A Legendary Alston Boys Adventure: The Last Mirror on the Left
Author: Lamar Giles
Illustrator: Dapo Adeola
Pulication Date: October 20th, 2020 from Versify

Summary: In this new Legendary Alston Boys adventure from Edgar-nominated author Lamar Giles, Otto and Sheed must embark on their most dangerous journey yet, bringing a fugitive to justice in a world that mirrors their own but has its own rules to play by.

Unlike the majority of Logan County’s residents, Missus Nedraw of the Rorrim Mirror Emporium remembers the time freeze from The Last Last-Day-of-Summer, and how Otto and Sheed took her mirrors without permission in order to fix their mess. Usually that’s an unforgivable offense, punishable by a million-year sentence. However, she’s willing to overlook the cousins’ misdeeds if they help her with a problem of her own. One of her worst prisoners has escaped, and only the Legendary Alston Boys of Logan County can help bring the fugitive to justice.

This funny and off-the-wall adventure is perfect for readers of Jonathan Auxier and Lemony Snicket.


“A fantastic second addition to an already-acclaimed series.” – Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

“An emotionally resonant and action-packed sequel that manages to be an even greater adventure than its predecessor.“ – Booklist (Starred Review)

“A complex and exciting fantasy adventure that encourages readers to question what they know about incarceration, justice, laws, and the people who enforce them.“ – School Library Journal (Starred Review)

Learn about the first Alston Boy adventure, The Last Last-Day-of-Summer, HERE.

About the Author: Lamar Giles is a well-published author and a founding member of We Need Diverse Books. Lamar has two novels forthcoming in 2020: NOT SO PURE AND SIMPLE his first Contemporary Coming-of-Age Story (HarperTeen/HarperCollins) and THE LAST MIRROR ON THE LEFT (Versify/HMH), the sequel to his 2019 hit THE LAST LAST-DAY-OF-SUMMER.

Lamar is a two-time Edgar Award finalist in the YA category, for his debut YA thriller FAKE ID (HarperCollins, 2014), and his second YA thriller, ENDANGERED (HarperCollins, 2015). His third and fourth YA thrillers, OVERTURNED (Scholastic, 2017) and SPIN (Scholastic, 2019), as well as his middle-grade debut THE LAST LAST-DAY-OF-SUMMER received glowing New York Times reviews, and was named to multiple Best Of lists, including Time Magazine, Kirkus Reviews, and Amazon. FAKE ID has been optioned by Sony Pictures.

Lamar is the editor of the We Need Diverse Books YA short story anthology FRESH INK (Random House, 2018), and a contributor to many YA and middle-grade anthologies including THREE SIDES OF A HEART (HarperCollins, 2017), BLACK ENOUGH: STORIES OF BEING YOUNG & BLACK IN AMERICA (HarperCollins / Balzer & Bray, 2019), THE HERO NEXT DOOR (Random House, 2019), HIS HIDEOUS HEART (Flatiron Books, 2019) and SUPER PUZZLETASTIC MYSTERIES (HarperCollins, 2020). He has published several short stories for adults.  You can see tv interviews with Lamar here, and here, and here, and in a truly fun “Fun Facts” short interview, created by HarperCollins.


Unleashing Readers: What have you been most excited about when it comes to the reception of The Last-Last-Day-of-Summer?

Lamar Giles: The most exciting thing was hearing from parents, or sometimes the readers themselves, how much they enjoyed Otto and Sheed and all the other fun characters in Logan County. The reviews and recognition are great, don’t get me wrong, but when the readers are happy, I’m happy.

UR: You have written both YA and MG novels; which do you prefer creating?

LG: No preference, honestly. I’m actually writing YA a book in the mornings, and an MG book in the afternoon right now. I think they allow me to divide up the subject matter I want to discuss, though. I save the most grim stuff for my YA, and reserve my fun & zany for MG. The two age groups allow me to really explore a range of topics and tone. 

UR: As a founding member of We Need Diverse Books, how does it feel to see an idea turn to reality and have such an impact?

