Review and Giveaway!: A Sari for Ammi by Mamta Nainy, Illustrated by Sandhya Prabhat


A Sari for Ammi
Author: Mamta Nainy
Illustrator: Sandhya Prabhat
Publication Date: November 9, 2021 by Amazon Crossing

Summary: Ammi weaves the most beautiful saris but never gets to wear any of them. Her two little daughters decide to do something about it—break their piggy bank! But when there isn’t enough money to buy Ammi a sari, the two girls must work together to find a solution. Will they be able to buy Ammi the gift she so deserves? With a text full of heart, and bright, cheerful artwork, this story brings readers into the home of a weaver’s family in Kaithoon, India, where the creation of saris is an art form. The book includes a glossary of Indian terms and a note about the saris made in this region.

“This delightful picture book shines a spotlight on a rural, underrepresented Indian Muslim community.” —Kirkus Reviews

Mamta Nainy is a children’s writer, editor, and translator based in New Delhi, India. She is the author of many children’s books, including A Brush with Indian Art, illustrated by Aniruddha Mukherjee, which won the Hindu Young World-Goodbooks Award in 2019; and Bioscope, illustrated by Shanti Devi, which was named to the IBBY Honor List in 2012. Follow the author on Instagram @mamtanainy.

Sandhya Prabhat is an independent animator and illustrator from Chennai, India, who resides in the United States. She has a master’s degree in animation and digital arts from New York University. She has illustrated nearly a dozen picture books, including her recent book I Am Brown, written by Ashok Banker. She animates for TV and movies and creates content for social media websites such as Facebook, Google, and Snapchat. Follow the artist on Instagram @sandhyaprabhat.

Review: This is one of those books that makes readers want to be better people. The two sisters in this book have so much heart and so much love for their mother that they are determined to buy her a sari. It is clear that their mother is so beautiful of a person that they feel she must own a beautiful sari. I love, love this book and really enjoyed reading it to my children. Afterwards, we talked about the many ways we can be better people.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book invites readers to take action. After reading the text, I might ask students the ways in which they can show their gratitude for the people in their lives. Then, we might begin a community action project together.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why doesn’t Ammi own a sari?
  • What do her daughters decide to do? What do they learn along the way?
  • How might you show your gratitude for the people in your life?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Each Kindness by Jacqueline WoodsonI Walk With Vanessa by Kerascoët, Normal Norman by Tara LazarAdrian Simcox Does Not Have a Horse by Marcy Campbell, What Can a Citizen Do? by Dave Eggers


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Amazon Crossing Kids aims to increase the diversity of children’s books in translation and encourage young reading from a range of cultural perspectives.

Recommended For: 


Author Guest Post: “Using Similes and Metaphors to Spark Conversations about the Power of Empathy” by Michelle Schaub, Author of Kindness is a Kite String


Using Similes and Metaphors to Spark Conversations about the Power of Empathy

One of the most important things we can do as parents and educators is encourage kids to be kind.  Not only does fostering a culture of kindness and empathy create a positive learning environment, but it also improves kids’ sense of well-being and agency. Besides, spreading kindness makes the world a little brighter. And who doesn’t want that?

How can you cultivate kindness, both in the classroom and at home?

One simple way to develop this much needed virtue is by sharing books that model kind behavior. My picture book, Kindness is a Kite String, does just that. The book starts with the words, “Kindness is like sunshine, it starts the day off right” and shows a child hugging his mom. This starts a wave of kindness that ripples through the community, connect diverse groups of people. As readers follow the story, they gather ideas for ways they can lift others with kindness.

Building Connections with Similes and Metaphors

Each action in Kindness is a Kite String is described using a simile or metaphor. For example, “Kindness is an open door to welcome others through,” and “Kindness runs like dominoes. Reach out and tip a tile.” As a writer and teacher, I know that similes and metaphors are powerful tools. They unlock readers’ imaginations and inspire mental pictures. Similes and metaphors build connections that promote understanding. They help kids comprehend something unfamiliar or abstract (like kindness) by comparing it to something they know well (like sunshine or an open door). In this way, similes and metaphors go hand in hand with kindness. When you act with kindness, you also bridge the gap between something familiar (yourself) and something that might seem new or different (others).

Kindness is a Kite String packs a double educational punch. Not only does the book help spark conversations about empathy, but it also provides models of similes and metaphors in action. That’s good news, considering knowledge of figurative language, including similes and metaphors, is part of the ELA Common Core Standards starting in grade three. However, this concept is often introduced with even younger kids.

