Sunday, November 26, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 11/27/2017

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA! 
It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It's also a great chance to see what others are reading right just might discover your next “must-read” book!
Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and I decided to give It's Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children's literature - picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit - join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them. 

Last Week's Book Adventures:
I finished Rhyme Schemer and Solo and Ronit and Jamil by Pamela L. Laskin. Woo hoo! I also read a new picture book I heard about at NCTE, When A Bully Is The President and the Zen Pencils book for kids. I've been telling everyone I know about Zen Pencils because it is awesome! 

Reviewed Last Week:
Click on any picture above to go read my review/post.

Upcoming Book Adventures: 
I'm excited to focus on reading Braving the Wild and Aru Shah and the End of Time this week!

This Week's Reviews:
Check back throughout the week to read these reviews/posts. 

So, what are you reading this week? 
Link up below and don't forget to check out other blogs to see what they are reading!
To help build our community and support other bloggers, 
we ask that you comment on at least three other blogs before you. 
Also, if you tweet about your Monday post, don't forget to use #IMWAYR!

Using My Voice: Standing Up and Speaking Out Even When It's Hard

Since April 2014, when the We Need Diverse Books campaign became a thing, I’ve paid attention more and more to representations of diversity of all kinds in books and other media. It might sound strange, but I didn’t realize how much I was missing diversity in what I was reading and watching on tv and in movies until then. All of a sudden, I saw everything in color instead of grayscale.

It wasn’t until I went to a session on "Finding Diverse Lit for Diverse YA Readers" in support of the We Need Diverse Books campaign led by Cindy Minnich and Sarah Anderson at Nerdcamp in July of 2014 that I realized how much I needed WNDB myself. I wrote about the experience here, how I felt physically ill because I wasn’t sure how the conversation was going to go and how overwhelmed I was to be in a room of people who understood.

To be honest, the We Need Diverse Books campaign helped me look more closely at my own identity. I spent March of 2015 blogging everyday and realizing how important it is for me to tell my story. If you’re interested in reading about my exploration of my identity, this post links to all my posts from that month.  

Since then, I’ve used my voice more and more to speak out about the importance of diversity in books and other media and about the importance of having discussions about race and culture. I’m still getting used to this voice of mine, still learning to trusting it and strengthening my message.

I put it to the test recently when I spoke out against something very important to me. I wish I could be more specific but at this point, I’m choosing not to call attention to the issue and instead, share what it felt like to use my voice.

I went through a range of emotions and as I processed the whole situation, I found that Tracy Chapman’s self-titled album (that I loved back in the 90's) helped me understand what I was feeling. In listening to Tracy’s lyrics, I didn’t feel so alone and I found strength to persevere.

Speaking out and asking people to look more closely at themselves and to reflect on their cultural competence was hard. It meant taking a risk. Being vulnerable. Facing the unknown. But I did it anyway. Here’s a glimpse of what I felt.

Talkin' Bout a Revolution

Don't you know
They're talkin' 'bout a revolution
It sounds like a whisper
Poor people gonna rise up
And get their share
Poor people gonna rise up
And take what's theirs

When I found out about the situation that was happening, I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it. But then I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I realized I needed to speak out. It was time for me to say something. The strength to speak out started to grow.

Fast Car

You got a fast car
Is it fast enough so we can fly away
We gotta make a decision
Leave tonight or live and die this way

I had options. I could let it go and not express my opinion. That would be easiest. Running away was an option too. I could just move. That would be hard to do but it sounded great, just leave everything behind and forget the people who couldn’t see my point. But at the same time, I knew it was time to use my voice. Because if I didn't at least try, of course nothing would change.

Across the Lines

Across the lines
Who would dare to go
Under the bridge
Over the tracks
That separates whites from blacks
Choose sides
Run for your life
Tonight the riots begin
On the back streets of America
They kill the dream of America

I made a choice. I decided to stand up. I wasn’t sure if anyone else was speaking up, sharing their voice, their perspective but I was going to and I was ready. I felt too strongly to not say anything, ignoring it wasn't an option, and running away from the problem wasn't going to work either.

This is where it became real though. I wasn’t sure what the consequences of standing up and speaking out would be. I could imagine, and I did imagine, all sorts of scenarios. It was scary. But I was determined to do it anyway.

Behind the Wall

Last night I heard the screaming
Loud voices behind the wall
Another sleepless night for me
It won't do no good to call
The police always come late
If they come at all

The reality: No one heard me. No one understood my point. No one saw my perspective. Or if they did, no one came to my side. No one stood by me. I was in it alone.

Baby Can I Hold You

But you can say baby
Baby can I hold you tonight
Maybe if I told you the right words
At the right time you'd be mine

It was hard to keep going when I felt alone and invisible. I hoped for someone to see me so I would feel real again. Anyone. And then there was someone who saw me. Another person was also appalled by the situation. Just when it felt like I didn’t exist, one person saw me. And if one person could see me, it was enough to keep going.

