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If you haven’t been to the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) convention or ALAN (Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of the NCTE) Workshop and you love books, this would be a real treat to yourself. The NCTE convention occurs each November the Thursday through Sunday before Thanksgiving. Then, the ALAN Workshop occurs the Monday and Tuesday following the NCTE convention. Attendees include teachers, librarians, teacher educators, authors, and publishers. I’ve gone every year since 2006, and I absolutely love attending.

I love meeting all of the great, incredible new authors. But this year, I was able to meet two of my childhood icons, Ann M. Martin, author of The Baby-Sitters Club series and S. E. Hinton, author of The Outsiders.


Ann M. Martin


S. E. Hinton

The NCTE convention allows us to fulfill our childhood dreams, but it also helps us fulfill adult dreams. This year, I was honored to chair a panel that featured Laurie Halse Anderson, E. K. Johnston, and Amber Smith at the ALAN Workshop. Laurie led the discussion, which was centered on issues of rape and healing. All three authors have phenomenal books that critically examine this topic.


Me, E. K. Johnston, Laurie Halse Anderson, Amber Smith

My first presentation was “Opportunity for Advocacy: Examining Young Adult Literature’s Treatment of Erased Identities and Histories.” I was really proud with how this presentation went! Wendy, Kellee, and I presented different ways that young adult texts erase or deny identities and how this can be used to promote advocacy. Two of the handouts that emerged from this session will be available this Wednesday and Thursday


Me, Kellee, Wendy

I also presented at a roundtable session, “Advocating for Hope: The Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award and Its Importance in Promoting and Providing a Positive Outlook.” We used the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award books to show different creative ways to help students search for messages of hope. We also discussed how to create text sets of hope.


Advocating for Hope Roundtable

I also presented at a roundtable in the “Culturally Diverse Young Adult Literature: Voices of Advocacy & Community” session. Meg Medina and Kekla Magoon started out the presentation and discussed the importance of culturally diverse literature to promote advocacy. My roundtable featured Kekla Magoon’s How it Went Down. We talked about how interdisciplinary ideas, like dog-whistle politics, could be used to help students analyze perspective and work toward advocacy.

My last presentation was in a paper panel called “Examining Responses to Young Adult Literature in English Education and English Language Arts Classrooms.” Wendy Glenn and I talked about our research study about the ways students labeled as struggling negotiated their reading identities in nontraditional and traditional English courses. The full paper is available in the Research in the Teaching of English‘s August 2016 journal. The article is published here.

I also attended some great presentations about identity, equity, and advocacy (my interests). I learned so much and am very excited to keep rethinking my instruction and research.

From old friends to new, I am always excited by the incredible connections I make at this conference. I am lifted up by the individuals who share this passion for reading and feel so grateful for my NCTE and ALAN families. Thank you all for another wonderful year that invigorated me and made me feel even more alive and excited to begin this next year—for I genuinely believe that reading saves lives.

Until next year, friends! Will I see you there? 



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What is NCTE and ALAN? The figurative answer is BOOK LOVING EDUCATOR HEAVEN! The literal answer is NCTE stands for the National Council of Teachers of English and ALAN is the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of the NCTE. Each November, the annual NCTE conference followed by the ALAN workshop is six days of educators of reading & writing, books, and authors. I have attended both every year except last year since 2010, and it is one of the things that truly fills my teaching tank.


This year at the conference, the focus was advocacy, and I began my time there with a panel about authors as advocates which featured Jason Reynolds, Meg Medina, Greg Neri, e.E. Charlton-Trujillo, Sharon Draper, and Ibtisam Barakat. The panel brought up many important topics though specifically focused on how literature can be windows and mirrors for our students. The easiest way to share the brilliance of these authors is to share what they said (from my Twitter feed, so may not be exact quotes):

Greg Neri

  • “I may not have the answers, but I can raise important questions.”
  • “My books serve as gateways that raise questions that teachers might not be prepared to talk about.”
  • “Talk TO kids not AT kids.”
  • “Kids have a voice. They just need to be assured they can use it.”

