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

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

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

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

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

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

Praise: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discussion Questions: 

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

Flagged Passage:

Chapter 2 Wowowowowowowowow

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

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

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

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

SMELLS
stale coffee
stale soup
industrial carpeting
body odor
ashes
smoke
fabric softener

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

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

SIGHTS
The curve of my dad’s back

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

Recommended For: 

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

Author Guest Post: “Notice What You Feel” by Christie Matheson, Author of Select

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“Notice What You Feel”

There’s a short scene in my book Select during which the main character, Alex, notices a woman across a crowded city street running to catch a bus. She’s carrying heavy bags and moving as fast as she can. A man waiting at the bus stop sees her, and Alex assumes he will alert the bus driver so the bus can wait a few seconds for her to get on. But the man doesn’t do that, and the bus speeds away, leaving the woman alone and distressed on the sidewalk.

Alex feels sad and frustrated that she couldn’t do anything to help—and that the man chose not to help when he could have. She pays attention to her feelings, and thinks about the people in this world who choose to help when they can, and those who choose not to help.

This scene was inspired by reality. Not too long before I wrote that scene, I saw this exact thing happen from a distance. It made my heart hurt for the woman who was left on the sidewalk with her heavy bags. I wished I could have done something to help. And as soon as I had the chance, I wrote about it quickly in my notebook and later wrote the scene. Is it critical to the plot of the book? No, not really. Does it help us understand how Alex sees people and the world? I hope so.

Every day, we will witness and experience things that make us feel something. It might be sadness, or a glimmer of joy, or full-blown excitement, or a sense of unexpected calm. It might happen while we are out and about, or at home, or while reading. When we are struck by noticeable feelings, I think it’s important that we take the time to notice them. Pay attention to them. Wonder about them. (What was it that caused the feeling? Why?) Feel them fully. And maybe write about them.

Noticing our feelings and what sparks them can help us be more present and aware of what’s happening in the world, and possibly deepen our understanding of ourselves and others.

It can also help us to think more clearly about books. After reading a chapter or a whole book, we can ask ourselves: Which scenes made me feel something? What did they make me feel? Why? Do I want to read more books that make me feel this way?

And finally, if you write down the tiny details of something you saw or experienced, and how it made you feel, that just might go into a book you write!

Published May 9th, 2023 by Random House Books for Young Readers

About the Book: One girl and her soccer team take a stand against the bullies who push them too far in this brave, inspiring novel that celebrates girl power and the true spirit of sports. Perfect for readers who love The Crossover and Fighting Words.

“A tale of terrific girl power and athleticism.” —Kirkus Reviews

Twelve-year-old Alex loves playing soccer, and she’s good at it, too. Very good. When her skills land her a free ride to play for Select, an elite soccer club, it feels like a huge opportunity. Joining Select could be the key to a college scholarship and a bright future—one that Alex’s family can’t promise her.

But as the team gets better and better, her new coach pushes the players harder and harder, until soccer starts to feel more like punishment than fun. And then there comes a point where enough is enough, and Alex and her teammates must take a stand to find a better way to make their soccer dreams come true.

Powerful and inspiring, Select explores the important difference between positive and negative coaching and celebrates the true spirit of sports.

About the Author: Christie Matheson is the author of Shelter and is also the author-illustrator of many picture books, including Tap the Magic TreeTouch the Brightest Star, and Bird Watch. She lives in San Francisco with her family.

Thank you, Christie, for this wonderful writing tip!

Author Guest Post: “Every Child Needs Space to Play” by Mark Angelo, Author of Can We Play Baseball, Mr. DeMille?

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“Every Child Needs Space to Play”

A few years ago, I was visiting my brother Chris in Los Angeles, where we spent several days recalling memorable stories from our youth. We shared lots of laughs, but one story in particular that we fondly remembered took place in 1958 and centered around our search for a nearby place to play ball. As kids, my brother and I were passionate about the game of baseball. We loved the Dodgers, who had just moved to L.A. from Brooklyn, New York.

Chris suggested I write the story down and that eventually led to the publishing of my most recent illustrated children’s book, Can We Play Baseball, Mr. DeMille?

Writing the story brought back many great memories, not the least of which was an unforgettable encounter with perhaps the greatest and most legendary person in film. But going through the process of producing the book also made me even more cognizant of how my childhood search for a field to play ball influenced my later work as an environmental advocate and a proponent of outdoor spaces for all to enjoy.

The neighborhood I lived in as a boy was beautiful, but it was also located in the hills. There were very few appropriate and accessible places to play ball. In addition, public parks were too far away for young kids like us to get to on our own.

It was those circumstances that ultimately led us to Mr. DeMille’s backyard which, rightly or wrongly, became the “the field of our dreams.”

