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First, thank you to Carrie at There’s A Book for That for starting this challenge and to Leigh Ann of A Day in the Life and Cheriee of Library Matters for co-hosting the revival. Check out others’ fall updates on Library Matters.

In January, I shared about the #MustReadin2021 challenge and my plans. In April and June, I updated you all and it is time for the Fall update!

I chose 42 novels for my #MustReadin2021 challenge, and thus far, as of April I had read 13 of them, in June I was up to 20, and now I am at 25! (16 left to go!) I have linked each title to the IMWAYR post where I shared my thoughts on the books.

I also finished my #BitAbout Books Summer 2021 Reading Challenge!

I also challenged myself to the 2021 Summer Reading Challenge: 30 Books in 3 Months! I separated my challenge, and I aimed to complete 30 prose books and 30 graphic books from June to Labor Day. And I didn’t exactly meet my challenge, but I did finish reading 60 books in 3 months!

I finished my prose YA & MG books challenge and have moved into my second 30.

I almost finished my graphic novel/manga challenge, but if I add in the prose YA & MG novels I’ve read in addition to the 30 above, it perfectly finishes it!

I’m having so much fun doing these challenges!! Check out my Goodreads 2021 Challenge or my Goodreads Read Bookshelf to learn more about any of these books as well 😊
What are you reading? 

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Happy August 10th! That means it is time to share some favorite picture books!

This year, I want to share some favorite fairy tale or nursery rhyme inspired picture books.
(As with most lists, I may have cheated a bit to include more than 10 books, but they all are worth being on the list!)

Bethan Woollvin’s Fairy Tale books

Josh Funk & Edwardian Taylor’s It’s Not a Fairy Tale books

Chicken Little: The Real and Totally True Tale by Sam Wedelich

Eduardo Guadardo, elite Sheep by Anthony Pearson, Illustrated by Jennifer E. Morris

Princess and the Pit Stop by Tom Angleberger, Illustrated by Dan Santat

Deborah Underwood’s Interstellar Cinderella and Reading Beauty

Susan Middleton Elya’s Little Roja Riding Hood (illustrated by Susan Guevara) and La Princesa and the Pea (illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal)

Jon Sciezska’s The True Story of the Three Little Pigs (illustrated by Lane Smith); The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales (illustrated by Lane Smith); and The Frog Prince, Continued (illustrated by Steve Johnson)

The Very Impatient Caterpillar and The Little Butterfly that Could by Ross Burach

The Little Red Fort by Brenda Maier, Illustrated by Sonia Sanchez

Happy reading!!!!

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“Recommended Mangas”
by Sabrina Kayat and Lisa Wojciechowski, rising 9th Graders and Kellee’s students 2020-2021 & 2018-2020 respectively

Spy Family by Tatsuya Endo
Recommended manga series by Sabrina

Preview: Spy family is about a master spy that goes by the name Twilight. When it comes to the dangerous missions he is assigned to, he always gets the job done. Him being a master of disguise, he wants to make the world a better place. When he finishes up his current mission, he gets a particular job that requires him to find a spouse and a kid, he just might have hit a dead end. When he does procure both a wife and a child for his mission to infiltrate an elite private school, he has yet to know the child he adopted is a telepath and his wife is an assassin.

Review: Having read the first volume of this manga, I can honestly say that this is a must read. This manga has a lot of dramatic irony, and uses it to make a hilarious story. Each character in this story (the spy, the assassin, and the telepath), all complement each other very well. When one character might be lacking in an area, another steps up and aids them. This story also has a lot of family themes and action. Overall, I recommend this manga to older teens.

Demon Slayer by Koyoharu Gotouge
Recommended manga series by Sabrina

Preview: Demon Slayer is about Tanjiro Kamado, a boy who regularly goes to a local village to sell coal and make money for his family. One day, he heads out to the village, where his life takes a turn for the worse. At his home, a demon killed his whole family, in the process turning his little sister Nezuko into a demon. Tanjiro decided he would do whatever it takes to turn his sister back to a human, and get revenge on the demon.

