My Favorite Chapter Books of 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look for the One

There is always one moment of good, our job is to find it. @pernilleripp

This year has been a year of amazing reflection opportunities for me.  This year has brought these incredibly resilient and demanding (in all of the best ways) students into my life.  There have been glorious days and then there have been those days where I feel like the worst kind of teacher.  Where I feel like all of my best laid plans, all of my great intentions, all of the dreams that I carefully crafted meant nothing, did nothing and I stand there feeling like the worst kind of teacher.  I am not alone.  As speak to my fellow educators, we all have those days, we all have those long nights where we reflect on what we did wrong and how we can get better.  So I write this to myself, to all of us, for the days where I feels like nothing went right.   I write this a reminder, as a message on the days where I forget.  On those days where we all forget.

Dear you,

I am so sorry that today seemed like one of those days where there was a perfect storm.  Where we seemed stretched too thin and it is almost as if kids picked up on it and every single thing that could go wrong, went wrong in the worst of ways.  As if every dormant issue rose up and came alive to create one glorious, awful day.  Where we feel like a bad day kind of teacher and we are not sure just what to do.

So know this, as you lick your wounds and go home downtrodden; it is one day.  One day of awful.  One day of not so great among many days of great.  Know this; that what separates the good from the bad is that you choose to go home and not blame the children, but instead look at what you could have done better.  Asking; how can I make it better and telling yourself that tomorrow will be a better day.

And on those days, when that feeling of awful settles into your stomach, ready to overshadow your night, then you must look for the one moment.  The one moment where what you did mattered.  The one moment where what you did today was not a complete loss for that one kid.  Because there is always one kid.  Even when everything else burns around us and our walls come down and we feel like the biggest fraud in the classroom, and we feel like we are a part of the problem and not the solution.  There is one kid who had a good moment today, and so your job is now to find that one good thing.   To find that one good thing so that you will remember that even the best teachers have bad days.  That you are better than you think you are.  And that having a bad day is just that; a human being having a bad day, and because you had a bad day does not make you a bad teacher, nor does it mean that tomorrow will be bad.

So look for the one.

Look for the one thing that you forgot, that you missed as you look back on the day.  Hold on to that one as you think of the bad and don’t beat yourself up too much.  We were never promised it would be easy but only that it would be worth it.

I am currently working on a new literacy book.  The book, which I am still writing, is tentatively Passionate Readers and will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge.  I also have a new book coming out December, 2017 called Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration, a how-to guide for those who would like infuse global collaboration into their curriculum.    So until then if you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.  Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.

 

Win A Copy of My New Book!

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

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

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

new-cover

The official description says:

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

Enter to win:

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

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

To order the book yourself:

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

What is my other book?

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

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

 

 

A Better Way to Write Fiction Stories

We have been immersed in fiction writing for the past three weeks.  I have been amazed at the focus of my students, at the need for creation,and also their creativity.  As always, the plans I started with now look nothing like the plans we had, and so I thought it only fair to share what writing fiction in 7th grade English has looked like for the past three weeks and what I have learned and remembered.

Create Something

I knew that I did not need them to create the same product, after all, my standards assessed involve organization, word choice, conventions, and plot.  Nowhere does it say that they must write a certain story, but instead I asked them to create something that would allow me to assess these things .  I have been enthralled with their creativity process; yes, many students gravitated toward a written story with a neat beginning, middle, end, but others stretched their legs writing Minecraft fan fiction, movie scripts, picture books and even choose your own adventures.  I have students co-creating stories from opposite perspectives, I have students writing free verse (it is harder than it looks).  I have tales from their own lives and ones they have invented with made up words of their own.  Because it has been their story, their way, they have wanted to work on it every day, excited to share it with others.

Few Lessons

I have spent most evenings leaving feedback to students, thank you Google Classroom for making my life easy.  I have spent most class periods meeting with students asking them to tell me what I should look at when I read their work and then helping them from where they are.  I have gathered information on lessons needed and tried to support each child on their own writing journey, with the help of the support teachers I sometimes have.  Always trying to move students one step further and helping them think about what they need next, rather than a broad lesson that could apply to all.  The few whole class lessons we have had have been brief and centered around reminders on paragraphing, dialogue, and consistent verb tenses.

