It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?
Sharing Picture Books, Early Readers, Middle Grade Books, and Young Adult Books for All Ages!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly blog hop co-hosted by Unleashing Readers and Teach Mentor Texts which focuses on sharing books marketed for children and young adults. It offers opportunities to share and recommend books with each other.

The original IMWAYR, with an adult literature focus, was started by Sheila at Book Journeys and is now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date.

We encourage you to write your own post sharing what you’re reading, link up below, leave a comment, and support other IMWAYR bloggers by visiting and commenting on at least three of the other linked blogs.

Happy reading!


Tuesday: The 2020 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award Winner and Finalists

Thursday: Blog Tour with Author Q&A: Legends from Mom’s Closet by Sasha Olsen

Sunday: Author Guest Post: “Opening the Door: How Stepping Inside the Poem can Help Your Students — even those who hate writing — Read, Understand, Create, and Enjoy Poetry” by Marjorie Maddox, Author of Inside Out: Poems on Writing & Reading Poems

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



  • Sara and the Search for Normal by Wesley King: “Sara wants one thing: to be normal. What she has instead are multiple diagnoses from Dr. Ring. Sara’s constant battle with False Alarm—what she calls panic attacks—and other episodes cause her to isolate herself. She rarely speaks, especially not at school, and so she doesn’t have any friends. But when she starts group therapy she meets someone new. Talkative and outgoing Erin doesn’t believe in “normal,” and Sara finds herself in unfamiliar territory: at the movies, at a birthday party, and with someone to tell about her crush—in short, with a friend. But there’s more to Erin than her cheerful exterior, and Sara begins to wonder if helping Erin will mean sacrificing their friendship.”
  • Once Upon a Space-Time by Jeffrey Brown: In the future we learn we are not alone and everything changes. The alien technology changes our world and so much is now possible. Our main characters are kids at an institute just for space exploration, but they are the misfits of the school. But that doesn’t stop them! Told in Brown’s funny fashion, this sci-fi graphic novel is going to be a huge hit with students!
  • Turtle Boy by M. Evan Wolkenstein: “Seventh grade is not going well for Will Levine. Kids at school bully him because of his funny-looking chin. His science teacher finds out about the turtles he spent his summer collecting from the marsh behind school and orders him to release them back into the wild. And for his bar mitzvah community service project, he has to go to the hospital to visit RJ, an older boy struggling with an incurable disease. Unfortunately, Will hates hospitals.”
  • Lumberjanes Vol. 5 & 6: I love so much about this series–the mix of a normal teen idenity story mixed with great friends and major craziness in a forest and mythology = some awesome graphic novels.
  • Yoga Animals and The Refuge will both be reviewed this week — don’t miss them!
  • With Trent:
    • The Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom:
    • We continue to watch Mac Barnett’s Book Club Show Book Club each day. Since he made it through all of his own picture books, he is sharing some of his favorites, and we both are enjoying them! I particularly like that they are, so far, all lesser known to me books:
      • This week: The Three Robbers by Tomi Ungerer, The Quiet Noisy Book by Margaret Wise Brown, Shortcut by Donald Crews, and It’s a Secret by John Burningham.
      • This week Mac also finally got the one book we missed the first time around: The Skunk. So that means that Trent has now read all of Mac Barnett’s picture books.

To learn more about any of these books, check out my 2020 Goodreads Challenge page  or my read bookshelf on Goodreads.


It is my first time hanging out with my husband all week (where we are both not working at night), so I think I am going to pause and share next week if that is okay with you all 🙂



  • Currently Reading: The Brave by James Bird
  • Currently Listening (and it is taking so long since I’m not driving anywhere!): Tornado Brain by Cat Patrick
  • Reading with Trent for one of his book clubs: Rosie Revere and the Raucous Riveters by Andrea Beaty
  • Reading with Trent for one of his book clubs (following along while watching Mac Barnett’s Book Club Show Chapter Books After Dark): Mac B. Kid Spy: Mac Undercover by Mac Barnett
  • Trent reads each Monday with Henry: Elephant and Piggie books by Mac Barnett


Tuesday: The Refuge by Sandra le Guen, Illustrated by Stéphane Nicolet

Thursday: Yoga Animals: A Wild Introduction to Kid-Friendly Poses by Paige Towler


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!

