Mascot by Charles Waters and Traci Sorell


Authors: Charles Waters and Traci Sorell
Published September 5th, 2023 by Charlesbridge

Summary: What if a school’s mascot is seen as racist, but not by everyone? In this compelling middle-grade novel in verse, two best-selling BIPOC authors tackle this hot-button issue.

In Rye, Virginia, just outside Washington, DC, people work hard, kids go to school, and football is big on Friday nights. An eighth-grade English teacher creates an assignment for her class to debate whether Rye’s mascot should stay or change. Now six middle-schoolers—all with different backgrounds and beliefs—get involved in the contentious issue that already has the suburb turned upside down with everyone choosing sides and arguments getting ugly.


⭐ Publishers Weekly, starred review

Told via seven alternating narratives, this ripped-from-the-headlines collaboration in verse by Waters (African Town) and Cherokee Nation member Sorrel (One Land, Many Nations) follows a fictional town’s division over a racist sports mascot. Callie Crossland, who is Cherokee and Black, has just transferred to a middle school in Rye, Va. She immediately expresses disgust at her school’s mascot, a “copper-toned, muscled, loincloth-clad, tomahawk-wielding” caricature of an Indigenous person. Callie’s English teacher Ms. Williams soon assigns a group writing project regarding the “Pros and Cons of Indigenous Peoples as Mascots,” and Callie is annoyed at being paired with Black classmate Franklin, who believes the mascot “brings so much joy.” Waters and Sorrel paint a complex portrait of the differing reactions toward the controversy by layering the racially diverse tweens’ perspectives and showcasing the effects the event has on their individual relationships and the community beyond their school. The creators eschew judgment to present a well-rounded discussion about classism and racism, as well as effective allyship, with compassion and understanding. A glossary and resources conclude. Ages 10–up.

Kirkus Reviews, starred review

Waters and Sorell (Cherokee Nation) join forces to write about the power of being true to oneself.

In a middle school in Rye, a fictional town near Washington, D.C., a racist mural and offensive pep rally chants shock new student Callie Crossland, who is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and African American. Callie shares a heartfelt poem with her seventh grade honors English class, reminding everyone that the “stupid tomahawk-chop chant” and the “cheap chicken-feather headdress” are nothing less than symbols of “white supremacy.” Afterward, Ms. Williams, her teacher, assigns a persuasive writing and oration project entitled “Pros and Cons of Indigenous Peoples as Mascots.” The small, broadly diverse group of students is assigned to work in pairs; Callie is matched with Franklin, who is Black and a proud fan of the Rye Braves football team. Franklin insists, “I wish we could Lysol racism away. / It’s a bad odor,” but he feels conflicted: “I still don’t think our mascot is racist though. It brings so much joy. / …what’s the big deal?” This clever novel unfolds in poems told in multiple voices showing the wide range of students’, families’, and community responses to the controversy; for some, initial feelings of opposition, hesitation, or indifference change and friendships are tested. The compelling, highly relevant subject matter and accessible text invite readers to understand different perspectives and witness individual growth.

A brilliant story not to be missed; deeply engaging from the first page. (glossary, additional information and resources) (Verse fiction. 10-14)

About the Authors: Charles Waters is a children’s poet, actor, educator, and coauthor of African Town; Dictionary for a Better World: Poems, Quotes, and Anecdotes from A to Z; and the award-winning Can I Touch Your Hair? Poems of Race, Mistakes and Friendship. He lives near Atlanta.

Traci Sorell writes fiction and nonfiction for children featuring contemporary characters and compelling biographies, including the Sibert Honor books We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga and We Are Still Here!. She is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation and lives in northeastern Oklahoma, where her tribe is located.

The Authors Discuss the Book: 

Review: The tagline of this book is “Discrimination is discrimination, even when people claim it is ‘tradition,'” and this tagline tells you exactly about the theme of the book. Told from four students’ points of view, it looks at a school where there is a lot of school spirit around their sports team, called the Braves, and a new student starts who is indigenous and is horrified at the appropriation of her culture. The book is written in verse which gives such well written insight into each of the students’ point of view as these kids aim to make a difference. I read this book in one sitting–it is such a great read where you want to know what is going to happen, so you cannot put the book down.

This topic is also so very timely! I saw Traci Sorell at AASL, and she shared that about 2,000 K-12 schools still have Native American-themed mascots. I know of a couple in my area, and I hope that someone shares this book with them to get the conversation going as the book does a beautiful job of looking at the effects of the ignorant choices that were made in the past (and that too many continue to ignore, despite the racism).

Discussion Questions: 

*This discussion guide is provided by the publisher.

Flagged Spreads: 

Read This If You Love: Novels in Verse, Books with multiple points of view, Books that look at timely injustices

Recommended For: 



**Thanks to Charlesbridge for providing a copy of the book for review!**

Student Voices: Author Spotlights from Kamari L., 8th grader, and Hala B. & Trinity P., 7th graders


Author Spotlights

“Judy Blume” by Kamari L., 2022-23 8th grader

Judy Blume’s books have been a staple of young adult literature for decades for a good reason. Her ability to capture the struggles and triumphs of being a young adult has resonated with readers for generations. One of her most beloved books that I will talk about today is Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. 

