The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli


The Upside of Unrequited
Author: Becky Albertalli
Published: April 11, 2018 by Balzer + Bray

Guest Review by Rachel Krieger

Summary: Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love—she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny and flirtatious and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker Reid. He’s an awkward Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?

Review: This heart-warming, flirtatious, love-filled book will bring you a wave of nostalgia. From the sunny summer days to all of Molly’s firsts, Becky Albertalli’s story is sure to set your heart a-flutter. The main characters make up an interracial family with LGBTQ members and an amazing affinity for love and forgiveness. With every passing page, the characters grow a little more, figuring out how to live their own lives while still making time for each other. There can be no doubt for the reader that despite all the conflict, Molly and Cassie will survive their teenage years with their strong relationship intact. Albertalli’s firm grasp on young love makes this book sweet and fun, with twists and turns that will make you read until the last word. This is a must read for any young adults, parents of teens, teachers, or anyone who enjoys a quick, uplifting read.

Teacher’s Tool For Navigation: The Upside of Unrequited can start a lot of amazing conversations in the classroom. One really important aspect of the story is the main character, Molly’s weight. She has felt her whole life as though she deserves the harsh words people send her way simply because of her weight. It could be very interesting to start a conversation with students about bullying and the effect it can have on people in the long run. Another important aspect of the story that can be brought up in the classroom is identity. In the novel, Molly self-identifies as fat. She doesn’t necessarily want to become skinnier or have people stop looking at her as fat, but she wishes that her weight didn’t matter. She adopts it as part of her identity and wants acceptance for it. It would be really beneficial to discuss identity and the specific positives and negatives that can stem from it.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What did the first-person point of view do for the story?
  • Did you find the adult characters in this novel realistic?
  • What was important about the familial relationships in this novel?
  • What is the poignancy of the title?

We Flagged: “I think this is me letting go. Bit by bit. I think these are our tiny steps away from each other. Making not-quite-identical footprints in not-quite-opposite directions. And it’s the end of the world and the beginning of the world and we’re seventeen. And it’s an awesome thing.”

Read This If You Loved: Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Recommended For: 



Teaching Tuesday: Teaching My Son to Read (by Ricki) Part II


“Teaching My Son to Read” (by Ricki) Part II (Part I Post: Here)

Forging On

Thank you all for the wonderful advice in the comments section of my last post. I purchased the Mem Fox book and continually remind myself that read-alouds are the most powerful tool to teach a child to read. This has alleviated the pressure, and I feel your company when I roll my eyes when someone mentions, “So when do you think you’ll teach him to read.” In my mind, looking at pictures is reading.

His Pride

But he is really excited about reading. His uncle, who follows this blog, asked him about his reading when we were video-chatting. Ever since then, my son will say things like, “I am going to show Uncle ___ that I read this page.” He’s started feeling a sense of pride in his reading skills.

“Reading Books”

I am not crazy about this term. But my son has started calling the books he reads his “reading books.” (I am not sure what he considers the other books.) It’s provided him the onus of saying things like, “Let’s do all reading books tonight,” or “I don’t want to do any reading books tonight.” Like I said, the term makes me itch a bit, but it’s his term, and I am trying not to use my critical educator framing on him. I am letting him drive the car, and I am focusing intently on not pushing him. If he wants to read and takes pride in the process, I will continue to support it. If not, I will let it go.

More Books

He’s gotten really into the Flip-A-Page series. I brought one home from the library, and he wants more, more, more. (They market all of the books in the series on the back cover.)


These books are really fun (for me, too!). Essentially, they work with the concept of word families. So for the first book pictured, it will introduce the sound of “ake” and then there are cut-outs on the page for both the word and the images. As the reader turns the page, the “ake” sound is repeated, and part of the picture is repeated. My son loves to flip back and forth to look at the transformation. It’s pretty ingenious and highly entertaining for both of us.

More Traditional Early Readers

My son received a bookstore gift card for Easter, and he came upon the Avengers books in the early reader section and wanted them.

