3.23.22 Used Book Haul

A few months ago I made an ah-mazing discovery. I found a Barnes and Nobles with a HUGE used book section.

During my first book haul, I was able to snag the following titles for incredible prices:

My first used book stack from Barnes and Nobles.

Element Encyclopedia Secret Signs and Symbols by Adele Nozedar

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

The Woods by R.L. Toalson

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling

Quidditch Through the Ages by J.K. Rowling and Kennilworthy Whisp

On Wednesday night, I took a trip back to my favorite Barnes and Nobles, and let me tell you I was super excited with my finds!

The used Children’s section has such an array of choices. I tend to feel overwhelmed digging through shelves of picture books, so I focus more on the chapter books. There is a good mixture of older and newer titles in a variety of genres. There’s literally something for every reader.

On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer

The first book I grabbed was On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer. I read this book in fifth grade, and re-read it once about ten years ago. This book always stuck with me because it has such a unique plot about friendship. It’s an older book, from 1986, but it’s a quick read with a memorable story. Without giving too much away, two young boys decide to play in the dangerous river.

The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau.

The next book that I added to my pile was The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau. I’m a big The City of Ember fan, and the second book in the series was calling my name. I read it once about six years ago after I used the first book as a read-aloud with my sixth graders. For some reason I didn’t finish the series, but since this sequel popped up out of nowhere I’m taking it as a sign to read all of the books.

Three Black Swans by Caroline B. Cooney

I was definitely having some throwback moments to my childhood reading choices, because along with On My Honor I found Three Black Swans by Caroline B. Cooney, the woman behind The Face on the Milk Carton Series. In middle school, I read the series, along with some of her other works, so I just had to add this one to my book collection.

I did see some other titles that caught my attention, including an Anne Frank book and another about British royalty, so if those are still on the shelves next time I will probably scoop them up.

Next, I hit the used Young Adult section. I will say this is a very small section compared to the others and it’s super random. There can be a whole series on the shelf, but the first book is missing. I tend to stay away from those because I NEED to read a series in order.

The Red Scrolls of Magic and The Lost Book of the White by Cassandra Clare and Wesley Chu

This time I got lucky. If you’ve been a reading my blog over the last five years, you know YA is my fave and that Mortal Instrument is one of my favorite series. I don’t know how I didn’t realize this, but there are more Shadow Hunter novels.

I noticed Clare and Chu on the binding of a hardcover, and in looking at the inside flap noticed Alec’s and Magnus’ names and got excited. The Red Scrolls of Magic and The Lost Book of White (books 1 and 2) were just sitting there waiting for me to take them home :). Now I’m debating if I should re-read/re-listen to the series again before I dive into these two additions.

I can say that this was a very exciting book haul :).

I may have also had a total book nerd moment in the Harry Potter section.

I’m a Gryffindor :). And this super comfy sweatshirt is from Amazon.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading, writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 6-12. For more information head to my website.

Q&A with Author Elly Swartz

Authors are incredible people. They have an ability to create worlds and characters that transport us out of reality. Authors can make us cry, gasp and get angry (sometimes all in the same chapter).

I love that I’ve been able to connect with so many different authors over the years, and truly enjoy being able to share my experiences with all of you.

Dear Student, by Elly Swartz, is a powerful novel about navigating middle school, friendships, family changes and anxiety.

This middle grade novel is so spot-on with what adolescents experience today. Autumn is starting sixth grade. Her best friend moved away and her dad joined the Peace Corp. As she tackles middle school, she encounters friendship troubles trying to juggle two different friends with her social anxiety. Autumn believes in animal rights and finds a way to stand up for her furry friends.

I had the privilege to do a Q&A with Elly about her new book. Honestly, my reader heart wanted to hug her through the screen. Not only did I love the book, but I feel like I made a new virtual best friend with the author. Authors, like Elly, are making big differences in a world that is very scary for so many young readers.

1.       As an author, what is your writing process like? 

All my writing days begin by finding brain space. And for me, that means either walking my pups or, if it’s raining, dancing in my kitchen. I need to put aside of the stresses, worries, and distractions of the day. I need to give the creative process room to breathe. Then I dive in.

If I am drafting a new book, I spend a lot of time getting to know my main character’s heart before I even begin writing. I need to know what they like for breakfast, if they love the rain, are scared of spiders. I need to know all of them. So, I interview them. I want to know everything. And once that happens, I begin.