 Signature andRickiSig


“Opening the Door: How Stepping Inside the Poem Can Help Your Students—Even Those Who Hate Writing— Read, Understand, Create, and Enjoy Poetry”

Let’s face it: Some students LOVE poetry. It’s their secret passion, guarded closely. They scribble it in notebooks. They sneak-read it between classes.

For others, it’s a public proclamation. They sing poetry, dance it, prance with it around the classroom while reciting it. They raise their hands and volunteer their favorite authors.

However, for many students, well, there’s not so much love. For them, poetry resides in a decrepit, old, locked house AND someone has thrown away the key. No way are they even walking up the front path.

If any of this sounds familiar, read on. Based on my thirty years of teaching poetry at the primary, secondary, and university levels, Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Reading Poems with Insider Exercises brings together the eye-rollers, the proud enthusiasts, and the quiet creators. How? By inviting them all inside the poem.

First, unlock the door, then throw away the keys: Not the keys to fun and understanding (we’ll keep those), but the keys that say here’s a list of jargon to memorize, or here are the only subjects that poetry can be about, or here are been-there-done-that worksheets, or here’s a book with dry, lengthy explanations of those terms and exercises.

I’ll bet that most of you have already done just that. But now what?

Why not first approach poems with, well, an approachable poem?  Poems, of course, are not the enemy, but some students feel that way. Here’s a helpful—and fun—way for students to “get to know” a poem.

Befriending a Poem

Invite him home for dinner,
but don’t insist on rhyme;

he may be as tired and as overworked
as his distant cousin Cliché.

Best to offer intriguing conversation
that’s light on analysis.

Allow for silences and spontaneity.
Most importantly, like any good friend,

be faithful and patient;
remember to listen.

Sometimes he’s shy
and just needs a little time and coaxing.

Much of what he has to say
lies between the lines.

Students can choose a poem they’d like to get to know, then take that poem somewhere they themselves like being (the mall? a skateboard park? a soccer field? a cabin? a concert?). Next, interact. Try having them start with one of these titles: “Inviting a Poem to My House,” “A Poem Texts Me and Says,” “Talking Back to a Poem.” You try it, too!

Next, open the door—wide!  Getting to know (and write) a poem is a hands-on experience. I like to start with Inside Out poems “How to See a Poem,” “How to Hear a Poem,” “How to Taste a Poem,” “How to Smell a Poem,” and “How to Touch a Poem.” Students then write their own versions. What fragrance does a poem have? What color is a favorite poem? What does a poem taste like?

How to Smell a Poem

First, inhale deeply and equally.
Your nose, noble and brave,
knows how to adjust to each form
of aroma. Still, when you dive
into scent and swim about
until you’re wet with the whiff
of each syllabic drop,
try not to sneeze when the breeze of ballads
becomes the breath inside your lungs.
Be forewarned: the incense of words intoxicates.
There’s a peppermint odor to odes
and no lemons, no melon emanates from palindromes.
As for lack of predictability, free verse is the worst:
who knows what stench will attack the old olfactory,
what fragrance will rejuvenate your young but numb nostrils?
That’s the adventure to savor in this flavor extravaganza.
Keep following the trail of scent to sniff out the meaning.

These initial interactions then “open the door,” not only to sensory details, but also to such poetic tools as couplets, personification, alliteration, similes and metaphors, line breaks, paradox, and the like. But wait, I said no boring definitions, right? Sure, Inside Out includes a glossary, but wouldn’t it be a lot more enjoyable to experience these poetic tricks through poems that model them? Here’s what I mean:


Poetic twins all dressed in rhyme
stroll side-by-side in two straight lines.

