First Week Back


As the first day of school crept closer and closer, I began to have second thoughts. Can I really commit to book-talking every day for 180 days? How will I find time in my schedule? Will teachers welcome me into their classrooms? 

Yes. Yes I can. One hundred and eighty book talks is a lot. But it’s not impossible.

Just like learning to ride a bike, after I started talking about my first book, it came right back to me. Monday was a good day to start with  Real Friends by Shannon Hale.

Real Friends

In fact, I didn’t even wait until the first day of school to talk about this one. It is that good.  I told every 4th and 5th grader about the book while looking up bus numbers during registration.

I was never popular in school. I always felt like I was on the outside looking in. I never felt pretty. My home life alienated me from all of the seemingly “normal” kids in my class and I was certainly never part of “The Group”.

This book is a good pick for any girl struggling to find her place to fit in when she has been left out. Hale captures the raw emotion of coming of age in her graphic novel, and like it or not, she will take you right back to those early, awkward years of trying to figure out your place in the crowd.


Now that I was warmed up, I dove right in on Tuesday with The Iron Trial: Magisterium #1 by Holly Black. Nominated for the 2017-2018 Volunteer State Book Award and on our Battle of the Book’s list, when I decided to do the #180booktalkchallenge I knew I would book-talk this one.

The Iron Trial (Magisterium, #1)

Having gone to Harry Potter World at Universal Studios, not once, but twice this summer, I was in the mood to read a good book about magic. Callum Hunt does everything within his power to fail The Iron Trial. Except he fails at failing. Where Harry longs to find a home at Hogwarts, Callum dreads his stint at the Magisterium. Nothing good will come of it, or so his father says. Adventure, dark arts, friendship and failure are all sure to please with this one. Give this to students looking for a follow-up to the Potter series.


The first day of inservice, I got my staff involved in a project to let students and families know a little bit more about ourselves. We all took a picture with our favorite children’s book and created a “trading card” with it. We included some fun facts about ourselves and my library assistant and I printed and hung all of the trading cards in a display at the front of the school. This is the book I chose for my trading card.


Like many people, I was very familiar with Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia. I read The Great Gilly Hopkins for the first time when I took Children’s Literature during my undergraduate program at Kansas State University.

While I was never placed in a foster home like Gilly, I narrowly avoided it. I was around the age of eleven when my brother and I were sent across the country from Pheonix, AZ to live with my aunt and uncle in Hutchinson, KS. My mother had left when I was a newborn and my father was struggling with drug addiction and could no longer care for us.  The state granted my aunt and uncle guardianship of my brother and I, effectively handing us a new set of parents we didn’t ask for. While I am incredibly grateful today for their open hearts and home, I was less than enthused as I was navigating the rocky seas of pre-adolescence.

It’s hard to talk about my childhood with my students because, well, I didn’t really have a happy childhood. It was hard, we struggled, and our family unit didn’t look like others. Growing up I often felt no one had a family like mine. I felt isolated by my parent’s problems and as a result I often acted out much like Gilly. As an adult I now know that many people share a story similar to mine. In the end, I worked up the courage to book-talk this one and felt a little bit freer for doing so. If sharing a snippet of my story and this book touched even one of my students, then it was worth it.


On Thursday I shared another nominee for the Volunteer State Book Award and recipient of the Newbery Honor Award, The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. Having read Jefferson’s Sons during my years as a middle school librarian, I knew my students would be enthralled with this one.

The War that Saved My Life (The War That Saved My Life #1)

I asked my fourth graders to imagine they had spent their entire life inside a one-bedroom apartment with only a window to look out onto the streets of London. I then asked them to imagine a war was brewing and soon their city would be seized by bombs. I then asked them to imagine they could only crawl and had never learned to walk because of a club foot. What would they do? How would they escape the war?

I didn’t need to say much more about this book. Discussion immediately erupted at their tables and hands shot up asking when they could check out this book. This timely read will be a new favorite for fans of historical fiction and unlikely heroines.


This summer I was fortunate enough to travel to my first International Literacy Association conference in Orlando, FL. The first morning of the conference I sat in on Gene Luen Yang’s session on Reading Without Walls (more on that to come in another post). Yang talked about growing up as an avid reader of comic books that were largely void of characters that looked like him.


As National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, I was familiar with Yang’s work because his series Secret Coders is a frequent flyer from my graphic novel section.

Last year our library participated in our first Hour of Code event and we opened up a MakerSpace where we explored coding with Ozobot, Dash & Dot, Scratch, and Having no experience with computer programming, I relied on my students to teach me as much, if not more, than I could teach them.

Before I could get too far into my book-talk with my students, several chimed in to tell me about the book. They love solving the logic puzzles and the graphic format is a fun way to learn the basics of computer programming. And who doesn’t love a good mystery?

Secret Coders (Secret Coders, #1)

Yang doesn’t just write about coding: he used to teach computer programming. This series is a natural pick for teachers and librarians trying to connect literacy with computer science, STEM programs, and MakerSpaces.

Check back soon to see my next round of book-talks!



  1. Reblogged this on XO, Melissa and commented:
    Moms of Elementary age kiddos… you will want to follow this blog. Jennifer was Katie’s 2nd grade teacher. She is now a librarian at our beloved elementary school. She reviews books and shared great insight. Check it out…


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