Meg Medina

  • “I wrote with the intention of kids recognizing themselves and their experience on the page.”
  • “Take a risk on new author voices.”

Sharon Draper

  • “How do we advocate for change? By getting kids to read which makes them think.”
  • “Books are an opportunity to begin conversation.”
  • “DO NOT USE THE TERM THOSE KIDS. Every kid that walks into the classroom needs an opportunity. They all need you.”
  • “Put all the books out there and let kids find the books they need.”
  • “Books touch people in ways authors don’t expect.”

e.E. Charlton-Trujillo

  • “Give that one piece of literature that can give a reader a window of who they COULD be.”
  • “Books create conversation. When we are in conversation we create opportunity.”
  • “None of us are blind to the hate/oppression in US. Young people more than ever need an opportunity to be heard.”

Jason Reynolds

  • “Greatest form of advocacy, underrated form of advocacy, are the mundane stories.”
  • “Very dangerous thing to tell a kid that the way they natural speak, the way their family speaks, is improper/wrong.”

Ibtisam Barakat

  • “You can destroy children by words.”
  • “When a president of a country targets one particular group, that’s dangerous.”
  • “Kids (we) only learn from people we like. It’s all about the relationship.”
  • “To be here for years and still feel like an outsider. Our whole culture is mispronounced.”
  • “When dealing with children all political views and prejudicial feelings should be put aside and the child should be treated as just that, a child.”


I then went directly to my first presentation titled OPPORTUNITY FOR ADVOCACY: EXAMINING YOUNG ADULT LITERATURE’S TREATMENT OF  ERASED IDENTITIES AND HISTORIES that I was presenting with Ricki and her adviser at UConn, Wendy Glenn. I loved working with Ricki on this presentation, and I really felt like there were amazing conversations were had while discussing figurative and literal erasing of histories and identity.

Following this presentation was our session about the Walden Award. I was lucky enough to introduce the award and its history to our attendees.

View the introduction presentation at: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B3gaomzCT6B7NWE0V1NMcV9qRjA

We then worked with our attendees on how each Walden Award winner fit the idea of hope, what hope is, and how you can use the intersection of art, music, writing, and reading to promote hope within the classroom.

Some of my favorite part of this round table is the discussion of what hope is and why it is important:

  • “What is hope? Hope is the thing w/ feathers. -Dickinson | Belief in the possible. | Footholds when you are slipping. | Knowing I’m not alone.”
  • “Everyone has a different definition of hope.”
  • “How is a positive outcome different than a hopeful outcome?”
  • “Some books with neat, positive outcome may not seem real while hope seems real and is a bit open and messy.”
  • “Hopeful endings let the reader be part of the conclusion of the story.”
  • “A little bit of light in the darkness is a lot. Hope is the sun beyond the dark clouds. -Daria Plumb”
  • “Don’t want to leave kids just in the loss, the dark. Need to look at hope, the light. -Wendy Glenn”

One thing I love about NCTE is being able to see some teaching super stars present about their work. I never get to see everyone that I hope to because of conflicting sessions, but I was able to get to see Linda Reif and Harvey Daniels this year, both who I have never seen before.


The first session I attended was Linda Reif’s where she shared her Heart Map poetry books that she does with her students to help the explore poetry in a more authentic and memorable way that leads deeper understanding of poetry through reflection, art, and reading. The final product is a beautiful heart book filled with  poems, reflections, and artwork.


Then I went to see Harvey “Smokey” Daniels who was one of the first education authors that I really connected with, so I was so excited to finally be able to be inspired by him. His newest text is The Curious Classroom, so he engaged us in discussion about inquiry and how to bring inquiry into our classroom. I took away the reminder that inquiry does not have to be a large unit project or assessment but can just be a way to start each day or a way for students to find what really interests them. I look forward to reading The Curious Classroom and work even more towards making my class a hub of inquiry.


