Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award


Award Seal

 Last week, we were thrilled to announce the finalists for the 2013 Walden Award, and today, we wanted to share more about the award and the committee.

Background of the Award

The Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award was established in 2008 and is presented by ALAN (The Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of NCTE) yearly. The award honors Amelia Elizabeth Walden, a pioneer in the field of young adult literature. The criteria for the award is that the honored titles must: possess a positive approach to life, widespread teen appeal, and strong literary merit.  What makes the award different from  ALA’s Printz, for example, is that although literary merit is important, the book needs to meet the other two criteria as well.

The Committee

Ricki’s Experiences

When I first heard about the committee at the ALAN Workshop, I knew I wanted to apply. I thought it was a long-shot, but I submitted my application and was thrilled to be accepted. I knew some of the other members on the committee, and I was so excited to work with such important, knowledgeable individuals.

Opening up the first box of books was very exciting. I could wait to review and discuss them. I’ll admit—it was hard work. In the beginning, I had to schedule reading time (something I’d never done before because I was always a voracious reader), and that first year, I think I drove my husband nuts. While I felt my stacks of books were very organized, he didn’t enjoy that he had to walk through a maze of books to get from our bedroom to the bathroom. I should also add that he didn’t enjoy that I was up until three in the morning most nights, waking him up as I sobbed or laughed at a scene from a book. I have always read an excessive number of books, but these past few years, I have truly learned the meaning of the phrase: There is ALWAYS time to read.

Being on the committee has been like a second job for me, but it is equally as rewarding as teaching. I have read more than I ever thought I could read. We discussed, discussed, and discussed each of the books. I reread books until I began to know their lines by heart. The books became a part of me, as I had spent hours looking at every aspect of them as we exchanged conversations about each of them. I have always been willing to give any book of any genre a try, but now, I find myself eagerly looking for more variety in my reading. I love to find books in new topics or subgenres because I have learned so much from the books I’ve read on the committee. This year is my fifth (and last) year on the committee, where I served as the past chair. I am sad to part ways, as the committee has become a major part of my life. I’ve formed so many close bonds with wonderful individuals (after all—were it not for this committee, I wouldn’t have found Kellee!), and I have truly loved the hundreds upon hundreds of conversations I have had with my colleagues about the incredible books that were submitted.

Kellee’s Experiences

I first heard about the Walden award at my first ALAN workshop where I was lucky enough to see Kristin Cashore receive the award for Fire. I was currently in love with The Monstrumologist series, so I knew that the award was something I needed to keep my eye on. Then in 2011, I saw a call for applications tweet come from Teri Lesesne to become part of the award committee, and I immediately went to ALAN’s website to learn more. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I, a normal teacher from Florida, could become part of this amazing procedure. I could be part of reviewing books and choosing which book deserves that coveted award sticker. So, I applied, and voila! I got to be part of this amazing committee.

Like Ricki, receiving the books was such a treat! Though, I surprised myself, because I actually ended up being more excited about the process than the actual quantities of books. I got caught up in the reading and recording and discussing. Though sometimes it is a lot of work, it is so worth it! And yes, it includes lots and lots of reading, but it is so, so, so worth it. Being at the ALAN workshop last year to meet authors who were honored partially because of being—AMAZING! 

Being on the committee has changed my life. It has helped me become a larger part of ALAN, it has helped me meet more authors, and, probably most importantly, it has helped me connect with colleagues (and friends!!! *cough* Ricki) that I will have as part of my life forever.

