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Happy 2019! 

This year, I reread more books than any previous year. I am not including the billions of pictures books that I reread to my children in that statistic, either. 🙂 But for this list, I am focusing on my favorite reads of 2018. These are books that will stick to my bones for years to come!

 

Favorite Books Marketed Toward Young Adults

#NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women, Edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale

Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card by Sara Saedi

The Astonishing Color of After by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Mary’s Monster by Lita Judge

Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Pride by Ibi Zoboi

 

Favorite Books Marketed Toward Upper Elementary and Middle Grade

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

Bob by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead

Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish by Pablo Cartaya

 

Favorite Picture Books

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

Drawn Together by Minh Lê

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

I Walk With Vanessa by Kerascoët

Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

The Wall in the Middle of the Book by John Agee

We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorrell

 

Which were your favorite reads of 2018?

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Happy 2019! 

I had one of my best reading years ever! My GoodReads goal was 300 which I exceeded!

I read 415 books this year!
(Though I will admit GoodReads adding the ability to add rereads really helped with the total; however, I was quite inconsistent with it– I marked re-reads sometimes and other times I didn’t, so I don’t know how accurate the count is, specifically picture books…)

 

It was almost exactly split between picture books and non-picture books with my novel, etc. total being a bit over 200.
My average rating for the year is 4.2 and my top shelves were: realistic fiction, nonfiction, Unleashing Readers, Trent 4-5 years, middle grade, audiobook, mg-ya picture books, picture book, and read to Trent. 

Today, I want to highlight my favorite reads from the year by sharing my 5 star reads from 2018
(the visual includes all while the list includes only newly read in 2018 books): 

Click on the photo above to see my 2018 Goodreads shelf to learn about any of these titles. If I’ve reviewed the book on Unleashing Readers, I’ve also hyperlinked it in the list. 

Picture Books & Early Readers (nonfiction & fiction)

Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell
Windows by Julia Denos
Little Fox in the Forest by Stephanie Graegin
Grand Canyon by Jason Chin
Lights! Camera! Alice!: The Trilling True Adventures of the First Woman Filmmaker by Mara Rockliff
Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes
My Kite is Stuck! And Other Stories by Salina Yoon
Duck, Duck, Porcupine! by Salina Yoon
Lost in the Library: A Story of Patience and Fortitude by Josh Funk
Be a King: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s Dream and You by Carole Boston Weatherford
Square by Mac Barnett
Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers
Mission Defrostable by Josh Funk 
What Can a Citizen Do? by Dave Eggers
Masterpiece Robot and the Ferocious Valerie Knick-Knack by Frank Tra
Dreamers by Yuyi Morales
Drawn Together by Minh Lê
The Very Last Castle by Travis Jonker
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson
I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoët
A Place for Pluto by Stef Wade
Cute as an Axolotl: Discovering the Worlds Most Adorable Animals by Jess Keating
Turning Pages: My Life Story by Sonia Sotomayor
All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold
One of a Kind by Chris Gorman
The Dinosaur Expert by Margaret McNamara
Memphis, Martin, and Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968 by Alice Faye Duncan
A Friend for Henry by Jenn Bailey
Ruby’s Sword by Jacqueline Veissid
Brave Molly by Brooke Boynton Hughes
Santa Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins
We Can’t Eat our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins
Be Quiet! by Ryan T. Higgins
Earthrise: Apollo 8 and the Photo That Changed the World by James Gladstone
Sun!: One in a Billion by Stacy McAnulty
The Sun is Kind of a Big Deal by Nick Seluk
Thank You, Earth by April Pulley Sayred
Meet Yasmin! by Saadia Faruqi

Middle Grade

False Prince trilogy by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Granted by John David Anderson
Sugar by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Bat & the Waiting Game by Elana K. Arnold
Track Series: Sunny & Lu by Jason Reynolds
Breakout by Kate Messner
Good Dog by Dan Gemeinhart
Tiger Boy by Mitali Perkins
Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson
Wonderland by Barbara O’Connor
Front Desk by Kelly Yang
Some Kind of Courage by Dan Gemeinhart
Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo
Running on the Roof of the World by Jess Butterworth
Orphaned by Eliot Schrefer
The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamura by Pablo Cartaya
Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan
Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed
Journey of the Pale Bear by Susan Fletcher
Garbage Island by Fred Koehler
The Dollar Kids by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
Escape from Aleppo by N.H. Senzai
Just Like Jackie by Lindsey Stoddard
A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Redwood and Ponytail by K.A. Holt
Stella Diaz Has Something to Say by Angela Dominguez