In Inside Out, the poems are the definitions. Learn how to write a villanelle by reading the poem “How to Write a Villanelle.” Relax and cast your line with the poem “Fishing for Sestinas.” English and Italian sonnets, clerihews, dramatic monologues, triolets—and more—they’re all here for the meeting. Allow them to introduce themselves.

Come on in! It’s no secret that many of us learn best by doing. It’s one thing to admire a house (or a poem) from the outside. It’s another to open the door and strut on in, blast the music a bit, settle into a comfy chair, or completely rearrange the furniture. No sitting on the sidelines (or outside and across the street) with poetry. That’s why Inside Out also includes nine Insider Exercises based on the previous poems.

Here are some teasers:

After reading the poem “Getting Ready with Iambic,” have your students try their hand at writing one line in iambic pentameter. Start a silly competition. Here’s a line to get you started: Do not forget to wash the bathtub out!

Ask your students to write similes for eating spaghetti, watching a scary movie, or hitting a home run. What about that noise a cat makes when she’s really happy? Describe that using a simile or metaphor. Need help? See the poem “Simile explains Metaphor.”

After reading the poem “Tug of War between Concrete and Abstract,” have everyone write down one abstract word (something that you cannot see, hear, smell, taste, or touch—like joy, democracy, freedom, anger). Put the words into a bag. Have each student pick a word and, without telling anyone what the word is, write a poem describing that word. What animal is it? What does it sound like? What is it, well, like? The catch? When writing their poems, students cannot use the abstract word they picked from the bag. Next, have them then read their poems aloud. See if anyone can guess the abstract word. No peeking allowed!

Ready for some more ideas? Me, too! All of these exercises can be adapted easily for remote learning. Leave the door open (virtually or otherwise) and invite your students and friends inside the poem. I’ll get the popcorn—and some extra paper and pencils. Stay as long as you like. After all, it’s fun in here, and I’m already enjoying your company..

Published March 31st, 2020

Marjorie Maddox knows poetry. If I had to pick one book to introduce students to the joy of writing poems, this would be it. Maddox creates a book full of original poems to show us the inside out of every kind of poem you could ever want to write. I dare you to read a page or two without reaching for your pen and composing a poem of your own. From alliteration to sonnets and the villanelle, Marjorie Maddox makes metaphors meaningful and memorable.
—Charles Ghigna – FatherGoose®

It is clear that Marjorie Maddox loves poetry and loves her audience. The poems of the book—“How to Write a Villanelle,” “How to Touch a Poem,” to name two—illustrate the topics. For instance, “How to Touch a Poem” starts with “Forget distance or that anemic wave / you save for mere acquaintances and great aunts.” Sometimes people may not write poetry because they don’t know how to approach it, and Maddox removes the barriers. If you have ever thought about writing poetry and needed concrete tips, this is the book for you.
—Kim Bridgford, editor, Mezzo Cammin

Inside Out … combines original poetry with inviting activities to guide young people in writing poetry themselves. More than two dozen inventive poems present key concepts, elements, and forms of poetry, each … accessible and engaging. For example, her poem, “Simile Explains Metaphor,” cleverly uses the teen-speak of “like” to illustrate how similes and metaphors work in just six lines. Puns, paradoxes, and alliteration, as well as clerihews, acrostics, and sonnets are all presented in pithy poems that provide a laser focus on the poetic element being introduced. Then Maddox offers nine in-depth “insider exercises” grounded in the previous poems with helpful steps and fun challenges for young writers. It’s a unique combination of playful poems about poetry and crackerjack exercises for aspiring writers.
— Sylvia Vardell, author of Poetry Aloud Here! and co-editor of the Poetry Friday anthologies with Janet Wong