Fast forwarding to current day, I’ve long believed that from a city planning perspective, we should do everything possible to ensure that residents— especially kids— have nearby access to sports fields and places to play ball. In addition, ensuring that more natural parks are readily accessible to all is a key issue. Many youngsters don’t get exposed to nature and the outdoors as much as we’d like, particularly in cities. The alternative often becomes screen-time for children. If not used thoughtfully and moderately, we know from research this can have detrimental effects on both mental and physical health. After all, how can a kid get excited to play outside if they don’t have the space?

For those that read Can We Play Baseball Mr. DeMille, my hope is that the story of a young boy’s love for a game and his dogged determination to find a place where he and his friends can play, will make you smile and inspire young ones. To this day, while watching my own grandchildren play ball, I still find myself thinking back on occasion to those early days and the field of my youth that had such an impression.

The book has several elements to it, including a sense of nostalgia along with a slice of classic Hollywood history. But just as importantly, it has an environmental message that highlights the fact that accessible outdoor spaces are good for all of us, both young and old. From parks to sports fields, they provide active and passive recreational opportunities, contribute to our improved health and well-being, and make our communities better places to live!

Illustrated by Patricia & Robin DeWitt
Published January 30, 2023

About the Book: Set in 1958, a young boy and his friends want to be baseball players just like their Dodger idols. There’s just one problem: they don’t have a field to play in.

Luckily, the kids know a secret. There’s a mansion around the corner with a yard big enough for an entire ball field and the hedge surrounding it has a gap just big enough to crawl through. Apparently, the owner is a big-time Hollywood mogul. He won’t mind a few ball games, right?

This sensational true story of a young boy’s encounter with a Hollywood legend is rich with youthful determination and summer fun, highlighting how every child needs space to play.

About the Author: Mark Angelo has been a baseball fan since he was a little boy! He is also a globally renowned river conservationist and the founder of World Rivers Day, now celebrated by millions of people in over one hundred countries. Among his many accolades, Mark is a recipient of the Order of Canada, the country’s highest honor. His acclaimed best-selling debut picture book, The Little Creek that Could, is the true story of a stream that came back to life. Through his work with groups such as the Outdoor Recreation Council of BC, Mark has been a long-time advocate for outdoor spaces for all to enjoy. Can We Play Baseball, Mr. DeMille?, about a young boy’s search for a place to play ball, recounts an actual experience from his childhood. Mark lives in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada with his wife, Kathie.

For more information on Mark, please visit: https://www.canweplaybaseballmrdemille.com/

Thank you, Mark, for this focus on play and its importance!

Play Like a Girl by Misty Wilson, Illustrated by David Wilson

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Play Like a Girl: A Graphic Memoir
Author: Misty Wilson
Illustrator: David Wilson
Published: September 22, 2022 by Balzer + Bray

Goodreads Summary: Debut author Misty Wilson chronicles her seventh-grade experience as the only girl on her town’s football team in this empowering graphic memoir about teamwork, friendship, crushes, and touchdowns.

Misty never shies away from a challenge, on or off the field. So when the boys tell her she can’t play football, there’s only one thing to do: join their team and show them what she’s got.

But the training is rougher than she thought—and so are the other guys, who aren’t thrilled about having a girl on their team.

Middle school isn’t so easy, either. Misty wants to fit in with the popular kids, but they think a girl playing football is “weird.” Even her best friend doesn’t get it.

Can Misty find a way to score points with her teammates, make new friends, and show everyone—including herself—what it means to play like a girl?

“I am a huge fan of Misty and her courageous journey of staying true to herself. Readers will love her!” —Terri Libenson, New York Times bestselling author of the Emmie & Friends series

“This is the book I wish I’d had as a kid. Misty’s passion for football and her fight to play in a male-dominated sport while balancing friendship and crushes makes for a winning read!” —Dr. Jen Welter, first female NFL coach, first female running back in men’s pro football, and founder of Grrridiron Girls.

Ricki’s Review: I loved this graphic memoir. It felt very real to me, and the scenes really packed a punch. I especially loved the football scenes, which were full of great plays and amazing strategies. I wish I’d had this book when I was a middle school girl. In the scenes where the boys were rude, I remembered a similar comment when I was in 8th grade taking tech ed.

The book does a particularly good job depicting middle school. It’s a tough time and a struggle for a lot of kids, and I think middle schoolers will find solace in this book. There are great themes of identity and friendship.

I’ve already recommended this book to several young people, and I am so glad it exists!

Kellee’s Review: Misty Wilson’s memoir starts with “I wish someone had told me middle school would be so hard.” As a middle school educator, I felt this and knew that this books as going to hold some middle school truths. And it did: growing up, figuring out who you are, finding and keeping friends, navigating crushes, and more. All of this is so tough in middle school, so having a book to read about it really helps middle schoolers navigate it all.

I really loved reading Misty’s story. I, too, was a tomboy who didn’t do make up, would love to play a sport more than anything, and just couldn’t figure out how to be a good friend with the people who I thought I should be friends with. So much of middle school is fighting who you really are versus who everyone else and society wants you to be (and ignoring the mean comments along the way). This story was refreshing and will definitely find readers in middle school.