In this timeless classic, Mrs Blume follows the journey of Margaret Simon as she navigates the challenges of growing up. From dealing with her parent’s divorce to trying to fit in with a new group of friends, Margaret’s experiences are both relatable and heartwarming. One of the reasons I loved this book is because I could relate to Margaret’s struggles. Like her, I was trying to figure out my place in the world and understand my changing body. Reading about Margaret’s experiences made me feel less alone and gave me a sense of comfort and understanding. 

I love the way it tackles complex issues with honesty and sensitivity. The novel deals with topics like religion, menstruation, and peer pressure in a way that is approachable for teenagers. I appreciated that the book didn’t talk down to its readers, like some adults tend to, but instead treated them as intelligent and capable of understanding these important issues. Something about Blume’s writing style is honest and straightforward, which makes the book accessible to readers of all ages. Her ability to tackle important topics like puberty and religion with sensitivity and humor is what sets her apart from other authors in the genre. That’s something I love. 

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret remains a must-read for anyone going through the ups and downs of being a teenager, which isn’t always easy. Blume’s ability to capture the complexities of growing up is a testament to her talent as a writer and her deep understanding of what it means to be a teenager. It’s a classic for a reason and deserves a place on every bookshelf. It’s a personal favorite!

“Jerry Craft” by Hala B., 2022-23 7th grade

Jerry Craft is an all time favorite author-illustrator who has made a name for himself in the world of children’s literature. He has created multiple books, including the graphic novel series New Kid, which has won many great awards. The reason his books are amazing is because of the fact that he uses his life stories and experiences to add on to life created in the books full of creative and adventurous journeys.

Jerry Craft’s work is known for its ability to reach compound problems in a way that is both appealing and obtainable for young readers. They are told through the eyes of the characters he created that are relatable to others and showed amazing characteristics. He is a talented and important voice in the world of children’s literature. His work is entertaining and really well thought out, he also has the power to inspire and encourage young readers to think cautiously about the world they have around them and how to acknowledge the different situations that may happen.

Jerry Craft is a great author because he uses his life experiences to achieve an amazing story that is worthy of being told. The books he writes about reflects on my middle school in many ways like showing students that are having a hard time that they are not alone and that their problems always have solutions.

Why I chose to write about Jerry Craft 

The reason I wrote about this topic is because I think that Jerry Craft’s story should be shared and read by multiple people that may be influenced by it. These books allows others to get another perspective on the life issues people have been through, I love the way he stretches his story to a whole new world of experiences and adventures with challenges and solutions and I know if other people read his books they would feel that way as well.

Jerry Craft’s school visit

I am really excited that Jerry Craft is coming for a school visit on February, I think that meeting the amazing person behind the awesome books will be an interesting and fun-filled time. These school visits teach a lot of things about authors like how they are also people who are not different from anyone else. Their minds intrigue stories that come to life and have an impact on their readers. An author takes a lot of time coming up with these ideas, it is hard and not easy, yet, they still manage to impress everyone that has come across their books. Recently, we had Christina Diaz Gonzalez come to visit our school which was very exciting and fulfilling to watch. The reason these school visits are memorable is because of the hard work given from these authors to provide all the students with honest answers to their questions and allowing the students to get to know the author by sharing their stories and adventures with them.

“Katherine Applegate’s Books” by Trinity P., 2022-23 7th grade

Throughout the years, I have read books by Katherine Applegate, and let me tell you those books are amazing! I will only review the books that I have read or am excited about reading soon there are still more amazing books that she created that I have not read yet. 

She is most recognized by the book The One And Only Ivan, somewhat based on a true story about a gorilla named Ivan living in a small circus in the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. It is a very amazing book with lovable characters which I love. 

The One And Only Bob which takes place after The One And Only Ivan, Bob used to be a stray, living on the streets that stumbled into the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade and met Ivan and ever since they have been best pals, now he has a new home and family and still sees Ivan but then a storm came and he has to go on an adventure, finding lost family, saving lives, and making new friends. Definitely recommend it to people who have read The One and Only Ivan because it is so fun and great. 

I have not read The One And Only Ruby yet, but I will and I am so excited, that it came out that I ordered it a day later and would probably read it this summer. 

The Endling series is an amazing fictional story with mythical animals and magic. It is about a Dairne named Byx who is convinced that she is the last of her kind after her species is said to be extended. She makes friends and sets off for somewhere where she might be safe and hopefully find other Dairnes. This is probably of my favorite books because of all of the excitement and adventures.

Wishtree is a very touching and sweet story of a tree where people in the neighborhood has a tradition, they write their wishes on a strip of fabric, paper, etc, and tie it to the branches. The tree also protects animals that call it home. What’s interesting is that it is told from the perspective of the tree and its feelings and interactions with the surroundings. It is beautiful and very heartwarming and would recommend it to people. 

Odder is about an otter named Odder and her life from living in the ocean to losing her mother and being rescued, then being released back into the ocean, and later she was in a devastating accident with a shark. It has more information about the animals which is a little different but still quite interesting.

Thank you so much to my student voices today and their look at these three amazing authors!

Student Voices: Character Reflection from Luci S., Caeden S., & Anna D., 7th graders, and Elisa, 6th grader


Character Reflections

“5 Books That Would’ve Been Better from the Villain’s Point of View” by Luci S., 2022-23 7th grade

I did not dislike any of these books; however, I think they would have been intriguing from the villain’s point of view.