Award Recipients




 1583449 3236307 2213661 1237574





 0-545-05474-5 6457229 3238153 6400654





0-439-83706-5 7661718 6763730 6621146





7824322 9266762 9917938 8423931



12000020 13069935 13591678 11870085

Finalists (Winner to be Announced Shortly)

Committee Members

Past and Current Chairs

Wendy Glenn (2009), Daria Plumb (2010), Teri Lesesne (2011), Ricki Ginsberg (2012), Lois Buckman (2013)

Past and Current Committee Members

Carolyn Angus, Mary Arnold, Jonatha Basye, cj Bott, Jean Boreen, Jennifer Buehler, Paul Hankins, Jeff Harr, Jeff Kaplan, Bonnie Kunzel, Mark Letcher, Suzanne Metcalfe, Kellee Moye, Mindi Rench, Lois Stover, Diane Tuccillo, Barbara Ward, Jennifer Walsh

Apply to Be on the Committee

 The committee is made up of three teachers, three librarians, three university professors, and one chair. The committee is looking to fill three vacancies (a teacher, a librarian, and a university professor).  Currently (and annually), ALAN calls for applications for new committee members and information can be found on their website: The deadline for applications is September 15, 2013.

We hope we have helped you understand the joy of being part of this amazing committee. We wouldn’t trade our experiences for the world.  

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When Kids Can’t Read: What Teachers Can Do: A Guide for Teachers 6-12 by Kylene Beers



When Kids Can’t Read: What Teachers Can Do: A Guide for Teachers 6-12
Author: Kylene Beers
Published: October 22, 2002 by Heinemann Educational Books

Summary: When Kylene Beers entered the classroom in the 1970s, she had dreams of teaching AP classes, filled with students who were passionate, high-level readers. She was shocked when she was confronted by classes of students who not only couldn’t read but didn’t want to read. While she wanted a job teaching seniors in high school, she took the only available position as a seventh grade teacher. George was a boy in her classroom. He couldn’t read. In a conference, his parents asked Beers how she planned to help George, and she didn’t have the answers. After a few years with students like George, Beers set out to find more effective ways to teach students like him.

Review: This practical handbook will prove to be an invaluable guide for both beginning and experienced middle and high school English teachers. I was told by more than one professor that this is the “best book to teach struggling readers.” I expected to learn a few strategies from the book, but I was shocked by just how much I learned. There are so many new ideas, practical tips, and classroom activities that I wish I’d discovered this book much earlier. The book helps teachers diagnose struggling readers’ issues and offers practical solutions.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: The book is divided into major sections of: Comprehension, Vocabulary, Fluency, Word Recognition, and Motivation. I don’t believe it is intended to be read cover-to-cover (although I read it that way because I found it to be so fascinating), and teachers can use it as more of a guidebook for diagnosing and addressing concerns with particular students. The inside cover directs teachers to the chapter they might be looking for.

I can’t share all of the awesome details of the book, so I will hone in on one chapter. I’ve always considered myself to be an excellent planner and implementer of pre-reading strategies. I use KWL charts, have students walk around the room to discover concepts, and just adore student debates that stem from anticipation guides. Beers’ book put me to shame. She introduced the idea of a KWGL chart (the G standing for where the students plan to GO for the information). Why didn’t I think of that? Additionally, she presented ideas called the “Probable Passage” and the “Tea Party,” two strategies I had never heard of. In the next chapter about “Constructing Meaning,” she describes ELEVEN (yes, I said eleven) different strategies to engage readers with constructing meaning. I liked the strategies a lot because many of them seemed very fun. I can imagine my students would be extremely engaged in their reading, had I used these strategies. She also provides blank worksheets of the strategies in the appendices (and we love this, don’t we?).

I have read many professional development books. This is certainly one of my favorites because it is practical, easy-to-employ, and extremely useful. I am jealous that I haven’t thought of all of the great strategies, activities, and pointers that Beers has used in her classroom. If I employed more of these ideas, I would feel like the Wonder Woman of the School.

Discussion Questions: What do we do when a student comes tell us they ‘just don’t get it’? What is a struggling reader? Once we’ve discovered that a student can’t read, what can we do about it? How do we create independent readers out of dependent readers? What is the best way to teach vocabulary? How do we help students with fluency and automaticity? Are phonics important? How do we create confidence in our readers?

We Flagged: “I think back to any one of the many days that I encouraged George to ‘just reread it’ and acknowledge that there’s wisdom in that comment, but more important[ly], I recognize the assumption that guided me for a long time: if they read it (the text), it (the meaning) will come. ‘Did you read it?’ I asked. ‘Well, go read it again. You can get it.’ Meaning was obviously something in the text that George could surely grasp if he just read it often enough” (p. 8).

