Ms. Donnelly Reads

"A Reader Lives a Thousand Lives" George R.R. Martin

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February is such an important month. While still trying to create a culture of reading in the junior high, I chose some high impact fiction and nonfiction for the kids. Over 50% of what I purchased for the library were written by authors of color. More faces that my students can recognize and relate to. They pushed and shoved their way through the new titles and while part of me cringed, most of me *squeed* with joy that they dove into them. Not too many of the bulletin board books were checked out… You can’t win all of them!

Here’s to the movers and shakers that fought, died, and continue to struggle for social, political, and economic equality! I chose books that reflected the strength, hopes, dreams,  celebrations, and courage of African American leaders with the same kinds of characters.

Here are this month’s books (all summaries come from Amazon and books are linked for purchase- I am NOT compensated for this):

  1. For Every One– Jason Reynolds

for every one

For Every One is exactly that: for every one. For every one person. For every one who has a dream. But especially for every kid. The kids who dream of being better than they are. Kids who dream of doing more than they almost dare to imagine. Kids who are like Jason Reynolds, a self-professed dreamer. Jason does not claim to know how to make dreams come true; he has, in fact, been fighting on the front line of his own battle to make his own dreams a reality. He expected to make it when he was sixteen. Then eighteen. Then twenty-five. Now, some of those expectations have been realized. But others, the most important ones, lay ahead, and a lot of them involve kids, how to inspire them: All the kids who are scared to dream, or don’t know how to dream, or don’t dare to dream because they’ve NEVER seen a dream come true. Jason wants kids to know that dreams take time. They involve countless struggles. But no matter how many times a dreamer gets beat down, the drive and the passion and the hope never fully extinguishes—because simply having the dream is the start you need, or you won’t get anywhere anyway, and that is when you have to take a leap of faith.

A pitch-perfect graduation, baby, or inspirational gift for anyone who needs to me reminded of their own abilities—to dream.

2.Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom– Lynda Blackmon Lowery


As the youngest marcher in the 1965 voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Albama, Lynda Blackmon Lowery proved that young adults can be heroes. Jailed eleven times before her fifteenth birthday, Lowery fought alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. for the rights of African-Americans. In this memoir, she shows today’s young readers what it means to fight nonviolently (even when the police are using violence, as in the Bloody Sunday protest) and how it felt to be part of changing American history.

Straightforward and inspiring, this beautifully illustrated memoir brings readers into the middle of the Civil Rights Movement, complementing Common Core classroom learning and bringing history alive for young readers.

3. Copper Sun– Sharon M. Draper

copper sun

Copper Sun is the epic story of a young girl torn from her African village, sold into slavery, and stripped of everything she has ever known—except hope.

4. Elijah of Buxton– Christoper Paul Curtis


Elijah of Buxton, recipient of the Newbery Honor and winner of the Coretta Scott King Award, joins the Scholastic Gold line, which features award-winning and beloved novels. This edition includes exclusive bonus content!

Eleven-year-old Elijah lives in Buxton, Canada, a settlement of runaway slaves near the American border. Elijah’s the first child in town to be born free, and he ought to be famous just for that — not to mention for being the best at chunking rocks and catching fish. Unfortunately, all that most people see is a “fra-gile” boy who’s scared of snakes and tends to talk too much. But everything changes when a former slave steals money from Elijah’s friend, who has been saving to buy his family out of captivity in the South. Now it’s up to Elijah to track down the thief — and his dangerous journey just might make a hero out of him, if only he can find the courage to get back home.

5. The Crossover– Kwame Alexanderthe crossover

“With a bolt of lightning on my kicks . . .The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I’m delivering,” announces dread-locked, 12-year old Josh Bell. He and his twin brother Jordan are awesome on the court. But Josh has more than basketball in his blood, he’s got mad beats, too, that tell his family’s story in verse, in this fast and furious middle grade novel of family and brotherhood from Kwame Alexander.