Shatter Me Book Summary – The Advocate

  • Shatter Me would have undoubtedly become more captivating and alluring if it had been presented from the perspective of the villain. By delving into the depths of the antagonist’s mind, readers would be exposed to a complex and intriguing character with multifaceted motivations and a compelling backstory. Exploring the world through the villain’s eyes would provide a fresh and unique perspective, allowing us to witness the evolution of their sinister plans and the meticulous strategies they employ to achieve their goals. Understanding their fears, desires, and the circumstances that shaped them would not only add depth to the narrative but also blur the lines between good and evil, creating a morally ambiguous landscape where the reader is constantly questioning their own loyalties. By immersing ourselves in the villain’s point of view, ‘Shatter Me’ would have been transformed into a captivating tale of twisted emotions, gray morality, and a truly unforgettable antagonist.

Avatar: The Last Airbender: Volume 1 (Avatar: The Last Airbender) – Author  Random House – Random House Children's Books

  • Avatar: The Last Airbender would have taken on a mesmerizing and thought-provoking dimension if it had been narrated from the perspective of the anti-hero’s. By peering into the inner workings of the antagonist’s mind, readers would gain profound insights into their motivations, fears, and struggles. The story would transcend the conventional battle of good versus evil, providing a  exploration of the villains’ personal journeys and the circumstances that led them down their dark path. This shift in perspective would challenge our preconceived notions and force us to question the very nature of morality. We would witness the conflicts within the villains themselves as they grapple with their actions, delving into their complex emotions and understanding their reasons for pursuing power. The Last Airbender would become an enthralling tale of redemption, empathy, and the exploration of the human capacity for change, blurring the boundaries between heroes and villains in a way that resonates deeply with readers.

Cleopatra in Space - Wikipedia

  • Cleopatra in Space would have taken on a fascinating and captivating dimension if it had been narrated from the perspective of the villains. By delving into the minds of the antagonists, readers would be introduced to a rich and complex world of intergalactic politics and power struggles. Exploring the story through the eyes of the villains would provide a unique insight into their motivations, their twisted ideologies, and the intricate web of alliances and betrayals they weave. It would offer a fresh perspective on Cleopatra’s journey through space and time, as we witness the villains’ relentless pursuit of dominance and their relentless efforts to thwart her mission. This shift in perspective would add depth and complexity to the narrative, introducing morally ambiguous characters with their own personal struggles and conflicts. “Cleopatra in Space” would become a gripping tale of conflicting loyalties, blurred lines between good and evil/ Backstabbing characters, and the intricacies of power dynamics in an interstellar realm.

The Stonekeeper (Amulet Series #1) by Kazu Kibuishi, Paperback | Barnes &  Noble®

  • Amulet would have taken on an enthralling and captivating twist if it had been narrated from the perspective of the villains. By immersing readers in the minds of the antagonists, we would gain a deep understanding of their motives, fears, and the darkness that drives them. Exploring the story through the eyes of the villains would provide a fresh and intriguing perspective, allowing us to witness their intricate plans, cunning strategies, and the inner conflicts they grapple with. It would offer a fascinating exploration of the villains’ backstory, their troubled pasts, and the events that shaped them into formidable adversaries. This shift in perspective would add depth and complexity to the narrative, blurring the lines between good and evil and prompting readers to question their own allegiances. ‘Amulet’ would become a spellbinding tale of moral ambiguity, showcasing the intricate dance between light and shadow, and revealing the intricate layers of the villains’ motivations and inner struggles.

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan | Goodreads

  • The Lightning Thief would have gained a mesmerizing and captivating allure if it had been presented from the perspective of the villains. By delving into the minds of the antagonists, readers would be introduced to a complex and layered world of deities and mythical creatures. Exploring the story through the eyes of the villains would allow us to witness their relentless pursuit of power, their through plans, and their relentless determination to thwart the protagonist’s journey. Understanding the villains’ motivations, their troubled pasts, and the circumstances that led them to the dark side would not only add depth to the narrative but also blur the lines between good and evil. This shift in perspective would provide a fresh and thrilling angle, highlighting the complexities of the supernatural realm and prompting readers to question their perceptions of right and wrong. ‘The Lightning Thief’ would transform into an enthralling tale of conflicting loyalties, moral ambiguity, and the pursuit of power, offering a truly unforgettable exploration of the mythological universe.

“Characters That Would (or would not) Make the World a Better Place if They Were Real” by Caeden S., 2022-23 7th grade

4 characters that WOULD make the world a better place

  • Annabeth Chase-The Percy Jackson series and the Heroes of Olympus series: Annabeth is known for being the daughter of Athena, the goddess of wisdom, so of course she would be able to make the right decisions. I think she would find an accurate solution to world hunger, fix our economy, solve political issues and also be fair to all of the people that she would help.

  • Starflight- The Wings of Fire SeriesStarflight is the Nightwing in the Dragonet Prophecy and helps to save the dragon world, Pyrrhia. He would probably be fair to all of the world (Granted he is a dragon, so we as humans would be afraid of him, as shown in the books.) Because he’s seen what war did to his world, maybe he’ll try to help our world solve disputes as well.

