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Penguin Random House, the National Book Foundation, GoodReads, and Mashable invite you to join them for National Readathon Day tomorrow. They are asking readers to commit to reading for 4 straight hours from noon-4pm (all time zones) and to help raise funds to support the National Book Foundation.

You may be asking: “How can I participate in the readathon?” As a reader, the easiest ways to participate are to create your own Firstgiving Fundraising page to benefit The National Book Foundation, invite friends and family to donate to your effort, check the National Readathon site to find a participating venue near you, or just read tomorrow and donate to a worthy cause by visiting the National Book Foundation.

Hope you will join in on the Readathon, and don’t forget to share your experiences and photos using the hash tag, #timetoread!

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how it went down

How It Went Down
Author: Kekla Magoon
Published: October 21, 2014 by Henry Holt and Co.

Goodreads Summary: When sixteen-year-old Tariq Johnson dies from two gunshot wounds, his community is thrown into an uproar. Tariq was black. The shooter, Jack Franklin, is white.

In the aftermath of Tariq’s death, everyone has something to say, but no two accounts of the events line up. Day by day, new twists further obscure the truth.

Tariq’s friends, family, and community struggle to make sense of the tragedy, and to cope with the hole left behind when a life is cut short. In their own words, they grapple for a way to say with certainty: This is how it went down.

Ricki’s Review: In light of the recent protests, this is an incredibly insightful book that is very important. The point-of-view shifts every 2-3 pages, which was very thought-provoking. Too often, books depict stereotypical portrayals of members of cultures, and the gamut of characters within this text felt very realistic. For some, this book may be too gritty and too uncomfortable. There is nothing comfortable about discussions regarding inequities and privilege in society. But if you walk down the halls of my high school, there is nothing in the book that is not a concern in schools. This is not a feel-good read, but it made me think. And thinking…is a very good thing.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: There is much to discuss in this book. Teachers could use it to start conversations about power and privilege. There are a lot of discrepancies between the characters’ perceptions of the shootings, and I imagine students would disagree about what happened. Teachers might elect to hold a verbal or silent debate. Also, I would love to discuss the structure of the text. The creativity in the form is purposeful, and it would be interesting for students to investigate why Magoon structured it in the way she did.

Discussion Questions: Why does Magoon structure the novel with alternating voices? How is the novel structured as a whole?; Does this story serve as a counter-narrative? If so, how? If not, why not?; Did Tariq have a gun in his hand? Why do/don’t you think so?; How does the story evolve as time passes?

We Flagged: “As a black man, you have to keep your head down. You have to keep yourself steady. You have to follow every rule that’s ever been written, plus a few that have always remained unspoken.”

Read This If You Loved: The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, On the Run by Alice Goffman, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander, Monster by Walter Dean Myers, The Brothers Torres by Coert Voorhees, Autobiography of my Dead Brother by Walter Dean Myers

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I never have enough time to blog about each and every great picture book I read, so every once in a while I like to do a post where I highlight several books so that I can share some of the wonderful picture books I hadn’t been able to review. Here are some that I have read so far this winter:

own dog

I’m My Own Dog
Author: David Ezra Stein
Published August 5th, 2014 by Candlewick Press

This hilarious book definitely makes you look at perspective and point of view! This dog is independent and doesn’t need anyone! But maybe he can help out this human by letting him be his owner. There are some laugh out loud moments in this book.


Penguin & Pumpkin
Author: Salina Yoon
Published July 29th, 2014 by Walker Childrens

Salina Yoon’s penguin books are a favorite of mine! (I am a sucker for all things penguins.) I particularly enjoy Yoon’s illustration and coloring style because they make her books so enjoyable to read. This Penguin book is about experiencing new things and sharing the joy you feel with others.


A Thirst for Home: A Story of Water Across the World
Author: Christine Ieronimo
Illustrator: Eric Velasquez
Published May 20th, 2014 by Walker Childrens

A Thirst for Home is a heart-wrenching story that was inspired by the author’s adopted Ethiopian daughter. It looks at the struggle for food and water in Africa and how some mothers must give up their children for adoption in hopes of their survival. This book would be a perfect companion to A Long Walk to Water.