I write what I know. That’s what I love about the writing process. It’s not linear. I don’t need to color inside the lines. If I know the beginning, I write that. If I know the end, I write that. I trust the process will enable me to fill in the rest as the story unfolds. Once I have a first draft, which I’ve fondly named Swiss cheese – because it stinks and has lots of holes – it’s time to dive into revision. For me, this is where the magic happens. I love revision!

At this stage, I work on my story in one big gulp. I sit all day with my characters. And it’s during this part of the process that I need to ensure that my characters are feeling all the feels. All happy, I’ve written a giant Hallmark card. All sad, well, no one really wants that. And I use emojis to help me get there. I promise, I’m not kidding.

After I write my Swiss cheese draft, I put an emoji at the top and bottom of each chapter. What’s the emotion coming into the scene and what’s the emotion coming out. This way, I can visually cue myself when I need to mix things up.

            Emojis keep me in check and allow me to create a story with true emotional resonance.

Once I go through the story, I rinse and repeat until I feel in my heart that my story is layered, authentic, and has all the feels.


2.       What kind of research did you do for this book? 

I feel that all fiction is anchored in something real. And making sure those details are accurate and authentic is at the heart of my writing. I think it might be the lawyer in me!

I am beyond grateful to the many people who shared their expertise and time with me. In Dear Student, I consulted:

*a pediatric therapist who specializes in anxiety

*a person who specializes in iguanas and snakes (pregnant ones!)

*a congressman who sponsored the Humane Act bill that prevents the testing of cosmetics on animals and those in his office in charge of the bill

*a Peace Corps volunteer

*educators who kindly shared their Spanish translation skills and input with me

It truly takes a village!


3.       What inspired you to write Autumn’s story? 

Much of the inspiration for Dear Student came from readers. Kids who have written me letters, sent me emails, dm’d me and shared their truth. Their anxiety. Their heart. Kids who think brave and strong is reserved for the popular, the loud, and the confidant.

I want these friends to know their voice matters. They can make a difference. I want them to know that it doesn’t matter if they are quiet or loud. Extroverts or introverts. Eat lunch surrounded by friends or tucked into a table in the library. They are strong. They are valued. They are brave.

I want them to know that sometimes we all feel like Autumn. We all struggle to find the right words to say, the right clothes to wear, the right way to be. In our social media world, we often see only the shiny penny version of life. The highly manicured happy moments. But those are just slivers of time. I want them to know we all experience all the feels. Even if you may not see them in the latest videos on Tik Tok.

4.       Why did you feel that Autumn should have social anxiety? 

I love Autumn. She came to me with her quiet introspection, her big heart, and her social anxiety. Autumn is truly a compilation and reflection of so many kids I know and have had the privilege of meeting at school visits. I want my characters to reflect the kids who read them. I want all kids to see themselves on the page.

I write about kids with anxiety because kids have anxiety. And with the pandemic, that anxiety is on the rise. (https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/surgeon-general-youth-mental-health-advisory.pdf)

I want kids to know they are not alone. Recently, I was visiting a school, talking to 200 six graders about Dear Student and Fearless Fred – the part of each of us that fear can’t boss around. And sharing how I saw courage and strength in every one of them. Even if they didn’t. After my presentation, a new friend came up to me. She whispered, “I have anxiety like Autumn in Dear Student.” Her voice shook. “Kids make fun of me.” She inhaled big. “Thanks for writing about someone like me.”

My heart melted.

I truly believe we are all a bit like Autumn. We all have moments where we wonder if we’re saying the right thing, wearing the right clothes, acting the right way. Especially now. Remote living. Remote learning. Masking. Reentry. It’s all hard. Exhausting. And sometimes scary.

Truth is, we are all working on something.

5.       Why did you choose to have Autumn in sixth grade? 

I love this stage. The start of middle school. The start of something new.

Kids are honest and vulnerable. They are discovering their voice and where they fit. They are navigating shifting friendships. And realizing the world is not always right and wrong, but often gray, nuanced, and complicated. Their feelings are big and real.

And I truly think my sixth grade self is reading along with me, wishing she had these stories as she navigated the halls of middle school.

Elly at 12!


6.       How were you able to make Autumn, Logan, and Copper so realistic? 

I love Autumn, Logan, and Cooper. I love their vulnerabilities. And their rockstar qualities. They are a wonderful blend of all of it. The stuff they are proud of and the stuff they are working on. So when I was creating each one of them, it was important to me that they felt all the feels. And that they reflected the authentic lives of my readers. They are layered because my readers’ lives are layered.

Authenticity is at the heart of writing these moments. Authentic emotions and authentic experiences. So when I sit down to write, I try and forget the shoulds and worries of my adult life and wrap myself around the younger me. I need to be that kid again. The one who wondered the halls of middle school with butterflies in her stomach, hoping she could find her way to class, open her locker, and just be herself.

