It’s Monday. What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR Pippa Park Raises Her Game

I received Pippa Park Raises Her Game by Erin Yun as a gift in exchange for an honest review for Multicultural Children’s Book Day. This book was a lot of fun! As my first middle grade read of 2020, I think I’m off to a great year of reading. 

Pippa grapples with struggles all middle schoolers will be familiar with. It’s an age of juggling and making sense of others’ expectations for us, all the while finding (or remembering) what makes us US. The importance of friends increases just when it’s harder to figure out who, exactly, they are. And while we try to be separate and independent from family, they still play an important role in shaping and supporting us. 

I’m a fan of Dickens, but Great Expectations may not be the best pitch to MG readers who don’t know what that is. Instead, you could pitch this as a mystery, a friendship story, a mean girls story, or a ‘who am I?’ story. It’s all of those things. This story is for anyone growing up, especially if they’ve started a new school or play sports.

Check it out when it releases on 2/4/2020.



Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2020 (1/31/20) is in its 7th year! This non-profit children’s literacy initiative was founded by Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen; two diverse book-loving moms who saw a need to shine the spotlight on all of the multicultural books and authors on the market while also working to get those book into the hands of young readers and educators. Seven years in, MCBD’s mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves continues. MCBD 2020  is honored to have the following Medallion Sponsors on board.

Super Platinum

Make A Way Media/ Deirdre “DeeDee” Cummings,


Language Lizard, Pack-N-Go Girls,


Audrey Press, Lerner Publishing Group, KidLit TV, ABDO BOOKS : A Family of Educational Publishers, PragmaticMom & Sumo Jo, Candlewick Press,


 Author Charlotte Riggle, Capstone Publishing, Guba Publishing, Melissa Munro Boyd & B is for Breathe,


Author Carole P. Roman, Snowflake Stories/Jill Barletti, Vivian Kirkfield & Making Their Voices Heard. Barnes Brothers BooksTimTimTom, Wisdom Tales Press, Lee & Low Books,  Charlesbridge Publishing, Barefoot Books Talegari Tales

Author Sponsor Link Cloud

Jerry Craft, A.R. Bey and Adventures in Boogieland, Eugina Chu & Brandon goes to Beijing, Kenneth Braswell & Fathers Incorporated, Maritza M. Mejia & Luz del mes_Mejia, Kathleen Burkinshaw & The Last Cherry Blossom, SISSY GOES TINY by Rebecca Flansburg and B.A. Norrgard, Josh Funk and HOW TO CODE A ROLLERCOASTER, Maya/Neel Adventures with Culture GrooveLauren Ranalli, The Little Green Monster: Cancer Magic! By Dr. Sharon Chappell, Phe Lang and Me On The Page, Afsaneh Moradian and Jamie is Jamie, Valerie Williams-Sanchez and Valorena Publishing, TUMBLE CREEK PRESS, Nancy Tupper Ling, Author Gwen Jackson, Angeliki Pedersen & The Secrets Hidden Beneath the Palm Tree, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 by Mia Wenjen, Susan Schaefer Bernardo & Illustrator Courtenay Fletcher (Founders of Inner Flower Child Books), Ann Morris & Do It Again!/¡Otra Vez!, Janet Balletta and Mermaids on a Mission to Save the Ocean, Evelyn Sanchez-Toledo & Bruna Bailando por el Mundo\ Dancing Around the World, Shoumi Sen & From The Toddler Diaries, Sarah Jamila Stevenson, Tonya Duncan and the Sophie Washington Book Series, Teresa Robeson  & The Queen of Physics, Nadishka Aloysius and Roo The Little Red TukTuk, Girlfriends Book Club Baltimore & Stories by the Girlfriends Book Club, Finding My Way Books, Diana Huang & Intrepids, Five Enchanted Mermaids, Elizabeth Godley and Ribbon’s Traveling Castle, Anna Olswanger and Greenhorn, Danielle Wallace & My Big Brother Troy, Jocelyn Francisco and Little Yellow Jeepney, Mariana Llanos & Kutu, the Tiny Inca Princess/La Ñusta Diminuta, Sara Arnold & The Big Buna Bash, Roddie Simmons & Race 2 Rio, DuEwa Frazier & Alice’s Musical Debut, Veronica Appleton & the Journey to Appleville book series  Green Kids Club, Inc.

