being a teacher, books, choices, Reading Identity, student choice

In Defense of Graphic Novels…Again

Our graphic novel room awaits

Every few months, this notion of graphic novels as being something we need to push children out of comes into my life. Whether it is through the words of a teacher who tells a student to “pick something harder,” a home adult who tells their child they can’t read graphic novels anymore, or even the disdain that entire schools or districts offer up at the mention of expanding their collection; misplaced attacks on graphic novels continue.

And I see its effects on the readers I teach. The stories they share of the books they used to read or the books they loved but were restricted from. The way they marvel at the entire room we have full of them. At the relief that they can read anything they want. At the desire to read more of them and more often, as quickly as they can in case the adults in charge change their mind. And while so many of them have been given full access to graphic novels, some haven’t, and so for the sake of all of the other educators who perhaps find themself in the same boat as I do once again, I am pulling together a list of research, resources, and discussion of why graphic novels are “real” books and why they, of course, belong not just on our shelves but also in the hands of any reader who desires to read them.

I have written about this topic before, after all, the introduction of Dog Man by Dav Pilkey singlehandedly changed the reading life of one of my own children who now devours manga at a rapid pace. I could tell you story upon story of kids who told us they hated reading and completely changed their reading identity after having devoured a year of reading graphic novels. Of kids who fell back in love with reading because of graphic novels. Of home adults who marvel at how many books their child now reads because of graphic novels. Of the kids who have finally seen themselves as superheroes, as regular heroes, or who have finally seen themselves period.

And yet they get little respect in some reading circles. They are shared as lesser versions of reading, as something we only offer kids who have less developed skills or who are younger as a way to bridge them into “real reading.” As something you do on breaks from school but not as a part of the reading experiences we co-create. Yet, the beauty of graphic novels is in the difference from more traditional print media. That they offer their own unique reading experience that is different from reading a traditional text that offers no visual component. Often those who oppose the use of graphic novels with students or even a steady reading diet of it, compare the two experiences and find one lacking rather than see them for the unique experiences they are. Of course, stamina is developed differently in a text that relies only on decoding to create the full story, however, that doesn’t dismiss the reading of graphic novels. It simply reminds me of why it is important that children are surrounded by many different formats and text complexities in their reading choices. Not so we can limit them as readers but, instead, so we can continue to offer choices as they broaden their reading experiences.

The complexity of reading skills that it requires to fully comprehend a graphic novel has been well-documented. Children need to read at a slower pace in order to interpret the pictures and also decode the words, then synthesize the two components together, while also having spatial awareness and training in order to piece the images together correctly. That is not easy by any mile, which is why I often have to remind or even teach children how to read graphic literature correctly when they do not understand a story. These are reading skills that we use often as visual literacy becomes a larger part of how we communicate and express ourselves. Graphic novels, comic books, and other visual components are on the rise, because so is the use of visual literacy in everyday life, not because we are lazier but because we continue to evolve in our communication style and needs.

But for me, the biggest reason why I am an avid supporter of protecting, and highlighting the reading of graphic novels is the readers themselves. We, the adults in charge of reading instruction, have got to stop limiting and shaming the choices that our readers make. I hear so many complain about how the kids aren’t reading anymore and yet within those complaints, I don’t often see a reflection of which practices we have implemented that may have pushed kids out or away from reading. I get the need for longer text with more words. I get the need for continual growth of readers in order to reach whichever “level” someone has decided will mean they are fully developed at their age group, but what I don’t understand is our gatekeeping of reading materials and experiences. It should be common sense that if we want children to develop their own reading identities then we put them in charge of at least part of that identity, why not book choice? Why not invite them to reflect on the choices of reading materials they make and then ask them how they plan to challenge themselves within those choices? When a child only reads graphic novels, why not honor that and introduce them to further choices that embrace further complexities in storytelling, vocabulary, and visual literacy components? Why not feed their fire rather than douse it with our well-meaning intentions?

If we want children to see reading as something that enrichens their lives beyond the confinement of school, then we must accept where they are in their reading journey and then help them develop and nurture that identity. That starts with honoring their choices because these choices are an extension of who they are. So when we tell them it is time to move on prematurely from something they love, instead of seeing it as a worthy challenge, it creates yet another obstacle and poor experience with reading.

Resources for Expanding your Collection:

How to teach using comics and graphic novels:

Inspiration for why graphic novels and comics matter:

Materials geared toward sharing with home adults:

In our relentless pursuit of co-creating better reading experiences for children it is so important that we do not leave the very children behind that we intend to create the experience for. And so if you find yourself in a situation where the reading of graphic novels or comics is questioned or prohibited, I hope this collection of links and further support will be helpful. If you know of any additional resources I should add, let me know. These are the ones I have used and use currently.

