being a teacher, books, picture books, Reading

Great Picture Books to Teach Character Change (Contrast & Contradictions in Notice and Note)

Posted from my Patreon community where I take requests for book lists to create, share resources, and offer up coaching for members. It is a very easy way for me to be accessible to people around the world, you can join here.

One of the reading strategies we teach students is to notice character changes, whether it be in chapter books, movies, or even in life. When I first started out teaching this strategy, I was inspired by the language of  Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading by Kylene Beers and Robert Probst.  This book provided my students with the foundation for having deeper reading conversations and a common language as we developed our thoughts and our discussion skills.

While being able to track characters and notice when they act out of character is a great reading strategy, it is an even bigger life skill. Inferring and noticing when people don’t seem like themselves or when they change can be practiced within literature and media. As a way to introduce and really focus on the strategy, I have long used picture books to showcase it. 8 years ago, I created this initial list of picture books and I figured it was about time to update it as I sit and watch Titanic with my kids.  

The Noisy Classroom by Angela Shanté and illustrated by Alison Hawkins. A young girl is about to enter the third grade, but this year she’s put into Ms. Johnson’s noisy class. Everything about the noisy class is odd. While all the other classes are quiet, Ms. Johnson sings and the kids chatter all day. The door is always closed, yet sounds from it can be heard in the hallway. With summer coming to an end and school starting, the girl realizes that soon she’ll be going to the noisy class. What will school be like now?

In After the Fall by Dan Santat, Humpty Dumpty has to come to terms with his own fear and anxiety after a great big fall. But that requires him to act opposite of what his fear tells him to.

When my Cousins Come to Town by Angela Shanté and illustrated by Keisha Morris. Fitting in can be hard, but standing out isn’t easy either! Every summer a young girl eagerly waits for her cousins to come visit and celebrate her birthday. All her cousins are unique in their own ways and have earned cool nicknames for themselves… except for the girl. But this year things are going to be different. This year before summer ends, she’s determined to earn her own nickname!

My Teacher is a Monster by Peter Brown. A young boy named Bobby has the worst teacher. She’s loud, she yells, and if you throw paper airplanes, she won’t allow you to enjoy recess. She is a monster! Luckily, Bobby can go to his favorite spot in the park on weekends to play. Until one day… he finds his teacher there! Over the course of one day, Bobby learns that monsters are not always what they seem.

I Hate Everyone by Naomi Davis and illustrated by Cinta Arribas. “I hate everyone.” In your worst mood, it’s a phrase you might want to shout out loud, even if, deep down, you don’t really mean it. Set at a birthday party, this disgruntled, first-person story portrays the confusing feelings that sometimes make it impossible to be nice, even-or especially-when everyone else is in a partying mode.

In Big by Vashti Harrison we follow our main character and she goes from loving herself, to feeling the direct pressure from society to fit in. Can she find herself and her strength again?

Timid by Harry Woodgate offers up the story of Timmy, who loves to perform even though they also have anxiety whenever they are asked to perform in front of others. While they want to overcome it, and nearly do, it turns out letting go of who you used to be is a lot harder than one might think.

In Francis Discovers Possible by Ashlee Latimer and illustrated by Shahrzad Maydani, Francis loves learning new words. At school, when her class is reviewing words that begin with the letter “F,” someone sneers “Fat, like Francis.” Francis always thought “fat” was a warm word—like snuggling with Mama or belly rubs for her puppy. But now “fat” feels cold, and Francis feels very small. After school, Baba takes Francis to the park. She chooses the bench instead of the swing set, and gets very quiet. But when Baba uses the word “possible,” Francis wants to know what it means.

In The Recess Queen by Alexis O’Neill and Laura Huliska-Beith, Mean Jean was Recess Queen and nobody said any different. Nobody swung until Mean Jean swung. Nobody kicked until Mean Jean kicked. Nobody bounced until Mean Jean bounced. If kids ever crossed her, she’d push ’em and smoosh ’em, lollapaloosh ’em, hammer ’em, slammer ’em, kitz and kajammer ’em. Until a new kid came to school! With her irrepressible spirit, the new girl dethrones the reigning recess bully by becoming her friend in this infectious playground romp.