LG: It’s amazing to see the work WNDB did was received so well by people all up and down the publishing ladder.  As many people know, the organization was the brainchild of author Ellen Oh, and she invited me along on a journey none of us could’ve imagined. That it’s six years later and the organization is still doing great work beyond what its founding members could’ve ever dreamed (I stepped down from my leadership role back in 2018) is exactly what we wanted and hoped for.

UR: Otto and Sheed went from normal kids to heroes. Did that change them?

LG: I don’t think so. Otto and Sheed understand what they are to Logan County and the town of Fry, and I think they recognize if they let that go to their head, or became some else entirely, they might not be so different from the threats they often face down. Otto and Sheed (and Wiki and Leen, let’s not forget them) are heroes because their mission and attitudes don’t change. They’re here to do what’s right.

UR: If there is one thing you want readers to get from your books, specifically Otto and Sheed’s stories?

LG: I really want readers to recognize that Otto and Sheed don’t back down when they see injustice. That’s something that can make anybody into a hero. Let’s all be like Otto and Sheed.

UR: What’s next in your book world?

LG: Next up, another Logan County adventure. I don’t know how much I’m allowed to say just yet, but trust me–we’re only just getting started! 

Hear more from Lamar by listening to him on on the Literaticast podcast!

Thank you to Lamar Giles for taking part in the interview with us, and we cannot wait to go on another adventure with the Alston Boys!

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Sometimes a Wall…
Author: Dianne White; Illustrator: Barroux
Published: October 15, 2020 by OwlKids

Summary: An afternoon in the playground introduces different kinds of walls: a brick wall to draw on with chalk, a water wall, and a climbing wall. What follows is a playful yet profound exploration of the many ways walls can divide us or bring us together. When one child is excluded from a game, another builds a castle to leave him out. When the builder declares the castle MINE, other kids feel alienated―but the builder becomes lonely, too, when the others have fun without him. The book ends with the optimism of a new start: friendship, forgiveness, and imagination give the wall new meaning.

Told with short, simple lines of playful, rhyming text and loose line illustrations by internationally known artist Barroux, this book sparks questions with empathy, insight, and charm. It’s a timely tool for inquiry-based and social-emotional learning, sharing the important message that walls can unite or divide, depending on the choices we make. 

“Rhyme, rhythm, and simple art—all including references to walls—show children expressing different emotions and behaviors… Mending walls for the nursery crowd.” –Kirkus Reviews

Review: My own children have been asking about walls. They hear about them in school (in preschool and first grade), and they come home with a lot of questions. This book offers such great fodder for conversations about walls. The wall in this book evolves, and it is up to the reader to interpret many aspects about the wall and its purpose. I love how this opens discussions for what walls might represent and how they might differ in various conceptions. For instance, the wall in this book might be described as a border wall or it might be describe attached to a metaphorical or ideological wall. This is a book that will make readers of all ages think. I read the book three times in a row (which is not often my approach) because I kept thinking about new applications of the text. This would make a phenomenal classroom text and would be great for critical thinking and discussions. I recommend it highly.

Teacher’s Tool For Navigation: I’d love to use this book to teach the concept of a metaphor. For me, the wall in this text can be used as a metaphor to talk about a lot of concepts (concrete and abstract).

The “Why” Behind the Book:

A Letter to Parents and Educators

A Letter to Young Readers

Discussion Guide:

Sometimes a Wall… Discussion Guide

A Lesson In 3 Movements:

• Intro to the Unit (PLEASE READ FIRST!)

• What’s Different About Reading Wordless/Nearly Wordless Picture Books?

• 1st Movement: TOGETHER (I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoët)

 2nd Movement: APART (Draw the Line by Kathryn Otoshi)

• 3rd Movement: REGRET. NEW START? (Sometimes a Wall … by Dianne White, illustrated by Barroux)

Coloring Pages For Younger Students:

We Are Kind coloring page

Be Kind coloring page

Discussion Questions: 

  • What might the wall represent?
  • How does the wall evolve in the text?
  • What kinds of walls do you have in your life? Do they serve good or bad purposes (or both)?