If you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me coach, collaborate with your teachers, or speak at your conference, please see this page.. If you like what you read here, consider reading my latest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child.  This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block.  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.

books, picture books, projects, Reading

My Mock Caldecott Picks 2022

Warning: I may change my mind…

For the past 6 years, I have done a Mock Caldecott unit with students as we come back to school in January. The year is quietly winding down which means the reflection begins on which illustrations took my breath away. And there were many. Last year, I didn’t get to do this unit with my students due to virtual teaching so I am so excited to bring it back to us. Over the years, I have made a few tweaks to make it more manageable and enjoyable for kids.

One, I am reading all of these books aloud during our unit. While the students will still read them in their group, they will have experienced the full text with us all first.

Two, I am limiting our choices to 11. That way we can leisurely work through the unit, savor the illustrations, and give it the time it needs rather than skim through pages in order to come up with a winner.

Three, each group will pick their winner. Every year we have had a vote for class pick, but I switched it two years by letting each group select and root for their individual winners. We will, however, vote for an overall winner in all of my English classes combined.

The lessons will not change much; I use previous winners to discuss the different components of the award and then students grab the books they will discuss that day and rank. Each group gets a packet with the titles and a voting sheet. The slides I use are here and are pretty straightforward. The voting packet will be modified this year to make it shorter, and students will still do a persuasive speech at the end to try to convince their classmates that their choice is, of course, the best one.

So which books have I chosen for the year? (Not that it matters because we almost never pick the winner, ha, but we did in 2020!)

A Walk in the Words by Hudson Talbott: 9780399548710 |  PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books
The 1619 Project: Born on the Water by Nikole Hannah-Jones, Renée Watson:  9780593307359 | PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books
Amazon.com: Bodies Are Cool: 9780593112625: Feder, Tyler, Feder, Tyler:  Books
Soul Food Sunday (Ebook) | ABRAMS
Vamos! Let's Cross the Bridge (World of ¡Vamos!): Raúl the Third III:  9780358380405: Amazon.com: Books
Wishes: Van, Muon Thi, Ngai, Victo: 9781338305890: Amazon.com: Books
Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre: Weatherford, Carole Boston, Cooper,  Floyd: 9781541581203: Amazon.com: Books
Watercress: Wang, Andrea, Chin, Jason: 9780823446247: Amazon.com: Books
Awake
I Sang You Down from the Stars: Spillett-Sumner, Tasha, Goade, Michaela:  9780316493161: Amazon.com: Books
Mel Fell: Tabor, Corey R., Tabor, Corey R.: 9780062878014: Amazon.com: Books
Outside, Inside: Pham, LeUyen, Pham, LeUyen: 9781250798350: Amazon.com:  Books

If you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.. If you like what you read here, consider reading my latest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child.  This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block.  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.

books, Reading, Reading Identity

Our Favorite Reads of the Year… So Far – A Bulletin Board Idea

One of the things we try to do at our school is to make our reading visible. From my own display of books I have read outside of our classroom, to the rotating book displays in our classroom and school library, to the “Just Read” posters outside staff doors, we want our students to see that there is a lot of reading that happens in our community. A few weeks ago the “Favorite reads…” bulletin board idea was shared in the Facebook Passionate Readers community and I knew I wanted to create it. So thank you Tracy C. for sharing the idea in the first place.

All I needed to do was make time (which is hard to do these days) and find some book spine templates since I knew I did not have the patience to create them myself. Monday-Tuesday before break I made it my mission to get this done as I figured this was another quick way for our scholars to show off their reading. After a lot of gluing, this is the finished product. (It looks more polished in pictures ha, but it works).

May be an image of indoor

I asked students to grab a spine or two and share what their favorite book(s) had been so far this year. I also showed them pictures of other similar displays so they knew what we were going for. Then they got to work, it didn’t take long for most of them, I then just had to glue them up. I even got a compliment by a student I don’t teach as I put up titles and other teachers complimented it as well.

So why bother? It once again makes reading more visible in our school community, it also is a way for kids to recommend books, as well as for me to get ideas for my own reading. While we always share our best book of the year in a speech at the end of the year, I like adding in this component as a check-in a few months in. And if you are wondering what kids have loved so far, take a look. There is a wide range of books, many I have book talked, some I don’t even have in our collection as they are more mature, and some kids have found on their own.