About the Author: Winner of America Magazine’s 2019 Foley Poetry Prize and Professor of English and Creative Writing at Lock Haven University, Marjorie Maddox has published 11 collections of poetry—including Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation (Yellowglen Prize); True, False, None of the Above (Illumination Book Award Medalist); Local News from Someplace Else; Perpendicular As I (Sandstone Book Award)—the short story collection What She Was Saying (Fomite); four children’s and YA books—including  Inside Out: Poems on Writing and Readiing Poems with Insider Exercises and A Crossing of Zebras: Animal Packs in Poetry, Rules of the Game: Baseball Poems , I’m Feeling Blue, Too!, Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania (co-editor); Presence (assistant editor); and 600+ stories, essays, and poems in journals and anthologies. She is the great grandniece of Branch Rickey, the general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers who helped break the color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson to Major League Baseball. The chair of the jury of judges for the 2020 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Book Award, she gives readings and workshops around the country. For more information, please see

Thank you, Marjorie! Poetry is often tough in classrooms, so this is such an in with all students! 

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Legends from Mom’s Closet
Author: Sasha Olsen
Published May 19th, 2020

Summary: In Legends from Mom’s Closet, 10-year-old Sasha Olsen documents how she spent a rainy summer indoors using her creativity and imagination. After reading a stack of books about women like Frida Kahlo, Audrey Hepburn and Billie Holiday, Sasha’s imagination ran wild and she ended up in her mom’s closet picking through her clothes and her grandmother’s vintage pieces to dress up like all the female legends she had been reading about. Complete with photos of the looks she created and tips for other young girls on how they, too, can emulate these iconic women, Legends from Mom’s Closet will inspire readers to delve into the lives of truly remarkable women from the past to learn a thing or two about what it means to be legendary in today’s world.

About the Author: Sasha Olsen is a 10-year-old author, environmental activist, ballroom dancer, bookworm, pianist, and enjoys anything artistic. She always finds new hobbies and things to do, which usually ends up in her trying to juggle everything. She lives with her family in Bal Harbour, Florida, where she also spearheads the conservation movement “I Want My Ocean Back.” Legends From Mom’s Closet is her first book.

Q&A with Sasha: 

In your book, Legends from Mom’s Closet, you share tidbits about and dress up like legendary women you read about during a rainy summer spent indoors. A lot of kids your age would spend a rainy summer watching TV or playing video games. What made you decide to start reading books about famous women?

Well, I actually love to read, especially biographies. I don’t usually spend a lot of time using any devices. I didn’t specifically start reading books about famous women, but I started looking around for books to learn more about legendary people. I just happened to meet these iconic women through their amazing stories and spending a day in their shoes! 

Who was your favorite female legend to read about?

My favorite legend to read about was probably Frida Kahlo! I felt like she had a very inspiring story. She had a lot of difficult times in her life, but no matter what, she worked hard to achieve her dreams and become an artist. 

What is the biggest lesson you learned from getting to know all of these female legends?

I learned many lessons! Most of all though, I learned that women are super strong. Women work very hard and can get through anything that might stand in their way of achieving their goals. Women are so inspiring!

What inspired you to use your mom’s clothes and your grandmother’s vintage pieces to recreate all of their iconic looks?

Actually, I just went into my mom’s closet and started trying on her shoes and dresses. This was after I read about Frida Kahlo. So, I just got the idea to try and dress up as her! I thought my mom might be really upset with me for playing with her things, but she loved the idea. If the legend was wearing something like I really couldn’t figure out where to get, I would call my grandma for advice. Most of the time, she had exactly what I needed!

Who was your favorite legend to dress up as and why?

My favorite legend to dress up as was definitely Yayoi Kusama. I love her bright artwork, and I was able to get even more creative to dress up as her!

How did you decide which legends to include in Legends from Mom’s Closet?

I didn’t choose them before. I just started to read about people who I didn’t know much about yet and it ended up being all women! After, I just decided to share them in this book.

Your other passion is the environment. Tell us what you learned about vintage fashion versus fast fashion.