I need to write as if I am my characters. And I know that I’m truly in it when my story weaves itself into every fiber of my being and every moment of my day. For instance, when I was writing Dear Student, the main character, Autumn, flooded my dreams. You see, I wasn’t dreaming about Autumn, I was dreaming as if I was Autumn. My world and hers had become completely enmeshed.

And that is truly when the magic happens on the page.


7.       What do you hope readers take away from this novel? 

I hope readers know their voice matters. That strength and bravery can look a lot of different ways. And that true friends will always be there. As Autumn says, “We don’t have to think the same or believe the same things to be friends. But we do always have to be kind to each other. And respectful of each other.” (p. 255-56).

I also hope readers discover that the most fearless thing they can do is be themselves.


8.       What was your greatest challenge and joy about writing this book? 

I loved writing the Dear Student letters. It brought me back to my middle school self, walking the halls, feeling all the feels. The excitement, the worry, the happiness, the self-consciousness, the cliques, the doubt, and the crushes. It was fun to give advice. I hope it helps my readers as they navigate all the feels.

The most challenging part was writing the friend conflict. No spoilers, but there’s something that happens between Logan and Autumn that hurt my heart to write. It wasn’t how I envisioned the story going. But it was the path the story had to take for me to stay true to the characters.


9.       Do you have ideas for another book? 

Yes! And yay! I have another middle grade novel entitled, Hidden Truths, coming out in 2023. This story is told from dual pov between best friends Danielle – a star baseball player – and Eric – her forgetful, but kind, goofy, crossword-loving neighbor.

Their friendship has begun to shift when a terrible accident happens, accelerating their rift.

At its heart, this story asks how far you’d go to keep a promise to a friend.

I’m also working on a picture book and starting a new middle grade that I am bursting with excitement to write.

Lots more to come. Woohoo!


10.    What advice do you have for young writers?

Read! Read! Read! And then write what matters to you. Because in that space of true authenticity, lies the story of your heart.

Since Elly shared her 6th grade picture, I feel the need to keep it going by sharing mine.

Little Reading Coach in sixth grade 2001.

To meet Autumn and read about her sixth grade experience, click here.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading, writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 6-12. For more information head to my website.

Moneytopia: Earning Book Review

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

I love when I come across books I can use in a real-life situation. As Molly gets older, it’s time for me to start teaching her about money. Today’s book is the perfect way for me to introduce Molly to financial literacy.

Moneytopia: Earning: A Bear, Bunny and Fox Book about Money, by Dr. Shanshan Peer and illustrated by Marta Maszkiewicz, is a picture book that introduces young readers to earning money.

For homework, Bear, Bunny and Fox need to earn money. Each animal approaches the task differently, which was the point of the assignment that the teacher points out.

Right away I was drawn to the name of the town, Moneytopia, and the animal characters. Having three different main characters allows readers to see three different situations, making it more likely that a reader will connect with one of the animals. The illustrations are charming and do a lovely job helping children comprehend the text.

Theme

The theme of this book, the secret of earning money, is broken down into kid-friendly terms. You’ll have to read the book to find out the secret :). Teachers and parents can use this to springboard discussions about earning money.

This is the first book in a series to help young ones learn about money, which is super exciting!

I would recommend this book for readers in preschool- second grade.

To purchase the book click here.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading, writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 6-12. For more information head to my website.

The Magical Envelope Book Review

I love reading picture books because authors are able to convey powerful themes in simple ways to readers of all ages. I know I’ve read a good one when I walk away with all the feels. Today, I’m excited to share a book that gave me the warm and fuzzy feeling.

The Magical Envelope, written and illustrated by Nathenial and Delilah Adams, is a touching picture book about the importance of kindness and thinking of others.

I was scrolling through Facebook the other night, when I saw a post in a local moms group about two children who just published their first picture book. Being the book nerd that I am, I instantly messaged the mom and let her know I would be reviewing this new book. These two young authors are incredibly talented, and truly have bright futures ahead of them.

The book shares with readers the story of two twins, Nathenial and Delilah, who believe in helping others. Their Daddy is a soldier and is away, so the children send him cards with pictures and drawings. The twins decide to make cards for all of their Daddy’s friends and send them off with the mailman, only to discover that the card for their Daddy was still at their house! With a little bit of magic, the envelope goes on a journey to make sure Daddy gets a card.

First, I LOVE that this book has a little dash of magic. I felt this went along wonderfully with the plot because it truly embodies the hope and positivity that kindness can give others. The magic does not change the message or detract from the overall feel of the text.

