Vanished!: A T.O.A.S.T Mystery
Author: James Ponti
Published August 22nd, 2017 by Aladdin

Summary: Florian Bates—the only kid on the FBI Director’s speed dial and several international criminals’ most wanted lists—must uncover the truth behind a series of middle school pranks that may or may not involve the daughter of the President of the United States in this hilarious second novel in the T.O.A.S.T. Mystery series.

Middle school is hard. Solving cases for the FBI is even harder. Doing both at the same time— well that’s just crazy. But that doesn’t stop Florian Bates!

After helping the FBI solve an art theft at the National Gallery and uncovering a DC spy ring, Florian’s finding life at Alice Deal Middle School a little boring. But that’s all about to change! His FBI handler, Marcus, has a job for him! Is it a bank robbery? Counterfeit ring? International espionage? Actually it’s middle school pranks…

Sounds pretty ordinary except that the pranks are happening at a prestigious private school attended by the President’s daughter who may—or may not—be involved. So Florian and Margaret are going undercover to see if they can use their TOAST skills to figure out what’s going on before the media gets hold of the story.

However, once the crime-solving pair arrive at the school, they discover that there’s a lot more than a few pranks going on and the conspiracy of silence reaches all the way to the top. Then a student vanishes in the middle of a concert at the Kennedy Center and things take a sinister turn!

Can Florian and Margaret save the day? Or are they about to get toasted?

Here is my review for FRAMED the first of the T.O.A.S.T. Mysteries 🙂 

Review: Like Framed!, Vanished! is a crazy adventure of a mystery with twists and turns that make the reader struggle to solve the mystery before Florian does! Once again Ponti’s mystery is easy to follow yet complicated enough to make it so that the reader doesn’t figure everything out before the end (which I think is the best kind of mysteries!).

What I love about this mystery, is that it teaches us more about the characters while also putting them in a whole new setting and mystery. I really enjoyed how different the two mysteries were and how Florian and Margaret’s character development really grew. Anyone who loves Framed! is going to be so happy with the sequel.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Like Framed!, I think it would be so much fun to play some mystery games with TOAST. And just liked Framed! dealt with art, this mystery includes classical music which can be explored along with it being introduced in the story.

Discussion Questions: Who did you think the prankster was?; Did the solution to the mystery surprise you?; What foreshadowing clues were there to show who the villain was?; What part of Florian and Margaret’s time in school is most realistic to the real experience?; How does Margaret help Florian face his bullies?

Flagged Passages: (When the headmaster doubts that Florian and Margaret can help, they put TOAST on display.)

“‘You have nothing to worry about, Dr. Putney,’ I assured him. ‘W’re discreet. We’ll approach it the same way you approached your church mission. Just like when you went to Brazil and adapted to their customs, we’re guests and will respect the customs and traditions unique to Chatham while we do our work.’

Marcus shot me a wink.

‘Y-y-yes,’ he stammered, trying to make sesne of what I’d just said. ‘But how did you know that?’

‘How did I know what?’ I asked. That you went on a mission? Or that it was to Brazil?’

‘Both,’ he replied.

‘TOAST,’ I said.


‘The Theory of All Small Things.’ answered Margaret. ‘The idea is that little details often give away much bigger pieces of information than you think. When you add them up, you have an indisputable truth. That’s how we’re going to find who’s responsible for the pranks. Florian and I are going to use TOAST.’

He looked back and forth at us like we were speaking a foreign language. ‘What little details could possibly tell you that I took a mission to Brazil?’

‘On the wall beside your desk are your college diplomas,’ I explained. ‘They’re from Bringham Young University. Over ninety-eight percent of the students at BYU are Mormon. And roughly a third of all Mormon men go on a mission.’

‘Okay, but that means two-thirds don’t,’ he said as a challenge. ‘What makes you think I did?’

‘You’re featured in the welcome video not only as a headmaster but also as a graduate of Chatham Day,’ I replied. ‘But there’s a six-year gap from your high school graduation until the date you received your bachelor’s. That’s four years of college with two years left over for your mission.’

‘As to Brazil,’ Margaret said, picking up without missing a beat, ‘that was easy. There’s a picture of you on the far bookcase when you were about twenty years old. You’re standing in front of the giant Christ the Redeemer statue, which is in Rio. There’s also a picture of your family on your desk. It looks like a vacation shot and it in you’re wearing a yellow-and-green jersey. Anyone who plays soccer knows it’s the jersey of the Brazilian national team. I’m guessing you became a fan while you lived there and you’ve continued ever since.’

