Join Kate DiCamillo in a Live National Webcast

I know I have some Kate DiCamillo fans who read my blog, which is why I’m excited to share this news from Candlewick Press with you. This is a great opportunity!

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Two Time Newbery Award Winner Kate DiCamillo in LIVE National Webcast October 15th

This fall marks the 10th Anniversary of the acclaimed Mercy Watson Series – a long time classroom favorite

FREE Online registration is available now, please visit for more details and to reserve your spot.

Mercy WatsonMercy Watson, the beloved early chapter-book series written by two-time Newbery Medal winner and National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by award-winning artist Chris Van Dusen in his signature retro style, celebrates its tenth anniversary this year. The series, consisting of six fun-filled adventures illustrated in full color, concluded in 2009, but demand for the books continues to be strong: the series is now published in ten languages, and worldwide sales are now well over the two million copy mark.

The tongue-in-cheek tales, for readers age five to eight, star “porcine wonder” Mercy Watson, a delightfully single-minded pig, in her never-ending pursuit of treats, buttered toast, or just a rollicking fun time. When the series launched in 2005, Booklist’s starred review described the first adventure as “appropriate as both a picture book and a beginning reader,” while FamilyFunmagazine recommended the series as “a gentle transition from picture books.”

Tales from Deckawoo Drive, a spin-off series set in the Mercy Watson world and launched in 2014, is for readers age six to nine. It features longer chapters, more text, and fewer illustrations, done in black-and-white. The series debuted with Leroy Ninker Saddles Up, a New York Times bestseller and Amazon Best Book of the Year starring reformed thief-turned-cowboy Leroy and his more rusty than trusty steed, Maybelline. That kickoff adventure will be followed by Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon in August 2015, at which time Leroy Ninker Saddles Up will also be published in paperback.

About revisiting the Mercy Watson characters with slightly older readers in mind, Kate DiCamillo says, “I kept thinking about those Mercy Watson books and how much fun they were to write. I was looking for a way back into telling stories about Deckawoo Drive, and Leroy said, ‘Yippie-i-oh,’ and that seemed like a request to me.”

Join Kate for a virtual discussion of this beloved early chapter book series and the continuing stories of Deckawoo Drive with young readers on October 15th!

Tracy Miracle
Publicity & Marketing Campaigns Director
Candlewick Press – 99 Dover Street, Somerville  MA 02144

Francine Poulet

Book Passes Lead to Reading

On the second day of every school year I utilize a book pass to expose my students to a wide variety of books. It’s one of my favorite days of the school year because there’s a mix of excitement and uncertainty, but it always leads to reading. This year, after facilitating this session about creating a community of readers in the high school classroom, five other teachers in my building facilitated book passes this week!

This year I have my desks in groups of six since I have 35 desks in my classroom; it’s the easiest way to make them all fit and still feel like we have room to move around. So I had my students stay in their groups and pass the books within their groups. I gathered a wide range of genres, authors, and past class favorites for my students to choose from. Each student chose a book, wrote down the title and author, and then began reading for three minutes. I kept time on my phone and when it ended they wrote down Yes, No, or Maybe in regards to whether that book is of interest to them. Then they passed their book to the right and on the cycle went. Once or twice between passes I asked if anyone found a “Yes” book and allowed them to share that title and why they want to read it. We cycled through about seven books during each class this week.

Before the end of class I stop the book pass so students can put the books away, and more importantly, check out any book(s) they discovered and want to read. A few of my senior classes this year seemed a little apprehensive about checking out any books they found, but most of my classes had long lines of students waiting to check out their books. As I looked at the pages of books checked out, I decided it would be fun to write a post including which books my students chose to kick off their reading year.

Book Trailer Thursday (173)–Blood and Salt by Kim Liggett

Book Trailer Thursday

Another Romeo & Juliet retelling this year? Count me in! This fall is going to be delightfully full of eerie, creepy reading. :) Blood and Salt by Kim Liggett releases on September 22nd.

Blood and SaltSummary (From Goodreads):

Romeo and Juliet meets Children of the Corn in this one-of-a-kind romantic horror.