In Home for a While by Lauren H. Kerstein and illustrated by Natalie Moore, Calvin is in foster care, and he wants to trust someone, anyone, but is afraid to open his heart. He has lived in a lot of houses, but he still hasn’t found his home. When he moves in with Maggie, she shows him respect, offers him kindness, and makes him see things in himself that he’s never noticed before. Maybe this isn’t just another house, maybe this is a place Calvin can call home, for a while.

El Cucuy is Scared Too by Donna Barba Higuera and illustrated by Juliana Perdomo. Ramón is a little boy who can’t sleep. He is nervous for his first day at a new school.
And El Cucuy is the monster who lives in Ramón’s cactus pot. He can’t sleep, either.
It turns out that El Cucuy is scared, too!

Truman by Jean Reidy and illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins, Truman is a worried little turtle especially as Sarah leaves him for school. How will he manage when she continues to leave and cannot bring him along?

Image result for the bad seed picture book

It’s like this picture book was written just for this lesson.  The Bad Seed by Jory John and illustrated by Pete Oswald features two changes in character and also a powerful message about trauma and what can happen to you even after bad things happen.

In Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino and Isabelle Malenfant, Morris goes from being sad and timid, unsure of his choice to wear a tangerine dress.  As the book progresses he changes as he realizes that he wants to be himself.

Allie’s Basketball by Barbara E Barber (Author), Darryl Ligasan(Illustrator)

According to the boys watching Allie play, girls can’t play basketball.

In A Tale of Two Beasts by Fiona Robertson, the C&C is how the two sides view the story.

I Don’t Want to Be a Frog by Dev Petty and illustrated by Mike Boldt is C&C throughout.  The main character does not want to be what he is supposed to be and protests it every way he can.

Dear Primo: A Letter to My Cousin by Duncan Tonatiuh (Author)

As two cousins write to each other, we see the contrast (and similarities) between their lives.

Tuesday by David Wiesner started us off in our discussions about contrasts and contradictions.  This fantastic nearly wordless picture book is an easy entry into this discussion as it allows students to easily see how the magical event with the toads floating is in contrast to what frogs normally do.

With one of my classes I also used Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan, where the contrast lies in the rules being shared and the images.  While this one was a little more advanced for the students, they greatly enjoyed the illustrations and discussing what they might mean.

The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig and illustrated by Patrice Barton. Meet Brian, the invisible boy. Nobody in class ever seems to notice him or think to include him in their group, game, or birthday party . . . until, that is, a new kid comes to class.When Justin, the new boy, arrives, Brian is the first to make him feel welcome. And when Brian and Justin team up to work on a class project together, Brian finds a way to shine

Another contrast and contradiction text between self and society in Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown where Mr. Tiger just will not conform.  When he tries to change his ways, he loses his real identity.

This Is A Moose by Richard T. Morris and Tom Lichtenheld is a great example of the contrast between what a moose is supposed to be like and what they really are.

The Story of Fish & Snail by Deborah Freedman is a wonderful example about change in a character as Snail is too scared to follow Fish on a new adventure.

That Is Not A Good Idea by Mo Willems is another great example of a character changing and acting in a different way than we would expect.  I do love this devious little tale.

What I love about Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Christian Robinson, is that most of my students can relate to its message about being expected to fit in in a certain way.  The contrast lies between the characters and how their upbringing has shaped them.

Any day I can use Pete and Pickles by Berkeley Breathed is a good day in our room.  Here, we focus on the change that Pete the pig goes through as he meets Pickles.  Great book also to use for character development and inferring.

Don’t Call Me Choocie Pooh by Sean Taylor and Kate Hindley follow the story of a dog that does not want to be treated in a certain way afraid of what the other dogs will think.  Great ending that shows the change in the character.

Horrible Bear written by Ame Dyckman and illustrated by Zachariah O’Hora is a lovely picture book that shows what happens when you don’t do what is expected.