Read This If You Loved: In the Middle by Nancie Atwell, The English Teacher’s Companion by Jim Burke, Readicide by Kelly Gallagher, Deeper Reading by Kelly Gallagher, I Read it but I Don’t Get It by Cris Tovani


What is your favorite book for professional development? Have you read this one? What did you think? Share your thoughts!


Stardines Swim High Across the Sky and Other Poems by Jack Prelutsky


NF PB 2013

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book). Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!



Stardines Swim High Across the Sky and Other Poems
Author: Jack Prelutsky
Illustrator: Carin Berger
Published February 26th, 2013 by Greenwillow Books

Summary: Jack Prelutsky combines inanimate objects with animals to give us a new collection of fun poetry that is accompanied by Carin Berger’s amazing fine artwork.

My Review: I love the concept behind this book. It is set up like an informational nonfiction book with each poem being presented like a specimen. Carin Berger’s artwork is full of found objects that were photographed to add to the nonfiction feeling of each poem.   And, of course, Prelutsky adds a sense of humor to each poem as that is what he does.

The creatures that Prelutsky came up with are so clever – SOBCATS who are sad cats, JOLLYFISH who are happy jellyfish, TATTLESNAKE are snakes that won’t stop tattling, and GLOOSE are a bird that keep sticking to everything. And these are just four examples of sixteen in the book.

I cannot review this book without talking about the artwork. I originally chose this book because I saw it on a Mock Caldecott list and I can definitely see why. Carin Berger illustrates this novel with beautiful pieces of artwork. As stated on the copyright page: “The miniature dioramas in this book are assemblages created using a combination of cut paper, found ephemera, vintage engravings (which were scanned, manipulated in Photoshop, and then printed out), beeswax, wire, thread, and wood. Once each piece was made, it was then photographed digitally to prepare the full-color art.” What a fantastic process to discuss with students and it definitely added an essential aspect to the book.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: Each poem is its own discussion starter. First, to separate the title creatures into the two words that were combined and looking at what the animals is and what the word is that it was combined with. For example: “Chormorants” is a combination of CORMORANT and CHORES. Then I’d look through the poem and find where the animal is represented and where the combined word plays a role. And on top of that, each poem can be looked at as a poem and look for poetic elements within it.  Each poem is a stand-alone, well done poem that is sure to start a conversation.

Discussion Questions: Which poem is your favorite? Why?; Combine an animal with a word and write a poem about this new creature.; How do you think Berger’s artwork added to the book? How would cartoon illustrations have made the book different?

We Flagged: Every poem is a gem, but this is my favorite-

“PLANDAS sit around all day,
Planning what to do.
Their plans amount to nothing,
For they never see them through.
They plan to run a marathon
Or take a railroad trip.
They plan to cross the ocean
On a wooden sailing ship.
They plan to learn to roller-skate,
To juggle, and to fence.
They plan to go to clown school
And cavort in circus tents.
They plan to play the saxophone
And form their own brass bands. . . .
But PLANDAS never do these things –
They just keep making plans.” (p. 21)

Read This If You Loved: Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant by Jack Prelutsky, My Teacher Likes to Say by Denise Brennan-Nelson,  Lemonade by Bob Raczka

Recommended For:

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Top Ten Tuesday: Words/Topics That Deter Us


top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. The feature was created because The Broke and Bookish are particularly fond of lists (as are we!). Each week a new Top Ten list topic is given and bloggers can participate.

Today’s Topic: Top Ten Words/Topics That Will Make You NOT Pick A Book

We changed this a bit. We both will read just about anything, so we’re using topics or words that will deter us from picking up a book or trends that we are just tired of reading about.


1. Just Like Twilight: Or “Just Like” any popular at that moment book. “The New Hunger Games!” Ugh! I know they are trying to sell books, but can you describe your book in a way that doesn’t make it seem like a sell-out automatically?!?!

