Student Voices: Jerry Craft’s Visit to Kellee’s Middle School


I am so lucky because my principal began an initiative at my school where we get to have an author visit our school yearly (2023: Christina Diaz Gonzalez, 2022: Nathan Hale, 2020: Neal Shusterman, 2019: Jennifer A. Nielsen). The author sees all students in the school, so it is a great community literacy event for my school, and I love being able to bring this experience to all of my students each year!


This year, we hosted NEWBERY-WINNING AUTHOR Jerry Craft!
The visit was phenomenal and included 5 presentations for approximately 220 kids and book signings. It was all such an amazing experience!

Here are some reflections from my students after the visit. I asked them to think about what they learned, what they enjoyed, how they were impacted, or anything else they wanted to share:

  • Having an author visit yearly means a lot because it shows that our school cares for us.
  • I thought that the day was overall amazing. My biggest takeaway from the experience was that something you hate when you’re young could end up being your passion. This visit impacted me by making me feel like I could do anything. To me, these author visits make me feel like I can do anything with my life and it inspires me to read a lot more. This visit was important to me because I felt that Jerry Craft was really the person who could inspire people to read.
  • I am very glad that Jerry Craft was able to come to our school because he had a great presentation and he was good at educating all of us in a very fun and entertaining way. I think it was cool how Jerry Craft was able to draw a perfect circle for all of his 5 presentations! That was pretty cool, I can’t even draw a perfect one, lol. This visit impacted me because whenever the authors come to visit our school and tell us about their books, it always inspires me to be more creative and to be able to reach their level of creativity. Having authors come to visits means to me that I can look forward to skipping a class period to listen to an expert about all of their writing strategies, ideas, etc. This visit was important because it is good for us kids to be able to hear about all of the different authors and what they do to make each of their books different than the others.
  • My biggest take away, was that Jerry Craft said, that he didn’t read a lot as a kid, which was weird to me because I was always told that normally, authors read a lot to get inspiration, but I think is not always like that.

  • It showed me that you should always go into something saying you can do it because if you say you can’t you won’t be able to. You have to put your mind to it so you can do it.
  • Having an author visit yearly help is important and means a lot to me because I love seeing how different authors see different things in different ways and the challenges they face to become who they are in the present. It also helps me learn more about myself because taking some bits of what they say can reflect choices in my present and future and I appreciate the authors for coming and Mrs. Moye for getting these authors for us to enjoy and being caring for us.
  • The biggest takeaway I took from that visit is that no matter how much you prepare for something, you never know what you are going to end up as.
  • The visit impacted me by showing authors are people too they don’t just write books because they have to but because they are inspired.
  • I feel like hearing from an author yearly is just amazing and how they got from the beginning of their life to how they are right now.
  • I thought this visit was important because it helped me understand different people POVs and how their life as an author works.
  • I loved the way he talked about his goals and how his dreams never stop.
  • Having a yearly author visit to me means that I get to learn the creative processes of famous authors.

  • Learning about the work that goes into making books makes me feel more connected to the books that I read.
  • It feels special that we learn something from someone who created a successful book.
  • It made me realize I could do so much in life if i don’t give up and keeping working toward it.
  • I think my biggest takeaway was how, in the end, he kind of “taught” us how to draw different things and how even if you think you won’t be able to draw something good, you can if you believe you’ll be able to.
  • This visit was important because it showed me that even when people don’t think you’ll be able to do anything with your dream if you believe you can, you can show other people that they’re wrong.
  • As this will be my last year, I saw that over the years, all authors have said different things that impacted me throughout my life in middle school.
  • I really enjoyed the day. Mr. Craft was super nice and I found his presentation very interesting. My biggest takeaway was that even if you fail a lot, never give up and keep trying because you will succeed eventually. One thing that impacted me was how Mr. Craft said a lot about how you can do anything even if you think you can’t. Take the little steps that lead up to that goal. I like having a yearly author visitor because it helps me learn more about the people who wrote some of the books that I really liked and how they made them. I like seeing what problems they faced because I could somehow relate to them as well. This visit was important because meeting an author who tells you about their experiences writing their books is really impactful. Their stories and how they accomplished their goals was interesting and relatable to some.
  • My biggest takeaway was that not everything will be perfect, but sometimes it’s for the best.