Legend of the Dust Bunnies
Author: Michelle R. Eastman
Illustrator: Kevin Richter
Published August 21, 2014 by Byway Press

Told in fun quatrains with cartoon-esque illustrations, this story explains how our houses suddenly get dustier than we remember them and why cleaning up isn’t always such a good idea. It also celebrates differences and shows why you shouldn’t automatically judge someone’s choices.  (Book preview video at


On My Way to School
Author: Sarah Maizes
Illustrator: Michael Paraskevas
Published July 1st, 2014 by Walker Childrens

I love how Maizes’s books promote imagination! I think imagination is such a wonderful part of childhood, and her books show the crazy, fun, exciting things you can do with your imagination. In this book, our narrator goes on quite an adventure on her way to school.


I Love You Night and Day
Author: Smriti Prasadam-Halls
Illustrator: Alison Brown
Published June 3rd, 2014 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens

There are some books that were made to be bedtime stories told from loving parents to their child(ren)–this is one of them. It is a book about unconditional love and how it is felt in all kinds of different circumstances.


Time for Bed Fred
Author: Yasmeen Ishmail
Published February 11th, 2014 by Walker Childrens

Fred is a dog that many kids will relate to. He would rather do ANYTHING than go to bed, so he does whatever he can to avoid it. Every time you think the human has won and Fred is going to go to bed, the tables turn. This will be a fun bedtime story and a good companion to Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion.


Author: Salina Yoon
Published April 1st, 2014 by Walker Childrens

Once again, Salina Yoon’s illustrations shine bright. They are so colorful and fun! This time they illustrate a story of a bear who finds a lost bunny and, although he is falling in love with the bunny, does everything to help it find its way home. A super sweet story! One of my favorite parts are the end sheets though. They are covered in lost advertisements that are so clever and filled with an allusions to Peter Pan and I Want My Hat Back and word plays

Recommended For: 

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Happy reading!


**Thank you to Bloomsbury, Candlewick, and Michelle Eastman for providing some of these books**

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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 that Feature Characters who Show Resilience Despite Disabilities


1. Wonder by R.J. Palacio


August Pullman was born with severe facial deformities. He says, “I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.” Because he is continually in and out of surgery and recovery, Auggie has always been home-schooled. When his mother suggests he start the fifth grade in a private school, he is against it but decides to give it a try. This book made me want to be a better person.

2. Emmanuel’s Dream by Laurie Ann Thompson


Emmanuel’s Dream is an inspirational story about a boy who refuses to be overcome by his disability (a deformed leg). Others tell him he should just become a beggar, but he is determined to be the best he can be. The illustrations are absolutely beautiful, and the story flows well. Students will find hope and strength in Emmanuel’s strong, resilient spirit.

3. The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

running dream

This book won the 2012 Schneider award. It is about a high school girl who loses her leg in a car accident. When I was on a plan, the man in the seat next to me was reading it. He turned to me and said, “This book is really good. Everyone should read it.”

4. Paperboy by Vince Vawter


An eleven-year-old boy who is growing up in the 1950s South struggles to say his own name–he has a stuttering disorder and shows incredible strength.

5. Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork


Marcelo has an Asperger’s-like cognitive disorder. His father forces him to spend the summer working in a law office, promising if Marcelo follows the rules of the “real world,” then he can choose between his special ed school or public school for his senior year. Marcelo may, perhaps, be one of my favorite characters of all time.


I must second Ricki’s #1, 2, & 4. I love all of those books, and they definitely deserve to be on this list.
There were so many amazing books about kids overcoming their disability, that I had a very, very, very, very hard time choosing 5. I ended up choosing 3 books about kids who are deaf and 2 books about kids with learning disabilities. There are also so many amazing books about autism, cerebral palsy, blindness, etc. etc. This is just a snapshot.

1. Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby


Not once in this book do you think Joey is incompetent because of her disability. Although her mother may try to keep her from growing, she has learned how to survive and succeed in the world she lives in. Joey may seem like a normal kid, but she is more than that. She has learned to live in a world with no sound without really, truly being able to communicate. Then when ASL is introduced into Joey’s life, you begin to learn how intricate of a language ASL is, and the reader begins to build even more respect for the deaf.