We Flagged: 

Read This If You Loved: I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoët, Draw the Line by Kathryn Otoshi, The Wall in the Middle of the Book by Jon Agee

Recommended For: 


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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: Julián at the Wedding by Jessica Love

Thursday: Educators’ Guide for Fight of the Century: Alice Paul Battles Woodrow Wilson for the Vote by Barb Rosenstock, Illustrated by Sarah Green

Friday: K-2 Teachers: Indigenous Peoples Day and Thanksgiving

Saturday: Sofia’s Kids’ Corner: The One and Only Ivan and The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate

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


We’ll both update you all on our reading next week as we’re spending this three day weekend with our families. Use the time today, on Indigenous Peoples Day, to read Ricki’s post from Friday in place of our normal IMWAYR.

We hope you have an amazing week!



Thursday: Blog Tour with Review, Discussion Guide, and more!: Sometimes a Wall… by Dianne White, Illustrated by Barroux

Sunday: Author Interview with Lamar Giles, Author of The Last Mirror on the Left


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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Sofia is an 8-year-old brilliant reader who aspires to be a book reviewer. On select Saturdays, Sofia will share her favorite books with kids! She is one of the most well-read elementary schoolers that we know, so she is highly qualified for this role!

Dear readers,

If you are looking for two books about kindness and bravery then these books would be those books. Drumroll please… The One and Only Ivan and the sequel The One and Only Bob by Kathrine Applegate!!! These books are totally recommended for read aloud! If you want any of these books for read aloud I would say they are appropriate for second grade and above. These books are recommended for ages 8-12 if you read them yourself.

The One and Only Ivan

Ivan is a big and kind gorilla. He lives at a mall owned by a person called Mack. Mack makes shows to attract more people to his mall and Ivan and some of his friends are in it. Ivan makes some friends at the mall like an old circus elephant named Stella, Julia who is Mack’s daughter and later on a young elephant named Ruby who was taken away from her family when she was very young. They are trapped in big cages made of glass so the people can see the animals when they walk past the cages. Mack is very harsh when the animals don’t follow his directions and sometimes he even takes out a whip! Will Ivan and his friends be able to escape Mack’s mall without being harmed?

The One and Only Bob

Bob is a dog. He got taken away from his mom when he was little. He got dropped off in the road and became a street dog searching through garbage cans for as much food as he could find.  When Bob meets Ivan in the first book they become best buddies and they also become friends with Ruby, the elephant that lives at the mall with Ivan. As you will know if you have read The One and Only Ivan Bob eventually goes to stay with Julia, Mack’s daughter. Bob visits his friends every day. But one time there is a big storm and Julia loses Bob in the middle of a monstrous flood! Will he make it out alive?

I love both of these books because they really make me feel like I am actually there and witnessing the event, like all good books do. I also love these books because they are a bit silly because the stories are told from an animal’s point of view. The animals say a lot of weird things about us because they don’t really understand our ways. For example, the book says “I have learned to understand human words over the years, but understanding human speech is not the same as understanding humans. Humans speak too much. They chatter like chimps, crowding the world with their noise even when they have nothing to say.” I am sure any reader would have fun with this so ENJOY!!!

If you loved these books then you might want to read Crenshaw By Katharine Applegate. Crenshaw is a cat. I have not read it yet but it sounds very interesting!

**Thank you, Sofia, for your continued brilliance. You inspire us!**


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My son’s phenomenal elementary school teacher, started the first week of school reading Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard. Children volunteered to share their tribal membership and lineage. They talked about family and what fry bread meant to them and their families. From the first day of school, I noticed the beauty of her instructional approach as she read different picture books aloud which invited the children to share their stories. She doesn’t limit books to designated months and is sharing year-round and her pedagogies are culturally sustaining in so many ways (but this is not the purpose of this post, so I’ll stop there).