2. Dragons: I know this is very broad and I have liked some “dragon” books, but as soon as I see a dragon on the cover or someone says it is about a dragon, I automatically think I will not like it.

3. Paranormal Romances: This is one of the trends I am just done with.  They have to be really, really good and recommended to me by a very reliable person for me to pick them up.

4. Magical Realism: Magical realism is when there is magic/fantasy in a normal world. I often have major trouble with these books. For example, in Billy Creekmore the story is such a great historical fiction and had a bit of a ghost story in it, but then suddenly there is actually a ghost?! Why?!

5. Adult Authors Writing YA/MG/Juv Fic: I think so many adult authors are making the switch over to write young adult, middle grade, or children’s lit just to make money.  Now, that isn’t to say that some of them aren’t good. I know my students love James Patterson’s Middle School series and I have friends who liked Theodore Boone by John Grisham, so I may be wrong in this; however, it is something that makes me hesitate before reading/picking up a book.


1. Vampires: I have read dozens and dozens of vampire books. At this point in my life, I will probably opt for a different book, given the choice. My students are tired of them, so I am tired of them. If there is a new twist, I am always willing to give it a try.

2. Fairies, Faeries, Pherries (Okay, kidding on the last one): The pixie dust just doesn’t do it for me. Also, book-talking a novel about fairies makes me feel silly. If you have any suggestions of fairy books, I am always willing to give it a whirl, but so far, I haven’t been impressed.

3. Amnesia: For me, this feels like the oldest plot trick in the book. For some reason, these books continue to be pervasive. I like the mysterious aspect of finding out who the character is, but that is about it. It feels formulaic to me–especially with the blinding flashbacks that are sure to show up.

4. Talking Machines: Some things shouldn’t talk, especially inanimate objects like machines or chairs. This is the only one on the list that is pretty much a deal-breaker for me. Unless the character has a mental illness, if the couch starts talking, I am done.

5. Religion: I love reading and learning about different religions, but the second it gets preachy, I am done. I don’t want to convert to the author’s religion, and I know the second I mention religion in my classroom, I’ve lost the majority of the class. If the book is informative or cultural, then it is great by me, but if it starts a-preaching, I will be a-reaching for a different book.

What words deter you from picking up a book? 

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 7/22/13



It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA!

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…you just might discover the next “must-read” book!

Jen Vincent, of Teach Mentor Texts, and Kellee decided to give It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit – join us! We love this meme and think you will, too.

We encourage everyone who participates to support the blogging community by visiting at least three of the other book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.


Last Week’s Posts

Award Sealtop ten tuesday 16002028 17262303 productimage-picture-junket-is-nice-337 16248141 20 Moments

We have GIVEAWAYS for the Junket is Nice and Sidekicked pages that are still live. You can enter every day and get 1 free entry daily!!!

**Click on any picture above to view the post**


Last Week’s Journeys

Kellee: This week I had a pretty good reading week. First, I finished my rereadings of the Walden finalists- they are all so great!!! I may even go back and reread some of them again just to get a final feeling for them. I also reread Stardines and Building Our House in preparation for this week’s reviews. I also read Junket is Nice in preparation for the review this week. Finally, I read Liz Kessler’s newest novel, North of Nowhere. It was filled with mystery and students will be guessing throughout the novel. I will be reviewing for you all in a couple of weeks. Overall, a pretty successful week!

Ricki: Like Kellee, I reread all of the Walden Award finalists this week. I am excited to post more about them this Friday. Kellee and I are joining forces for a blog post about our experiences on the book award committee, so check back if you are interested. We will give more information about applying to the committee at that time. This week, I also read Junket is Nice by Dorothy Kunhardt and More Than This by Patrick Ness (both of which I blogged about–click the pictures above if you missed them). Lastly, I finished When Kids Can’t Read by Kylene Beers. Check back on Thursday for my review. I know it is taught in many reading and methods courses, but if you haven’t read it yet, it is absolutely fantastic.

