery nightmare of terror and confusion. And Brandon is in the middle of it all. Can he survive — and escape?

September 11, 2019, Afghanistan: Reshmina has grown up in the shadow of war, but she dreams of peace and progress. When a battle erupts in her village, Reshmina stumbles upon a wounded American soldier named Taz. Should she help Taz — and put herself and her family in mortal danger?

Two kids. One devastating day. Nothing will ever be the same.

Crabtree Drive: Lorayne, Cocoa: 9780578733265: Amazon.com: Books

When African American, fifteen-year-old Raven came to the small, white only neighborhood of Crabtree Drive she’d thought she’d already braced herself for anything…until she finds herself involved with her young neighbor; the bizarrely naïve Dave. Starting with the fact that the ignorant Dave has never heard of simple things such as birds or fire, a string of events lead Raven to realize that something is clearly wrong with Crabtree Drive. Weird pupils, racist teachers and a PE Coach that teaches students to use semi-automatic rifles are only part of her concerns. It doesn’t take long before Raven becomes adamant that her and her family need to leave Crabtree Drive.

However, her plans to leave are constantly dissuaded by Dave who is adamant that nobody leaves Crabtree Drive by the road. In fact, it doesn’t appear as though anybody leaves Crabtree Drive at all. This setback turns out to only be minor in comparison to what gets in Raven’s path; because oftentimes a utopia for one is only a dystopia for another…

What Waits in the Woods by [Kieran Scott]

Seeing things. You were just seeing things.

For city girl Callie Velasquez, nothing sounds more terrifying than a night out in the wilderness. But, wanting to bond with her popular new friends, Lissa and Penelope, she agrees to join them on a camping trip. At least Callie’s sweet new boyfriend, Jeremy, will be coming too.
But nothing goes as planned. The group loses half their food supply. Then they lose their way. And with strange sounds all around her–the snap of a twig, a sinister laugh–Callie wonders if she’s losing her mind.
Tensions swirl among the group, with dark secrets suddenly revealed. And then, things take a fatal turn: Callie stumbles upon a cold dead body in the woods.
Is the murderer close by, watching them? Callie has to figure out where she can turn and who she can trust, before her own life is at stake.

On the night of October 6, 1998, a gay twenty-one-year-old college student named Matthew Shepard was kidnapped from a Wyoming bar by two young men, savagely beaten, tied to a remote fence, and left to die. Gay Awareness Week was beginning at the University of Wyoming, and the keynote speaker was Lesléa Newman, discussing her book Heather Has Two Mommies. Shaken, the author addressed the large audience that gathered, but she remained haunted by Matthew’s murder. October Mourning, a novel in verse, is her deeply felt response to the events of that tragic day. Using her poetic imagination, the author creates fictitious monologues from various points of view, including the fence Matthew was tied to, the stars that watched over him, the deer that kept him company, and Matthew himself. More than a decade later, this stunning cycle of sixty-eight poems serves as an illumination for readers too young to remember, and as a powerful, enduring tribute to Matthew Shepard’s life.

Three students picked this one!

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers–boys whose memories are also gone.
Outside the towering stone walls that surround them is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out–and no one’s ever made it through alive.
Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying: Remember. Survive. Run.

Cassia has always trusted the Society’s choices. And when her best friend appears on the Matching screen, she is certain he’s the one–until she sees another face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. Now she is faced with impossible choices: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s ever known and a path no has dared to follow . . . between perfection and the truth.

Each contestant has their own reasons–and their own secrets–for joining the new virtual reality show CUT/OFF that places a group of teenagers alone in the wilderness. It’s a simple premise: whoever lasts the longest without “tapping out” wins a cash prize. Not only that, new software creates a totally unprecedented television experience, allowing viewers to touch, see, and live everything along with the contestants. But what happens when “tapping out” doesn’t work and no one comes to save you? What happens when the whole world seemingly disappears while you’re stranded in the wild? Four teenagers must confront their greatest fears, their deepest secrets, and one another when they discover they are truly cut off from reality. 

One choice can transform you. Beatrice Prior’s society is divided into five factions–Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). Beatrice must choose between staying with her Abnegation family and transferring factions.

Her choice will shock her community and herself. But the newly christened Tris also has a secret, one she’s determined to keep hidden, because in this world, what makes you different makes you dangerous.

Who is Ida B. Applewood? She is a fourth grader like no other, living a life like no other, with a voice like no other, and her story will resonate long after you have put this book down.

How does Ida B cope when outside forces–life, really–attempt to derail her and her family and her future? She enters her Black Period, and it is not pretty. But then, with the help of a patient teacher, a loyal cat and dog, her beloved apple trees, and parents who believe in the same things she does (even if they sometimes act as though they don’t), the resilience that is the very essence of Ida B triumph…and Ida B. Applewood takes the hand that is extended and starts to grow up.

Two students picked this one

Ever since Ellie wore a whale swimsuit and made a big splash at her fifth birthday party, she’s been bullied about her weight. To cope, she tries to live by the Fat Girl Rules–like no making waves, avoid eating in public, and don’t move so fast that your body jiggles. And she’s found her safe space–her swimming pool–where she feels weightless in a fat-obsessed world. In the water, she can stretch herself out like a starfish and take up all the room she wants. It’s also where she can get away from her pushy mom, who thinks criticizing Ellie’s weight will motivate her to diet. Fortunately, Ellie has allies in her dad, her therapist, and her new neighbor, Catalina, who loves Ellie for who she is. With this support buoying her, Ellie might finally be able to cast aside the Fat Girl Rules and starfish in real life–by unapologetically being her own fabulous self.

Clay and his friends have grown up under a mountain, secretly raised by the Talons of Peace to fulfill a mysterious prophecy. The five young dragons are destined to end the war that’s been raging between the tribes of Pyrrhia — but how they’ll do this, none of them knows.But not every dragonet wants a destiny. When one of their own is threatened, Clay and his friends decide to escape. Maybe they can break free and end the war at the same time — or maybe they’ll risk everything …

Alice has never believed in luck, but that doesn’t stop her from rooting for love. After pining for her best friend Teddy for years, she jokingly gifts him a lottery ticket–attached to a note professing her love–on his birthday. Then, the unthinkable happens: he actually wins.At first, it seems like the luckiest thing on earth. But as Teddy gets swept up by his $140 million windfall and fame and fortune come between them, Alice is forced to consider whether her stroke of good fortune might have been anything but.She bought a winning lottery ticket. He collected the cash. Will they realize that true love’s the real prize?

Jack is at the top of his game. He’s a senior running back on the football team, dominating every opponent in his way. To everyone else, Jack is totally in control. In reality, he struggles with an eating disorder that controls every aspect of his daily life. When Jack starts using steroids, he feels invincible, but will the steroids help him win the big game, or will he lose everything he’s ever worked for?

I guess I always felt even if the world came to an end, McDonald’s still would be open. Like one marble hitting another, when the moon slams closer to earth, the result is catastrophic. Worldwide tsunamis wipe out the coasts, earthquakes rock the continents, and volcanic ash blocks out the sun.As August turns dark and wintery in northeastern Pennsylvania, Miranda, her two brothers, and their mother retreat to the unexpected safe haven of their sunroom, where they subsist on stockpiled food and limited water in the warmth of a wood-burning stove.