When I was started my movement Iwantmyoceanback and this project, I was doing a lot of research during that time. I wanted to know more about what are the biggest things that pollute our oceans and cause problems for our planet. I found out like clothing is one of the biggest ocean pollutants and some fabrics, like polyester, have plastic in them so it breaks down and hurts our sea animals. After finding this out, I realized that it’s very harmful to buy fast fashion because people just buy the clothes and throw them away soon after. It inspired me to learn more about vintage and how we can buy secondhand instead, and just reuse clothing! 

Ultimately, what do you hope your readers take away from your book?

I hope readers learn how important it is to let your creativity run wild! I want other kids to know that we can get inspired and have fun while also learning new things and growing our knowledge. It’s also very important that we learn more about how fast fashion affects our oceans and that we stop it! We need to win the war against fast fashion to help save the planet.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about the book or what you learned while writing it?

I just want to share that this book project is super special to me! It means a lot to me, and I worked very hard on it. I hope that everyone enjoys my stories and experiences dressing up as these legendary women. Most of all, I hope readers try it themselves and that it inspires them to think outside the box! I learned a lot from reading and getting to know these women, especially that we can do anything if we believe in ourselves.

For additional details, visit

Visit the other blog tour stops: 


**Thank you to Nicole at PR by the Book for providing the blog tour materials**

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The Assembly on Literature for Adolescents (ALAN) of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) is pleased and proud to announce the 2020 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award for Young Adult Fiction winner and finalists. Established in 2008 to honor the wishes of young adult author Amelia Elizabeth Walden, the award allows for the sum of $5,000 to be
presented annually to the author of a young adult title selected by the ALAN Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award Committee as demonstrating a positive approach to life, widespread teen appeal, and literary merit.

The 2020 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award winner is:

Lovely War by Julie Berry
(Penguin Random House/Viking)

The 2019 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award finalists are:

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian
(HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray)

Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay
(Penguin Random House/Kokila)

White Rose by Kip Wilson
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt /Versify)

The winner and finalists will be honored at the 2020 ALAN Workshop on Monday, November 23rd in Denver, CO, and the authors will be invited to participate in a panel discussion.

The 2020 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award Committee would like to thank: the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award Foundation, the ALAN Executive Council, the ALAN Board of Directors, NCTE, and the many publishers who submitted titles for consideration.

The 2020 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award Committee considered over 300 young adult titles throughout the process. The committee included ten members representing the university, K-12 school, and library communities. They are:

Beth Shaum, Committee Chair
K-8 Librarian
St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School, Ann Arbor, MI

Wendy Stephens, Past Chair
School Library Program Chair
Jacksonville State University, Jacksonville, AL

Robert Bittner
SSHRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow
University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC

Jodi Blair
Alcoa High School, Alcoa, TN

Nicole Clawson
Visiting Professor
Brigham Young, University, Provo UT

Bryan Gillis
Professor of English Education & Literacy
Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, GA

Sarah Mulhern Gross
English Teacher
High Technology High School, Lincroft, NJ

Walter M. Mayes
The Girls’ Middle School, Palo Alto, CA

Elizabeth Parker
English Teacher
Saunders Middle School, Manassas, VA

Jennifer Paulsen
English and Social Studies Teacher
Holmes Junior High School, Cedar Falls, IA

For more information on the award, please visit ALAN Online: The Official Site of the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents:

Congratulations to the winner and finalists! We love this award so much, and are so happy to share this year’s recipients! 

Visit for reviews of each of these books by members of the Walden Committee and a special video interview with Julie Berry!

Our posts about the Walden Award and our time on the committee:

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?
Sharing Picture Books, Early Readers, Middle Grade Books, and Young Adult Books for All Ages!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly blog hop co-hosted by Unleashing Readers and Teach Mentor Texts which focuses on sharing books marketed for children and young adults. It offers opportunities to share and recommend books with each other.

The original IMWAYR, with an adult literature focus, was started by Sheila at Book Journeys and is now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date.

We encourage you to write your own post sharing what you’re reading, link up below, leave a comment, and support other IMWAYR bloggers by visiting and commenting on at least three of the other linked blogs.