Kindness is…

How can you use Kindness is a Kite String to reinforce the concept of similes and metaphors?

One way is by creating a collective “kindness poem.” I have found writing collective poems to be a very effective and engaging strategy to use with students. In a collective poem, each child contributes a line according to a provided prompt or rule. Collective poetry is a great warm-up writing activity because it invites all students to participate without the pressure of having to compose an entire poem from the get-go. It’s also an effective way to explore different perspectives on a topic, like kindness.

After reading KINDNESS IS A KITE STRING with your class, take some time to define and review similes and metaphors. The Authors Note at the back of the book will help you do this. Then provide the provide the prompts, “Kindness is  like…”(for similes)  and/or “Kindness is… (for metaphors.) If you’re working with students in person, you can write this prompt on the board. If you’re working with students remotely, try posting the prompt with an online program like Padlet or Flipgrid.  Ask students to think of something that they enjoy doing or something makes them happy. Ask them how this activity or object might relate to kindness. After modeling some possible responses, invite each student to contribute their own simile or metaphor to complete the prompt. String the student responses together and you’ll have a kindness poem to display in your classroom or home.

Here’s an example of a kindness poem I started with second and third graders:

Kindness is
a cuddly kitten-
it makes you feel warm and cozy.

Kindness is like
a trampoline
bouncing happiness from one person to another.

Kindness is
Lego bricks
because kind deeds build on one another.

Kindness is like
a bowl of popcorn
because it’s meant to be shared.

Not only will your kindness poem remind kids to act with kindness, but it will also serve as great student-created examples of similes and metaphors.

Continue the Kindness Chain

There are many other ways Kindness is a Kite String can spark conversations about the power of empathy. The front of the book includes prompts to use before, during, and after reading. For example, one prompt says: “The last line of the book is ‘When you catch it, pass it on.’ Ask your child what kindness they have caught. What can they do to pass it on?” A free Readers Guide, downloadable from my website,  also accompanies the book. It includes activities like a printable Kindness certificates and a kindness journal for kids to log their empathetic actions.

You can continue to reinforce kindness by exploring other recent picture books with themes of empathy, including Evie’s Field Day, by Claire Noland, Be Kind, by Pat Zietlow Miller, The Big Umbrella, by Amy June Bates, and Scribble Stones, by Diane Alber.

I hope I’ve inspired you with some new ways to promote kindness with kids.  After all, as I say at the end of Kindness is a Kite String, “kindness is contagious. When you catch it… pass it on!”

Kindness is a Kite String: The Uplifting Power of Empathy
Author: Michelle Schaub
Illustrator: Claire LaForte
Published April 1st, 2021 by Cardinal Rule Press

About the Book: Cultivating kindness is easy when you try. Spread a little kindness and watch empathy ripple through the community… spreading happiness like sunshine, connecting diverse groups like a footbridge and lifting hope like a kite string.

How can YOU lift others with kindness?

This compelling book illustrates simple, yet impactful ways, to spread kindness and brighten the lives of others. Through poetry, the inspiring words uplift young readers, planting seeds of empathy, kindness and community support.

The best book for positively teaching kindness.

Kindness is a Kite by Michelle Schaub carries the key message of kindness as well as how to teach similes and metaphors supported by the many advocates of positive parenting solutions. It’ll sit comfortably on your shelf alongside other books that focus on the power of kindness.

This book comes with a free Reader’s Guide for children. The guide is available for free download from the publisher website. Lesson plans, activities and discussion questions to allow parents, teachers and caregivers to explore the topic further and deepen comprehension.





About the Author: Michelle Schaub is an award-winning children’s author and language arts teacher. Her previous books include Dream Big, Little Scientists, Finding Treasure: A Collection of Collections, and Fresh-Picked Poetry: A Day at the Farmers’ Market. Her poems appear in several anthologies, including Great Morning! Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud. Michelle speaks at conferences on the power of poetry to boost literacy. Michelle lives near Chicago, where she loves finding creative ways to cultivate kindness.

Thank you, Michelle, for writing this book for kids. Kindness and empathy are what is going to change this world–thank you for opening up the conversation more!