2. El Deafo by Cece Bell

el deafo

Although Cece finds herself deaf at a young age, we see her overcome this blow and turn it into a superpower. But this book is about more than deafness; it is about being a kid, about growing up, about friendship, about ackwardness, about school, about crushes, about family, about life. This book is truth.

3. Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick


Ben and Rose are both deaf and find themselves on a journey to New York searching for someone important to them. This book shows how a disability can change a life, but can also lead to a different, maybe better life.

4. Fish In A Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt


Ally is so many students that I have had over the years that just needed a teacher to take the time.
Mr. Daniels is the teacher that I hope I am, that I wish I could be, that I want all teachers to be, and that I want to be friends with.
Ally’s journey is one that I hope I inspire my students to have.
Albert is so many student in our schools that are just a bit different thus leading to a life of sorrows.
Shay shows that meanness often is because of meanness.
Travis shows that it is never too late to change a kid’s life.
So many special characters and such a special story.

5. Bluefish by Pat Schmatz


This is one of those books that makes me proud to be a teacher. Students like Travis is the reasons why I became a teacher, and I hope that I am a teacher like Mr. McQueen who ultimately changes Travis’s life. And not only is this book a love story to good teachers, it is a love story to books and the written word.

Which books featuring characters with disabilities are your favorites?

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.

Last Week’s Posts

top ten tuesday emmanuel onceupon Mock Sibert Button2015

Tuesday: Top Ten 2014 Releases We Meant To Read But Didn’t Get To

Wednesday: Blog Tour!: Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah
Giveaway ends tomorrow (Tuesday)!!!

Friday: Mock Sibert Award: Favorites Announced

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

Congratulations to
Michele K.
for winning When Otis Courted Mama!

 Last Week’s Journeys

Kellee: I have been able to get more reading done over these last two weeks than I thought I would be able to. One thing that really helped is when you are staying at a hotel with people running races is that they go to bed SUPER early, so I spent a lot of time reading when we were out at Disney for Jim’s Dopey races (yay Jim!).

First, I read a ton of nonfiction books in preparation for the 2015 Mock Sibert! The books I read were: Star Stuff by Stephanie Roth Sisson, Eye to Eye by Steve Jenkins, Beetle Busters by Loree Griffin Burns, Feathers, Not Just For Flying by Melissa Stewart, Chasing Cheetahs by Sy Montgomery, Neighborhood Sharks by Katherine Roy, and Born in the Wild by Lita Judge. I picked my top 5 nonfiction picture books out of these and other 2014 NF PBs I read. I shared them on my Mock Sibert post, and I plan to share my other favorites on a post later this month. All of these were phenomenal books.

Additionally, I did a lot of other reading: The Other Side of the Wall by Simon Schwartz, a nonfiction graphic novel about being born in East Germany; Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero, a tragedy-filled, intense story of a young girls senior year; Caminar by Skila Brown, a beautiful novel-in-verse that takes place during the guerilla warfare in Guatamala; I Am Jackie Robinson by Brad Metzler, a fun comic/PB mix biography (so glad I finally got to read one of Metzler’s books!); Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena, a celebration of the little things we sometimes miss; The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami, such a weird little book; Frank Einstein and the Electro-Finger by Jon Sciezska, another funny, smart Frank Einstein book, How To Speak Dolphin by Ginny Rorby, a book that tore at my heart strings and made me think about so many things; and Torn Away by Jennifer Brown, a frightening, sad, empowering book about loss and family.

Ricki: This week, I fell in love with Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan. It has been on my TBR list for years, and I finally put it on my #mustreadin2015 list. I also started four other books that were recommended by YOU on Monday, and so far, I love them all. Bloggers have the best recommendations.

This Week’s Expeditions

Kellee: I am not sure what I am going to read this week! I have a couple more 2014 NF picture books that have been recommended to me since Mock Sibert that I hope to get to read. I then have my #mustread2015 pile and other piles and library piles and piles of books all over :)

Ricki: As I stated before, I am reading four books right now. The two books that I have been reading the most of are Dreaming in Indian (Edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Leatherdale) and Audacity by Melanie Crowder. Both are exceptional.

