Pippa Park Raises Her Game
Author: Erin Yun
Published February 4th, 2020 by Fabled Film Press

Summary: Life is full of great expectations for Korean American Pippa Park. It seems like everyone, from her family to the other kids at school, has a plan for how her life should look. So when Pippa gets a mysterious basketball scholarship to Lakeview Private, she jumps at the chance to reinvent herself by following the “Rules of Cool.”

At Lakeview, Pippa juggles old and new friends, an unrequited crush, and the pressure to perform academically and athletically while keeping her past and her family’s laundromat a secret from her elite new classmates. But when Pippa begins to receive a string of hateful, anonymous messages via social media, her carefully built persona is threatened.

As things begin to spiral out of control, Pippa discovers the real reason she was admitted to Lakeview and wonders if she can keep her old and new lives separate, or if she should even try.

A Contemporary Reimagining of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens for Middle Graders

About the Author: Erin Yun grew up in Frisco, Texas. She received her BFA in English from New York University and served as president of its policy debate team. This experience came in handy when she became the debate consultant for the Tony-nominated Best Play on Broadway―What the Constitution Means to Me. Erin is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and has written reviews and articles for BookBrowse. She developed her author program, an interactive writing workshop, which she has conducted in person and virtually at schools, libraries, and bookstores. She currently lives in New York City, and yes―she used to play basketball as a middle grader!

  1. She’s obsessed with personality quizzes and takes them for her characters.
  2. She is half Korean, and half Polish/Germanic.
  3. Her favorite foods include: kimchi-jjigae, cherry ice cream, and walnut cakes filled with red bean.
  4. She ran a bubblegum-selling business in middle school until it was shut down.
  5. Her family lore says that her grandfather lost part of his farm in a game of Go-Stop.
  6. She likes creating scavenger hunts in which participants dress like secret agents and follow clues.
  7. Her favorite places in the world include Seoul, London, and Tokyo.
  8. She was president of the New York University policy debate team.
  9. Her family dogs, Belle and Yoko, both bark incredibly loudly despite being foolishly tiny.
  10. She lives in New York City, but folks can tell she grew up in Texas by how often she says ya’ll.

Review: Okay, okay, I know we aren’t supposed to judge a book by its cover, but this cover was yelling READ ME to me, and I am so glad that I finally had the chance to and now share it with you all!

There is so much good happening in this book!

First, I love a good retelling! It brings a classical tale and its themes to a modern era.

Second, so many readers are going to connect with Pippa either because they understand what it is like to go to a new school or to fit in with a cool crowd or to have people not understand how important something is to you.

Third, there is so much to discuss with the book! You’ll see below in the discussion questions that in addition to connecting it with Great Expectations, there are opportunities to discuss family, the American Dream, culture, empathy, friendship, and more!

Fourth, I loved how complex the characters and situations were. Pippa is our protagonist but anything but perfect. Mina, Pippa’s sister, is so strict and seems heartless, but there is more there. Eliot is so cold, but there is a whole story there. And more! Such truth in the characterization of these middle schoolers and secondary characters.

Author Guest Post: Visit our Author Guest Post by Erin Yun as she shares five classics reimagined as middle grade novels.

Also, in her latest blog, Erin opened up on why she wrote this Korean American story for kids and how the recent #AAPI conversation about the lack of diverse Asian voices mirrors her own experience as a young reader. Read the blog here.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: At Pippa, there are so many wonderful resources to help use this book in classrooms!

The Tween Book Club Activity Kit includes the discussion questions below, word games, writing prompts, language arts guide, virtual author visit program, and an escape room activity! (The Common Core Language Arts Guide, Escape Room Activity, and Author Program Worksheet can also be downloaded separately.)

Erin Yun is also available for author events!

Discussion Questions: 

From the back matter (some aspects of the questions removed because of spoilers)