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

Co-Hosts and Global Co-Hosts

A Crafty Arab, Afsaneh Moradian, Agatha Rodi Books, All Done Monkey, Barefoot Mommy, Bethany Edward & Biracial Bookworms, Michelle Goetzl & Books My Kids Read, Crafty Moms Share, Colours of Us, Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes, Educators Spin on it, Shauna Hibbitts-creator of eNannylink, Growing Book by Book, Here Wee Read, Joel Leonidas & Descendant of Poseidon Reads {Philippines}, Imagination Soup, Kid World Citizen, Kristi’s Book Nook, The Logonauts, Mama Smiles, Miss Panda Chinese, Multicultural Kid Blogs, Serge Smagarinsky {Australia}, Shoumi Sen, Jennifer Brunk & Spanish Playground, Katie Meadows and Youth Lit Reviews

Words Bubbling Up

There are words bubbling up

Waiting to spill out of me

Like I won’t know what they are 

Until they 


Pouring out in a rush


Be still

Once a few seep out 

Just a leak

Releases the pressure


Quieter now

I can almost hear the words


But less fizzy

As air seeps in



A drop


Into an idea

Finally a sip

#IMWAYR We Hunt the Flame debut by Hafsah Faizal

We Hunt the Flame

Published by Farrar Straus Giroux an imprint of Macmillan

Released May 14, 2019


Saturday night, I dragged myself to bed so tired I couldn’t even imagine finishing the hot, sweet cup of tea I’d just poured. Tucking my legs under the covers I held the book trying to decide if my eyes could even focus on the words. Determined to enjoy at least a few sips of tea, I decided to read a couple of pages. The day had begun shortly after 4:00 AM to drive to nErDcampNJ and had been full to the brim. But now I was near collapse. As the tea dropped below half a mug I realized my mistake. I was in the final quarter of the book. The pace had quickened and every page revealed a conflict more intense than the page before. These were not chapters where I could just stop and rest. The story demanded I finish. Hours later, tea cold, heart racing, I turned the final page. Midnight loomed.

“People lived because she killed.

People died because he lived.”


Debut author Hafsah Faizal’s world building will immerse readers into a desolate land struggling on in the shadow of history. We find our footing in the shifting sands the way Zafira does when first she steps beyond her snowbound land. We crave the sun when it is gone, and bless the moon that brings momentary anonymity and relief from the blazing heat of day just as Nasir does.

Faizal manages to make this epic tale of a quest both immeasurably personal and also of world shattering importance. We Hunt the Flame will draw readers in, captivating them in moments of intense danger. It will also let them glimpse the thoughts of both the Prince of Darkness and the Denementhune Hunter in their complicated dance to claim the magic that has long been missing from their world. The interplay of darkness and light weaves throughout this story. We, all of us, are more complicated than our surface belies. We are not irredeemably bad, nor wholly pure. Ultimately, the title is one of hope–that is, we hunt the flame as a moth seeks out the light in the darkness. We are drawn inexorably toward it.

The glimmer of hope through the darkness of Arawiya served as a much needed glimmer of hope through the haze of current events this week. Go ahead. Indulge in this delectable YA tale. Escape into the shadow of someone else’s history and bear witness as they strive to ensure its future.


#IMWAYR Internment by Samira Ahmed

I can’t stop thinking about this book.

I’m going to need to read it again. And again.

I’m going to be sharing it with everyone whose hands I can put it into.

Because I need to talk this through.