Young Adult

American Street by Ibi Zoboi
Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman
The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas
The Memory of Things by Gae Polisner
Fresh Ink: An Anthology edited by Lamar Giles
Tyler Johnson was Here by Jay Coles
Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz
Jefferson’s Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro
What Girls are Made of by Elana K. Arnold
Sadie by Courtney Summers
Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
Here to Stay by Sara Farizan
One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus
Resistance by Jennifer A. Nielsen
This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills
Internment by Samira Ahmed
Famous in a Small Town by Emma Mills
Odd One Out by Nic Stone
Dry by Neal Shusterman
Another Day by David Levithan

Graphic Novels

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
The Divided Earth by Erin Faith Hicks
I Am Ghandi: A Graphic Biography of a Hero edited by Brad Meltzer
Illegal by Eoin Colfer
Hey Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Monsters Beware by Jorge Aguirre
Kitten Construction Company: Meet the House Kittens by John Green
HiLo #4: Waking the Monsters by Judd Winick
Peter & Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths by Graham Annable
Peter & Ernesto: The Lost Sloths by Graham Annable
Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol
Fox & Chick: The Party and Other Stories by Sergio Ruzzier

Nonfiction

Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson
Chasing King’s Killer by James L. Swanson
Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
Two Truths and a Lie: Histories and Mysteries by Ammi-Joan Paquette
Eavesdropping on Elephants: How Listening Helps Conservation by Patricia Newman
The Great Rhino Rescue by Patricia Newman
National Geographic: History’s Mysteries: Curious Clues, Cold Cases, and Puzzles from the Past by Kitson Jazynka

All of these books are highly recommended by me, so if you haven’t read them and they interest you, they won’t let you down 🙂 Happy reading!

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Kellee’s Reflection

I am sure you can tell from our countdown that this is one of our favorite events of the year. It is like a really big book club that only meets once a year mixed with the best professional development you could ask for. 

During NCTE, my presentations went so well! If you are interested, you can view my resources:

But what I want to focus on in this post are the revitalizing sessions I attended. My goal for NCTE18 was to make sure to attend more sessions to fill my educator heart, and I definitely met that goal! Here are some highlights from four favorite sessions/talks:

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie opened up NCTE, and I was blown away by her!

  • “Be courageous enough to say I don’t know.”
  • We need “STEM AND the language arts. It’s not an or, it’s an and.”
  • “To be a good teacher is not just about curriculum, it is about things that can’t be quantified.”
  • Narrow view of intelligence = not valuing arts
  • “The world is not full people like you, so diverse literature is not needed just for the diverse.”
  • “When telling stories well, we’re appealing to what it means to be human.”

The session Latinx Experiences in Classrooms and Communities with educators, Dr. Carla España, Dr. Luz Herrera, and R. Joseph Rodriguez, and authors, Daniel José Older, MoNieqa Ramos, Matt de la Peña, Meg Medina, and Lilliam Rivera.

  • Our Latinx students “move through the world as many identities.” (Medina)
  • Bilingual students “have language resources we should use.” No more English Language Learners, they are “emergent bilinguals.” (España)
  • “Kids have more going on than we want to talk about.” (Ramos)
  • “Acceptance feels like a hug. It is that feeling when you are home because you don’t have to translate yourself.” (Older)
  • “Books are tools to help people save themselves.” (de la Peña)

Kylene Beers, Kelly Gallagher, and Penny Kittle are brilliant. I wish I could do a full day PD with them!

  • “You cannot improve confidence without improving confidence.” (Beers)
  • “No models of good conversation in media. Our democracy needs to have better conversations.” (Beers)
  • “Meaningful talk will not happen without meaningful reading.” (Gallagher)
  • “We are making too many decisions for our students. Turn over the control.” (Kittle)

Peter and Paul Reynolds stand for everything I believe in!

  • “Great teachers breath kindness and love.”
  • We “need to remind humans about the best humanity can do.”
  • “Picture books are efficient. They are a big idea in a small book.”
  • “Everyone is an artist. You’re only not identifying as one because someone told you you weren’t, and you believed them.”
  • “Noticing a kid is the most powerful gift we can give.”
  • “Your brain is beautiful! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”

And the ALAN workshop was amazing as always. The ALAN workshop is 1.5 days of authors sharing. It is so much book love and author love and teacher love and kindness love and just love in general. If you ever have the chance to get to this workshop, it is a must!