Aven Green loves to tell people that she lost her arms in an alligator wrestling match, or a wildfire in Tanzania, but the truth is she was born without them. And when her parents take a job running Stagecoach Pass, a rundown western theme park in Arizona, Aven moves with them across the country knowing that she’ll have to answer the question over and over again.Her new life takes an unexpected turn when she bonds with Connor, a classmate who also feels isolated because of his own disability, and they discover a room at Stagecoach Pass that holds bigger secrets than Aven ever could have imagined. It’s hard to solve a mystery, help a friend, and face your worst fears. But Aven’s about to discover she can do it all . . . even without arms.

Cassius Clay was a kid with struggles like any other. Kwame Alexander and James Patterson join forces to vividly depict his life up to age seventeen in both prose and verse, including his childhood friends, struggles in school, the racism he faced, and his discovery of boxing. Readers will learn about Cassius’ family and neighbors in Louisville, Kentucky, and how, after a thief stole his bike, Cassius began training as an amateur boxer at age twelve. Before long, he won his first Golden Gloves bout and began his transformation into the unrivaled Muhammad Ali. 

Bunny and Nasir have been best friends forever, but when Bunny accepts an athletic scholarship across town, Nasir feels betrayed. While Bunny tries to fit in with his new, privileged peers, Nasir spends more time with his cousin, Wallace, who is being evicted. Nasir can’t help but wonder why the neighborhood is falling over itself to help Bunny when Wallace is in trouble.When Wallace makes a bet against Bunny, Nasir is faced with an impossible decision–maybe a dangerous one.

This book is on the list almost every single year

A boy and his friends must find a way to survive in the mining tunnels after their new space colony is attacked in this gritty action-adventure novel, which School Library Journal called “a solid survival story.”In space. Underground. And out of time.Christopher Nichols and his family live on a new planet, Perses, as colonists of Melming Mining’s Great Mission to save the earth. Dozens of families like Christopher’s have relocated, too, like his best friend Elena Rosales.A communications blackout with Earth hits, and all of Perses is on its own for three months. It’s okay, though, because the colonists have prepared, stockpiling food and resources to survive. But they never prepared for an attack.Landers, as the attackers are called, obliterate the colony to steal the metal and raw ore. Now in a race against time, Christopher, along with a small group of survivors, are forced into the maze of mining tunnels. The kids run. They hide. But can they survive?

The last day of seventh grade has Jaime and Maya wondering who their real friends are.

Jaime knows something is off with her friend group. They’ve started to exclude her and make fun of the way she dresses and the things she likes. At least she can count on her BFF, Maya, to have her back . . . right?

Maya feels more and more annoyed with Jaime, who seems babyish compared to the other girls in their popular group. It’s like she has nothing in common with Jai anymore. Are their days as BFFs numbered . . . ?

A political heist page-turner set in middle school? Is that even possible? Varian Johnson shows us how it’s done. – Gordon Korman, author of SWINDLE Do yourself a favor and start reading immediately. – Rebecca Stead, author of WHEN YOU REACH ME Jackson Greene swears he’s given up scheming. Then school bully Keith Sinclair announces he’s running for Student Council president, against Jackson’s former friend Gaby de la Cruz. Gaby wants Jackson to stay out of it — but he knows Keith has connections to the principal, which could win him the presidency no matter the vote count. So Jackson assembles a crack team: Hashemi Larijani, tech genius. Victor Cho, bankroll. Megan Feldman, science goddess. Charlie de la Cruz, reporter. Together they devise a plan that will take down Keith, win Gaby’s respect, and make sure the election is done right. If they can pull it off, it will be remembered as the school’s greatest con ever — one worthy of the name THE GREAT GREENE HEIST.

Twelve-year-old criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl has discovered a world below ground of armed and dangerous–and extremely high-tech–fairies.
He kidnaps one of them, Holly Short, and holds her for ransom in an effort to restore his family’s fortune.
But he may have underestimated the fairies’ powers. Is he about to trigger a cross-species war?

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape a rigid caste system, live in a palace, and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon. But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her, and competing for a crown she doesn’t want.

Then America meets Prince Maxon–and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

A tree full of monkeys the last thing fourteen-year-old Jay Berry Lee thought he’d find on one of his treks through Oklahoma’s Cherokee Ozarks. Jay learns from his grandfather that the monkeys have escaped from a circus and there is a big reward for anyone who finds them. He knows how much his family needs the money. Jay is determined to catch the monkeys. It’s a summer of thrills and dangers no one will ever forget.

When Savannah disappears soon after arguing with her mom’s boyfriend, everyone assumes she’s run away. The truth is much worse. She’s been kidnapped by a man in a white van who locks her in an old trailer home, far from prying eyes.And worse yet, Savannah’s not alone: ten months earlier, Jenny met the same fate and nearly died trying to escape. Now as the two girls wonder if he will hold them captive forever or kill them, they must join forces to break out–even if it means they die trying.

This series has been on the list every year since it came out.

Two teens must learn the “art of killing” in this Printz Honor-winning book, the first in a chilling new series from Neal Shusterman, author of the New York Times bestselling Unwind dystology.A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery: humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now Scythes are the only ones who can end life–and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe–a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

Rowan and Citra take opposite stances on the morality of the Scythedom, putting them at odds, in the chilling sequel to the Printz Honor Book Scythe from New York Times bestseller Neal Shusterman, author of the Unwind dystology.

The Thunderhead cannot interfere in the affairs of the Scythedom. All it can do is observe–it does not like what it sees.

A year has passed since Rowan had gone off grid. Since then, he has become an urban legend, a vigilante snuffing out corrupt scythes in a trial by fire. His story is told in whispers across the continent.

As Scythe Anastasia, Citra gleans with compassion and openly challenges the ideals of the “new order.” But when her life is threatened and her methods questioned, it becomes clear that not everyone is open to the change.Will the Thunderhead intervene?Or will it simply watch as this perfect world begins to unravel?

Brooklyn, 1998. Biggie Smalls was right: Things done changed. But that doesn’t mean that Quadir and Jarrell are cool letting their best friend Steph’s music lie forgotten under his bed after he’s murdered–not when his rhymes could turn any Bed Stuy corner into a party.

With the help of Steph’s younger sister Jasmine, they come up with a plan to promote Steph’s music under a new rap name: the Architect. Soon, everyone wants a piece of him. When his demo catches the attention of a hotheaded music label rep, the trio must prove Steph’s talent from beyond the grave.

As the pressure of keeping their secret grows, Quadir, Jarrell, and Jasmine are forced to confront the truth about what happened to Steph. Only, each has something to hide. And with everything riding on Steph’s fame, they need to decide what they stand for or lose all that they’ve worked so hard to hold on to–including each other.

This book has been on the list every year since its release.

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does–or does not–say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

The Puppet's Payback and Other Chilling Tales by [Mary Downing Hahn]

Meet a malicious hand puppet that’s as much a part of your body as your hand itself.
Attend a school that prepares students not for life, but for death.
Witness a boy who lends his baseball glove to a different kid every spring–though he himself died years ago . . .

Thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson, haunted by his secret knowledge of his mother’s infidelity, is traveling by single-engine plane to visit his father for the first time since the divorce. When the plane crashes, killing the pilot, the sole survivor is Brian. He is alone in the Canadian wilderness with nothing but his clothing, a tattered windbreaker, and the hatchet his mother had given him as a present.At first consumed by despair and self-pity, Brian slowly learns survival skills–how to make a shelter for himself, how to hunt and fish and forage for food, how to make a fire–and even finds the courage to start over from scratch when a tornado ravages his campsite. When Brian is finally rescued after fifty-four days in the wild, he emerges from his ordeal with new patience and maturity, and a greater understanding of himself and his parents.

Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood–those with common, Red blood serve the Silver-blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. Before the king, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own.

To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard–a growing Red rebellion–even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction.

One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays, the only certainty is betrayal.

In this young readers’ edition of Hope Solo’s exciting life story, adapted from Solo: A Memoir of Hope, the former starting goalkeeper for the U.S. women’s national soccer team gives readers behind-the-scenes details of her life on and off the field.

Solo offers a fearless female role model for the next generation, driven to succeed on her own terms. Young fans will truly be inspired by Hope’s repeated triumphs over adversity. Her relentless spirit has molded her into the person she is today—one of the most charismatic athletes in America.

Wonder: Palacio, R. J.: 0884605417889: Amazon.com: Books

I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid–but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. Beginning from Auggie’s point of view and expanding to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others, the perspectives converge to form a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance. In a world where bullying among young people is an epidemic, this is a refreshing new narrative full of heart and hope.

The Greystone kids thought they knew. Chess has always been the protector over his younger siblings, Emma loves math, and Finn does what Finn does best–acting silly and being adored. They’ve been a happy family, just the three of them and their mom.

But everything changes when reports of three kidnapped children reach the Greystone kids, and they’re shocked by the startling similarities between themselves and these complete strangers. The other kids share their same first and middle names. They’re the same ages. They even have identical birthdays. Who, exactly, are these strangers?

Before Chess, Emma, and Finn can question their mom about it, she takes off on a sudden work trip and leaves them in the care of Ms. Morales and her daughter, Natalie. But puzzling clues left behind lead to complex codes, hidden rooms, and a dangerous secret that will turn their world upside down.

Amazon.com: Breakthrough (The Red Zone) (9781467744720): Priest, A. L.:  Books

Efram is new to Troy, Ohio, a town where football is everything. And as soon as he sets foot in Troy Central High, the school’s head coach takes notice of Efram’s perfect football build. Suddenly Efram is gearing up for practice―even though he has never played the game.

Flick is too small to run for a touchdown or sack a quarterback. And with his mohawk and outsider attitude, he’s not exactly a team player. But he notices things on the football field that most people can’t see. When Flick and Efram team up, they’ll show Troy Central High a whole new way to win.

Blades of Freedom (Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales #10) | Abrams & Chronicle  Books

Why would Napoleon Bonaparte sell the Louisiana Territory to the recently formed United States of America? It all comes back to the island nation of Haiti, which Napoleon had planned to use as a base for trade with North America. While Napoleon climbed the ranks of the French army and government, enslaved people were organizing in Haiti under the leadership of François Mackandal, Dutty Boukman, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, and Touissant L’Ouverture, who in 1791 led the largest uprising of enslaved people in history–the Haitian Revolution.

Abduction!: Kehret, Peg: 9780142406175: Amazon.com: Books

Matt is missing. Bonnie’s brother left his classroom to use thebathroom –and disappeared. A police dog traces his scent to the curb, where he apparently got into a vehicle. But why would Matt go anywhere with a stranger? Overwhelmed with fear, Bonnie discovers that her dog is gone, too. Was Pookie used as a lure for Matt? Bonnie makes one big mistake in her attempt to find her brother. In a chilling climax on a Washington State ferry, Bonnie and Matt must outsmart their abductor or pay with their lives.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Thrown in prison for a crime he has not committed, Edmond Dantes is confined to the grim fortress of If. There he learns of a great hoard of treasure hidden on the Isle of Monte Cristo and he becomes determined not only to escape, but also to unearth the treasure and use it to plot the destruction of the three men responsible for his incarceration.

Maybe He Just Likes You: Dee, Barbara: 9781534432383: Amazon.com: Books
Maybe He Just Likes You by Barbara Dee

For seventh-grader Mila, it starts with some boys giving her an unwanted hug on the school blacktop. A few days later, at recess, one of the boys (and fellow trumpet player) Callum tells Mila it’s his birthday, and asks her for a “birthday hug.” He’s just being friendly, isn’t he? And how can she say no? But Callum’s hug lasts a few seconds too long, and feels…weird. According to her friend, Zara, Mila is being immature and overreacting. Doesn’t she know what flirting looks like?But the boys don’t leave Mila alone. On the bus. In the halls. During band practice–the one place Mila could always escape.It doesn’t feel like flirting–so what is it? Thanks to a chance meeting, Mila begins to find solace in a new place: karate class. Slowly, with the help of a fellow classmate, Mila learns how to stand her ground and how to respect others–and herself.

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Percy Jackson is a good kid, but he can’t seem to focus on his schoolwork or control his temper. And lately, being away at boarding school is only getting worse–Percy could have sworn his pre-algebra teacher turned into a monster and tried to kill him.
When Percy’s mom finds out, she knows it’s time that he knew the truth about where he came from, and that he go to the one place he’ll be safe. She sends Percy to Camp Half Blood, a summer camp for demigods (on Long Island), where he learns that the father he never knew is Poseidon, god of the sea. Soon a mystery unfolds and together with his friends–one a satyr and the other the demigod daughter of Athena–Percy sets out on a quest across the United States to reach the gates of the Underworld (located in a recording studio in Hollywood) and prevent a catastrophic war between the gods.

Amazon.com: Crave (Crave, 1) (9781640638952): Wolff, Tracy: Books
Crave series by Tracy Wolff

My whole world changed when I stepped inside the academy. Nothing is right about this place or the other students in it. Here I am, a mere mortal among gods…or monsters. I still can’t decide which of these warring factions I belong to, if I belong at all. I only know the one thing that unites them is their hatred of me.Then there’s Jaxon Vega. A vampire with deadly secrets who hasn’t felt anything for a hundred years. But there’s something about him that calls to me, something broken in him that somehow fits with what’s broken in me.
Which could spell death for us all.Because Jaxon walled himself off for a reason. And now someone wants to wake a sleeping monster, and I’m wondering if I was brought here intentionally–as the bait.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Having spent twenty-seven years behind the glass walls of his enclosure in a shopping mall, Ivan has grown accustomed to humans watching him. He hardly ever thinks about his life in the jungle. Instead, Ivan occupies himself with television, his friends Stella and Bob, and painting. But when he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from the wild, he is forced to see their home, and his art, through new eyes.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (1): J.K. Rowling, Mary Grandpre:  8601422743395: Amazon.com: Books
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter spent ten long years living with Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, an aunt and uncle whose outrageous favoritism of their perfectly awful son Dudley leads to some of the most inspired dark comedy since Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. But fortunately for Harry, he’s about to be granted a scholarship to a unique boarding school called THE HOGWORTS SCHOOL OF WITCHCRAFT AND WIZARDRY, where he will become a school hero at the game of Quidditch (a kind of aerial soccer played high above the ground on broomsticks), he will make some wonderful friends, and, unfortunately, a few terrible enemies. For although he seems to be getting your run-of-the-mill boarding school experience (well, ok, even that’s pretty darn out of the ordinary), Harry Potter has a destiny that he was born to fulfill. A destiny that others would kill to keep him from.

Dragonology: The Complete Book of Dragons (Ologies): Drake, Ernest Dr.,  Steer, Dugald A., Various: 9780763623296: Amazon.com: Books
Dragononlogy: The Complete Book of Dragons by Ernest Drake and Dugald Steer

Do you believe in dragons? Now, for the first time, the long-lost research of renowned nineteenth century dragonologist Dr. Ernest Drake is presented in all its eccentric glory, happily bridging the gap between dragon legend and fact. The meticulous Dr. Drake assigns Latin names to various dragon species, ruminates on why dragons are able to speak, speculates on how they could fly, and explains the true purpose of their notorious hoarding habits.