He sat for a moment flabbergasted, unsure what to say.” (p. 32-34)

Read This If You Love: Mysteries like FRAMED! by James PontiWig in the Window by Kristen Kittscher, Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson

Recommended For: 



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Colorado State University

Dr. Ricki Ginsberg


This course focuses on adolescence and the reading, analysis, and understanding of young adult literature. Some of the themes we will explore include: the body and mind, culture, (dis)ability, gender, grief, intersectionality, race, sexuality, and social class. Because the course is designed primarily for future English teachers to prepare them to examine issues of adolescents/ce, we will also consider supportive practices for teaching young adult texts critically in the classroom. This course will allow us the time and space to (re)consider our perspectives of adolescence. The reading and coursework is designed to be both rigorous but rewarding.


Required, Whole Class Texts:

Alexie, S. (2007). The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian. New York, NY: Little, Brown.

Farizan, S. (2013). If you could be mine. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin.

Nelson, J. (2014). I’ll give you the sun. New York, NY: Speak.

Roskos, E. (2013). Dr. Bird’s advice for sad poets. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Saenz, B. A. (2012). Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Schrefer, E. (2012). Endangered. New York, NY: Scholastic.

Sepetys, R. (2011). Between shades of gray. New York, NY: Speak.

Shusterman, N. (2007). Unwind. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Thomas, A. (2017). The hate u give. New York, NY: Balzer + Bray.

Woodson, J. (2014). Brown girl dreaming. New York, NY: Nancy Paulsen.

Yang, G. L. (2006). American born Chinese. New York, NY: First Second.

Zentner, J. (2016). The serpent king. New York, NY: Ember.

Literature Circle Group Text (Disability and the Body):

You will select this text during the first week.

Anderson, L. H. (2009). Wintergirls. New York, NY: Penguin Group.

Draper, S. (2010). Out of my mind. New York, NY: Atheneum.

Van Draanen, W. (2011). The running dream. New York, NY: Ember.

Palacio, R. J. (2012). Wonder. New York, NY: Knopf.

Gemeinhart, D. (2015). The honest truth. New York, NY: Scholastic.

Stork, F. X. (2008). Marcelo in the real world. New York, NY: Scholastic.

Lindstrom, E. (2015). Not if I see you first. New York, NY: Poppy.

Sloan, H. G. (2013). Counting by 7s. New York, NY: Puffin.



  1. Analyze and critique a wide range of adolescents’ literature across genre and form (as evidenced in the reading portfolio, classroom discussions, and Book Bistro conversations).
  2. Examine research and theories of adolescence through a range of scholarly sources and (re)consider our own assumptions (as evidenced in the discussion of the Youth Lens and in the Scholarly Journal Article critique).
  3. Evaluate the purpose of literature that is written explicitly for adolescents and the value of using this literature for classroom instruction (as evidenced in each course requirement, particularly the Leading a Class Discussion assignment).
  4. Explore the ways in which adolescents’ literature can be highly political in nature (as evidenced in the selected required texts and the focused discussions and classroom activities in weeks 14 and 15).


The outside work for this course adheres to the instructional time equivalent to the federal credit hour definition of 2 hours of outside work for each contact hour. As such, you can expect to do approximately 5 hours of outside work each week. Much of this time will be dedicated to the course reading (required and free choice). I will not accept assignments after they are due. Please wait 24 hours to dispute a grade.

1.   Free Choice Reading Portfolio (25%)

You will be required to read a total of 3,000 pages of books written for and about adolescents.

The portfolio will reflect this work and must include:

  • A cover sheet listing the books and total number of pages that you read. If you prefer to keep track by hand, feel free to print the book log available on Canvas. At the bottom of your cover sheet, please include a signed honor statement that indicates that you read all of the pages that you list on this page.
  • A one-pager for each of the books that you read. Examples of one-pagers will be provided in class. The only requirement is that the one-pager must fit on one side of a piece of paper. Please complete these one-pagers as you read. You will be showing them to your peers during Book Bistro meetings.

Selecting texts:

  • Select texts from a variety of authors, forms, genres, subjects, and marketed age levels. Do not read over 1,000 pages of the same author, genre, or form.
  • Do not read a classic text unless it was expressly written for adolescents. For example, To Kill a Mockingbird and Catcher in the Rye were written for adults, but The Chocolate War and The Contender were written for adolescents. Check with me if you are unsure whether a text is traditionally considered to be a YA text.
  • Do not read books that were written for adults (Crichton, Grisham, King, Steele, etc.). You may, however, read books that are very popular, free choices among adolescents (e.g. Books on the Alex Awards lists).
  • Consult adolescents, librarians, the adolescent literature collections at the Morgan Library and 322 Eddy, ALA Award lists, and other published listings of texts. The Fort Collins libraries have great collections. Ask your peers what they are enjoying, and share books with each other. I will make ever attempt to flood you with books that you might be interested in reading, and I will bring a rolling classroom library to most classes.
  • ENJOY what you are reading. I typically use a 50-page rule. If I am not enjoying a book after 50 pages, I put it down. Please use whatever system works for you and keeps you reading. You can (and should) count the pages of unfinished books toward the 3,000-page requirement.