My final presentation was an author panel with Tim Federle, Elana K. Arnold, Claire LeGrand, Heidi Schulz, Anne Nesbet, and Rita Williams-Garcia on how they take the life they live and use what they know to write their fiction. The panel was fantastic, and I felt that it was a perfect mix of seeing amazing authors and activities that could be used directly in the classroom. The authors were so good, I had to take some notes! (And there were more that I didn’t get to write down because I was so enthralled.)

  • “All of life is material for writing. I rewrite the past as I wish I’d done.” -Tim Federle
  • “I’m the protagonist of my own life story.” -Tim Federle
  • Take lots of notes because “you never know when you’re living history.” -Anne Nesbet
  • “Delphine had to learn to form her own opinion and defend herself.” -Rita Williams-Garcia

The presentation below have each authors’ writing tip that will help your student writers move from life to notebook to fiction.

View the presentation at: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B3gaomzCT6B7OUlBaXZzLVpoUWM

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On Sunday, I attended one of my favorite events at NCTE, The Scholastic brunch, which introduces the attendees to six books and the authors, in groups of 3, take part in readers’ theater of scenes from each book. This year the authors were Ann E. Burg (Unbound), Alyson Gerber (Braced), Christine Taylor (Riding Chance), Mary E. Lambert (Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes), Peadar O’Guilin (The Call), and Jordan Sonnenblick (Falling Over Sideways).

Throughout these 4 days, I was very lucky to see so many wonderful authors, some new to me and some I consider friends. I want to thank all of the authors and publishers for everything they do during NCTE!


Sharon Draper
Margarita Engle
Laurie Halse Anderson
Cindy Jenson-Elliott
Sharon Draper
Becky Albertalli
Kevin Henkes
Rita Williams-Garcia
Matt de la Peña


Greg Neri
Adam Silvera
e.E. Charlton-Trujillo
Joseph Bruchac
Janet Fox
Ranson Riggs
Reyna Grande
Jeannine Atkins
Nora Raleigh Baskin


The amazingness that is the ALAN workshop’s first event is the ALAN breakfast on Saturday morning, and this one definitely start with a bang: S.E. Hinton was the esteemed speaker. I also love the breakfast because the ALAN Award and Ted Hipple Service Award are both given out. These two awards given to advocates for adolescent literature and ALAN are always accompanied by amazing speeches, and this year was no different!

Hipple Award Winner: Marge Ford

  • “ALAN is a force of like-minded people. We are story people.”

ALAN Award Winner: Gary Salvner

  • “Just as stories have changed me, I pray that they can change others.”
  • “We don’t need to build a damn wall, we need to open doors and give kids skills to rebuild the world.”
  • “Share books that promote reconciliation and understanding.”


We then were lucky enough to see S.E. Hinton speak. She was the perfect mix of funny and insightful and thoughtful and blunt.

  • “First half of my life people thought I was male; the second half they thought I was dead.”
  • “No better writing teacher than Jane Austen and the library is free.”
  • “I wrote The Outsiders because I  was upset about the social situation at my high school.”
  • “If you don’t write because you don’t know who is going to read/publish it, you’re not a writer. Focus on writing.”
  • “I flunked reading/writing when I was writing The Outsiders.”
  • “I used initials for first reviewers to keep bias out.”
  • “Don’t think your enthusiasm doesn’t matter. Even if students may not like something, enthusiasm spreads.”
  • “I couldn’t teach because couldn’t leave the kids at school. I would take them home with me & worry.”
  • “Writing a screenplay is writing a coloring book where actors, directors, & others add color. Communal story telling.”
  • The Outsiders is what it is because of when I wrote it.”

On Sunday night with the ALAN cocktail party, the festivities officially began! The cocktail party is a free event for attendees of ALAN that give the authors and attendees time to mingle before the workshop begins on Monday. Thank you to the publishers who host the cocktail party!