The Center of Everything by Laura Moriarty

The Center of Everything is the fictional story of 10-year-old math prodigy Evelyn Bucknow. Living in Kansas with her single mother and deeply religious grandmother, Evelyn believes she is destined to marry Travis, the boy next door. But as she grows up, she experiences the heartbreak of a love not meant to be.

Spy School: Secret Service by Stuart Gibbs

Thirteen-year-old Ben Ripley has had a lot of field success despite only just beginning his second year at Spy School, something even graduates rarely experience. But he’d never have survived without the help from experienced agents and his friends. Now he’s been called in on a solo mission–and the fate of the United States of America is on his shoulders alone.The mission: Prevent a presidential assassination by infiltrating the White House and locating the enemy operative.And when everything goes wrong, Ben must rely on his spy school friends to save his reputation…but even friends can double-cross or be swayed to the enemy’s side.

Lila and Hadley by Kody Keplinger

Can a lost girl save a found dog? Find out in this unforgettable story about discovering true friendship, finding home, and the possibilities of forgiveness.

Hadley is angry about a lot of things: Her mom going to jail. Having to move to another state to live with her older sister, Beth, even though they haven’t spoken in five years. Leaving her friends and her school behind. And going blind.

But then Hadley meets Lila.

Lila is an abandoned dog who spends her days just quietly lying around at the local dog rescue where Beth works. She doesn’t listen to directions or play with the other dogs or show any interest in people. So when Lila comes and sits by Hadley (which is hardly anything, but it’s more than she’s done with others), Beth thinks maybe Hadley can help Lila. She tells Hadley they’ll bring Lila home as a foster dog and Hadley can teach her to follow commands, walk on a leash, and be more of a people dog so she’ll be ready to be adopted.

Only working with Lila is harder than Hadley thought, and so is the mobility training she starts taking to help with her failing vision. It feels like Lila is too stubborn to train and like learning to use a cane is impossible. But unless Hadley can help Lila, she’ll never be adopted into a home. If Hadley could just let go of her anger, she might be able to save Lila… and herself.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Winning means fame and fortune. Losing means certain death. The Hunger Games have begun. . . .In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV.
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before-and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

Redwood and Ponytail by K.A. Holt

A universal story of finding a way to be comfortable in your own skin: Kate and Tam meet, and both of their worlds tip sideways. At first, Tam figures Kate is your stereotypical cheerleader; Kate sees Tam as another tall jock. And the more they keep running into each other, the more they surprise each other. Beneath Kate’s sleek ponytail and perfect façade, Tam sees a goofy, sensitive, lonely girl. And Tam’s so much more than a volleyball player, Kate realizes: She’s everything Kate wishes she could be. It’s complicated. Except it’s not. When Kate and Tam meet, they fall in like. It’s as simple as that. But not everybody sees it that way.

Don’t Tell the Nazis by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch

The year is 1941. Krystia lives in a small Ukrainian village under the cruel — sometimes violent — occupation of the Soviets. So when the Nazis march into town to liberate them, many of Krystia’s neighbors welcome the troops with celebrations, hoping for a better life.

But conditions don’t improve as expected. Krystia’s friend Dolik and the other Jewish people in town warn that their new occupiers may only bring darker days.

The worst begins to happen when the Nazis blame the Jews for murders they didn’t commit. As the Nazis force Jews into a ghetto, Krystia does what she can to help Dolik and his family. But what they really need is a place to hide. Faced with unimaginable tyranny and cruelty, will Krystia risk everything to protect her friends and neighbors?

Diary of a Haunting | Book by M. Verano | Official Publisher Page | Simon &  Schuster
Diary of a Haunting by M. Verano

Following her parents’ high-profile divorce, Paige and her brother are forced to move to Idaho with their mother, and Paige doesn’t have very high hopes for her new life. The small town they’ve moved to is nothing compared to the life she left behind in LA. And the situation is made even worse by the drafty old mansion they’ve rented that’s filled with spiders and plenty of other pests that Paige can’t even bear to imagine.Pretty soon, strange things start to happen around the house–one can of ravioli becomes a dozen, unreadable words start appearing on the walls, and Paige’s little brother begins roaming the house late at night. And there’s something not right about the downstairs neighbor who seems to know a lot more than he’s letting on.Things only get creepier when she learns about the cult that conducted experimental rituals in the house almost one hundred years earlier. The more Paige investigates, the clearer it all becomes: there’s something in the house, and whatever it is…and it won’t be backing down without a fight.

Hide and Seeker by Daka Hermon

I went up the hill, the hill was muddy, stomped my toe and made it bloody, should I wash it?Justin knows that something is wrong with his best friend.Zee went missing for a year. And when he came back, he was . . . different. Nobody knows what happened to him. At Zee’s welcome home party, Justin and the neighborhood crew play Hide and Seek. But it goes wrong. Very wrong.One by one, everyone who plays the game disappears, pulled into a world of nightmares come to life. Justin and his friends realize this horrible place is where Zee had been trapped. All they can do now is hide from the Seeker.

Wings of Fire Graphic Novel by Tui T. Sutherland art by Mike Holmes

Not every dragonet wants a destiny … Clay has grown up under the mountain, chosen along with four other dragonets to fulfill a mysterious prophecy and end the war between the dragon tribes of Pyrrhia. He’s not so sure about the prophecy part, but Clay can’t imagine not living with the other dragonets; they’re his best friends. So when one of the dragonets is threatened, all five spring into action. Together, they will choose freedom over fate, leave the mountain, and fulfill their destiny — on their own terms.

There you have it, another year of reading, another year of great books shared. What would your students say were their favorite reads?

I am excited to be heading out on the road again to be with other educators in-district or at conferences, while continuing my virtual consulting and speaking as well. If you would like me to be a part of your professional development, please reach out. I am here to help.

being a teacher

Some Favorite Picture Books to Highlight LGBTQ+ Experiences

As June rolls nearer and we get ready to celebrate pride in my own house, I have been pulling books from our classroom collection to put on display. While many of these books have already been booktalked, read aloud, or shared in other ways in our time together, there is something beautiful about seeing a whole wall of books all centering within the LGBTQ+ experience in some way. Especially because this year, it finally feels like there are more books than before. Like this year, books written by and about LGBTQ+ people are not just coming out once in a while but are finally starting to get a broader publication and inclusion within schools. It is something that brings me joy and hope, even if I would still love to see a much broader emphasis on #OwnVoices stories within mainstream publishing

As I pulled books for display, I asked on Instagram whether a blog post would be helpful to others and the answer was yes! So here are the picture books being displayed and read in our 7th grade classroom as we celebrate LGBTQ+ Creators and Authors, characters, and also books that break gender stereotypes. I want to reiterate and emphasize that it is not enough to put books such as these on display, they need to be read, discussed, and woven into the work we already do because these books all lead into discussion about identity, who we are, who others are and how we view the world. These books should not just be pulled out once a year but instead be a naturally integrated part of our curriculum. But I hope this gives you a good place to start if you are looking to add more titles, new and old.