Don’t Call Me Grandma by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon is a perfect example of a character that does not fit the stereotype.  Great-Grandmother Nell isn’t anything but warm and fuzzy and as the great-grand daughter starts to understand why, we see a great slice of history as well.

North Woods Girl written by Aimee Bissonette and illustrated by Claudia McGehee is also about a grandma that doesn’t quite fit the mold.

Little Red by Bethan Woolvin is wickedly funny, it follows the path of the regular story but with a twist at the end and it is that twist that provides our contract and contradiction.

Which books have you used for contrast and contradictions?

PS: Are you looking for coaching, in-person support, or virtual presentations? I am available and would love to support your work. Whereas I am physically located in Denmark now, I can travel if needed. In fact, I will be in the US and Canada in February 2023.  If you would like me to be a part of your professional development, please reach out. I am here to help. For a lot more posts, resources, live and recorded professional development, please join my Patreon community where most of my sharing takes place these days.

books, Reading

Book List: Great Early Reader Chapter Books

I asked for suggestions for early reader chapter books to use for read alouds as I search for the 2023 Global Read Aloud titles and thanks to so many great suggestions, I now have a list of more than 70 excellent books geared toward the younger years of reading when kids are ready to dive into reading longer books but still need content that makes sense for where they are developmentally.

Many of these books are well-loved by my own kids all the way up until 10 years old showing once again that most books can appeal to a broad audience and not just whatever limited age range placed on it by the publisher or bookstores.

So if you teach younger ages these would make brilliant additions to your classroom or library collections.

The slides are here. 

PS: Are you looking for coaching, in-person support, or virtual presentations? I am available and would love to support your work. Whereas I am physically located in Denmark now, I can travel if needed. In fact, I will be in the US and Canada in February 2023.  If you would like me to be a part of your professional development, please reach out. I am here to help. For a lot more posts, resources, live and recorded professional development, please join my Patreon community where most of my sharing takes place these days.

picture books, Reading, Student Engagement

My Mock Caldecott Picks 2023

Warning: I may change my mind.

For the past many 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. This year being out of the classroom, I won’t get to do it with kids, but I will be cheering from afar as the awards are announced on January 30th, 2023.

I have loved doing this unit with children, it is a way to really sink into the beauty of picture books, to have them consider critical components of the books and how the images are synthesized with the text. It is also a great unit leading up to our major nonfiction picture book writing unit, which is a favorite of many.

Over the years, I have made a few tweaks to make it more manageable and enjoyable for kids:

One, I read 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 limit our choices to 12, with 4 “extra choices.” 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 a few years ago 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.

Your choice – every year there are a few books that I think might be a winner or honor book but that I for some reason didn’t select. I then have students browse through them and they can choose one or more of them to score as well if they want. It has been fascinating to see which books they gravitate toward from these four choices.

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 as well as all resources can be found in my Patreon (where I share a lot of resources, book lists, and do mini pd’s) and are pretty straightforward. The voting packet is updated and students end the unit doing a persuasive speech to try to convince their classmates that their choice is, of course, the best one. Then we watch the awards and celebrate them with a class party!

So which books have I chosen for the year? It was so hard to choose!

Extra choice selections:

There you have it? My choices for 2023 – which ones are you rooting for?

PS: Are you looking for coaching or virtual presentations? I am available and would love to support your work. Whereas I am physically located in Denmark now, I can travel if needed. In fact, I will be in the US and Canada in February 20223.  If you would like me to be a part of your professional development, please reach out. I am here to help. For a lot more posts, resources, live and recorded professional development, please join my Patreon community where most of my sharing takes place these days.

Book Clubs, discussion, Reading, Student

General Questions to Use in Book Clubs or Lit Circles

This resource was posted in my Patreon community in July to kick off the school year, if you would like to have access to the resources there, you can join the community here. I share monthly book lists, livestreams, answer questions, and all resources that I create.