No photo description available.

After I posted the pictures in our Facebook group, a fellow educator took the time to create book spines for others to use for free, yet another reason why I love our community. I share these here with her permission, thank you Lisa Anderson for taking the time to make these.

Perhaps you hadn’t seen this idea either or perhaps you are just looking for the push to do your own, whatever your reason, I hope this post is helpful. I really don’t have a lot of time to give to bulletin boards but am excited for this one, also because we have room to grow; more titles can be added as kids finish books and find new favorites.

If you like what you read here, consider reading my book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child.  This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block.  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.      Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.

Book Clubs, books, Reading, Reading Identity

My Best Ideas (for now) for Book Clubs at the Middle Level

Once or twice a year, dependent on what the students feel like doing, we set out on our book clubs journeys in 7th grade. For 11 years I have been sharing ideas on this blog and so it feels natural to revisit past posts and update what we have been doing since my practice is always evolving, if only in small outward ways.

Last year, we did them virtually, as detailed in the post here. This year we are back together and the excitement is building for our first book clubs of the year, especially after the kids heard they were not writing a literary essay to go along with them.

Timeline and Time Spent

Where do book clubs fit in for us? This graph may help with our layout for the year. While I love doing book clubs, I will not do more than two of them in a year, our students ask us for moderation in everything we do and so two is enough in order for them to have other experiences with books as well. Of course, students may choose to run their own book clubs at any point, but they are not required to discuss their books like this except for these two times.

Having a gap in the book clubs allows us to continue our all-year focus on joyful independent reading, as well as see their growth. Since we start out the year by focusing on their independent reading and then slip into a read-aloud for the Global Read Aloud we have done a lot of work with establishing our overall reading community. This helps a lot when I need students to work independently either reading or discussion while I am coaching other students in our team area.

In our 88 minutes, our breakdown looks something like this (note this is the only time during the year that we do not start our class with independent reading):

  • 10-20 minute mini-lesson, it becomes about 10 minutes once we have read aloud our anchor mentor text – For our Dystopian book clubs I lean heavily on the work shared by TCRWP and so we use the short story Ponies by Kij Johnson, in spring I use short story that I found in the brilliant book Unbroken – 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens edited by Marieke Nijkamp. Some of the mini-lessons are inspired by the work shared by TCRWP, but then we have put our own lessons as well.
  • Then 30-40 minutes is reading time for the groups. They can also choose to discuss in their group, I require they discuss in front of a teacher once a week.
  • Then we pull back together to discuss our inqury question and do more learning surrounding this as we add to our knowledgebase. We end the class with 15-20 minutes of creative writing.

Overall Purpose

The number one purpose of book clubs for us is for students to engage in meaningful discussions, that are rooted in their chosen books but not confined by them. We really want students to feel like they are honing their voices, continuing to carve out their ideas and thoughts on the world, and also finding others to share their thoughts with. We also want to make space for our continued ponderings about the world and so the dystopian book club is framed by the inquiry question; How close are we to living in a dystopian world? We want our kids to be able to be together, to explore facets of the world they are curious in, and to relish this time we are spending diving into beautiful books. This community piece is huge for us, which is why there is very limited written work associated with their time in book clubs.

We have a few guidelines in room 203:

  • The book club experience needs to protect their reading identity.
  • The book club experience needs to be worth their time.
  • The book club experience needs to give them opportunities for authentic, non-teacher directed conversations.
  • The book club experience needs to help them grow as readers, thinkers, and human beings.
  • The book club experience needs to be accessible to all types of readers. It is not just meant for the chosen few.

We want to make sure at all times that these guidelines are honored in order to protect the reading community we have painstakingly built together. This means that we check in with these guidelines before we implement anything.

Implementing an inquiry question that goes beyond their individual books allows us a natural opportunity to dive into the history of this nation, to learn, with choice embedded, about the laws that govern us, as well as how different groups of people have been targeted differently throughout history. This also changes our experience from one that is focused on the future and “what if?” to the right now. This is an important shift that has taken more root in the last few years in our classroom and my thinking and implementation around us is still evolving. Right now, a lot of what we learn is through short documentaries that then build our knowledge base. It is important for me that I offer up the many different opportunities for our students to think deeply beyond just literary terms and book clubs offer us a way to do this. One of the explorations we will use is choosing videos to watch, reflect on, and discuss from these Supreme Court briefs.