  • Katnnis Everdeen- The Hunger GamesKatniss is known for being the girl from The Hunger Games who wins for District 12 in the first book. She then helps to spike and uprising and then goes back to the games and wins. I think that she’d be excellent at the food crisis, if war breaks out, she’d find an excellent way to defeat the enemy and bring peace again. 

  • Link- The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess Manga We all know about Link. From the Manga to the Games, he’s changed worlds there. But what about in real life? I think that he would make sure that all our peace was peace, and I think he would make sure to defend the world while also keeping the peace in the world.

4 characters that WOULD NOT make the world a better place

  • Nico Di Angelo-The Percy Jackson Series, The Heroes of OlympusNico is the child of Hades who helped in the battle of Manhattan and helped to transport the Athena Parthenos to save Camp Half Blood. However, I think that he would unpurposefully act upon the trauma that he suffered in the books. He would try to help people, but he might scare or traumatize them, causing the world more problems. 

  • Moon- The Wings of Fire seriesMoon is the Nightwing from the second prophecy. I think that she is like Nico, in the sense that she would try to help people, but end up hurting them. She would try to help teach people about the dangers, but end up causing them. (Also again, she’s a dragon, so she would scare people.)

  • Peeta Mellark-The Hunger GamesPeeta is the other tribute who survives the games. But I think because of what he did to Katniss, with the trickery and everything, he would make the world worse. He would try to scheme his way into powerful positions, and may end up hurting some people. 

  • Zant, The Usupur King- Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess manga Zant is the big bad of this manga in the twilight realm. Link has to defeat him with the help of the twilight princess, and manages too. From what I’ve read of the series, Zant seems to always be power hungry, looking for ways to exploit people, or just causing disaster. He would not try to even be nice to people if he existed. He would just try to end the world. 

“Characters I Feel I Could Open Up To” by Anna D., 2022-23 7th grade

Smile by Raina Telgemeier | The Scholastic Teacher Store

  • Raina– Raina is a wonderful character from the book Smile by Raina Telgemeier. She is a relatable and endearing protagonist, and I feel like I could talk to her about anything. Her struggles with braces, friends, and crushes are all things that many of us can relate to. I admire her resilience and positive attitude, even when things get tough. If I could talk to Raina, I would tell her how much I appreciate her story and how it has helped me feel less alone in my own struggles.

Sylvie GN (2021 Walker Books US) 1-1ST NM

  • Sylvie– Sylvie is a fascinating character from the book Sylvie by Sylvie Kantorovitz. She is creative, curious, and has a unique perspective on the world around her. I believe that Sylvie can achieve anything she sets her mind to. Whether she wants to talk about her latest artistic creation, her favorite book, or her thoughts on the world, I am here to listen and provide helpful insights. She could really inspire me.

Numb to This: Memoir of a Mass Shooting: 9780316462099: Neely, Kindra:  Books -

  • Kindra- Have you met Kindra? She’s a captivating character from the book Numb to This: Memoirs of a Mass Shooting by Kindra Neely. I find her to be quite intriguing with her unique perspective on life and the world around her. I’m sure I could have some stimulating conversations with Kindra about anything that she finds fascinating. As she has experienced things that many can relate to. She’s a captivating character with a unique perspective on life.

Bridge City Comics - Click GN Vol 01 Places Everyone

  • Olive-
    There are many reasons why I could freely talk to Olive from the book Click by Kayla Miller. For starters, Olive is a relatable and likable character who is easy to connect with. Additionally, the book conveys important themes such as friendship, self-discovery, and identity, which makes it a great conversation starter. I also find that talking about Olive and her experiences would help me gain a deeper understanding of my own feelings and experiences. Overall, there are plenty of good reasons to chat about Olive and her story, I wouldn’t hesitate to share my thoughts and feelings with her.

Awkward (Berrybrook Middle School, #1) by Svetlana Chmakova | Goodreads

  • Jaime- There are a number of reasons why I feel comfortable discussing Jaime from the book Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova. Jaime is a relatable character who many readers will be able to connect with, as he struggles with fitting in and finding his place in a new school. Also, Awkward explores important themes such as bullying, friendship, and self-expression, which makes it a great starting point for discussions on these topics. I find that talking about Jaimes and his experiences could help me better understand my own feelings and experiences, and can even inspire me to be more confident in myself. Overall, there are many good reasons to talk about Jaime and his story with others, so I wouldn’t hesitate to share my thoughts and feelings with him.

Drama : Telgemeier, Raina: Books

  • Callie-
    There are a couple reasons as to why I feel like I could open up freely to Callie from the book Drama by Raina Telgemeier. Callie is a determined character who has high hopes, many readers could connect with the fact that she had to be flexible with roles in the play. I feel like I could talk to her about how she handled the situation and learn from her. Callie is also not a judgmental person, she is very kind, which proves why I could talk to her freely. Additionally, the book Drama conveys important themes such as perseverance and being flexible with ideas, which would make a great thing to talk about with her because she has more firsthand experience. Overall, I feel that talking to her would be entertaining and easy. 