Book clubs or literacy circles are some of my most favorite explorations to do with kids. Making space for deep discussions, led by the students, and framed by an inquiry question is something that I love to be a part of. That’s why we have done book clubs twice a year for the past many years. I would not do more than that, kids also want to have experiences where they are not forced to read a certain book with peers, even if they have a lot of embedded choice. And as always, when in doubt, ask your students how often they would like to do them, make space for their ideas and allow for personalization and ownership.

I have posted about book clubs and all the behind-the-scenes work for years, so if you search this blog you can easily find the old posts. If you want the newest resources, then those are posted in Patreon.

One resource, though, that I had not been able to find online was a list of general book club discussion questions that went beyond reactions and predictions. While I could find snippets of meaningful questions that went beyond discussing opinions of the text and predictions, I was really searching for questions that could shape my mini-lessons as well.  I figured I couldn’t be the only one searching for something like this, so I took some time to pull together as many general questions that you could use for minilessons, or that students could choose to use in their discussions.

These question sets can be mixed and matched and are a work in progress.  While geared for middle school and up, they can easily be adapted for younger students, what matters is the lesson that goes along with them.  

Here is the link to the question set document.

There are 4 sets: initial get-to-know-you type of questions, as well as questions for each week.  They typically build off of each other so you see the same patterns on questions – the repetition is meant to create depth through the spiral approach.  I have used these for the past few years with kids and they work really well for the spectrum of readers I teach; those who are flying through the books and need to be challenged and those who I am coaching through the book.

If you have great questions you like to use, please share them and they can be added to the document.  Here is the link again. 

PS: Are you looking for coaching or virtual presentations? I am available and would love to support your work. Whereas I am physically located in Denmark now, I can travel if needed. In fact, I will be in the US and Canada in February 20223.  If you would like me to be a part of your professional development, please reach out. I am here to help. For a lot more posts, resources, live and recorded professional development, please join my Patreon community where most of my sharing takes place these days.

being a teacher, books, Reading

17 New Graphic Novels You Don’t Want to Miss

As summer winds down and my new job beckons, I have been reaching for graphic novels more and more. What is not to love? They are colorful snapshots of experiences that surround us. They feel like rest and recovery. They tantalize even on my most tired days as a reader. And there are so many great ones.

In the last few weeks, my mailbox has been filled to the brim with beautiful new ones coming out soon or recently published and I knew they were too good not to share. I hope you give all of these a chance, order from your local indie, put them on hold at your library, add them to your collection, and leave a review. There are so many ways to support creators even if you cannot buy their book outright.

Published: May 17th, 2022

Great for: Any age

Bree can’t wait for her first day at her new middle school, Enith Brigitha, home to the Mighty Manatees—until she’s stuck with the only elective that fits her schedule, the dreaded Swim 101. The thought of swimming makes Bree more than a little queasy, yet she’s forced to dive headfirst into one of her greatest fears. Lucky for her, Etta, an elderly occupant of her apartment building and former swim team captain, is willing to help.

With Etta’s training and a lot of hard work, Bree suddenly finds her swim-crazed community counting on her to turn the school’s failing team around. But that’s easier said than done, especially when their rival, the prestigious Holyoke Prep, has everything they need to leave the Mighty Manatees in their wake.

Can Bree defy the odds and guide her team to a state championship, or have the Manatees swum their last lap—for good?

Published: May 2nd, 2022 – out in English and Spanish!

Great for: Any age but middle grade and up will probably relate more

Sue just wants to spend the summer reading and making comics at sleepaway camp with her friends, but instead she gets stuck going to Honduras to visit relatives with her parents and two sisters. They live way out in the country, which means no texting, no cable, and no Internet! The trip takes a turn for the worse when Sue’s mother announces that they’ll be having a surprise quinceañera for Sue, which is the last thing she wants. She can’t imagine wearing a big, floofy, colorful dress! What is Sue going to do? And how will she survive all this “quality” time with her rambunctious family?

Published: July 19th, 2022

Great for: Middle school and up (mild drug use with a warning message)

Luis Fernando and Luisa Teresa are twins, and they finally have the chance to stand on their own. Fernando is staying local in Mexicali, Mexico, and Teresa is planning to cross the border every day so she can go to a private school in Calexico, California.
 