  • Pippa isn’t an orphan, but at times she feels like one. Describe Pippa’s relationship with Mina, her older sister. Why is Mina so tough on Pippa? Discuss whether Mina resents taking care of Pippa. How is Jung-Hwa, Mina’s husband, a father figure to Pippa? How does he make Pippa feel better after she has a fight with Mina?
  • What is the definition of family? Explain why Pippa’s mother had to return to Korea. How are Mina and Jung-Hwa realizing the American Dream? Discuss how Pippa’s family situation is similar to that of new American’s throughout our nation. How are many of them separated from their loved ones? Discuss why it’s important to celebrate all types of families.
  • Pippa says, “At Lakeview I could be anyone, as long as they didn’t find out the truth about me.” What doesn’t she want the kids at Lakeview to know about her? What does she do to keep her home life private? What does Pippa think would happen if the girls found out the truth about her?
  • How does trying to fit in cause Pippa Pippa to lose her sense of self? Why is she ashamed of her family and the way they live?
  • Pippa’s best friend at Victoria Middle School is Buddy Johnson. Think about how she betrays him.
  • Why does Pippa think that Eliot’s life is more messed up than hers? How does knowing about his family make her better understand Eliot?
  • Olive Giordana is the student ambassador that shows Pippa around the school. How does Olive’s desire to be popular affect her judgement?
  • Discuss what Jung-Hwa means when he says, “The lower you fall, the more room you have to rise.” What is Pippa’s lowest point? How do you know that she is about to rise? Have you ever felt that way?
  • Pippa’s family celebrates Chuseok: Korean Thanksgiving Day. Learn more about the traditions associated with this holiday on the Internet. Describe and discuss the holiday and the food that is prepared. What cultural holidays does your family celebrate? Is there anything special that you eat?
  • Pippa Park Raises Her Game is a contemporary reimagining of Great Expectations. Use books or the Internet to find out about the main characters in Great Expectations. What is each character’s counterpart in Pippa Park Raises Her Game? List the characters side by side and as a group apply two or three adjectives that best describe each of them.
  • Think about all that has happened to Pippa. Then consider the following quote from Great Expectations: “And it was not until I began to think, that I began fully to know how wrecked I was, and how the ship in which I had sailed was gone to pieces.” What is the metaphorical ship that Pippa sails? at what point does Pippa realized “how wrecked” her life is? How does she turn her life around once she begins “thinking”?
  • If you were to pick on character from Pippa Park Raises Her Game who is most like you, who would it be and why? Who is most unlike you and why? Which character from the book would you want as your friend and why?

Flagged Passages: “Chapter One: The Strange Encounter

I was the only person in the park.

Tucking a damp strand of hair back behind one ear, I surveyed the abandoned slides and empty benches. It was just past six p.m. on a Friday, but it looked like nobody else wanted to be out in the rain. As I strode briskly forward, icy wind numbed the tips of my fingers, making me clutch my basketball tighter. Even though we hadn’t officially left summer behind, the cold front that had settle over Victoria, Massachusetts, did show any signs of leaving.

So … empty court. Lousy weather. And things at home were just as dismal.

My older sister, Mina, had just grilled me for nearly an hour after finding out about the ‘unacceptable’ grade I had received on my latest algebra quiz. When she finally finished, I stormed out of the apartment, making sure to grab my basketball and water bottle; I planned on being gone awhile. Now I kind of wish I had taken a warmer jacket, too. Or at least a hat. But rain or shine, I wasn’t ready to go home yet.”

Read This If You Love: Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen by Sarah Kapit; Bouncing Back by Scott Ostler; Kiki and Jacque by Susan Ross; It Doesn’t Take a Genius by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich; Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg

Recommended For: 



**Thank you to Dienesa at Fabled Films for providing a copy for review!!**

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

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

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

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

Happy reading!



Tuesday: It Doesn’t Take a Genius by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

Thursday: Furia by Yamile Saied Méndez

Sunday: Author Guest Post: “The Importance of Empathy” by Mel Darbon, Author of Rosie Loves Jack

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



My students are OBSESSED with mangas, so I am trying to read as many as I can to see if they are something I want to curate for my library. In my journey, a student recommended the Big Hero 6 manga by Haruki Ueno, and I was able to find them at my public library. They are so much fun–a perfect mix of changes from the movie and all of the feels of the movie.

Trent and I also finished listening to the 5th Captain Underpants. Onto the 6th!

Little Witch Academia by Yoh Yoshinari is another manga series that was recommended to me, and I found at the public library, and it is a cute witch academy story with adventure, school drama, and a funny protagonist.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo is the first in a duology but also a continuation of Shadow & Bone, and this heist book was amazing! Ended on a drastic cliffhanger which is why you’ll see Crooked Kingdom on my currently reading list.

I’ll be reviewing Pippa Park for you this week!

Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko is definitely one of the best fantasy novels I have ever read. I loved everything about it: the characters, the world, the traditions, the conflict… everything. And the audiobook was beautiful! I especially loved hearing the songs sung.

While working on my #MustReadin2021 post, I realized that I, for whatever reason, didn’t mark A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramée as read, so I never shared it here on IMWAYR! I couldn’t let that past, even though I did finish it at least a month ago:

A Good Kind of Trouble is a perfect middle school book! It looks at changing identities, what true friends are like, and advocating for yourself.

To learn more about any of these books, check out my 2021 Goodreads Challenge page  or my read bookshelf on Goodreads.


My kids loved Yes & No by Elisha Cooper. The grumpy morning cat reminded my 4yo of himself, and the energetic morning dog felt very much like my 7yo. They laughed and laughed and then asked to read it again.

