Books That Teach Us About the Experience of Refugees and Immigrants

This year in English we have really been focused on learning about others.  Others whose life experience may be so very different from our own.  Others who have so much to teach us. Others who some may tell us to fear.  So our collection of chapter books and books have grown with a focus on breaking down biases and broadening understanding.  I, therefore, thought that it would be helpful for others to see which books have helped us do just that.  Many of these books have been on other lists that I have posted, but there are a few new ones.

Picture books

What’s in a name?  As educators, we know the inherent power of pronouncing a child’s name correctly to make them feel accepted and included.  This picture book from 2009 shares the story of Sangoel, a refugee from Sudan, and what happens when he comes to America.  A must add as we try to break down walls and build understanding for others in our classrooms.
One of the most powerful picture books to be published in 2016, The Journey is about a family as they flee from war and the decisions they have to make as they search for safety.  Beautifully illustrated this picture book packs a punch.
Also a picture book about a family that has to leave their country in search of safety, the artwork is all done by stone.  With both English and Arabic text, I am so grateful for the vision of this picture book.
Why would a child set out on foot toward America, knowing that there were thousands of miles filled with danger ahead of them?  This picture book illustrates the journey that more than 100,000 children have taken as they try to reach safety in the United States.  Told in poetry, this picture book helps us understand something that can seem inconceivable.

A Piece of Home written by Jeri Watts and illustrated by Hyewon Yum

Fitting in. Feeling lost.  Appreciate differences.  What happens when a family chooses to move to the US and all of a sudden does not fit in anymore?

The Name Jar by Yanksook Choi (Having a name that no one pronounces correctly in the USA really makes me love this book even more).

Mama’s Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation by Edwidge Danticat (Author), Leslie Staub (Illustrator) brings us the story of a little girl’s longing for her mother as they are separated.  The mother has been sent to a detention center and does not know what will happen to her.

Sharing the story of Oskar, a young boy who has escaped the horror of the Jewish persecution in Germany and arrives in America with only a photograph and an address of an aunt he has never met.  He must make his way through the streets of NYC, but rather than being afraid, he sees the blessings he meets along the way. Another must add as we discuss refugees, and not being afraid of others in our classrooms.
Taken from his own life; this story of having to hide in a planetarium as the government looks for his activist father is one sure to get students talking.  What happens when you speak up but the government does not want you to.  Reminding us that even when it is scary, we should still stand up for what is right, and sharing the story of why some people have to flee, this is another must-add to your collection.

In The Seeds of Friendship by Michael Foreman a boy is not sure how to make a connection with others.  That is until he is given seeds and he has an idea of how to make this new gray city more like home.

What happens when a father and his young daughter set out toward the border?  In 

My Two Blankets by Irena Kobald and Freya Blackwood speaks to how hard moving is, but also about finding a new friend.  This is all about finding the beauty in someone else’s culture.

 Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale by Duncan Tonatiuh.  This allegory tells the tale of Pancho who is waiting for his father’s return from the north.  When Papa doesn’t show up as expected, Pancho is determined to find him.  The author, Duncan Tonatiuh, is a Global Read Aloud contender for picture book study.
 In Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say I am reminded of how split we can feel when we belong to two countries.  Beautiful and still relevant more than twenty years after its release, this is a wonderful way to discuss what it means to feel home.
 Sometimes the books that tell us the most do not even have words.  The Arrival by Shaun Tan wordless graphic novel/picture book is one that will mesmerize readers.

Chapter books

Some Favorite New Chapter Books, Part 1 2017

If my early reading of 2017 is any indication, this year is shaping up to be a powerhouse of a year in children’s literature.  And for that I am excited.  So what are some of the great books I have read, loved, and now am sharing?

Fenway and Hattie and the Evil Bunny Gang by Victoria J. Coe

If you have been within a mile of me and asked for a book recommendation for younger classrooms (1st grade and up you will have heard me mention Fenway and Hattie by Victoria J. Coe.  After all, this new series written from the perspective of a dog captured my heart last summer and is now a GRA contender.  So I am delighted to add the second book in the series as another must read.  How can you not love the adventures of Fenway as he tries to navigate the very confusing life of being a dog?