Happy reading!


Tuesday: Blog Tour with Q&A and Giveaway!: One Last Shot by John David Anderson
**Giveaway open until Wednesday!**

Thursday: Ricki’s Lessons Learned from Teaching her Kindergartener Stop Animation

Sunday: Author Guest Post: “Engaging Reluctant Readers” by Sarah S. Reida, Author of All Sales Final

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



  • The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead: “After her parents’ divorce, Bea’s life became different in many ways. But she can always look back at the list she keeps in her green notebook to remember the things that will stay the same. The first and most important: Mom and Dad will always love Bea, and each other.When Dad tells Bea that he and his boyfriend, Jesse, are getting married, Bea is thrilled. Bea loves Jesse, and when he and Dad get married, she’ll finally (finally!) have what she’s always wanted–a sister. Even though she’s never met Jesse’s daughter, Sonia, Bea is sure that they’ll be ‘just like sisters anywhere.’As the wedding day approaches, Bea will learn that making a new family brings questions, surprises, and joy.”
  • Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson: I read the first couple of books in the series a couple of years ago, but when I noticed the whole series was on Hoopla from my public library, I decided to reread them so I could read the rest, and WOW! They are even better than I remember! They are such a fun combination of camp-life friendship fun, crazy adventures, fantasy, mythology, love of all identities and people, and weirdness!!!
  • With Trent: The Creature of the Pines by Adam Gidwitz: I loved reading the first book in this series with Trent. His review: “I liked this book because the Jersey Devil is blue and red, and I like blue and red. And it looks cool with its wings. I liked how Professor Fauna talked about pirates in the Pine Barrens. Elliot is like me and I like that. We both don’t like to take risks, and he has hair kind of like mine. The book was adventurous.”

To learn more about any of these books, check out my 2020 Goodreads Challenge page  or my read bookshelf on Goodreads.


The kids have been wanting to read a lot of Berenstain Bears books lately, so I posted one above, but we’ve plowed through about a dozen of them. I’ve also grown to love the Giggle Gang series of early readers (What is Chasing Duck? is above). As long as you all will keep it a secret, I am exhausted by the DC Super Friends and Lego Super Heroes early readers. I posted four of the books we read. I honestly don’t see the appeal of freezing and superhero-ing. But my 6- and 3-year-old love them. Sigh. We’ve got several more on hold. I will pretend to love them!

The Refuge by Sandra Le Guin. Whew. This one is stunning. My guess is that it might rake in some awards this year. I found it to be quite captivating (review to come next week). 

We love Helen Docherty and Thomas Docherty, so we enjoyed rereading The Story Book Knight. The Snatchabook is one of our family’s favorite books. We found that one hiding in the bookshelf last week, and my 3-year-old walked into my partner’s office while he was working to smile broadly and hold it up. There was mutual shared joy. That book is magnificent, and we really love The Story Book Knight, as well.

We reread some classics (Harold and the Purple Crayon and The Paper Bag Princess–which are both fantastic). We also finished our book club book Unicorn Rescue Society. It’s the first in the series, and we’ll likely read the others in the future. And finally, my 3-year-old would be upset with me if I didn’t highlight We Don’t Eat Our Classmates. This one really made him giggle.



  • Reading: After the Worst Thing Happens by Audrey Vernick & Lumberjanes Vol 5 by Noelle Stevenson
  • Listening: Tornado Brain by Cat Patrick
  • Reading/Listening with Trent: Rosie Revere and the Raucous Riveters by Andrea Beaty & Mac B. Kid Spy: Mac Undercover by Mac Barnett


We are also reading Mac B. Kid Spy: Mac Undercover by Mac Barnett. I read the first four chapters to the boys tonight, and my 6-year-old was really into it. I stopped after the first chapter and convinced him to clean his room. This earned him the next three chapters. We are reading four chapters a week with his book club, so we’ll be finished in four weeks. I also found a copy of Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds. I am excited to check that one out. I missed it, and I have read most of his books. 