Play Like a Girl will add to the books I can recommend to Telgemeier fans, and it has the extra topic of football which will lend itself to finding even more readers!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book is a great tool for teachers who are teaching memoir. It demonstrates how illustrations can depict a story richly and realistically. 

Discussion Questions: 

  • What struggles does Misty experience?
  • What words would you use to describe Misty, and why?
  • What did you learn from this book?
  • Is this a book that is just for girls? Why might all kids learn from this book?

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**Thank you to Katie at HarperCollins for providing us with copies of this text for honest reviews!**

Student Voices: Favorite Reads from Derrick T., Gavin Z., Kyan V., Leticia R., and Reed R.

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Favorite Reads

Ten Favorite Fantasy Series by Derrick T., 7th grade

The Fantasy Genre, defined by Britanica.com as “imaginative fiction dependent for effect on strangeness of setting (such as other worlds or times) and of characters (such as supernatural or unnatural beings)”, is my favorite genre of books. I enjoy when an author immerses you in a completely different world, sometimes literally, and these are some of my favorite series in this genre.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan

Percy Jackson and the Olympians]: A Series Review – greenish bookshelf

Percy finds out he is the son of the ancient Greek god Poseidon! He and his fellow half-bloods (half mortal, half god) go on many quests to save the world from evil mythological creatures.

Curse Workers by Holly Black

Book Review: The Curse Workers Series by Holly Black - The Night Bookmobile

In a world where workers can “curse” someone with a touch, Cassel is the only person in his family without the gift. But something strange is happening, and Cassel must unravel the conspiracy around his life, and the life of someone whose death is his fault.

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

Artemis Fowl (Artemis Fowl, Book 1) (Artemis Fowl, 1): Colfer, Eoin:  9781368036986: Amazon.com: Books

Artemis Fowl is not just a genius, he makes other geniuses seem inept by comparison. And he just discovered a whole world underneath our feet: one full of magic.

Magisterium by Cassandra Clare and Holly Black

Magisterium Series 5-Book Set: Holly Black, Cassandra Clare: Books:  Amazon.com

Everyone wants to be a magician. Except for Call. His dad has warned him about the danger of magic his whole life, and how he MUST not get into the mages school, the Magisterium. But Call fails at failing, and now must face the dangers of his new school.

Ranger’s Apprentice by John Flanagan

The Ranger's Apprentice Series (Complete 12 Book Set) : John Flanagan:  0680474137794: Books - Amazon

Will is an orphan. At his choosing ceremony where he picks his profession, he is denied by all the craftmasters. Except one named Halt.  He is a mysterious ranger, a group of skilled archers who are rumored to dabble in sorcery, and will teach Will how to be a ranger. But being a ranger comes with many risks. Will Will survive?

The Grishaverse by Leigh Bardugo

Home - Leigh Bardugo | Author

Alina has never been special. But one day when her friend is in mortal danger, she discovers a new ability that might patch the literal tear in her country. But not everything is as it seems, she soon finds herself in the middle of an evil scheme that’s been in place for over 500 years.

The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini

Christopher Paolini Collection The Inheritance Cycle Series 4 Books Set  Eldest | eBay

When Eragon finds a blue stone in the forest, he thinks it might mean a little money for his family. He certainly doesn’t think it will be a dragon egg! But after Saphira hatches he is dragged into a plot to save the kingdom from the evil king.

The Alchemyst by Michael Scott

The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel Series 1 - 6 Books Collection  Set by Michael Scott (Alchemyst, Magician, Sorceress, Necromancer, Warlock  & Enchantress): Michael Scott, The Enchantress By Michael Scott  978-0552562577,

Sophie and Josh live normal lives until they discover that Nicholas Flamel is Josh’s boss. And now they are in danger, and Josh and Sophie are magicians! The three of them then go on to stop the Dark Elders from taking over the world.

Kingdom Keepers by Ridley Pearson

Kingdom Keepers Book Review – R.E. KLINZING

When Finn falls asleep, he becomes a hologram at Disney World! He and the other kingdom keepers must protect the parks from the evil overtakers.

Harry Potter by JK Rowling

Why Harry Potter Books are Great for School-Aged Readers - Speech Therapy  Centres of Canada

Harry Potter lives with his mean aunt, uncle, and cousin. On his eleventh birthday, a literal giant tells him he is a wizard. Throughout the series he, along with new friends, has to fight his parents murderer, the evil wizard Lord Voldemort.

Top Six Sports Books for Kids by Kyan V., 7th grade

These days, there are many sportsbooks to choose from. It can be hard to choose because of a great deal of different genres and sports. This blog post lists my top 6 favorite sportsbooks, fiction, and nonfiction, for kids. Remember the list is not in order! I have read these books and highly recommend them, especially if you love sports!