Book Choices

Central to the experience is, of course, the choice of books. While our first book club of the year is centered around Dystopian Science Fiction (which the students loved), the second round is centered on the theme overcoming obstacles. Because this is a broad theme it has allowed us to bring in all types of formats of books, as well as honor many different reading accessibility points. We, therefore, have more than 40 books to choose from. These include many genres such as realistic fiction, fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction. It also includes different formats beyond the regular chapter books such as free verse novels, graphic novels, and audiobooks.

While all students are offered the opportunity to read at least one book in the three or so week span that clubs last, we also have groups who choose to read an entire series or multiple stand-alone books in order to compare them. They then engage in across series comparison work. One trick then is to make sure that they slow down enough to think deeply across the books and not just skim through the pages.

I have also implanted a short story option for the kids who for whatever reason are not in a space to take on a full book right now. We then have 3 short stories, one for each week, where we provide scaffolded questions that they can prepare for and I then facilitate the conversation. This has worked really well for the few kids who have needed it.

To see our book club choices for dystopian, please view the slide show. This changes as new books are published, I am always specifically looking for dystopian books written by the global majority. For the spring book club, the book choices change a lot.

One thing, we are asked a lot is how do you have so many books? There are a few factors at play here. One, my district, Oregon School District, believes in the power of funding books. This is why we have a beautiful school library and classroom libraries. We have a well-curated book room that continues to grow and expand as we add more titles, we tend to add groups of 5 to 10 titles in order to have a lot of different books to offer rather than just a few. I also buy a lot of books, I wish it wasn’t that way, but I do. While I certainly buy many via traditional means, I also use Books4School and Scholastic to help supplement our collection.

Because our book clubs are central components every year, we have been adding to our collection year after year and I don’t think that will stop any time soon. We have a lot of different readers and need a lot of different books.

Making Groups and Choosing Books

Because choice and honoring who our students are as human beings is a central component, we knew we needed to offer students ways to be invested in who they are spending all of this time with, as well as the book(s) that they end up reading. This is why they have a central voice in who they are with.

This starts with the partner interviews. This is a way for all students to reflect on who they are as a reader and what they need others to be in their groups. While many students naturally gravitate toward interviewing their friends, they often find that their friends’ reading habits do not match their own. They use this sheet to interview each other and then hand it in. For this later round of book clubs, students were given the opportunity to totally group themselves. We did discuss that they needed to be welcoming to all students and to base this off their reading habits, not just who they were friends with. All classes did a really nice job setting up their groups. All groups are kept to 3 or 4 students, with a rare exception for a partnership or a group of 5. We like the 3 to 4 people groups because it means everyone has an active role.

We do not assign roles to members of the group because we see this as an artificial component of groups, that while it may be helpful when students first start out in book clubs in younger grades, really can end up changing the experience and not allowing them to fully express themselves they way we would like them to.

Once they have created a group, they then go through the slideshow to select their top 5 of the books. There are two rules, they have to follow:

  1. No one in the group can have read the book or watched the movie.
  2. Everyone has to agree to rank it.

For some of my voracious readers, they sometimes can’t find five great choices. We then enlist the help of our classroom library, school library, and our librarian in order to help them find something they want. This is also where I typically end up buying one or two other sets of books that then get added into our rotation.

Once their books have been selected, they turn their sheets into me and then wait a day while we puzzle out what they get. The very next day, they are then introduced to their book club choice. Students then create their own reading plan breakdown. This is once again to honor their busy lives and reading habits. They then sign up for one day a week to discuss in front of a teacher, who assesses their discussion skills. There are still a few choices here:

  1. The group can choose to change their book before they even begin – we then show them what is left for them to choose from.
  2. The group can choose to abandon the book together within the first 3 days of reading. This is in case they don’t love it as much as they should. We want this experience to be awesome, not awful so book choice is vital.
  3. A student can choose to abandon their group within the first 3 days as well, if they really dislike the book or the dynamics are not working out for some reason. They then need to approach another group to ask if they can join them (with adult support) and then catch up to that group.

If a group needs access to the audio version of the book in order for all kids to be successful, we then add the book to our Audible account. We don’t ever want the decoding of the words to stand in the way for a child to truly participate since the decoding is not what is being assessed. This also allows our kiddos who need extra support to be a part of these clubs without barriers that may harm their reading identity. Many groups also end up using Audible as a way to read together, thus enhancing the reading experience.

And now they read and we start our mini-lessons. We always give them a few days to get into their book, during this time we do reminders of what we are looking for in powerful discussions, as well as have them do a main character baseline.