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor 

Yes, I am aware that this book was originally released in 1976 and subsequently won the Newbery.  It is by no stretch of the imagination a “new” book, but it was for me.  As part of our reading identity challenge, I wanted to close some of my classic American children’s literature gaps (growing up in Denmark, there are just some books I have never read), and so I chose this amazing book.  I am glad I did.

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen 

I may be the only teacher left that had never read Hatchet before, at least that is what it felt like.  I now get why it continues to pop up in contemporary classrooms as a must read book.  I was hooked once that plane went down.

In my opinion, right now there are three must-read YA books this spring; Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson, American Street by Ibi Zoboi, and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.  All desperately needed in our classrooms but not just to be read by students, no, these also need to be read by us adults.  And then we need to sit with them for a long time and take a long hard look at ourselves and see where we need to start our work with checking our privilege and our bias.

As mentioned above, American Street by Ibi Zoboi is another must read.  As an immigrant, I related to it, but as someone who is viewed as another white American (even though I am Danish), it was an education. Raw, poetic, and sure to make you think, this needs to be in our 8th grade and up libraries.  

I am a sucker for fantasy series that pits good against evil.  Throw in a slight romance and I am hooked.  I loved the concept of Frostblood (The Frostblood Saga) by Elly Blake, and while there certainly were similarities between this and other books in this type of vein, it didn’t matter.  It was a great read; entertaining and worth my time.  I cannot wait for the next book in this YA series.  

It is not often that a middle-grade novel about a girl who suffers from OCD is this well-written.  I simply loved Finding Perfect by Elly Swartz for its lack of sugarcoating, for its brutal portrayal of a girl who realizes what she is doing is not normal and yet cannot stop herself, for the story.  OCD is sometimes portrayed almost as a gimmick, but not in this book.  It was heartwrenching to say the least and written in a way to bring all readers in.  
In my book, Dav Pilkey can do no wrong.  His genius is one that ensures that so many kids see themselves as readers and I will never be able to personally thank him enough for his dedication to creating amazing books.  So Dog Man Unleashed (Dog Man #2)  was a natural read for me.  I laughed out loud, I did the flip-o-ramas and then I book talked it to my 7th graders.  I have not seen the book since.  This addition to this list also shows me how randomly I read at times, which I totally love.
I read  Scythe (Arc of a Scythe) by Neal Shusterman in two nights and then handed it to one of my students.  A week later she handed it back and said, “This is the best book I have read all year.”  Enough said, this is PG13, but a must add and read.
I grabbed  Armstrong and Charlie by Steven B. Frank  from my ARC book pile on a whim.  Two hours later I finally looked up and realized that I was not supposed to be sitting in my chair still reading.  I love this middle-grade novel for all of its nuances when it comes to sharing the story of one school’s integration in the 1970’s and so will you.  I also hvae two different students reading it right now and they agree; this book is a must add to 4th grade and up.
Yes please to a YA book where the female lead character doesn’t need to be saved, isn’t waiting to be changed by the boy she falls in love with, has a family that actually is functional, and is also not a hopeless mess.  I am a fan of First & Then by Emma Mills .
So there you have it, a small slice of my reading life from the past 7 weeks.  To see more up-to-date shares of what I read follow me on Instagram.  And to see all of the lists I have created through the last three years or so of favorite books, go here.
If you like what you read here, consider reading any of my books; the newest called Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration, a how-to guide for those who would like infuse global collaboration into their curriculum, was just released.  If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.  I am currently working on a new literacy book, called Passionate Readers and it will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge.  I also have a new book coming out December, 2017 .   Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.

The Portals We Create – A Guest Post for The Nerdy Book Club

I have loved The Nerdy Book Club for many years.  How can you not?  To find a community online of such amazing people is not something that happens often.  So I am honored to share part of the guest post that they featured yesterday, a day that marked marches all over the world standing up for our rights.   Please make sure you go to the site to see the rest, subscribe to the blog (it gets delivered right in my mailbox) and then sign up to be a guest blogger.  They are always looking for stories…

I don’t remember the first time someone told me I should be fired as a teacher in response to work my students had done.  I know it was several years ago.  I remember the fear though, how it felt like a bucket of water was thrown in my face.  Here I thought we were doing good work, and yet others vehemently disagreed.  I was not fit to be a teacher, couldn’t my district see that?