Pele, The King of Soccer by Eddy Simon and illustrated by Vincent Brascglia

Pelé: The King of Soccer: Simon, Eddy, Brascaglia, Vincent: 9781626727557:  Amazon.com: Books

This book is a perfectly illustrated graphic novel that captures Pele’s crazy life from a young boy to a world champion. It dives into Pele’s childhood and how he became what he is today. I love this book because it proves to everyone that you can come from nothing and still be one of the best soccer players to ever live. I highly recommend this graphic novel.

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

The Crossover (The Crossover Series): Alexander, Kwame, Anyabwile, Dawud:  9780544107717: Amazon.com: Books

This book is exceptionally unique because of how it is structured. It’s composed of lots of short stanzas. In a way, it’s almost like a 200-page poem. This book is amazing because it shows how one can change their life with their actions. This book is not only teaching you about basketball, but also life lessons for the future.

Year in Sports 2022 by James Buckley Jr.

Scholastic Year in Sports 2022: Buckley Jr., James: 9781338770254:  Amazon.com: Books

A new book in this series comes out every year. They are action packed, full with statistics and fun facts about every sport you can name. This is one of those books you can read for hours at a tie and read the whole thing 5 times and it would still be interesting.

The Football Fanbook by Gary Gramling

The Football Fanbook (A Sports Illustrated Kids Book): Everything You Need  to Become a Gridiron Know-It-All - Kindle edition by Gramling, Gary, The  Editors of Sports Illustrated Kids. Children Kindle eBooks @

This book is all about football. Everything you could think of about football. This book has fun facts, formations, playbooks, records, strategies, comparisons, and more. I love this book because you can discover so many new things about the amazing sport of football. By the way, there is also a Baseball Fanbook as well.

The United States of Sports by Bill Syken

The United States of Sports: An Atlas of Teams, Stats, Stars, and Facts for  Every State in America (A Sports Illustrated Kids Book): The Editors of  Sports Illustrated Kids, Syken, Bill: 9781547800001:

This book goes state by state and shows you where their sports teams are located, statistics, rivalries, fan favorites, mascots, and the state’s trophy shelf. It also includes college teams. This book goes through all 50 states. I love this book because you can learn about other states, and dive deep into your state’s sports programs.

Ghost by Jason Reynolds

Ghost (1) (Track): Reynolds, Jason: 9781481450157: Amazon.com: Books

This book is good because everyone can relate to it in one way or another. Castle “Ghost” Cranshaw is trying to overcome some difficult challenges in his childhood. With the help of his mentor, Coach Brody he overcomes these difficulties through running track at an elite level.

Thank you for reading my top 6 sports books for kids. I highly recommend reading all of these books! Some of them are so underrated. See you next time — bye!

My Favorite Book Series by Gavin Z., 8th grade

Randoms by David Liss

Randoms (3 book series) Kindle Edition

Very interesting and unique. I haven’t read many books that include leveling systems and skill trees like a video game.

The Last Dragon Chronicles by Chris D’Lacey

Chris d'Lacey on Twitter: "Nice cover refresh for The Last Dragon  Chronicles. Hrrr! https://t.co/98t75vtRY2" / Twitter

These books focus on dragons but what’s most interesting is the clay dragons that come to life in this series.

Wings of Fire series by Tui T. Sutherland

Wings of Fire: The Complete Collection Series Set (Book 1-15) NEW Paperback  2022 | eBay

Takes place in a different world with 3 moons. They tell the story from the dragons perspective, and interestingly treat humans as “pets.”

The Land of Stories series by Chris Colfer

The Land of Stories Complete Hardcover Gift Set: Colfer, Chris:  9780316556828: Amazon.com: Books

In this series, a pair of twins travel across the fairy tale world and meet many childhood favorites like Jack and the Beanstalk or Cinderella. 

A Tale of Magic series by Chris Colfer

A Tale of Magic... Collection by Christopher Colfer | Little, Brown Books  for Young Readers

Taking place in the same world as the Land of Stories, this series happens before that series. Kind of like a prequel but still has really interesting new characters that didn’t appear in the land of stories. 

Favorite Baby-Sitters Club Graphic Novels by Leticia R., 6th grade

Dawn and the Impossible Three

Dawn and the Impossible Three: A Graphic Novel (The Baby-sitters Club #5):  Full-Color Edition (5) (The Baby-Sitters Club Graphix): Martin, Ann M.,  Galligan, Gale: 9781338067118: Amazon.com: Books

Summary: Dawn Schafer is the newest member of The Baby-sitters Club. While she’s still adjusting to life in Stoneybrook after moving from sunny California, she’s eager to accept her frst big job. But taking care of the three Barrett kids would be too much for any baby-sitter.

My opinion: I really enjoyed reading this book. I could really relate to the book! I have felt what Dawn has felt where she was new and was just trying to find a friend. It was really fun reading this book! And I recommend this book to anyone that enjoys graphic novels, and drama books.

Boy-Crazy Stacey

Boy-Crazy Stacey: A Graphic Novel (The Baby-sitters Club #7) (7) (The  Baby-Sitters Club Graphic Novels): Martin, Ann M., Galligan, Gale:  9781338304510: Amazon.com: Books

Summary: Stacey and Mary Anne are baby-sitting for the Pike family for two weeks at the New Jersey shore. Things are great in Sea City: There’s a gorgeous house right on the beach, a boardwalk, plenty of sun and sand… and the cutest boy Stacey has ever seen!