Josh and Jordan must come to grips with growing up on and off the court to realize breaking the rules comes at a terrible price, as their story’s heart-stopping climax proves a game-changer for the entire family.

6. March Book 1– John Lewis


Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) is an American icon, one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper’s farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president.

Now, to share his remarkable story with new generations, Lewis presents March, a graphic novel trilogy, in collaboration with co-writer Andrew Aydin and New York Times best-selling artist Nate Powell (winner of the Eisner Award and LA Times Book Prize finalist for Swallow Me Whole).

March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.

Book One spans John Lewis’ youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall.

Many years ago, John Lewis and other student activists drew inspiration from the 1958 comic book “Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story.” Now, his own comics bring those days to life for a new audience, testifying to a movement whose echoes will be heard for generations.

7. Piecing Me Together– Renee Watson

piecing me

Acclaimed author Renee Watson offers a powerful story about a girl striving for success in a world that too often seems like it’s trying to break her.

Jade believes she must get out of her poor neighborhood if she’s ever going to succeed. Her mother tells her to take advantage of every opportunity that comes her way. And Jade has: every day she rides the bus away from her friends and to the private school where she feels like an outsider, but where she has plenty of opportunities. But some opportunities she doesn’t really welcome, like an invitation to join Women to Women, a mentorship program for “at-risk” girls. Just because her mentor is black and graduated from the same high school doesn’t mean she understands where Jade is coming from. She’s tired of being singled out as someone who needs help, someone people want to fix. Jade wants to speak, to create, to express her joys and sorrows, her pain and her hope. Maybe there are some things she could show other women about understanding the world and finding ways to be real, to make a difference.

8.  Portraits of African American Heroes– Tonya Bolden


Here, ideal for African-American History Month, is a stunningly beautiful book consisting of portraits-in pictures and words-of twenty outstanding African-Americans. The individuals range from historical to contemporary figures, such as the dancer Judith Jamison, and represent diverse fields of endeavor, from the law (Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall) to athletics, science, and more. For each individual, there is a three-page biography by the noted author Tonya Bolden and a striking black-and-white portrait that captures not only the subject’s likeness but is a work of art in itself. A book to inspire, to teach, or to display, with its large trim size and striking design, it is as handsome as it is important.

december theme

Well, December and January came and went with the same theme: perseverance.

The irony is not lost on me.

Yet, part of me felt like the kids needed more time with that theme. As many of you know, we live in a time where lots of kids, teens, and adults just quit on stuff when the going gets tough. Grit is a lost characteristic. We’ve allowed ourselves to put things aside in order to prevent hurt feelings. And, honestly, who are we hurting with that philosophy?

Isn’t it ok to fall down and get back up? Or, should we just sit there, feeling sorry for ourselves and waste away, blaming others for our disappointment?

Here’s something personal: I’m going through a divorce. It’s got to be one of the worst things I’ve ever experienced. I was 32 when I got married. I figured I knew myself well enough to have made the right decision. At 32, I thought I needed to get married or I’d miss the train… I wish I could go back and tell my 32 year old self that everything would be just fine and to cool it. But, I didn’t. And it hurts. A lot. I feel like a failure. My kids got caught in the crossfire and occasionally, not as often as when he first moved out, they still long for him to live with us.

And, for a long time, I could not move. I even started another degree to disengage with my feelings. But, when that program finished, I had to face the facts that life kept moving forward. It had to. At this point, it felt very much like yanking the scab off of a poorly healed wound. It was gross and it hurt and it oozed an angry sadness. I had two options- pick myself up, clean myself off, and figure out which direction to go. Or, stay down and continue to take cover while the sore festered and eventually the infection would kill me.

I chose to live again. Every day, some days hurt like it used to when we first split. Other days, I’m happy and pushing forward to carve out a new life for my children and me. It’s hard. Really freaking hard. But it’s so so worth it.