Our Subway Baby: Mercurio, Peter, Espinosa, Leo: 9780525427544: Amazon.com:  Books
Our Subway Baby by Peter Mercurio and illustrated by Leo Espinosa

Some babies are born into their families. Some are adopted. This is the story of how one baby found his family in the New York City subway.So begins the true story of Kevin and how he found his Daddy Danny and Papa Pete. Written in a direct address to his son, Pete’s moving and emotional text tells how his partner, Danny, found a baby tucked away in the corner of a subway station on his way home from work one day. Pete and Danny ended up adopting the baby together. Although neither of them had prepared for the prospect of parenthood, they are reminded, Where there is love, anything is possible.

Call Me Max (Max and Friends Book 1): Kyle Lukoff, Luciano Lozano, Luciano  Lozano: 9781478868972: Amazon.com: Books
Call Me Max by Kyle Lukoff and illustrated by Luciano Lozano

When Max starts school, the teacher hesitates to call out the name on the attendance sheet. Something doesn’t seem to fit. Max lets he know the name he wants to be called by–a boy’s name. This begins Max’s journey as he makes new friends and reveals his feelings about his identity to his parents.

I'm Not a Girl: A Transgender Story: Lyons, Maddox, Verdi, Jessica,  Simpson, Dana: 9780374310684: Amazon.com: Books
I’m Not a Girl by Maddox Lyons and Jessica Verdi illustrated by Dana Simpson

Nobody seems to understand that Hannah is not a girl.His parents ask why he won’t wear the cute outfits they pick out. His friend thinks he must be a tomboy. His teacher insists he should be proud to be a girl.But a birthday wish, a new word, and a stroke of courage might be just what Hannah needs to finally show the world who he really is.

My Rainbow by DeShanna Neal, Trinity Neal: 9781984814609 |  PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books
My Rainbow by Trinity and DeShanna Neal and illustrated by Art Twink

Warm morning sunlight and love fill the Neal home. And on one quiet day, playtime leads to an important realization: Trinity wants long hair like her dolls. She needs it to express who she truly is.So her family decides to take a trip to the beauty supply store, but none of the wigs is the perfect fit. Determined, Mom leaves with bundles of hair in hand, ready to craft a wig as colorful and vibrant as her daughter is.

I Am Perfectly Designed: Brown, Karamo, Brown, Jason "Rachel", Syed,  Anoosha: 9781250232212: Amazon.com: Books
I Am Perfectly Designed by Karamo Brown and illustrated by Anoosha Syed

In this empowering ode to modern families, a boy and his father take a joyful walk through the city, discovering all the ways in which they are perfectly designed for each other.

Riley wears whatever clothes feel right each day. On Monday, Riley feels shy and wears a bunny costume to school. On Tuesday, a scary trip to the dentist calls for a super hero cape. For a trip out with Otto and Oma, a ball gown is the perfect outfit.

This charming picture book is a gentle exploration of self-expression and source of encouragement for being true to oneself despite the expectations of others.

Sparkle Boy: Leslea Newman: 9781620142851: Amazon.com: Books
Sparkle Boy by Leslea Newman and illustrated by Maria Mola

Casey loves to play with his blocks, puzzles, and dump truck, but he also loves things that sparkle, shimmer, and glitter. When his older sister, Jessie, shows off her new shimmery skirt, Casey wants to wear a shimmery skirt too. When Jessie comes home from a party with glittery nails, Casey wants glittery nails too. And when Abuelita visits wearing an armful of sparkly bracelets, Casey gets one to wear, just like Jessie. The adults in Casey’s life embrace his interests, but Jessie isn’t so sure. Boys aren’t supposed to wear sparkly, shimmery, glittery things. Then, when older boys at the library tease Casey for wearing “girl” things, Jessie realizes that Casey has the right to be himself and wear whatever he wants. Why can’t both she and Casey love all things shimmery, glittery, and sparkly? 

What Are Your Words?: A Book About Pronouns: Locke, Katherine, Passchier,  Anne: 9780316542067: Amazon.com: Books
What Are Your Words by Katherine Locke and Illustrated by Catherine Passchier

Whenever Ari’s Uncle Lior comes to visit, they ask Ari one question: “What are your words?” Some days Ari uses she/her. Other days Ari uses he/him. But on the day of the neighborhood’s big summer bash, Ari doesn’t know what words to use. On the way to the party, Ari and Lior meet lots of neighbors and learn the words each of them use to describe themselves, including pronouns like she/her, he/him, they/them, ey/em, and ze/zir. As Ari tries on different pronouns, they discover that it’s okay to not know your words right away–sometimes you have to wait for your words to find you.

Julian at the Wedding by Jessica Love

Julián and his abuela are going to a wedding. Better yet, Julián is in the wedding. Weddings have flowers and kissing and dancing and cake. And this wedding also has a new friend named Marisol. It’s not long before Julián and Marisol set off for some magic and mischief of their own, and when things take an unexpected turn, the pair learns that everything is easier with a good friend by your side.

Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love: 9780763690458 |  PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books
Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

While riding the subway home from the pool with his abuela one day, Julián notices three women spectacularly dressed up. Their hair billows in brilliant hues, their dresses end in fishtails, and their joy fills the train car. When Julián gets home, daydreaming of the magic he’s seen, all he can think about is dressing up just like the ladies in his own fabulous mermaid costume: a butter-yellow curtain for his tail, the fronds of a potted fern for his headdress. But what will Abuela think about the mess he makes — and even more importantly, what will she think about how Julián sees himself?

Peanut Goes for the Goal by Jonathan Van Vess and illustrated by Gillian Reid

Peanut just has their own unique way of doing things. Whether it’s cartwheeling during basketball practice or cutting their own hair, this little guinea pig puts their own special twist on life. So when Peanut decides to be a rhythmic gymnast, they come up with a routine that they know is absolutely perfect, because it is absolutely, one hundred percent Peanut.

It Feels Good to Be Yourself by Theresa Thorn and Illustrated by Noah Grigni

Some people are boys. Some people are girls. Some people are both, neither, or somewhere in between.This sweet, straightforward exploration of gender identity will give children a fuller understanding of themselves and others.

Be Amazing: A History of Pride by Desmond is Amazing and illustrated by Dylan Glynn

Desmond is amazing–and you are, too.Throughout history, courageous people like Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and RuPaul have paved the way for a safer, more inclusive society for LGBTQ individuals, and it’s thanks to them that people just like Desmond can be free to be who they really are.

When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff and illustrated by Kaylani Juanita

When Aidan was born, everyone thought he was a girl. His parents gave him a pretty name, his room looked like a girl’s room, and he wore clothes that other girls liked wearing. After he realized he was a trans boy, Aidan and his parents fixed the parts of life that didn’t fit anymore, and he settled happily into his new life.

Then Mom and Dad announce that they’re going to have another baby, and Aidan wants to do everything he can to make things right for his new sibling from the beginning–from choosing the perfect name to creating a beautiful room to picking out the cutest onesie. But what does making things right actually mean? And what happens if he messes up? With a little help, Aidan comes to understand that mistakes can be fixed with honesty and communication, and that he already knows the most important thing about being a big brother: how to love with his whole self.

Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Steven Salerno

In this deeply moving and empowering true story, young readers will trace the life of the Gay Pride Flag, from its beginnings in 1978 with social activist Harvey Milk and designer Gilbert Baker to its spanning of the globe and its role in today’s world. Award-winning author Rob Sanders’s stirring text, and acclaimed illustrator Steven Salerno’s evocative images, combine to tell this remarkable – and undertold – story. A story of love, hope, equality, and pride.