Another teacher also shared her students’ responses to “What I liked the best was…”

  • How he explained that he went from being bad at writing books to being basically famous.
  • When he explained about his life and how was it. That you can do whatever you want if you propose it.
  • My favorite moment from the author’s visit was seeing his drawing skills live and seeing the Raina Telgemeier books in his presentation. I was surprised to learn that he was inspired by Raina Telgemeier who is also one of my favorite authors.
  • I thought it was interesting how he got the inspiration of real places of his life
  • When he talked about the awards he won as a book writer and how he did it.
  • I wanna read New Kid now because its very inspirational to others.
  • When Mr.Craft showed us an easier way you can draw and not just throw away messed up drawings into better drawing by seeing what you can make out of the messed up drawing.
  • When he started to talk about how he didn’t like to read but now he writes books and has to read for inspiration.
  • When jerry craft started drawing iconic media characters with mundane items. I want to learn more about shape theory.


The next day, Jerry Craft surprised my school by COMING BACK TO PLAY IN OUR STUDENT VS. STAFF BASKETBALL GAME!!!

This is more than I could have ever asked for!!!

As you can see from the comments and love, my students and I would highly recommend Jerry for a school visit!


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: Reflections on Middle School by Neko L., 8th grader, and Leticia R., Lauren Q., & Ronny D., 7th graders


Reflections on Middle School

“Middle School Reflections” by Neko L., 2022-23 8th grade

As I end my Middle School career, I reflect on all the experiences I’ve had, all the friends I’ve made, and most importantly, everything I’ve learned. At this school, I have found teachers who have taught me things I will use for the rest of my life, disciplined me, and shown me how to be a good person. I look back at how I was all the way back in sixth grade, and I realize how much I have grown and am proud. The school and the faculty have taught me so much, and I am so sad that this is my final year, but I am also pleased that due to the help and teaching of the staff at this school, I am fully prepared to transition into High School. 

I have found new passions in many classes like art, guitar, and the literacy leader program. In my guitar class, my teacher taught me how to use my imagination in every problem and think outside the box. His skills teach me not only about learning the guitar but also about math, science, and social skills. In art, I strengthened my creativity and learned many new things for my own art. In the literacy leader program, I made new friends and socialized, and practiced leadership.

I remember coming to this school small and scared. Covid-19 was still a thing and everyone was required to wear masks, it was not my ideal start to middle school but it was a start. I learned a lot in my 6th-grade year. I started out as this annoying, strange, little kid. I learned being annoying was not very acceptable in the community. I used to get in so much trouble all the way back in 6th grade, and I’m grateful that I have grown and learned from those mistakes. Throughout my years here, I grew from that little kid who knew nothing about this school and the people in it to a kid who now knows people and this school and to not be annoying or get in trouble. Now in 8th grade, I am doing better than ever, I am getting better grades, I rarely get into trouble, and I feel that I am bringing at least a little bit of joy and appreciation to my peers.

I am extremely excited for my coming into high school, it feels like I really have a chance to make a difference in my school for my peers throughout the next few years if my life. I feel like all of my troubles and bad grades and being annoying in the past has brought me here because now I have learned from them and I am now a better person and I finally feel like I can be ready for high school. I can’t wait for my new classes and new teachers and new friends I will meet and old friends that I will make new experiences with.

“My Transition from Elementary to Middle School” by Leticia R., 2022-23 7th grade

Transitioning from elementary to middle school was a significant change that turned my world upside down. For six years, I had grown comfortable in the familiar routine of waking up, getting ready, and going to the same place. But suddenly, everything was different. I had to leave my comfort zone behind.

When I first visited the middle school before starting, I was taken aback by its size. It felt enormous compared to the cozy halls of elementary school. Mixed emotions flooded my mind as I thought about the upcoming transition. I was excited about new experiences but also scared and nervous about the unknown. Countless scenarios played out in my mind, and I wanted everything to be perfect.

I spent the night before organizing my clothes and planning where to meet my friends. I was determined to have the best pens, notebooks, and classes. Everything had to be just right. As I boarded the bus the following day, fear gripped me, but knowing that I had my friends by my side brought some relief.

I felt a mixture of anxiety and anticipation during that first day of school. I was eager to meet my new classmates and see what my classes would be like. As the days turned into weeks, and the weeks into months, I began to settle into the rhythm of middle school. I realized it was normal to feel anxious before such a significant change.

Through my middle school experiences, I’ve learned that it’s okay to have difficulties and be scared of the challenges ahead. But once you face those challenges head-on and come out the other side, realizing everything will be okay, it’s the best feeling in the world.

Transitioning to middle school taught me valuable lessons about adaptability, resilience, and stepping outside my comfort zone. While it was a daunting change at first, I’ve come to appreciate the new friendships, opportunities, and growth that middle school has brought into my life. And as I continue my journey, I look forward to embracing future challenges and discovering more about myself.