So, when life hits you, when stuff gets tough, when the road you chose washes out and leaves you in land of uncertainty, don’t quit on you. Don’t wait around for someone else to come along and tell you what to do next. Get up and keep moving forward. And, if you fall again, get back up. Again. And again.

Here are the books:


Roller Girl– Victoria Jamieson

For most of her twelve years, Astrid has done everything with her best friend Nicole. But after Astrid falls in love with roller derby and signs up for derby camp, Nicole decides to go to dance camp instead. And so begins the most difficult summer of Astrid’s life as she struggles to keep up with the older girls at camp, hang on to the friend she feels slipping away, and cautiously embark on a new friendship. As the end of summer nears and her first roller derby bout (and junior high!) draws closer, Astrid realizes that maybe she is strong enough to handle the bout, a lost friendship, and middle school… in short, strong enough to be a roller girl.


51YuPuZ0efLChains– Laurie Halse Anderson

As the Revolutionary War begins, thirteen-year-old Isabel wages her own fight…for freedom. Promised freedom upon the death of their owner, she and her sister, Ruth, in a cruel twist of fate become the property of a malicious New York City couple, the Locktons, who have no sympathy for the American Revolution and even less for Ruth and Isabel. When Isabel meets Curzon, a slave with ties to the Patriots, he encourages her to spy on her owners, who know details of British plans for invasion. She is reluctant at first, but when the unthinkable happens to Ruth, Isabel realizes her loyalty is available to the bidder who can provide her with freedom.




Hatchet– Gary Paulsen

Thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson, haunted by his secret knowledge of his mother’s infidelity, is traveling by single-engine plane to visit his father for the first time since the divorce. When the plane crashes, killing the pilot, the sole survivor is Brian. He is alone in the Canadian wilderness with nothing but his clothing, a tattered windbreaker, and the hatchet his mother had given him as a present.

At first consumed by despair and self-pity, Brian slowly learns survival skills—how to make a shelter for himself, how to hunt and fish and forage for food, how to make a fire—and even finds the courage to start over from scratch when a tornado ravages his campsite. When Brian is finally rescued after fifty-four days in the wild, he emerges from his ordeal with new patience and maturity, and a greater understanding of himself and his parents.




Freak the Mighty– Rodman Philbrick

It has been over twenty years — and more than two million copies, eight foreign editions, and a popular Miramax feature film — since the world was introduced to this powerful story of a unique friendship between a troubled, oversized boy and the tiny, physically challenged genius who proves that courage comes in all sizes.





A1pGbiedEVLEmmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu– Laurie Ann Thompson

Born in Ghana, West Africa, with one deformed leg, he was dismissed by most people—but not by his mother, who taught him to reach for his dreams. As a boy, Emmanuel hopped to school more than two miles each way, learned to play soccer, left home at age thirteen to provide for his family, and, eventually, became a cyclist. He rode an astonishing four hundred miles across Ghana in 2001, spreading his powerful message: disability is not inability. Today, Emmanuel continues to work on behalf of the disabled.

So, let me start by saying that the comedy genre is really not in my wheelhouse… So, I’d love to hear if you have additional recommendations!! The mystery/suspense books are awesome! Take a look and let me know your thoughts.

Comedy pamphlet

mystery suspense

pile of covered books

Photo by Pixabay on

Happy New Year to you! While you were out gallivanting, I was wrestling with Canva to create some awesome pamphlets for Readers Advisory in my library. I think they are a good start! I’m always up for suggestions, as you know. The audience is middle school, as opposed to YA/Teens; please keep that in mind.

While the LGBTQIA+ is admittedly paltry, I believe this shines a light on the inadequate representation of that community. Everyone wants to see themselves on the shelves. And, when you don’t see a book that reflects you and the life you live, pick up a pen and write one!