The illustrations are engaging and highlight the important ideas in the story. I found myself looking at each one after I read a page. The magical envelope is whimsical and friendly, and reminds me of a character from Blue’s Clues.

The Characters

Nathenial and Delilah are so kind-hearted and thoughtful. They show children little acts of kindness go a long way. From helping to carry groceries, to making cards for our troops, no act is too small.

Kindness

The theme of kindness is seen throughout this children’s book in the actions of the characters. Helping others and spreading positivity are expressed constantly, showing readers how impactful our actions can be to others.

This book also offers a craft for readers! Kids can make their own magical envelope by folding a picture included in the back. I can’t wait to do this craft with Miss Molly.

Just like the characters in the book, the authors themselves have hearts of gold. They are donating 10% of all book sales to MSAWI Organization in honor of their brave fallen hero, Major Stuart Adam Wolfer.

I recommend this book for all families.

To purchase this book click here.

To read more about these amazing young authors, check out this article.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading, writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 6-12. For more information head to my website.

AfterMath Book Review

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

I remember being in fourth grade when Columbine happened. I was in my second year of teaching when Sandy Hook happened. School shootings are true tragedies that affect those involved the rest of their lives.

AfterMath, by Emily Barth Isler, gives readers an inside look at grief, loss and devastation surrounding family, friends and gun violence.

Lucy is a seventh-grade girl who is moving to a new town after her little brother, Theo, dies from a heart condition. She moves to Queensland, Virginia, a town who experienced a school shooting in the elementary school a few years ago. She is the only student in her grade who was not part of that horrific day, but she is also grieving.

First, I must mention that I really loved the concept of this text. Typically, we read writings of the actual events that happen, but in this case, we see the ‘after’. We see how families, students, teachers, and the community grapple with tragic events that can never be forgotten.

I enjoyed the writing style of this book. I read it in two sittings and was thoroughly engaged. I love that there are little math questions and jokes, which emphasize Lucy’s need for definitive, black and white answers at this time. The point of view of Lucy is extremely effective. Readers of all ages can connect to being the new kid, experiencing loss, dealing with parents, and making friends.

Throughout the book, the theme of grief is seen in multiple ways.

Lucy’s grief. Lucy internalizes her feelings. She keeps her thoughts and emotions hidden not only from her new classmates, but also her parents. She doesn’t tell anyone at school about Theo because the teachers and students are already dealing with their own losses, and she doesn’t want it to seem as though she is competing with that. She doesn’t tell her parents because she has always had to be the ‘easy’ child. She gets good grades and does what is expected of her to make life easier for her parents. Also, her parents don’t communicate their feelings and memories of Theo, so the three of them constantly have an elephant in the room.

School’s grief. Lucy’s classmates react to their grief and loss differently than she does. They discuss the events and their feelings openly and matter of factly. They frequently bring up the shooting, their therapy sessions, injuries and emotions to one another to cope. The bond the school community has is supportive and loving.

The comparisons between the two situations shows readers that coping comes in many forms, depending on the individual and situation. Regardless of how someone grieves, we need to be supportive and understanding. Communication and honesty are also important aspects of the grieving process.

The theme of friendship is also seen in the story when Lucy befriends Avery, the girl no one notices. I don’t want to give away parts of the plot, but the author demonstrates to readers that kindness, standing up for one another, forgiveness and trust are all vital parts in a true friendship. Sometimes doing the right thing can be uncomfortable, but we must listen to our hearts and guts.

I would recommend this book for readers in sixth grade and up because of the mature topics. I can see this being used in a classroom as a whole class novel, especially since the author included some thoughtful discussions questions that highlight the themes in the text.

I would also like to add that this is the author’s first novel, which surprised me. Her writing is poignant, honest, supportive and loving. I could feel her warmth towards families affected by school shootings throughout my reading. I can’t wait to see what this talented writer does next.

To purchase the book click here.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading,  writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 6-12. For more information head to my website.

Avoid the Summer Slide: Tips for Parents

There’s just a special kind of vibe during the summer. The laid-back atmosphere allows our minds and bodies to relax and take a break. Kids of all ages take this opportunity to go swimming, hang out with friends, and not worry about the pressures of school.

However, while it’s important to take advantage of this time to rest and re-set, it’s just as important to keep kids academically engaged to some capacity.

The summer slide is a term used to explain learning loss that takes place over the summer.

Each family and child is different, so luckily there is no one way to avoid the summer slide. When choosing learning activities for your child, there are a few ideas to keep in mind.