“When you fall in love, you will carve out your heart and throw it into the deepest ocean. You will be all in—blood and salt.”

These are the last words Ash Larkin hears before her mother returns to the spiritual commune she escaped long ago. But when Ash follows her to Quivira, Kansas, something sinister and ancient waits among the rustling cornstalks of this village lost to time.

Ash is plagued by memories of her ancestor, Katia, which harken back to the town’s history of unrequited love and murder, alchemy and immortality. Charming traditions soon give way to a string of gruesome deaths, and Ash feels drawn to Dane, a forbidden boy with secrets of his own.

As the community prepares for a ceremony five hundred years in the making, Ash must fight not only to save her mother, but herself—and discover the truth about Quivira before it’s too late. Before she’s all in—blood and salt.

Waiting on Wednesday–A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.  It’s designed for bloggers to spotlight the upcoming releases that they simply can’t wait to read.

I was looking at my last WoW post and in it noted that I try not to be swayed by pretty covers. It made me chuckle reading that because the cover for A Madness So Discreet grabbed my attention right away. It’s so pretty and haunting! The tone of the cover is perfect for an October release. I love reading mysteries in the fall around Halloween, so this will be perfect.

Title & Author: A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis

Release Date: October 6th, 2015

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

A Madness So DiscreetSummary (From Goodreads):

Grace Mae knows madness.

She keeps it locked away, along with her voice, trapped deep inside a brilliant mind that cannot forget horrific family secrets. Those secrets, along with the bulge in her belly, land her in a Boston insane asylum.

When her voice returns in a burst of violence, Grace is banished to the dark cellars, where her mind is discovered by a visiting doctor who dabbles in the new study of criminal psychology. With her keen eyes and sharp memory, Grace will make the perfect assistant at crime scenes. Escaping from Boston to the safety of an ethical Ohio asylum, Grace finds friendship and hope, hints of a life she should have had. But gruesome nights bring Grace and the doctor into the circle of a killer who stalks young women. Grace, continuing to operate under the cloak of madness, must hunt a murderer while she confronts the demons in her own past.

In this beautifully twisted historical thriller, Mindy McGinnis, acclaimed author of Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust, explores the fine line between sanity and insanity, good and evil—and the madness that exists in all of us.

Blog Tour Book Review: Anne & Henry by Dawn Ius

Anne & HenryTitle: Anne & Henry

Author: Dawn Ius

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: September 1st, 2015

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Interest: Contemporary retelling

Summary (From Goodreads):

In this wonderfully creative retelling of the infamous—and torrid—love affair between Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII, history collides with the present when a sizzling romance ignites in a modern-day high school.

Henry Tudor’s life has been mapped out since the day he was born: student body president, valedictorian, Harvard Law School, and a stunning political career just like his father’s. But ever since the death of his brother, the pressure for Henry to be perfect has doubled. And now he’s trapped: forbidden from pursuing a life as an artist or dating any girl who isn’t Tudor-approved.

Then Anne Boleyn crashes into his life.

Wild, brash, and outspoken, Anne is everything Henry isn’t allowed to be—or want. But soon Anne is all he can think about. His mother, his friends, and even his girlfriend warn him away, but his desire for Anne consumes him.

Henry is willing to do anything to be with her, but once they’re together, will their romance destroy them both?

Inspired by the true story of Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII, Anne & Henry beautifully reimagines the intensity, love, and betrayal between one of the most infamous couples of all time.

When Anne & Henry by Dawn Ius was pitched, I knew right away that I wanted to read it. I will admit that retellings haven’t always worked for me, but I’m so intrigued by the Tudors and Anne Boleyn that I couldn’t pass up this opportunity. Thankfully this retelling didn’t let me down.

First, I think you need to know that Anne & Henry is DRAMATIC! But it is also witty and fast-paced. The drama stems from quite a few character cliches like the jealous girlfriend, the jerky best friend, and the mysterious new girl, but those characters fit the retelling. In history Catherine was Henry’s ex-wife and Anne was this mysterious new mistress with a shady past. (Please forgive my loose history here.) I can think of some students who will eat this story up because of all the juicy drama. I don’t write this to deter anyone from reading Ius’s book, but I think it’s worth mentioning. It’s also worth mentioning that the storyline kept me engaged throughout.