Sunrise Summer by Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr offers readers a glimpse of what a summer would be like on the Alaskan tundra. This would be a great book to read in the first week of school as students reflect on what they did over the summer. This untraditional, hard-working summer is a great story.

Jerry Craft is an amazing graphic novelist. I loved New Kid, and this companion was wonderfully written. The messages and themes will stick with readers. I recommend this one to those who haven’t read it yet! (I know it came out last year, and I am behind on reading it! I regret not reading it sooner!)

This was my SECOND time reading The Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley—this time with my ears. Gosh, this story is stunning, and I expect I’ll be reading it a third time. I am adopting this one for my course in the fall and can’t wait to talk about it with students.



Reading: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Reading during family reading time: Little Witch Academia Vol 3 by Yoh Yoshinari

Trent reading during family reading time: Hilda and the Bird Parade by Luke Pearson

Jim reading during family reading time: Fables Vol 2: Animal Farm by Bill Willingham

Listening: This Train is Being Held by Ismée Willems

Trent and I listening to: Captain Underpants #6 by Dav Pilkey


I am reading several books at once (and one with each child), but I’ll comment on one I am LOVING, which is Charming as a Verby by Ben Philippe. In fact, writing this post is making me a bit antsy because I want to get back to this book. So, goodnight, all!


Tuesday: Pippa Park Raises Her Game by Erin Yun

Thursday: #MustReadin2021 Update

Saturday: Sofia’s Kids’ Corner: Breathing Underwater by Sarah Allen


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


The Importance of Empathy: Making a Connection with a Viewpoint and Feelings That Are Not Your Own

Without empathy you’ll walk by that homeless person in the street.”

Barack Obama

Why is empathy so important? I think this is a vital question to ask ourselves, especially in a world where our obsession with “self” has spiraled out of control.

Empathy is seeing, listening, and feeling with another person. Research has proven without a doubt that it can be taught and that by doing so, we give ourselves a chance to raise an empathetic generation. Compassion helps make the world a better place, without it intolerance and contempt become the norm.

Empathy isn’t feeling for somebody, it’s feeling with them. When you can see something from someone else’s perspective, you can support them so much better. Empathy transports you outside of your own landscape and into another person’s world and provides an opportunity for a person to reflect on their own perceptions and behaviour, while making a connection with someone else’s viewpoint and feelings. Without this connection we can become very inward-looking and isolated, which could lead to mental health problems. Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.

Stories have the power to build empathy and to endow children with the ability to understand different perspectives to their own. From this, children will learn how to interact with other human beings, how to form relationships, and how to navigate complex emotions. Writers have an important role to play since books transport you into somebody else’s life. The more you empathize with the characters in a book, the more you understand other people’s feelings. A writer must make their characters as fully rounded and as real as they can, so that their emotions connect with the reader. If this is the case, then empathy naturally follows on.

My book Rosie Loves Jack is written to show what it’s like to be a teenage girl with Down syndrome navigating a sometimes harsh and uncomprehending world. My character, Rosie, encounters many different people on her journey to be reunited with her boyfriend—some kind, some cruel—but she carries on regardless, fighting for what is right.

The book was inspired by my brother, who has a profound developmental disability. I have been an eyewitness on many occasions when my brother has been either verbally abused or completely ignored, as though he doesn’t count as a normal human being. My family has even been told that he should never have been born. I always knew that one day I would give my brother a voice, because I wanted people to see that his life is not unworthy and that we need to look beyond disability to ability. His experiences fueled my desire to help dispel the myths of disability because I need to make it clear that when you have a brother like mine the positives far outstrip the negatives. My brother has taught me compassion, kindness, patience, and above all else the ability to empathize.

My work later on as a teaching assistant with teenagers with Down syndrome reinforced my desire to write an inclusive book, as every one of these young people had a voice inside them, which needed to be heard.

It was at this time that I met the girl who inspired my character Rosie in Rosie Loves Jack. She was kind, funny, and fiercely independent, determined to get a job, fall in love, and one day get married. I learned from her how much people with Down syndrome are attuned to other’s feelings. They have incredible empathy—and always see the good in the world. I realized how much we all have to learn from them, and I wanted my character Rosie to show this through her innocent but brave eyes and for the reader to wonder at the world with her and to learn through her that kindness and compassion are so important. I wanted my reader to really feel and understand what it’s like to have assumptions made about you because of the way you look by “putting on Rosie’s shoes” and walking with her on her journey.

“Each one of us has lived through some devastation, some loneliness, some weather superstorm, or spiritual superstorm, when we look at each other we must say, I understand. I understand how you feel because I have been there myself. We must support each other and empathize with each other because each of us is more alike than we are unlike.”