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Monday started with a bang! A.S. King was the key note speaker followed by Matt de la Peña. Both speakers blew away the audience with their truth about the state of our country, the importance of literature, and a focus on love.

A.S. King

  • “I was often told to be more normal.”
  • “I thank my 9th grade teacher for allowing me to write a 1st person narrative from the POV of a specific can of succotash.”
  • “My characters’ voices are in my head and go out my fingers.”
  • “I plan nothing. My process is based solely on trust in a very untrustworthy world.”
  • “No matter what I do in life I’ll be doing it as a woman and that will piss some people off.”
  • “Rejection letters taught me that woman are not supposed to be weird.”
  • “Teachers know how to assess. You are in a contact state of assessment. You are teachers!”
  • “People who make THE TEST are not even educators! Teachers’ jobs have grown more challenging.”
  • “Relevant contemporary novels are not dangerous. No where as dangerous as thinking that all kids should learn the same.”
  • “Failure is spectacular for risk takers! Risk takers are test proof.”
  • “Innovation is the child of necessity.”
  • “Classrooms are shelters for figurative tornadoes all around us.”
  • “Education is being bought and sold while poverty is crushing the souls of our children.”
  • “Write a common core of compassion and put it into every lesson.”

Matt de la Peña

  • “Everyone has things they are proud of & wear on their sleeve & have things they are ashamed of. What makes us human.”
  • “I want to go into schools where there is no one like me to show them there are people like me.”
  • “Favorite thing about being home is reading books to my daughter.”
  • He then read to us a story called LOVE which I cannot wait to see in completion form.

I must also mention what I felt was one of the most moving and powerful moments of the ALAN workshop: The Get Lit Poets. Four teens joined us and performed poetry for us that is incomparable to much I have heard before. Visit their YouTube channel to view their work.


One of the highlights on the Monday of the ALAN workshop is always the Walden Award presentation. This year’s award was given to All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely with the honors given to All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman, Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez, and Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin. Chair Mark Lechter asked each author (all were able to attend but Jennifer Niven) to discuss the concept of hope.

Jason Reynolds

  • “Hope is not self fulfilling.”
  • “Just because you say you have hope doesn’t mean you do. It is not cerebral; it exists in the gut.”
  • “Hope is thrown around so much, it doesn’t mean much any more. You have to do something.”
  • “Students want to have these discussions, they just need somewhere to have them.”
  • “Do something. Earn it. Every day.”
  • “This book came out of their friendship. This is what it looks like. It can happen.”

Brendan Kiely

  • “Tricky to talk about race and racism as a white person. But necessary.”
  • “But it is incredibly important to think about our accountability to threatened communities.”
  • “Hope is action.”
  • “Identity politics are civil rights. Let’s go out there and BE hope.”
  • “First need to deconstruct the part of me that is the problem so I can be part of the hope.”
  • “Hope is the kind of road that I travel to find and share love.”
  • “Love and love and love. I want to write in search of hope.”

Neal Shusterman

  • “So many books about mental illness only show the dark side; this novel shows light.”
  • “When you start to spiral, remember there is hope.”

Ashley Hope Pérez

  • “Hope is not about happy endings. Not about naive optimism. Hope is about particular orientation to the future”
  • “Hope depends on the reader, and the work the reader is willing to do.”
  • “Hope in seeing the character’s resilience.”
  • “Giving tiny seeds of hope for readers to go the future that we really want to have.”

Ryan Graudin

  • “Hope is not an emotion. It is a force. It is the call to take action.”
  • “We need something to keep us going. That is what hope is.”


My author panel was the last of the day Tuesday and was a wonderful exclamation point at the end of a workshop that many of us will never forget. My panel focused on re-imagining love stories with Kristin Elizabeth Clark, Kenneth Oppel, Bill Konigsberg, and Brendan Kiely. Each of their love stories is a deviation to the traditional, and we focused on that during the moderated discussion.