LGBTQ brochure


According to the Myers Briggs personality test, the ENFP (The Campaigner) personality is a true free spirit. They are often the life of the party, but unlike types in the Explorer Role group, Campaigners are less interested in the sheer excitement and pleasure of the moment than they are in enjoying the social and emotional connections they make with others. Charming, independent, energetic and compassionate, the 7% of the population that they comprise can certainly be felt in any crowd. (source)

Here are your book recommendations for each trait (all summaries come from Amazon):


1. You Can Change the World With Just an Idea

Unlike all of the other personality types, ENFPs see the world as a complex puzzle where every piece reveals something deeper. Empaths with pure hearts, you never have to guess what they’re thinking. Boring roles are a death trap.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Stephen Chbosky

perksStanding on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor. This haunting novel about the dilemma of passivity vs. passion marks the stunning debut of a provocative new voice in contemporary fiction: The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

This is the story of what it’s like to grow up in high school. More intimate than a diary, Charlie’s letters are singular and unique, hilarious and devastating. We may not know where he lives. We may not know to whom he is writing. All we know is the world he shares. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it puts him on a strange course through uncharted territory. The world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends. The world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite.


2. Don’t Lose That ‘Little Spark of Madness’

As quick as ENFPs are to emote passion and intensity, they can cut to a creative free spirit. Because they are so in tune with social cues and intuition, sometimes ENFPs can create situations in their minds that don’t exist while finding their place in the world. Though ENFPs are curious, creative, and enthusiastic, the pendulum swings widely the other way and struggle with focusing on practical skills, overthinking, being too emotional, and fiercely independent.

The Astonishing Color of After

Emily X.R. Pan


Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.

Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.

Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a stunning and heartbreaking novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.



3. You Cannot Live Without a Fire

Love for ENFPs is a way to connect with another soul. They take relationships seriously and give their whole heart to the other person. Their charm, passion, and warmth are attractive and their devotion is unshakable. ENFPs sometimes focus on the potential of their partner, rather than the present and those fantasies, when unfulfilled or unrequited, often leave them feeling unhappy or misunderstood.


Ibi Zoboi


Zuri Benitez has pride. Brooklyn pride, family pride, and pride in her Afro-Latino roots. But pride might not be enough to save her rapidly gentrifying neighborhood from becoming unrecognizable.

When the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri wants nothing to do with their two teenage sons, even as her older sister, Janae, starts to fall for the charming Ainsley. She especially can’t stand the judgmental and arrogant Darius. Yet as Zuri and Darius are forced to find common ground, their initial dislike shifts into an unexpected understanding.

But with four wild sisters pulling her in different directions, cute boy Warren vying for her attention, and college applications hovering on the horizon, Zuri fights to find her place in Bushwick’s changing landscape, or lose it all.


4. So, You Think You Know the Real Me?

Going all in with a relationship that doesn’t end the way an ENFP anticipated, they can splinter right down the center. The failed relationships can keep an ENFP locked up in their own plague of discontent, self doubt, and reluctance to open up to another person. But, in the end, the ENFP’s unshakable belief in love and its infinite possibilities will always open them back up for another try.

The Upside of Unrequited

Becky Albertalli


Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

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


5. An Exciting Adventure

As with romantic relationships, friendships are a cornerstone in an ENFPs life. While gregarious and having a sort of gravitational pull, these personalities will also link up with introverts, sometimes pushing them out of their shells. Like the failed expectation of romantic relationships, friendships can also lead to disappointment when they don’t pan out as expected. Putting so much effort into being selfless and supportive, ENFPs forget to take care of themselves. That sort of imbalance cannot be sustained and ENFPs may burnout on those friendships where there’s no reciprocity.

Best Friends

Shannon Hale

best friends

Follow your heart. Find your people.

Sixth grade is supposed to be perfect. Shannon’s got a sure spot in the in-crowd called The Group, and her best friend is their leader, Jen, the most popular girl in school.

But the rules are always changing, and Shannon has to scramble to keep up. She never knows which TV shows are cool, what songs to listen to, and who she’s allowed to talk to. Who makes these rules, anyway? And does Shannon have to follow them?