                                                                                                              Maya Angelou

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: 

There is no right or wrong way to teach young people about compassion. It’s simply about listening, being emotionally connected and non-judgmental, and letting people know that they are not alone. In this workshop I want to help students to really think about what empathy means and how they can relate it to themselves and conduct themselves in the future. I want them to look beyond their own world and see it through new eyes.

Exercise 1

Ask the students to write down exactly what the word empathy means to them and why they think it is important to promote empathy in our lives.

Exercise 2

Sharing emotions and empathizing with them. Young people can find it hard to articulate their own emotions, so in this initial exercise I get them to warm up by thinking about and observing an event in my book and some of the characters reactions to.

  1. Read page 18–20 of Rosie Loves Jack. This is the scene where Rosie, after eight days of not hearing from her boyfriend Jack, overhears a conversation between her parents, mentioning some postcards that Jack has sent to her. Rosie’s father has hidden the postcards in his office in their house, so that Rosie thinks Jack doesn’t care about her anymore.
  2. Write down your thoughts on how you would feel if you were either Rosie or Jack and found this out. Get some of the students to read out their answers.
  3. Now switch to Rosie’s father’s viewpoint. Are his fears that Jack might hurt Rosie justified? Stand in his shoes and imagine what it would be like for a parent to have a daughter who is with someone who can be violent, even though Jack’s brain injury is not his fault and he never loses his temper with Rosie. Does Rosie’s father have the right to hide the postcards? It can be interesting to get two of your students to play the parts of Rosie and her father and each argue their case. The students can direct questions at them to see how they would respond in character. Get the two students playing the parts to swap over, so that they then argue from the opposite viewpoint.

Exercise 3

This is where the students choose one of their own emotional experiences to write about. Ask them to think of a time that they have been unjustly treated, because we all have a built-in sense of fairness. To start them off it can help to recount a time when you have been treated unfairly yourself. As an example, I’d tell the class about an incident when I was fifteen and my best friend stole a large cream cake from the teacher’s dining room and ran up to the top field to eat it. I got the blame for it, as someone said they’d seen me in the vicinity at the time it disappeared. I had to stay behind after school for a week doing extra work. I’m still fuming now! This is a powerful exercise to do, as students can get very passionate about what happened to them—and the other students can readily empathize with them. First, ask them to record exactly what happened and then to expand on how it made them feel. Get some of the students to read them out to the class. This is a great exercise for eliciting emotions and sharing them. Injustice can stir many painful feelings like anger, sadness, helplessness, frustration, and vengeance, and you can see and hear the sense of injustice building as the students recount their stories.

Exercise 4

Have the names of every student in the class folded up in a hat or box. Get each student to pick a name out of the hat. They then have to write a positive, kind, and thoughtful note of encouragement about the person they have picked, which they then hand over to that student at the end of the session. Encourage the class to read out what they have written about each person. These are often words that each child will never forget and is a great lesson in being mindful and providing an opportunity for each student to reflect on their own perceptions and behaviour.

Published March 1st, 2021 by Peachtree Publishing Company

About the Book: Rosie is a 16-year-old girl with Down syndrome, fighting for little freedoms, tolerance, and love amid the vast landscape of London in Mel Darbon’s powerful debut YA novel Rosie Loves Jack (Peachtree Publishing; March 2021; ISBN : 978-1-68263-289-5; HC $17.99; Ages 12+).

Rosie loves Jack. Jack loves Rosie. So when they are separated, Rosie will do anything to find the boy who makes the sun shine in her head. Even run away from home. Even struggle across London and brave the Tube stations to travel to Brighton alone during a snowstorm. Even though people might think a girl like Rosie could never survive on her own. Rosie must deal with new situations and experiences and some frightening unfamiliar places and people, but she’s determined to prove to everyone, especially her parents, that she’s just as capable as anyone at following her heart.

Written from Rosie’s perspective, this riveting novel gives readers an underrepresented but much-needed and thoughtful point of view. Author Mel Darbon’s voice-driven plot will immediately pull readers into Rosie’s world and have them excited, worried, proud, and cheering alongside her for every step of the journey, which is filled with lighthearted as well as darker moments. Featuring a diverse cast of characters and highlighting the range of abilities within the special needs community, this compassionate story drives home the message that we are all humans with feelings and the need to be valued and loved. Rosie Loves Jack was reviewed by a sensitivity reader from the Down syndrome community for accurate representation.

About the Author: MEL DARBON began telling stories to her autistic younger brother when they were children and has worked as a theater designer, freelance artist, teacher for adults with learning disabilities, and workshop teacher for teenage moms and young offenders. Mel is now focused on writing her second novel and developing creative writing workshops that encourage students with mixed abilities to work together for acceptance and inclusion. A graduate of Bath Spa’s MA in Writing for Young People, she lives in England. Follow her on Twitter @DarbonMel.