  • “Love is love. It all feels the same on the inside.” -Kristin Elizabeth Clark
  • “I wanted to celebrate rush of first love & make it more complicated than Romeo & Juliet.” -Kenneth Oppel
  • “I’m always looking for the love story that hasn’t been written yet. | I’m exploring what youngest generation is doing with labels. I learn the most from them.” -Bill Konigsberg
  • “The one purpose of life is to learn how to love & hold onto it. | It [Last True Love Story] is a dual love story; It is a journey of teens falling in love & end of life, holding onto love.” -Brendan Kiely

Mixed in with these panels and speakers were panel after panel and speaker after speaker of authors and educators and editors sharing their passion. Search #ALAN16 or @ALANorg on Twitter to view some of the amazing insights shared. Here are some more of my favorite quotes from both days:

  • “The word diversity needs to be replaced with American.” and “Don’t hide behind the canon. We have robust literature that represents all teens now.” -Laurie Halse Anderson  (while wearing her GOT CONSENT? t-shirt)
  • “Urban fiction is a label to say the book is a little bit dangerous. We need to be self aware that the label Urban sweeps cultures under the rug. Erases identity.  Using the term URBAN FICTION is simplifying things. And anything easy should be thought about.” -Jason Reynolds
  • “Whatever the setting it, it is vitally important to humanize every single character on the page.” -Ibi Zoboi
  • “Soon the only thing mentioned on vocab tests and in schools about American Indians will be the term extinct.” -Tim Tingle
  • “There are many of us [Native Americans]. We write nation specific. We all have diff cultures. What we have in common is genocide.” -Eric Gansworth
  • “Challenge of writing Vincent Van Gogh’s life was figuring out how reliable he was as a narrator” -Deborah Heiligman
  • “Writing fiction is like baking a cake with best ingredients from store; nonfiction like baking with what your partner brings home.” -Candace Fleming
  • “Humans are good that way. If you love something hard enough, it rubs off onto others.” -Maggie Stiefvater
  • “I like young people to understand that adults are just people. They are flawed. | Risks aren’t in the situations; it is in creating characters who are real. Writing a kid who’s an amazing human being, a character who is real, beautiful, absolutely sincere, is the risk. ” -Benjamin Alire Saenz
  • “Cave paintings show creativity is as important to the human necessity as food & air. Creativity is an elemental human trait.” -Jeff Zentner
  • “Art brings together people. And gives us a world point of view.” -Kayla Cagan
  • “Women’s stories disappear, and it can be hard to rebel. Better to see a female fight and lose than never fight at all. Every girl deserves a hero of their own.  | Fiction and stories have shaped human existence.” -Frances Hardinge
  • “It’d be a shame to not swim in the sea of stories.” Peadar O’Guilin
  • “Not all art is going to be seen as beautiful by all.” -Rahul Kanakia
  • “There are no limits to what books are suppose to be.” -Randi Pink
  • “I want readers to be enraged, to empathize with characters & advocate anywhere they see injustice.” -Patricia Powell
  • “There is a difference between failing and being a failure.” -David Arnold

Noah Schaffer kindly took so many photos while attending the ALAN workshop, and he has shared them publicly with us on Facebook. Join the ALAN Public Group to view them (and LIKE our ALAN Page (https://www.facebook.com/alanorganization/) while you are on there!).

Like NCTE, ALAN allows me to see many authors that I love!


A.S. King
Jason Reynolds
Jon Sciezska
Candace Fleming
Maggie Stiefvater
Benjamin Alire Saenz
Peadar O’Guilin
Ryan Graudin
Brendan Kiely


And Trent visited! Trent with:
Brendan Kiely
Kenneth Oppel
Bill Konigsberg
Kristin Elizabeth Clark
Neal Shusterman

Probably my favorite part of the two days though are my time with my friends who truly support and push me as the educator I am and hope to become. I am always terrible about getting photos of everyone (including one with Ricki!), but here are the ones I took.