We read fiction to learn how to be human. In these pages we see both the deep human capacity to love and protect, and the similarly large capacity to be hateful…or perhaps worse, to simply turn away. The background details of this novel are plucked straight from our headlines. At times I was taken aback by how on the nose it felt. (I should be taken aback. That’s part of the point.)

Because in these times, we are all being tested. Only in brief moments do most of us even realize it. Because for many of us, despite the headlines, our lives go on. We carry on with the daily ups and downs, things that feel like triumphs or terrors. I, for one, am guilty too often of turning away from the headlines that, for me, are news…but for others are life. As I read, I couldn’t help calling to mind the phrase, ‘banality of evil.’ One of the most terrifying thoughts as I read various scenes in Internment was how ordinary people simply following along could contribute to such injustice or allow it to continue unabated. The woman who had baked cakes for Layla’s family celebrations might be anyone we encounter. The young men in the National Guard could be from any of our communities. The onlookers turning away from an unsettling scene could be us. Our country’s shameful involvement in interring non-white people, including citizens is not old news from a bygone war. As Ahmed points out, brown children have very recently been held in cages and camps. We may have joined the temporary outcry while the headlines flashed across our screens, but how many of us have sustained our outrage? I had to look up Tornillo, Texas today to find out if it was still open. I didn’t know.

Many in the edu community have been talking about the need to refresh the canon. If you’ve been looking for a piece of literature that invites readers to think deeply, to wrestle with big ideas of humanity, to make meaningful connections not only to life but to other notable works of literature, poetry, and philosophy, one that nudges us to reexamine our understanding of history, then this book is more important in this moment than any book in the canon. Students and teachers need to read this book. Communities, citizens, leaders…humans need to read this book and to grapple with all that it raises.

“The people united will never be divided.”

#SOL19 Day 11:Creating a Shared Book Space

Inspired by Susan Kennedy’s recent post (readingteachsu)

When I first arrived at this school, a newly minted reading specialist, the first directive was for me to collect all the books hiding in dusty cabinets and closets and create a centralized space where teachers could find books to use in their classrooms. I started over the summer, sorting books that smelled like the harsh cleansers they shared closet space with. I sorted through grade level sets of what used to be whole class novels. I un-packaged grimy baggies with cassette tapes and matching picture books. Eventually we had half a classroom full of shelves and books by level in sets of six. Behind the wall of bookshelves were nestled the reading tutors. When school began, we held a grand opening where we unveiled a complicated checkout system. That year some teachers used the books.

The book room has reflected the evolution of my own thinking about books and access across the years.

Due to shifting real estate demands within the building, our little book room was moved from the front hallway near my office to the far back hallway of the school. However, we did expand from half a classroom, to a full one. Conveniently, half the shelves were already on wheels and the new organization was, for the most part, just a more spread out version of the previous one. What did change was that I invited students to book shop in the new book room. It transitioned from a professional reading room and lending library, to a big extension of any classroom library. We added mismatched pillows and a few tables to give it a cozy touch. Almost all the books were still in sets of six to accommodate book clubs. The novels and NF were all organized by level. The picture books were organized (as they had been when I arrived) by some set of reading skills that no longer matched the curriculum. No one really used those, because no one knew where to look for a topic that would be of interest. More people started using the book room and its books. In fact, I discovered that far more kids than teachers utilized this resource. When teachers wanted books, they mostly found me in the hall or sent me an email that said, “We’re ready for all the such and such books. You can bring them down to our rooms this week.”

I’m delighted to get the right books into the right hands by any means…but I really wanted to create a space and a community of readers who would want to discover their own books. Over the past few years, I gradually tweaked the book room. Early on, I moved furniture to create a more appealing layout. I shifted leveled bins of books into genre sections. I even decided to scrap leveled bins altogether in the NF section because if I was looking for shark books, shouldn’t there just be a shark bin? As I read and reflected more on book levels, as I interacted with readers who came to look for books (who says, “I’m really feeling like a good O book right now!”?) I shifted chapter books out of leveled bins and into text sets like “Stories about school”, “Get the tissues ready”, or “Don’t read these in the dark!”