6. Making Life Spectacular

Even with all the hard feelings, the ENFP gift is that of communication. Forgiveness is what strengthens bonds and forges lifelong friendships so that everyone can enjoy the good stuff.

Shouting at the Rain

Lynda Mullaly Hunt

rainDelsie loves tracking the weather–lately, though, it seems the squalls are in her own life. She’s always lived with her kindhearted Grammy, but now she’s looking at their life with new eyes and wishing she could have a “regular family.” Delsie observes other changes in the air, too–the most painful being a friend who’s outgrown her. Luckily, she has neighbors with strong shoulders to support her, and Ronan, a new friend who is caring and courageous but also troubled by the losses he’s endured. As Ronan and Delsie traipse around Cape Cod on their adventures, they both learn what it means to be angry versus sad, broken versus whole, and abandoned versus loved. And that, together, they can weather any storm.



7. Go On, Spread Your Wings

There’s a Tim McGraw song, My Little Girl, that has a verse, “Chase your dreams but always know the road that will lead you home again.” What a tender sentiment. An ENFP parent devotes their entire heart to their children and will always be a parent children will confide in. Wanting their children to be happy, well rounded, and self confident, they raise them to go into the world at their own pace and with their own style. Always knowing which road will always lead them home.

The Giving Tree

Shel Silverstein


Since it was first published fifty years ago, Shel Silverstein’s poignant picture book for readers of all ages has offered a touching interpretation of the gift of giving and a serene acceptance of another’s capacity to love in return.


8. The Opening of a Door Can Be a Wonderfully Joyous Moment

ENFPs enjoy a challenge and are always ready to use their ace in the hole: people skills. They’re ready to rally the troops to support causes, examine new ways of thinking, and share their enthusiasm for new projects.


Samira Ahmed


Set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens.

With the help of newly made friends also trapped within the internment camp, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the camp’s Director and his guards.


9. Too Many Bosses, Too Few Workers

Hierarchies and repetition do not sit well with ENFPs. They enjoy pushing boundaries and exploring new ideas. Questioning status quo and exploring alternatives are experiences ENFPs thrive upon.


Veronica Roth

81-DFVziuwLOne choice can transform you. Beatrice Prior’s society is divided into five factions—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). Beatrice must choose between staying with her Abnegation family and transferring factions. Her choice will shock her community and herself. But the newly christened Tris also has a secret, one she’s determined to keep hidden, because in this world, what makes you different makes you dangerous.



For those of you who love Buzzfeed quizzes about what kind of cheese you are or who is your literary boyfriend, you’ll freak out with this bad boy! I took it a couple of years ago and found that I fit my personality profile to the letter. Which letters, you may ask yourself?

ENFP- The Campaigner

See if this appears to be yours truly:

Extraversion (E), Intuition (N), Feeling (F), Perception (P)

ENFPs are extremely creative and versatile people. They love playing with ideas, spinning off new concepts, and discussing them with other people.

They are charismatic, sociable, and exciting to be with because they always seem to have something new to explore or talk about. Sometimes ENFPs can seem scattered and directionless, and they often have no interest in the mundane details of day-to-day life. They tend to need others to keep them anchored and focused.

ENFPs’ innovation, social skills, and gift for observation make them natural comedians.

ENFP authors are some of the most wildly creative, one-of-a-kind voices in literature.


It is important to note that ENFPs make up only 8% of the population… So, I started looking at characters who have these traits. Here they are:

Ahsoka Tano, The Clone Wars

Ariel, The Little Mermaid

Elizabeth FREAKING Bennett, Pride and Prejudice

Genie, Aladdin

Finn, Star Wars

George FREAKING Bailey, It’s a Wonderful Life

Ron Weasley, Harry Potter  

Do you see where I’m going here? No? Ok, that’s cool. I’ll tell you. Since I am now officially done with my MLIS degree, I’ve got TONS of time on my hands. And, I’ve decided to create book recommendations for each of the Myers Briggs Personalities! Mind you, most will be middle school and YA related- but never underestimate the power of YA.