2. Class Participation (20%)

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of your participation in class. You are expected to read the entire required texts before you come to class. I am not a fan of reading quizzes, but I need to know that you are doing your homework. As such, you will complete a reading quiz at the beginning of many classes. If you are late or absent, you will miss this assignment for the week. Your literature circle presentation will also be included in this grade.

3. Leading a Class Discussion (in pairs) (15%)

You will sign up with a peer to lead an hour-long discussion of one of the required texts. You and your peer can decide how to structure the class time and activities. You do not need to focus your discussion on the weekly topic listed in the schedule. The only requirements are: a) you will give a 5-minute reading quiz at the beginning of the hour, and b) you will lead a discussion of the reading for some portion of the time. You and your peer will grade the reading quizzes and return them to me the following class.

 4. Book Bistro Participation (10%)

You will participate in five scheduled Book Bistro meetings. You will be in charge of leading one of these meetings and inspiring conversation around the books that the members in your group are reading. You will sign up to lead the meeting in the beginning of the semester.

5. Scholarly Journal Article Critique (in pairs) (10%)

Working in pairs, you will read and critique a scholarly journal article about young adult literature or adolescence. I will help find this article. You will present your findings, complete with a handout, to the class. Your presentation should last between five and ten minutes and can include discussion.

6. Final Exam (20%)

You will design a project for the final exam that meets your personal and professional needs and passions. I will provide suggestions from previous courses that I have taught, but I recommend that you design a project that you will find exciting. We will dedicate some class time to help you determine, workshop, and independently work on this project, but you will complete most of the work outside of class. You will present your project during the university-sanctioned final exam time. The exam is scheduled for Monday, December 11, from 4:10pm-6:10pm.

7. Graduate Students Only (10%, overall grade calculated out of 110%)

In an effort to help you organize and synthesize your thinking about your Master’s thesis or project, you can choose to write five annotated bibliography entries (choose a combination of the require texts—novels and articles—for this course plus texts of your own choosing.


You can design a similar project tailored to your needs. Please see me early in the semester to discuss this course requirement and to solidify your choice. This work is due to me on December 3, 2017.

 8. Honors Credit Only (10%, overall grade calculated out of 110%)

Those who seek honors credit will be required to read five advanced reader copies (galleys) of texts within (not in addition to) their 3,000 page required. They will complete five book reviews in the form of blog posts. If these students choose, I can publish these blog posts on, and this work can be featured as publications on their resumes. Please see me if you are seeking honors credit.

 Grade Overview

  1. Free Choice Reading Portfolio (25%)
  2. Class Participation (20%)
  3. Leading a Class Discussion (in pairs) (15%)
  4. Book Bistro Participation (10%)
  5. Scholarly Journal Article Critique (in pairs) (10%)
  6. Final Exam (20%)

As per University policy, I use +/- grading. Calculations on a 4.0 scale are:  A+ = 4.0; A = 4.0; A- = 3.667; B+ = 3.334; B = 3.00; B- = 2.667; C+ = 2.334; C = 2.00; D = 1.00; F = 0.00



Attendance Policy

Attendance is critical for your success in this course. I expect you to be punctual. Absences beyond two per semester will result in a grade deduction of ½ grade, as this is equivalent to over a week of missed classes. For instance, if you earn an A in the course but miss three class sessions, your grade will reduce to an A-. You will also miss reading quizzes, which will impact your grade. Please see me with any concerns about your attendance. Excused absences will not count against your grade, and these will include participation in University-sanctioned activities, as well as participation in religious holidays and observances. If you will be absent for an excused reason, please see me in advance of class or email me at least one day in advance.

It is respectful to email me prior to class if you will be absent. This will help me (and your peers who are presenting) adjust class plans and groups accordingly. Please do not sign up to present on a day that you anticipate you will be absent for an excused purpose.

Academic Integrity and Student Conduct

The course will adhere to the Academic Integrity Policy of the Colorado State University General Catalog and the Student Conduct Code. Do not plagiarize. Any student who plagiarizes or cheats on any assignment in this course faces penalties that may include an F on the assignment or an F in the course.