Stella Brings the Family by Miriam B. Schiffer and illustrated by Kelly Clifton-Brown

Stella’s class is having a Mother’s Day celebration, but what’s a girl with two daddies to do? It’s not that she doesn’t have someone who helps her with her homework, or tucks her in at night. Stella has her Papa and Daddy who take care of her, and a whole gaggle of other loved ones who make her feel special and supported every day. She just doesn’t have a mom to invite to the party. Fortunately, Stella finds a unique solution to her party problem in this sweet story about love, acceptance, and the true meaning of family.

Prince and Knight by Daniel Haack and illustrated by Stevie Lewis

Once upon a time, in a kingdom far from here, there was a prince in line to take the throne, so his parents set out to find him a kind and worthy bride. The three of them traveled the land far and wide, but the prince didn’t quite find what he was looking for in the princesses they met.While they were away, a terrible dragon threatened their land, and all the soldiers fled. The prince rushed back to save his kingdom from the perilous beast and was met by a brave knight in a suit of brightly shining armor. Together they fought the dragon and discovered that special something the prince was looking for all along.

Prince & Knight: Tale of the Shadow King: Haack, Daniel, Lewis, Stevie:  9781499811216: Amazon.com: Books
Tale of the Shadow King by Daniel Haack and illustrated by Stevie Lewis

Our brave and dashing heroes, the prince and the knight, are happily married and their kingdom is prospering, but soon, a fog of darkness that blocks the sun spreads across their land. They get word that the cause of this is a dark and mysterious Shadow King, and they rush off to find and stop him, but encounter many obstacles along the way. Will they be able to restore the light to their kingdom?

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnett, illustrated by Henry Cole

At the penguin house at the Central Park Zoo, two penguins named Roy and Silo were a little bit different from the others. But their desire for a family was the same. And with the help of a kindly zookeeper, Roy and Silo get the chance to welcome a baby penguin of their very own.

Red: A Crayon Story by Michael Hall

Red has a bright red label, but he is, in fact, blue. His teacher tries to help him be red (let’s draw strawberries ), his mother tries to help him be red by sending him out on a playdate with a yellow classmate (go draw a nice orange ), and the scissors try to help him be red by snipping his label so that he has room to breathe. But Red is miserable. He just can’t be red, no matter how hard he tries

Finally, a brand-new friend offers a brand-new perspective, and Red discovers what readers have known all along. He’s blue.

Introducing Teddy – a Gentle Story about Gender and Friendship by Jessica Walton and illustrated by Dougal MacPherson

Errol and his teddy, Thomas, are best friends who do everything together. Whether it’s riding a bike, playing in the tree house, having a tea party, or all of the above, every day holds something fun to do.One sunny day, Errol finds that Thomas is sad, even when they are playing in their favorite ways. Errol can’t figure out why, until Thomas finally tells Errol what the teddy has been afraid to say: In my heart, I’ve always known that I’m a girl teddy, not a boy teddy. I wish my name was Tilly, not Thomas. And Errol says, I don’t care if you’re a girl teddy or a boy teddy What matters is that you are my friend.

Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian and illustrated by Mike Curato

You are cordially invited to celebrate the wedding of a worm…and a worm.

When a worm meets a special worm and they fall in love, you know what happens next: They get married But their friends want to know–who will wear the dress? And who will wear the tux?

The answer is: It doesn’t matter. Because worm loves worm.

Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman and illustrated by Laura Cornell

Heather’s favorite number is two. She has two arms, two legs, two pets–and two mommies. When Heather goes to school for the first time, someone asks her about her daddy, but Heather doesn’t have a daddy. Then something interesting happens. When Heather and her classmates all draw pictures of their families, not one drawing is the same. 

Adventures with My Daddies: Peter, Gareth, Parsons, Garry: 9781682632819:  Amazon.com: Books
Adventures with my Daddies by Gareth Peter and Garry Parsons

Set off on a series of incredible adventures with an endearing, diverse family as the bedtime stories they read burst into colorful life. Together, the daddies and their little one battle dragons, dodge deadly dinosaurs, zoom to the moon, and explore the world in a hot air balloon, before winding down to sleep in a wonderfully cozy ending.

Born Ready by Jodie Patterson: 9780593123638 | PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books
Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope by Jodie Patterson and illustrated by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow

Penelope knows that he’s a boy. (And a ninja.) The problem is getting everyone else to realize it.

Daddy & Dada: Brockington, Ryan, Webster, Isaac, May, Lauren:  9780316427029: Amazon.com: Books
Daddy and Dada by Ryan Brockington and Isaac Webster, Illustrated by Lauren May

Hi, I’m Rumi.
Some of my friends have one mom and one dad.
Some have one mom or one dad.
I have two dads. Daddy and Dada.
Daddy sings songs with me. Dada reads me stories.
Every family is different.
And that’s pretty cool.

Grandad's Camper: Woodgate, Harry: 9781499811933: Amazon.com: Books
Grandad’s Camper by Harry Woodgate

Gramps and Grandad were adventurers. They would surf, climb mountains, and tour the country in their amazing camper. Gramps just made everything extra special. But after Gramps died, granddad hasn’t felt like traveling anymore. So, their amazing granddaughter comes up with a clever plan to fix up the old camper and get Grandad excited to explore again.

Jacob's School Play: Starring He, She, and They: Hoffman, Ian, Hoffman,  Sarah, Case, Chris: 9781433836770: Amazon.com: Books
Jacob’s School Play: Starring He, She, and They by Ian Hoffmann, Sarah Hoffmann and illustrated by Chris Case

Jacob–star of one of the most banned books of the decade according to the American Library Association–is back in his third book and ready to put on a school play While learning their lines and making their costumes, Jacob’s class finds itself unexpectedly struggling with identity, and what it means to be “he,” “she,” or “they.” Jacob’s School Play is an engaging way to introduce young readers to non-binary people and the pronoun options available to us all. Learning that individuals are more nuanced than how others see them is a developmentally important milestone, and helps foster respect of one’s self and one’s peers.

Jacob's Room to Choose: Hoffman, Sarah, Hoffman, Ian, Case, Chris:  9781433830730: Amazon.com: Books
Jacob’s Room to Choose by Ian Hoffmann, Sarah Hoffmann and illustrated by Chris Case

When Jacob goes to the boys’ bathroom he is chased out because the boys think he looks like a girl because of the way he is dressed. His classmate, Sophie, has a similar experience when she tries to go to the girls’ bathroom. When their teacher finds out what happened, Jacob and Sophie, with the support administration, lead change at their school as everyone discovers the many forms of gender expression and how to treat each other with respect.

Jacob's New Dress: Hoffman, Sarah, Hoffman, Ian, Case, Chris:  9780807563755: Amazon.com: Books
Jacob’s New Dress by Ian Hoffmann, Sarah Hoffmann and illustrated by Chris Case

Jacob loves playing dress-up, when he can be anything he wants to be. Some kids at school say he can’t wear “girl” clothes, but Jacob wants to wear a dress to school. Can he convince his parents to let him wear what he wants? This heartwarming story speaks to the unique challenges faced by children who don’t identify with traditional gender roles.

Llama Glamarama: Simon James Green: 9781407197036: Amazon.com: Books
Llama Glamarama by Simon James Green and Garry Parsons

Meet a dazzlin’ dancin’ llama who learns to march to the beat of his own drum by strutting his stuff with Pride (and a funky feather boa)!Larry the llama loves to move and groove! But will his friends all disapprove?Larry lives a slow and quiet life at the barn with all the other llamas, just the way they like it. But at night when everyone has gone to bed, Larry loves to dress up in bright costumes and DANCE! He has to hide this from the others, for fear that they won’t approve of his raucous ways. One day, he stumbles upon the Llama Glamarama, a carnival full of music, laughter, and yes-dancing!Will this vibrant celebration give Larry the pride he needs to bring his dance back home? 