To take the MB personality test, click this link 

Come back and let me know what your personality is. We can dig in and uncover your books, together!


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I know I’m a little behind here. Big stuff happened these last two weeks! I am officially finished with my MLIS program at Dominican University! The last 2.5 years have been wrapped up tightly with little room to breathe… Now, I’m taking long, deep, cleansing breaths… Remember what it feels like to not have the crushing weight of homework looming overhead.

I also attended a What’s New in School Libraries conference and it blew my mind. I’ve got to figure out how to make my library working in different ways for the kids. One step at a time… I know… I’m just trying to figure out the “What’s Next” for me.

As for the here and now, I’d like to share last month’s Theme: Empathy. Being able to understand and share in the feelings of others is difficult to procure nowadays. Children (and adults) really need to understand that the world is bigger than just them. The “It doesn’t have anything to do with me” mindset doesn’t build communities or create empathy. Making fun, teasing, bullying, all these things tear people down. Not one single person knows what anyone else is truly struggling with.

I asked students to raise their hands if they wrestled with things they don’t talk to people about… About half raised their hands. Sheepish. Everyone looked around. That popular kid, his hand was up. That nerdy girl that reads a lot? Her hand went up.

A couple years ago, a different group of kids and I had a peace circle and we talked about some personal battles- we’d created quite a trusting circle and I was always vulnerable in it, to show them that even adults don’t have it all together (as if they didn’t know that, already). My grandmother had just passed and all of my nerves were tender and aching for my father and our family. Knowing that my own parents are next lingers in the not so distant back of my mind. Well, it turned out that two kids just found out that family members were diagnosed with cancer, another kid was coming up on the anniversary of a death in the family, and other birds of sorrow hung around our collective heads. The lesson: Be kind. It doesn’t take anything away from anyone to be nice to people. It puts people’s hearts back together.

So, this month’s theme is important- I’d keep it up all year if I could. All book summaries come from Amazon.

rain reign

Rain Reign- Ann M. Martin

Rose Howard is obsessed with homonyms. She’s thrilled that her own name is a homonym, and she purposely gave her dog Rain a name with two homonyms (Reign, Rein), which, according to Rose’s rules of homonyms, is very special. Not everyone understands Rose’s obsessions, her rules, and the other things that make her different―not her teachers, not other kids, and not her single father.

When a storm hits their rural town, rivers overflow, the roads are flooded, and Rain goes missing. Rose’s father shouldn’t have let Rain out. Now Rose has to find her dog, even if it means leaving her routines and safe places to search.



Walk Two Moons- Sharon Creech

Thirteen-year-old Salamanca Tree Hiddle, proud of her country roots and the “Indian-ness in her blood,” travels from Ohio to Idaho with her eccentric grandparents. Along the way, she tells them of the story of Phoebe Winterbottom, who received mysterious messages, who met a “potential lunatic,” and whose mother disappeared.


out of my mind

Out of My Mind- Sharon M. Draper

Eleven-year-old Melody is not like most people. She can’t walk. She can’t talk. She can’t write. All because she has cerebral palsy. But she also has a photographic memory; she can remember every detail of everything she has ever experienced. She’s the smartest kid in her whole school, but NO ONE knows it. Most people—her teachers, her doctors, her classmates—dismiss her as mentally challenged because she can’t tell them otherwise. But Melody refuses to be defined by her disability. And she’s determined to let everyone know it…somehow.


bc of mr terupt

Because of Mr. Terupt- Rob Buyea

It’s the start of a new year at Snow Hill School, and seven students find themselves thrown together in Mr. Terupt’s fifth grade class. There’s . . . Jessica, the new girl, smart and perceptive, who’s having a hard time fitting in; Alexia, a bully, your friend one second, your enemy the next; Peter, class prankster and troublemaker; Luke, the brain; Danielle, who never stands up for herself; shy Anna, whose home situation makes her an outcast; and Jeffrey, who hates school.