Upcoming Week’s Posts

top ten tuesday how it went down readathon

Tuesday: Top Ten Books That Feature Characters Who Show Resilience Despite Disabilities

Wednesday: Great Picture Books Kellee Has Read Recently

Friday: National Readathon Day Overview

 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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Mock Sibert Button2015

Over the past three years, Alyson, of Kid Lit Frenzy, has hosted, and Carrie, of There Is A Book For That, and I have participated in, a book challenge pushing ourselves to read more nonfiction picture books. Since we read many of the best nonfiction picture books published each year, in 2014 we decided to start hosting a Mock Sibert Award.

The Sibert Award is given annually to the most distinguished informational book published during the preceding year. Although the Sibert Award is not just for picture books, we are going to focus on the nonfiction picture books we feel would be honored or win this year. To be honored/win the Sibert Award, the book must include these important elements and qualities:

-Excellent, engaging, and distinctive use of language.
-Excellent, engaging, and distinctive visual presentation.
-Appropriate organization and documentation.
-Clear, accurate, and stimulating presentation of facts, concepts, and ideas.
-Appropriate style of presentation for subject and for intended audience.
-Supportive features (index, table of contents, maps, timelines, etc).
-Respectful and of interest to children.

After reviewing the qualities and elements needed to win the Sibert Award, I chose the following five titles as my Mock Sibert Finalists that I hope will win or be honored on February 2nd. Check out Kid Lit Frenzy and There is a Book for That to see what Alyson and Carrie chose as their picks.

eye to eye

Eye to Eye: How Animals See the World
Author: Steve Jenkins
Published April 1st, 2014 by HMH Books for Young Readers

Steven Jenkins is the master of informational nonfiction! His unique artwork is always eye catching, and he chooses the most information to share with students. Many of his books, including this one, sound like something that would be boring to read about, but Jenkins makes it so it is not. This book, includes information about different animals’ eyes with a close up of their eyes and an overview illustration of the whole animal. I had no idea there were so many different types of eyes! And animals that I thought didn’t have eyes actually do!

As for Sibert criteria, Jenkins hits it out of the park! His use of informative yet appealing language mixed with his beautiful visual presentation is above the rest, the book is organized for readers to easily understand, has back matter that supports the text, it is appropriate and interesting for children.


Neighborhood Sharks
Author: Katherine Roy
Published September 30th, 2014 by David Macaulay Studio

This one surprised me. From the cover and artwork, I thought it would be just a simple shark book, but it was so much more! This book completely contradicts any statement that says that a book with illustrations and not photographs cannot be an exemplar informational text. Neighborhood Sharks takes you through a Great White Sharks routines, anatomy, habits, and how scientists study them. The diagrams are exceptional and really add to the text.

Once again, this text is spot on when it comes to Sibert criteria. The entire book is excellent, engaging, and distinctive! It was a pleasure to read!


The Right Word: Roget and his Thesaurus
Author: Jennifer Fisher Bryant
Illustrator: Melissa Sweet
Published September 15th, 2014 by Eerdman’s

Roget was such a fascinating man, and I had no idea before picking up this text. He was a genius, creative, scientist, and a good father and husband. I loved that Bryant and Sweet teamed up again (they also did A River of Words about William Carlos Williams) to tell us Roget’s story. I think what makes their books so special are the unique way that illustrations and text intertwine and together become the story. Every part of the page is essential to the book.

I feel like a broken record, but again this book definitely fulfills the criteria for the Sibert award. I actually think that because of the unique use of illustrations and text, it is probably my most distinctive use of visuals.


Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla
Author: Katherine Applegate
Illustrator: G. Brian Karas
Published October 7th, 2014 by Clarion

Anyone who knows me knows that I adore apes (see my Nerdy Book Club Top Ten Ape books and my Hurt Go Happy interview with Ginny Rorby as well as my Hurt Go Happy Primatesand Endangered reviews). They are such fascinating creatures. I enjoy reading about them and am a true advocate for their care here on Earth. This book is just another supporting document in the beauty, intelligence, and awesomeness of these creatures. Katherine Applegate has written a perfect companion to her Newbery winning One and Only Ivan which takes the reader into Ivan’s life and once again makes our heart break for him. It is written in verse with words that transport you into Ivan’s life. This book made me cry because of the power of the words, but more importantly, the power of Ivan’s story. Please read this. You will thank me (and curse Katherine Applegate for the tears).