I’ll be honest. I would never consider buying these books for my son on his own. Leveling books drives me bonkers (see this anti-lexile post). When he said, “Please can I get this one!” instead of the magnificently beautiful, new picture book that was on the display, I paused for a beat. I knew what was likely in these books, Page 1: “I am superman.” Page 2: “I shoot webs.” But then I remembered my critique of the educators who don’t allow kids to read freely. So we got them. This is how he chose to spend his gift card, and he couldn’t be happier. We are reading the simplistic, obvious descriptions of the superheroes each night. They are improving his reading skills, for sure, and he’s in love with the Marvel illustrations as we read. And I’m improving. I’m reminding myself that kids read what they are interested in. While I may find these books to be soul-crushing in its simplicity and while I may find these books to be wildly boring, my son is avidly devouring them. He begs to read them over and over, and he’s simultaneously loving how they are teaching him new words. I recognize that I must be true to my reader/teacher philosophy that we should let kids read what they want to read.

What’s Next?

As corny as this may sound, I’m not sure. I am letting him be the guide.


Teaching Tuesday: Teaching My Son to Read (by Ricki) Part I


For a few reasons, Kellee and I have decided to break away from Top Ten Tuesday. Don’t worry—we aren’t done with lists! We’ve really enjoyed TTT, and we will miss it, but we are excited for a new Tuesday adventure that is much more aligned with our vision for this blog. We will rotate between individual and shared posts, but you can always guarantee that you will find something teaching-related, about education, about our students, or about books in reference to any of those things on Tuesdays.

“Teaching My Son to Read” (by Ricki)

The Pressure

While I think about classroom teaching every day, I also think a lot about teaching my older son how to read. There’s a lot of pressure to teach our kids to read before they enter kindergarten. I’ve heard it from my mom friends, and I’ve also heard it from random strangers in the grocery store. Everyone seems to have an opinion on when kids should learn to read.

A Child’s Love of Books

What do I value? I value my son’s love of books. I value the fact that today, during dinner, he asked me if I could read to him while he ate. I value that every night, he begs us to let him read just one more book. I value the mornings that I wake up to the sound of pages turning, and I click on the monitor to see him reading quietly in bed while he waits for everyone to wake up.

The Pressure

With this in mind, I have held myself back. I don’t want my son to dislike reading. I’d rather he learn to read after all of his peers if it means that he won’t lose his love of books. If there’s anything I’ve learned as a mom, it’s that I don’t know anything about parenting and am likely making the wrong choices most of the time. I am not sure if I should be doing more sooner or if I should wait for him to tell me that he wants to learn to read.

The Beginning Stages

As we’ve started to work on learning to read, I’ve tried to do several things purposefully. When he was young, we put Wheel of Fortune on the television in the background while he played. He learned all of his letters from this show. Thanks, Wheel of Fortune! When we were in the car or just playing, we sounded out letters. For example, “Look at the sky! What letter does ‘sky’ start with? What other words start with ‘s’?” This helped.

Phonics? Sight Words?

This felt natural, but the actual reading felt trickier. Kids like pictures, and they often prefer the adult to read to them because reading is hard. I also kept going back to my desire to maintain my son’s love of books. I don’t like teaching phonics very much, but then I wondered if I could truly teach my son to read using only sight words. I also began to wonder if we could find a happy medium between learning phonics and sight words.

My Son’s First Book

I came across the BOB Books. I was really, really hesitant to use them because they felt very phonics-y. Essentially, it’s a small square cardboard box that contains 16 or so very short books. Each book works on a different sound, and the picture matches the words exactly (allowing kids to use context clues). I overly prepped my son. To match my insecurities, I kept saying, “And if you don’t like the books, we won’t read them!” and “Let’s just see if we can practice reading. You are so smart!” Well, he loves them. Luckily, they are very short, so we can practice reading a little bit each day. He read an entire book with some support, and my heart was bursting with pride.

What’s Next?

I don’t know what’s next. I don’t know if tomorrow my son will hate the BOB Books and we will have to put them away for good. Luckily, there are so many great books out there that help support reading (e.g. Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss). I teach secondary school reading courses, so this is a new, untraveled path for me. Some of the strategies are similar, but most are quite different. I welcome your advice! What have you learned about teaching kids to read? What can this unabashedly inexperienced mom learn about teaching reading to a four-year-old? Parenting is a humbling experience, but I’ve learned so much about the beginning stages of literacy!


The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin


The Wonderful Things You Will Be
Author: Emily Winfield Martin
Published: August 25, 2015 by Random House

A Guest Review by Jennifer Zafetti

Summary: This heartwarming picture book is from the point of view of a parent who is eager to see the development of their child. The parent questions who their child will become and what interests they will possess. In the end, there are endless possibilities that the future has to offer to the child.