“5 Assignments I Liked in 7th Grade and Why” by Lauren Q., 2022-23 7th grade

Moon Phases with Oreos

In my science class my teacher Ms. Bullock had us do an assignment about the different moon phases. When we did this assignment we made the different moon phases out of Oreos. We took the Oreos and carved out the moon phases and then we put them in order and explained them. This assignment was really fun and helped me remember and understand the moon phases better. 

Boundaries with graham crackers

Also in my science class, my teacher had us do this assignment about plate tectonics to help us learn the different plate tectonics. In this assignment we put two graham crackers on top of frosting. Then with the different boundaries we moved them in different directions and for some we had to wet the graham cracker. This assignment was really fun and educational.

Literacy Week Door Decorating

In my literacy leaders class (Ms. Moye’s class) for literary week, we had to decorate the doors. In this project we got to choose which Christina Diaz Gonzalez book to use to decorate the door. We got to draw and come up with so many ideas for the door. We drew the characters, made flags, and cutouts of different things we thought complemented the book.

Science debate

In my science class, my teacher had us do a debate on whether we should continue space exploration or not. We got assigned into the different teams and had to come up with reasons to support our claim. We all had different roles in this debate and it showed us how to work as a team and listen to the other team. We had time to do our opening, rebuttals, and our closing. We also had time to talk to our team to see what we would say next. This assignment was fun but also taught us. 

Book Snap 

Also in my literacy leaders class (Ms. Moye’s class), we had this assignment where we had to choose a book and try to promote it so more kids will read it. We had to make a poster about the book and the author. We put the author’s name and then wrote a little summary about the book to make other kids read it. This assignment took a lot of time to finish but in the end it was worth it and fun.

“Food Rescue” by Ronny D., 2022-23 7th grade

**From Kellee: This post is about a program we do at my middle school. We have a share table in the back of the cafeteria for students to place any food or beverages they do not want. Others then can take what was left, if they would like. Anything that is left over gets donated to the Salvation Army. Last year, we donated almost 8,000 pounds of food! Ronny was part of my 5th period class who was in charge of daily lunch pick ups and the Salvation Army pick up once a week**

The food rescue program consists of the food that students don’t eat being donated to people in need. Student Literacy Leaders weigh, pack, count and collect the food by themselves. It is the students who make the food rescue program happen and one of those students was me. My experience with this program was great. It made me realize how much food is wasted, and how much we can help eliminate food waste. Each year, 119 billion pounds of food is wasted in the United States. Our School, HCMS, is making a difference to food waste in America. The Salvation Army are the ones who pick up the food collected weekly. After the food is collected, the Salvation Army delivers the food to places and people that need it. There are also other factors to food rescue like the “share table,” a bin & cooler where people leave their donations. Then, after lunch, the food is transported to the refrigerator in the front office. An experience I won’t forget while doing food rescue was the first time I ever did food rescue. It reminds me of how much I liked the idea of donating food to people in need. 

Thank you so much to my student voices today and their look at middle school experiences!

How Color Code Behavior Charts Almost Ruined My Son’s Love of School and Much More


I’ve been wanting to write this post for a long time, but it is hard to talk about. I still get very emotional about it. But after 4 years, I am ready to share, and I am purposefully posting it right at the start of the school year.

This story takes place when Trent entered Kindergarten.

Trent has been in daycare then preschool and then public school since he was 5 months old. He had always loved school. It was never a fight to get him there. His love of learning, of socializing, of playing, of books–it was all so wonderful to witness. Throughout his first 5 years in school, there had been incidences here and there, as with any kid, but overall I was told he was a pleasure to have in class, he excelled at his work, and he was truly loved by so many teachers.

Then we entered kindergarten. He was so excited. I still have pictures that pop up yearly of him with his huge backpack, our family photo on day one, and the photo with his teacher. Just so filled with joy.

But over just a few weeks, I watched that wash away.

I had learned at his meet the teacher that his new teacher used a color coding behavior chart. We’d never had one in one of Trent’s classes before, and I knew about some negative opinions about them, but I was optimistic because I had to be. Also, as an educator, I understood to some extent needing to give visuals to students about their behavior and to keep track of warnings.

As the school year began, though, my optimism fell away. At first, it was just yellow or red dots coming home in his planner with small notes from his teacher. I emailed her to get more info, and we emailed back and forth about how to help Trent.

But then Trent’s demeanor changed. He tried to hide his planner from me, he stopped wanting to go to school, and he started to call himself a bad kid. It happened so quickly. My sweet boy who loved school now was wanting to avoid it as much as he could. There were so many tears.