Blog Tour with Giveaway, Educators’ Guide, and Review: The House That Wasn’t There by Elana K. Arnold


The House That Wasn’t There
Author: Elana K. Arnold
Published March 30th, 2021 by Walden Pond Books

Summary: Alder has always lived in his cozy little house in Southern California. And for as long as he can remember, the old, reliable, comforting walnut tree has stood between his house and the one next door. That is, until a new family—with a particularly annoying girl his age—moves into the neighboring house and, without warning, cuts the tree down.

Oak doesn’t understand why her family had to move to Southern California. She has to attend a new school, find new friends, and live in a new house that isn’t even ready—her mother had to cut down a tree on their property line in order to make room for a second floor. And now a strange boy next door won’t stop staring at her, like she did something wrong moving here in the first place.

As Oak and Alder start school together, they can’t imagine ever becoming friends. But the two of them soon discover a series of connections between them—mysterious, possibly even magical puzzles they can’t put together.

At least not without each other’s help.

Award-winning author Elana K. Arnold returns with an unforgettable story of the strange, wondrous threads that run between all of us, whether we know they’re there or not.

About the Author: Elana K. Arnold is the author of critically acclaimed and award-winning young adult novels and children’s books, including the Printz Honor winner Damsel, the National Book Award finalist What Girls Are Made Of, and Global Read Aloud selection A Boy Called Bat and its sequels. Several of her books are Junior Library Guild selections and have appeared on many best book lists, including the Amelia Bloomer Project, a catalog of feminist titles for young readers. Elana teaches in Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program and lives in Southern California with her family and menagerie of pets.

Praise for The House That Wasn’t There:

“In this luminous story full of mystery and magic, Elana K. Arnold weaves a shimmering tapestry about the lovely and surprising ways we’re connected to each other. Heart-healing, hopeful, and wonderfully inventive, this beautiful novel by a master storyteller is not to be missed.” —Katherine Applegate, Newbery Medal-winning author of The One and Only Ivan

“Told through alternating perspectives that offer clearly rendered details, this compassionate novel gives a unique twist to familiar situations—feeling lonely, adjusting to new environments, forging new bonds—while inviting readers to open their imaginations to all sorts of wonderful possibilities.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“The author enriches her sparely told story with hints of magic, song lyrics, good choices that key sudden sea changes in several relationships, and the small background details that make settings and backstories seem real. A low-key marvel rich in surprises, small fuzzy creatures, and friendships old and new.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Review: I love what Elana K. Arnold can do with a story! She is brilliant when it comes to weaving in secondary stories that often have way more impact than the reader realizes and for building secondary characters that leave a lasting impression.

In The House That Wasn’t There, I was struck with this talent again as I followed Alder’s and Oak’s life as they collide suddenly at the beginning of 6th grade and how their school project, a walnut tree, a dead possum, and adopted kittens all intertwine to help tell their story. The reader at times will wonder why certain things are happening or why something is being mentioned and then BAM it is revealed. It is quite fun to read! And with a bit of magical realism thrown in just for fun, a seemingly “normal” story becomes an extraordinary one!

It was also quite interesting how Arnold set up the chapters, alternating between Alder and Oak but in 3rd person. It helped keep the POV clear while also showing the reader a bit more about each of the character’s lives.

And finally: A shout out to Beck for not being what was expected; Faith for having a name, being a part of the story instead of the background, and being wonderful; and Mr. Rivera for being an innovative teacher that promotes collaboration, cross-curricular activities, and outside of the box thinking!

Educators’ Guide: 

Flagged Passages: Preview the first two chapters from the publisher: READ A SAMPLE

Read This If You Love: A Girl, a Raccoon, and the Midnight Moon by Karen Romano YoungBrave in the Woods by Tracy HolczerQuintessence by Jess Redman, Ikenga by Nnedi Okorafor, This Was Our Pact by Ryan Andrews, The Trouble with Shooting Stars by Meg Cannistra

Recommended For: 


Don’t Miss the Other Stops on the Blog Tour!

March 28 Nerdy Book Club @nerdybookclub
March 29 YAYOMG @yayomgofficial
March 30 Unleashing Readers @UnleashReaders
March 31 Teachers Who Read @teachers_read
April 2 Maria’s Mélange @mariaselke
April 7 Bluestocking Thinking @BlueSockGirl
April 10 A Library Mama @librarymama
April 12 Storymamas @storymamas


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

Planet Ocean: Why We All Need a Healthy Ocean by Patricia Newman, Photography by Annie Crawley


Planet Ocean: Why We All Need a Healthy Ocean
Author: Patricia Newman
Photographer: Annie Crawley
Published March 2nd, 2021 by Millbrook Press

Summary: A little more than 70 percent of Planet Earth is ocean. So wouldn’t a better name for our global home be Planet Ocean?