Cell Phones and Computers

Please remember to turn off your cell phone before coming into class. That means no text messaging during class. Please be respectful about your computer use and do not surf the internet or check emails while in class. Abuse of this policy will result in a lower classroom participation grade.

Safety, Reporting and Resources:  

CSU’s Discrimination, Harassment, Sexual Harassment, Sexual Misconduct, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Stalking, and Retaliation policy designates faculty and employees of the University as “Responsible Employees.”  This designation is consistent with federal law and guidance, and requires faculty to report information regarding students who may have experienced any form of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, relationship violence, stalking or retaliation. This includes information shared with faculty in person, electronic communications or in class assignments.  As “Responsible Employees,” faculty may refer students to campus resources (see below), together with informing the Office of Support and Safety Assessment to help ensure student safety and welfare. Information regarding sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, relationship violence, stalking and retaliation is treated with the greatest degree of confidentiality possible while also ensuring student and campus safety.  CSU’s Discrimination, Harassment, Sexual Harassment, Sexual Misconduct, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Stalking, and Retaliation policy designates faculty and employees of the University as “Responsible Employees.”  This designation is consistent with federal law and guidance, and requires faculty to report information regarding students who may have experienced any form of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, relationship violence, stalking or retaliation. This includes information shared with faculty in person, electronic communications or in class assignments.  As “Responsible Employees,” faculty may refer students to campus resources (see below), together with informing the Office of Support and Safety Assessment to help ensure student safety and welfare. Information regarding sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, relationship violence, stalking and retaliation is treated with the greatest degree of confidentiality possible while also ensuring student and campus safety.

Any student who may be the victim of sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, relationship violence, stalking or retaliation is encouraged to report to CSU through one or more of the following resources:

  • Emergency Response 911
  • Deputy Title IX Coordinator/Office of Support and Safety Assessment (970) 491-1350
  • Colorado State University Police Department (non-emergency) (970) 491-6425

For counseling support and assistance, please see the CSU Health Network, which includes a variety of counseling services that can be accessed at: CSU Health Network (  And, the Sexual Assault Victim Assistance Team is a confidential student resource that does not have a reporting requirement and that can be of great help to students who have experienced sexual assault. The web address is: Sexual Assault Victim Assistance Team (


If you are a student who will need accommodations in this class, please do not hesitate to make an appointment to see me to discuss your individual needs. Accommodations must be discussed in a timely manner prior to implementation.   A verifying letter from Resources for Disabled Students may be required before any accommodation is provided.


Week 1           What is Adolescent Literature? and Introductions

08/21   Introductions, Select Literature Circle Texts

Read: The Youth Lens article and the Book Bistro article

Watch: “The Danger of a Single Story.”

Begin: Your choice reading. Anticipate reading about 150 pages of choice per week, and you will be successful.

08/23   Histories and Definitions of Adolescents’ Literature

Resources for Finding and Using YA Literature

Draw table numbers for Book Bistro, Sign up to lead class.

Read: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian


Week 2           Identity Part I

08/28   Discuss The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

08/30   The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Read: American Born Chinese.

Bring: All of your book pages thus far to share in class.


Week 3           Identity Part II


09/06   American Born Chinese

Book Bistro #1

Read: The Serpent King


Week 4           Family and Friendship

09/11   The Serpent King

09/13   The Serpent King

Read: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe


Week 5           Sexuality

09/18   Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

09/20   Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Read: I’ll Give You the Sun


Week 6           Negotiating Death and Grief

09/25   I’ll Give You the Sun

Research project proposal due

Bring: All of your book pages thus far to share in class.

09/27   I’ll Give You the Sun

Book Bistro #2

Read: Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets


Week 7           Mental Health

10/02   Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets

Bring: One text that you’ve loved and enjoyed this semester.

10/04   Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets

Midway Book Talks

Read: Between Shades of Gray


Week 8           Adolescents Across Time and Place: Part I

10/09   Between Shades of Gray

10/11   Between Shades of Gray

Read: Endangered


Week 9           Adolescents Across Time and Place: Part II

10/16   Endangered

Bring: All of your book pages thus far to share in class.

10/18   Endangered

Youth Lens looking across all texts???

Book Bistro #3

Read: Brown Girl Dreaming


Week 10         Adolescents in the “Real World” (Nonfiction)

10/23   Brown Girl Dreaming

10/25   Brown Girl Dreaming

Read: Unwind


Week 11         Adolescents in the Imagined Worlds (Fantasy and Science Fiction)

10/30   Unwind

11/01   Unwind

Read: Literature Circle Text


Week 12         Disability and the Body

11/06   Literature Circle Text of Choice (See first page of syllabus)

Bring: All of your book pages thus far to share in class.