I do remember the most recent time I was told I should be fired.  The internet has a way of bringing hate into our lives, whether we ask for it or not.  It was in response to a video that Microsoft had produced surrounding an exploration we had done as a class.  For several weeks we had investigated the refugee crisis all in an attempt to come up with our own opinion on what the role of the United States should be in it if any.  My 7th graders had dug in with gusto, using the skills that we incorporate on a regular basis to disseminate the information they were uncovering.  They used all of those skills we teach our students when we ask them to read closely, to questions, to clarify, and to create opinions all of their own.  Microsoft created a short two minute video about our work and highlighted how we had reached out to a refugee, an amazing woman named Rusul Alrubail, who is an Iranian refugee living in Canada and changing the world herself.  She had graciously shared her story with us via Skype, the students had had so many questions.  She happens to be Muslim, as are many of the refugees from Syria, a fact that many commenters could not get past.

As the video was posted I saw the comments roll in.  Some were grateful to the learning opportunity my students had had, but some were not.  I was an example of everything that is wrong with our society.  I was indoctrinating.  I should be fired.  How dare I expose them to Islam?  I felt fear for the first time in a long time; even though the logical part of me knew I had done nothing wrong, but what if “they” came to my school?  What if “they” came to my house?  When people hate they do it to hurt, they do it to make others afraid, and for a brief moment in time, they succeeded.  I was afraid for my job, for my family, for myself.  But then I scrolled further down and a comment caught my eye.  It was from one of my students telling someone that they had no idea what they were talking about.  That they would know if they were in our classroom that I do not tell my students what to think, but instead just ask them to think, to have an opinion, to figure out the world because this is the world they will inherit.  In that moment, I stopped being afraid, because if my 7th grader could have that courage.  If my 7th grader could find the words to push back.  If my 7th grader felt that they had the right to educate, then I certainly did too.

To read the rest of the post, go here

If you like what you read here, consider reading any of my books; the newest called Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration, a how-to guide for those who would like infuse global collaboration into their curriculum, was just released.  If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.  I am currently working on a new literacy book, called Passionate Readers and it will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge.  I also have a new book coming out December, 2017 .   Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.

 

3 Questions to Ask for a Critical Re-Evaluation of Your Classroom Library

“Really, Mrs. Ripp, another book about Civil Rights?” Spoken by one of my African American students as I pulled out the picture book I intended to use in our mini lesson.

Another book about Civil Rights….

His words followed me all of the way home.  Not because I was worried he didn’t know enough but because of what had followed those first words.

“You always pick those books…”

And he was right.  In my eagerness to embed more knowledge about the Civil Rights Movement into our mini lesson on advice from older characters, I wasn’t thinking about his representation to the rest of our mostly white class.  How once more what I showcased only supported a familiar narrative.  His words prompted a realization that seemingly the only picture books I used or that we even had in our classroom library featuring African Americans in them had to do with either slavery or Civil Rights.  Not every day life.  Not non-famous African Americans.  Just those two topics.  This realization has shaped a lot of my book purchasing decisions as of late and just how much work I still have to do.

I have been focused a lot on diversity of books, it’s hard not to when our world seems to need understanding, empathy, and fearlessness more than ever.  While our classroom library has been ever expanding with more diverse picks, I have realized through the help of my students that diversity is not enough.  That simply placing books that feature anything but white/cisgender/Christian characters in them is not enough.  It is a start, sure, but then how do we go further than that?

We ask ourselves; how are characters represented?

Prompted by the comment from my student, I now look for how characters of any race/skin color/culture are represented in all of our books.  Is everyone represented?  Even sub-groups that my students may not even be aware of?  Are we only showcasing one experience?  Are we only highlighting the famous people of that sub-group?  Are we only representing one narrative of a group of people that live a myriad of narratives?  My own ignorance has often led to blunders, such as the one described here, but I can do better. I can make sure that the books I bring in lead to realizations and understanding about others, not more of the same.

So don’t just ask who is represented, but ask how are they represented?  How would I feel if my own children were represented in this way?

We ask ourselves; do we have #OwnVoices authors represented?

