Tuesday, June 30, 2020

My 2020 Reading Update

At the beginning of 2020, I made a list of books that I wanted to read in the year ahead (see this post). Now that the year is more than half over, I thought this would be a good time to give an update on my progress. In one sense, the first half of this year has flown by, but in another sense it has felt like an eternity. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted many aspects of life and work, my reading included. At times throughout the pandemic, focusing on the words within a book has made reading a challenge, but at other times reading has been just the escape I needed. Even with the ups and downs, I have read some fantastic books throughout the first half of this year.

Picture Books


These are the picture books on my Must-Read list for 2020.

Read in 2020


  • Facts vs. Opinions vs. Robots by Michael Rex
  • The Heart of a Whale by Anna Pignataro
  • Hike by Pete Oswald
  • In a Jar by Deborah Marcero
  • Nesting by Henry Cole
  • A Ride to Remember: A Civil Rights Story by Sharon Langley and Amy Nathan and illustrated by Floyd Cooper
  • The Society of Distinguished Lemmings by Julie Combert

Still Need to Read


  • Bear Goes Sugaring by Maxwell Eaton III
  • The Bear in My Family by Maya Tatsukawa
  • Dandelion's Dream by Yoko Tanaka
  • Freedom Bird: A Tale of Hope and Courage by Jerdine Nolen and illustrated by James E. Ransome 
  • 'Ohana Means Family by Ilima Loomis and illustrated by Kenard Pak 
  • Story Boat by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Rashin Kheiriyeh 
  • The Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom and illustrated by Michaela Goade
  • A Way With Wild Things by Larissa Theule and illustrated by Sara Palacios


Middle Grade Books


These are the middle grade books on my Must-Read list for 2020.

Read in 2020


  • The Elephant's Girl by Celesta Rimington 
  • History Smashers: The Mayflower by Kate Messner and illustrated by Dylan Meconis
  • Isaiah Dunn is My Hero by Kelly J. Baptist
  • Mañanaland by Pam Muñoz Ryan
  • Queen Bee and Me by Gillian McDunn 
  • The Space Between Lost and Found by Sandy Stark-Mcginnis 
  • Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
  • Thank You for Coming to My TED Talk: A Teen Guide to Great Public Speaking by Chris Anderson and Lorin Oberweger 
  • Ways to Make Sunshine by Renée Watson and illustrated by Nina Mata 
  • Wrong Way Summer by Heidi Lang

Still Need to Read


  • Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley 
  • A Place at the Table by Saadia Faruqi and Laura Shovan


Favorites of 2020

In addition to these books, there are many others I have read throughout the year. The following lists include my favorites as of now (they will continue to be updated, I am sure):

Favorite Picture Books
Favorite Middle Grade Books

I have curated my lists at Bookshop.org which is an online bookstore that provides support for local, independent bookstores. As an affiliate of Bookshop.org, I earn a commission for any books purchased through my links.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Recent Reads

Every Monday, I share books I have recently read. I also participate in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading. To find out what other bloggers are reading, check out the host blogs, Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers, or follow on Twitter at #imwayr.

Recent Reads...


First Day Critter Jitters by Jory John and illustrated by Liz Climo

A book about first day of school anxieties, this will be a comforting read aloud for the beginning of the school year. On the way to school, various animals express their concerns about starting school. When the animals get to school they realize they are not the only ones who are nervous and they help each other to overcome their worries. This book is both amusing and sweet. Thanks to the publisher for a review copy.

Keith Among the Pigeons by Katie Brosnan

Keith prefers pigeons to cats, but they fly away every time he tries to get near them. Keith attempts to be more pigeon-like in various ways, but that doesn't help. This is a lovely story about being accepted and accepting oneself.

Southwest Sunrise by Nikki Grimes and illustrated by Wendell Minor

Jayden is unhappy about moving from New York to New Mexico where everything is brown and tan. As he takes a walk through his new home, he finds joy in the surprises of the desert. This is a gorgeous book about the wonders of the natural world.

Your Name is a Song by Jamila Thompkins-Bigelow and illustrated by Luisa Uribe

This is a joyous celebration of names. A child meets her mother after school, upset that her classmates and teacher can't say her name. The child's mother helps her appreciate the beauty and uniqueness of her names and of others. This is an empowering and meaningful book that provides a reminder about how important it is to learn to pronounce and to honor people's names. Thanks to the publisher for providing my book review group, #BookExcursion, with a review copy.