Admittedly, I’ve gotten out of my reading groove. I’m reading about 15 books a day with the kids (most of them rereads while we wait for the library to open). But my night time is spend working. Without childcare, I am really struggling to find time to read YAL because I have such limited work time. I am hoping to get back into the groove soon. Tonight, I am closing up my computer and going upstairs to read. I miss normalcy!


Tuesday: The 2020 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award Winner and Finalists

Thursday: Blog Tour with Author Q&A: Legends from Mom’s Closet by Sasha Olsen

Sunday: Author Guest Post: “Opening the Door: How Stepping Inside the Poem can Help Your Students — even those who hate writing — Read, Understand, Create, and Enjoy Poetry” by Marjorie Maddox, Author of Inside Out: Poems on Writing & Reading Poems


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!

 Signature andRickiSig


“Engaging Your Reluctant Readers”

Some kids don’t read anything beyond what is required, and even the best Harry Potter book can’t beat the movie in their opinion. That’s unfortunate for a bookworm parent, but it’s also not the worst thing. Those kids are probably much better than we were at science and math.

As a new(ish) parent, I’m finding that some kids are natural readers. Some are not. While we should always encourage kids to read, the reality is that some are never going to find curling up with a book a fine way to spent a Saturday afternoon. Still, there are ways you can trick–er, engage a reluctant reader by making reading an actual experience. Here are five suggestions:

#1 Attend an event

I have a three-year-old. Even though books don’t hold her attention, she still has her favorites, and the Bad Kitty alphabet book is one of them. Nick Bruehl was supposed to come to our local bookstore (Anderson’s of Naperville), but cancelled due to COVID-19. I know Brooke would have loved to have met Nick (who is very pleasant; I met him at a conference once), and she would have been thrilled to see the actual author sign her copy. Many authors attend events, have book signings, have contests, etc. If a kid attends an event and has a good time, that good time is linked to books. Also, if they personally like an author because that author was kind to them, they may bother to read that particular author’s books in the future. (I can say that seeing the actual writer pen his name to her book would have blown Brooke’s mind).

#2 Form a very exclusive book club

Read a book at the same time as your child. Let them pick the book, and when you’re both done, let them pick a lunch place to talk about the book. Maybe you can make them think about something in the book they haven’t considered, or vice-versa. If you’re reading the book with them, they’ll feel like it’s less of a chore.

#3 Create a book project

You can’t do this with all books, but for some, you can create an associated non-reading project. For instance, with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, you could create your own golden tickets. With Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, you could devise a scavenger hunt. In All Sales Final, its nefarious owner Ruth keeps a collection of snow globes, each symbolizing a town where the shop has been. A child could make a snow globe, selecting items that best represent their town (though, of course, that snow globe would be a decorative piece and not used for the same purpose as Ruth). For Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh, a shoebox may be used for the mouse’s habitat.

#4 Book versus movie

Plenty of good books have been made into movies. After reading a novel with your child, Friday night movie night can feature the film version. In the morning and over pancakes, discuss the differences between the two, and why any deviations were an improvement or not.

#5 Join the celebration

Each year, our local library celebrates the Harry Potter series with an all-day event that takes over the entire library, to include an actual Quidditch game, the Honeydukes Express food trolley, book-themed arts and crafts, a scavenger hunt, and dozens of other activities (which have expanded over the years). You can even take the Hogwarts Express via Platform 9 ¾, as my little Brooke is doing below:

Some books are so awesome they have droves of fans who celebrate them. If your kid gets excited, it could result in them dabbling with similar books they might never have read.

Not every kid is a reader, but every kid likes to be entertained and to feel special. There are plenty of reading-related projects that can serve these ends, and perhaps even make a kid discover a new author or realize that reading isn’t such a chore, after all.