 11/08   Literature Circles

Book Bistro #4

Bring: Anything you need for your literature circle presentation.


Week 13         Disability and the Body

11/13   Literature Circle Presentations

Read: If You Could Be Mine

11/15   No Class (Ricki at NCTE) – Independent Reading and Work on Final Project


Thanksgiving Break; No Class; November 20-24, 2017


Week 14         The Politics of Adolescence

11/27   If You Could Be Mine

11/29   If You Could Be Mine, Skype with Sara Farizan

Read: The Hate U Give

Graduate Students: Paper Due Next Class


Week 15         Adolescents as Agents

12/04   The Hate U Give

Bring: Your completed Reading Portfolio

12/06   The Hate U Give

Book Bistro #5


Week 16         Final

12/11   Final Exam Presentations



The Real Us
Author: Tommy Greenwald
Illustrator: J.P. Coovert
Published August 8th, 2017 by Roaring Brook Press

Summary: Laura Corbett and Damian White are loners, and not by choice. Kids make fun of smart, sarcastic Laura for her weight and artistic Damian for his tendency to sweat through his shirts. Calista Getz, however–well, everyone agrees that Calista is the prettiest girl in the whole school. Maybe even the whole state. Let’s just say that she sits at the popular lunch table. Laura and Damian don’t.

But when Calista wakes up just before the school dance with the BIGGEST pimple she has EVER seen right in the middle of her face, and her attempts to hide it backfire spectacularly, Laura and Damian are the only ones who don’t ignore her. In fact, they seem to see not only past her pimple, but past her popularity, too. Together, they’ll challenge the school’s status quo in this hilarious, heartfelt novel The Real Us, by Tommy Greenwald.

About the Author: Tommy Greenwald has enjoyed reading all his life, which is why he’s appalled that his kids Charlie, Joe and Jack, would prefer getting a dental check-up to checking out a book. After years of pleading, threatening, and bribing, Tommy finally decided the only way to get his kids to read was to write a book about how to get out of reading. The result was Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading. And they read it! (So they say.) The Executive Creative Director at SPOTCO, an entertainment advertising agency in New York City, Tommy lives in Connecticut with his wife, Cathy; his non-reading sons, Charlie, Joe and Jack; and his dogs, Moose and Coco.

Review: Middle school is a time of finding one’s identity. In The Real Us, Tommy Greenwald explores three different examples of kids in middle school and their search for who they really are. Damian is like many of our students who has something to hide from his peers so is quiet and hidden. Laura is friendly and known, but because of her weight is still excluded from most social activities. Then there is Callie. Who seems to have the perfect life, but even she learns through a bump in the road that perfection is not always what it seems. All three of these characters will resonate with readers either as a mirror or a window.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book is going to be loved by middle school students. Add it to your classroom and school libraries, and it will be read and loved!

Discussion Questions: Callie’s life seemed perfect, but it wasn’t. How was it not as it seemed?; Which of the three characters do you relate to the most? Why?; Why did Callie stop being friends with Laura? What does this tell you about the two characters?

Flagged Passages: 

Damian: “I wish they had assigned seats at lunch like they do in class. It would make life a lot easier.”

Callie: “Here is a math equation for you: Sitting in class + A bandage on your nose = Forever.

Everyone gets pimples, Patrick had said.

I don’t.”

Laura: “I start to walk away, since my work here id done. But Ellie has one last question for me.

‘Do you play goalie?’ she asks. ‘Because you kind of look like you could totally block the goal all by yourself.’

Ellie and Ella dissolve into hysterics. I look at Calista, who doesn’t seem amused. But she doesn’t seem mad, either. She doesn’t seem anything.

‘No, I don’t play goalie,’ I answer. ‘I play defense. And you better watch it before I defense your butt with my foot.’

That shuts them up. I walk away.”

Read This If You Love: Roller Girl by Victoria JamiesonInsignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti BowlingMoon Shadow by Erin Downing, Posted by John David Anderson, Real Friends by Shannon Hale, Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan

Recommended For: 



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Don’t Miss Out on Other Blog Tour Stops!