Letters From Cuba by Ruth Behar

Esther and her father are refugees in Cuba after leaving Poland in the 1930s. Esther misses her family and worries about them since, being Jewish, it is not safe for them in Poland. As she embraces her life in Cuba, Esther sets out to help her father earn enough money so the rest of her family can travel to Cuba. This story, which is based on the author's own family history, is heart-warming and inspiring. Thanks to the publisher, Nancy Paulsen Books, for providing my book review group, #BookExcursion, with an advanced reader's copy. The book publishes in August.

Shirley and Jamila Save Their Summer by Gillian Goerz

This is a must-have for my graphic novel collection. Middle grade readers who enjoy graphic novels with realistic storylines about fitting in and navigating friendships will enjoy this one. With a mystery to be solved and an unlikely friendship that makes summer a little less lonely, it's a fun and heart-warming read. Thanks to the publisher for a review copy.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Recent Reads

Every Monday, I share books I have recently read. I also participate in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading. To find out what other bloggers are reading, check out the host blogs, Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers, or follow on Twitter at #imwayr.

Recent Reads...

The Camping Trip by Jennifer K. Mann

Ernestine is going camping for the first time with her aunt and cousin. Camping is quite different than what she is used to, but Ernestine enjoys the adventure. This is a realistic glimpse into the world of camping. Those who have been before will be able to relate and those who haven't will be eager to go. Thanks to the publisher, Candlewick Press, for a review copy.

Sulwe by Lupita Nyong'o and Vashti Harrison

Sulwe's skin is darker than that of others in her family and she wishes she could wake up to be like her sister who is lighter than her. When Sulwe learns the legend of Night and Day, she realizes the importance of realizing one's own beauty. This story with its message of empowerment and the illustrations are absolutely gorgeous.

Something to Say by Lisa Moore Ramée

This is a story about facing one's fears, finding one's voice, and learning to be a friend. Jenae is an eleven-year-old who doesn't have any friends and feels pretty invisible at school, but then she meets Aubrey who has a personality that's the opposite of hers and seems determined to be her friend. I loved Janae's character and just wanted everything to work out for her. There is also a social justice component to the plot that's very relevant. Thanks to the publisher and Edelweiss for a digital review copy. The book publishes in July.

Summer Reading Recommendations

If you are looking for a grown-up read to add to your summer reading list, these are two thriller/suspense books that were addictive, couldn't-put-them-down reads.

The Last Flight by Julie Clark

Seven Lies by Elizabeth Kay

Monday, June 15, 2020

Recent Reads

Every Monday, I share books I have recently read. I also participate in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading. To find out what other bloggers are reading, check out the host blogs, Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers, or follow on Twitter at #imwayr.

Recent Reads...


National Regular Average Ordinary Day by Lisa Katzenberger and Illustrated by Barbara Bakos

This book is clever and fun. Kids will be able to relate to Peter's boredom and be amused with his plan to celebrate a new holiday every day. There's a great message about how ordinary moments can be just as special as those that are more celebrated. The illustrations contain a lot of humor. Thanks to the publisher for a review copy.

Tiger Wild by Gwen Millward

Lily blames her naughtiness on her imaginary tiger and after being sent to her room, she runs away with tiger so they can be wild forever. She has fun with tiger, but begins to understand that his wildness can be a bit too much at times. Although she is relieved to find some quiet and calmness, she realizes that playfulness is okay, too.

Rise of Zombert by Kara LaReau and Illustrated by Ryan Andrews

This is the first book in a new middle grade mystery series about a cat who is more zombie-like than cat-like and the girl, Mellie, who finds him in a recycling barrel in her neighborhood and secretly brings him to home. It's a little creepy, but not too scary. There's a cliff hanger ending that will leave readers eager for the next book. This book is under one hundred fifty pages which is a great length for readers who don't yet have the stamina for longer middle grade novels. Thanks to the author and Candlewick Press for an advance review copy. The book publishes in July.