“My Favorite and Least Favorite Characters” by Elisa M., 2022-23 6th grade

Dork Diaries English Set of 14

Dork Diaries Series

Dork Diaries is one of my favorite series. I love everything about it. Niki is the main character with her two best friends by her side. Her biggest enemy is Mackenzie because both Niki and Mackenzie are in love with a boy. In every book Niki is always getting herself into crazy situations.

Favorite character

Mackenzie-  Mackenzie is one of my favorite characters. She was one of the main villains in the series. I liked how she never changed in any of the books and definitely has the best comebacks and sass in the book. I wish to have her confidence and comebacks one day.

Least favorite character

Niki- Niki was definitely my least favorite character. She always made problems for herself when she could have fixed it if she told someone. She would keep things to herself and avoid the problem which created confusion and anger with others. Like Brandon, and her two best friends. She also acted like a pick me and always pitied herself.

Sylvie GN (2021 Walker Books US) 1-1ST NM


Sylvie lives in a school in France. As a young child, Sylvie and her brother explore this most unusual kingdom, full of small mysteries. But in middle and high school, life grows more complicated with school, parents, family, and love life.

Favorite character

Sylvie-  Sylvie was an amazing character . She was the main character of the book. I could really relate to everything she was going through throughout the story.  I loved how she was creative and that she expresses herself through art.

Least favorite character

Slyvie mom- I disliked her mom very much. You don’t really realize that she is the villain in the story but she is the one who caused Sylvie biggest problem in the book. She always wanted everything perfect and made Sylvie clean constantly and didn’t let Sylvie follow her dreams. Slyvie always felt like she wasn’t good enough for her mother and caused her to almost not follow her dream and do what her mother said. She was always on constant stress because her mom would always seem mad.

THE PROMISED NEVERLAND VOL. 1 - 1ªED.(2018) - Kaiu Shirai - Livro

The Promised Neverland Volumes 1-2

This is one of my favorite series. Three gifted kids at an isolated orphanage discover the secret purpose they were raised for. They look for a way to escape from their evil mother and try to escape and try to get everyone out of there.

Favorite character

Mother- I loved Mother so much!  She is basically the main villain in the story but she was forced to do everything or else she would end up dead . She was smart with every move she played and was always 1 step ahead.

Least favorite character

Ray- I liked all the characters but Ray I liked a little less during the second book. He was being selfish and only thinking about himself. While planning the escape the whole time Ray was a traitor. He was still on the good side but was being selfish not wanting to help the other children escape leaving them behind.

JUN198619 - CAMP GN NEW PTG - Previews World


Kayla and Willow the main characters go to a camp for the summer. They go through difficult situations throughout the book and overcome their fears.                        

Favorite character

Kayla- Kayla is the main character in the story. She is nice and pretty funny. She tries so hard to make no problems and tries to please everyone. I could really relate to her character which is a very big reason she is my favorite character.

Least favorite character

Willow- Willow was very annoying. She always created problems and would be mad at her best friend constantly just for hanging out with other people other than her. In the other books she was the exact same way and did not have a character

Thank you so much to my student voices today and their look at some characters in their favorite books!

Worldwide Crush by Kristin Nilsen


Worldwide Crush
Author: Kristin Nilsen
Published July 11th, 2023 by SparkPress

Summary: Rory Calhoun is a teen popstar with perfect teeth and messy hair who’s inspiring first crushes all over the globe. Millie Jackson is just one of the millions of fans who love him―but that doesn’t mean her heart doesn’t break for him every single day in this laugh-out-loud coming-of-age story.

How many of Rory’s fans collect “data” about him in a special notebook hidden in their underwear drawer? Or have faked a fascination with whale migration for a chance to visit his hometown? Millie may not be Rory’s only fan at Susan B. Anthony Middle School, but she’s convinced she’s the biggest―and the best.

Rory’s new song “Worldwide Crush” is climbing the charts, and his lyrics are clear: he’s looking for love―and he’s looking in the audience. Meaning Millie’s secret fantasies of running in the surf and eating waffles with him may not be crazy after all . . . she could be that girl! But first she has to get to his concert―his completely sold-out concert in a city nowhere near her home for which she does not have tickets or a ride. She just has to figure out how.

About the Author: Kristin Nilsen has been a children’s librarian, a bookseller, a perfume seller, a horse poop shoveler, a typist (on an actual typewriter), a storyteller, a seventh grader, and a mom to both humans and dogs. Today she is a self-proclaimed Pro Crushologist who talks about Gen X pop culture on The Pop Culture Preservation Society podcast. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, one of the only big cities in the world where you can look out your window and see a lake. Which she likes. A lot.

Review: This book will be a book of nostalgia for anyone who has already had a celebrity crush, it will be a book of mirrors for those in the middle of a celebrity crush,  and it will be a crystal ball for those who aren’t there yet but will be soon. This book explains the feelings of celebrity crush in ways that no other book I’ve read does. It actually reminded me a lot of Turning Red in that way. It truly captures the tsunami of emotions that come with celebrity crushes. And surrounding this crush-centered story is a cast of characters that are all so real which makes the story continue to be believable. This is a fun read, and the author’s addition of a game and playlist make it even more fun (see below)!

Teaching Tools for Navigation: This book is going to connect with so many readers! Put it in your classroom, school, and public libraries and book talk it–anyone who has felt like Millie has (which is almost everyone), will want to read her story.