Thank you, Mel, for this wonderful post and empathy exercise! We agree that teaching about empathy all through school is so important!

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Author: Yamile Saied Méndez
Published: September 15, 2020 by Algonquin

Summary: An #ownvoices contemporary YA set in Argentina, about a rising soccer star who must put everything on the line—even her blooming love story—to follow her dreams.

In Rosario, Argentina, Camila Hassan lives a double life.

At home, she is a careful daughter, living within her mother’s narrow expectations, in her rising-soccer-star brother’s shadow, and under the abusive rule of her short-tempered father.

On the field, she is La Furia, a powerhouse of skill and talent. When her team qualifies for the South American tournament, Camila gets the chance to see just how far those talents can take her. In her wildest dreams, she’d get an athletic scholarship to a North American university.

But the path ahead isn’t easy. Her parents don’t know about her passion. They wouldn’t allow a girl to play fútbol—and she needs their permission to go any farther. And the boy she once loved is back in town. Since he left, Diego has become an international star, playing in Italy for the renowned team Juventus. Camila doesn’t have time to be distracted by her feelings for him. Things aren’t the same as when he left: she has her own passions and ambitions now, and La Furia cannot be denied. As her life becomes more complicated, Camila is forced to face her secrets and make her way in a world with no place for the dreams and ambition of a girl like her.

But is it possible that she’s becoming too American—as her father accuses—and what does it mean when her feelings for Harrison and Neo start to change? Ana will spend her year learning that the rules of English may be confounding, but there are no rules when it comes to love.

With playful and poetic breakouts exploring the idiosyncrasies of the English language, Love in English tells a story that is simultaneously charming and romantic, while articulating a deeper story about what it means to become “American.”

Ricki’s Review: I lost a lot of sleep reading this book. I could not stop reading! Camila’s voice was so strong that I was really drawn to her story. I am not a particularly athletic person, yet I loved reading about the soccer within this book. It is set in Argentina, which offered a perspective of the country. It made me want to visit Argentina. There are many rich themes in this text that make it very teachable—in particular, it offers depictions of domestic abuse, sexism, and strength. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I would love to use this book with a translanguaging lens of analysis. It would also be interesting to look at feminist theory as a theoretical framing of the text. But it isn’t about me–instead, I’d ask students what they find interesting in the text and what they want to learn more about. This allows for a freedom of curiosity to explore topics of interest from the text (and there are many!).

Discussion Questions:

  • How do gender roles differ related to soccer in Argentina, according to Camila’s perspective?
  • What is the role of family in the text?
  • What does Camila’s mother teach readers? Her brother? Her best friend?
  • Do you think Camila makes the right choices regarding her future? Why or why not?

Flagged Passage: “Our family was stuck in a cosmic hamster wheel of toxic love, making the same mistakes, saying the same words, being hurt in the same ways generation after generation. I didn’t want to keep playing a role in this tragedy of errors.”

Read This Book If You Loved: Love in English by Maria E. Andreu;  Ask Me No Questions by Marina Budhos, Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok; YA Books with Sports

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall litcirclesbuttonsmall

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It Doesn’t Take a Genius
Author: Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
Published April 13th, 2021 by Six Foot Press

Summary: Emmett and his older brother Luke have always been “Batman and Robin,” though they’re quick to bicker about who’s who. Spending the summer at a historic Black summer camp seems like a wonderful adventure for the two to share, but since Luke is there as a junior counselor, he seems to spend all of his time being everyone else’s big brother, and ignoring Emmett.

As Luke seems to be moving on to new adventures, Emmett struggles in unexpected ways, especially in swim class and the “It Takes A Village” entrepreneurship class. Without his brother to turn to for support, Emmett works to build a new crew of “superfriends,” who’ll help him plan something spectacular for the end-of-camp awards night and celebration. Along the way, Emmett learns that no matter what, there can be many ways to define family.

It Doesn’t Take a Genius is the middle grade follow-up novel to Six Foot Pictures’ 2019 film Boy Genius starring Miles Brown (Black-ish), in his breakout role, Rita Wilson, and Nora Dunn. Rhuday-Perkovich was guided by conversations with the actors and screenwriter of Boy Genius as she picked up the thread of Emmett’s story at the end of the film, though it’s not necessary to see the movie to enjoy this continuation. In this coming-of-age tale, Emmett is used to being the smartest in the room but must reexamine how he defines himself when he’s suddenly one of many creative and brilliant peers at camp. Highlighting famous pillars of Black history and pop culture, past and present, Rhuday-Perkovich celebrates Black excellence and joy as Emmett comes into his own.