My opinion: I loved reading this book because I felt how Mary Anne felt, shes feels like she has so much things to do and so much responsibility and I have felt that way as well. Being stressed constantly could even ruin friendships and relationships.

Claudia and the New Girl

Claudia and the New Girl: A Graphic Novel (The Baby-sitters Club #9) (9)  (The Baby-Sitters Club Graphix): Martin, Ann M., Epstein, Gabriela:  9781338304572: Amazon.com: Books

Summary: The Baby-sitters are sick of Ashley, and they think Claudia’s a traitor. Claudia’s got to decide: either the Baby-sitter’s Club or the new girl – one of them has got to go.

My opinion: I enjoyed this book because I could relate to it and learn from it. When I started reading this book, I liked it, but after I got to the middle, I realized that it was trying to show the reader a life lesson; it was that you can always have more than one friend.

Logan Likes Marry Anne

Logan Likes Mary Anne!: A Graphic Novel (The Baby-sitters Club #8) (8) (The  Baby-Sitters Club Graphic Novels): Martin, Ann M., Galligan, Gale:  9781338304541: Amazon.com: Books

Summary: It’s the first day of a new school year, and while Mary Anne doesn’t know what to expect from the eighth grade, she’s looking forward to getting back into the swing of things. One thing she definitely doesn’t expect is to meet Logan Bruno, who just moved to Stoneybrook.

My opinion: I thought that this book was so realistic because everyone goes through this when they go into a new school or any new place everyone feels scared and doesn’t know what to expect. And I think that is a very good book anyone could relate to.

Kristy’s Great Idea

Kristy's Great Idea: A Graphic Novel (The Baby-sitters Club #1) (Revised  edition): Full-Color Edition (1) (The Baby-Sitters Club Graphix):  Telgemeier, Raina, Martin, Ann M., Telgemeier, Raina: 0000545813875:  Amazon.com: Books

Summary: Kristy thinks the Baby-sitters Club is a great idea. She and her friends Claudia, Stacey, and Mary Anne all love taking care of kids. A club will give them the chance to have lots of fun—and make tons of money.

My opinion: I thought this book was super fun because it was explaining how things started and showed the reader the very beginning of things. I think that everybody should read this book first not because its the first book but because it’s descriptive of how things started.

Ten Favorite History Books I’ve Read by Reed R., 7th grade

Today I will be talking about my top ten favorite history books I’ve read. I’m a big fan of history books, and I have read many. I’m into wars and past conflicts. My favorite types of historic books are biographies and expeditions.

George Washington, Spymaster: How the Americans Outspied the British and Won the Revolutionary War by Thomas B. Allen

George Washington, Spymaster: How the Americans Outspied the British and  Won the Revolutionary War: Thomas B. Allen: 9781426300417 -  Christianbook.com

I love this book because it emphasizes the tough times within the Revolutionary War. I also like how this book talks about the spy work the United States did on Britain. That was one of the ways the United States won the war. I also like how this book talks about how a good leader George Washington was, like how courageous and brave he was. He was also very confident.

Bound by Ice: A True North Pole Survival Story by Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace

Bound by Ice: A True North Pole Survival Story: Wallace, Sandra Neil,  Wallace, Rich: 9781629794280: Amazon.com: Books

The reason I chose this book is because I wanted to learn more about the North Pole expeditions. One of the main reasons I like this book is because it gives detail about the crew members’ lives aboard the expedition and how they chose to take the expedition. I like this book because it puts into perspective how we didn’t know what was at the top of our planet and this expedition helps the world learn more about the north pole. It’s amazing how brave these men were because the food they ate was disgusting. It was so cold that all the sled dogs died. When you think about it today the only ships that really go up to the north pole are those big icebreakers that have thick metal hulls and these guys were doing it in a wooden boat. 

Lincoln’s Grave Robbers by Steve Sheinkin

Lincoln's Grave Robbers: Sheinkin, Steve: 9780545405720: Amazon.com: Books

No one talks about how Lincoln’s grave was robbed, and I feel that there should be more known about it. I like how it shows the backstory to the grave robbers and why they’re robbing the grave. I like how they introduce the Secret Service because this was around the time that the Secret Service was first getting started and this was one of their big investigations. I like how this book makes the investigation intense like it’s coming down to the wire. 

Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson

Amazon.com: Chasing Lincoln's Killer: 9780439903547: Swanson, James L.:  Books

I love the way the book keeps the chasing aspect through the whole book. I also like the way it feels the climax is going on the whole time in the book, like it never ends until the end. I find it so interesting how John Wilkes Booth was a famous actor and a “good guy” and was so friendly and everything, and how trusting society was back then, like how the president didn’t have very much security and how they just had a little dinky wood fence that would be in someone’s backyard but now there’s a huge metal fence.

