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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA!

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…you just might discover the next “must-read” book!

Jen Vincent, of Teach Mentor Texts, and Kellee decided to give It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit – join us! We love this meme and think you will, too.

We encourage everyone who participates to support the blogging community by visiting at least three of the other book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

Last Week’s Posts

top ten tuesday must-read-2015-logo sofi From My (Huge) Library Pile

Tuesday: Top Ten Books We’ve Read So Far In 2015

Wednesday: Kellee and Ricki’s #MustReadin2015 Summer Update

Friday: From Kellee’s (Huge) Library Pile Part Seven

**Click on any picture/link to view the post**

 Last Week’s Journeys

Kellee: This is not going to be a very exciting update folks. We’re going through some really rough sleeping stuff over here with Trent, so I have been going to bed much earlier knowing that I will be woken up over and over again all night (if you are friends with me on Facebook, I am sure you’ve seen the updates!). I have read hardly anything at all this week! Stinks because I really love summer for all the reading time!! Here’s hoping this week is better!

Ricki: This week, I finished the wonderful, fantastic Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley. What a treat! Last week, I compared it to another favorite, A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd. I enjoyed every second of that book. Usually, I give my books away after I read them, but I am hanging onto this one. It is going to be an epic bedtime read for my son when he is a bit older. I also read Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine. This is a heart-wrenching picture book about Henry “Box” Brown, who escaped slavery in the Underground Railroad.

This Week’s Expeditions

Kellee: Who knows! I may switch to something shorter just to feel successful. I also am listening to a book, but have not been driving much, so I may find a shorter audiobook to feel successful there too. I’ll let you know how it goes next week!

Ricki: I am continuing to truck along with my philosophy book from the early 1900s. I’d like to tackle more books on my #mustreadin2015 list, but I am also intrigued by the new book, The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes. This is why I get behind on my must read list!

Upcoming Week’s Posts

top ten tuesday bigbooksummer Heather Has Two Mommies stormy joyville

Tuesday: Top Ten Dystopian Books We’ve Ever Read

Sunday: Author Guest Post: “Be Careful or You Might Learn Something…” by Linda Fausnet, Author of The Joyville Sweat Sox

 So, what are you reading?

Link up below and go check out what everyone else is reading. Please support other bloggers by viewing and commenting on at least 3 other blogs. If you tweet about your Monday post, tag the tweet with #IMWAYR!

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From My (Huge) Library Pile

Because of It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? posts, I find myself often with huge piles of picture books from the library that were highly recommended by fellow bloggers. I celebrate many of the nonfiction pictures books on Wednesdays, but I want to share some of the fiction picture books I have enjoyed. So, I decided to start series here on UR where I can pass on the love for these books sporadically as I read them. Here is a list of some great pictures books that I’ve read recently from my huge library pile (part 7!).

bear alert

Breaking News: Bear Alert
Author and Illustrator: David Bierdrycki
Published September 9th, 2014 by Charlesbridge

I am so glad that I read this book! The story is simple enough: Two bears escape into the city and cause a panic; however, there is more going on than anyone realizes. This book tells its story through “Breaking News” segments that show all the different situations the bears are getting into. In each spread, the text says one thing, but the illustrations show another. There are also lots of other things going on in the illustrations including a whole different side story and many, many things that could be discussed. It is almost like Where’s Waldo? but without being told what to look for. There are some really great allusions and humor within this book as well.

Special delivery

Special Delivery
Author: Philip C. Stead
Illustrator: Matthew Cordell
Published March 3rd, 2015 by Roaring Books Press

This is a book that is getting a lot of love recently, and I now know why. Special Delivery takes Stead’s silly adventure story and puts Cordell’s colorful and quirky illustrations with it to make one grand adventure. Although the story was a bit over the top, it all added up to a fun, crazy story about a young girl that had to get an elephant to her Great Aunt Josephine and the cast of “characters” (alligator, a train, bandits, ice cream truck, air plane, etc.) who help her get him there. I found Stead’s humor to be laugh-out-loud funny and Cordell’s illustrations to be a perfect companion (did they remind anyone else of Quentin Blake, one of my favorite illustrators ever?!).


Orangutanka: A Story in Poems
Author: Margarita Engle
Illustrator: Renee Kurilla
Published March 24th, 2015 by Henry Holt and Co.