Through communication with the teacher, I learned that students could earn their way back up; however, with the focus on negative behavior, Trent, I believe, was giving up. He told me he was bad so he was red. When I asked him what he thought he could do to move up, he said that he tried but that he was a bad kid.

Through talking with Trent, I learned that the kids very much paid attention to who was where. When he wasn’t red, he’d make sure to tell me who was the bad kid that day. That is always how my little 5-year-old put it: the bad kid. No wonder he viewed himself that way, that is how they all viewed students who were on red.

Eventually, I realized that this system was public shaming. It was not helping the situation at all; it was embarrassing and setting kids up for failure. I mean, would we want our boss to let everyone know how we were doing every day?! No!

I cannot put into words what this transformation of Trent, in just a few weeks, did to our household. The whole climate of the house changed, Trent’s whole demeanor changed, and we were helpless because this emotional beat down was happening at school where we weren’t.

I emailed his teacher a lot. I asked a lot of questions. I advocated for my son. But she wouldn’t budge. I think she, too, after only 3 weeks, only saw my son as a bad kid, all because of silliness, some impulse control issues, and his tendency to question.

Thankfully, without any warning, Trent was moved to another class where the culture was completely different. The teacher never talked to me about the why, which was a whole other problem, but I am so thankful the move happened. After moving, it took another few weeks for the toxicity to wash away, but Trent returned to himself and blew kindergarten out of the water and is still rocking school to this day!

But what about the kids who were in that room all year who found themselves on red? Did they enter 1st grade already knowing they were a “bad kid,” so they knew they needn’t not even try?? How does this affect the mental health and longevity of schooling????

This is one way educators can ruin kids. Can we PLEASE realize this practice is more hurtful than anything and move away from it? Because how many kids out there are being hurt the way Trent was but for an entire year????

So, what can be done instead? Get to know your students, don’t ever publicly shame them, use your team of support at your school (the guidance counselor, school psychologist, etc.), and focus on positivity in the classroom. These little change could change everything.


Student Voices: “The Issue with Banning Books” by Toby B., 8th Grade


“The Issue with Banning Books” by Toby Briggs, 2022-23 8th Grader

Banning books is an argument that has been going on for years and years. Over two thousand years actually. This argument is an argument on whether certain books are suitable for children. Books with LGBTQ+ representation, magic, racism, and slurs are typically the victim of this act. Some of these books are The Hate You Give (by Angie Thomas),Melissa (by Alex Gino), Gender queer: a memoir (by Maia Kobabe), Maus (by Art Spigelman), and The Diary of Anne Frank. This is only a small example of banned books today in America. The reason books are banned and challenged is to limit thinking and to censor beliefs that other people do not support. Books help children develop empathy and to open themselves up to people, places, cultures, and world views. Banning these books could narrow down how these kids think and respect other people.The act of banning books is the top example of American censorship. People fear that the contents of a book would sway a child to follow suit in violent acts or sexual activities. This act is violating first amendment rights as an American citizen to have free speech. 

Reading is supposed to teach and inspire people as well as encouraging to think about what is around you. With the recent acts of trying to ban these books it is clear that state officials want to eradicate thinking that is different from their own beliefs. They want to hide away books that can encourage people to question everything around them or books that encourage people to be themselves. They want to eradicate a generation of thinkers and supportive people. They want to eradicate anything that is outside of what they deem the correct way. 

The category with the highest percentage of books banned are novels. While the lowest percentage is textbooks. No matter what type of category a book fits in to it is not free from being banned. 4.28% of religious texts are banned. That is more than poetry books are manuals. No matter what kind of book type it is if it does not fit in the agenda of state officials it is banned. 41% of books with LGBTQ+ representation are banned. 40% of books with a person of color being the main character are banned. 

The main argument that pro book banning bring up when talking about banned books is it’s for the children. We are doing this to protect the welfare of children. Banning books about people different from a child is not protecting children it is censoring amazing books with representation on minorities, past occurrences of our history, and books that have racist ideas or violent actions. I am not saying a 5 year old should read a young adult book but i am saying books with people of color and people apart of the LGBTQ+ need to be represented to young children so that it can help teach them important lesson on people that are different from them and how to respect those people. A study that was done in 2014 by Christopher J. Fergason shows how reading banned books can be good for kids. People believe that if a kid that is exposed to a book with violent or sexual content that a kid would try something along those lines. However that is not always the case. Reading banned books can increase they’re awareness of civic awareness and engagement. The study by Fergason shows this and how reading can provide ethical development in children.