Remember I mentioned a complicated check out system year one? We’ve long since had a simple clipboard where readers can sign their own books in and out. Kids and adults can bring books to their classrooms, and even bring them home to read. Have we lost some books that never came back? Yes. Periodically I send out reminders for people to check their backpacks and under the couch. Some come back then, filling up the return bins near the door. When I’m in classrooms during the year, I skim classroom libraries and reclaim a handful of book room books that have set up residence there. But I’m less worried about losing some books than I am about losing readers! The books I can replace or replenish.

ook room picsbook room returns

In the latest book room overhaul, I sorted those picture books onto the same shelves as their longer genre-mates so picture books and novels that address poverty are tucked side by side. Although there’s also a set of shelves for our favorite PB authors and illustrators, because sometimes you want to find a Cynthia Rylant or an Eve Bunting book. I even added corresponding NF bins alongside their historical fiction counterparts so readers can learn more about the time period they’re exploringbook room 4.

book room 6

I’m proud of the space, the collection, and the community of readers that I’ve been nurturing for seven years. Is the book room done evolving? Hah! I doubt it. As I read more middle grade books, as I build an increasingly diverse collection, as I learn more about my readers, I’ll continue trying to make our shared reading space one that meets everyone’s needs.

Next on my list, more kid-created displays for the walls and shelf-ends!

Book room collab space

I love this part of my job!

#SOL19 Day 10: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly–In Reverse

The Ugly

An unseen hit, drove a knee into the boards and a leader to the ice. One player out for the tournament in the very first game. Unable to even stand on it, teammates carried his gear. He left for home before the second puck dropped.

The second game dropped another player, this time a defenseman. This hardy player went down and stayed. Out for the duration, he donned a jacket and supported from the bench.

Where fortunately, he was able to relay information about the third player downed by a vicious hit. Once down, he didn’t move. His mother feared it was his head. Offending player ejected, the bench reassured it was an ankle instead.

The Bad

We hurt ourselves with penalties. Four games played. Three 2 and 10s served, plus various minor penalties setting us short handed for the equivalent of one whole game. Nothing like playing with one hand tied behind your back.

We lost the first three games we played. Gave up a goal within the first minute twice. And scored one measly tournament point.

The Good

Two little brothers invited to play up made contributions to the team. They played with heart against players years older and sometimes twice their size. These Bantams played heads up hockey–attacking the puck, making clean passes, creating space, and setting up plays. One was awarded player of the game the first night. The other scored two of four goals in our only win. Bantams in stature, midgets in spirit.

The boys supported each other in all the ways teammates can. They carried each other after injuries. They skated each other’s shifts. Buoyed each other up after mistakes. Backed each other up in the plays. Set each other up for passes and shots. Took care of opponents who took cheap shots. Bonded over pizza and pool.

The team walked away with a win in the final game of the season. Battling back and forth, trading the lead. Clinched it with an empty net goal in the final minute. And walked out with heads held high.

These boys grew tremendously this year. Stronger. Faster. More certain. But most importantly they grew…together.

They learned to keep their heads–mostly.

They learned to rely on themselves and each other, rather than just one superstar.

They learned to be a team.

So although all the boys are a little banged up (and some more than a little), they’re also standing taller. And while the weeks of rest ahead will help to heal their bodies, no doubt they’ll miss being a team.


#SOL19 Day 9 Full to Bursting

What do you do

When you’re so full

Of news

You’re like to burst

News that isn’t yours to share

News the someone doesn’t know

Dreams or dreads to learn

In case…

It’s not the news you know

What do you do

When you’re so full

Of pride

You’re like to burst?