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With Michele Knott and Jennie Smith


Trent with:
Cathy Blackler
Jennie Smith
Jen Ansbach
Katie Halata

Until next year, friends! Will I see you there? 


Kellee Signature

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IMWAYR 2015 logo

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

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme started by Sheila at Book Journeys and now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date. 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!

Kellee and Jen, of Teach Mentor Texts, 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

We took last week off for the ALAN workshop and to spend time with our family. Hope you all had a wonderful holiday!


 Last Two Week’s Journeys


Anyone who has gone to a conference knows that they go from sun up to sun down and doesn’t leave much time for extracurriculars such as reading; however, I did get a couple in since our last IMWAYR post.


The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox is a perfect combination of Frankenstein and Hansel and Gretel historically placed during WWII with a Gothic fiction feel. I loved listening to it, and I cannot wait to discuss it with my Mock Newbery Book Club.


The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas really feeds into my love for true crime, and I can tell that Kara Thomas is a fan of true crime as well! I was lucky enough to eat dinner with Kara, and we discussed Serial and Making a Murderer and we offered recommendations to each other. I knew that this was going to be the first book I read after the conference.


I am glad to be back!


This Week’s Expeditions

Because of Kara Thomas reopening my need for true crime podcasts and documentaries, so I am going to take an audio book break and listen to some podcasts (and watch some Netflix documentaries).


I began reading Hundred Percent by Karen Romano Young which is a quite mature look at sixth grade with a protagonist who is trying to find her place.


the sun is also a star

I’ve listened to half of The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon, and I love it! I look forward to sharing more with you soon. I like how this book is much more political than Everything, Everything. They are so different, which shows Yoon’s great talent.


I am really enjoying Gem and Dixie by Sara Zarr. I’m only about 50 pages into it, and I can’t wait to read more! It is a great story about the dynamic between sisters.


Upcoming Week’s Posts



Tuesday: Kellee’s 2016 NCTE and ALAN Experience

Thursday: Ricki’s 2016 NCTE and ALAN Experience

 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!

 Signature andRickiSig


IMWAYR 2015 logo

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

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme started by Sheila at Book Journeys and now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date. 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!

Kellee and Jen, of Teach Mentor Texts, 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

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

top ten tuesday oh-ick just imagine reds-planet hannah-grace

Tuesday: Favorite Movies When I was a Teenager

Wednesday: Oh, Ick!: 114 Science Experiments Guaranteed to Gross You Out! by Joy Masoff

Thursday: Just Imagine by Nick Sharratt

Friday: Teaching Guide for Red’s Planet by Eddie Pittman

Sunday: Author Guest Post!: “How Kids Can Stop Thinking and Make Better Life Choices” by Roger Ziegler, Author of Hannah Grace and the Dragon Codex


Kellee & Ricki

We are currently attending the ALAN (Assembly on Literature for Adolescents) workshop at the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) conference then will be spending some time with our families. Hope all of our American friends have a good Thanksgiving and break!

We will be back  next Monday! 🙂

 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!

 Signature andRickiSig


“How Kids Can Stop Thinking and Make Better Life Choices”

Dreaming and imagination are fundamental to solving practical problems, in school, at home or in the office. Both big problems and everyday ones.

One of the challenges the lead character in my book Hannah Grace and The Dragon Codex faces, is how does she know she’s making the right decision?

She wants to do good, be good, but how do you know? For Hannah it comes down to trusting her imagination and heart. When she does this, things usually go well, when she doesn’t, they go kerflewy.

So what is Hannah learning? In everyday life when we don’t know the answer we usually say, “let me think about it,” or we encourage kids to “think hard” to find a solution. But this kind of problem solving is like using a hamster on a running wheel to power a jet plane.

As the great scientist and mystic Albert Einstein said, “we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them.”