This Week’s Expeditions

Kellee: This week I am driving all week, so I hope to finally finish the David Sedaris audiobook that I’ve been listening to all month. It is hilarious and I want to finish cherishing it. I’ve also started Wonder Light by R.R. Russell, also for review, and enjoying it so far. It’s protagonist is a “troubled” girl who is sent to a pony ranch to “find herself.” After Wonder Light, I’m not sure what I’ll read next. I know I want to read Doll Bones  for the #virtualbookclub on August 5th and I have some library books on their way—we’ll see what I end up reading.

Ricki: Last night, I started The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. This year, my students were really obsessed with mental illness and depression. I bought the book in a used bookstore and gave it to a few of my seniors and they loved it. I’ve always been afraid to read it because I worry it will sink me into a sorrow pit. So far, I really enjoy it, but I probably shouldn’t be reading it while pregnant—too emotional. I don’t plan to post a review because many of you have probably already read it. After that, I think I will move onto The Infects or The One and Only Ivan. I missed that one and everyone seems to adore it. Blogging is new to me, and to be honest, I find it difficult to predict what I will read because my mood fluctuates. I don’t like reading to feel like an assignment, so you may be hearing about an entirely different book next week. Send suggestions my way, as I seem to own half of the bookstore (and particularly the high school books), and I am feeling indecisive today!


Upcoming Week’s Posts

top ten tuesday stardines beers walden building


So, what are you reading?

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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20 Moments I Will Miss With My Readers


This summer is bittersweet. I will be leaving my position as a high school English teacher to pursue a doctoral degree in Secondary English Education at UConn. I feel sad to be leaving my colleagues and readers but excited for this new adventure. I’ve been thinking about some of the moments I will miss most with my readers, and a few (okay, twenty…I got carried away) are listed below. I dedicate this list to all of the reading teachers out there. Being a teacher is the most rewarding experience in the world.

20 Moments

  1. The look on students’ faces when they return a book and we tell them there is a sequel.
  2. The clawing, reaching, and grabbing of books. All’s fair in books and war.
  3. When the bell rings and three students are still reading at their desks.
  4. When a student walks into a classroom in tears and thrusts a book at us.
  5. Making the boys cry. Thanks, John Green.
  6. When students whine that their to-read lists are too long.
  7. Waitlists for books. Not fun to keep organized…but fun to watch them check where their names are on the lists every day.
  8. When students ask, “Can you get me other books by this author?” We point to two on the shelf, and they look at us like we gave them free kittens.
  9. When an author tweets/emails our students back. Thanks, authors. You don’t even understand how excited they get. The squeals can be ear-piercing.
  10. When students battle over which book is better. This will never get old, will it?
  11. Searching for our names on Twitter and seeing kids posting about books/YAL. #guilty
  12. When students call our classrooms the free bookstore. Our hearts swell with pride every time.
  13. Changing a self-proclaimed “non-reader” into a reader. Because after all, everyone is a reader—some of us just don’t know it yet.
  14. When a teacher complains that a student was reading one of “our books” in his/her class, and we have to feign disappointment in the student.
  15. Listening to students’ book talks for books we haven’t read yet. And having to add our names to the waitlists for those books.
  16. When another English teacher compliments us on the writing of one of our readers. Thanks for being great models, authors.
  17. Telling students that we met [insert author here]. They gaze at us as if we are celebrities. Nope, we were giddy schoolgirls (or schoolboys) when we met them. It wasn’t pretty.
  18. We can’t relive a book for the first time, but it is almost as fun watching a student experience it for the first time.
  19. Getting a new book and knowing our students will be just as excited about it as we are.
  20. Receiving emails from students (who graduated over five years ago), asking for book recommendations. Here’s to hoping they keep in touch!

What are your favorite moments with your readers? Share a few!


Blog Tour, Review, and Giveaway!: Sidekicked by John David Anderson


Sidekicked - Blog Tour Banner

We are so happy to be hosting a stop on the Sidekicked blog tour! Walden Pond Press is such a fantastic publisher and we love being able to partake in the hype of their equally wonderful titles. Make sure that, after you stop by our tour stop, you visit the other stops: SIDEKICKED: The Superhero Blog Tour.