You may be surprised at just how closely YOU are connected to the ocean. Regardless of where you live, every breath you take and every drop of water you drink links you to the ocean. And because of this connection, the ocean’s health affects all of us.

Dive in with author Patricia Newman and photographer Annie Crawley—visit the Coral Triangle near Indonesia, the Salish Sea in the Pacific Northwest, and the Arctic Ocean at the top of the world. Find out about problems including climate change, ocean acidification, and plastic pollution, and meet inspiring local people who are leading the way to reverse the ways in which humans have harmed the ocean.

Planet Ocean shows us how to stop thinking of ourselves as existing separate from the ocean and how to start taking better care of this precious resource.

Scan QR codes to explore the ocean along with Annie Crawley!

About the Creators:

Patricia Newman‘s books inspire young readers to seek connections to the real world. Her titles encourage readers to use their imaginations to solve real world problems and act on behalf of their communities. These books include Sibert Honor title Sea Otter Heroes: The Predators That Saved an Ecosystem; Junior Library Guild Selection Eavesdropping on Elephants; Bank Street College Best Book Zoo Scientists to the RescueBooklist Editor’s Choice Ebola: Fears and Facts; and Green Earth Book Award winner Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Patricia frequently speaks at schools and conferences to share how children of any age can affect change. Visit her at

Annie Crawley, aka Ocean Annie, travels and works around the world. Trained as a photo and broadcast journalist, her work has been broadcast and published worldwide. From Indonesia to Galapagos, Belize to Papua New Guinea, India to Australia, Annie has explored and documented life on our planet. Based in Seattle, Annie works as a producer, writer, photographer, and motivational speaker. She founded Dive Into Your Imagination, a multimedia company producing books, enhanced eBooks, educator guides, films, motivational art, and more. Annie was the photographer and filmmaker aboard SEAPLEX sponsored by Project Kaisei and Samy’s Camera. Annie specializes in the underwater realm and also works as a photo, video, and scuba diving instructor. She is a member of the Women Divers Hall of Fame and created a dive team for kids and teens. Visit her online at and


♥ Junior Library Guild Selection

“Read Planet Ocean with your children and grandchildren to begin the discussion of what humans can do to save our oceans from pollution and acidification. Books like this one help lead the way to a better climate future for all inhabitants of mother earth.” — Jeff Bridges, Academy Award winner and environmentalist

“A compelling and paramount read for all mankind so that we value our ocean resource.” –-Christine Anne Royce, Ed.D., Retiring President (19-20), National Science Teaching Association; Professor of Teacher Education and Co-Director of MAT in STEM Education, Shippensburg University

“The range of nationalities represented and the inclusion of a variety of Indigenous voices make a particularly compelling argument that ocean health is a whole world problem…Worth exploring in depth.” —Kirkus

“They nailed it! Ocean Annie and Patricia Newman have created a positive, action-oriented educational initiative that will inspire the next generation to be good stewards of our ocean planet!” — Jill Heinerth, Underwater Explorer and Explorer in Residence, Royal Canadian Geographical Society

“The book follows [Annie] Crawley, an underwater explorer and photographer, as a knowledgeable guide to three very different regions connected by ocean waters, the Coral Triangle north of Australia, the Salish Sea bordering Washington State and British Columbia, and the Arctic. Newman’s text describes each place visited, while Crawley’s many attractive photos introduce the people and animals affected by environmental changes there…For each region, illustrated features offer the viewpoints of individuals living there. Presenting a good deal of information within a well-organized framework, the book conveys a strong sense of urgency to clean the global ocean and restore the ecosystems it supports.” —Booklist

Review: I am a HUGE fan of Patricia Newman’s books. This is the 6th of her books that I have reviewed here. Want to know why? Because her books fit the mission of our blog–they are wonderful pieces of informational literature and belong in schools and classrooms because kids need these books. Planet Ocean is no different!

With each of Patricia’s books, I learn new things. I entered this book thinking that I knew all that I could about climate change and the ocean and the effects on our planet, but I left even more knowledgeable and even more scared of the future if we do not make a change. Learning about ocean acidification, the effects on the Arctic, and just how dependent we all are on the ocean was fascinating and change making.

