Reading Teacher Writes

Sharing a love of literacy with fellow readers and writers


IMWAYR: Aftermath of LibLearnX (It’s a GOOD thing!)

IMWAYR is a weekly blog hop with kid lit co-hosts Jennifer from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers. The original IMWAYR, with an adult literature focus, was started by Sheila at Book Journeys and is now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date. It’s a great way to share what you’re reading and get recommendations from others. We encourage you to write your own post sharing what you’re reading, link up, leave a comment, and support other IMWAYR bloggers by visiting and commenting on at least three of the other linked blogs each week.

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I had such a great time at #LibLearnX23 and I learned so much about books, authors, stories, and awards. This week I start a new phase of reading I named “The Aftermath of LibLearnX.” Don’t worry! It’s a GOOD thing! I have more to read and share!

Since I cannot read EVERYTHING all at once, I chose a few books this week that I know I need right now.

Physical books:

We are Here by Tami Charles and Bryan Collier (Orchard Books, 2023). A beautiful companion for All Because You Matter.

This is a Story by John Schu and Lauren Castillo (Candlewick Press, 2023). This is a School author and illustrator, and my friends, team up again for this heartwarming story.

I Am Ruby Bridges by Ruby Bridges and Nikkolas Smith (Orchard Books, 2023). Ruby Bridges is a legend and Nikkolas Smith illustrated the picture book, The 1619 Project: Born on the Water. Perfect!

When Things Aren’t Going Right, GO LEFT by Marc Colagiovanni and Peter H. Reynolds (Orchard Books, 2023). Peter H. Reynolds is known for his art and positive spirit and this new picture book is FABULOUS. I love the endpapers here.

(You know me: “Picture Books Are Perfect for Middle School.” I will be sharing these with students this week…and beyond!)

You: The Story: A Writer’s Guide to Craft Through Memory by Ruta Sepetys (Viking, May 2023). This will be perfect to share with our middle school writers who are working on narratives right now.

Opinions and Opossums by Ann Braden (Nancy Paulsen Books, May 2023). I cannot wait to read another story by Ann Braden! We loved Flight of the Puffin and this one looks just as good. Don’t you love the cover?

A First Time for Everything by Dan Santat (First Second, February 2023). I finished this and I’m telling you, this one will win awards. This book fully embodies the youth experience: a perfect commentary on middle school, travel, and life itself. (And now I want some Fanta Draft Root Beer.) Newbery 2024? (Colby Sharp, my Nerdy Book Club friend, is predicting already.)

NetGalley: I’m still reading Frozen Peaches — I’ll finish it tomorrow. I love this series by another Nerdy Book friend, Erin Soderberg Downing. I think I would love the Ice Hotel in Sweden, even though I don’t like winter. I’m not listening to anything right now, but I downloaded Finally Seen by Kelly Yang and I’ll start that soon. She’s an amazing storyteller and a lovely human.

It’s Monday! What are YOU reading?


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IMWAYR: The Creativity Project

My plan was to start tomorrow, but I opened The Creativity Project by Colby Sharp tonight after a longer-than-expected drive home from the NCTE annual conference, and fell in love immediately with the structure of this amazing text. I’m sure I’ll read this one quickly again, and later slow down and really ponder the wonder of this amazing project. Colby Sharp is the co-founder of the Nerdy Book Club, so by nature, he is a reader and writer. He asked several authors to supply creative writing prompts for each other, then sent packages to authors with the prompts, asking each to share their writing/creating process. He wanted to share (with his elementary school students) how writers come up with ideas and “observe the way that creativity works.”

Mr. Sharp wrote in the introduction, “A few weeks later, the pieces started coming in, and HOLY SMOKES! I was completely blown away.” As I flipped through the pages tonight myself, perusing the structure of the book, I, too, was in awe of the prompts themselves and the projects that were submitted. For example, author Peter Brown submitted this prompt: “Create something that includes a tree looking out-of-place.” Illustrator Lauren Castillo answered with a drawing of a city scene, and there’s a tree there, looking quite out-of-place.

I can’t wait to read this book deeply and maybe even try something myself. Thank you, Mr. Sharp, for challenging all of us — experts and amateurs —  to create!

(The Creativity Project, by Colby Sharp, and published by Little, Brown and Company, will be out in April, 2018.)



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Writing for the Nerdy Book Club! My Post Today: Book Review

I have problems. You have problems. Our world has problems. Did you know penguins also have problems? I read many books in the year 2016, but Penguin Problems by Jory John and Lane Smith is one of the few books I labeled “5-Star Status.” Everyone loves penguins, right? Maybe, maybe not, but that’s not the only reason you should pick up this picture book masterpiece.
Jory John and Lane Smith are a talented and humorous team. Before you even open the book, you notice that it’s backwards – the title page is actually on the back of the book. The front of the book is visual penguin pattern overload with a twist. Children and adults alike will try to peel the sticker that looks like a gift tag. But don’t! You won’t want to ruin the cover of your new book. The gift of reading fun continues inside the book.
The front cover flap introduces a penguin who bets the reader that he/she won’t finish. Who wants to read a book about problems? Stop right there. Put the book down. You don’t really want to read this book. The end pages are solid black – uninteresting. I recommend turning the pages anyway – see what you find.
You find a penguin lying flat on a snow bank. This lovable, yet annoying main character tells you, the reader, all about all his problems. It’s amazing how many problems penguins have! As you giggle (because these problems become increasingly hilarious as the story continues) you realize that your own overwhelming problems are a matter of perspective. A new character tells the penguin that maybe if he just thinks about life in a different way, he’ll be okay. This is true for all of us.
The wonderfully simple, yet intricate illustrations in Penguin Problems show the texture of snow and cold, making the reader think that maybe this could be part nonfiction. Weaving facts into a fictional picture book story is a talent, and Jory John and Lane Smith nailed it. I turned each page several times to gaze at the snow, the penguins, the South Pole underwater creatures. My eyes squinted when the penguin complained, “It’s too bright out here,” and my eyes widened to follow the hunt as the penguin maneuvered his way through the dark sea.
Perspective is the name of the game in Penguin Problems. Everything from the general consensus that all penguins look alike (“Everybody looks the same as me” is one of the penguin’s complaints), to the humorous point that all penguins waddle (“See?”), to the enlightening message from a new friend, help lead the reader to a new way of thinking.
Think about picking up Penguin Problems by Jory John and Lane Smith for your winter reading enjoyment. I’m sure your own problems will melt away – at least for the duration of the reading!


Thank you to Colby Sharp, Donalyn Miller, and Cindy Beth Minnich for giving me the opportunity to spread the book love with you at the Nerdy Book Club!