Some of my favorite author talks/panels/conversations were:

  • Cynthia Leitich Smith
  • Bill Konigsberg
  • Kierstin White, Ibi Zoboi, Elana K. Arnold
  • Neal Shusterman
  • Tomi Adeyemi
  • Sara Farizan and Mark Oshiro
  • Jarrett Krosozcka
  • Sharon Flake and Renee Watson
  • Gae Polisner and Chris Crutcher

This was just a SMALL sampling of the amazing authors at the workshop. Check out the schedule to see others who spoke!

Ricki’s Reflection

I had a wonderful time at the NCTE convention and ALAN Workshop. I was sad that I wasn’t able to go to many sessions because I signed on to participate in six sessions and introductions. I won’t be doing that again next year!

One of the highlights for me was sitting with Ibi Zoboi during the YA Lit is Complex session. She’s absolutely brilliant, and her voice added so much to the conversation. The participants at my roundtable asked her thoughtful questions. She talked about the many complex elements within her texts—the ways in which she adapts classic poetry, includes cultural pantheon for readers, etc. I am blown away by her brilliance, and she is among my favorite authors today. Quite frankly, she is a living legend.

The YA Lit is Complex session is my favorite each year. Jennifer Buehler and Cathy Fleischer bring in eight YA authors to talk about text complexity. If you missed this session, I can’t recommend it highly enough. I always leave feeling invigorated.

I also loved presenting with my colleague, Pamela K. Coke. We shared three approaches for using Genius Hour in the classroom to promote equity. The crowd for this presentation was amazing, and a few audience members have stayed in touch with us. There might be a potential research project on the horizon for this session!

Some of the most exciting talks that I saw were from:

  • Cynthia Leitich Smith
  • Bill Konigsberg
  • Ibi Zoboi
  • Sara Farizan and Mark Oshiro
  • Tomi Adeyemi
  • Elizabeth Acevedo
  • Emily X. R. Pan
  • David Arnold
  • Sharon Draper
  • David Levithan
  • Randy Ribay

Pictures!

 

     

If you attended, how was your conference?
We look forward to next year 🙂

 and

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Just so we all have the same definition of close reading, I wanted to share how I define it:
The process of close reading is reading a short, worthy text more than once to get deeper into its meaning.
(See “A Secret About Close Reading” for more information.)

Here is a fun close reading activity I did with my reading classes a couple of weeks ago.

Standards for this lesson: RL.1 & RI.1 (Inference & text evidence), RL.2 (Theme), RI.2 (Central Idea), RL.3 (Narrative elements interact)

Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester is a much more complex text than it first seems, so I really wanted to take this fun text and push my students’ thinking to realize that Tacky teaches us more than they first thought.

First read: For the first read of Tacky the Penguin, I just had my students enjoy the story. I love watching kids see this book for the first time because he is such a ridiculous yet awesome penguin.

Second read: When we read the story again, this time I chunked the text and had them take notes about a different characters’ emotions for each section. They then went on our Canvas discussion board and made an inference about how the character was feeling based on their notes and included evidence.

“The other penguins are much more accepting of Tacky at the end. In the text it shows that all the penguins hugged Tacky since his oddness had scared the hunters away and saved them. This action showed that even though they might disagree on how to do things they were still thankful of him.” -EX, 8th grade

“I think that the other penguins, Goodly, Lovely, Angel, Neatly and Perfect are happy that Tacky is around. In the story it is showing all the penguins celebrating that the hunters were gone. Usually when you are celebrating it is because someone has accomplished something and you feel happy for them. So, you can conclude that the other penguins are happy that Tacky is around because he got rid of the hunters and without Tacky they might’ve died.” -JK, 6th grade

For the final section of the text, I asked them to think about the theme of the story, and they answered their inferred theme with evidence on the discussion board.