About the Author: Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich is the author of 8th Grade Superzero, which was named a Notable Book for a Global Society, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, an adaptation for Sesame Workshop’s Ghostwriter, and Operation Sisterhood. She is the coauthor of NAACP Image Award nominee Two Naomis, a Junior Library Guild selection, and its sequel, Naomis Too. She also writes nonfiction, including Above and Beyond: NASA’s Journey to Tomorrow, Someday is Now: Clara Luper and the 1958 Oklahoma City Sit-Ins, and Saving Earth: Climate Change and the Fight for Our Future.

Olugbemisola is a member of the Brown Bookshelf, editor of the We Need Diverse Books anthology The Hero Next Door, and teaches at the Solstice MFA Program in Creative Writing. She holds an MA in education, and has written frequently on parenting and literacy-related topics for PBS Parents, Brightly, American Baby, Healthy Kids, and other outlets. Visit her online at and on Instagram: @olugbemisolarhudayperkovich.

Review: I love a good summer camp book, and It Doesn’t Take a Genius has the total camp vibe but to a different level as Emmett is immersed in Black excellence and culture at Camp DuBois. Camp DuBois, though quite fancy, intense, and education-packed, still gives off great summer camp vibes as it is filled with many of the same struggles any camp book is filled with: being away from home, being with new people, and figuring out a different culture.

Emmett’s journey of standing on his own two feet separate from his brother was so important. It showed that finding your own passions, friends, and goals is essential in your identity. The characterization of Emmett, and all of the secondary characters, is what truly raises this book to a different level. I love his mom, his brother, his friends, his crush, his teachers, and even his nemesis. They all, even though secondary, have pretty detailed character development, and you finish the book feeling like you have a bunch of new friends.

Please know, when I started It Doesn’t Take a Genius, I had not seen Boy Genius, and it doesn’t matter. Rhuday-Perkovich did a fantastic job bringing the characters to life both as an extension of the film but also as a standalone away from the film. When I was done, I did jump on Hoopla and watched it–then it take the experience to a different level. It was like reading a prequel!

As soon as I was done with the book and the movie, I had so many questions, and I was so excited that Olugbemisola was open to answering some of them:

Q&A with Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich: 

  • Q: How did this come about?! I love the idea of a book continuing the story of a movie!
    • A: Six Foot was familiar with my debut novel, 8th Grade Superzero, and approached my agent about writing a companion to the film, and I love a challenge, so I was intrigued right away! The idea of engaging with a story across different media really appealed to me, and when I watched the film, Miles Brown and Skylan Brooks really drew my heart to the characters – I wanted to know more!
  • Q: How much freedom did you have in character?
    • A: Six Foot gave me a lot freedom! Basically, I just had to make sure the story included Emmett. I really appreciated the opportunity to get grounded in the characters and that particular story, and then take flight from there.
  • Q: For example, I noticed mom is a bit tougher in your book and E loves to dance.
    • A: That’s so funny, I don’t think of mom as tough at all in IT DOESN’T TAKE A GENIUS! In fact, I think I would have been furious with Emmett’s Camp DuBois scheme. I think she’s a very engaged single mom with big hopes and dreams for her children, and for herself. E’s love of dance is really because of Miles Brown. I focused on Emmett and Luke in the book because Miles’ and Skylan Brooks’ performances in the film were so vibrant and nuanced – they really inhabited their characters beautifully. I know that Miles is a dancer and thought that it would be nice to incorporate that part of his real life in this character’s.
  • Q: Any reason why you chose to not have Mary in the book and why you do not acknowledge that Mac got arrested?
    • A: Mary didn’t fit into the book’s setting (an all-Black camp, away from home). The same for Mac; and though he was a very big part of the film, outside of referencing their antagonistic, competitive relationship, I didn’t think he figured too much in a story that took place after the events of the film. Emmett has a new nemesis in IT DOESN’T TAKE A GENIUS: Derek. But this time, he has to figure out how to deal with him without Luke’s help!
  • Q: How did you go about meeting the goal of being an extension of the movie but it also being a stand alone book?
    • A: Because Six Foot gave me so much freedom, I really just tried to let what I learned from the film about the characters inform the book. I really loved Emmett and Luke, and wanted to give them a space where they could be, to paraphrase Langston Hughes (and Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop). “free within themselves,” to be Black without apology, to be joyful in all of the different ways that children and teens can be, to be allowed to have the full emotional lives that often Black characters don’t get to have in widely available stories. Miles’ and Skylan’s performances, Bridget Stokes’ wonderful directing, the cinematography of Meena Singh, the animation, the colors, fantasy sequences – all of the elements of the film helped deepen my own understanding of the characters, and sort of imagine them into a new story, with (I hope) their core selves intact. I really hope that it offers another dimension of these characters’ lives, and not work in opposition to the film! I had a lot of fun with these characters, and giving E these new friends like Michelle, Natasha, and Charles helped me help him become more of himself.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Black to the Future, a camp course within the book, could be taken straight from the pages and moved into classrooms. The discussions within that class in the novel are important, poignant, and ones that we should be having with students.