Isaiah Dunn is My Hero by Kelly J. Baptist

After Isaiah's father passed away, his mother started drinking and now his family is living in a hotel. Isaiah still feels connected to his father through the stories he left behind in his journal and their shared loved of writing. The stories give Isaiah hope and fuel his determination to help his family. Isaiah is a character I loved and rooted for. This book touches on many important issues and also shows that teachers may not know the life challenges that some of their students could be facing. Thanks to the publisher for providing my book review group, #BookExcursion, with an advance reader's copy. The book publishes in August.

Summer Reading Recommendation

If you are looking for a grown-up read to add to your summer to-be-read list, this is a book I've recently read and enjoyed.

Sigh, Gone by Phuc Tran

This is a moving memoir by an author who writes about growing up after immigrating to the United States from Vietnam and settling in a small town in Pennsylvania. It's an insightful story about the search for belonging and also a testament to the power of literature to shape who we are.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Summer Professional Reads


There are only a few more days left to the school year before summer vacation arrives. The last three months of this school year have been unlike any other due to the Coronavirus pandemic. More than ever, I feel the need to rest, relax, and recharge this summer.  Along with the summer activities I will engage in to help me make the summer months restful and relaxing, such as going to the beach, biking, and spending time with friends and family, I also plan to enhance my teacher self by reading and learning from the books in my summer reading To-Be-Read Stack. Every summer, I read a few professional books because reading and thinking about new strategies that I can implement within my teaching practice helps to reenergize me for the school year ahead.

Books in my Summer Reading To-Be-Read Stack...


The Brave Educator: Honest Conversations about Navigating Race in the Classroom by Krystle Cobran


Every Minute Matters: 40+ Activities for Literacy-Rich Classroom Transitions by Molly Ness ***


The Joyful Teacher: Strategies for Becoming the Teacher Every Student Deserves by Berit Gordon


No More Teaching Without Positive Relationships by Jaleel R. Howard, Tanya Milner-McCall, and Tyrone C. Howard


Not Light, But Fire: How to Lead Meaningful Race Conversations in the Classroom by Matthew R. Kay


Overcoming Dyslexia: Second Edition, Completely Revised and Updated by Sally Shaywitz and Jonathan Shaywitz


I would love to hear about the books other educators will be reading this summer. What books are on your summer reading to-be-read lists?

***This book is not pictured in my To-Be-Read Stack photo because it has not yet published. I have pre-ordered it and expect it when it publishes in July.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Recent Reads

Every Monday, I share books I have recently read. I also participate in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading. To find out what other bloggers are reading, check out the host blogs, Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers, or follow on Twitter at #imwayr.


Recent Reads...

Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi

This is a gorgeous board book that will be useful for parents and caregivers to start conversations about antiracism with the youngest of readers. Even as an an adult reader, I found it insightful and empowering, so it's really a book for all ages. Thanks to the publisher for a review copy. The book publishes this month.

Brick by Brick by Heidi Woodward Sheffield

This book is about a young boy and the love and admiration he has for his papi. It's also a sweet book about how one's dreams can come true with hard work. Spanish words and sound words make the text interesting and the illustrations, created through collage, are beautiful.

Danbi Leads the School Parade by Anna Kim

Danbi is starting kindergarten and, being new to America, is unfamiliar with the games and activities. It's not until lunchtime when she introduces her classmates to chopsticks and uses her imagination to bring a little magic to everyone's day that she begins to feel like she fits in. In the note at the end of the book, the author describes how her bicultural identity and her own first day of school in America inspired the story. This is a sweet story about new beginnings and the joys of connecting with others.

A Family for Louie by Alexandra Thompson

Louie, a French bulldog, enjoys fine meals at his favorite restaurants all over town, but he always eats alone. When Louie decides he needs a family, he goes in search of one. This is a very sweet story about a dog finding friendship and his forever home. Thanks to the publisher for a review copy.

This Book is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work by Tiffany Jewell and Illustrated by Aurélia Durand

Written for teens to understand racism and the role they want to take on as antiracists, this is another book for any-aged reader. The chapters contain writing prompts that helped me process ideas related to identity, my privilege and antiracist actions. This book is easy to understand and, with lovely illustrations, an engaging read. I hope this book finds its way into many classrooms and educators use it to have important conversations with their students.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Recent Reads

Every Monday, I share books I have recently read. I also participate in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading. To find out what other bloggers are reading, check out the host blogs, Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers, or follow on Twitter at #imwayr.