“I think the theme of Tacky the penguin is that differences can be good. I think that because at first the other penguins didn’t like Tacky because he was very different in the way he acted. They thought he was annoying and didn’t really include him in their group. At the end, they appreciate him because he saved them from the hunters, so his differences were good.” -AN, 8th grade

“The theme is to treat everyone fairly. Because in the beginning the other penguins treated Tacky badly, by excluding him, being annoyed at his greets, singing, and diving. But when Tacky acted like a hero they all appreciated him like they should of in the beginning.” -AK, 8th grade

“I think the theme of TACKY THE PENGUIN is to always be yourself. In the beginning of the story, the other penguins didn’t seem to really like Tacky because he did things so differently from them. However, as the middle towards end of the story, Tacky uses that to his advantage to scare away the hunters. So really, because Tacky was himself, he saved the day!” -DV, 7th grade

As we know, there are many themes that can be taken from a story, and most of the themes I received were spot on and focused primarily on how Tacky may seem odd but that doesn’t mean being different is bad. But there was one theme that I didn’t have any students pick up on, and I felt it was a big one. So, for the third read, I added in another text.

Third read: For the third read, I had my students read an Aesop Fable to connect with Tacky. “The Lion and the Three Bullocks” has the theme “In Unity is Strength” because the bulls survive the predator because they work together. The students did a wonderful job realizing that this theme connected to Tacky because it was only when all the of the penguins worked together that they were able to ward off the hunters.

“The theme “Unity is Strength” works for both books because together they defeated the enemy(ies). In Tacky the Penguin it says, “ Tacky began to sing, and from behind the block of ice came the voices of his companions, all singing as loudly and dreadfully as they could.” This shows that together the penguins can work together to be strong. The next page says “The hunters could not stand the horrible singing” This evidence illustrates that together as a team they can do anything. In Aesop For Children (Three Bullocks and a Lion), it says that a hungry lion is looking for his next meal. He was only sitting and watching because all of them were together so he would lose. In a little bit the bullocks separated and it was the lion’s time to strike (He ate them). This shows that when you are together you can be even stronger then when you were alone.” -EN, 7th grade

At this point, I was so proud of the connections my students were making, but it was still on a level where they were not connecting it to life–they saw it as a penguin and bullocks lesson mostly. This meant that I added in another text that I had them close read:

Scila Elworthy’s TED Talk is titled “Fighting with Nonviolence” and shares how fighting violence with violence is not successful while using nonviolence has been successful. I love TED Talks because you have the video and the transcript! What a great text for the classroom! (And thank you Jennifer Shettel for pointing me in this direction!)

First read: We watched the first 5 minutes and 11 seconds of the TED talk, and I gave each student a Post-It note. I asked them to write down words that stuck out to them. We then shared the words and defined any words they didn’t know.

Second read: For their second read of the text, they went to the transcript and were to focus on the central idea of this section of the text. Each person wrote down their own central idea.

Then I did a variety on one of the discussion ideas that Ricki shared in her Engaging Classroom Discussion Techniques post. Kind of like in Facts of Five, I had students then go into groups of three and come up with a consensus of a central idea together. They then wrote these on sentences strips to display in the room. We also discussed each one and talked about the supporting evidence for each central idea. I called it “Most Important Point.”

“As a group for the “most important point activity” we came up with the point that “solving a problem with violence only ever causes more violence”. Toward the end of the ted talk the speaker gives an example of when her ‘heroine’ was faced with guns during a protest and solved it by walking up to them and getting them to put their guns down. Had she not solved that problem this way it can be assumed that the soldiers would have shot them. By solving a situation with non violence she avoided the problem all together. We concluded from this, and the other points she made in ted talk including Nelson Mandela and her own personal anecdote about non violence, that that was the central point.” -KA, 8th grade

Third read: For the culminating task for all of these texts, I added in one more text to truly make all of this connect to reality. I knew I wanted to pick an image from the Civil Rights Movement because it is a true example of this idea at work. I introduced my students to sit-ins.

I then asked, “Why did we watch this TED Talk and why did I share the Sit-In images after reading Tacky the Penguin and the Aesop Fable? How do they all connect? Write a short paragraph explaining the connection, and remember to Restate, Answer, have Text evidence, and Explain/elaborate.”