This book is right up my alley! As you all know, I love apes and orangutans might just be my favorite; however, they very rarely show up in text, so I was so happy to learn about this one. (Whoever told me to read this text, you definitely know me!) Additionally, I just love Engle’s work. I haven’t read anything by her that I haven’t enjoyed, and Orangutanka is definitely no exception. This text tells us a story of an orangutan family in tankas, a style of modern Japanese poetry. Tankas are more fun than haikus and allow for more freedom which makes for a playful book about our orangutan family. The colorful and page-encompassing illustrations add to the overall fun feel of the book. I also really like that at the end of the book, Engle included information about orangutans, their endangered habitat, and the dangers of palm oil and didn’t ignore the seriousness of the orangutan’s situation.

Sidewalk Flowers

Sidewalk Flowers
Author: JonArno Lawson
Illustrator: Sydney Smith
Published March 17th, 2015 by Groundwood Books

This wordless picture book beautifully illustrates how kindness spreads. When the book opens, only the little girl who is collecting flowers is in color. As she walks home with her distracted father, the little girl stops and finds flowers within the city in the most unlikely places. She sees beauty where others do not. She then spreads her love and happiness by giving away the flowers she has collected.  As she gives away her flowers, more color is added to the illustrations to show how a kind gesture can light up anyone’s day. Beautiful. (Reminds me of The Man with the Violin by Kathy Stinson.)

What picture books should I add to my pile next?


Want to see Part One? You can view it HERE.
Want to see Part Two? You can view it HERE.
Want to see Part Three? You can view it HERE.
Want to see Part Four? You can view it HERE.
Want to see Part Five: We Need Diverse Books (NF)? You can view it HERE.
Want to see Part Six: We Need Diverse Books (F)? You can view it HERE.

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Sofi and the Magic, Musical Mural
Sofi y el Mágico Mural Musical
Author: Raquel M. Ortiz
Illustrator: Maria Dominguez
Published May 31st, 2015 by Piñata Books

Goodreads Summary: When Sofi walks through her barrio to the local store, she always passes a huge mural with images from Puerto Rico: musicians, dancers, tropical flowers and—her least favorite—a vejigante, a character from carnival that wears a scary mask.

One day on her way home from the bodega, she stops in front of the mural. Is one of the dancers inviting her to be his partner? “Okay, let’s dance,” Sofi giggles, and suddenly she’s in Old San Juan, surrounded by dancers and musicians playing bongos, tambourines and güiros. She begins to dance and sing with her new friends, but her pleasure turns to fear when the vejigante—wearing a black jumper with yellow fringe and a red, three-horned mask—spins her around and around! What does he want from her? How can she get away?

This story about an imaginative girl and a magical mural is an engaging exploration of Puerto Rico’s cultural traditions as well as an ode to public art and the community it depicts. Featuring Maria Dominguez’s lovingly rendered, colorful illustrations, this bilingual picture book introduces the topic of community art to children ages 4 to 8. After reading this book, children—and some adults too—will want to make and share their own artistic creations!

Ricki’s Review: While this book offers much enrichment due to the Spanish/English language, I most liked how it was a book about imagination. Sofía’s mind takes her to a great many places, and the Puerto Rican culture emanates from this text. I loved the beautiful illustrations and the ways the words danced from page to page. I am passing this book along to a Spanish teacher to use in her classroom because it has much to offer students.

Kellee’s Review: Sofía’s adventure is a great introduction to Puerto Rican culture. I loved being transported into Puerto Rico and learning about the music, mythology, and landscape of the U.S. territory. I learned so much reading this book, and I found myself rereading after visiting the glossary in the back of the book.  I also, as the daughter of an art museum director, loved the focus on community art. Maria’s story of the mural featured in the book shows how powerful art can be. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: After a class reads this book, the teacher might ask students to write their own picture book translations. They could pair with a Spanish class in the school to do an interdisciplinary unit. Additionally, teachers might ask students to find a famous painting and write a picture book or story about getting lost in that painting. There are many creative opportunities with this text.

Discussion Questions: Sofía visits different parts of Puerto Rico on her journey within the mural. Look at a map of Puerto Rico and map where she visited. Many different types of instruments and music are mentioned in the text. Listen to examples of the different instruments and styles of music then create a web describing what you hear.