Review: This is a great book to give to a parent with a small child! The Wonderful Things You Will Be would make for a soothing bedtime story. The sweet message of the story is that a child can be anybody that they want to be. There are no expectations set for a child to adhere to so their future is an empty canvas waiting to be painted! The book, using second person, discusses the uniqueness of you and the wonderful attributes you have to offer to the world. There are many “what if” questions that will get the reader thinking about all the wonderful things that they can do with their life.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The Wonderful Things You Will Be is an engaging children’s book that encourages the reader to embrace the future. There are beautiful illustrations to accompany the text. The teacher can use this book to discuss rhyming words, as well as point of view.

Discussion Questions: What are some rhyming words that you noticed in the story? How do the illustrations enhance the text? What do you want to be when you grow up?

Flagged Passage: 

Read This If You Loved: Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae, and If Animals Kissed Good Night by Ann Whitford Paul

Recommended For:

Thank you, Jennifer!


Trent’s Favorite Books: One to Two Years Old



I cannot believe that Trent is two! He is such a smart, sweet, funny boy who is really coming into his own. Additionally, over the last year, he has gotten a reading personality. I used to be able to force him to listen to whatever I wanted to read, but now he drives the book bus. He’ll still listen to new books I love sometimes, but most of the time, he is choosing what he wants to read, and he definitely has favorites. I will preface with the fact that most of these are board books because that is what he primarily has access too. I cannot wait until he isn’t into tearing book pages, and we can dive into all of his picture books freely!

Here are his favorite books over the last year (in no particular order):


Don’t Push the Button by Bill Cotter

This book is hilarious! Trent loves the interactive parts, and I love how clever it is.

Go, Dog, Go! by P.D. Eastman

A classic! Trent says good bye at the end of the hat scene which is adorable! I also love how it teaches colors, prepositions, and opposites.

Thomas the Tank Engine Me Reader

This lets Trent be in control. It has a reader that allows him to pick which book he wants to read then each page he is reading has a symbol that he presses and it reads the page to him.

Friends by Eric Carle

A new favorite of his. There is a part in the middle where the character is on an adventure to find his friend, and Trent loves the onomatopoeias that are within this section.

Race Car Count by Rebecca Kai Dotlich

I am so glad we got this book because it may just be Trent’s favorite. He loves the orange car the best. I really think this book is the reason why he knew all of his colors by 22 months!

Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site (Sound book) by  Sherri Duskey Rinker

Trent is a fan of sound books and construction machinery, so this is a perfect mix and a great bedtime story.

Big Friend, Little Friend from the World of Eric Carle

Another sound book which looks at big and little animals that live in the same habitat. Another combo of two things Trent loves.

A Book of Sleep by Il Sung Na

This has been a favorite of Trent’s from the second we read it the first time. He loves his owl book. He’s also started having us read Little Owl’s Night by Divya Srinivasan, so I can see it sneaking in and being a loved owl bedtime story too.

If I Were a Penguin by Anne Wilkinson

Another favorite for his entire life. He loves the touch-and-feel aspects and penguins.

Rainbow Rob by Roger Priddy

This book is such a great mixture of humor, touch-and-feel, and learning. It teaches about different animals and colors within a humorous story with each animal having a different textured aspect.

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

At first Trent had no interest in Goodnight Moon, but recently we had started saying goodnight to everything around the house, so I decided to bring it back out. Now it is the book that we end every day with. He crawls into bed, and I read it to him right before kissing him goodnight.

The Monster at the End of this Book and its sequel by Jon Stone

My boy is a Sesame Street kid (and proud of it), and we love both Monster books.

Little Monsters and Oh My a Fly! by Jan Pieńkowski

These are both pop-up books that we had when I was younger, and my mom passed on to me. They are a little gross and weird, but Trent just thinks that’s hilarious.

Peek-A-Zoo and Peek-A-Boo by Nina Laden

This along with Pete the Cat and Llama Llama are the first books that Trent “read” because he memorized what to say (or parts of what to say). He loves turning the page and “scaring” himself with the animal or Halloween-themed thing beneath the page.

Llama Llama Zippity Zoom and other Llama Llama board books by Anna Dewdney

Llama Llama Zippity Zoom is one of my favorite books to read with Trent because he reads along with you and loves the different rhyming words throughout. He yells VROOM VROOM VROOM every time–it is so great! He is also starting to like the rest of the Llama Llama board books we have, so I see him being a huge Llama Llama fan in the future.