Two Grooms on a Cake: The Story of America's First Gay Wedding: Sanders,  Rob, Cathro, Robbie: 9781499809565: Amazon.com: Books
Two Grooms on a Cake: The Story of America’s First Gay Wedding by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Robbie Cathro

Long before marriage equality was the law of the land, two grooms stood on a wedding cake with their feet firmly planted in fluffy white frosting. That cake belonged to Jack Baker and Michael McConnell, who were wed on September 3, 1971, becoming the first same-sex couple in America to be legally married. Their struggle to obtain a marriage license in Minnesota and their subsequent appeals to the Minnesota Supreme Court and the Supreme Court of the United States is an under-told story of LGBT history. This beautiful book celebrates the love story of two pioneers of marriage equality for all through the baking of their wedding cake!

Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress: Baldacchino, Christine,  Malenfant, Isabelle: 9781554983476: Amazon.com: Books
Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino and illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant

Morris is a little boy who loves using his imagination. But most of all, Morris loves wearing the tangerine dress in his classroom’s dress-up center. The children in Morris’s class don’t understand. Dresses, they say, are for girls. And Morris certainly isn’t welcome in the spaceship some of his classmates are building. Astronauts, they say, don’t wear dresses. One day when Morris feels all alone and sick from their taunts, his mother lets him stay home from school. Morris dreams of a fantastic space adventure with his cat, Moo. Inspired by his dream, Morris paints the incredible scene he saw and brings it with him to school. He builds his own spaceship, hangs his painting on the front of it and takes two of his classmates on an outer space adventure. 

The Boy & the Bindi: Shraya, Vivek, Perera, Rajni: 9781551526683:  Amazon.com: Books
The Boy and the Bindi written by Vivek Shraya and illustrated by Rajni Perera

In this beautiful children’s picture book by Vivek Shraya, author of the acclaimed God Loves Hair, a five-year-old South Asian boy becomes fascinated with his mother’s bindi, the red dot commonly worn by Hindu women to indicate the point at which creation begins, and wishes to have one of his own. Rather than chastise her son, she agrees to it, and teaches him about its cultural significance, allowing the boy to discover the magic of the bindi, which in turn gives him permission to be more fully himself.

My Two Moms and Me: Joosten, Michael, Zenou, Izak: 9780525580126:  Amazon.com: Books
My Two Moms and Me (Boardbook) written by Michael Joosten and illustrated by Izak Zenou

Families with same-sex parents are celebrated in this board book that follows busy moms and their kids throughout their day–eating breakfast, going on a playdate, heading to the pool for a swim, and settling back in at night with a bedtime story and a good-night lullaby. LGBTQ+ parents and their friends and families will welcome this inclusive and cheerful book that reflects their own lives and family makeup.

Zero Local: Next Stop: Kindness: Murrow, Ethan, Murrow, Vita, Murrow,  Ethan, Murrow, Vita: 9780763697471: Amazon.com: Books
Zero Local: Next Stop Kindness written by Ethan and Ava Murrow

Train riders are used to stressful delays on the Zero Local line. But when a new passenger shows gratitude to the driver on their daily commute, tensions begin to ease. Eventually the artistic traveler stops riding the Zero Local line, and discord begins to creep back into the train car. Will the regular passengers find a way to restore the sense of camaraderie they once felt? 

I Love My Purse: Demont, Wimmer: 9781554519545: Amazon.com: Books
I Love My Purse by Belle Demont and illustrated by Sonya Wimmer

Charlie loves the bright red purse that his grandmother let him have. One day, he decides to take it to school. His father, then his friends, and even the crossing guard question him about his “strange” choice. But Charlie isn’t deterred. And soon his self-confidence starts to affect those around him. Thanks to Charlie, everyone around him realizes that it isn’t always necessary to conform to others’ expectations. It’s more important to be true to yourself.

I Am Jazz: Herthel, Jessica, Jennings, Jazz, McNicholas, Shelagh:  9780803741072: Amazon.com: Books
I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNichols

From the time she was two years old, Jazz knew that she had a girl’s brain in a boy’s body. She loved pink and dressing up as a mermaid and didn’t feel like herself in boys’ clothing. This confused her family, until they took her to a doctor who said that Jazz was transgender and that she was born that way. Jazz’s story is based on her real-life experience and she tells it in a simple, clear way that will be appreciated by picture book readers, their parents, and teachers.

Encourage children accept themselves and others with these picture books that feature LGBTQ characters, as well as share important moments in LGBTQ history.#weneeddiversebooks
They, She, He, Easy as ABC bY Maya Christine Gonzalez and Matthew Sg

They, She, He easy as ABC shows that including everyone is all part of the dance. It’s easy. It’s fundamental. As the dance begins the kids proclaim, “No one left out and everyone free,” in a sing-song rhyme about inclusion. This sets the stage for readers to meet 26 kids showing us their dance moves.

Ari loves to arabesque. They hold their pose with ease.
Brody is a break dancer. Brody loves to freeze.”

Fast-paced rhyming keeps the flow of text upbeat and rhythmic, and naturally models how to use a wide range of pronouns. There’s no room for stereotypes on THIS dance floor with spirited imagery that keeps names, clothes, hair and behavior fresh and diverse. The combination creates a playful and effortless practice to expand ideas about gender while learning the alphabet and makes being inclusive as easy as A-B-C.

From Freddie Mercury’s contribution to music and Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa to James Baldwin’s best-selling essays and more, discover tales of courage, triumph, and determination. Published to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, this extraordinary book shows children that anything is possible.

Plum: Hayes, Sean, Icenogle, Scott, Thompson, Robin: 9781534404045:  Amazon.com: Books

Plum will not stay glum.For as long as she can remember, Plum has lived at the Mary Fitzgerald Orphanage, wishing and hoping for a family. When a sudden snowfall threatens a delivery of presents on Christmas Eve, Plum is determined to save Christmas–even for the kids who laugh at her.Plum’s pure heart grants her an unexpected reward. When she eats a cake left behind by a mysterious magician, she is transported into the Land of Sweets. But Christmas here is threatened, too–by a sourness that is spreading from the center of the land. Plum’s determined to help, and in doing so, she might just find the family she’s always dreamed of, thanks to a good heart–and Christmas magic!

The Rainbow Flag (Hardcover) | ABRAMS

Flags are brilliant and clever works of art and design, and they bring people together under a common banner. This colorful story follows a group of friends who helped dye and sew strips of cloth to create the first Rainbow Flags for the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade in 1978.Led by a young artist named Gilbert Baker, the friends set out to create a flag that people could march behind during the Pride Parade. They knew the flag needed to be bright, in order to be seen by everyone as they marched. It needed to be bold, to lead the crowd. And it needed to be beautiful, like the love celebrated by the parade The result is an iconic flag that has become an international symbol of the gay pride movement.

Fred Gets Dressed: Brown, Peter: 9780316200646: Amazon.com: Books

The boy loves to be naked. He romps around his house naked and wild and free. Until he romps into his parents’ closet and is inspired to get dressed. First he tries on his dad’s clothes, but they don’t fit well. Then he tries on his mom’s clothes, and wow! The boy looks great. He looks through his mom’s jewelry and makeup and tries that on, too. When he’s discovered by his mother and father, the whole family (including the dog!) get in on the fun, and they all get dressed together.