7 August Ms. Yingling Reads | — Review

8 August Maria’s Melange | —”Why I Wrote The Real Us

9 August Log Cabin Library | — Review

10 August Diary of a Happy Librarian | — Review

11 August Always in the Middle |  — “Make ‘Em Laugh”

14 August Randomly Reading | — Review

15 August One Great Book | — Review

16  August Unleashing Readers |  — Review and Giveaway

17  August Mr. D. Reads | — Author Interview

18  August Tommy Greenwald | — Giveaway


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2017 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award Winner & Finalists Announced

The Assembly on Literature for Adolescents (ALAN) of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) is pleased and proud to announce the 2017 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 2017 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award winner is:

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
(Crown Books for Young Readers / Random House Children’s Books)

The 2017 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award finalists are:

Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow
(Delacorte Press / Random House Children’s Books)

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
(Philomel/Penguin Young Readers)

The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock
(Wendy Lamb Books / Random House Children’s Books)

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
(Delacorte Press / Random House Children’s Books)

The winning title and finalists will be honored at the 2017 ALAN Workshop on Monday, November 20th at 4:30pm in St. Louis, MO, and the authors will be invited to participate in a panel discussion.

The 2017 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 2017 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award Committee considered nearly 300 young adult titles throughout the process.  The committee was comprised of eleven members representing the university, K-12 school, and library communities.  They are:

Lisa Scherff, Committee Chair
ELA Teacher, Department Chair
Cypress Lake High School, Fort Myers, FL

Mark Letcher, Past Committee Chair
Assistant Professor of English Education
Lewis University, Romeoville, IL

Joellen Maples
Associate Professor, Graduate Literacy Program
St.  John Fisher College, Rochester, NY

Lisa Morris-Wilkey
Casa Grande Union High School, Casa Grande, AZ

Beth Scanlon
ELA Teacher, Literacy Coach
Cypress Creek High School, Orlando, FL

Jessica Lorentz Smith
Bend Senior High School, Bend, OR

Wendy Stephens
Library Media Specialist
Cullman High School, Cullman, AL

Beth Shaum
ELA Teacher/K-8 Librarian
St. Frances Cabrini Catholic School, Allen Park, MI

Sheila Benson
Associate Professor, English Education
University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls IA

Marie LeJeune
Professor of Literacy
Western Oregon University, Monmouth, OR

Kerry Neuberger
Composition I & II, Eng 9, Model Teacher
Garner-Hayfield-Ventura High School, Garner, IA

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


**For more information about the Walden Award and our time spent on the committee, stop by “My Time on the Walden Committee,” a post by Kellee linking to all Walden Award posts**

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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

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



Tuesday: Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Unbelievable Moments in Books [Spoilers!] from Courtney and Yasmine, 8th grade

Wednesday: The Girl Who Ran: Bobbi Gibb, The First Woman to Run the Boston Marathon by Frances Poletti & Kristina Yee

Thursday: 2017 Picture Book 10 for 10: Favorite Picture Books to Use in the Secondary Classroom #PB10for10

Friday: Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling

Sunday: Author Guest Post!: “An Interview with…Myself!” by Ann Herrick, Author of The Ugly Girl Party


 Last Week’s Journeys


School is back. That means less reading 🙁 But I was able to finish the amazing Miles Morales by Jason Reynolds! What an awesome introduction to the character with really important race issues also discussed. I cannot wait to share this one with my classes.



I finished listening to The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. This book will stick with me forever. I can’t get over how talented Sáenz is. He is one of my favorite authors of all time. It’s like he breathes life into his characters. This book will give teachers a lot to talk about.

I also reread Fair Isn’t Always Equal by Rick Wormeli. I like this book a lot because it forces teachers to (re)consider their views toward assessment, differentiation, and grading. The book covers a lot of topics like the “burning questions” we ask ourselves about grading and whether homework should count. I’m excited to use this book in my Methods class next semester because I think it will spur a lot of debates.


This Week’s Expeditions


  • Currently reading: Unsouled by Neal Shusterman –YES YES YES! I’m so excited to continue this series. If you haven’t read it, it is a wonderful dystopian series (with some serious political undertones).
  • Currently listening: Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley – Oh man! I love this book so much! I was struggling with my last audiobook, so I grabbed this one to help me get out of the listening rut, and it is working! I want to listen to it all the time. If you haven’t read this one, I definitely recommend it.
  • Coming up: Gamer Squad 1 & 2 by Kim Harrington – I look forward to reading and reviewing these for UR.
  • Coming up: Things That Surprise You by Jennifer Maschari – I look forward to reading and reviewing this one for UR.
  • Coming up: Giant Pumpkin Suite by Melanie Heuiser Hill – I look forward to reading and reviewing this one for UR.
  • Hope to get to s0on (will read it before it expires from the library!): Finding Perfect by Elly Schwartz – This one has come highly recommended by many of my friends on Twitter, and I finally got my reserved copy of it from the library.
  • Hope to get to soon: Stealing Our Way Home by Cecelia Galante – I loved Summer of May by Galante and this one has come highly recommended by Michele, so I look forward to it.