Check out the Worldwide Crush playlist here:

Play the “Hidden Crush” game in Worldwide Crush! Info here:

Discussion Questions: Check out the author-provided discussion questions at Includes questions like:

  • Is Millie’s crush good or bad for her?
  • How does Millie use her diary to express her crush? Did you like it? How did her diary entries make you feel?
  • What do you think Rory Calhoun is like in real life? Do you think Millie’s perception of him was accurate?
  • Would you like Cheryl as a grandma?

Flagged Passages/Spreads: 

Chapter 1:

I love Rory Calhoun.

I’ve loved him forever. Since before summer, even. The first time I saw him was a concern in Paris. Or maybe it was Venice? Or Rome or something? Whatever, I’m not sure, the important thing is that I felt a prickly, melty warming in my stomach. It was not something I had ever felt before. And I liked it.

I was at Shauna’s house, and she opened her laptop, and she said, “Watch this.” It was a clip of him singing “Worldwide Crush” at a concert in Paris or Venice or whatever. And it only took a few seconds for me to understand why all those girls were huddled below him, reaching out, wishing for just a quick swipe of his hand, just a taste of his skin, which would be the most important thing to ever happen to them. And then when he put his hand on his heart and smiled–his teeth are so straight!–saying, “Ti amo! Ti amo!” it felt like he was telling me he loved me. Oh yeah, ti amo is Italian for “I love you,” so it must have been Venice. Or Rome. Anyway…that was an important day for me.

Read This If You Love: Middle school crush-focused books

Recommended For: 



**Thank you to Hanna at Spark Point Studio for providing a copy for review!**

The Fire, the Water, and Maudie McGinn by Sally J. Pla


The Fire, the Water, and Maudie McGinn
Author: Sally J. Pla
Published July 11th, 2023 by Quill Tree Books

Summary: Neurodivergent Maudie is ready to spend an amazing summer with her dad, but will she find the courage to tell him a terrible secret about life with her mom and new stepdad? This contemporary novel by the award-winning author of The Someday Birds is a must-read for fans of Leslie Connor and Ali Standish.

Maudie always looks forward to the summers she spends in California with her dad. But this year, she must keep a troubling secret about her home life–one that her mom warned her never to tell. Maudie wants to confide in her dad about her stepdad’s anger, but she’s scared.

When a wildfire strikes, Maudie and her dad are forced to evacuate to the beach town where he grew up. It’s another turbulent wave of change. But now, every morning, from their camper, Maudie can see surfers bobbing in the water. She desperately wants to learn, but could she ever be brave enough?

As Maudie navigates unfamiliar waters, she makes friends–and her autism no longer feels like the big deal her mom makes it out to be. But her secret is still threatening to sink her. Will Maudie find the strength to reveal the awful truth–and maybe even find some way to stay with Dad–before summer is over?


“A vulnerable portrait of one girl seeking to empower and redefine herself outside of her personal traumas.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Through Maudie’s earnest, occasionally poetic narration, Pla vividly explores the ways that physical and verbal abuse can distort self-perception. A perceptive, poignant tale of self-discovery.” — Kirkus Reviews

“A heartfelt story of courage and hope about Maudie, who navigates the world in her own unique divergent way, even while struggling with challenging family dynamics and loss. Readers will cry, cheer, and celebrate, and not soon forget, Maudie McGinn.”  — Pam Muñoz Ryan, Newbery Honor-winning author

“A gorgeous, bighearted, beautiful book. I loved it.”   — Elana K. Arnold, award-winning author of A Boy Called Bat

“A powerful and deeply affecting story that will carry readers along like the perfect wave.” — Barbara Dee, author of Maybe He Just Likes You 

“A breathtakingly beautiful ride of a story about an unforgettable, neurodivergent heroine.” — Jess Redman, award-winning author of The Miraculous

About the Author: Sally J. Pla writes stories for young people. Her books have been translated into many languages, garnered starred reviews, appeared on many ‘best book’ and state lists, and picked up a few awards, but the best thing they’ve done has been to connect her to readers like you. The Someday Birds; Stanley Will Probably Be Fine; Benji, The Bad Day, And Me; and her latest, The Fire, The Water, and Maudie McGinn, all portray characters who see the world a bit differently. Because we are all stars shining with different lights.

Sally has English degrees from Colgate and Penn State, and has worked as a journalist and in public education. You can find her at

Review: This book, y’all. I am so glad that it was put on my radar because it is more than I could have guessed from the summary–I am so glad that I read it. It was a one-sitting read; I couldn’t put it down.

Sally J. Pla has crafted a book that pulls at heartstrings; has moments written in prose AND verse that are mentor texts in craft; will be a window, mirror, or sliding glass door (Sims-Bishop, 1990) for so many readers; touches on a tough subject that I truly think will help some readers with talking about their own situation; and has an amazing cast of characters!