We Flagged: “Suddenly, Sofía found herself in the middle of Viejo San Juan, on the island of Puerto Rico, surrounded by the music of tambourines, bongos, maracas, and güiros.

‘W-W-W-What’s going on?” stuttered Sofia.
‘Well, you said you wanted to dance!” her new friend said.

Sofía, too shocked to do anything else, began to dance.
Before she knew it, a group of musicians and dancers made a circle around them. They were singing a famous plena song:

The plena music that I know
is not from China, it comes from home.
Because the plena was born in Ponce
it’s from teh barrio of San Antón.”

Read This If You Loved: Magic Windows by Carmen Lomas Garza, Little Roja Riding Hood by Susan Middleton Elya

Recommended For: 


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**Thank you to Eloisa at Arte Público Press for providing copies for review!**

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Background of #mustreadin2015 for those of you who missed introductory post:

#mustreadin2015 is a challenged hosted by Carrie Gelson at There Is A Book For That

“For anyone out there with a To Be Read list that seems like it will never end, this challenge is for you! This is all about making your own personal list of books (5? 10? 20? 30? more?) that you commit to reading in 2015. Books can be published in any year, be from any genre, and be from any category (adult, YA, MG, Graphics, NF, etc.).  As your TBR list grows, you promise you will get to the books on this list.”

These are our hopeful lists. Many are books we’ve been wanting to read for a long time, while others are books we just really want to read as of right now (January 2015), and lastly, some are books we really need to read because we’ve promised someone (or each other). Primarily, we included young adult and middle grade books because they are what we are going to try to read more of this year. As Carrie said, we will absolutely be reading many books not on this list! And don’t worry, we will still be reading the latest and greatest picture books to our boys.

Our full #mustreadin2015 book lists are available here

Ricki’s #mustreadin2015 Summer Update

 Completed as of July 1:  9 out of 25

I started off a little bit behind, and I am slowly picking up my pace. At this rate, I am still behind, but I am going to try to do better next quarter!

rain reign east of eden x counting

Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin is a beautiful story of a young girl with Asperger’s and her relationships with her family members, schoolmates, and dog. She has such a good heart, and this book teaches a lesson to children. I was impressed that this is the same author as The Babysitter’s Club series. While I loved that series as a pre-teen and teen, this book has a bit more meat to it. I’d recommend this book particularly to middle schoolers and upper elementary schoolers, but people of all ages will love it.

East of Eden by John Steinbeck is a classic that many people reference in their work. I have read most of Steinbeck’s work, and this text seemed to evade me. This year, I buckled down and vowed to read it. There are several stories (across generations) in this epic, and I enjoyed reading it very much. I’d heard that it was a modern-day Cain/Abel story, so I thought I knew the ending. Everything did not align as I thought it would. So if you have been putting this book off because you think you know how it ends, I recommend you read it. As with all of Steinbeck’s books, the characters are wonderfully written and are quite unforgettable.

by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon. I just blogged about this book yesterday and listed it as my favorite YA text I’ve read this year. Mainly, I love it because it really made me think. Malcolm Little is a troubled boy, and he doesn’t always make the best decisions. This made me shake my fist at the book several times. I would love to read this book in a classroom and hear the enriching conversations that would come from a study of this text.

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan is a book about a young girl with a lot of heart. In fact, I think she would get along very well with the girl in Rain Reign. Willow is a 12-year-old genius, and when tragedy strikes, her world is knocked from under her feet. While this book was about a tragedy, I found myself laughing frequently. I wish Willow was real because I felt as if she became my friend. All of the characters in this book are wonderfully drawn, and I am so glad I put this hyped-up book on my #mustreadin2015 list because it was simply fantastic.

Kellee’s #mustreadin2015 Summer Update

Completed as of July 1: 12 out of 25

Although I didn’t read as many of my must read books this quarter (only 3 vs. 9 from January to April), I am still feeling good about finishing up by the end of the year. I have continued enjoying every single one of the titles that I have read from my list.

x papercowboy verynearly1

X by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon is a book that needed to be written, and I am thankful that it exists. Learning about the childhood of Malcolm X was so interesting, but what makes this book so special is the tough topics that it addresses. Such racist yet changing times are a backdrop to Malcolm’s story which makes this book so timely with so much prejudice still existing today.