Review: Though I have not read the whole series, I recommend this manga to teens. This series has a straightforward story, and the artstyle is amazing. The characters are excellent, each having an interesting story and are likeable in their own ways. In the beginning, I had a hard time getting into it, but eventually it really picks up. All in all, I recommend this series.

Naruto by Masashi Kishimoto
Recommended manga series by Lisa

Preview: Naruto is about a kid named Naruto who is in the Ninja Academy and is really struggling. He wants to be the leader of his village called a Hokage but there may be more to his destiny than that.

Review: The Naruto manga has some really great moments and is a great addition to the fandom. You don’t need to watch the anime to read the books which is also good. The dialogue is very fun, and the designs are really good for the most part. There’s not one time where I asked myself what was going on in the book; everything is very clear and well described.

Thank you so much, Sabrina & Lisa, for the recommendations!! As my Unleashing Readers readers and students know, I have been trying to get some good manga reading in, so I appreciate knowing which to move to the top of my to be read list!

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“Favorite Books”
by Addy Brantley and Bianca Teixera, rising 9th graders and Kellee’s students 2020-2021

Caraval by Stephanie Garber: Very unique type of story. Loved how it had so many twists and turns and you never expected what happened next. The rest of the series was also enticing and flowed very smoothly from one book to the next.

Market of Monsters by Rebecca Schaffer: Never read anything like it. The main character is fierce and smart and could think on her feet. Made us think “what’s gonna happen?” many times that kept us reading them for a long time. Could not put it down, it was so action packed.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard: This whole series was filled with so many “did not see that coming” moments. Loved how they connected all different parts of the story together so nicely. The characters had so much personality and you can connect to them so easily.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer: Definitely our top retelling series! Puts a unique spin on classic stories. Connects all the characters and stories in a way no one could think of. Most of the characters are relatable and make you sympathetic towards them.

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black: Took place in a world unimaginable. The main character is definitely not one you read about often. Loved how strong and determined she was. Though personally for us, the first book was good, but the second and third? We could not put them down.

Renegades by Marissa Meyer: One of our favorite superhero series. We really liked how we got a perspective from both a “hero” and a “villain”. Enjoyed seeing how they both are not as they seem and why they became what they are.

The Giver by Lois Lowry: Very heartwarming and makes you think about the world differently. Loved the different characters and how they tie all the stories together in the end.

It’s Trevor Noah: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah: Foreign and familiar at the same time, this book shows you how no matter where you come from or what you look like, your life could end up a masterpiece. It’s extremely funny and witty and you can relate to all the stories.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo: Takes place in a warring country divided by a swath of darkness filled with monsters. Funny enough I liked the side characters more than the main character. This world is utterly immersive and picturesque.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo: This book has it all. An impossible heist, amazing characters, magic, an unpredictable plot, and so much more. It’s impossible to put down, this is what fantasy is for.

Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko: A fight for freedom, family, and justice at all costs. It’s not your typical fantasy, it’s very unique and fresh. This book definitely deserves more love.

Heartless by Marissa Meyer: An amazing backstory for the queen of hearts. I loved how you know what’s going to happen in the end but have no idea how that can happen. It’s the best slow burn book we’ve read.

Thank you so much, Addy & Bianca, for the recommendations!!

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I asked Emily to write this post because I know so many of my students who were voracious readers during their time with me in middle school, but often they leave and lose reading in their lives for a while; however, Emily has been able to find time during her busy schedule to read, so I wanted her to share some secrets to hopefully help out other high schoolers/students who may need some support.

“Reading During High School”
by Emily Peraza, rising senior in high school, Kellee’s student from 2015-2018

I think we can all agree high school is a rather dynamic experience, and the main takeaway from now going onto my senior year is that time management is essential. As someone who is a rising senior but also concurrently on her sophomore year of college at Valencia, I get the worst of both worlds; the cliques and stress of high school classes (4, to be exact), as well as the stress of 4 college classes but sans the dorms, friends, and general blossoming in your post-high school years. It is rough at times and I have a hard time staying in the reality when deadlines approach and pressure folds in. So, I resort to escaping into the world of literature! It also catches me into its loving and accepting arms, and teleports me somewhere that mythology papers, district meetings, and council calls cannot affect me.