And like Eavesdropping with Elephants, Patricia included QR codes in this book which I believe brings a great interactiveness with the text. It also adds digital literacy with traditional literacy. And Annie Crawley is a great visual storyteller in the linked videos!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The publisher and author share a curriculum guide to go with Planet Ocean on their websites:

The guide includes activities for literacy, science, ocean literacy, and sustainability standards.

I’d also like to add that I love Annie’s Pro Tips for Visual Storytelling, and I would love to use these tips to have students create their own visual story!

The book also includes a great “Surfers Welcome” section in the backmatter which gives 7 different websites to further learning!

Why do you need this book in your library? Patricia Newman can explain!

Discussion Questions: 

  • How are maps incorrectly proportioned?
  • Why do we need a healthy ocean?
  • How is your life affected by the ocean?
  • What new word did you learn from the book or glossary?
  • How could you “Go Blue with Annie” in your life?
  • Which of the QR code videos did you enjoy the most? How does this interactive component make the book better?
  • Why does the author include so many different scientists and contributors in the book in the “In Their Own Words” side bars?
  • How do the images and videos add to the information received in the book?
  • What is your favorite animal? How are they affected by the ocean?
  • Why did the Arctic have a whole chapter of the book? What is so important about the Arctic?
  • What do you think the author’s purpose was in creating this book?
  • How does the health of the ocean compare now to the past?

Flagged Passages: 

Read an excerpt on the book’s publisher page!

Read This If You Love: Science, Animals, Learning about Climate Change, Marine science

Recommended For: 



**Thank you to Patricia Newman and Lerner Books for providing a copy for review!**

Author Guest Post: “The Role of Empathy in Literature and Our Lives” by Robin Farmer, Author of Malcolm and Me


“The Role of Empathy in Literature and Our Lives”

I was around 13 when I read To Kill A Mockingbird and discovered a quote in Chapter 3 that embedded itself into my brain.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it,” Atticus Finch tells his daughter Scout.

His advice for Scout to explore the heart and mind of another person initially fails to register with the 10-year-old.  Soon after their conversation, Scout joins in a cruel taunting game aimed at neighbor Boo Radley, a mentally challenged and socially awkward man that the town considers a “monster” because few took the time to see things from his viewpoint.

A heartfelt connection

This Pulitzer-Prize winning novel — with themes that touch on good and evil, racism, social inequality, courage, and family life — electrified my heart and mind, and made me vow to write a book one day.

A voracious reader as a child, books not allowed me to travel the globe without leaving my home while experiencing the lives of people who differed from me. That’s the definition of “empathy.” Harper Lee’s only book, one I have read  nearly a dozen times, seared itself in my psyche because 1) Atticus, a white lawyer respected by Black people, wanted to defend an innocent black man, 2) Scout’s stubbornness reminded me of myself, and 3) the initial fear I had of Boo evolved into protectiveness, and 4) The story felt emotionally true.

Over the years, To Kill A Mockingbird has generated valid controversy for its racial stereotypes. The adult I have become understands its shortcomings. The girl in me remembers the power of this story at a time when few books in my school touched on racial inequity or a had a character I so identified with, despite stark differences. Scout was a Southerner while I called Philly home. She lived with her father, I stayed with my Mom. Her tomboyish ways did not match my frilliness. Yet, I connected to her willful nature, sensitive soul, thoughtful questions and fierce love for her father — a father whose patience, earnestness and steady adoration of his children I longed for as a girl of divorced parents. As different as we were, I saw myself in Scout because I walked around in her skin.

Specific viewpoint, universal appeal

Knowing the emotional power of walking in someone else’s shoes allowed me to write the empathetic character of Roberta Forest, the 13-year-old protagonist in Malcolm and Me. The story kicks off with the teen doing the unthinkable: She fights her nun. Could there be a less likely person for readers to connect with?

And yet, that girl was me and I was not a monster. I wanted readers to understand the multi-layered Roberta, a reluctant teen rebel with the heart of a poet. That meant I had to develop a relatable character with shortcomings and strengths who draws readers in and makes them feel what she experiences.

Roberta is a new teen who is smart, sensitive, strong, sassy and a bit spoiled. Making her relatable meant presenting her in a realistic manner, warts and all. And so she lives on the pages as a moody, thoughtful, vulnerable but resilient teen with a sense of humor and fairness.  I hope readers root for her. And are inspired by her to speak up, think critically, ask questions and defend the truth, especially now that alternative facts exist.