I believe every parent has a right to not let they’re child read a book they believe is unsuitable for their age. However, I do not believe that people should ban books just because you don’t find it appropriate. Most of the books on the banned books list are books people believe are unsuitable for children. Some of those books have amazing messages and representation for children. But they are banned because people believe kids shouldn’t read them. Books with people like me living their truth are banned because of someone else’s opinions. Books with minorities who just want to be represented being stripped of that right. 

I am  a young reader who has been reading since kindergarten. I have learned most of what i know from the books I have read. I am also a part of the LGBTQ+ community. I have read books upon books with representation of people and kids who are like me and there is nothing better than reading a book that makes you feel like you can belong. Books that make you feel like your any other kid. However most of these books are banned due to pro book banning. I want people to be able to hear my voice, to hear what I have to say about banning books with representation on people like me. The act of banning books is stripping away representation of people like me and other minorities from books. People need to know what people have gone through but also who they are now. Books have made me feel accepted when I believe no one else would accept me. Books are my escape from everything that is wrong with the world. Please don’t ban books with representation we need those books. 

Banning books has no outcome other than to stop a generation from growing up to be thinkers and being kind. Banning books is hiding away multiple generations of books with messages of our history as well as messages of being kind and curious. The act of banning books does not help anyone other than the people who want to ban them. It helps no one but themselves. We need representation in books and banning those books aren’t going to help. This is why I believe there is a massive issue with banning books. Nothing good comes from it.

Thank you so much to Toby for sharing their voice today and their outlook on the banning of books.

Discussion Guide for Merci Suárez Plays it Cool by Meg Medina


Merci Suárez Plays it Cool
Author: Meg Medina
Published: September 13th, 2022 by Candlewick Press

Summary: In a satisfying finale to her trilogy, Newbery Medalist Meg Medina follows Merci Suárez into an eighth-grade year full of changes—evolving friendships, new responsibilities, and heartbreaking loss.

For Merci Suárez, eighth grade means a new haircut, nighttime football games, and an out-of-town overnight field trip. At home, it means more chores and keeping an eye on Lolo as his health worsens. It’s a year filled with more responsibility and independence, but also with opportunities to reinvent herself. Merci has always been fine with not being one of the popular kids like Avery Sanders, who will probably be the soccer captain and is always traveling to fun places and buying new clothes. But then Avery starts talking to Merci more, and not just as a teammate. Does this mean they’re friends? Merci wants to play it cool, but with Edna always in her business, it’s only a matter of time before Merci has to decide where her loyalty stands. Whether Merci is facing school drama or changing family dynamics, readers will empathize as she discovers who she can count on—and what can change in an instant—in Meg Medina’s heartfelt conclusion to the trilogy that began with the Newbery Medal–winning novel.

Discussion Questions: 

After writing the educators’ guide for Merci Suárez Changes Gears, I was so happy that Candlewick returned and asked me to create this discussion guide for the finale of the trilogy. Please view and enjoy the guide I created:

You can also access the discussion guide here.

You can learn more about Merci Suárez Plays it Cool on Candlewick’s page.

Recommended For: 

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Kellee Signature

The More You Give by Marcy Campbell, Illustrated by Francesca Sanna


The More You Give
Author: Marcy Campbell
Illustrator: Francesca Sanna
Publishing December 28, 2021 by Chronicle

Summary: A modern-day response to The Giving Tree, this lyrical picturebook shows how a family passes down love from generation to generation, leaving a legacy of growing both trees and community.

Once there was a wide-open field, and a boy who loved his grandmother,
who loved him back.

The boy’s grandmother gives him many gifts, like hugs, and Sunday morning pancakes, and acorns with wild and woolly caps. And all her wisdom about how things grow. As the boy becomes a father, he gives his daughter bedtime stories his grandmother told him, and piggyback rides. He gives her acorns, and the wisdom he learned about how things grow. His daughter continues the chain, then passing down gifts of her own. Here is a picture book about the legacy of love that comes when we nurture living things—be they people or trees.

Ricki’s Review: This book is absolutely stunning. It captures the beautiful spirit of giving as it passes through generations. I found myself drawn into the text, captivated by the words and the powerful illustrations. I loved the ways in which the spirit of giving is captured across three generations. Overall, I love the way it captures kindness, wisdom, and love.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might read The Giving Tree and then read this book. Students could engage in a discussion of giving. The two texts exist as foils for each other, and the giving does not just go one way.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How do we give? What do we give?
  • What does it mean to give?
  • What does giving mean for the boy in the book? His grandmother?
  • What have elders given to you?

Book Trailer:

Read This If You Love: Books about Giving; Books about Intergenerational Love; Books about Kindness

Recommended For: 

**Thank you to Cynthia at Random House Children’s Books for providing a copy for review!**