  1. What are some areas of weakness that my child has?
  2. What is my child interested in doing?
  3. How much time do I want my child to spend doing “school work”?
  4. Do I want a specific schedule?
  5. Do I want to do activities with my child?
  6. Do I want my child to do activities independently?
  7. Do I want to invest in workbooks, books, camps, tutors, etc.?
  8. Are there local learning opportunities near me?

Some parents choose to do “school” in the mornings Monday-Friday, while others choose to do weekly tutoring sessions (for more information on tutoring check out Virtual Tutoring Services). Kids of all ages should spend 20 minutes each day engaged in learning activities.

Once you get a better idea of what you want for your child, it’s time to pick some activities!

Assignments.

Activity Books. These are fantastic go-to products for parents because there is no prep work involved and there are answer keys :). There are TONS of options for parents to choose from so you can find exactly what you’re looking for. I always recommend that parents get workbooks for the grade their child was just in. Why? To ensure there are no learning gaps and to prepare for the upcoming year. Of all the different workbooks out there, the following three are my personal recommendations.

  1. Spectrum. I’ve been using these books with my students for the last decade. They are easy enough for kids to work independently and cover all the skills required for each grade level.
  2. Flash Kids Editors. I’ve seen this series for years, but it wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I really took a close look at these workbooks. I really like that these activities are more application based, so students are using a variety of skills on each activity, especially for writing. They are also available as individual subjects, whole curriculums and test prep, so there are options for P-8 students.
  3. Summer Bridge Activities. These workbooks are geared towards helping students make the transition to the next grade during the summer. The activities are meant to be 15 minutes long so the tasks don’t feel overwhelming.

Summer Reading Assignments. For older students, there are usually school assigned activities that need to be completed before the first day of school. Many times this includes reading a book, taking notes, writing an essay, etc. Summer assignment information can usually be found on the school’s website. My best piece of advice with summer assignments is don’t wait until the last minute! Sometimes the book choices can be challenging, so it’s important that students have enough time to read and complete any tasks. Reading the SparkNotes versions of the texts aren’t usually enough to complete assignments.

Travel

Vacations. One of the amazing aspects about literacy is that it’s everywhere! You just have to know where to look for it. Instead of using GPS, spend some time showing your child how to read a map and help he/she plan your route. If you’re going to a place like Gettysburg, do some research as a family about the area before you get there. During road trips, playing the Alphabet Game is fun ways to practice letter recognition skills.

Day Trips. Taking the time to go to different places helps build a child’s background knowledge that will be used the rest of his or her life when it comes to reading. Local towns have historical landmarks, festivals, and events throughout the summer that kids of all ages can learn from. There are also destination locations that can be fun and educational. For instance, growing up we went on a day trip to Crystal Cave and learned about stalagmites and caves. On these outings, read any information you come across (plaques, brochures, etc.) and listen to the tour guides.

Read

Independent reading. This is the easiest go-to avoid the summer slide activity. Kids can read anywhere, so always make sure to pack them a book. When choosing a great summer reading book for kids, take advantage of lists provided by local libraries or ones created by teachers. I’m currently LOVING book lists by Imagination Soup because of the different search options and book descriptions. Libraries and companies like Scholastic have summer reading challenges that add an extra layer of fun.

Read-aloud. I’ve always been a fan of read-alouds, in my classroom and home. With the flexibility of summer, reading aloud can happen anywhere and any time. Take a blanket into the yard and have a picnic while reading a chapter or two. While waiting in traffic, have your child read to you from the read-aloud book. Audiobooks are fantastic for family road trips.The reading possibilities are literally endless. For read-aloud ideas check out Reading Aloud Resources for Parents.

Whatever activities or learning opportunities you and your family participate in, remember to still use summer to have fun and relax.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading,  writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 6-12. For more information head to my website.

Smallest Kid in the Class: Resources for Talking to Kids About Being Short

“Mommy, [Max] says that I’m a baby. He doesn’t believe I’m four.”

One day, Molly came home saying that her classmates think she’s a baby because she’s so short. As a mom, I had a little moment of panic, not going to lie. Molly is a sensitive kid and she has an incredibly accurate memory for remembering what people tell her. I knew she would remember my explanation and we would most likely have this talk multiple times over the years, so I had to set the foundation.

I’m 4’10”. Both of my parents are short, and my sister is also under five feet tall. So, it’s really no surprise that my daughter is the smallest girl in her preschool class. Growing up, I was picked on about my height, but I never really let it bother me. My mom proved to us multiple times over the years that being short doesn’t hold us back in life, and because of this I never felt self-conscious about being vertically challenged.