The Great Fire by Jim Murphy

Another event that I’m fascinated about is the Chicago fire. It amazes me how Chicago was one of the most developing cities in the midwest and then all of a sudden it just turns into smoldering ashes. I like how the author uses first hand accounts to tell the story and the people that were in the event’s experience. Most of the books that I’ve read about tragic events usually don’t talk about how the city came back but in this book it talks about the people of Chicago and how they powered through. This book really shows how coming together can cause things to get better. 

Ski Soldier: A World War II Biography by Louise Borden

Ski Soldier: A World War II Biography: Borden, Louise: 9781629796741:  Amazon.com: Books

This is probably one of the best biographies I’ve ever read. I’m kinda biased because I love to ski, and I love the snow in general. I have always been into special ops military books and the idea that not many people know about what’s going on. This book is all of that. I like how the book emphasizes the secret operations in the alps and how they were behind enemy lines. Around this time the invention of camouflage was just starting to be used in the military. They used the camouflage in the alps and within their platoon. 

Black and White Airmen: Their True History by John Fleischman

Black And White Airmen: Their True History: Fleischman, John:  9780618562978: Amazon.com: Books

I like how in some of the most racist times in our country’s history the airmen came together to fight in the war. I like how we came together as a country and fought in Europe, for people’s freedom. Its pretty amazing how brave the airmen were because they were practically flying a tin can at 15,000 ft. I like how this book follows both of the characters’ paths in their life and when they meet. 

All Quiet on the Western Front (All Quiet on the Western Front/The Road Back #1) by Erich Maria Remarque

Amazon.com: All Quiet on the Western Front: A Novel: 9780449213940: Erich  Maria Remarque, A W. Wheen: Books

There aren’t very many books I’ve seen that are about the German school boys POV. I think this book is eye opening for me but the things described in this book are unbelievable. These boys go into WWI and see all of the terrible things that are happening. I think if you want to see more of the gorey side of WWI this is the book for you. One of the reasons I chose this book is because I think WWI needs to be more talked about. 

True: The Four Seasons of Jackie Robinson by Kostya Kennedy

True: The Four Seasons of Jackie Robinson: Kennedy, Kostya: 9781250274045:  Amazon.com: Books

I am a baseball fan, and this book is a biography about Jackie Robinson and how he overcame the challenge of African American people not being allowed to play baseball. I like how this book emphasizes his legacy even after his death in 1972. I also like how this book included the death threats and letters written to him about how if he played baseball bad things would happen.

An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 by Jim Murphy

This is one of my favorite books of all time. This book includes all the little details about the people that got its illness and the super disgusting practices they used at the time. I like how the author uses first hand accounts to portray the yellow fever. I wish we would talk more about the yellow fever in school and just in general as it is one of the most important events in our history that is just forgotten.


Thank you so much to my student voices today and for sharing their favorite reads!

Wave by Diana Farid, Illustrated by Kris Goto

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Wave
Author: Diana Farid
Illustrator: Kris Goto
Published March 29th, 2022 by Cameron Kids

Summary: A coming-of-age novel in verse set in 1980s Southern California, about a Persian American girl who rides the waves, falls, and finds her way back to the shore.

Thirteen-year-old Ava loves to surf and to sing. Singing and reading Rumi poems settle her mild OCD, and catching waves with her best friend, Phoenix, lets her fit in—her olive skin looks tan, not foreign. But then Ava has to spend the summer before ninth grade volunteering at the hospital, to follow in her single mother’s footsteps to become a doctor. And when Phoenix’s past lymphoma surges back, not even surfing, singing, or poetry can keep them afloat, threatening Ava’s hold on the one place and the one person that make her feel like she belongs. With ocean-like rhythm and lyricism, Wave is about a girl who rides the waves, tumbles, and finds her way back to the shore.

Praise: 

“Processing her feelings through music empowers Ava and gives her a new understanding of home and the connections she shares with others. Raw and powerful, this free verse novel honestly explores issues of identity, culture, grief, and hope… Rich, layered, and heart-rending.”―Kirkus Reviews

“Farid’s poetry rides the page like a wave, charting the ups and downs of Ava’s emotions. . .The verse format makes this text extremely accessible, and readers will be delighted to find elements of Ava’s Persian heritage and 1980s childhood also woven throughout.” ―School Library Journal

“Farid brings her expertise as an MD to Ava’s story, simplifying the complexity of lymphoma while packing an emotional punch with the musical references that Ava uses to cope.” ―Booklist

About the Creators: 

Diana Farid is the author of When You Breathe, published by Cameron Kids. She is a poet and a physician at Stanford University. She lives in the Bay Area.

Honolulu-based fine artist Kris Goto was born in Japan. She spent most of her adolescence in Hong Kong and New Zealand, where she became inspired by the outside world and a passion for manga.