One of my fatal flaws is that I despise being idle and not expanding my horizons, so sometimes I will push away reading because it can “distract me” from real life. But lately, I have been procrastinating my work by reading something I like, or researching the new SSYRA books I swore by in middle school. 🙂 My grandma, who also loves reading – we usually trade books – purchased me the sequel to a book I read in middle school called, The Mark of the Dragonfly. The sequel is named The Quest to the Uncharted Lands, and I still love this series. All of my extracurriculars have books or audiobooks I can indulge in when the stress caves in. Let me share some examples!!

Student Government Association – As a student government member, leading is something very important to me, and I can always improve my ways. Nobody is perfect, and I can always be smarter, kinder, and a better example. Books on and written by my role models, such as Angela Duckworth’s Grit keeps me motivated and allows me to see my potential.

As a student going into her fourth year in learning the French language, an AP French student, and a member of the French National Honor Society, audiobooks in French have helped me LOADS. From fantasy translated, or books originally in French, my pronunciation and accent has improved so much. My favorites are 100 French Conversations and Short Stories, Stephen King’s Revival en Français, and Moi, Tituba Sorcière… narrated by Audrey Fleurot. These have helped me grow as a student, especially being remote all year.

My internship through Character Lab has also sent me some very uplifting and books that make me think and reflect. They have sent me Reshma Saujani and Dr. Marc Brackett’s books, Brave Not Perfect and Permission to Feel, respectively. These books taught me to garner my emotions to propel me in a growth mindset, and really allowed me to explore my feelings and engage in a reflection within myself. I think many people play it safe and allow their perfectionism to hold them back. This unanimous fear of failure has bridled us and many students, including myself, have lost our sense of being and confidence because of the idea that we need to be perfect. But Ms. Saujani’s book has made me realize that I need to put my feet in the water and put myself out there. Please take a look at these wonderful books!

Other than reading about other clubs and sports, I like to fit in non-curricular books into my free time as well. Whether this be (in a normal year) on the bus, before practice, in the morning outside the band room, or even during water breaks. I am able to slip in a little bit everywhere! This keeps my mind sharp and it makes tasks much more bearable. I picked up a job at a hotel to help the housekeepers with the increased travel lately, so I put in my headphones and either watch some anime series or listen to an audiobook. During lunch, I’d rather read a physical book or an e-book because I have the luxury of holding something to keep my mind from wandering. 

I have even picked up a hobby of reading manga, which is so nice when my brain is fried from school or other activities. I read the entirety of Attack on Titan, which I HIGHLY recommend. It sucks you in and the dystopian setting with intricate call backs and a very intertwining plot has me reeling from the lack of plot holes and how history seems to be connected exactly with the future. Chainsaw Man has become one of my favorites, with its hilarious main character, Denji, and the heartbreaking story of his life. Some more of my go-to mangas are JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Tokyo Revengers, Demon Slayer, and Blue Lock. There are series for sports lovers, romance people, or someone who just loves a crazy fictional universe.


In order to support my quest for amazing books, I visit my local branch library (which also has audiobooks, books, movies, For Dummies series, manga, and music). I am a regular there and usually take my work to the back after checking out a few books. They also have very interesting classes, so log onto your library website to see if you can learn something new! I use Archive of Our Own on web to access short stories or poems made by people my age and like me, Wattpad for ebooks and published works by fantastic authors, pdfs found online for my classes or for personal reading time, MangaFox for online manga, as well as Audible for ebooks. 

Thank you so much for reading, and I’m so happy to share how I fit reading in! I cannot admit I am a perfect reader; I lost my spark getting into high school for a little while juggling Student Government, rigorous classes, and a sport. So please, I advise you to take it slow and don’t burn out. It is okay to take a break and discover new genres or mediums for enjoying literature! Enjoy your summers and expand your horizons. 🙂

Thank you so much, Emily, for your awesome advice!!

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“10 Books with Muslim Representation”
by Basma Heda, senior in college, Kellee’s Student from 2012-2018, and Bookstagram Reviewer @BookishBasma (#23 on Buzzfeed’s “24 Bookstagrammers You Need to Follow if Reading is Your Jam 5/6/21)! 