The #OwnVoices hashtag is one I have been paying attention to as I look at the diversity of our classroom library and even on my own reading experiences.  Started by Corinne Duyvis the hashtag focuses on recommending books written/illustrated “about marginalized groups of people by authors in those groups.”  That is why I know Google who the author is and what their background is as I decide on placing a book in the library.  That is why I read blogs like Disability in Kidlit  (soon to be shut down which breaks my heart), follow Reading While White which had an entire month dedicated to OwnVoices books,  and also try to educate myself on what is out there.  If we want true representation in our classrooms then we have to do the legwork to make sure all marginalized groups are represented in the books we share with students.

So don’t just ask do I have broad representation in characters, but ask do I have broad representation in authors/illustrators?

We ask ourselves; how are books highlighted and selected?

Gone are the days where I haphazardly selected books to put on display or book talk.  Now my displays and selection process takes a little bit more time; which books are put out to grab for students?  What do the covers look like?  Who are the stories representing?  I also do not “just” put African American books on display for February to celebrate Black history month, but have them out all of the time.  My students should be immersed in a diverse reading experience at all times, not just in carefully selected months.

So don’t just grab a few books to put out because they are new; grab books that will offer students a wide reading experience and will expose them to new authors/titles that will broaden their own world.  Do not reserve diverse texts for a few months but have them on display at all times.

While I have grown, I have a long way to go.  My wish-list of books right now are a few hundred titles deep, especially as I focus on the sub-groups that are severely underrepresented in our library.  I am still educating myself, seeking out new titles, and seeking out those that know more than me.  If you want to see books that are getting added to our classroom library, follow me on Instagram as I share all new titles there.

One picture book that I urging every one to read and buy is this one

when-we-were-alone

When We Were Alone by David A. Robertson and Julie Fleet.  

From Amazon:

When a young girl helps tend to her grandmother’s garden, she begins to notice things that make her curious. Why does her grandmother have long, braided hair and beautifully colored clothing? Why does she speak another language and spend so much time with her family? As she asks her grandmother about these things, she is told about life in a residential school a long time ago, where all of these things were taken away.

If you like what you read here, consider reading any of my books; the newest called Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration, a how-to guide for those who would like infuse global collaboration into their curriculum, was just released.  If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.  I am currently working on a new literacy book, called Passionate Readers and it will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge.  I also have a new book coming out December, 2017 .   Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.

My Favorite Chapter Books of 2016

It is with great trepidation that I make this list.  Inevitably a book will be left off or I will somehow screw this up.  But…these books have shaped my year.  These books with their worlds, their heart, and their dreams have made me better.  Have offered me solace on long winter nights, have lulled me to sleep on airplanes and in hotel rooms.  When work has been too hard and life has been too busy, these books have kept me afloat.  So how can I not praise them?  (Thank you Goodreads).  While are new this year, some are not, but all were new to me.

Please read them.  Please love them.  Please share them with others.  After all, books may just be the very thing that brings us all together.

It is always exciting when I discover a new series and The Reader by Traci Chee did not disappoint.  While it took me a few days to read, my confusion was rewarded at the end when everything made sense and I was left with a longing to read on.  PG13 and up.

I had heard of Gene Luen Yang before he was chosen as National Book Ambassador but his new title led me to discover more of his work.  While I loved all of his that I read American Born Chinese was definitely my favorite.  This is a must add to any middle school classroom and up.

It is hard not to love Pax by Sara Pennypacker.  This book was the Global Read Aloud choice for elementary and up for 2016 and I still think it is one of the most powerful reads of the year.  This story of a fox and his boy will simply stay with you for a very long time.

I thought I knew a lot about hurricane Katrina but after reading Drowned City by Don Brown, I realized how little I actually knew.  Sparse, powerful, and haunting is the best way for me to describe this graphic novel nonfiction book.  Must add to middle school and up.

It is hard to not admire Kate Messner and her formidable brain, she epitomizes to me what it means to be creative.  I love her new series, Ranger in Time,  geared toward early readers and have brought the books in to my own 7th grade classroom as well.  What a wonderful way to discover history.

This was my very first read of the year and it was oh so good.  In fact, I think Shadow and Bone from Leigh Bardugo was the series feeling I chased all year.  Magic, action, love, this series has it all for our PG13  readers.