Review: This book is actually hard for me to write about because it is just so beautiful in all the right ways. It is full of so many emotions, beautiful writing, important topics, characterization, and 80s references. The author’s inclusion of such a specific setting and pop culture references could have easily turned off a reader, but Farid seamlessly blends it into Ava’s story to where it is all part of one amazing package. A package that includes a lot but that is because a 14 year old Persian girl growing up in California would have dealt with a lot: identity, self-love vs. loathing, immigrant experience, expectations, friendship, hobbies, school, racism, family… and on top of that Ava has Phoenix’s and (my favorite character) Room 509’s health to think about, her own broken leg, surfing, music, and a single parent. Add to all of this plot poetry that is robust in its rhythm and variety in a way that makes reading the book an experience, a wonderful reading experience.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: In addition to all of the reading discussion that can happen with this book, it is also a wonderful poetry writing mentor text. Each poem has its own format, personality, mood, tone, etc. so students have so many choices about which they would want to be inspired by. Goto’s illustrations show how art can add to poems as well, so students could create their own drawings to accompany their poems. Also, with the inclusion of music, students could turn their poems into songs.

Students could also make their own mix tapes for different characters in the book using Ava’s and Phoenix’s as examples. Students could then explain why they chose the songs they did for the characters.

The inclusion of Rumi’s poetry could also lead to a poetry study of his poetry which could include historical instruction as well.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why did the author format __[poem]__ the way she did?
  • How did music influence Ava’s time during this point in her life?
  • How do you think Ava’s summer would have been different if she hadn’t broken her leg?
  • How did Phoenix and Ava’s friendship change over time? What caused their friendship to evolve?
  • Why does Ava blow up at Phoenix and Naz at the beach?
  • How does Room 509 play a part in Ava’s summer? What do you think the purpose of this character is?
  • How did Ava’s mother’s decision to leave Iran to go to medical school transform her life?
  • Farid included instances of racism in the book. Why is it important that she includes these? What does it show us about our country?
  • Do you believe Ava has OCD? What parts in the story show you this?
  • How does Ava both embrace her Persian culture but also resent the pressure it holds?
  • The author included Farsi throughout the book. Why is this translanguaging important to include when telling Ava’s story.
  • Find an example of when Farid captured the rhythm of the ocean in her poetry.

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Land of the Cranes by Aida Salazar, Starfish by Lisa Fipps, Benbee and the Teacher Griefer by KA Holt, Open Mic edited by Mitali Perkins

Recommended For: 

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

Pippa Park Raises Her Game by Erin Yun

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Pippa Park Raises Her Game
Author: Erin Yun
Published February 4th, 2020 by Fabled Film Press

Summary: Life is full of great expectations for Korean American Pippa Park. It seems like everyone, from her family to the other kids at school, has a plan for how her life should look. So when Pippa gets a mysterious basketball scholarship to Lakeview Private, she jumps at the chance to reinvent herself by following the “Rules of Cool.”

At Lakeview, Pippa juggles old and new friends, an unrequited crush, and the pressure to perform academically and athletically while keeping her past and her family’s laundromat a secret from her elite new classmates. But when Pippa begins to receive a string of hateful, anonymous messages via social media, her carefully built persona is threatened.

As things begin to spiral out of control, Pippa discovers the real reason she was admitted to Lakeview and wonders if she can keep her old and new lives separate, or if she should even try.

A Contemporary Reimagining of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens for Middle Graders

About the Author: Erin Yun grew up in Frisco, Texas. She received her BFA in English from New York University and served as president of its policy debate team. This experience came in handy when she became the debate consultant for the Tony-nominated Best Play on Broadway―What the Constitution Means to Me. Erin is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and has written reviews and articles for BookBrowse. She developed her author program, an interactive writing workshop, which she has conducted in person and virtually at schools, libraries, and bookstores. She currently lives in New York City, and yes―she used to play basketball as a middle grader!

  1. She’s obsessed with personality quizzes and takes them for her characters.
  2. She is half Korean, and half Polish/Germanic.
  3. Her favorite foods include: kimchi-jjigae, cherry ice cream, and walnut cakes filled with red bean.
  4. She ran a bubblegum-selling business in middle school until it was shut down.
  5. Her family lore says that her grandfather lost part of his farm in a game of Go-Stop.
  6. She likes creating scavenger hunts in which participants dress like secret agents and follow clues.
  7. Her favorite places in the world include Seoul, London, and Tokyo.
  8. She was president of the New York University policy debate team.
  9. Her family dogs, Belle and Yoko, both bark incredibly loudly despite being foolishly tiny.
  10. She lives in New York City, but folks can tell she grew up in Texas by how often she says ya’ll.

Review: Okay, okay, I know we aren’t supposed to judge a book by its cover, but this cover was yelling READ ME to me, and I am so glad that I finally had the chance to and now share it with you all!

There is so much good happening in this book!

First, I love a good retelling! It brings a classical tale and its themes to a modern era.

Second, so many readers are going to connect with Pippa either because they understand what it is like to go to a new school or to fit in with a cool crowd or to have people not understand how important something is to you.