Recent Reads...


I'm Trying to Love Rocks by Bethany Barton

This is another brilliant book in the I'm Trying to Love... series. It provides a fun introduction to rocks and geology. I imagine lots of readers are going to want to start their own rock clubs after reading this one.

What About Worms!? (Elephant & Piggie Like Reading!) by Ryan T. Higgins

Tiger is not afraid of anything except worms. He seems to be worrying for nothing until some actual worms appear and these worms aren't a fan of tigers (at least they didn't think they were). I read this with first graders and they were amused. This is a book early readers will want to read over and over again.

History Smashers: The Mayflower by Kate Messner and Dylan Meconis

The truth behind the story of the Pilgrims is revealed in this well-researched book. In a conversational and engaging style, this nonfiction book provides details that dispel common misconceptions about the time period in which the Pilgrims left England and arrived in America. There is also information in the book about primary sources and the role they play in understanding history. The history of the Pilgrims and Plymouth Colony is a big part of the elementary social studies curriculum in my state of Massachusetts so I see this as a useful and necessary book. Thanks to Random House Kids for providing my book review group, #BookExcursion, with an advance reader's copy.

We Are Not From Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez

I could not tear myself away from this book. To escape violence, three teens leave their home in Guatemala and travel through Mexico to get to the United States. It's both heart-wrenching and hopeful. The story and characters will stick with readers long after finishing the book.

Summer Reading Recommendation

If you are looking for a grown-up read to add to your summer to-be-read list, this is a book I've recently read and enjoyed.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

I loved Brit Bennett's The Mothers, so I was thrilled when I saw that she has written a second book. In this book, twin sisters, together, leave their small hometown when they are teens. In spite of a close relationship they had growing up, the decisions they make eventually lead them to live different lives apart from each other. The story alternates between the perspectives of each sister and each of their daughters, whose lives intersect with one another. Very well-written and engaging, this is a stunning exploration of family, identity, and race. Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley, I read a digital galley.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Recent Reads

Every Monday, I share books I have recently read. I also participate in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading. To find out what other bloggers are reading, check out the host blogs, Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers, or follow on Twitter at #imwayr.

Recent Reads...


Runaway Signs by Joan Holub and Alison Farrell

School is out for the summer and, led by the two children on a School Crossing sign, the street signs all decide to take their own vacation. They have a fun adventure, but realize the consequences of their actions. Very amusing! Thanks to the publisher for a review copy. The book publishes in June.

When the Storm Comes by Linda Ashman and Taeeun You

Written in verse, this book tells the story of what humans and animals do as bad weather approaches, the storm happens, and after it clears. Even in a storm, the seaside setting of this book is charming and the message about community is sweet. Thanks to the publisher for a review copy.

Starting from Seneca Falls by Karen Schwabach

This historical novel, set in the 19th century, will give readers an introduction to the women's right movement and the historical figures who played a role. The story follows Bridie, an orphan, who runs away to Seneca Falls to escape an abusive family, and gets a job working for Mrs. Elizabeth Cady Stanton. She learns about the importance of Mrs. Stanton's work and begins to realize the implications that fighting for women's rights could have on her life and the lives of others. Thanks to Random House for providing my book review group, #BookExcursion, with an advance reader's copy.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Recent Reads

Every Monday, I share books I have recently read. I also participate in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading. To find out what other bloggers are reading, check out the host blogs, Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers, or follow on Twitter at #imwayr.

Recent Reads...

Ollie and Augustus by Gabriel Evans

Ollie is worried that when he goes to school his dog, Augustus, will be lonely. He tries to find a dog who is compatible with Augustus so that he will have a friend. This is a sweet story about the friendship between a child and his dog with humorous illustrations.

Farah Rocks Fifth Grade by Susan Muaddi and Illustrated by Ruaida Mannaa

Along with her friend, Allie, Farah wants to attend Magnet Academy the following year when they begin middle school. But, when her brother starts to get bullied by the new girl, Farah is determined to protect him even if that means being dishonest and sacrificing what she wants. As she tries to solve her own problems in the best way she knows how, she learns that sometimes it's necessary to reach out for help. This is a story about friendship, family, and standing up for those you care about. Thanks to the author for a copy of the book.