Paper Cowboy by Kristin Levine was a much tougher book than I expected. While Levine’s Lions of Little Rock overall had a positive tone, even in light of some of the very hard themes within, Paper Cowboy is enveloped in sadness and hardship from right at the beginning. Going through the journey with Tommy as he realizes his bullying ways, deals with his mother’s postpartum depression and his sister’s accident, and learns the consequences of some terrible mistakes is quite exhausting; however, you become so invested that as things get better, you feel a weight lifted off of you.

The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates: Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson is so funny and smart! I love Hilary because she is exactly who no one wants her to be except herself, and she rocks it! (Girl power!) She doesn’t let anyone tell her she can’t be a pirate which leads to her becoming one and being quite good at it which leads to quite an adventure! The Gargoyle is also one of my favorite funny characters ever. Additionally, I think the addition of letters and forms throughout the book give it a special aspect other books don’t have. And I highly recommend the audio book!

Do you have a #mustreadin2015 list?
What are your #mustreadin2015 books?
Share your update below!

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top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. The feature was created because The Broke and Bookish are particularly fond of lists (as are we!). Each week a new Top Ten list topic is given and bloggers can participate.

 Today’s Topic: Top Ten Books We’ve Read So Far In 2015

These are the best books we’ve read so far this year.


You can blame me for making Kellee limit her list to five books. I told her we have to limit ourselves or people will be overwhelmed. Of course, now I regret that decision because I have to limit myself to five. 😉

1. Picture Book: What Do You Do with an Idea? by Kobi Yamada


This book left me mesmerized. I immediately ordered a copy and sent it to my sister, who is always drumming up ideas of inventions. This book will inspire children to have confidence in their imagination.

2. Picture Book: Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña

last stop on market street

I read everything by this incredible author. This book seems to have led to a movement. So many parents are taking their children on public transportation to allow them to explore the world. My son asks me to read this book over and over again.

3. Upper Elementary/Middle Grade Book: Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley

circus mirandus

From the first chapter, I was hooked in the splendor of Circus Mirandus. I just finished this book, so I am excited to write a full review. If you like Roald Dahl or can get lost in a magical book, try this one. You won’t be disappointed.

4. Young Adult Literature: X by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon


I can’t stop blogging about this book! I debated listing other great young adult texts I read this year, but I wanted this book to stand out. It is a book that will force kids to think. Malcolm Little (Malcolm X) is not always a likable character, and that will allow for great classroom conversations.

5. Classic Literature: East of Eden by John Steinbeck

east of eden

I’ve been saying I would read this book for a long time. Finally, I got my hands on the 23 audio discs of this epic text, and I went for it. I had many car rides that were full of the this winding, interwoven tale, and I loved it.


These lists are always the hardest for me. If you have ever looked at my “Best of…” lists at the end of the year, you know I am not a minimalist about sharing. I really think that if a book was one of the best and one I truly enjoyed, it deserves to be shared. However, I am going to keep this list to only 5 to stick with a total of 10. I just want to make sure you know that I had a list of  15 titles that I wanted to share (I’ll just wait until my end-of-the-year list!).

This list is in no particular order and does not include picture books.

1. Best YA: Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero


Gabi is a girl that goes through so much. This novel takes you through a very tough year in her life, but the reader also gets to experience her strength, the changes she wants to make, and the hopes of her future.

2. Best Novel-in-Verse & Middle Grade 1: The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

the crossover

It is so obvious why this book won the Newbery Medal. It is a rhythmic piece of literature filled with heart and soul, and Josh is a character that is so easy to connect with–he is real and you love him.

3. Best Audiobook 1 & Middle Grade 2: The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates (series) by Caroline Carlson

verynearly1 verynearly2

These books were so much fun! I love that Hilary is everything that society doesn’t want her to be and that she rocks at it. Girl power! Also, the gargoyle is one of the funniest characters!

4. Best Audiobook 2 & Middle Grade 3: Better Nate Than Ever (series) by Tim Federle

betternate fivesixeseven

Oh Nate, Nate, Nate, Nate, Nate! Love him! He makes these books. He is funny, naive, talented, and just so brave. I wish I could jump in these books and be his friend!

5. Best Nonfiction & Graphic Novel: The Underground Abductor by Nathan Hale


Nathan Hale’s graphic novels about different historical times are brilliant, and I think this one is my favorite.  Harriet Tubman was one amazing woman, and I loved learning more about her.