Third, there is so much to discuss with the book! You’ll see below in the discussion questions that in addition to connecting it with Great Expectations, there are opportunities to discuss family, the American Dream, culture, empathy, friendship, and more!

Fourth, I loved how complex the characters and situations were. Pippa is our protagonist but anything but perfect. Mina, Pippa’s sister, is so strict and seems heartless, but there is more there. Eliot is so cold, but there is a whole story there. And more! Such truth in the characterization of these middle schoolers and secondary characters.

Author Guest Post: Visit our Author Guest Post by Erin Yun as she shares five classics reimagined as middle grade novels.

Also, in her latest blog, Erin opened up on why she wrote this Korean American story for kids and how the recent #AAPI conversation about the lack of diverse Asian voices mirrors her own experience as a young reader. Read the blog here.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: At Pippa Park.com, there are so many wonderful resources to help use this book in classrooms!

The Tween Book Club Activity Kit includes the discussion questions below, word games, writing prompts, language arts guide, virtual author visit program, and an escape room activity! (The Common Core Language Arts Guide, Escape Room Activity, and Author Program Worksheet can also be downloaded separately.)

Erin Yun is also available for author events!

Discussion Questions: 

From the back matter (some aspects of the questions removed because of spoilers)

  • Pippa isn’t an orphan, but at times she feels like one. Describe Pippa’s relationship with Mina, her older sister. Why is Mina so tough on Pippa? Discuss whether Mina resents taking care of Pippa. How is Jung-Hwa, Mina’s husband, a father figure to Pippa? How does he make Pippa feel better after she has a fight with Mina?
  • What is the definition of family? Explain why Pippa’s mother had to return to Korea. How are Mina and Jung-Hwa realizing the American Dream? Discuss how Pippa’s family situation is similar to that of new American’s throughout our nation. How are many of them separated from their loved ones? Discuss why it’s important to celebrate all types of families.
  • Pippa says, “At Lakeview I could be anyone, as long as they didn’t find out the truth about me.” What doesn’t she want the kids at Lakeview to know about her? What does she do to keep her home life private? What does Pippa think would happen if the girls found out the truth about her?
  • How does trying to fit in cause Pippa Pippa to lose her sense of self? Why is she ashamed of her family and the way they live?
  • Pippa’s best friend at Victoria Middle School is Buddy Johnson. Think about how she betrays him.
  • Why does Pippa think that Eliot’s life is more messed up than hers? How does knowing about his family make her better understand Eliot?
  • Olive Giordana is the student ambassador that shows Pippa around the school. How does Olive’s desire to be popular affect her judgement?
  • Discuss what Jung-Hwa means when he says, “The lower you fall, the more room you have to rise.” What is Pippa’s lowest point? How do you know that she is about to rise? Have you ever felt that way?
  • Pippa’s family celebrates Chuseok: Korean Thanksgiving Day. Learn more about the traditions associated with this holiday on the Internet. Describe and discuss the holiday and the food that is prepared. What cultural holidays does your family celebrate? Is there anything special that you eat?
  • Pippa Park Raises Her Game is a contemporary reimagining of Great Expectations. Use books or the Internet to find out about the main characters in Great Expectations. What is each character’s counterpart in Pippa Park Raises Her Game? List the characters side by side and as a group apply two or three adjectives that best describe each of them.
  • Think about all that has happened to Pippa. Then consider the following quote from Great Expectations: “And it was not until I began to think, that I began fully to know how wrecked I was, and how the ship in which I had sailed was gone to pieces.” What is the metaphorical ship that Pippa sails? at what point does Pippa realized “how wrecked” her life is? How does she turn her life around once she begins “thinking”?
  • If you were to pick on character from Pippa Park Raises Her Game who is most like you, who would it be and why? Who is most unlike you and why? Which character from the book would you want as your friend and why?

Flagged Passages: “Chapter One: The Strange Encounter

I was the only person in the park.

Tucking a damp strand of hair back behind one ear, I surveyed the abandoned slides and empty benches. It was just past six p.m. on a Friday, but it looked like nobody else wanted to be out in the rain. As I strode briskly forward, icy wind numbed the tips of my fingers, making me clutch my basketball tighter. Even though we hadn’t officially left summer behind, the cold front that had settle over Victoria, Massachusetts, did show any signs of leaving.

So … empty court. Lousy weather. And things at home were just as dismal.

My older sister, Mina, had just grilled me for nearly an hour after finding out about the ‘unacceptable’ grade I had received on my latest algebra quiz. When she finally finished, I stormed out of the apartment, making sure to grab my basketball and water bottle; I planned on being gone awhile. Now I kind of wish I had taken a warmer jacket, too. Or at least a hat. But rain or shine, I wasn’t ready to go home yet.”

Read This If You Love: Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen by Sarah Kapit; Bouncing Back by Scott Ostler; Kiki and Jacque by Susan Ross; It Doesn’t Take a Genius by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich; Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Dienesa at Fabled Films for providing a copy for review!!**