I am listening to (and loving) The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock.


Upcoming Week’s Posts

Tuesday: Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award Announcement

Wednesday: Blog Tour with Review and Giveaway: The Real Us by Tommy Greenwald

Thursday: Ricki’s Adolescents’ Literature Class Syllabus

Friday: Vanished by James Ponti

Sunday: Author Guest Post

 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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I ask and answer my own questions. Who better to reveal the real me?

Do you have an inspirational picture, photo or saying that you look to when you are depressed or have a terminal case of writers block?

Yes. It’s that any day when you can make someone smile is a good day. Of course, I hope that my writing will make people smile (and laugh, cry, think), but in every-day life giving (and receiving) smiles is a great reward.

What gets your creative juices flowing?

Daydreaming. My first YA novel, Practice Makes Perfect (now titled My Fake Summer Boyfriend), was a result of daydreaming about what I would have liked my summers to have been when I was a teenager. After that, it’s sitting at the computer and promising myself I’ll write at least two sentences. Once I’ve done that, I’m on my way.

What will stop your creative muse the quickest?

Interruptions and/or knowing there is something else besides writing that really needs to be done. That’s one reason I like to write in the afternoon. I try to get everything else out of the way in the morning, so I don’t have it hanging over my head when I sit down to write.

If you could be anything other than a writer, what would your second choice be?

My second choice would be to own a racing stable and have a horse that would win the Triple Crown. That was my first childhood dream, and it’s still a pretty good one–though not exactly practical. 🙂

If you could be anything other than a human, what would you be and why?

I’d have to say a cat (in a good home with an owner such as myself who believes in totally spoiling her cats). Purring seems like such a cool thing to be able to do.

Imagine your fairy godmother were to wave her magic wand and bestow a million dollars in your bank account. What would you do with the money?

I think I’d set up a fund for people here in Eugene who have endured some unexpected hardship. There are several charities to which I’d donate. And then I’d probably get the Home & Garden TV Curb Appeal crew to work on my house’s curb appeal!

If you were, for some reason, to lose the ability to write, what would you do with all the creative instincts you could no longer use?

I’d love to learn to draw (even though there’s no reason to believe I’d be very good at it!) or study landscape architecture.

Name the one thing in life you do not at this moment possess, but wish to have with all your heart.

An organized house? A tidy yard? Um, wow, I can’t really think of any things I need/want terribly much right now, but I’d love to have all my books hit the best-seller list. 🙂

The Ugly Girl Party
Author: Ann Herrick
Published June 12th, 2017

Tell us about your latest book.

The Ugly Girl Party is a tween/teen novel about a sophomore in high school, Faith, whose wish to get off to a good start at her new high school is shattered on the first day, as she quickly discovers that drop-dead gorgeous Hunter and friends decide she lives in the “wrong” house and wears the “wrong” clothes. They systematically harass her and seem determined to make her life miserable. She fantasizes about how she’ll get even some day when she is a famous singer/actress, but meanwhile just wants to make it through the day. She meets a couple of possible friends, but finds it hard to trust anyone.

When maybe-friend Julia tells her about the upcoming talent show, Faith is determined to win in order to impress her tormentors. Then nice-guy neighbor Riley invites her to the homecoming dance. She’s excited to go until she gets there and realizes that something is up–something terrible. And when she reacts, she finds herself in danger of being suspended from school. Faith questions her own goals, decisions, and values as she struggles to find her way.

It is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble in paperback, and also as an ebook at Amazon.

Ann Herrick is the award-winning author of several books and short stories for kids and teens. Included in the awards her books have won are the ALA Recommended Book for Reluctant Readers, IRA/CBC Children’s Choice and EPIC Best YA Novel Finalist.

Ann grew up in Connecticut, where she graduated from The Morgan School and Quinnipiac University.  She now lives in Oregon with her husband, who was her high-school sweetheart.  Their wonderful daughter is grown, married and gainfully employed, and has given Ann her only grand-dog, Puff, a bloodhound-Rottweiler-beagle mix and six grand-kitties.  While she misses the East Coast, especially houses built before 1900, she enjoys the green valleys, fresh air and low humidity in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.  Ann loves cats, walking, the Oregon Ducks and working in her back yard.  In addition to stories and books for children and young adults, Ann also writes copy for humorous and conventional greeting cards. She loves to hear from her readers and can be contacted through her web site:


Thank you Ann and Ann!