Suddenly on his own, Fernando realizes that without his twin around. Desperate to not be alone in middle school, he finds himself making friends with the first kid who’s willing to give him a chance . . . only this new friend says and does a lot of things that Fernando isn’t too sure about.
 
Teresa is ready to thrive and stand on her own two feet, but she soon finds herself failing under the pressure of crossing the US/Mexico border every day. She no longer has to worry about being compared to her brother — but now she doesn’t have his support when she could really use it.
 
At home, both twins have a chance to reconnect. But instead, they find themselves pushing each other away. After all, being on their own is what they always wanted . . . right?

Published: August 2nd, 2022

Great for: Any age

Can five overlooked kids make one big difference?

There’s George: the brain

Sara: the loner

Dayara: the tough kid

Nico: the rich kid

And Miguel: the athlete

And they’re stuck together when they’re forced to complete their school’s community service hours. Although they’re sure they have nothing in common with one another, some people see them as all the same . . . just five Spanish-speaking kids.

Then they meet someone who truly needs their help, and they must decide whether they are each willing to expose their own secrets to help . . . or if remaining invisible is the only way to survive middle school.

Published on: August 16th, 2022

Great for: Any age

VIctoria has always loved horses. But riding in competitions is high stakes, high stress, and shockingly expensive. And even though Victoria’s best friend Taylor loves competing, Victoria has lost her taste for it.

After a heartbreaking fight with Taylor, Victoria needs a new start―at a new stables. A place where she doesn’t have to worry about anything other than riding. No competition, no drama, no friends.

Just horses.

Edgewood Stables seems ideal. There are plenty of horses to ride, and Victoria is perfectly happy giving the other riders the cold shoulder.

But can she truly be happy with no friends?

Published on: July 5th, 2022

Great for: Any age

What makes a hero?

Brave Star Knights are heroes who go on adventures. But Tad is just a frog, and frogs can’t save the day. Can they? Determined to out-hop his mud-dweller fate and pursue his dream of being a knight, Tad finds himself on a quest with a surprise group of adventurers, including the Star King!

It’s a race against time as Tad searches for a way to take the Star King to the moon so that he can bring peace to the forest—and prove that anybody can be a hero.

Even a frog.

Published on: August 2nd, 2022

Great for: Any age

Twelve-year-old Nick learns the power of words as he wrestles with problems at home, stands up to a bully, and tries to impress the girl of his dreams. Helping him along are his best friend and sometimes teammate Coby, and The Mac, a rapping librarian who gives Nick inspiring books to read.  

Published on: August 9th, 2022

Great for: Any age

Seventh grader Tristan Strong feels anything but strong ever since he failed to save his best friend when they were in a bus accident together. All he has left of Eddie is the journal his friend wrote stories in. Tristan is dreading the month he’s going to spend on his grandparents’ farm in Alabama, where he’s being sent to heal from the tragedy.

But on his first night there, a sticky creature shows up in his bedroom and steals Eddie’s notebook. Tristan chases after it–is that a doll?–and a tug-of-war ensues between them underneath a Bottle Tree. In a last attempt to wrestle the journal out of the creature’s hands, Tristan punches the tree, accidentally ripping open a chasm into the MidPass, a volatile place with a burning sea, haunted bone ships, and iron monsters that are hunting the inhabitants of this world.

Tristan finds himself in the middle of a battle that has left Black American folk heroes John Henry and Brer Rabbit exhausted. In order to get back home, Tristan and these new allies will need to entice the god Anansi, the Weaver, to come out of hiding and seal the hole in the sky. But bartering with the trickster Anansi always comes at a price.