All of these connect because they all show them going against things together. In “Tacky the Penguin” all of the penguins started singing in the end together, driving them away. If it was only Tacky singing, the hunters might not have gone away if the other penguins had not shown up.  In “Three Bullocks and a Lion”, the lion would not attack them when they were together because he knew he was no match for all three of them combined. In the Sit- In photo, there are four people sitting at a counter, and in the other photo, it shows them getting drinks poured on them from other people in the restaurant. If there was only one person sitting at the counter, the point would not have been proven as well as it would if there were four. All of them show that when they are together, they are stronger.” -MA, 7th grade

The Ted Talk, Sit-in images, Tacky the Penguin, and Aesop Fable connect because they show how if we stick together and try to solve conflict in nonviolent ways, we will not have to resolve problems with more fighting.  The Ted Talk says that bullies use violence to intimidate, terrorize, and undermine, but “only very rarely in few cases does it work to use more violence.” This just makes people more and more violent. An example is when the “Students who participated in sit-ins refused to become violent” even when people were not treating them fair by not serving them or even pouring a drink on them. Tacky the Penguin helped save all the penguins from being taken away by hunters because he had the attitude that people should be friendly and kind to each other and because he acted like this, it scared the hunters and they ran away. In the Aesop Fable, the bulls were able to keep the lion from eating them by staying close and being strong together. When they began to argue and separated from each other, they were not strong enough alone to keep from being attacked. “It was now an easy matter for the lion to attack them one at a time, and this he proceeded to do with the greatest satisfaction and relish.” This shows that we need each other to be strong and reach our goals and when we begin to fight, we lose our strength against enemies. We can control all of this, like she says, “It’s my response, my attitude, to oppression that I’ve got control over, and that I can do something about.” -DA, 6th grade

I was so impressed with my students’ deep thinking, connections, inferences, and elaboration! And overall they truly loved the activity, and I think that it truly shows that a text to analyze can be more than the canon!

 

 

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What If EVERYBODY Said That?
Author: Ellen Javernick
Illustrator: Colleen Madden
Published August 1st, 2018 by Two Lions

Summary: What if everybody chose to be kind?

If you tell someone that they can’t play with you, there’s no harm done, right? But what if everybody said that? What if everybody forgot to be kind…and made fun of other kids’ artwork at school, or told a fib, or refused to share with a person in need? The world wouldn’t be a very nice place to live. But what if everybody thought before they spoke, so the world would be a kinder place?

With clear prose and lighthearted artwork, this companion book to the bestseller What If Everybody Did That? explores the power of words and shows kids that the things we say matter.

About the Creators: 

Ellen Javernick has taught 1-3 grade classes for over 20 years. Her B.A. is from DePauw University. Her M.A. in Early Childhood Education is from the University of Northern Colorado. She has completed classes with Barbara Wise and is Lindamood-Bell trained. In addition to being a teacher, Ellen has written more than 20 books for children. She currently teaches second grade in Loveland, CO.

The weird fourth kid in a family of 8, Colleen Madden made it through childhood pretending to be a wookie and doodling in her cardboard box art studio. Colleen spent some time acting and training at The Second City in Chicago, then went on to graduate from a small liberal arts school on the East coast. Colleen eats and works and runs around in the Philadelphia area.

Praise: “A reminder to be aware of what one says, as well as a discussion starter about actions and consequences.” —Kirkus Reviews

Review: Empathy and kindness are both things that I truly believe need to be directly taught to children. Kids are born thinking only of their own needs and maybe of the needs of their family, but they have to learn how to care about those around them. This teaching can start at a very young age but then needs to be reinforced for years to come. Anyone who teaches knows this is true. We may have some of the best students but even they make a mistake sometimes that is hurtful to someone else. What If Everybody Said That? is a testament of thinking about others. Though a bit didactical, the different scenarios put on each page truly do show a cause and effect of the words we say to others.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This text is a perfect book to add to any community building, kindness, empathy, or anti-bullying text set.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How does each spread show the cause and effect of what she said?
  • What finally made the young girl realize she needed to apologize?
  • What if everybody said that? (Pick a page and discuss)
    • Look at the cause and effect from everybody saying what the girl said.
    • Compare and contrast the two pages.
  • What is something you can think of that you said before that may not have been the best choice?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, Eraser by Anna Kang, I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoët, and other books helping students think about the words and choices they make

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Two Lions for providing a copy for review!**

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The Struggles of Writer Wannabes by Paola M. and Amy C. (6th grade)

(Kellee’s note: These girls are already writers, not wannabes, but they titled their piece, so I didn’t want to change it.)

So, you want to be a writer? Truth is, it’s not as easy as it seems. Take it from two author wannabes. We could come up with the greatest ideas, but as soon as we pick up the pencil or or place our hands on the keyboard we realize we have nothing to write! And this is only one example of the struggles authors go through every day.

