I’ve decided that 2019 is going to be my best year ever. Here are 6 books that have already paved the way for my best reading year yet!
  1. The SECRETS OF TOPSEA middle grade series by Kir Fox & M. Shelly Coats delightfully suprised me. The first book, A FRIENDLY TOWN THAT’S ALMOST ALWAYS BY THE OCEAN!, is filled with interesting characters and wacky circumstances, It’s the kind of book that makes you laugh and wonder. The story follows Davy’s journey as he figures out the town and how to make friends. By the end he’s figured out who he really is. At least we think he has. This book keeps you guessing until the very end.
2. THE EXTREMELY HIGH TIDE, is a quirky, whimsical, perfect follow up to the first book. The complex cast of characters and fast paced plot make for a delightful read. I especially love that the story includes kids with challenges without labeling them as challenged. It covers themes of friendship, loyalty, autism, introversion, inclusion, teamwork and acceptance. This is the kind of book that takes you by surprise and evokes discussion.
3. DRAGON PEARL, a middle grade by Yoon Ha Lee is available today! Filled with humor, intrigue, and interesting characters, this book combined space opera and Korean Mythology.
Thirteen year old Min, a fox spirit, runs away from home to find her older brother, clear his name, and find the dragon pearl so she can save her planet. The quest is riddled with twists and turns, complex decisions and fast paced action and dialogue. I found the read compelling and the story thought provoking. This book will evoke discussions of family, grief, loss, trust, betrayal, loyalty, and friendship.
4. THE CAMELOT CODE, THE ONCE AND FUTURE GEEK, by Mari Mancusi, is the kind of fractured story I love to read. What would King Arthur do if he traveled to the future and learned about all the trouble he would have at the end of his life? This middle grade novel is filled with twists, interesting characters, and references that will make people laugh. Both hilarious and heartwarming–definitely worth the read!

5. Somehow I missed THE SKIN I’M IN, a YA by Sharon G. Flake the first time it was released 20 years ago. Disney Hyperion released it again recently. Just. Wow. Powerfully written, compelling and relatable. Maleeka’s middle school struggles are moving and will resonate with anyone who is scared of the consequences of their choices. This book should be, and is required reading!
6. Released recently by the new press, Page Street, I was delightfully surprised by HOME AND AWAY, a new YA by Candice Montgomery. Beautifully written, complex, thought provoking. It’s the kind of book that covers race, discrimination, friendship, the meaning of love, family, betrayal, and everything in-between. I finished reading it on New Years day. It felt like the perfect read to start my best reading year yet.
What are you reading this year?
*This was originally posted on Writer's Rumpus, here.


Happy Book birthday to VAMPIRINA IN THE SNOW, written by Anne Marie Pace and illustrated by Leuyen Pham!  This book is another whimsical addition to the Vampirina library.  Anne Marie Pace interweaves fun snow activities with monsterly and dancerly things.  

"Snowmen are traditionally made from three stacked snowballs, but who's counting?"  The illustration with this text shows a monster snowman with 4 round balls as toes.  

The story of course involves signature Vampirina dancing:

"Proper ballet positions make snow angels easy; first, fifth, first, fight!", and "You'll quickly that ice is far more slippery than a dance floor!"

Kids will love reading more about Vampirina in this colorful and funny winter story. The expressive illustrations paired with all types of snow activities will inspire kids to make their own fun in the snow. 

It's Your First Day of School, Busy Bus!

Happy Book Birthday to It's Your First Day of School Busy Bus! by Jodi Jenson Shaffer and Claire Messer.

"Will the children have fun riding with me? Busy Bus wonders."

This book is perfect for kids who are just starting school. I love the anthropomorphism of Busy Bus and how he worries about the same things that kids worry about on their first day of school. "What if I get homesick? He worries. What if I don't make any friends?" 

Bright, lively illustrations enhance sparse text sprinkled with onomatopoeia. This book that will evoke discussion about first day of school jitters and help kids understand that they aren't alone---even the bus worries sometimes! 

This is a great story to add to your list of back to school books! 

What are you favorite back to school books?

3 Back to School Books You Won't Want to Miss!


As school winds down, and we ramp up our summer plans, the beginning of a new school year is the last thing we're thinking about.

But reading at my house is an essential part of our summer fun, and the following books are ones we'll read, re-read, and discuss before the kids head back to school.

"I didn't make any friends!" Penelope cried. "None of the children wanted to play with me!"

"Penelope Rex," her father asked, "did you eat your classmates?"
"Well...maybe sort of just a little bit."

I laughed out loud at this hilarious and heartwarming story of first day of school jitters. When Penelope shows up to school to realize that she's the only dinosaur, the reader realizes trouble is on its way.

Expressive illustrations paired with sparse and witty text makes for the perfect read- aloud, and a great way to talk about how kids are feeling about going back to school.
Dear Substitute

2. DEAR SUBSTITUTE, by Liz Garton Scanlon, Audrey Vernick, and Christ Raschka

"Dear Attendance,

You're not quite right today. The substitute doesn't know how to pronounce anything."

I love how this epistolary picture book shows the frustrations of a kid whose beloved teacher doesn't show up. Liz Garton Scanlon and Audrey Vernick skillful word choices are enhanced by Chris Raschka's whimsical illustrations. This story will evoke discussion on flexibility and transitions and giving change a chance. It's an incredibly fun classroom story that will resonate with every kid.


"The rickshaw is so full that all of us can barely fit inside.  Legs and arms hang out, and we have to hold on tight.  My backpack is tied to the rickshaw so it won't fall."

Wow. My 7 year old was mesmerized by the stories, the carefully chosen facts, and the idea of kids around the world going to school, just like he does, but getting there very differently. The book evoked discussion and gave us a space to really discuss what life is like in other countries.

The illustrations enhance the text by engaging the reader with expressive representations of many cultures.

What are your favorite back to school books?

*This was originally posted on Writer's Rumpus, here