Other “tools” we introduce to help our students find success are…

  • Creating an anchor chart following our mini-lessons of what they can pay attention to when they are reading.
  • Handing them a bookmark that also gives them things to discuss. They tape their reading plan to the back of it. I also pull small groups that need extra support with their discussions in order to help them find success.
  • Have kids create their own rules for how they want their clubs to function. Kids used to post these but now they just share them with me, it is not even so much the rules I am interested in but rather the discussion itself. How will they help each other find success and how can they also hold each other accountable?
  • I stop discussions if they are not going well. If it is clear that a group is not prepared to discuss, I would rather pause them than keep them going. This means they get a chance to come back the following day once they have prepared. If it happens again, then they do their discussion ad we discuss what needs to happen the following week.
  • Lots of post-its or note cards. This is the only time during the year where we require students take notes as they read. I do mini-lessons on what you can put on a post-it note or what you can annotate for so that there is a deeper meaning to their notes and not just “…the teacher said I had to do it…” some students need more help than others. They cannot discuss if they do not have evidence pulled to support their thoughts.
  • Discussion prep sheets. We have found that if we have students pick things they want to pay attention to and discuss the following week, their discussions are so much better. This graphic organizer changes as we see fit. Before they then discuss in front of us, we ask them what they are focused on this week and then hold them accountable for that. Two of the three things they are asked to focus on are items we have discussed in class, such as power structure, unspoken rules to live by, or character change.
  • Partner feedback groups. I have written more about these in this blog post.

After the first week, I pull them to discuss in front of me and then continue to do so every week. The first discussion is a formative discussion and then the following two are summative.

What do I assess?

We start with a pre-assessment using a choice of a short film or text in order for students to show us what they already know. This also lets me know what I should focus heavily on or not. We have purposefully included a short film so that decoding does not stand in the way of kids expressing their thoughts. Again, we really want all kids to be able to show off their knowledge without some of their usual obstacles.

The skills they are assessed on are directly tied into their discussions and not to any written work unless they choose to do written work. The rubric for their discussions can be viewed here. If a student does not do well in discussion or would rather be assessed through writing, we give them the option to do this one-pager created by my fantastic colleague, Liz. We also have a few kids where they are doing the one-pager and discussing with an adult instead of with a group because of extenuating circumstances. However, we try our very best to give ALL kids the same experience, even if we provide more support for some of them in order to be successful. Often, kids who are labeled as below grade level readers will not be exposed to the same reading experiences and opportunities as their peers, because we worry that they will not be able to do it, however, when we remove even the opportunity for them to try then we may end up limiting their future growth. How can you ever be successful in discussions if you have never been expected to do one?

As they are discussing, I am marking down what I hear and also thinking of what supports they need in order to continue their growth. One of the big areas of growth is always how to explain how their chosen evidence ties in with their ideas beyond the obvious and to help them go deeper in their reasoning, this is major work we are continually working on all year, not just in book clubs. Their discussion tends to last 10-15 minutes, at the end I ask them to tell me what they think went well and then what they need to work on. Only after they have spoken, do I offer my feedback as well as a plan forward. We then discuss the idea and what they need to grow, then they are released. We do three discussions in the three weeks, the first one is formative, the next two are summative. If a child is out on a day they are scheduled for discussion, we either wait until they are back if we can or they do a minor written discussion for me.

As a fun way to wrap up the unit, I have all groups do  12-word book summary, detailed here.  They get two days in class to work on it and then they present in front of each with motions. Then we end with watching The Hunger Games or Wall-E as a way to wrap up the unit.

If you like what you read here, consider reading my book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child.  This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block.  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.      Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.

being a teacher, books, picture books, Reading

#PernilleRecommends – My Favorite Reads May through September, 2021

If you follow me on Instagram, you may know that I recommend a lot of books on there, in fact, it is the number one thing I use my account for. Perhaps you follow me there? If you don’t, or if you missed some, I figured a blog post to pull them all together would be helpful. That way you can see what I have read and loved, see what age groups they may work and order some books yourself. I don’t post all of the books I read, just the ones I love so much that I want to share them with others. I use the hashtag #pernillerecommends and they get cross-posted to Twitter as well if you want more than 1,000 book recommendations. Either way, here are the books I loved and shared from May until today!

Picture Books

Early Readers

Middle Grade

Young Adult

Professional Development

Which books have you read and loved? I am already excited to share all of the October reads I am loving over on Instagram. Happy reading!

As always, I am also curating lists on Bookshop.org – a website who partners with independent bookstores to funnel book purchases through them, if you use my link, I get a small affiliate payout.

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.