For example, the very first class in the book, Charisse, the teacher asks: “‘Nina Simone spoke about the artist’s responsibility being to ‘reflect the times.’ ‘An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times. I think that is true of painters, sculptures, poets, musicians. As far as I’m concerned, it’s their choice, but I CHOOSE to reflect the times and situations in which I find myself. That, to me, is my duty. And at this crucial time in our lives, when everything is so desperate, when every day is a matter of survival, I don’t think you can help but be involved.’ Let’s start there. What do you think that means?'” Then the kids got in small groups to discuss, and it was pretty brilliant. And this is just ONE example!

Additionally, the book is filled with Black cultural icons from activists to dancers to movie makers to scientists and everyone in between. It Doesn’t Take a Genius, as a read aloud, would be a phenomenal way to introduce our students to more Black culture and history.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What would your mom have done if you did what Emmett did?
  • How does Emmett’s realization about his mother’s brilliance change his point of view on himself and his mom?
  • How does Emmett’s father’s mental illness affect Emmett even though he has passed away?
  • How does learning about Black culture and history help Emmett understand himself and his future?
  • How is Emmett’s swimming test and extended metaphor for his whole time at Camp Dubois?
  • How does Luke’s relationship with Derek alter his relationship with Emmett? How could Emmett had dealt with it better? How could Luke have?
  • Which of the courses that Emmett took at camp would you want to take and why?
  • Emmett loves working with his friends and helping them, but how did this end up spreading him too thin and causing him to lose his own passions?
  • How does Camp DuBois help with Emmett’s views of himself, both positively and negatively?
  • Who is someone new you learned about in the book that you would like to know more about?

Flagged Passages: “Chapter 5: The house meeting in the lounge is short and all about the rules. Most of the kids from this dorm are musicians, but I hear a couple of kids talking about Street Style, so there are dancers too. Marcus wasn’t kidding–I meet a girl from Jamaica who introduces herself as ‘Clarinet, first chair, all-state’ as if I know what that means; then another from Jamaica, Queens, who says she’s a a ‘social media influencer’ and offers to sell me some likes; a boy from Chicago who says he can hook us up with the best popcorn ever; and a Nigerian kid everyone calls Prince who plays guitar. I try to throw debate champion into conversation to just keep up, but around here, that’s as special as saying grocery list.”

Read This If You Love: 8th Grade Superzero by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert, New Kid by Jerry Craft, I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes, Camp Rolling Hills series by Stacy Davidowitz

Recommended For: 



**Thank you to Casey at Media Masters for providing a copy for review and for Olugbemisola for doing a Q&A with me!**


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

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

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

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

Happy reading!


Tuesday: Aven Green, Sleuthing Machine by Dusti Bowling

Thursday: King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender

Sunday: Author Lori Alexander Introduces A Sporting Chance: How Paralympics Founder Ludwig Guttman Saved Lives with Sports and its Teaching Guide

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



I will be reviewing Rescue at Lake Wild and It Doesn’t Take a Genius on the blog this week and in a couple of weeks 🙂

  • I have finished all of the Promised Neverland, and now I have to wait until May then July to get the last two mangas! I am so distraught! I am happy that 18 ended with a bit of a conclusion of one story though.
  • Since mangas are the HOT topic in the library right now, I am trying to read any that have been deemed maybe middle school appropriate, so I read Cells at Work and Fruits Basket these last two weeks, and I am happy to say that they are now both in my school library making kids super happy!
  • Apple by Eric Gansworth is such an important book! I hope that many a high school English (and history!) teacher are pulling excerpts out to use in their classrooms! Gansworth knows how to craft a poem and a book of poems (make sure to read the notes at the end for complete understanding of the book’s structure). 
  • Words on Bathroom Walls by Julia Walton is such an engaging, informative, and sad read. It is a good insight into schizophrenia, which is not often shared in young adult books, and loving someone with a mental illness.
  • Edmund, the Elephant Who Forgot by Kate Dalgleish, illustrated by Isobel Lundie is so silly! I love the rhyming fun as Edmund’s friend tries to help Edmund remember what to get for his brother’s birthday party, but his help ends up possibly making it worse leading to quite a disaster at the end.
  • The Little Spacecraft Who Could: New Horizons’ Amazing Journey to Pluto and Arrokoth by Joyce Lapin, illustrated by Simona Ceccarelli has so much going for it! It has a fun narrative about the space craft, but is also full of science and history about the New Horizons mission. I loved the side bars about dwarf planets, mythology, space craft parts, and more–it adds a whole other level to the book.