It is hard to describe the sadness that overcame me as I read the graphic novel Yummy – the Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri.  After all, this is the story of an actual child, this is the story of something that actually happened.  This is the story of a child who got so lost that he ended taking the life of another child and then losing his own.  PG13 and up.

I teach using the Notice and Note signposts, and a A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park is one of the texts used.  I knew I had to read it when I saw how it captivated all of my students.  This story of the Lost Boys of Sudan is one that many students throughout the year has also gravitated toward.  This could be placed in the hands of the right 5th grader who was ready for it.

There is always something bittersweet when you realize a book you loved and booktalked is missing in your library.  This is the case of Nimona by Noelle Stevenson.  I loved it, I book talked it, someone snagged it to read and poof it has disappeared.  This is a graphic novel tale I will gladly re-order though.

I  wonder how many times I have booktalked Gym Candy by Carl Deuker this year?  This is the book I reach for when I am running out of options for my resistant readers.  This is the book that I found myself sucked into as I ignored my family on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.  This is one of those books that becomes a magic weapon when we try to help students love reading more.  PG13 and up.

With the 15th anniversary of 9/11 we saw a slew of powerful books being published about the events.  While I read almost all of the ones published, Eleven by Tom Rogers is still the book that for me captured the day in the most powerful way.  4th grade and up but my 7th graders devour it as well.

I came across Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins as I booktalked poor covers.  My librarian told our class that while the cover might leave something t be desired, this was a really popular series.  I therefore promptly took t home to read it and boy was she right.  Love, action, magic, yes please.  Great middle school and up series.

Another fox book?  Yes please!  Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee is a powerful story of loss and discovery.  Of a family seemingly torn apart.  Of a fox that knows that it plays an important part in the healing.  This book is beautiful and for 4th grade and up.

This was the year i started to re-think my hatred of dog books and Maxi’s Secret by Lynn Plourde played a big part in that.  While yes the dog dies (it is told to us in the first chapter) this story is bigger than that of a dog.  It is about friendship, finding your place, and finding yourself.  4th grade and up.

 

I was told to read The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid this summer by a friend because she thought  it would be one of those books that I could not wait to share.  She was right.  The Diabolic is a masterful piece of work; challenging science fiction that still is a page turner.  PG13 and up.

I don’t know how I missed A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness for so long but I am so glad that I now have many copies of it in my classroom library.  This is one of those books you hand to those kids that say that they don’t like reading much.  I, along with many students, are eagerly awaiting the movie adaptation that is coming out in January.  Middle school and up.

Another book recommended to me by a trusted friend was Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart.  This book is needed in our libraries, especially as we focus on creating windows, mirrors, and doors into the lives of others.  Middle school and up.

I love complex fantasy, ones that have deep story lines where I need to find the time to fall into its pages and forget about life for a while.  Kelly Barnhill’s The Girl Who Drank the Moon is just the right kind of fantasy book.  Beautiful language and a story line that mesmerizes, I am glad this now a part of our library.  4th or 5th grade and up.

How amazing of a storyteller is Kate Messner?  I loved The Seventh Wishso much that it got it’s own stand alone review on this blog, and I stand by those words.  This book belongs in our classrooms, in our libraries, and yes even with elementary children.

Hands down one of the best non-fiction autobiographies I have ever read.  Melissa Sweet’s Some Writer! about E.B. White is a masterpiece in visual layout as well as text.  I have ordered another copy to house permanently in my classroom and will be using it to teach writer’s craft.  I cannot wait for children to fall into the delight of these pages and to be inspired to write more themselves.

I have loved the genius of Jenni Holm for a few years now and her new book Full of Beans is a delight.  This is one of those perfect books that will make for a great read aloud, especially in our 4th and 5th grade classrooms.  This is also a Global Read Aloud  contender for 2017.

I started my summer with The Best Man by Richard Peck.  Spurred on by my friends’ love of this book and by the sad fact that I had never read a Richard Peck book before, I was glad to start the summer with this one.  I was delighted, surprised, and ever so wonderfully tangled into the story and have loved booktalking it to students.  This one is great for middle school and up, or even a 5th grader.