Which books have you enjoyed this year? 

RickiSig and Signature

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA!

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…you just might discover the next “must-read” book!

Jen Vincent, of Teach Mentor Texts, and Kellee decided to give It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit – join us! We love this meme and think you will, too.

We encourage everyone who participates to support the blogging community by visiting at least three of the other book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.



for winning a copy of The Vanishing Island by Barry Wolverton

Last Week’s Posts

top ten tuesday UnleashingReaders2YearButtonRed

Tuesday: Happy 5th Anniversary to the Top Ten Tuesday Meme!: Our Top Ten Tuesday Topics

Wednesday: Two Year Blogiversary!!!!: Ricki and Kellee Check-In

Thursday: Ricki’s Favorite Pairings of YA Books with Classics

Friday: Top Checked Out Books by Kellee’s Middle School Readers

**Click on any picture/link to view the post**

 Last Week’s Journeys

Kellee: This week has been filled with reading! I apologize for the long update, but I want to share them all!

I finished three special novels.

  • Promise of Shadows by Justina Ireland: An action-packed, mythology-based YA novel that keeps you on your toes. What an adventure!
  • Diamond Boy by Michael Williams: I loved Williams’s Now is the Time for Running, so I was so happy to see that he had written a companion and that it explained one of the interesting secondary characters from Running. I was blown away by the characterization within this book. Although the plot is what propelled the story, the characters in this book are what made it. I also love the thinking that this book would cause. This book is at the same time easy to connect with, but also so completely different than anything most of the readers will have experienced. Quite unique.
  • And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard: An award-winning book that deals with some really tough subjects. I love the mix of Emily Dickson as our protagonist, Emily Beam, deals with two very tough, life changing incidences.

I also read a ton of picture books. I was thinking of only sharing the ones I enjoyed the most, but I loved them all!

  • Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry: Although the text is super cute, teaches a great lesson, and has some very quirky, puny moments; however, it is the illustrations that really push it past other cute picture books. Very much worth a read.
  • Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall: I. Loved. This. Book. I wanted to hug our crayon. I think this book could start some really smart conversations and actually would be a really good companion to books like Fish in a Tree because it looks at how the expectations of others doesn’t always fit in what a person can do and will do.
    This is a special book.
  • Uni the Unicorn by Amy Krouse Rosenthal: I am a sucker when it comes to books about imagining. I love the twist that this is from a unicorns point of view and that there is a girl out there just for her. I also really adored the Disney-esque illustrations–would make a great movie!
  • Stormy Night by Salina Yoon: Living in Florida means that we have pretty bad storms about 4-6 months of the year. I love how Yoon had the little bear become the “strong one” during the storm to help him forget about what he is afraid of. Like always, Yoon’s illustrations are just so wonderful–I love how they completely cover the page and are so colorful.
  • The Hueys in None the Number: A Counting Adventure by Oliver Jeffers: Leave it to Oliver Jeffers to make a counting book unique, funny, and just a little bit weird. Trent and I both really liked this one–I see it being in our reading rotation.
  • Daddy, Papa, and Me by Leslea Newman: The perfect book to read on the day of the SCOTUS decision! I love how Newman introduces LBGT families in such a nonchalant way (because they are just a family!!!!).
  • Happy Hippo, Angry Duck by Sandra Boynton: We love Sandra Boynton, but this one is definitely for kids a bit older than Trent. We will revisit when he is older. Trent did love yelling QUACK whenever he saw the angry duck.
  • Peek-a-Who? by Nina Laden: Trent loves Peek-a-Zoo, so it is no surprise that he liked this one too. They are fun books that hide an illustration then it is revealed when you turn the page.

Between Thursday and Friday, I will be reviewing five more that I read this week as well!

Ricki: My head has been in so many books this week! I finished four excellent picture books. Little Tree by Loren Long is most certainly going to be popular. Long is the author of the Otis series. I loved the quiet nature of this timeless book. In honor of the SCOTUS decision, I read Heather Has Two Mommies by Lesléa Newman. Candlewick has a new version of this classic, and I loved the illustrations! I also read Space Boy and His Dog by Dian Curtis Regan. This would be a great book to kick off excitement about a unit on space, and most schools teach this topic! The last book I read was a English/Spanish translation: Sofi and the Magic, Musical Mural/Sofi y el Magico Mural Musical by Raquel M. Ortiz. This is a great book to highlight the Spanish language, art, and imagination.