Published on: September 6th, 2022

Great for: Any age

Trying out for middle school cheerleader means: performing in the giant school gym, with the whole school watching, and risking total humiliation. If Christina can make it through this, she can make it through anything. ​​​​​​​ As one of the only Asian American kids in her small Texas town, Christina just wants to fit in. Luckily, her best friend, Megan, who is Iranian American, can totally relate. The two girls have always been inseparable and relish creating elaborate fantasy worlds together. But middle school is a reality-check, and suddenly popularity is way more important than playing pretend. ​​​​​​​ When cheerleading tryouts are announced, Christina and Megan literally jump at the chance to join the squad. But does fitting in actually equal belonging? Will they survive the terrifying tryouts? And most importantly, will their friendship withstand the pressures of heated competition and rivalry

Published on: September 13th, 2022

Great for: Any age

Twelve-year-old Mia is just trying to navigate a world that doesn’t understand her true autistic self. While she wishes she could stand up to her bullies, she’s always been able to express her feelings through singing and songwriting, even more so with her best friend, Charlie, who is nonbinary, putting together the best beats for her. Together, they’ve taken the internet by storm; little do Mia’s classmates know that she’s the viral singer Elle-Q! But while the chance to perform live for a local talent show has Charlie excited, Mia isn’t so sure. She’ll have to decide whether she’ll let her worries about what other people think get in the way of not only her friendship with Charlie, but also showing everyone, including the bullies, who she is and what she has to say.

Published on: Spetember 27th, 2022

Published on: September 27th, 2022

Great for: Middle grade and up due to the war realities of his memoir but younger students can absolutely handle it with guidance

Muhammad Najem was only eight years old when the war in Syria began. He was thirteen when his beloved Baba, his father, was killed in a bombing while praying. By fifteen, Muhammad didn’t want to hide anymore—he wanted to act. He was determined to reveal what families like his were enduring in Syria: bombings by their own government and days hiding in dark underground shelters.
 
Armed with the camera on his phone and the support of his family, he started reporting on the war using social media. He interviewed other kids like him to show what they hope for and dream about. More than anything, he did it to show that Syrian kids like his toddler brother and infant sister, are just like kids in any other country. Despite unimaginable loss, Muhammad was always determined to document the humanity of the Syrian people. Eventually, the world took notice.

Published on: May 31st, 2022

Great for: Any age but younger students may appreciate it more

He’s a super-nice kid in an ultra-mean world.
He believes even the worst people are good inside.
He’ll always be there for you… even if you boot him out of your castle, pit him against a mechanical giant, put him on top of a pole in a lightning storm, and trap him in a booming dance party that lasts all night long.
He’s Your Pal Fred.
 
In a brutal world far in the future where only the savage survive, a life-size toy suddenly activates. Fred was built to be a best buddy, and his relentless kindness never fades, even when everyone else is rude. Determined to make the world a better place, he has the bright idea to talk the two most powerful and battle-hungry warlords, Lord Bonkers and Papa Mayhem, into being friends. It’s a mission doomed to fail, unless Fred can find a way to inspire everyone to play nice! 

Published on: April 12, 2022

Great for: Any age

Tyler’s brain is different. Unlike his friends, he has a hard time paying attention in class. He acts out in goofy, over-the-top ways. Sometimes, he even does dangerous things―like cut up a bus seat with a pocketknife or hang out of an attic window.

To the adults in his life, Tyler seems like a troublemaker. But he knows that he’s not. Tyler is curious and creative. He’s the best artist in his grade, and when he can focus, he gets great grades. He doesn’t want to cause trouble, but sometimes he just feels like he can’t control himself.

Publishes on: October 18th, 2022

Great for: Any age

Marlene loves three things: books, her cool Tía Ruby and hanging out with her best friend Camila. But according to her mother, Paola, the only thing she needs to focus on is school and “growing up.” That means straightening her hair every weekend so she could have “presentable”, “good hair”.

But Marlene hates being in the salon and doesn’t understand why her curls are not considered pretty by those around her. With a few hiccups, a dash of embarrassment, and the much-needed help of Camila and Tia Ruby―she slowly starts a journey to learn to appreciate and proudly wear her curly hair.

Publishes on: April 23, 2023

Great for: Any age

Sixteen-year-old Christine takes their first solo trip to Mexico to spend a few weeks with their grandparents and tía. At first, Christine struggles to connect with family they don’t yet share a language with. Seeing the places their mom grew up—the school she went to, the café where she had her first date with their father—Christine becomes more and more aware of the generational differences in their family.