I told my daughter that there is nothing wrong with being short. I knew I would revisit this with her again, but I needed to think how I wanted to have a more in-depth conversation.

I spent some time thinking about appropriate resources for talking to my preschool-aged daughter about being short. All of the small characters show audiences that being short does not mean life has to be limited.

Reading Molly her first book, Madeline, in 2016.
  1. Being So Small (Isn’t So Bad After All) by Lori Orlinsky. I had the absolute pleasure of reviewing this book a few years ago (Being So Small (Isn’t So Bad After All) Book Review)and knew I would be using this book in the future with Miss Molly. I love that this book highlights the positive aspects of being small in a kid-friendly way with adorable illustrations.
  2. Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans. This was the very first book I read to Molly and it’s always been a personal favorite of mine. This past weekend we had a binge fest and watched the cartoon TV show from the late ’80s (currently on Amazon Prime). To say Molly loved it was an understatement. After hearing Madeline’s song, Molly declared that she wants to be like Madeline. The books, show and movie all show young children that size doesn’t put limits on someone. There are still so many adventures to be had, regardless of height.
  3. Disney/Pixar characters. There are sooo many reasons why I love Disney, such as the use of diverse characters. The following movies and characters continue to support the positivity of being short. RatatouilleRemy, a rat, not only breaks away from his family’s expectations, but pursues his dream of becoming a chef. I love how Remy uses creativity to cook in a real kitchen to reach various utensils and ingredients, showing viewers that there are ways to work around obstacles. Edna from The Incredibles and Incredibles 2. There is no stronger minor female character than Auntie Edna, in my opinion. Her self-confidence is clearly seen as she takes charge, especially with Jack Jack. She demonstrates that short statured women can still stand their ground next to successful and intimidating men. Mike Wazowski from Monsters Inc. Did you just hear Boo’s voice, too? I love how the filmmakers add a sense of humor to being short. Whether it’s when Sully picks Mike up by the head, or when Mike’s eye is covered during the TV commercial, height is embraced in a loving and fun way.

While it’s a great idea to use these resources when talking to young children, it’s important to remember to follow-up with an open discussion. Ask questions about how characters are feeling, why they made decisions and what this teaches us. Personally, I would also include some of my own personal stories from my childhood to help show Molly that I truly understand how she feels. Every child is different, so always keep that in mind when having conversations.

To this day, many times I’m still the shortest in the class and I wouldn’t change it :).

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading,  writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 6-12. For more information head to my website.

Taking Up Space Book Review

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

Speaking from my own experiences as a middle school teacher, these are without a doubt some of the most difficult years for kids. It’s the in-between stage where puberty is happening, friendships are changing, and kids start to pull away from their parents. Every child reacts to these situations in different ways as he/she tries to grapple for control of some aspect of life.

Taking Up Space, by Alyson Gerber, is an honest middle school novel about friendship, family and disordered eating.

This is the second book I’ve read and reviewed by the author (check out my thoughts on Braced), and I LOVE the writing style!

In Taking Up Space,Sarah is an eighth grade basketball player who dominates on the court, until puberty hits and she suddenly doesn’t know how to use her body the same way. She’s trying to fit in with the rest of the team, learning to cook for a YouTube competition with her crush, and dealing with her family insecurities. Using information from health class and her mom, Sarah tries to take control back by participating in disordered eating.

First, the writing style of this book is absolutely spot on for a middle school student. The vocabulary and sentence structure are grade level appropriate and don’t feel overwhelming. The descriptions are effective and easy to follow, making this ideal for younger YA readers.

Characterization of Sarah

Sarah is an extremely relatable character for middle school girls. She’s learning to navigate the waters of liking a boy and dating, trying to juggle being a good friend and needing a friend, and learning about herself as she starts puberty. Gerber has a gift of getting inside a middle schoolers head and putting their thoughts on paper.

Sarah shows readers true vulnerability through her challenges as she dives into the world of disordered eating. Her raw emotions will resonate with readers because every kid experiences them at one point. Her lack of self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-love are authentic and remind students that they are not alone with their feelings.

Themes

YA novels focus on themes that middle and high school students encounter in real life. Taking Up Space does a phenomenal job on hitting some really difficult themes for this age group.

Theme of family. From the beginning, we know that Sarah’s mom has a very different relationship with food than other parents. She only buys what she wants on a daily basis, and never cooks anything with lots of carbs. Sarah feels self-conscious about her mom, especially when her friends come over and they want to eat lots of junk food. She is unable to have open conversations with her mom about every day situations, let alone big challenges she’s facing. Sarah’s dad is a pillar of strength by taking Sarah out to eat, asking her for a grocery list, and listening to her problems. Without giving too much away, both of Sarah’s parents provide her incredible support and love that make a huge difference as she tackles her problems.