This Week’s Expeditions

Kellee: Tonight, I just started Lies We Tell Ourselves which I plan on finishing by Tuesday. After that, I am going to grab something from my #mustreadin2015 list or my Summer TBR list.

Ricki: I am just about finished with Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley. I am obsessed with this book. It reminds me of how I felt after reading A Snicker of Magic. I am reading Circus Mirandus as I do my fitbit steps, and it seems to inspire me to walk juuust a bit farther each night. 😉  For grad school, I am reading Ideas by Edmund Husserl. It is a philosophical text that was written in 1917 and translated in 1931. As you can imagine, it is riveting. But it is actually quite interesting to read this founding thinker’s ideas (Ha! do you see what I did there?).

Upcoming Week’s Posts

top ten tuesday must-read-2015-logo sofi From My (Huge) Library Pile

Tuesday: Top Ten Books We’ve Read So Far In 2015

Friday: From Kellee’s (Huge) Library Pile Part Seven

 So, what are you reading?

Link up below and go check out what everyone else is reading. Please support other bloggers by viewing and commenting on at least 3 other blogs. If you tweet about your Monday post, tag the tweet with #IMWAYR!

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As part of our blogiversary, Ricki and I decided to revisit some of our favorite posts and recreate them with a new twist. My original post, on July 28th, 2013, shared my recommendation for books that struggling/reluctant readers had enjoyed in my classroom. Although many of these books are still favorites, thought it would be interesting to let the students speak for themselves.

I have a mix of students who check out from my classroom library; however, the students who visit the most are from our intensive reading classes which is an intervention class for students reading below grade level. I did decide, though, not to include the word “struggling” in my title because this is a list of books that all readers of all levels can enjoy.

Today I am going to share the top books that were checked out from my classroom library this last year.  
**I did combine some series into one if all of the books in the series were high volume check outs.**

Tied for 15. Hereville by Barry Deutsch


Tied for 15. Missile Mouse: Rescue on Tankium 3 by Jake Parker


Tied for 15. Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri


14. Cleopatra in Space: Target Practice by Mike Maihack


13. Bad Island by Doug TenNapel


12. Tommysaurus Rex by Doug TenNapel


Review of Tommysaurus Rex

11. Scorch Trials (#2 in the Maze Runner series) by James Dashner

   scorch trials

10. Teen Boat! by Dave Roman


9. Mal and Chad (series) by Stephen McCranie

mal mal 2 mal3

8. Cow Boy by Nate Cosby

cow boy

7. Bird and Squirrel: On the Run by James Burks


6. Diary of a Wimpy Kid (specifically The Long Haul, Hard Luck, and The Third Wheel) by Jeff Kinney

long haul hard luck third wheel

5. Hazardous Tales (series; I only had #1, 2, & 3 in my library last year) by Nathan Hale

hazardous 1 hazardous2 hazardous3

Review of Hazardous Tales #4: The Underground Abductor

4. Drama by Raina Telgemeier


3. Explorer (#1 & #2) edited by Kazu Kibuishi

explorerboxes explorer

Review of Explorer: The Lost Islands

2. Smile and Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

FC_BC_9780545132060.pdf sisters

1. Amulet (series) by Kazu Kibuishi
**By far the most popular book in my classroom since book #1 came out**

amulet amulet2 amulet3

amulet4 amulet5 amulet6

As you can see from the list, graphic novels are very popular with my readers. To be more precise, 34 of my top 35 checked out books were graphic or illustrated novels/series.

I think there are many reasons why graphic novels are favorites: helps students visualize, fun to read as many of these students have only found reading to be a horrible chore, and colorful! Graphic novels are something I truly believe will help students love reading more and become better readers, and if you look at how much these students are reading and increasing in their reading ability, I think they back me up. (To see more research about the importance of graphic novels, check out my graphic novel teaching guide with Abrams.)

What books/series do you find to be most popular with your middle school readers who are reading below grade level?
Have you found success with the books I listed above?
Have you read any of the books I’ve listed? Did you enjoy them?

I hope this list of books helps point you in the direction of some texts that your struggling readers will truly love!