P.S. Now that he knows, I can share. My son got his high school acceptance letter this weekend. Out of 1800 applicants, he earned a spot as a true 9th grader.

#SOL19 Day 8: Ouch!

Out of the mouths of babes.

I was reading with a student about The Slacker Family. Maybe you know this one. The whole family is so lazy that when they finally realize that all of their clothes are dirty and there are piles of laundry next to some washing-thing, they just buy new clothes.

In the second story, Mr. Slacker is looking for a job. I asked this reader what kind of job she thought he should look for. With some prompting we remembered that he’s lazy so he doesn’t like to work hard. With a little more prompting…

She said, “Well, he could be a teacher. That’s kind of easy.”



Ouch, kiddo. Ouch.


I promise a more upbeat post tomorrow and I’m really excited about Monday’s post! It will be Monday’s post because I realized I don’t have pictures yet…

#SOL19 Day 7: Our Words Matter

Once I got past the outraged mother bear, even in the midst of it, I kept thinking, Our words matter. How many careless words have fallen from me unheeded? And how many people have gone on to hurt because of it?

I arrived home yesterday to discover something was not right. One son was going about his afternoon like usual. But the other was snappish. Then suddenly he disappeared. I found him curled into bed with the lights off and covers up to his ears…at 4:45.

I checked his forehead. No fever. But his shoulders were rounded in on themselves and his chin was tucked low. With a gentle voice and a sense of concern, I avoided asking him what was wrong. Instead I told him I’d check in on him again before dinner, before practice in case he felt up to either. I rubbed his back and left the door ajar so he knew he didn’t have to be alone.

A little while later he appeared at the top of the stairs and trudged down to the dining room table. Two things happened that just don’t happen with him. He sobbed shoulder heaving sobs. And he asked for help.

Gradually, I eased the story out of him.

Just before last period study hall he was walking into his homeroom. Two of his teachers stood in the doorway. One was listing off students’ names to the other. “…Especially that one. They can’t even think…” That one–was my son. He heard the exchange as he, and his friends, his classmates walked by these two adults charged with helping them to learn. Whatever words were spoken, what he heard was They’re stupid.

What I told him was He IS smart. He CAN think. He’s a PROBLEM SOLVER. He’s LOYAL to his friends. Those are all true.

What I thought was No person should be putting others down–though we do. No adult should be belittling a child. And for damn sure, no teacher should be speaking badly of her students–especially not where the child or others could overhear. But she did.

I wondered if she had any idea what an impact she had on my son. I wondered if she would ever realize how that impact spiraled out to the family, because big hurts always do. I wondered how many other kids and families had their evenings upended last night…or all the other nights.

Then I stopped thinking about her and turned my attention back to my son. I’m so proud of the way he recovered enough to get to his last practice before the tournament and to finish the three pages of homework for her class. I’m proud of the way that when someone put him down he didn’t respond in kind. I’m grateful that he was able to reach through his hurt and anger to ask for help, when usually that causes him to push us away. I cherished the hug he gave me before bed last night when he thanked me for being there.

I wish I could protect my boys from all the meanness and hurts they will encounter in the world. But I know my job is to help them believe that they are strong enough to face them, sometimes alone, but sometimes with the support of those who love them. For that I try to leave them with the words that will serve them in difficult moments.

I love you. I’m proud of you. I’m glad you’re my little boy…even though you’re bigger than me.

#SOL19 Day 6: Another 6 Word Story

Inspired by a junk drawer find and a post by a fellow slicer

Mini grandma scissors

Tiny memories of Grandma’s yesteryear projects.


I’ve only ever seen scissors like these in my Grandma’s drawers.

They are memories of sewing projects, the dresses I wore to dances, Halloween costumes, and learning to quilt.

They say, “Measure twice; cut once.”

They mean anything can be re-purposed and given another life. 

Without her, they are the tiniest scissors I’ve ever seen.