Theme of friendship. Sarah has two best friends, Ryan and Emilia, that she relies on throughout the book. As is typical for middle school girls, there is some drama between Sarah and Emilia over a boy. Emilia also turns into a mean girl towards Sarah by saying cruel comments to other girls on the basketball team. However, Sarah’s friendship with Ryan is truly a saving grace with her disordered eating. These situations reinforce the importance of friendship, and reminds readers that trust and honesty are vital to lasting friendships.

Disordered Eating

Middle school years are anything but easy. From raging hormones and worrying about friendship problems, surviving these years can be extremely challenging for many students. For the first time, teenagers are experiencing physical, emotional and mental changes all at once.

Sarah is one of these adolescents. She is looking for answers to problems she has never had before, and using information that she has easy access to. She really doesn’t realize that disordered eating can be harmful, showing her innocence that is typical of girls this age.

Usually, YA books focus on anorexia and bulimia, but this novel introduces readers to a different type of condition. For me, I had honestly never heard of disordered eating until reading this novel. Like other readers, we only really hear about anorexia and bulimia, so I found it extremely eye-opening to gain insight into the point of view of a student experiencing disordered eating.

Gerber approaches this subject with grace, honesty and clarity. The explanations are clear and can easily be comprehended by middle schoolers (which is not an easy task). Through Sarah’s voice, we feel her struggles and emotions, and can see how and why individuals turn to disordered eating as a solution. Readers will naturally feel sympathy towards Sarah and will accept her without judgement.

I recommend this book to parents, teachers, and counselors of middle and high school parents, along with students in grades 5-8.

To purchase the book click here.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading,  writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 6-12. For more information head to my website.

Caviar Dreams Tuna Fish Budget Book Review

I LOVE The Real Housewives franchise. I can honestly say I’ve spent an insane amount of hours binging these shows over the last ten years. As a Jersey girl, I’m automatically drawn to the NJ housewives, and as a small business owner I was really excited to see how these women tackle business in the Garden State.

Caviar Dreams Tuna Fish Budget: How to Survive in Business and Life, by Margaret Josephs, is spunky, authentic and inspirational to all women.

On the RHONJ, Josephs comes out with an incredible sense of humor, a ton of honesty and an over-the-top personality. As I was reading her autobiography, I could seriously hear her voice in my head the whole time, and I truly loved it! She has a way of being blunt with humor that I have yet to encounter in any other work, and nothing is off limits. She owns her actions and decisions while keeping a smile on her face.

Childhood

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized how much our childhood shapes us. Josephs did not have a typical past, as she has expressed for years on the show, but reading about her experiences with her mother, Marge Sr., left me with an incredible amount of respect for this woman. I don’t want to go into too much detail because a lot of the stories build on previous events, and honestly you need to read them through Josephs’ words and not mine. Many times people will spend time blaming their parents and holding grudges, but the author loves her mother unconditionally, and her maturity and acceptance are to be admired.

Women in Business

I come from a family deeply rooted in family business on both sides. My paternal grandmother owned a pool business for fifty years, that she started with my grandpa from nothing. My mom has started multiple small businesses since I was five years old, so I have seen women in business first hand.

Josephs’ business journey was eye-opening for me. She openly and honestly recounts situations she was placed in from her first job until present day because she was a woman in the business world. There was no Me Too Movement in the ’80s, and it’s clear that women were treated differently than men. When she stepped out of the business world to be a mother, I could personally relate because of my own life choices.

Her drive and ambition to be a good mom and have a career are inspirational. She literally started a multi-million dollar business from her kitchen table. I had no idea she was the one behind the monogramed colorful clipboards during the 2000s (I worked in retail at the time and totally sold those products), and I didn’t realize how truly intelligent she is at spotting “the next big thing”. Her natural business abilities are to be admired. Yes, she has made mistakes, but many of those came from not being treated as an equal in the business world because she’s a woman.

I also LOVED how she gave kudos to her team throughout the book. She is extremely humble and acknowledges those who have helped her along the way. It was really interesting to see how she operates her business since the show doesn’t go into as many details as her book. As a business owner, Josephs taught me a few things and has given me more confidence in myself.

Life Lessons

My absolute favorite part of this book were the life lessons at the end of every chapter. The teacher in me LOVED that Josephs included main idea statements about the chapter, but the reader in me appreciated the wording of each one. The lessons are meant to be straightforward reminders for readers about life. I really wish she would create a calendar with her life lessons :).