The Next Great Jane by K. L. Going

Jane wants to be a famous writer and wants to learn the secrets of writing from the popular author who is visiting her town in Maine. When Jane's mother unexpectedly arrives in town, she expresses interesting in having Jane live with her in California. Jane would rather stay in Maine and decides to secretly find her father a girlfriend so he seems more capable of being able to take care of her. Jane learns about writing and relationships. This is a charming story of family and unlikely friendship.

Seven Clues to Home by Gae Polisner and Nora Raleigh Baskin

Joy and Lukas became friends in second grade when they discovered they both had August birthdays just days apart. It's Joy's thirteenth birthday and she's still grieving after Lukas died on her birthday the year before. The book alternates between the story of Joy on her birthday, following clues her friend left her, and the story of Lukas, a year earlier, setting out the clues. This is a heart-wrenching, beautiful book about friendship, love, and grief. Thanks to Random House for providing my book review group, #BookExcursion, with an advance reader's copy. The book publishes in June.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Recent Reads

Every Monday, I share books I have recently read. I also participate in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading. To find out what other bloggers are reading, check out the host blogs, Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers, or follow on Twitter at #imwayr.

Recent Reads...


This is Gus by Chris Chatteron

This is a sweet and fun story about a grumpy dog and the puppy who wants to be his friend. The illustrations are charming - the facial expressions of the dogs help to tell the true story of their relationship. There's also sausages which will interest and amuse readers.

The Starkeeper by Faith Pray

A girl finds a star and doesn't know how to take care of it until she realizes that a kind gesture makes the star shine brighter. Her kind gestures inspire the kindness of others. This is a an enchanting story about the difference that kindness can make in the world. Thanks to the publisher for providing my book review group, #BookExcursion, with a review copy. The book publishes in June.

Brave Like That by Lindsey Stoddard

Like Lindsey Stoddard's previous two books this one is heartfelt with characters that work their way into your heart and stick with you. Cyrus wishes he could be braver, more like his father and the fire fighters at the station where he spends a lot of time. As he works through friendships and his feelings about the kind of person he needs to be, he learns important life lessons about what it means to be brave. Add a sweet dog into the mix and this is a pretty much perfect middle grade novel. Thanks to the author for providing my book review group, #BookExcursion, with an advance reader's copy. The book publishes in June.

We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly

This story is set right before the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion that occurred on January 28, 1986. It's about three siblings navigating life as members of a dysfunctional family and working through their personal struggles with school and friendships. The book is relatable and heartfelt, but also gives historical insight. Thanks to the publisher for a review copy.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Recent Reads

Every Monday, I share books I have recently read. I also participate in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading. To find out what other bloggers are reading, check out the host blogs, Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers, or follow on Twitter at #imwayr.

Recent Reads...


Do Not Eat the Game! by Matthew McElligott

This picture book shows that games are fun when there are more players and when everyone follows the rules. The text is written to sound like game directions and the monsters' antics are amusing. Thanks to the publisher for a review copy. The book publishes in May.

A Hatful of Dragons: And More Than 13.8 Billion Other Funny Poems by Vikram Madan

My favorite part of this book is the fill-in-the-blank poem with lists of words to choose from so readers can actually make up billions of different poems. I also love the variety of poems - there's even a rebus and one partly written in comic-book form. These nonsensical, silly poems, some which have a bit of suspense, will surprise and amuse readers.

Baloney and Friends by Greg Pizzoli

After finishing this book, the only thing I am disappointed with is the fact that I can't share it with students until fall since schools will not be reopening in Massachusetts this school year. Early readers will love the graphic novel format and the personalities of Baloney and his friends. The book has three different stories (and a few mini-comics thrown in) and the last one, which is a sweet story of friendship, is my favorite. Readers can also draw the characters by following the directions at the end of the end of the book. This will be a much loved book, so I hope it doesn't take too long for the next one in the series.

Santiago's Road Home by Alexandra Diaz

Twelve-year-old Santiago wants to escape the abuse of his abuela so he decides to head to the United States with a mother and daughter who he has recently met. In the United States, Santiago is separated from those he now considers family and is put into an immigration detention center. This book provides a powerful glimpse into the experience of a child immigrant who is torn from the people who care about him and is at the mercy of an unjust system. Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.