Coming Up with Story Ideas

Everyone comes up with ideas differently. You could be riding your bike when an idea about talking dogs talking over the wold hits you. But honestly the real problem isn’t how you come up with your ideas, it’s actually coming up with them.

If we’re being completely honest here, a big problem that writers like us have is coping with the planning stages of writing our stories. Now, I know you must be confused. What does planning have to do with coming up with ideas? Answer: Absolutely everything! Planning is basically thinking about the basic elements of your story (like theme and characters). What makes it especially difficult to deal with is the fact that you need to have everything ready to write. Which means you need to be able to explain your ideas off the bat if someone asks for your synopsis (that’s a fancy word for summary).

Another problem we have while coming up with our ideas is second-guessing ourselves. We keep questioning what we’ve written because we get nervous about what other people might think of our story or we start thinking about whether or not this is relevant to the story. Problems like these, fellow writers, is what causes writer’s block.

Writer’s Block

Ah, writer’s block. Don’t take it personally but nobody likes you. Currently, we’re dealing with this mess which makes writing (very) hard. You’d think writing about writer’s block while having writer’s block (wow that’s a tongue twister) would make things easier for us. Sadly, that’s not the case.

Writer’s block is pretty self explanatory. It’s when a writer can’t come up with new ideas or doesn’t know what to write next in his or her story. The problem about writer’s block is that no matter how hard you try you CANNOT come up with anything. You have to do something else to occupy your mind and get the creative juices flowing. The good thing is that while you’re doing chores (or anything else, for that matter) you can get some pretty amazing ideas. But sometimes doing something else can just be distracting.

Distractions

We can’t wait for the live action Mulan movie (that has no songs whatsoever) to come out!!! Oops! Wrong blog post… As you can see from our totally off topic starter sentence, we’ll be talking about some distractions that get writers off their game.

One thing that distracts aspiring authors from writing is the Internet. People can get so distracted with videos, social media, Netflix, games, and researching stuff for their books they forget about the most important thing: WRITING!!! This happens most often when you write on the computer. You can be searching something up real quick and come across an article that is interesting enough to keep you off task.

Procrastination plays a HUGE part here. Procrastination is the act of avoiding something. So basically when writers procrastinate they try to delay or avoid writing. Procrastination is a pretty big problem because we get absolutely no work done. And if you ever want to publish something… well let’s just say you can’t show an unfinished story to a publisher.  

This is probably a very weird one but too much noise, or even no noise at all, can distract writers. If there’s too much noise some writers won’t be able to concentrate. But if there’s no noise at all it can make some writers weary and unable to focus on their writing. Distractions can also cause another problem: A hiccup in time management.          

Not Having Enough Time to Write

As we have previously mentioned, distractions can cause many problems. Like time management problems. Sometimes writers just can’t find enough time to sit down and actually write.

For us the biggest problem is having so much school work to finish. For others it might be actually having to go to work. Whatever the reason, may it be homework, your job, having to run errands or see family members, it’s hard to set apart some time to do what you love, which is (hopefully) writing. The worst part? If you have no time to write, then you probably have no time to edit.           

Revising and Editing

Editing and revising are such a pain! And it gets even worse when you have no time to write. The problem is that it’s necessary. You need to edit and revise some parts of your story to get the best results for your book. Sometimes you need to cut out whole chapters or just fix a word to improve your story.

Editing and revising is a multi-step process. You need to know what you need to change and then you have to have the time and patience to actually edit and revise your story. We usually dedicate a couple hours to a day of editing and revising, so that we can get most of that work off our to-do lists. But as we have said countless times before: People do things differently. And getting over these writing struggles is yet another example of that.

In Conclusion…

From not being able to cook up some new ideas to not being able to write about those ideas, we have talked about some of the most painful struggles that we, as writers, go through every day. All of these things are hard to overcome and sometimes we might want to give up (Please don’t). In the end, though, this is all part of the story-making process and we kind of have to learn to deal with it.

Thank you to my wonderful students, Paola and Amy, for sharing your hilarious and thought-provoking reflections on being a kid writer!

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Daring Dreamers Club #1: Milla Takes Charge
Author: Erin Soderberg
Illustrator: Anoosha Syed
Published June 5th, 2018 by Random House

Summary: When you follow your dreams, the possibilities are endless!