Today, for our blog tour stop, I (Kellee) will be reviewing Sidekicked and we’ll also be hosting a giveaway!


Author: John David Anderson
Published June 25th, 2013 by Walden Pond Press

Summary: Andrew Bean was born with amazing abilities to sense things (hear, see, taste, touch and smell) better than anyone else on the planet. No wonder that he was recruited to be part of H.E.R.O. program at the middle school: an extracurricular “club” to prep students with super-powers to become the city’s superhero’s sidekicks.  Andrew, along with five other extraordinary middle schoolers including Andrew’s best friend Jenna, join Mr. Martin three times a week to work on their powers and to prepare to be the best sidekick possible. Andrew’s only problem is that his superhero is MIA not even showing up to save him when he is hanging over a pool of acid. However, Andrew’s problem seems like nothing when supervillains escape from high security prison and begin rampaging their town–throwing the sidekicks right in the middle of a super-big problem.

My Review: What a super fun book! I love the concept of H.E.R.O. and how starting in middle school sidekicks are trained to be help to their superhero–talk about career track! This concepts lends to a great story because not only do you have the sidekicks/superhero aspect of the story, but you also are throwing these kids in the middle of middle school- major drama!

Right in the middle of this drama and action is Andrew. What a funny kid! I love his voice and his story. He is a perfect protagonist for this novel (I cannot even imagine the story being told from any of the other sidekick’s POV). He is a bit nerdy, a sweet boy, pretty sarcastic, friends with the the star sidekick, and has some seriously awesome powers (even if they aren’t physical). The nerdy/sweet/sarcastic part gives us a pretty snarky, fun narrator that many people will connect with. Being friends with the star sidekick gives us some insight into her life which is pretty darn exciting and also adds the strong female and a tiny bit of romance. Finally, his type of superpowers lends to the story being told because the whole book is about Andrew figuring out his spot in the mess around him and that includes empowering his superpowers.

OH, and just you wait for the last quarter. Holy plot twist Batman! I was very shocked about part of what transpires at the end and I think you and our students will be as well.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: This book is definitely for all middle school classroom libraries! It will find great readership from all types of readers: Alex Rider fans to action/adventure fans to powerful female character fans. All you need to booktalk it, get it into a couple of students’ hands, and it will never be on the shelf. The book would also be great as a read aloud because it is fun and would lend to some great predictions and some discussions about right vs. wrong as well as the choices the characters make. It has humor and action enough to draw in an entire class!

Discussion Questions: Which of the sidekicks’ superpowers would you rather have? Why?; Which of the superheroes would you rather be a sidekick for?; Some superheroes think that they do not need a sidekick- what are your feelings? Is 2 better than 1?; Jenna asks (in Ch. 16) a pretty tough question- what makes someone a good person? After reading Ch. 16, discuss this question.

We Flagged: “It’s Tuesday. It’s Tuesday and I’m in costume, but just barely. That is to say that I have my mask and outfit on, so nobody knows who I am. Or almost nobody at least. Which pretty much sums up my life as a whole. It’s Tuesday, which means it is sloppy joe day in the cafeteria, which is bad enough, but that’s not the worth thing that can happen to you. It’s Tuesday- middle of September, only a month into the new school year- and I’m hovering over Justicia community poo, which two weeks ago was still filled with a dozen drowning bugs and the farewell tinkle from the last toddler to be dragged streaming out of it. Today it is filled with acid. Seriously. Acid.” (p. 9)

Read This If You Love: Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz, The Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Boy series by William Boniface, Adventures of Daniel Boom AKA Loud Boy series by David Steinberg, Lunch Lady series by Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Mal and Chad series by Stephen McCranie

Recommended For: 

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

I know you all want to read this book- it is so good!


**Thank you to Kellie at Walden Pond Press for providing a copy for review and giveaway!**