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Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus
Author: Dusti Bowling
Published September 5th, 2017 by Sterling Children’s Books

Summary: Aven Green loves to tell people that she lost her arms in an alligator wrestling match, or a wildfire in Tanzania, but the truth is she was born without them. And when her parents take a job running Stagecoach Pass, a rundown western theme park in Arizona, Aven moves with them across the country knowing that she’ll have to answer the question over and over again.

Her new life takes an unexpected turn when she bonds with Connor, a classmate who also feels isolated because of his own disability, and they discover a room at Stagecoach Pass that holds bigger secrets than Aven ever could have imagined. It’s hard to solve a mystery, help a friend, and face your worst fears. But Aven’s about to discover she can do it all . . . even without arms.


*“Aven is a perky, hilarious, and inspiring protagonist whose attitude and humor will linger even after the last page has turned.” —School Library Journal (Starred review)

“Connor’s Tourette’s support-group meetings and Aven’s witty, increasingly honest discussions of the pros and cons of “lack of armage” give the book excellent educational potential. . . . its portrayal of characters with rarely depicted disabilities is informative, funny, and supportive.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Bowling’s sensitive and funny novel . . . demonstrates how negotiating others’ discomfort can be one of the most challenging aspects of having a physical difference and how friendship can mitigate that discomfort. . . . [an] openhearted, empathic book. —Publishers Weekly

Review: From the very first page, you know that Aven is awesome. In the first paragraph you learn that she doesn’t have arms but it doesn’t matter to her. The only reason why she is upset is because someone else freaked out about her armlessness. She is brave and funny and resilient. The way that she is able to joke around about her physical difference to help ease the reader and the other characters is a true talent. The stories she creates about what happened to her arms just to freak people out truly cracked me up. And Aven’s awesomeness is followed closely by her parents’. I adore them. They are the pinnacle of parents. They are kind yet tough and are raising an independent, wonderful young woman. Then there is Connor who is also so well-crafted. His Tourette’s syndrome is dealt with in a thoughtful way and also doesn’t define Connor just like Aven’s armlessness doesn’t define her. This is a book of amazing characters coming together to find their place in the world.

You are going to love this book. Your students are going to love this book. Parents are going to love this book. Your fellow teachers are going to love this book. This is a book that is going to get a lot of love!

Check out Dusti’s “Spotlight on Dusti Bowling” feature in Publishers Weekly to hear more about her inspirations.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Please add this title to your collection of read aloud and classroom library books that you share with students to promote empathy, kindness, and friendship with those with differences as well as facing hardship and stepping up to challenges. You will not be disappointed!

Discussion Questions: After reading Aven and Connor’s story, how has your attitude and future actions towards those with differences changed?; How was Aven’s story inspiring to you?; Why did you feel that author made the choice to have Aven’s family move at the beginning of the book?; Did you predict the connection to Stagecoach Pass?; How were Connor and Aven able to help each other?

Flagged Passages: “When I was little, a kid pointed at me on the playground and shouted, ‘Her arms fell off!’ then ran away screaming in terror to his mom, who had to cuddle him on her lap and rub his head for like ten mintues to get him to calm down. I think, up until then, I hadn’t thought about the idea that my arms must have actually fallen off at some point in my life. I had never really thought about not having arms at all.

My missing arms weren’t an issue for me or my parents. I never once heard either of them say, ‘Oh, no, Aven can’t possibly do that because that’s only for armed people,’ or ‘Poor Aven is so helpless without arms,’ or ‘Maybe Aven can do that one day, you know, if she ever grows arms.’ They always said things like, ‘You’ll have to do this differently from other people, but you can manage,’ and ‘I know this is challenging for you. Keep trying,’ and ‘You’re capable of anything Aven.’

I had never realized just how different I was until that day that horrible kid shouted about my arms having fallen off. For the first time I found myself aware of my total armlessness, and I guess I felt like I was sort of naked all of a sudden. So I, too, ran to my mom, and she scooped me up and carried me away from the park, allowing my tears and snot to soak her shirt.” (Chapter 1)

Read This If You Love: Wonder by RJ Palacio, Forget Me Not by Ellie Terry, Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper, The Honest Truth by Dan GemeinhartFish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, How to Speak Dolphin by Ginny RorbyRain Reign by Ann M. MartinEmmanuel’s Dream by Laurie Ann Thompson

Recommended For: 



**Thank you to Dusti Bowling and Sterling for providing a copy for review!**

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