Speak Up

I have asked the students to please speak to one another, to please share their stories, to find those they want to write with and use each other as I use my own writing friends.  I started with putting them into writing trio groups but since abandoned the idea, realizing that the stilted conversations they were having would never get them much further and instead asking them to find someone that will not only read their work, but also be honest in their criticism.  This is still a work in progress, but I have seen the improvements, I have seen the growth and know there is something there.

Best Draft

I have asked them for their best draft, not their final version, and I owe so much to Kelly Gallagher for this wording.  Gone is the anxiety over perfection.  Gone is the notion that they must reach an unachievable goal as they hurtle toward the end.  Instead they work diligently, trying to get it to the best of their abilities before they turn it over to me.  Before they turn it over for more feedback that will ultimately push their story even further.  They know the process is not done just because they hand it in today, because the project is called best draft, even though in reality, many of them have handed in amazing stories that need little more work.

Use the Space

I have asked them to please find out how they write best within the environment we have.  How they best can support their own writing process, how they can use the classroom in a way that helps them better focus and find their flow.  Kids have been in corners, moved tables, on bean bags and in the team area.  We have had music, gum, and conversation.  For some we have had headphones for quiet and spaces to concentrate.  Each child is now a step closer to knowing how they write best, even within the confinements of a typical English classroom.

Find the Experts

For the past three months we have reached out to those who have walked the path before us; the authors that inspire us to write better.  Using Skype we have asked amazing authors whose books delight us what their writing process is and how they edit.  Every class has had different conversations but they have all centered around the same thing; find your own way, there is no right way for all, just a right way for you.  Hearing it from the mouths of those whose books inspire us will always amplify the message we already teach; writing needs t be a part of you so find your way of writing.

So now what?  We rest a little.  We change our focus as our stories simmer in our minds and then in a about a week we return.  Once the dust has settled, we look at the feedback we have received and we try to make it better.  We speak of revision as if it is just one step but I know from my own writing experience that revising is ongoing, editing is hard, and that it sometimes means stepping away only to come back later.  I still have much to learn as a 7th grade English teacher, I still have much to figure out, but this process?  It made a difference in the last three weeks.  Who knows how they will grow as writers next?

I am currently working on a new literacy book.  The book, which I am still writing, is tentatively Passionate Readers and will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge.  I also have a new book coming out December, 2017 called Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration, a how-to guide for those who would like infuse global collaboration into their curriculum.    So until then if you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.  Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.

We Have Already Grown

I realized today as my students sat quietly reading that if a stranger were to walk into our classroom, it would all look so effortless.  As if the kids had always quietly settled in with their books and this hush had fallen over us.  As if the kids had always read when I asked them to.  As if they had always known just what to do and when to do so.  Yet, that is not the true story.  Ask any teacher and they will tell you; creating a space for independent reading time is not easy, nor does it just happen.  It is hard work.  It takes effort.  It takes planning, and boy, does it take a lot of patience.  It takes great books.  It takes dedication.  And it takes a community, takes trust, takes respect, and takes conversations.

We build our communities in small pieces.  We plant the seeds on the very first day when we welcome our new kids into our lives and into our classrooms.  When we say this is your room, these are your books, and we mean it.

We build it when we ask them to pick up the books.  To read a few pages.  To talk to one another and to share their truths.  We build it when we accept their truths about why reading does not matter and promise that we will try to help them change their minds.
Every day as we plan our lessons and build our communities, we give them the reading pieces to place into the puzzle of their identities and hope they will see the value.  And we do it one day at a time.  One conversation at a time.  One book at a time.

It may be almost December, we have so much time still left, and yet I cannot help but marvel at how far so many have come.  How many actually will read, not because I ask them to but because it is their habit.  How many of them will casually abandon a book because they know they can find a better one.  How many of them will recommend a book because they want to,  because they need to share it, because someone else deserves to have the same experience with this book that they just had.

This is work.  This is love.  This is what we do.  And we do it in such small steps that sometimes we forget to look back at just how far we have come.  So as I sit tonight, exhausted, thinking back to all of the moments we shared today, I also realize that while we are not all there yet, we have come a long way.  We have already grown.  We have become better readers, even if if for a second I may have forgotten that.