Pigeon books by Mo Willems

We have progressed through many of the pigeon books over time. Originally, we read mostly the board book The Pigeon Has Feelings Too, but one day Trent saw The Pigeon Needs a Bath on the shelf and asked for it. The rest is history. He now has Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus in the mix as well.

Pete the Cat books by Eric Litwin and James Dean

We love Pete. The original is still our favorite and probably always will be, but Trent is good with reading any Pete book.

Disney Sound Storybook Treasury and other Disney books

We are a Disney family, so Trent is a bit obsessed with some of the characters (Anna, Olaf, Ariel, Mike Wyzowski, Sully, Buzz, Woody, Mickey, and Minnie to name a few), so he often wants to read our Disney books.

Reading with my child is something that I cherish. And I love that he is a fan of reading and has been since birth:
A First Year Full of Books
Trent and Kellee’s Favorite Books: Nine to Twelve Months
Trent and Kellee’s Favorite Books: Six to Nine Months
Trent and Kellee’s Favorite Books: Three to Six Months
Trent and Kellee’s Favorite Books: First Three Months

I cannot wait to see what the next year in books looks like for my sweet boy!

Kellee Signature

Ricki and Henry’s Favorite Children’s Books (1-2 Years)


Ricki and Henry 1-2 years

I make an attempt to pick out the top ten picture books that Henry and I read together. These posts feature his (my husbands, and my) favorite picture books that we’ve read. This is incredibly difficult because we read so many fantastic books. But I understand, as a mom with a limited budget, that other parents may appreciate a list. We usually plow through library books and buy our favorites. Each of the books listed below is worthy of purchasing! With the holidays near, I recommend each of these. I am excluding my favorite books from our first top ten list (birth to six months) and our second top ten list (six to twelve months). As I described in the first post, Henry, his dad, and I read books together every night, and we are excited to share these great books with all of you! They are listed in alphabetical order.

1. The Color Monster: A Pop-Up Book of Feelings by Anna Llenas

Monster Color Monster

This beautiful pop-up book is fascinating. I’ve always found pop-up books to be entertaining, but this one takes pop-up books to a completely different level.

2. Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanual Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson


This is an inspirational nonfiction picture book. I loved learning about Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah and loved the themes.

3. Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast by Josh Funk

lady pancake and Sir

This book is not only fun, but it is funny! My son and I really enjoy reading this one together, and I love that it gives me opportunities to promote foods. This helps me combat the picky eating—an excellent bonus to a well-written text.

4. Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña

last stop on market street

I love everything written by Matt de la Peña, and this book is no exception. Henry pulls this book off of the bookshelf every day, and it makes my heart happy. This one is a crowd favorite in our household.

5. Little Tree by Loren Long

little tree

This quiet book holds a special place in my heart. The drawings and text are simple, yet the story fills the room.

6. Planes Fly by George Ella Lyon

planes fly

My son would be very upset if I didn’t include this book on the list. We read it every night, and he is obsessed with the planes.

7. The Racecar Alphabet by Brian Floca

Racecar Alphabet

We tell Henry he can read two books each night (otherwise, it turns into twelve–and don’t worry, he gets about thirty books during the day). Sometimes, he requests this one twice. He loves it, and so do my husband and I, so it is a win-win.

8. Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall

red a crayon's story

I read this book in the bookstore. Everyone was raving about it, and I wanted to see what it was all about. I had to buy it. It is that good. Not only does it allow me to practice colors with Henry, but we talk about empathy and feeling confident in who we are—regardless of societal expectations. Of course, we talk about this in age appropriate terms. 🙂

9. What Do You Do With an Idea? by Kobi Yamada


After I read this book, not only did I buy it, but I bought it for my sister. I absolutely love the way this book inspires me to be creative. It is a great book to teach symbolism.

10. Wish by Matthew Cordell


This is a book written for parents (and obviously, it is very kid-friendly, too!). It made me cry. These two elephants wish and wish for a baby.

What are your favorite children’s books? Henry and I would love to reserve them from the library! Please share!


A First Year Full of Books: Trent’s Journey Through Books


During Trent’s first year, we took a photo of every book we read to him. This slideshow documents our journey through books with Trent from three days old to one year old. Enjoy!

I love seeing him grow up among so many great books!

To see more about what Trent read and liked during his first year:

Favorite PBs 3 months 3-6monthbooks

Trent6-9monthsfavbooks Trent's Fave Books 9-12 months

Here’s to our next year filled with love, family, friends, good health, lots of learning, and amazing books!