Bridging the divide

Recently, Bridget, who writes book reviews for, reviewed my debut novel. She is 11, the same age I was when I read the Autobiography of Malcolm X.  On the surface, she couldn’t appear more different from Roberta. But Bridget connected to the story and recommended my book. What really made my heart flutter was her wondering why she hadn’t learned anything about Malcolm X. One of the goals in writing the book was to get readers, especially younger ones, to read the book that changed my life in so many ways. What I especially love is the importance of walking around in Malcolm’s skin and experiencing his heartaches, struggles, achievements and growth.

That Bridget recommends Malcolm and Me feels like I won an award! What better validation than for readers who are like and unlike Roberta to connect to her story.

Empathy empowers

Research shows that books can help readers develop empathy, which I argue we need more of. Take a look at this divided nation. Take a look at our divided nation and the lack of civility – and it’s not just among the adults. We all know too well about the dangerous bullying that occurs in schools and well as on social media.

Empathy won’t solve all of our problems, whether they are political or personal. But listening to each other is a start.

I encourage young readers to develop the bravery of Roberta. Sometimes she sweated behind her knees, but she found the courage to not only defend truth, but also think about the feelings of others, including a nun who humiliated her and a father who disappointed her. In both cases, Roberta learns to forgive. That would be impossible for her to do so without empathy.

Steps to Take

Roberta, like Scout, took some steps to walk around in the skin of someone else. As students, follow her lead with these seven actions.  To help remember what to do, I wrote an acrostic that spells out how to develop more EMPATHY:

Explore your heart and mind
Meet people different from you in books and at school
Practice kindness
Ask thoughtful questions
Talk less, listen more
Help others and ask for help
Yield to creative endeavor such as writing and drawing to express feelings

As students, by working on your empathy, you improve your understanding of each other’s thoughts and feelings. Doing so plays a role in how you respond to one another during conflict. Find opportunities to build better relationships, which can help you find success in all parts of your lives.

Published November 17, 2020 by SparkPress

About the Book: Philly native Roberta Forest is a precocious rebel with the soul of a poet. The thirteen-year-old is young, gifted, black, and Catholic—although she’s uncertain about the Catholic part after she calls Thomas Jefferson a hypocrite for enslaving people and her nun responds with a racist insult. Their ensuing fight makes Roberta question God and the important adults in her life, all of whom seem to see truth as gray when Roberta believes it’s black or white.

An upcoming essay contest, writing poetry, and reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X all help Roberta cope with the various difficulties she’s experiencing in her life, including her parent’s troubled marriage. But when she’s told she’s ineligible to compete in the school’s essay contest, her explosive reaction to the news leads to a confrontation with her mother, who shares some family truths Roberta isn’t ready for.

Set against the backdrop of Watergate and the post-civil rights movement era, Malcolm and Me is a gritty yet graceful examination of the anguish teens experience when their growing awareness of themselves and the world around them unravels their sense of security—a coming-of-age tale of truth-telling, faith, family, forgiveness, and social activism.

About the Author: Robin Farmer is a national award–winning journalist and transplanted Philadelphian who currently calls the Richmond, VA, area home. At eight, she told her mother she would write for a living, and she is grateful that her younger self knew what she was talking about (many young folks do). Her other interests include screenwriting, poetry, movies, and traveling. She’s still hoping to write stories about young people for television and film. Robin earned her degree in journalism from Marquette University. She lives in Richmond, VA.

Thank you, Robin, for this timely and thought-provoking piece!

The Baby-Sitters Club Lives On


When I was younger, I always liked reading, but it was The Baby-Sitters Club series that truly sucked me in. My parents made the wonderful mistake of saying they’d always buy me a book if I ask for it, and there are a lot of BSC books, so I read so many of them!

The Baby-Sitters Club taught me much more than the wonderful world of books though. Through the books, I learned about:

  • Baby-Sitting
  • Racism
  • Autism
  • Diabetes
  • Death
  • Divorce
  • Eating Disorders
  • Deafness and ASL
  • Asthma
  • Childhood Cancer
  • Crushes
  • Friendships
  • Being a Strong Girl
  • Acceptance of Different Personalities
  • And so much more!

I truly believe that the BSC is a big reason why I feel like I have a foundation of empathy and openness. The books also prompted me to copy many of their baby-sitting techniques such as an information sheet and a kid kit probably giving me a foundation of being an educator also.

The original Baby-Sitters Club books were published from 1986 to 2000 (with a few spin-off book series, a TV mini-series, and a movie during the same time period). Then they reemmerged through graphic novels in 2006. And now, on Netflix, a new TV series came out on July 3rd, and that is what prompted me to write this post.