Mountains o' Things

Oh they tell me
There's still time to save my soul
They tell me
Renounce all
Renounce all those material things you gained by
Exploiting other human beings

I thought of all the things I would give up. All the things I thought were important. I wouldn’t worry about anything else if they could just see how seriously problematic this one thing was.

Nothing else mattered.

She's Got Her Ticket

She's got her ticket
I think she gonna use it
I think she going to fly away
No one should try and stop her
Persuade her with their power
She says that her mind is made up
Why not leave why not
Go away
Too much hatred
Corruption and greed
Give your life
And invariably they leave you with

I was willing to give up so much but still, no one was listening, I wasn’t getting anywhere. I was done. Spent. Exhausted. Emotionally hollow. I needed a break. I shut down, closed myself off, slept.


Love is hate
War is peace
No is yes
And we're all free

When I woke up, I was mad. None of it made sense. How could people pretend to care about some things when they didn’t about this? Everyone was a hypocrite. Every smile fake. Every promise empty. I lost trust in a lot of people.

For My Lover

And everybody thinks
That I'm the fool
But they don't get
Any love from you
The things we won't do for love
I'd climb a mountain if I had to
And risk my life so I could have you
You, you, you...

I wish I didn't, but I still cared. Was I overreacting? Making a mountain out of a molehill? No one understood. I was weary and not sure who to trust but I was determined to keep going, knowing that I needed to advocate for what I felt was right.

If Not Now...

If not now then when
If now today then
Why make your promises
A love declared for days to come
Is as good as none

Somehow, I felt hope. I had been through so many emotions and even after it all, I believed change had to happen. I tried again. My resolve was deeper than ever and I was steadfast. I could stay the course.

For You

There're no words to say
No words to convey
This feeling inside I have for you
Deep in my heart
Save from the guards
Of intellect and reason
Leaving me at a loss
For words to express my feelings
Deep in my heart
Look at me losing control
Thinking I had a hold
But with feelings this strong
I'm no longer the master
Of my emotions

Just when I thought I had felt every emotion possible...I got to the point where someone else saw me. My heart was buoyed up by their belief. After all this time, someone saw me and my perspective. My emotions were all over the place. It was a sense of gratitude and knowing that it was worth it because I was able to encourage one person to think more carefully about how serious the situation was.

But at the same time I put so much energy into making a difference and I didn’t feel like I had gotten very far. In some ways, I felt like a ghost. As much as I tried to get people to see me and pleaded for them to listen, so many didn’t. Now I’m at the point where I have to decide if I keep trying. Do I keep looking for others who can see me? Or since my voice has been stifled and silenced time and time again, do I give up? Is it worth it to go on?


Standing up and speaking out was not easy. It was scary and isolating.

It’s emotionally draining to want to impact change so badly and not be able to make it happen. I’ve realized that I have to expand my timeline, reassess the steps it's going to take, and figure out how to reinvigorate my belief that change can happen. Even though I want to move mountains, I have to accept that sometimes a teeny shift in the right direction is all I’m going to get.

If this had happened back in 2014 before I had started to unpack my own identity and to look critically at how people are represented in books and the media around me, I’m not sure I would have felt the need to speak up. I hope I would have taken issue with the situation but I can’t say for certain that I would have seen how important it was to bring attention to it as I did.

I’m thankful for experiences that have helped me look more critically at books and media and for people who have helped me find my voice. I hope that by sharing my story others will look more closely at their lives and find their voice to speak out and stand up when they have the chance. I can’t promise it will be easy but I do know it will be worth it.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

JOIN: Celebrating NCTE 2017

Every Saturday, join me as I CELEBRATE This Week 
with Ruth Ayres from Discover. Play. Build.

I'm so grateful for the NCTE annual convention every year because I get to connect with friends who feel like family. It's an opportunity to learn from people who push my thinking and to rejuvenate. I have so many ideas after NCTE that I'm excited to make happen. 

Here's a recap of all the wonderful people I connected with. By the end of the conference, I left knowing that I carry their hearts with me and that's pretty amazing.

 Katie Muhtaris!

 Michelle Hasseltine!

 Jennifer Sniadecki and Jeff Anderson!

 Lynda Mullaly Hunt!

 Gae Polisner!

 Melissa Stewart!

 Roshani Chokshi!

 Jess Keating!

Margaret Simon!

 Kellee Moye!

 Franki Sibberson!

Colby Sharp!


 Shawna Coppola!

Chris Lehman!

Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Matt De La Peña!

Stella Villalba

Leah Henderson!

Gregory Taylor!
Chad Everett!

Alyson Beecher!