Everyone deserves to see themselves in a story. Especially when it comes to Muslims, a group that’s often villainized and misrepresented in the media, readers deserve to see themselves as the hero, as the person falling in love, as the person just living life. In addition to being a massive bookworm and the owner of 200+ books, I’m also a hijab-wearing Muslim woman, and I didn’t see myself on a page until the year 2020. The first time it happened, I cried a minimum of six times during the book, and then an additional 15 minutes after I finished (it was at 1am). I was seeing myself on a page for the first time in my life, and I want to spread that feeling. Here’s ten books with Muslim representation for all ages. 

Middle Grade

Other Words For Home by Jasmine Warga

Written in verse, Other Words For Home follows Jude who leaves her hometown in Syria due to the conflict and comes to America with her mom, leaving behind her brother and her father. Thrust into a new world and armed only with the English she’s learned from her favorite movies, Jude learns to navigate a society that makes it abundantly clear she’s not welcome. It’s a coming of age story that tackles Islamophobia, the struggles of being an immigrant, and a child who just wants to belong. This was an absolutely beautiful story that made me cry multiple times, and I want to shout about it from the rooftops. 

Amina’s Voice & Amina’s Song by Hena Khan

This is a duology follow Amina, a Pakistani-American Muslim girl who loves to sing. In addition to navigating middle school and all its ups and downs, Amina experiences quite a bit of Islamophobia. Her mosque is vandalized and she struggles with her identity as a Pakastani American throughout the series. Even with all these obstacles, Amina continues to grow and find her confidence, and it was wonderful to see! This was an adorable series that’s perfect for any middle grade (or really any age) student!

City of the Plague God by Sarwat Chadda

A part of the Rick Riordan imprint, this book is about Mesopotamian mythology in the modern world with, get this, a MUSLIM main character. The story follows Sik, a witty and determined thirteen year old who’s trying to survive middle school and the grief of losing his brother when he’s suddenly thrust into the world of Mesopotamian mythology. Suddenly Sik is responsible to save not just his parents, but all of Manhattan. Joined by Belet (a fierce warrior and the adopted daughter of Ishtar, the goddess of love and war) and a retired hero named Gilgamesh, Sik faces demons and a fast spreading plague in his rush to save the city. I was originally nervous on how mythology would work with a monotheistic religion, but it was done with grace and respect and I loved every second of it. A must read for any mythology fan!

Once Upon An Eid edited by S.K. Ali and Aisha Saeed

Written by multiple authors, this book is a collection of short stories written about the Muslim holiday Eid! The stories are so heartwarming and really showcase a variety of cultures and backgrounds coming together for a joyous holiday. One of my comfort books!

More to the Story by Hena Khan

A modern, Muslim retelling of Little Women, this was the cutest book! Our main character, Jameela, is an aspiring journalist who’s biggest challenge is her strict editor-in-chief. In between the school paper, the new boy at school, and solving problems in between her siblings, Jameela is pretty busy. However, when her father has to take a job overseas and her youngest sister gets sick, Jameela’s world is turned upside down. This is a tear-jerker of a story with the most wholesome moments.  

Young Adult

Love From A to Z by S.K. Ali

Remember at the beginning how I mentioned that there was a book that made me cry because it was the first time I saw myself? It’s this one. Love from A to Z is one of those books I feel like everyone needs to read. The hijabi main character, Zayneb, is an outspoken and strong woman, and there is so much of myself that I see in her. While this book is a cute romantic contemporary, it’s also a story of struggling with Islamophobia. Zayneb experiences multiple Islamophobic encounters, with her professors, going to the pool, and just trying to live her life. I remember reading this book for the first time, and I felt so SEEN and so validated. It was a reminder that I wasn’t alone in my struggles, that a hijabi like me could have a story without becoming the villain or the person needing “liberating”. Seeing Zayneb double down on her identity and refuse to budge was so empowering, and seeing myself represented on the page like that meant more to me than words could convey.