Personal Takeaways

Josephs leaves on impact on readers that can’t be ignored. Even though there is lots of humor and f-bombs, the messages she’s getting across are extremely important.

Don’t judge. It’s easy for viewers to judge someone on TV. It’s easy for a friend to judge another friend’s actions. However, unless you walk in that person’s shoes, you have no idea the reasons behind the decisions. Josephs had an affair, but as she says, people don’t leave a happy marriages.

Love yourself. It is possible for a woman to be a good mom and a business woman. It is possible for women to be strong in the business world. Trusting our instincts and following our hearts to what makes us as women happy needs to be a priority in our lives.

Who cares what people think. This one is a biggie. Too many times women stay in situations, or avoid confrontations because we are afraid what other people think. Once we realize that other people’s opinions shouldn’t (and don’t) matter, the world is full of even more possibilities. Don’t let someone else’s opinion keep you from doing you.

I recommend this book for moms, women in business, fans of the show and those who read Open Book by Jessica Simpson. Yes, there are some additional tidbits from the show, but that is not the focus on the book.

To purchase the book click here.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading,  writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 6-12. For more information head to my website.

Fadeaway Book Review

As a teacher, I always try to read a variety of book so I can make recommendations to my students. With the end of the year on the horizon, I have more time to read, so I made a fantastic Amazon book purchase. I’ve been a little out of the reading loop over the last year, so I really focused on new(er) releases. I usually have my tutoring students read a novel during our summer sessions and I wanted to find the perfect book for middle and high school boys. Not only did I read this perfect book, it just came out in March!

Fadeaway, by E.B. Vickers, is a realistic young adult novel about basketball, love and addiction.

Summary

Jake is a senior in high school who is the star of the basketball team with his fadeaway move. He has just won the state championship for his team, but instead of celebrating at his coach’s house he disappears without a trace. His little brother Luke, best friend Kolt, teammate Seth and ex-girlfriend Daphne play roles in trying to find Jake.

The majority of the story revolves around basketball. During summer ball in sixth grade, Coach Cooper tells Jake, Kolt and Seth that he plans for them to win state championships their senior year. He gives them an intense pep talk that ends with, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”This lays the ground work for Jake’s life on and off the court as he dedicates his life to football, basketball and baseball. Jake’s world is turned upside down when he suffers an injury and he starts taking prescription pain killers.

First, I have to say that I am in love with the cover! Just like the title states, some of the letters pop and others fade. I just think it’s super creative and eye-catching.

The structure of this story is similar to Wonder, in that it’s told from multiple perspectives, but almost every chapter alternates between the characters. Usually, I’m not a fan of this constant switching, but in this case it really helps build the suspense in the story and I couldn’t imagine it being written any other way.

Themes

My favorite aspect of this book is the portrayal of realistic relationships.

Friendship is one of the most prevalent themes in this story. That day in sixth grade, Kolt and Jake become best friends because they have connections. Kolt’s older brother is an addict and Jake’s father was an alcoholic. Kolt and Jake are the typical best guy friends we usually read about in YA novels, always looking out for one another and making teenage boy comments.

The romantic relationship between Daphne and Jake is the definition of teenage love: pure, honest and supportive. While we don’t see a lot of this relationship, the little glimpse that we get shows a realistic teenage love complete with binge watching Netflix, helping each other with basketball and homework, and being together as much as possible. They don’t have drama, but they do tackle some serious real life issues that lead to Jake breaking up with Daphne out of nowhere. Personally, I love that their relationship isn’t based on physical acts, but rather being there for one another.

Sibling love is an incredibly powerful theme throughout this book. Luke idolizes Jake, and Jake wants to be a great role model for his younger brother. The two of them keep the lines of communication open by writing back and forth in a notebook (which I LOVED). Luke is actively involved in the search for Jake, and gives information that helps spark a development in the case that Daphne and Kolt investigate along with the twelve year old.

While there are lots of different types of love in this book, there is one major concept that is deeply explored: addiction.

Vickers does an incredible job in describing many aspects of addiction. Readers learn how it starts, how Jake realizes he needed help, and the direction that Jake’s life will take in the future. Through Jake’s character, readers see that addiction can be hidden from those closest to a person and anyone can struggle with this disease (teenager or adult). The pressures Jake feels of not being enough will resonant with young adults who can relate to the stress of athletics or academics.

I recommend this book for young adult readers (especially boys) in grades 7 and up, and for parents of high school students.

To purchase the book click here.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading,  writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 6-12. For more information head to my website.