This book may be my only book that does not meet all of the criteria for the award, but I had to put it on the list because of its beauty, importance, and closeness to my heart.  Although it does not include any supportive features, I feel that that does not take away from the amazing use of language, beautiful illustrations, and fascinating story.


Feathers: Not Just For Flying
Author: Melissa Stewart
Illustrator: Sarah S. Brannen
Published February 25th, 2014 by Charlesbridge

This is another book, like Eye to Eye, that I thought could not be as good as everyone had said. It is a book about feathers which could never be interesting, right? Wrong. Stewart does an amazing job of sucking you in, showing the beauty and importance of feathers, and she does so with some amazingly beautiful imagery (using similes). Her language mixed with the soft-toned illustrations, which are perfect for a book about feathers, makes you lose yourself in her information. Then she sneak attacks at the end, after you are already sucked in, with the scientific classification of feathers. Next thing you know, you are fascinated with feathers.

Feathers also meets all of the Sibert criteria–especially the engaging use of language and stimulating presentation of facts.

Which book from my, Alyson’s, or Carrie’s list do you think should be honored by the Sibert committee? Complete our poll below to share which you think should win, and also enter to win the winner of our poll. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The winner of the Mock Sibert and giveaway will be announced on Wednesday, January 28th. I cannot wait to see which book wins!


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Once Upon an Alphabet

Once Upon an Alphabet: Short Stories for all the Letters
Author: Oliver Jeffers
Published October 14th, 2014 by Philomel

Goodreads Summary: If words make up the stories and letters make up the words, then stories are made up of letters. In this menagerie we have stories made of words, made FOR all the letters.

The most inventive and irresistible book of the year spans a mere 26 letters (don’t they all!) and 112 pages. From an Astronaut who’s afraid of heights, to a Bridge that ends up burned between friends, to a Cup stuck in a cupboard and longing for freedom, Once Upon an Alphabet is a creative tour de force from A through Z. Slyly funny in a way kids can’t resist, and gorgeously illustrated in a way readers of all ages will pour over, this series of interconnected stories and characters explores the alphabet in a way that will forever raise the bar.

In Once Upon an Alphabet, #1 New York Times bestseller Oliver Jeffers has created a stunning collection of words and artwork that is a story book, alphabet book, and gorgeously designed art book all in one.

Kellee’s Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Oliver Jeffers is just brilliant. Everything he does is unique, and he actually keeps surprising me with each new book. And he makes me laugh out loud, which is always such a treat. This book has 26 quirky short stories, each corresponding with a letter. Each story has characters, plot, theme, and conflict, and each is quite clever and funny. It is just so well done!

I’d love to see this book used as a read aloud for 26 days. Each day as a different letter. With every letter, teachers could focus on different things: the letter, illustrations, voice, characterization, plot arc, conflict, theme, mood, figurative language, etc. It would be a great opener to the day and would also be a lot of fun to ask students to write their own stories for the letters. This pushes an alphabet book to a whole different level!

Ricki’s Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I agree with Kellee. Decades from now, children will still be enjoying Jeffers’ books. For me, he is comparable to the greats in children’s literature. My favorite part about this book was the way he connected the letters. It made me excited when he returned to some of the previous short stories.

This book begs for students to write. The short stories teach literary skills in an engaging way. Kellee’s idea was similar to my own. I would love to see a classroom book of these letters. Each student could be assigned a letter or two. With some funding, perhaps the students could bring a bound version home. It would be much more fun for students to practice letters when they can read their classmate’s stories! The way Jeffers flexes his creative muscles would also be inspiring to high school students.

Discussion Questions: Which letter’s story was your favorite? Why?; In what ways was Oliver Jeffers creative in his storytelling?; Can you think of other stories for each letter?

We Flagged: 


Read This If You Loved: Any books by Oliver Jeffers, Eric Carle, or Dr. Seuss

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Penguin Young Readers Group for providing copies for review!**

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