Soon Christine settles into life in Mexico, eating pan dulce, drawing what they see, and growing more comfortable with Spanish. But when Mom joins their trip, Christine’s two worlds collide. They feel homesick for Texas, struggle against traditions, and miss being able to speak to their mom without translating. Eventually, through exploring the impacts of colonialism in both Mexico and themselves, they find their place in their family and start to feel comfortable with their mixed identity.

Publsihes on: March 21st, 2023

Great for: 12 and up but just depends on your students.

High-school senior and notorious wallflower Hawkins finally works up the courage to remove her mascot mask and ask out her longtime crush: Regina Moreno, head cheerleader, academic overachiever, and all-around popular girl. There’s only one teensy little problem: Regina is already dating Chloe Kitagawa, athletic all-star…and middling English student. Regina sees a perfectly self-serving opportunity here, and asks the smitten Hawkins to tutor Chloe free of charge, knowing Hawkins will do anything to get closer to her.

And while Regina’s plan works at first, she doesn’t realize that Hawkins and Chloe knew each other as kids, when Hawkins went by Belle and wore princess dresses to school every single day. Before long, romance does start to blossom…but not between who you might expect.

Publishes on: October 18th, 2022

Great for: Any age

Cory’s dance crew is getting ready for a major competition. It’s the last one before they graduate eighth grade and go their separate ways to high schools all over New York City, so they have to make it count! The group starts to have problems as their crew captain gets increasingly intense about nailing the routine, and things go from bad to worse when Cory’s parents ground him for not taking his grades seriously. He gets stuck with a new tutor, Sunna, who he dismisses as a boring nerd… until he catches her secretly practicing cool yo-yo tricks. Cory wants to learn the art of yo-yo, and as his friendship with Sunna grows, he ends up missing practice and bailing on his crew — and they are not happy about it. With mounting pressure coming from all sides, how is Cory supposed to balance the expectations of his parents, school, dance, and his new friend?

Which did I miss?

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. Whereas I am physically located in Denmark now, I can still offer virtual and in-person work.  If you would like me to be a part of your professional development, please reach out. I am here to help. For a lot more posts, resources, live and recorded professional development, please join my Patreon community where most of my sharing takes place these days.

picture books, Reading

The Picture Books I Had to Keep

I never thought I would pack up my classroom and move back to Denmark. I mean, I had thought about it. We had discussed it a lot. It was one of those “one day…” plans, but then this summer with a can’t miss opportunity to work for Famly, one day became now and last week (I think it was last week anyway because the weeks blur together), I stood in my beloved classroom and said goodbye to all of the books, to what we have built together.

I had told myself I would leave them all and walk away with my head held high, a gift for the brand new teacher who would be joining my team. And yet, as I saw the books in there and the stories called to me, I had to hold them one last time, and once they were in my hands, I knew there were some I couldn’t walk away from. Whether they held memories, teaching points, or just windows into the incredible community I have been a part of these last 14 years, a few called to me so loudly that they are now coming with me to our new apartment in Denmark. I will find a way to use them again. I would have brought them all, but what use are books just sitting on shelves when they should be in the hands of readers?

I posted this image on Instagram with the box of books I grabbed, and many asked if I would share my must-keep ones. So here you are, in no particular order, the picture books that I know I can use for so many things, the picture books that moved me to tears, had us laugh out loud, had us wonder, had us question the world and start discussions as we grew together, as we sat in community together. I know I missed a few, I know I could have grabbed more, but I limited myself to one single box.

I know I grabbed a few others but these were the ones I remember. All of these are fantastic books that deserve to be read, shared, and loved. Which picture books would you keep?

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. Whereas I am physically located in Denmark now, I can still offer virtual and in-person work.  If you would like me to be a part of your professional development, please reach out. I am here to help. For a lot more posts, resources, live and recorded professional development, please join my Patreon community where most of my sharing takes place these days.