The Netflix series exceeded my expectations. It was beautifully done. The series has taken what made the BSC books a favorite of millions and moved the story to 2020. In the 10 episodes that have come out, once again the BSC girls are teaching their viewers about so much, including about:

  • Sexism
  • Divorce
  • Friendship
  • Bullying
  • Diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Absent Parents
  • Consequences of Cheating
  • Transgender
  • Menstration
  • Economic Disparities
  • Unhealthy Crushes

All of that in just 10 episodes and with great writing and casting!
(See NYT’s article: The Baby-Sitters Club Defies and Exceeds Expecations)

I realize that sometimes we have to let go of the books we loved as a kid because of different reasons, but The Baby-Sitters Club has lived on. I hope they redo the books with just a few modernizations because the revival of the show shows that the stories still resonate with kids.

I will always be thankful for Ann M. Martin (who I met and cried!!!) and her characters for showing me about life, and I am so happy a new generation are going to love them too.

Authors Guest Post!: “Books That Build Empathy” by Katherine Rothschild and a Variety of Debut MG and YA Authors of 2020


“Books that Build Empathy”

Books have the power to let us walk in someone else’s shoes—and to make us more empathetic to other people’s lived experiences in the world as we walk that path. Several authors whose books will be debuting in 2020 discussed the books that changed them, that made them cry, and that made them more empathetic to other people’s lives and struggles.

Where the Red Fern Grows

Against the backdrop of the Ozarks, ten-year old Billy raises two puppies into hunting dogs who grow to love and protect him at all costs. This classic read impacted several of the debut authors this year. Kit Rosewater, author of the forthcoming The Derby Daredevils, admits to secretly reading ahead when the book was assigned in school—and coming into class already an emotional wreck. “I was sobbing when we were still five pages out, to the point where the teacher sent me outside to catch my breath in the hall.” And Tanya Guerrero, author of How to Make Friends with the Sea, admits to “sobbing for an entire week” after reading this deeply moving tale. The book showed Guerrero “the power of great storytelling” and how close we can feel to the characters who come to life on the pages of a book.

About The Derby Daredevils: Kenzie Kickstarts a Team: Kenzie and Shelly have been best friends for as long as they can remember. They hang out at the park, practice their super-secret handshake, and (most important) count down the days to their roller derby debut. It looks like their dream is coming true when Austin’s city league announces a junior league. But there’s a catch. To try out together, the Dynamic Duo will have to form a team of five players… in just one week!

As they start convincing other girls that roller derby is the coolest thing on wheels, Kenzie has second thoughts. Why is Shelly acting like everyone’s best friend? Isn’t she supposed to be Kenzie’s best friend? And things get really awkward when Shelly recruits Kenzie’s neighbor (and secret crush!) for the team.

About Kit Rosewater: Kit Rosewater writes books for children. Before she was an author, Kit taught theatre to middle school students, which even a world-renowned cat herder once called “a lot of work.” Kit has a master’s degree in children’s literature. She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico with her spouse and a border collie who takes up most of the bed.

About How to Make Friends with the Sea: Pablo is homesick.

He’s only twelve years old, but he’s lived in more countries than he can count. After his parents divorced, he and his mother have moved from place to place for years, never settling anywhere long enough to call it home. And along the way, Pablo has collected more and more fears: of dirt, of germs, and most of all, of the ocean.

Now they’re living in the Philippines, and his mother, a zoologist who works at a local wildlife refuge, is too busy saving animals to notice that Pablo might need saving, too. Then his mother takes in Chiqui, an orphaned girl with a cleft lip―and Pablo finds that through being strong for Chiqui, his own fears don’t seem so scary.

He might even find the courage to face his biggest fear of all…and learn how to make friends with the sea.

About Tanya Guerrero: Tanya Guerrero is Filipino and Spanish by birth, but spent her childhood living in three continents—Asia, Europe and North America. Upon graduating from high school, she attended Boston University, where she studied Screenwriting. Over the course of eleven years, she’s worked as a photo editor in children’s educational publishing, operated her own photo studio and freelanced as a writer.

Currently, she lives in a shipping container home in the suburbs of Manila with her husband, her daughter, Violet, and a menagerie of rescued cats and dogs. In her free time she grows her own food, bakes sourdough bread and reads lots of books.