We need more fire power to make better decisions and life choices. Where do we get it? From our heart and our gut. Our feeling and sensing centers.

One of the greatest pleasures of my life as a child, and now, is playing with my imagination, feeling out a situation. When I do, it makes my writing much better and my daily life easier.

When we connect the triangle of heart, gut and mind to make decisions, we engage our “Power Trio” and make better life choices.

These skills are not only for adults; they are essential for children. And great news, kids are usually naturals at this. We only need to encourage them to go in the direction they’re already heading.

Getting kids out of our adult habit just “thinking about it,” is one of the best things we can teach them.

Encouraging children to make decisions using their heart, mind and gut “Power Trio,” may help when they’re 20 or 30 or 40 years old and in a crisis. They’ll have developed skills and won’t need to reach for a self-help book that tells them to engage their heart and gut more.

Stop thinking. You’ll be better off. As the great sage Yoda said, “Do or do not. There is no ‘try’.”

So then, what do you do instead?

How To Make Better Decisions By Not Thinking About It


Kids are experts in expressing their feelings and playing with their imaginations. Imagination, in my experience, comes mostly from a feeling, not from our heads.

Instead of only “thinking hard” about a solution to a math or science or English problem, make it a game. Ask the child to look at the big picture. Have them compare the problem or the situation to something in their own life. An event, their family, things they have or want. Let them use their big picture skills to solve the problem.


It’s a cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason. Become aware of what is actually happening right now. Not what you think is happening, or what you wish was happening, but what is actually taking place.

Take a moment to stop your thoughts and notice, just notice, what you see and hear and experience that. This alone can bring about an awareness of options that weren’t there before.

Kids are generally much better at this than adults. Usually, all you need to say to a child is, “stop thinking for a moment,” and they usually get it.

Older kids already conditioned to “think about it,” make take more training.


Another cliché and yet, still one of the best ways to stop yourself and kids from over-thinking and making bad choices.

A simple deep breath in and longer breath out, can do wonders to stop the chattering mind and cool the situation. Give peace a chance, bro!


Cliché number 3? See and imagine your success as having already taken place before you begin. See yourself making the basket before you take the shot. What does it look like and feel like?

Imagine organizing the numbers correctly before you solve the math problem. And then practice this. These things, like anything worth having, take time.

Just because you imagine yourself sinking the basket doesn’t mean it will happen the first time or every time. But I’m betting it will happen much more often than if you don’t imagine that it already happened.

Which leads us to the next better decision skill for children.


We all face obstacles when doing something new or even when we’ve done it 10,000 times. Allow yourself to make mistakes and keep going.

Discouraging children when they are beginning something new, is the biggest killer of success and imagination in my opinion.


This is fun. If we turn the above steps into dry, boring, abstract lessons, we’ve missed the point. The goal here is to let our heart feelings and gut senses play free. Your true feelings will always result in more fun and enjoyment, and better results for you and the people around you.

In my book Hannah learns this, after many, many struggles to fight it.

I’ll end with our friend Einstein; “When I examine myself and my methods of thought I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge.”

Just something to think about.


Hannah Grace and the Dragon Codex
Author: Roger P. Ziegler
Illustrator: Nicole Ales
Published May 12th, 2016

About the Book: When an ancient book of wisdom is stolen, 11-year-old Hannah Grace and her karate besties must discover their true powers and rescue the book before Big Evil takes over the Universe.

Magic, positivity, adventure (and a sumo wrestling guinea pig), await readers in the first book of this coming of age fantasy series. It’s perfect for all kids who love to get lost in worlds of wonder and imagination.

Every day after school, Hannah Grace does her homework and practices karate with her father John. But one morning when Hannah wakes from a strange dream where she sees an ancient and mysterious book, she’s more than a little shocked when her dad reveals an amazing secret; it’s The Dragon Codex, the most powerful book ever created and he needs Hannah to find it before Big Evil gets it and takes over the Universe!