Teaching Tools for Navigation: This book will be loved by so many readers. It is a must buy for middle school libraries and classrooms and may even be a good book club choice, just make sure to discuss the content triggers before choosing. Help the right readers find this book, help the right ones talk about it, and help the book get the love it deserves.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why do you think the author chose not to tell Maudie’s secret from the beginning?
  • How does surfing both help and hurt Maudie’s situation?
  • How is Maudie treated differently with her mom versus her dad?
  • Why does her dad seem to understand her better than her mom?
  • Why did the author include sections in verse throughout the book?
  • Why do you think Etta helps Maudie?
  • Why does Maudie begin to find her voice more now that she is with her dad?
  • How is Paddi’s school different than Maudie’s school in Texas?
  • Masks are talked about figuratively within the book. Why does Maudie and her mom feel like they have to wear a mask?
  • What type of character traits does Maudie and her dad show by starting over after the fire?

Flagged Passage:

Chapter 2 Wowowowowowowowow

The Molinas emergency shelter is packed with stressed-out neighbors, grim-looking police, and frantic aid workers handing out things like bottles of water and crinkly silver blankets.

It’s not cold, but I can’t stop shivering.

There’s an old clipboard perched on a table under a stale copy cup–leftover from some meeting. I take it with me to one of the cots the volunteers have set up. Its thing blue mattress crunches underneath me; it feels like it’s filled with plastic pellets.

I unclip an old paper from the clipboard and turn it over. And just like Mr. Parris taught me, back at that noisy dance, I do his calm-down trick. I start to catalog the too-muchness.

stale coffee
stale soup
industrial carpeting
body odor
fabric softener

kids crying
a couple arguing in staccato Spanish
an old man coughing and hacking up something wet and gross into a Kleenex, ugh
some lady shouting “Who took my phone? Who took my phone?” over and over
distant sirens: wowowowo-wowowowowo-wowwwwwwww

this silver emergency blanket, which feels like slippery aluminum foil
this sweaty plastic-pellet mattress under my butt and legs
burning eyes, like my lashes are gunked with hot grit
headache, blaring and pounding at my temples like a vise
a strange iron-band feeling around my chest, keeping me breathless

The curve of my dad’s back

Read This If You Love: A Work in Progress by Jarrett Lerner; Me and Sam-Sam Handle the Apocalypse by Susan Vaught; Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen! by Sarah Kapit; The Ship We Built by Lexie Bean; Tornado Brain by Cat Patrick

Recommended For: 



**Thank you to Blue Slip Media for providing a copy of review!**

Peaceful Me and Angry Me by Sandra V. Feder, Illustrated by Rahele Jomepour Bell


Peaceful Me       &        Angry Me
Author: Sandra V. Feder
Illustrator: Rahele Jomepour Bell
Published May 2nd, 2023 & May 1st, 2022 by Groundwood Books

Peaceful Me Summary: A young child tells us about the different times when he feels peaceful, as well as how he copes when he needs to find a peaceful state again.

Acclaimed picture-book creators Sandra V. Feder and Rahele Jomepour Bell have teamed up once again to create a thoughtful and beautifully illustrated exploration of peacefulness.

“I like feeling peaceful,” the young narrator tells us, then describes the times when he is filled with this emotion. When he is playing with a friend, he feels “free peaceful”; when he is having family dinner, “yummy peaceful”; when he is outside gazing up at the sky, “fluffy clouds peaceful”. But, of course, he doesn’t always feel peaceful, and we hear about his strategies for coping during those times, such as taking deep breaths, imagining his favorite things, and finding a quiet refuge or a hug.

Peaceful Me is the perfect companion to Angry Me — together, they encourage readers to let anger come and go, while inviting peace to come and stay.

Angry Me Summary: A young child tells us what makes her angry and how she tries to let the anger come and go. An artful starting point for conversations about strong feelings.

“I get angry,” says a little girl, looking fiercely in the mirror. Sometimes she gets angry when someone is mean and tries to take her toy away, when it feels unfair that there’s not enough time to go swimming, when she’s tired and just wants to go home, or when the kids at school leave her out, hurting her feelings.

When she’s angry, she tries to remember to use her words — even though that doesn’t always work. Sometimes she can’t find the right words, or the words don’t come out the way she intends. But sometimes words do help, and when her anger melts away a new feeling can blossom.

Sandra Feder’s cleverly constructed text presents different situations in which a child might feel angry, creating a nuanced look at anger and its many underlying emotions. Rahele Jomepour Bell’s illustrations show a loveable, angry little girl, brimming with personality, who learns how to express herself as she moves through her feelings.

Praise for Angry Me: 

A valuable tool for teaching children the important skill of recognizing and naming feelings.” —Kirkus Reviews

A fresh addition to teeming ‘anger management’ shelves.” —Booklist

Artfully captures the nuances of anger. STARRED REVIEW” —Shelf Awareness

An effective springboard for discussing a topic that may be hard for young children to verbalize.” —School Library Connection

About the Creators: 

SANDRA V. FEDER is the author of three acclaimed picture books: Angry Me, illustrated by Rahele Jomepour Bell; Bitter and Sweet, illustrated by Kyrsten Brooker, a PJ Library selection; and The Moon Inside, illustrated by Aimée Sicuro, which has been translated into multiple languages. She has also written the Daisy series of early chapter books, illustrated by Susan Mitchell. Sandra lives in California.

RAHELE JOMEPOUR BELL’s charming illustrations have appeared in Angry Me by Sandra V. Feder, The Treasure Box by Dave J. Keane and Our Favorite Day of the Year by A. E. Ali (Kirkus Best Picture Books of the Year), among others. She has also published seven picture books in Iran and has received a number of awards and honors for her work.