They don’t have much in common, and they’ve never gotten along. Not until a certain new teacher arrives and helps them to find strength inside themselves—and in each other. But when Mr. Terupt suffers a terrible accident, will his students be able to remember the lessons he taught them? Or will their lives go back to the way they were before—before fifth grade and before Mr. Terupt?


counting by 7s

Counting By 7s- Holly Goldberg Sloan

Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life . . . until now.

Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read.


el deafo

El Deafo- Cece Bell

A 2015 Newbery Honor Book Going to school and making new friends can be tough. But going to school and making new friends while wearing a bulky hearing aid strapped to your chest? That requires superpowers! In this funny, poignant graphic novel memoir, author/illustrator Cece Bell chronicles her hearing loss at a young age and her subsequent experiences with the Phonic Ear, a very powerful—and very awkward—hearing aid.
The Phonic Ear gives Cece the ability to hear—sometimes things she shouldn’t—but also isolates her from her classmates. She really just wants to fit in and find a true friend, someone who appreciates her as she is. After some trouble, she is finally able to harness the power of the Phonic Ear and become “El Deafo, Listener for All.” And more importantly, declare a place for herself in the world and find the friend she’s longed for.

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Friends, when I tell you that I have no idea where October went, I am not kidding. I realized I missed posting the month’s theme and the books that support it. I haven’t updated the website or processed any books. Wanna know why? I’ve been talking to kids about books, reading books, writing about books for class, and reading with my children.

So, I apologize for sharing my books with you! Here’s this month’s theme: Integrity. Doing what’s right even when no one is looking. Sometimes, that’s a scary thing for kids and adults. We know how to behave when we’re being watched. But, when everyone’s eyes are averted, are we brave enough to stand up for people being hurt? Are we confident enough to cut ties with people who only bring out the worst in us? Are we strong enough to tell a burning secret to someone who can help- even when you’ve sworn yourself to secrecy? Can we convince people to help do the right thing, even if that means those people may put themselves in harm’s way? Would we put ourselves in harm’s way for someone? 

October’s books take a look at these very questions. All book summaries come from Amazon.

81pcln9nghL I Hadn’t Meant to Tell You This by Jacqueline Woodson:

Twelve-year-old Marie is a leader among the popular black girls in Chauncey, Ohio, a prosperous black suburb. She isn’t looking for a friend when Lena Bright, a white girl, appears in school. Yet they are drawn to each other because both have lost their mothers. And they know how to keep a secret. For Lena has a secret that is terrifying, and she’s desperate to protect herself and her younger sister from their father. Marie must decide whether she can help Lena by keeping her secret… or by telling it.


Ghost by Jason Reynolds

Running. That’s all Ghost (real name Castle Cranshaw) has ever known. But Ghost has been running for the wrong reasons—it all started with running away from his father, who, when Ghost was a very little boy, chased him and his mother through their apartment, then down the street, with a loaded gun, aiming to kill. Since then, Ghost has been the one causing problems—and running away from them—until he meets Coach, an ex-Olympic Medalist who sees something in Ghost: crazy natural talent. If Ghost can stay on track, literally and figuratively, he could be the best sprinter in the city. Can Ghost harness his raw talent for speed, or will his past finally catch up to him?


Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan

A Pakistani-American Muslim girl struggles to stay true to her family’s vibrant culture while simultaneously blending in at school after tragedy strikes her community in this “compassionate, timely novel” (Booklist, starred review) from the award-winning author of It’s Ramadan, Curious George and Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns.

Amina has never been comfortable in the spotlight. She is happy just hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. Except now that she’s in middle school everything feels different. Soojin is suddenly hanging out with Emily, one of the “cool” girls in the class, and even talking about changing her name to something more “American.” Does Amina need to start changing too? Or hiding who she is to fit in? While Amina grapples with these questions, she is devastated when her local mosque is vandalized.