To learn more about any of these books, check out my 2021 Goodreads Challenge page  or my read bookshelf on Goodreads.


I finished Wishtree by Katherine Applegate with my 7yo. I’ve always wanted to read this book, and I am glad I (we) did. It offers such a respect for the land, and this really touched my heart. Today, my partner tied a rope around a tree to pull out a dead shrub. My 7yo became frantic because he thought my partner was going to tear down the tree. The book made a lasting impact on him! I love how the book also teaches about immigration and kindness.

I also finished Furia by Yamile Saied Méndez. I love, loved this book, and I am going to review it in full on Thursday.



I’m reading: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

I’m listening to: Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko

I’m reading during family reading time: Big Hero 6 (Manga) Volume 1 by Haruki Ueno

Trent and I are reading: Captain Underpants #5 by Dav Pilkey

Trent is reading during family reading time: Unicorn of Many Hats by Dana Simpson


I am reading with my ears: Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley (I’ve read it previously, but I wanted to listen on audio.)

I am reading with my eyes: Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez

I am listening with the kids: When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller

7yo is reading to me: The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen



Tuesday: It Doesn’t Take a Genius by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

Thursday: Furia by Yamile Saied Méndez

Sunday: Author Guest Post by Mel Darbon, Author of Rosie Loves Jack


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

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As a 6th grader living in San Diego, CA, there was quite a buzz about the 1984 Summer Olympics, scheduled in nearby Los Angeles. Such excitement as we crowded along a sidewalk to see the torch relay go by! I still remember the special unit our teacher introduced, covering the history of the Games, from the Ancient Greeks to the meaning behind the rings on today’s Olympic flag. Fast forward many years to a children’s book author (me!) looking for a new topic to share with young readers. As mom to a child with physical limitations, our family loved watching the Paralympics. How did they come to be? After a bit of research, I discovered the fascinating story of a doctor who changed the standard of care for people with spinal injuries, eventually founding the Paralympic Games.

Did you know?

  • Ludwig Guttmann was a Jewish neurosurgeon who fled Nazi Germany in 1939 to continue his work with injured soldiers in England.
  • After WWI, nearly 80% of patients with a fractured spine died from bladder infections or bedsore infections caused by their full body casts.
  • Other doctors called Ludwig’s patients “incurables” until he introduced an entirely new treatment plan, including the removal of casts, movement in wheelchairs, and sports! Only 11% of Ludwig’s patients died from their spinal injury.
  • In 1948, Ludwig coordinated a wheelchair archery competition between 16 service men and women. It took place on the front lawn of the Stoke Mandeville hospital. A few dozen family members watched.
  • When Ludwig wanted to expand the competition, people laughed. They said wheelchair sports were ridiculous and no one would watch. But that didn’t stop Ludwig.
  • In 2016, more than 4000 athletes competed in the Paralympic Games in Rio. The Games broke viewership records with a global television audience of more than four billion people!

A Sporting Chance: How Ludwig Guttmann Saved Lives with Sports
Author: Lori Alexander
Illustrator: Allan Drummond
Published: April 7th, 2020 by Houghton Mifflin

Summary: Telling the inspiring human story behind the creation of the Paralympics, this young readers biography artfully combines archival photos, full-color illustrations, and a riveting narrative to honor the life of Ludwig Guttmann, whose work profoundly changed so many lives.

Dedicating his life to helping patients labeled “incurables,” Ludwig Guttmann fought for the rights of paraplegics to live a full life. The young doctor believed—and eventually proved—that physical movement is key to healing, a discovery that led him to create the first Paralympic Games.

Told with moving text and lively illustrations, and featuring the life stories of athletes from the Paralympic Games Ludwig helped create, this story of the man who saved lives through sports will inspire readers of all backgrounds.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

This Common Core and Next Gen Science Standards-aligned teacher’s guide includes discussion questions, activities about the nervous system, and a writing exercise encouraging students to support a social justice claim.

About the Author: Lori Alexander loves to read and write! She has written picture books like BACKHOE JOE (Harper) and FAMOUSLY PHOEBE (Sterling) as well as the FUTURE BABY board book series (Scholastic). Her first non-fiction chapter book, ALL IN A DROP (HMH) received a Sibert Honor Award. Her new book, A SPORTING CHANCE (HMH), is a Junior Library Guild Selection and a Kirkus “Best Books of 2020.” Lori resides in sunny Tucson, Arizona, with her scientist husband and two book loving kids. She runs when it’s cool and swims when it’s hot. Then she gets back to reading and writing. Visit Lori at or on Twitter @LoriJAlexander or Instagram @lorialexanderbooks

Thank you, Lori, for sharing your inspiration, book, and guide!

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