Review: These are such important books! Children become better adults when they can learn to name and deal with the actual feelings they are feeling, and these texts start this process. These books would be perfect to use at the beginning of the year to talk about emotional regulation and how conflicts will be resolved in the classroom. I also think that parents will benefit from these texts to discussion emotions, as will therapists and counselors. They are so multifaceted!

What made these books even more special were the way that the text does one purpose and then the illustrations add a whole other element to the book. I would love to see these books used not only with a social emotional learning purpose, but also use the illustrations to tie in narrative and creative writing elements. Students can take what they learn in the illustrations and write a whole other story!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation (from the publisher): 

  • Key Text Features:
    • explanation
    • illustrations
    • vignettes
  • Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.K.7 With prompting and support, describe the relationship between illustrations and the story in which they appear (e.g., what moment in a story an illustration depicts).
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.2 Retell stories, including key details, and demonstrate understanding of their central message or lesson.
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.4 Identify words and phrases in stories or poems that suggest feelings or appeal to the senses.
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.7 Use illustrations and details in a story to describe its characters, setting, or events.

Discussion Questions: 

  • When do you feel peaceful? Angry?
  • What is your favorite time you feel peaceful?
  • How do you deal with feeling angry? What can you do to turn from angry to peaceful?
  • Is it better to talk about your feelings or hold them in?
  • How does talking about your feelings help you process?
  • How do the illustrations of Peaceful Me and Angry Me help you with understanding the book better? How do they support the message of the book(s)?
  • What is the main theme of Peaceful MeAngry Me?

Flagged Passages: 

Peaceful Me

Angry Me

Read This If You Love: Jory John’s & Pete Oswald’s Food Group Books; Sunny and Oswaldo by Nicole Melleby, Illustrated by Alexandra Colombo; Invisible Things by Andy J. Pizza, Illustrated by Sophie Miller; I Don’t Care by Julie Fogliano & Molly Idle, Illustrated by Juana Martinez Neal; In the Blue by Erin Hourigan; Harold the Iceberg Melts Down by Lisa Wyzlic, Illustrated by Rebecca Syracus

Recommended For: 



**Thank you to Nicole Banholzer PR for providing copies for review!**

Blog Tour with Review and Educators’ Guide: The Greatest Kid in the World by John David Anderson


The Greatest Kid in the World
Author: John David Anderson
Published: May 9, 2023 by Walden Pond Press

Summary: From the beloved author of Posted comes the story of Zeke Stahls—a thoroughly average twelve-year-old who somehow finds himself in a competition to be named the World’s Greatest Kid.

Zeke Stahls is not the best kid in the world. Some days he struggles just to be good. He’d rather be pulling pranks than doing extra credit, and he’s too busy performing experiments on his little brother, Nate, or tormenting his older sister, Jackie, to volunteer for charity.

Which is why Zeke and his entire family are shocked when they receive word that he has been selected as a contestant in an online competition to find the World’s Greatest Kid.

Zeke has no idea how he was chosen for this, and he knows that measuring up to the other nominees–a saintly lineup of selfless, charming and talented do-gooders with photogenic smiles and hearts of gold–is hopeless. Still, with a $10,000 cash prize on the line, and Zeke’s mom struggling to hold the family together on her single-parent salary, he decides to give it his best shot.

As Zeke concocts various plots to show the world just how “great” he is, however, he finds himself wondering what that word even means, and who gets to decide. And what kind of kid he wants–and needs–to be.

About the Author: John David Anderson is the author of many highly acclaimed books for kids, including the New York Times Notable Book Ms. Bixby’s Last DayPostedGrantedOne Last Shot, and Stowaway. A dedicated root beer connoisseur and chocolate fiend, he lives with his wonderful wife, two frawesome kids, and clumsy cat, Smudge, in Indianapolis, Indiana. You can visit him online at

Review: There is more than one way to be great. This is a concept that kids have a hard time seeing (and adults!). For example, the kid who gets the highest grades may be great, but a kid who watches his siblings and takes care of his house while his adult works is also great. But what makes THE greatest? That is the question within John David Anderson’s newest book. Zeke knows he is not the greatest, but maybe he doesn’t know him self too well since he is chosen to be a finalist in the World’s Greatest Kid competition. Can a kid who causes trouble, does pranks, gets sent to the principals office, and torments his oldest sister be a great kid?

Just like every other Anderson book I’ve ever read (which is most of his!), I found the story to be unique, well written, and engaging. He always surprises me because his books differ so tremendously from each other! This time, what made the story for me was the characters. Everyone had flaws but everyone was loveable: Zeke reminds me of so many kids I know and have taught–wonderful and exhausting; his sister, Jasmine, was dealing with her own transitions much like most teenagers; Logan, the cameraman, was the surprise favorite character (read & you’ll see why!); Nate, Zeke’s brother, is just a ball of joy;  and Zeke’s mom is one that any adult with empathize with, and I want to give her a hug! The story itself is quiet, but these characters are loud and will fill your heart as you read.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Discussion questions and activities can be found in the publisher shared Educators’ Guide:

Recommended For: 

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Make sure to stop by the other blog tour stops!

Kellee Signature
**Thank you to Walden Pond Press for providing a copy of the book for review!**