 

I am currently working on a new literacy book.  The book, which I am still writing, is tentatively Passionate Readers and will be published in the summer of 2017 by Routledge.  I also have a new book coming out January, 2017 called Reimagining Literacy Through Global Collaboration, a how-to guide for those who would like infuse global collaboration into their curriculum.    So until then if you like what you read here, consider reading my book Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.  Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.

 

Dear Dav Pilkey

Dear Dav Pilkey,

You don’t know me, not unless you count the every brief moment I stood in front of you a few hours ago in your book signing line.  Yet I feel like I know you, perhaps that is what happens when your books have shaped the reading lives of so many of my students, I have seen the power they hold to transform children, I am grateful.  But just recently your books have taken on a new meaning for me.

You see, our oldest daughter, Thea, is what some would define as a struggling reader, we choose not to but instead just see her as a child who has not yet found her place in the world of reading, who so desperately wants to belong but still feels like she is on the outside looking in.  Who is developing with every book encounter she has.  Who has to work so hard when it comes to something that others find to be so easy.  Who for all of the years of her school experience has been given support by extraordinary teachers who have helped her believe that one day those words will come off the page and come alive.   Just not yet…

She reads every night, pulling a stack of picture books next to her bed and fighting me when I tell her it is time to turn off the light.  Her reading is flipping through the pages pulling the story from the pictures.  I am astounded at her inferring, at her comprehension, yet the words on the pages escape her and often she simply gives up trying.  The pictures must be enough as she spins her tales of what the authors meant to write.

Just a few weeks ago she told me that she was not a reader.  That she hated reading because it was so hard.  And who can blame her?  She sees how easy reading comes to some and knows just how much time it can take for her to just conquer a single page.  But she tries and she does.  Coming back long after many kids would have given up.

Last week she came holding up a copy of Dog Man.  She had gotten it at her book fair.  “Mom, I can read it!” she told me.  In my head I thought that would make sense because of all of the illustrations.  She would probably be able to put together most of the story.  As if she read my mind, she repeated triumphantly, “Mom, I can really read it!”  And she did and she could and she sat next to me reading the first page and then the next, carefully figuring out the works as the story unfolded before her. She said that she was so happy because she had finally found the book that was just the right fit for her and were there any more because she had reading to do.

As she sat next to me, there were so many things I wanted to say.  To congratulate, to point out her success, to her I told you so, but she didn’t need that.  She needed me to laugh out loud with her.  She needed me to look at the flip-o-ramas.   She needed to me experience the book with her and so we did and I thought of the kids in my own 7th grade classroom who don’t discover your books until they get to our library.  Who don’t discover their own powers as readers until the pages of Captain Underpants or Dog Man open to them.  Who for so long have given up on reading and then find you and then realize that it wasn’t that reading wasn’t for them, it was just that the just right books took a long time to find them.

As I told her I was headed to NCTE she asked me if you would be there.  If you were if I could ask for another book for her.  I told her I didn’t know but I would look.

So when I came around the corner today and saw you signing your book, I felt the universe aligning in way it hasn’t done in a long time.  Like somehow it knew that this proud but worried mama needed to know that her kid that works so hard really is on the path of becoming a reader.  And so I got in line and I waited and when I got to you I found that I had few words because there you were and there weren’t enough words to tell you just what you have done for me.

So here are the words that I meant to say, “Thank you for writing books that are meant to be laughed at.  Thank you for writing books that I can place in the hand of my 7th graders and know that they will read them.  Thank you for writing books that remind us about everything that is good with reading and the imagination.  Thank you for writing books that make kids feel like they are readers, even if they have a long way to go.

So dear Dav Pilkey, I am sorry I couldn’t quite get the words out but just know that you being the kid that sat in the hallway doodling led to my daughter believing a truth we had been telling her for so long.  I don’t think I will ever have enough words to thank you, but I thought I, at least, should try.

Best,

Pernille, Mama of Thea

PS:  Yesterday at school a package arrived.  Much to my surprise it was from Dav Pilkey.  Turns out this little blog post had somehow made it to him and as I read the note, I started to cry again.  In the box among several things was Dogman 2, the final copy, and a note letting Thea know she was the very first child to receive this version in the world.  There are no words to describe how Thea reacted when she opened the package.  She has spent the last 24 hours reading in her room; laughing, showing me pictures and telling me how much she loves Dav Pilkey.  I do too, Thea, I do too.

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