 

How I have managed to go these years without falling in love with The Raven Boys series by Maggie Stiefwater I am not sure.  This has been one of my most recommended books this summer because I dropped everything just to read this whole series in a week.  Now that that the whole series is out there is no reason to wait to get this for your classroom library, I would recommend middle school and up.

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner is still one of the best books I have read all year. This is the book I hope most of my students discover.  This is the book I keep recommending.  A masterpiece in story-telling that I could not put down and neither could those I have handed it too.  This debut author has taken everything that is right about a great YA and put it into a book.  I cannot wait for his next book.

 

I was handed Fenway and Hattie by the author herself, Victoria J. Coe, and read it the very next day. Delightful, fun, and imaginative I have recommended this book to many people since.  I love how Victoria Coe writes it from the perspective of a dog and will be using this to show perspective writing with my 7th graders.  While this is geared toward a younger audience, I think some of my 7th graders will enjoy it as much as I have.  This is also a contender for Global Read Aloud 2017.

Loving Vs. Virginia by Patricia Hruby Powell and illustrated by Shadra Strickland is a must add to your library.  This text sheds light on the landmark case of marriage equality and is riveting in how it unfolds.  You fall in love with the Lovings and their simple fight to simply be allowed to be married.  (Note: Available for pre-order now).

What an incredible book Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk is.  In fact, I would be surprised if we did not see this book receive awards later this year.  Unlike anything I have read in a long time, Wolf Hollow draws you into a world that speaks of simpler times and yet the story unravels in a way you would not expect.  From 4th grade and up, this book is also a must add in middle school.

I loved the scary tale and the beautiful language of The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste. I rooted for the main character Corinne as she fights for her father and the rest of her island, protecting them from the supernatural beings that live in the forest.  For kids that love a great scary story, I cannot wait to book talk this, and even better; there is a sequel coming.

I had the incredible honor of seeing Erin Downing, the author of Moon ShadowMoon Shadow, at NCTE.  This book is a must read in 2017 (our in May!).  With its creepy yet deep story, it promises to be a book that many middle grade kids will want to read, discuss, and share.

Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson is the book I keep telling people to read, keep telling people to pre-order (out in February).  This powerful story is one that simply needs to be experienced and then placed in the hands of our middle schools and up.  Powerful, eye opening, and also just a great example of wonderful story telling.

The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell is a book I didn’t expect to love as much as I did.  I had heard from others that it was a great title and yet whenever I picked it up, I just didn’t quite fall into the appeal of it.  Its tale of honor, family, and yes, wolves left me mesmerized from page 1.  This is the best of books; nature and survival, historical fiction and fast paced adventure.  This is a must for 4th grade and up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of these days I might write an entire post about how much I admire the talent and work of Jacqueline Woodson.  The conversations she invites us to have in our classrooms are profound and I am so thankful I finally discovered her book If You Come Softly.  While the story is set in high school it is not high school langue which makes it even more accessible to many students.  This book about race and love and growing up is one I won’t forget.  I also read, and loved, Behind You, the follow up novel.

I cannot imagine the painstaking work it must have been for Allan Wolf to write The Watch that Ends the Night.  This is the Titanic story like I had never experienced it before.  Middle school and up.

Can Jennifer A. Nielsen do no wrong?  She once again had me hooked from the early pages of The Scourge, what a great story of mystery, survival, and also devious means to fight back.  4th or 5th grade and up.

I am not sure I have enough words to publicly declare how much I love the brain of Dav Pilkey and his new series Dog Man.  This one book has completely transformed my daughter’s life, who is 7, but is equally loved by my 7th graders.  This is what great books are made of.

Another book I was surprised I had missed until now.  Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate is her other master piece.  This book with its free verse formand heart wrenching story is everything great books are made of.  This is also GRA contender for 2017.

I don’t know how Jason Reynolds manages to crank one book out after another but I am thankful that he does.  His latest book Ghost is the beginning of a series, thank you!  It is a Global Read Aloud Contender, and it is oh so good for middle grade and up.

I finally settled into my new reading chair and fell in love with The Wild Robot by Peter Brown.  It is always such a delight when simple language brings us deep reading experiences.  This is also one of those books that I know I can hand to many kids and they can have a successful reading experience with it.  4th grade and up,  but 7th graders love it too.