Suddenly, Hannah, who can barely remember her homework, is thrown into a much larger world of magic and danger–and a whole lot of people are counting on her.

Hannah’s got it covered though. Actually, she has no idea what to do, but she’s not giving up just yet.

Filled with mysteries, demons and a sumo wrestling guinea pig, Hannah Grace and The Dragon Codex is a fun, thrill-ride adventure about discovering the power inside you.


About the Author: Roger long ago rejected the sensible (and sane), advice of his parents to be a lawyer or doctor and became a writer instead. He’s been a journalist, taxi driver, actor, theater producer, collection agent and so much more!

He’s received writing awards from the New York State Press Association and the Physicians for Social Responsibility. Roger coauthored the Amazon “beast” selling humorous self-help book Pee On It and Walk Away: How to Deal with Difficult People. Life Lessons from Superdog Abby, www.peeandwalk.com.

Roger is a third-degree black belt in Seido karate and has a wonderful, magical nine-year-old daughter. Roger likes fudge.

This is his debut novel.

Thank you to Roger for this post we can use to remind our students to think, breathe, and assess.

Kellee Signature andRickiSig

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Red’s Planet: A World Away From Home
Author and Illustrator: Eddie Pittman
Published April 19th, 2016 by Amulet Books

Summary: Red, a quirky, headstrong 10-year-old, longs to live in her own perfect paradise far away from her annoying foster family. But when a UFO mistakenly kidnaps her, Red finds herself farther away than she could have possibly imagined—across the galaxy and aboard an enormous spaceship owned by the Aquilari, an ancient creature with a taste for rare and unusual treasures. Before Red can be discovered as a stowaway, the great ship crashes on a small deserted planet, leaving her marooned with a menagerie of misfit aliens. With her newfound friend, a small gray alien named Tawee, Red must find a way to survive the hostile castaways, evade the ravenous wildlife, and contend with Goose, the planet’s grumpy, felinoid custodian. Surely this can’t be the paradise she’s looking for.

Teaching Guide: 

Pittman’s new graphic novel series will be a big hit with adventure and sci-fi lovers!

The teaching guide can also be viewed here.

Recommended For: 

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just imagine

Just Imagine
Illustrator: Nick Sharratt; Author: Pippa Goodhart
Published: August 30, 2012 by Kane Miller Books

Goodreads Summary: Just imagine what it would be like to be as small as a mouse; or as big as a house. Imagine exploring the depths of the ocean, traveling into the past or the future – or something even stranger…This wonderfully inventive and interactive book allows a child to tell their own story, combining new elements each time. And with intricately detailed illustrations for parent and child to pore over together, this really is a book to share time and time again.

My Review: This book is everything the title promises. It will spark children’s imaginations as they consider what it would be like to be really, really big or what it would be like to travel through time or live underground. The illustrations are absolutely stunning. It is a book that is made for both a child and the parent/teacher reading it. I loved spending a long time on each page, exploring all of the different drawings to better imagine each scenario. After reading the book, I couldn’t help but want to meet the illustrator and give him a nod of approval. This is a book that will inspire a lot of creativity in homes and classrooms.

Teachers’ Tools for NavigationThis would be a fantastic way to jump start a creative writing unit. I could see the different pages as writing inspirations for students to use words to imagine a scenario of their choice from their favorite spread in the book. I also think it would be fun to ask students to add a page to this book—to imagine another scenario and illustrate what it would look like.

Discussion Questions: Choose one scenario and imagine other things that could have gone on the pages. Why might the illustrator have made the choices that he did?; How does the illustrator creatively imagine each scenario? How does he use color and art to make the book engaging?

We Flagged: 

just imagine spread

Read This If You Loved: Where’s Will? by Tilly; I Want to Be… books by Ruby Brown

Recommended For: 



**Thank you to Lynn for providing a copy for review!**

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