Recently, two K-2 teachers asked me specifically: What can I do for Indigenous Peoples Day and Thanksgiving? These are two teachers who I didn’t need to say: first, don’t make this a single day or a month. They knew this. I shared with them some of the resources from good sources that I know, and I am sharing them here in case others find them useful. My expertise is in 6-12 teacher education, but I know others who do research/writing in this area or write books for K-2 (and beyond), and they are cited among the resources below. There are so many resources outside of this post, so if this is your first go at it, please don’t limit yourself to this post here. If you are grades 6-12, this is not really the post for you, and on another day, I might venture into recommendations for this age level, which I feel are even more bountiful (which include publications by some of the people cited on the list below, among other brilliant authors and scholars). If you are K-2 and have more suggestions, lay them out in the comments section.

First, I recommend Debbie Reese and Jean Mendoza’s Tips for Teachers: Developing Instructional Materials about American Indians (which is K-12). This just offers grounding knowledge that is imperative. If you will read nothing else on this page, read this (and their two comments below the post, which include resources that primarily feature resources for grades 4 and up but are very good).

Indigenous Peoples Day

Every family celebrates Indigenous Peoples Day differently. With my relatives and (non-school) community, growing up, we most often talked about the truth about Columbus on this particular day because it was such a glaring holiday on our school calendar. Looking back, this centers Whiteness in many ways because we were so keenly focused on that day. But it was a reality for us as I would come home with worksheets from school coloring in his face. It is still celebrated as “Columbus Day” in the school district that I grew up in as a student. This made school very confusing to me, where Columbus was revered. It wasn’t until I was in middle school that I felt like my relatives shifted to more of a Indigenous Peoples Day conception and celebration (although they have no problem talking about some of the absurdities of who is revered in holidays—such as Columbus). I don’t know if others celebrated it this way growing up, but this was my experience as a child in K-6.

When these K-2 teachers asked me how they might talk about Indigenous Peoples Day this coming Monday, I recommended that they start by ensuring that their 5- and 6-year-old students knew that Indigenous people are still alive. I know this feels like a basic thing, but young kids are often taught about Indigenous people as a thing in the past, and they don’t seem to connect this past and present connection at this age. The way Native Americans are depicted in history and books, they are frozen in time. If you want to show them that Indigenous people are not a thing of history, you could, for instance, show the Project 562 gallery or you could show this video of an elementary school which offers a bilingual Ojibwe program and bilingual Cree program. Celebrate famous Indigenous people in the news, sports, etc. today. These are quick suggestions, and I am sure others have more.

You might also talk with kids about the land that they live on. I like the Native Land Digital website a lot. This gets complicated because territories are a Western notion, but this site offers a starting point. You can talk about the nations that exist in your area and their present day issues (rather than solely focusing on historical) and look at the nations’ websites.

Native Knowledge 360 offers ideas for instruction (sortable by grade). Beyond the K-2 suggestions, you might offer a modified version of this project about environmental challenges for your students.

Focus on reading stories by Indigenous authors. The American Indian Youth Literature Award is a great place to start.


This holiday is associated with a lot of hard experiences for me—and the holiday is inextricably tied to experiences in my schooling. It is these schooling experiences that compelled me to decide to go into teaching. There’s a lot to unpack and it’s beyond this post, so instead, I can offer a brief list of don’ts for teaching: Thanksgiving plays/feasts, dressing up as Indians/Pilgrims, stereotypical images of Indians and pilgrims, Indian names (and while we are at it, spirit animals), Native American craft time, and paper headdresses or fake feathers.

When I was younger, we did a harvest dinner, and our family talked about what this day meant (and it wasn’t a happy pilgrims/Indians thing). As a starting point, Teaching Tolerance offers age-appropriate ideas for teachers, Oyate has a website about myths about Thanksgiving, and you might check out the blog post “Do American Indians celebrate Thanksgiving?” There is also an “interactive historian” website that works against myths about the holiday.

For our family, when we sit down to dinner on that Thursday that is revered by many, we do take the time (and we do this every day) to talk about the food that we are eating and honoring where it came from; the land that we reside on and the original habitants and the cost at which it came to us; and those for whom we are grateful. Along this line, I especially recommend We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorrell. She has another book coming out in April 2021 that is available for pre-order.