I always have room for a great creepy book and Janet Fox’s new book, The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle, is just that.  Mysterious, creepy, and suspenseful will keep readers tuned in from 5th grade and up.

I tend to steer away from WWII books simply because I have oversaturated myself in the genre, but for The Plot to Kill Hitler by Patricia McCormick, I knew I would make an exception.  What is crazy about this story is that it is true, and also one I had not heard of before.  This was book-talked once in my classroom and I have not seen it since. Perfect for middle grades and up.

I think My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and JodI Meadows is one of those books where you either love it or hate it.  I loved it with a capital l.  This felt fresh, funny, and of course I had to read just one more page to see what would happen.  Perfect for middle school and up.

I can be very hit or miss when it comes to historical fiction, I feel that I either love it or really do not like it.  The Many Reflections of Miss Jane Deming by J. Anderson  Coats is a book that I loved reading.  I loved the can-do attitude of or female protagonist and also how it provided me with a glimpse into the settler time period.  This gem comes out at the end of February and is not to be missed for middle grade and up.

Argh, cancer books.  I am terrible with you and yet I also feel myself drawn to their pages.  Love, Ish the new book by Karen Rivers is one that will take you for a ride whether you wanted it to or not.  Powerful storytelling brings us right there with Ish.  Out on my birthday, March 14th, this is a great book for middle grades and up.

There were so many other books that I loved this year but I tried to stick to a little bit of a shorter list.  To see all of the books I read and rate follow me on Instagram or on Goodreads.  Which books did I miss?

Win A Copy of My New Book!

Thank you to all of those who entered, the contest is now closed.  Both winners were randomly selected by a number generator.  Congratulations to the two winners!  To purchase a copy of the book, please see here.

For the past year I have been sitting behind my computer most nights trying to figure out how to put into words the work we do in our classroom while writing two separate books.  Trying to figure out how I can help others go deeper with their literacy instruction, even within the 45 minute English classroom.   Trying to figure out how others could incorporate more global collaboration into their literacy instruction without it feeling like just one more thing to do.  Trying to figure out how to make the literacy instruction we all do more meaningful, more passionate, more connected.  There have been great nights and there have been early mornings.  There have been days when I have felt like the biggest fraud, imposter syndrome for the win, and others where I finally felt like what I had to write might actually be meaningful to someone else.

The past year has been grueling, but oh so incredible, and now I get to celebrate the first release of one of those books; Reimagining Literacy through Global Collaboration.   This how-to book is meant to help those that are new to global collaboration or have been dipping their toes in  for the past few years.  It is meant to inspire, meant to give you the why, and meant to help you create more meaningful literacy opportunities for your students.  It is meant to give you a glimpse into our classroom as we try to make the world smaller, kinder, and the work we do more relevant all in less than 80 pages.

new-cover

The official description says:

Prepare your students to adapt and thrive in the world beyond their classroom. This how-to guide offers strategies for how to establish classrooms that give students globally connected literacy experiences. Learn why students must create school projects aimed at an authentic audience beyond school walls, and plan for more purposeful opportunities for students to engage with what they learn and create. You’ll discover how to use readily available technology tools to create environments where students gain 21st century skills, collaborate with others around the globe, and realize that their work matters.

Enter to win:

So in order to celebrate the impending release of this book, I thought I would give away two copies of it.  It should be out within the next first few weeks so before Christmas and you will receive you copy right from Amazon.

All you have to do to enter is to write a comment below, make sure you enter your email address in the field where it asks for it so I can contact you if you win.  I will draw two randomly selected winners after Friday night, December 9th at 8 PM.

To order the book yourself:

While Amazon says it will not be released until January, Solution Tree says otherwise.  So if you would like to order your own copy of the book, please go here.

What is my other book?

I am currently working on a new literacy book.  The book, which I am still writing, is tentatively Passionate Readers and will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge.  It is the tale of how I changed my literacy instruction to create passionate readers even within the 45 minute English classroom.  It is the wisdom of my amazing 7th graders and what they wish all teachers of reading would know and do.  It is how we can bring our own reading identity in and let it help us become better teachers of reading.  It is a book filled with the practical, the inspirational, and the tools we need to hopefully help our students embrace reading as part of their identity.

 If you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.  Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.