Bridge to Terabithia

One of the most impactful books to the debut authors of 2020 was Bridge to Terabithia, the story of the friendship between neighbors Jesse and Leslie, and their escape into a magical forest realm where they are able to assert the independence and adventure but find emotional sanctuary. KayLynn Flanders, author of the forthcoming Shielded admits to this being one of the first books she ever truly sobbed after reading. And Tanya Guerrero admits to an equal amount of suffering and sadness upon reading. But although the book deals with intense grief and loss, the story and the fantastic realm of Terabithia offered much more. Flanders shares that “while [Terabithia] gutted me in fifth grade, my friends and I were inspired by it. Every recess, we’d cross part of the playground into our own Terabithia, with new adventures awaiting us every day.” The best books deal with the hardest things in life, but they also give us pathways to endure them.

About Shielded: For fans of Sorcery of Thorns and Furyborn comes a thrilling new fantasy about a kingdom ravaged by war, and the princess who might be the key to saving not only those closest to her, but the kingdom itself, if she reveals the very secret that could destroy her.

The kingdom of Hálendi is in trouble. It’s losing the war at its borders, and rumors of a new, deadlier threat on the horizon have surfaced. Princess Jennesara knows her skills on the battlefield would make her an asset and wants to help, but her father has other plans.

As the second-born heir to the throne, Jenna lacks the firstborn’s—her brother’s—magical abilities, so the king promises her hand in marriage to the prince of neighboring Turia in exchange for resources Hálendi needs. Jenna must leave behind everything she has ever known if she is to give her people a chance at peace.

Only, on the journey to reach her betrothed and new home, the royal caravan is ambushed, and Jenna realizes the rumors were wrong—the new threat is worse than anyone imagined. Now Jenna must decide if revealing a dangerous secret is worth the cost before it’s too late–for her and for her entire kingdom.

About Kaylynn Flanders: KayLynn Flanders is a graduate of Brigham Young University, with a degree in English Language and a minor in editing. When she’s not writing, she spends her time playing volleyball, reading, and traveling. She lives in Utah with her family, and thinks there’s nothing better than a spur-of-the-moment road trip. Her debut novel is Shielded.

Little Women

Many writers empathize with the character of Jo—and with her loss of her manuscript at the hands of her jealous and angry little sister, Amy. But we empathize with Jo for more than that moment of loss—Lorien Lawrence, author of the forthcoming The Stitchers, remembers empathizing with Jo because she felt “like I didn’t fit in…I remember crying my eyes out in that last scene with Laurie.” She identifies what makes this book so eternal, and what we all hope for when we write characters—that we make them emblematic of the way we struggle with society’s expectations, with what and who we love, and how to navigate those wild. waters. In my forthcoming book, Wider Than the Sky, I explore just this type of relationship—and ask how we can navigate complex feelings of love and disdain, of adoration and fear. Little Women will always be an example of how we learn to care for others, even from within the complexities of our desires.

About The Stichers: Instinctive Quinn Parker and scientific-minded Mike Warren are two thirteen-year old friends who uncover a centuries-old-mystery that threatens their whole town. After learning the awful truth about their neighbors, ‘The Oldies’, and the gruesome secret of how they stay young, Quinn and Mike face a race against time to expose their neighbors before they become the next victims.

About Lorien Lawrence: Lorien Lawrence graduated with creative writing degrees from Wheaton College and Bath Spa University. After college, she lived abroad in England for a few years, before returning stateside and becoming a middle school English teacher. On weekends you can often find her exploring New England haunts, getting more inspiration for her novels.

About Wider Than the SkyWider Than the Sky follows the dual stories of twin sisters coping with the aftermath of their father’s sudden death. When their mother moves them to a ramshackle mansion in California, the twins discover that both parents were hiding secrets about their sexual identities

About Katherine Rothschild: Katherine Rothschild, MFA, PhD, is an English professor at St. Mary’s College, a former dance instructor, and an obsessive food truck-follower. Her first-person essays have been published by KQED/NPR and The San Francisco Chronicle, and her academic work is published by Purdue University Press. She has received artist grants from Vermont Studio Center and Kindlings Words. When she isn’t studying writing or classroom social justice, she’s hanging out by the lake with her family. Wider Than the Sky from Soho Teen is her debut young adult novel.

What books moved you, readers? What books made you more empathetic, more caring, more sensitive to others? What books can teach empathy?

Thank you to all the authors for sharing their choices and their upcoming books! Visit to learn more about these and all class of 2k20 authors and their books!