Saints & Misfits and Misfit in Love by S.K. Ali

These two books follow Janna Yusuf, an Arab-Indian American hijabi, who’s stubborn, outspoken, and a tad boy-crazy. While the books follow the same characters, they are vastly different in theme. 

Saints & Misfits: This is not a cute, fluffy contemporary. The main character, Janna is sexually assaulted by someone well respected in the Muslim community, and the book follows her journey in trying to cope and her struggle in wondering if anyone will believe her. The character development Janna goes through blew me away, and I was crying by the end. My heart still aches just thinking about it and it’s a book that will be staying with me for a while.

Misfit in Love: This book picks up two years later, in the midst of wedding preparations for Janna’s brother. Everybody knows what a drama fest weddings can turn into, and that’s exactly what happens here. In addition to last minute wedding changes, Janna is dealing with drama of her own, as she attempts to understand her feelings about the love square (yes, you heard that right) that seems to be closing in.

Both books have fantastic Muslim rep (although I have some minor issues with the portrayal of hijab in the first book) and I highly recommend both books. 

Adult (note: clean, safe for teens)

Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin

A retelling of You’ve Got Mail, this book was a whirlwind of drama, love, gut-wrenching pain, and forgiveness. Hana is a brilliant MC and her perspective was such a great place to read from. Good Muslim representation in all forms of media is often an uphill battle, and we see Hana fighting that battle at her job at the radio station, when they want to run stories on Muslim communities that would actually be harmful. In addition to the fight for proper rep, Hana also deals with quite a bit of Islamophobia. The sensitive subject was written so well and I absolutely bawled. The romance was angsty, adorable, and basically everything I wanted from a halal Muslim enemies-to-lovers.

Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin

A contemporary Muslim retelling of Pride & Prejudice, this story blew me away. The romance was absolutely adorable, and I am in LOVE with our main characters. I see a lot of myself in Ayesha, and Khalid was just so awkward, I couldn’t handle the cuteness! Similarly to Pride & Prejudice, I could not STAND Khalid’s mom (think Mrs. Bennett but so much worse). In addition to the romance, the story also touched on the intricacies of the Muslim community and the importance of our relationships with each other, and how we grow from them. Seeing how our characters navigated their faith and desires in a world that doesn’t always agree with it added so much to the story.

Thank you so much, Basma, for your recommendations!!
(And everyone else: Make sure to go follow Basma on Instagram! You won’t be disappointed!)

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“BookTok”
by Angelina Dong, Rising 10th Grader & Kellee’s Student 2017-2020

Welcome to BookTok, a virtually available community of passionate readers that is always at your service, with good books to recommend especially when you’re in a slump. #BookTok was created on the well-known platform, TikTok. At first glance it might seem like a collection of your average videos that you’ll swipe and never see again; however, to readers and authors, it has become an interesting and essential way to communicate. Many authors were able to get recognition for their work because creators on the platform give their honest reviews which naturally attracts their followers.

One example of an author on TikTok is Victoria Aveyard. Even though she is well-known for writing the Red Queen series, she is able to share her experience writing the books and help young writers with her content. John Green, the #1 best selling author for The Fault In Our Stars, likes to share what new books he is working on and occasionally collaborates with his brother Hank Green. He has a new book out called The Anthropocene Reviewed. The author of We Hunt the Flame, Hafsah Faizal, is also on TikTok. She likes to share her journey and perseverance towards becoming a writer. She can be seen as an inspiration to young writers and readers who hope to pursue their own career path in literature.

Books recommended from BookTok have become such a topic that bookstores, such as Barnes and Nobles, have created a table just to display them. Some books you might see on that table are: The Song of Achilles, These Violent Delights, They Both Die At The End, Six of Crows, From Blood and Ash, Dance of Thieves, A Court of Thorn and Roses, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, and the Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. These are only some of the recommended books you’ll find trending on Book Tok!

The book community on Tiktok has certainly grown since it was first started, amassing over 11.2 billion views. If you want to find more books you can also hop over to Goodreads and search BookTok for more recommendations!

Here are some BookTok pages/videos that I’ve enjoyed:

Thank you so much, Angelina, for introducing us to BookTok and sharing some favorite recommendations!

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