Of course, even though I took all these pictures....there were still others who I didn't take pictures with who also impacted me like Pernille Ripp, Donalyn Miller, Katherine Hale, Jessica Lifshitz, Kristin McIlhagga, John Scovill, Brian Wyzlic, Katherine Sokolowski, Travis Crowder, Ruth Ayres, to name a few. 

NCTE, thank you! You rock! I can't wait until next year. I'm already counting down the days. 

Friday, November 24, 2017

What Do You Do With a Chance?

Title: What Do You Do With a Chance? 
Author: Kobi Yamada  
Illustrator: Mae Besom 
Publisher: Compendium Inc 
Publication Date: January, 2018
Genre/Format: Fiction/Picture Book 
GoodReads Summary: This is a story of a child who isn't sure what to make of a chance encounter-then discovers that when you say yes to new experiences, amazing things can happen. 
What I Think: I'm a fan of having a growth mindset and discussing what it means to have a growth mindset...but that doesn't mean living a growth mindset is easy. Doing something new and taking a risk is actually really hard. In fact, I don't think we talk enough about how difficult it actually is. I love how What Do You Do With A Chance? gives readers the opportunity to think about how hard it is. 

I blogged recently about using my voice to speak up and how hard it was because it's important to see how hard it is. I hope people recognize when they have a chance and that they take advantage of any chances that come their way, but I completely understand how hard it is. 

As a mentor text, I would use this book as an opportunity to brainstorm ideas for personal narratives with kids. Sometimes we don't see how important our experiences are in writing. If students can see how their memories are valued, it helps them see themselves as writers. But also, we don't always want to write about a struggle or how it felt. And guess what? Most often, writing honestly about struggle makes the most interesting stories. 

Snatch of Text: "Then I thought, 'Maybe I don't have to be brave all the time. Maybe I just need to be brave for a little while at the right time.' 
Writing Prompt: Write about at time in your life when you took a chance. How did it go? How did it feel? What did you learn from the experience?

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Enticing Hard-To-Reach Writers Blog Tour and Giveaway

     "Do you want to go for a walk?" Ruth stood over me, standing close, an urgency in her voice, like the time was now. 
     "Sure." I stood, making sure my things were settled and followed her outside.
     We were at a Choice Literacy retreat, surrounded by forests with trails and a glistening lake. Ruth and I wandered down a path and into the woods, getting to know each other the further we went. 

     Just this weekend, I walked with Ruth at the NCTE annual convention but this time our feet traveled over the rain-soaked sidewalks of St. Louis. We know each other well now so our conversations are less getting-to-know and more what-do-you-think, what-if, and how-about-this? 

     Even though the kinds of questions we ask each other have changed, the urgency is still there. Ruth is a determined woman and that's one of the many qualities I love about her. She sets the bar high for herself and others and she gets things done. 
     Because Ruth is who she is, this book is a beautiful tribute but also a call to action. She shares how hard the work is, how possible it is, and how necessary it is. Weaving personal stories and professional experiences together in her new book Enticing Hard-To-Reach Writers, Ruth invites us to walk alongside her on this journey of teaching writing. Don't worry, she'll guide the way.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

"We are all changing. This is life - constant change. 
The intent is to move toward better versions of ourselves." (p. 29-30)

"Humans are wired as storytellers. Our brains use story to make sense of the world. Unfortunately, the stories children tell themselves are too often inaccurate." (p. 32)

"Our classrooms may be the last place where healing is possible for some students. Writing workshop may be the only opportunity for their voices to be heard." (p. 34)

"When teachers write, we stop creating assignments and begin cultivating a community. Writers thrive when surrounded by people who write. I know this, so I surround myself with writers. I love to talk with writers about writing. I can't believe how different we all are: I write to a word count, but my friend Tam says she'd never do that; I write at home, but my friend Jen writes at Starbucks; I keep a physical notebook full of sketches and lists and maps and notes, but my friend Franki keeps most of her thinking electronically." (p. 48)
(Hey! I think that's me! I'm Jen and I loooooove writing at Starbucks!)

"When we unlock the writing process of ourselves, 
we become prepared to guide students as they do the same." (p. 49)

"It's a misconception to believe that there are writers and nonwriters, 
that some people can write and others can't.
Everyone can learn to write.
Everyone can put words on the page.
And everyone struggles with wanting to not-write." (p. 57) 

"Writing workshop is the best vehicle for students to become the kind of people who are positive world changers." (p. 67)


Be sure to visit all the stops on the blog tour!
11/13 - Clare & Tammy - Assessment in Perspective 
11/15 - Michelle Nero - Literacy Zone 
11/17 - Leigh Anne Eck - A Day In The Life 
11/20-  Mary Helen Gensch - Book Savors 
11/22 - Jen Vincent - Teach Mentor Texts 
11/27 - Julie Johnson - Raising Readers and Writers

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 08/28/2023

  It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA!   It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a weekly blog hop hosted by Kelle...