In All Sales Final, my second middle grade novel, only eleven-year-old Anna can save her town from the dark magic of a secondhand shop that opens on Main Street. In its starred review, Kirkus Reviews referred to it as “. . . [a] delightful, safe read with insidious dark edges . . . An enchanting fantasy for middle-grade readers who like a touch of magic in their fiction.”

About the Book:What price would you pay for everything you’ve ever wanted?

11-year-old Anna has always wanted to be extraordinary, but she feels as ordinary as her sleepy Midwestern town of Longford. Then a secondhand shop opens in Longford – a shop full of magic that only Anna can see. When the shop’s owner, Ruth, offers Anna a job not just anyone can perform, Anna feels that her dream is finally coming true. Proudly, she spreads the news of the shop, charming others into visiting and helping match each person to the perfect item.

Then Anna sees what Ruth’s bargains take away from her customers. Ruth’s magic is darker than she let on, and so is the life she’s offered Anna. Even worse, if Anna doesn’t stop Ruth, Longford will be doomed. But what chance does one ordinary girl have against someone like Ruth?

Thank you, Sarah, for some fun ways to engage our readers who may not be engaged yet!

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At 11pm, I had the idea to teach my 6-year-old stop animation. I watched countless YouTube videos and tried to tailor them to his skill level. The next day went fairly well, but I learned some things along the way that I thought I’d share with other caregivers or educators embarking on this adventure.

  1. Create a Model, Show Examples/How-To Videos.

It is exceptionally hard to explain stop animation to a kindergartener. Thus, I showed many, many examples and then showed him my own example. I recommend pre-watching your examples because I found many inappropriate models that I was glad I ruled out in advance. I also found how-to videos that were way too intense for my kid. They would overwhelm him.

The first video I showed him was a LEGO animation (which I learned is called a brickfilm). The video I post below is very easy to follow and shows how it works:

Next, I showed a claymation, which is the clay form of stop animation. I watched many and found this one to be pretty clear:

And finally, I created my own (quick) model using clay. I left the clay model out, so I could explain how I did it. This was the quick model I made:

2. Use the “Stop Motion” App.

I learned (after watching many tutorials) that this app was not only very user-friendly but also very capable of advanced work (which we were not doing. The key to using the app is to avoid having to push the photo button. Every time you take a picture and touch the tablet/phone, it jiggles the camera a tiny bit. For the model above, I stacked five textbooks and hung the camera part of the tablet over the edge of the top book. This allowed me to set the automatic timer on the app and avoid touching the screen. I did everything flat on my table, as you will notice in the model.

Essentially, you set a timer for a certain length of time (I did five seconds for my model, but I set it to 15 seconds for my son.) In that time, you move your design slightly. If you miss the timer and don’t make the move, it is extremely easy to delete any of the frames in between.

My son chose to do a brick film with his legos, so I set up the tablet to lean against a chair leg. I had to remind him not to touch the chair, and I set the automatic timer. After that, he pretty much worked independently for an hour on his film.

3. Other Lessons Learned

There’s something that Stop Animators call “light flicker.” If you are close to a window, the changes in the sun (e.g. it goes behind a cloud) will make the light of your video flicker in each shot. Pros (my son and I not included), recommend doing your stop animation in a room with no sunlight or windows. You use two headlamps—one to put in front of your creation and one to put behind it for shadows. To remove the shine on the lego pieces, I learned that pros cover the front headlamp with parchment paper. This was way above our skill level. The pros also use professional cameras and not tablets/phones.

Stop animation takes time, but it takes far less time with this app. It is instantly rewarding to kids (at least, relatively to taking a lot of solo framed photos). It occupied my son for a good hour, and he got to play with his lego, so it was a fun time for him.

Don’t forget to add music. I got a bit lazy with mine, and I clicked the audio record option (which allows people to record their voices), and I just played a song through my cell phone to get it in the background. You can upload a song if you want better quality than mine.

Those are the basics. Kindergarteners are very capable of beginning stop animation films. My son’s ended up being a tray of his favorite minifigures. They appeared one-by-one, and then they disappeared one-by-one. It was a great first start for him!

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