Big Boys Cry: Howley, Jonty: 9781524773205: Amazon.com: Books

It’s Levi’s first day at a new school, and he’s scared. His father tries to comfort Levi by telling him Big boys don’t cry. Though the father immediately understands his misstep, he can’t find the words to comfort his son, and Levi leaves for school, still in need of reassurance.Fortunately, along his walk to school, Levi sees instance after instance of grown men openly expressing their sadness and fear. His learned mantra, Big boys don’t cry, slowly weakens, and by the time he’s at school he releases a tear. Once he’s there, things aren’t so bad after all, and on his walk home he sees everyone he’s encountered earlier, feeling better now that they expressed their emotions. Upon his arrival home, he finds his father waiting for him on their porch, tears in his eyes. His father is able to admit that he was scared and the two embrace, closer than before.

Katy Has Two Grampas: Julie Schanke Lyford, Robert A. Schanke, Mariia  Luzina;Mariia Luzina, Mariia Luzina;Mariia Luzina: 9781634893923:  Amazon.com: Books

Katy’s school is celebrating Grandparents Day, and Katy is nervous. She doesn’t want to introduce her grandpas in front of the class because she’s worried that nobody will understand her lisp. To make matters worse, when Katy tells her teacher that she’s inviting her married grampas, her teacher thinks she means to say grandma and grandpa instead of grandpa and grandpa. Will Katy build the confidence to speak in front of the class and challenge stereotypes?

There you have it, just a few of our favorites, I know I missed some that I have pulled as well and that there are more to discover too. Please let me know! I have pulled all of these together in an easy to access booklist on Bookshop.org as well.

I am excited to be heading out on the road again to be with other educators in-district or at conferences, while continuing my virtual consulting and speaking as well. If you would like me to be a part of your professional development, please reach out. I am here to help.

being a teacher

Some Favorite Picture Books to Discuss Our Perception of Others

I love using picture books to help my students relate to the world and grow as thinkers and humans and recognizing that our perception of others greatly influences how we treat them as is a great discussion to have repeatedly.

So why not offer up a collection of picture books that does that just. Some are new, some are old, but all carry a powerful message of going beyond our initial assumptions and really seeing others for who they are not what we want or think they are and sometimes even seeing ourself in a new light, too.

What are your favorite reads for this discussion?

Daisy happens to be fluffy–she’s a young chick after all. Her friends can’t help but want to pet her, squeeze her, and tell her how cute she is. But Daisy doesn’t want to be hugged or kissed. She’s not just fluff; Daisy has substance! But how can she tell everyone to give her some space without hurting their feelings?

On the day it snows, Gabo sees kids tugging sleds up the hill, then coasting down, whooping all the while. Gabo wishes he could join them, but his hat is too small, and he doesn’t have boots or a sled.

But he does have warm and welcoming neighbors in his new town who help him solve the problem in the sweetest way possible!

A young artist has drawn birds and bird houses in corresponding colors. Now it’s time to match them up. The blue bird goes in the blue house, the orange bird in the orange house, and so on. But wait! The birds don’t agree with the narrator’s choices and, much to her distress, are rebelling by swapping houses. Can the narrator make the birds see sense? Or is it possible that you just can’t tell a bird by its feathers?

Milo is on a long subway ride with his older sister. To pass the time, he studies the faces around him and makes pictures of their lives. There’s the whiskered man with the crossword puzzle; Milo imagines him playing solitaire in a cluttered apartment full of pets. There’s the wedding-dressed woman with a little dog peeking out of her handbag; Milo imagines her in a grand cathedral ceremony. And then there’s the boy in the suit with the bright white sneakers; Milo imagines him arriving home to a castle with a drawbridge and a butler. But when the boy in the suit gets off on the same stop as Milo–walking the same path, going to the exact same place–Milo realizes that you can’t really know anyone just by looking at them.

Every day, a little girl rides to school on the back of her father’s bike. As they twist and turn through the streets, the little girl spreads her arms like wings and sings her birdsong for all to hear. But when they pass a strange woman in blue who carries a mysterious bag, the girl goes quiet until the woman is out of sight. One day, when they’re running late, the little girl discovers what the woman does with her bag each morning—a surprise that transforms her wariness into a feeling of kinship to be celebrated. 

Laxmi never paid much attention to the tiny hairs above her lip. But one day while playing farm animals at recess, her friends point out that her whiskers would make her the perfect cat. She starts to notice body hair all over–on her arms, legs, and even between her eyebrows.

With her parents’ help, Laxmi learns that hair isn’t just for heads, but that it grows everywhere, regardless of gender.

Norman is a porcupine. Mildred is a tree. Norman and Mildred are best friends. Just the two of them. And only the two of them. But when a surprise pops up, life will never be the same again.

Imagine you were asked the same question again and again throughout your life . . .
Imagine if it was a question that didn’t bring about the happiest of memories . . .

This is the experience of one-legged Joe, a child who just wants to have fun in the playground . . .
Constantly seen first for his disability, Joe is fed up of only ever being asked about his leg. All he wants to do is play Pirates.

But as usual, one after the other, all the children ask him the same question they always ask, “What happened to you?”

Understandably Joe gets increasingly angry!

Until finally the penny drops and the children realize that it’s a question Joe just doesn’t want to answer . . . and that Joe is playing a rather good game . . . one that they can join in with if they can stop fixating on his missing leg . . .

Because children are children, after all.

The cat walked through the world, with its whiskers, ears, and paws . . . In this glorious celebration of observation, curiosity, and imagination, Brendan Wenzel shows us the many lives of one cat, and how perspective shapes what we see. When you see a cat, what do you see?

When a young boy visits his grandfather, their lack of a common language leads to confusion, frustration, and silence. But as they sit down to draw together, something magical happens-with a shared love of art and storytelling, the two form a bond that goes beyond words.

Nobody seems to understand that Hannah is not a girl.

His parents ask why he won’t wear the cute outfits they pick out. His friend thinks he must be a tomboy. His teacher insists he should be proud to be a girl.

But a birthday wish, a new word, and a stroke of courage might be just what Hannah needs to finally show the world who he really is.

Where Are You From? By Yamile Saied Méndez  (Author), Jaime Kim  (Illustrator)

When a girl is asked where she’s from—where she’s really from—none of her answers seems to be the right one.

Unsure about how to reply, she turns to her loving abuelo for help. He doesn’t give her the response she expects. She gets an even better one.

Where am I from?

You’re from hurricanes and dark storms, and a tiny singing frog that calls the island people home when the sun goes to sleep….

What Are Your Words?: A Book About Pronouns: Locke, Katherine, Passchier,  Anne: 9780316542067: Amazon.com: Books
What Are Your Words? A Book About Pronouns by Katherine Locke and illustrated by Anne Passchier

Whenever Ari’s Uncle Lior comes to visit, they ask Ari one question: “What are your words?” Some days Ari uses she/her. Other days Ari uses he/him. But on the day of the neighborhood’s big summer bash, Ari doesn’t know what words to use. On the way to the party, Ari and Lior meet lots of neighbors and learn the words each of them use to describe themselves, including pronouns like she/her, he/him, they/them, ey/em, and ze/zir. As Ari tries on different pronouns, they discover that it’s okay to not know your words right away—sometimes you have to wait for your words to find you.

I am excited to be heading out on the road again to be with other educators in-district or at conferences, while continuing my virtual consulting and speaking as well. If you would like me to be a part of your professional development, please reach out. I am here to help.