Milla loves nothing more than imagining grand adventures in the great wide somewhere, just like Belle. She dreams of traveling the world and writing about her incredible discoveries. Unfortunately, there is nothing pretend about the fifth-grade overnight and Milla’s fear that her moms won’t let her go.

Enter Piper, Mariana, Zahra, and Ruby. Together with Milla, they form the Daring Dreamers Club and become best friends. But can they help Milla believe she’s ready for this real grand adventure?

Diverse, talented, and smart–these five girls found each other because they all had one thing in common: big dreams. Touching on everyday dramas and the ups and downs of friendship, this series will enchant all readers who are princesses at heart.

About the Creators: 

ERIN SODERBERG lives in Minneapolis, MN, with her husband, three adventure-loving kids, and a mischievous Goldendoodle named Wally. Before becoming an author, she was a children’s book editor and a cookie inventor and worked for Nickelodeon. She has written many books for young readers, including the Quirks and Puppy Pirates series. Visit her online at erinsoderberg.com.

ANOOSHA SYED is a Pakistani illustrator & character designer for animation. She received her BFA in illustration at Ceruleum: Ecole d’arts Visuels in Switzerland, and now lives in Canada. Visit her online at anooshasyed.com.

Praise: 

“Though core issues of identity, independence, and teamwork ground the novel, Disney Princess devotees will likely be the most charmed. —Publishers Weekly

“I cannot wait to “hear” the stories of all the other girls! Brava Erin SD for kicking off a new series for the younger MG set! Positive messages for kids! —Goodreads Praise

“Young readers will be able to relate to the story, there is a positive message, and the characters provide a model of friendship, showing how friends work together and support on another. Loved meeting these girls!” —Goodreads Praise

ReviewI know that at first this book may seem like a book that only Disney or Princess lovers would like, but it is so much more than that! So please do not judge this book by that idea! Instead you will find a story about girls who find a deep friendship within each other after being placed in a group at school together. With the guidance of an amazing educator, they look deep within themselves and join as a group while still celebrating their individuality.

Now, as someone who DOES love Disney and Disney princesses, I loved the angle that this book took! After the first assignment by their group teacher, the girls are asked to write about a princess who they connect with. Milla and her friends are using the strengths of the princesses as inspiration to build their own strengths. For example, Milla feels like her life is very sheltered, and she loves to write, so she finds inspiration in Belle. Ruby, who is athletic and prides herself in her strength, first struggles to connect with a princess but then she realizes that Mulan is a person that is very much who she would like to be. And each girl does her own reflection (written in her own words in a journal format).

This first book focuses on Milla, but we get to know all the girls through the inclusion of the journals and from Milla’s point of view. I assume that future books will also be in different points of view to allow readers to get to know more in depth each of the characters. I look forward to future books to see where Piper, Milla, Mariana, Ruby, Zahra and Ms. Bancroft go next!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I love Ms. Bancroft! And I think that how she had the girls introduce themselves and her first assignment that she gave the Daring Dreamers Club would be wonderful activities in a classroom:

  • “I’d love for each of you to introduce yourself and share one of your big dreams.”
  • “I want each of you to think of a princess you connect with or feel inspired by and explain why. Dig deep and really think about your answer.”

Since each of the girls’ answers are shared in the book, they would be a great thing to share as well.

In addition, this book is going to be LOVED by realistic fiction fans! I cannot wait to share it with my students.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Which of the five main characters do you connect with the most?
  • If you had to choose a princess you connect with, who would you choose?
  • Do you think Milla went about getting her moms to trust her correctly?
  • How does Ms. Bancroft inspire the girls? How is she different than the last music teacher?
  • What is one of your big dreams?

Flagged Passages: “Milla loved reading and writing just about anything, but there was nothing she enjoyed more than creating adventures for herself. In Milla’s stories, she was always a brave hero without fears or worries of any kind. One of the things Milla most loved about writing was that she was totally in charge and got to make all the decisions about what would happen on her adventures. The only limitation was her imagination, and her imagination was vast.” (p. 6)

Read This If You Love: Baby-Sitters Club by Ann M. Martin, Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson, Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol, Whatever After by Sarah Mlynowski

Recommended For: 

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Disney’s Dream Big, Princess–Be a Champion Campaign: 

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**Thank you to Sydney at Penguin Random House for providing a copy for review!**

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