Amina’s Voice brings to life the joys and challenges of a young Pakistani-American and highlights the many ways in which one girl’s voice can help bring a diverse community together to love and support each other.


Tight by Torrey Maldonado

Tight: Lately Bryan’s been feeling it in all kinds of ways. He knows what’s tight for him in a good way–reading comics, drawing superheroes, and hanging out with no drama. But drama’s hard to escape where he’s from, and that gets him wound up tight.

And now Bryan’s new friend Mike is challenging him to have fun in ways that are crazy risky. At first, it’s a rush following Mike, hopping turnstiles, subway surfing, and getting into all kinds of trouble. But Bryan never feels right acting wrong. So which way will he go when he understands that drama is so not his style? Fortunately his favorite comic heroes shed light on his dilemma, reminding him that he has power–the power to choose his friends and to stand up for what he believes is right . . .

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The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Steward

When Reuben discovers an extraordinary antique watch with a secret power, his life takes an intriguing turn. As one secret leads to another, Reuben finds himself torn between his honest nature and the lure to be a hero.

Now he is on a dangerous adventure–full of curious characters, treacherous traps, and hairsbreadth escapes–as he races to solve the mystery before it is too late. With fearless Penny, mighty Jack, and the wise Mrs. Genevieve on his side, can Reuben outwit a sly villain called The Smoke and save the city from a terrible fate?

In this ingeniously crafted novel, acclaimed author Trenton Lee Stewart invites readers to join the adventure, decipher the clues, and ask themselves the question: Is knowing a secret a gift or a curse?

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The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

The city of Ember was built as a last refuge for the human race. Two hundred years later, the great lamps that light the city are beginning to dim. When Lina finds part of an ancient message, she’s sure it holds a secret that will save the city. Now, she and her friend Doon must race to figure out the clues to keep the lights on. If they succeed, they will have to convince everyone to follow them into danger. But if they fail? The lights will burn out and the darkness will close in forever.

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Listen, when I tell you I have no idea what I did to get such fantastic and generous people in my corner, I’m being totally straight. When I took on this library project, I knew it’d take a long time to get it just right… It’d grow and change and thrive, it’d just take time.

First, I took on the aesthetic of it this summer with the slash and burn (not really… books are super flammable…). The paint, the weeding, the paint, the organization, the paint, the leveled reading stickers, the paint, the trips to the dumpster… OMG! It really was a love’s labor.

Then, smart and wonderfully generous friends encouraged me to create a book wish list, to which I received almost 200! Yeah, almost 200 books donated!

Another smart and generous friend encouraged me to create a Donors Choose project for new tables and seating for the library. I doubted that $2,000 would be raised before November. Guess what. It was funded by the end of August! The library’s new furniture will arrive sometime in November. Can you freaking believe it?!

There were still numerous things on my list that need to be purchased for the library. Except, when school rolled around, I was broke- because ALL of the upgrades were paid for out my pocket.

And I chatted with my neighbor about what was still left on the punch list (a thing, by the way, that she suggested I create so I didn’t get lost in all of the things that needed to be done). And last week, she and her daughter brought over this gigantic box and told me it was a gift and to open it up. ANOTHER GIFT! It’s truly unbelievable, I KNOW! So, guess what was inside?! STOOLS for the computer tables!! The kids had to stand at the computers, and no one complained, but it is so much better with seating! And they’re ORANGE! Which is amazing because the color lights up the place!

Not a single gift or one ounce of support is lost on me. I am a firm believer in karma. What you put into the world will come back to you. And, when I look around to see what’s been given to me in this process, I cannot help but feel like George Bailey at the very end of It’s a Wonderful Life. No man is a failure who has friends.

When times got dark and life felt like it was crumbling underneath me, I dug in- probably crying and proclaiming I couldn’t do it anymore- and did the thing. On the other side of the tough stuff… This is my pot of gold. Right here. stools