I debated not writing this post because I am not a K-2 teacher, and I am not someone who specializes in representation. But I am a parent. And I was a K-2 child once, and this age carries a lot of weight for me, primarily because of how I struggled in school. When these teachers asked me for help, they asked me genuinely, and they were earnest in their goals of doing what is in the best interest of kids. If your expertise falls more in this area and you have recommendations, comment below. If you have questions, comment below. I’ll come back on another day with more 6-12 books, but as I noted, there are so many great resources in this area, that I felt it best to start with K-2.


Fight of the Century: Alice Paul Battles Woodrow Wilson for the Vote
Author: Barb Rosensock
Illustrator: Sarah Green
Published: February 25th, 2020 by Calkins Creek

Summary: The fight for women’s suffrage between women’s rights leader Alice Paul and President Woodrow Wilson is presented as a four-round boxing match in this nonfiction picture book.

When Woodrow Wilson was elected President, he didn’t know that he would be participating in one of the greatest fights of the century: the battle for women’s right to vote. The formidable Alice Paul led the women’s suffrage movement, and saw President Wilson’s election as an opportunity to win the vote to women. She battered her opponent with endless strategic arguments and carefully coordinated protests, calling for a new amendment granting women the right to vote. With a spirit and determination that never quit–even when peaceful protests were met with violence and even when many women were thrown in jail–Paul eventually convinced President Wilson to support her cause, changing the country forever.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the educators’ guide I created for Fight of the Century:

You can also access the teaching guide here.

You can learn more about Fight of the Century here.

Barb Rosenstock also created two other resources for educators:
A Pinterest Board
A Text Set

Recommended For: 

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Julián at the Wedding
Author & Illustrator: Jessica Love
Published October 6th, 2020 by Candlewick Press

Summary: The star of Julián Is a Mermaid makes a joyful return–and finds a new friend–at a wedding to be remembered.

Julián and his abuela are attending a wedding. Better yet, Julián is in the wedding along with his cousin Marisol. When wedding duties are fulfilled and with a new dog friend in tow, the pair takes off to roam the venue, exploring everywhere from underneath tables to enchanting willow trees to . . . muddy puddles? After all, it wouldn’t be a wedding without fun, laughter, and a little magical mischief. With ingenuity and heart, author-illustrator Jessica Love tells a charming story of friendship, acceptance, and celebration.

About the Author: Jessica Love is an actor and the author-illustrator of Julián Is a Mermaid. She has a BA in studio art from the University of California, Santa Cruz, as well as a graduate degree from Juilliard. She has appeared in plays both on and off Broadway. Jessica Love lives in Brooklyn.


“Arrtwork on brown paper allows warm, clear views of the characters, who appear to be Black and Afro-Latinx. The specificity of Love’s characterizations—the way the abuelas kick off their high heels, the brides’ enthusiasm, the children’s expansive gender expressions—offers vibrancy and immediacy, and under their community’s watchful eyes, Julián and Marisol find affection, acceptance, and room to grow.” -Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“A celebration of weddings and a subtle yet poignant reminder that gender, like love, is expansive. Lovely.” -Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

“Once again Love has brought us young characters who are free to live, play, and express themselves however they wish without conflict. An abundance of joy and love.” -The Horn Book, Starred Review

Review: Jessica Love has brought such a special character to light in Julián. His story is a story of love, being yourself, having fun, happiness, and light. In Julián’s new story, we find him at a wedding where, like most kids, he and Marisol would rather go play than hang around with the adults. Only a small amount of text is needed because the joy of playing together radiates through the illustrations and is a feeling that every person has felt at one time or another while they play with no inhibitions when they probably should be somewhere else. Trent and I read this book together and when we were done, he said, “I want to play with them!” and that summarizes the feeling of this book.

Activity Kit from the Publisher: 

A Conversation with the Author: 

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love, The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson, When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff

Recommended For: 



**Thank you to Candlewick Press for providing a copy for review!**

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