One of the main reasons I was so engaged in the story is that Dawn Ius creatively modernized this historical relationship. I wasn’t sure how it would pan out, but once the story started moving along everything began to click. Henry “rules” his clique and the school. His family has blazed the trails for him to become a political leader. Anne’s character fits with Anne Boleyn’s history well because Anne has a troubled history with her sister and hooks Henry right away. Anne Boleyn was accused of witch craft and a couple times in Anne & Henry she’s described as “bewitching.” Catherine is repeatedly described as the more suitable partner for Henry and is therefor at odds with Anne. If you know the history then you know that Anne Boleyn was beheaded. Our Anne doesn’t actually lose her head, but heads certainly roll by the end of the book.

There were moments when Anne and Henry made choices (or chose not to make a choice) that upset me, but overall I enjoyed this book. The themes in Anne & Henry will resonate with my students, so I’m really looking forward to talking to them about this once they read it.


Building a Community of Readers in the High School Classroom

This past week my high school held a professional development summit with two other neighboring high schools. It was a fun way to kick off the school year since teachers had the opportunity to learn from and present to other teachers throughout the day. My friends, Lindsay Grady and Amanda Canterbury and I ran a two part session about the importance of a reading community in the high school classroom.

Lindsay, Amanda, and I are voracious YA readers and love fostering a love of reading in our students. It was my principal who suggested that I put something together for the summit; it was just the nudge I needed to make an inkling of an idea blossom into something more. I had been thinking about creating a PD session that was interactive and revolved around reading, but I wasn’t sure how or where to make that happen. Once my principal mentioned the summit, I knew I wanted Lindsay and Amanda working with me.

Lindsay's Read AloudSince each session ran for 50 minutes, we decided to run it in two parts. The first part would be the why we do what we do and the second part would be the how we do what we do. We focused on read alouds, book talks, a book pass, independent reading projects, and sustained silent reading (SSR). During the first part we explained what each of these are and tips/tricks/books to use. When we moved into the second session the teachers experienced a read aloud, book talks and a book pass. It was relaxed and really fun. Lindsay read aloud the first twelve pages of Stolen by Lucy Christopher, which will definitely hook readers. Amanda book talked Things We Know By Heart by Jessi Kirby and shared why it made her cry. I book talked All the Rage by Courtney Summers and read the first five pages when Romy provides readers with a powerful flashback. We also shared pictures of our classroom libraries, book displays, and different projects students have created in response to reading. The three of us also made sure to express the importance of CHOICE; our students wouldn’t be nearly as excited about reading without choice.Amanda's Book Talk

As the three of us worked on creating this session, I couldn’t help but think about how powerful it would be if the attending teachers could leave with books to add to their classrooms. I decided to step outside of my comfort zone and reach out to a few publishers for help. I’ve requested books from publishers, but I have never requested enough books to hand out to a large group before. I didn’t know what to expect and I felt awkward sending the emails. My friends, YA publishers are awesome and generous. Thanks to their overwhelming kindness, the teachers who attended our session left with roughly 10 books each! At one point this summer, I think I had close to 400 books in my basement.

Bags of BooksGrocery bags of books lined the front of the room where we presented. We waited until the end of the second session to surprise the teachers with the books and I really wish I would have taken a picture of their faces. They were SO EXCITED when we told them what was in the bags! A few were excited that the books Amanda and I book talked were included. For the rest of the day teachers approached us to thank us or to say that they were disappointed that they missed our session. It’s priceless knowing that those books are going to reach students across three school districts. I’ve tweeted it a few times already, but I’m going to say it again: Thank you, HarperCollins, Little, Brown & Co, St. Martin’s Griffin, and Candlewick Press!!!

Summit Books

I uploaded the presentation we created onto Slideshare and am including the link here if you’d like access to it. Lindsay, Amanda, and I included a link to Penny Kittle’s Book Love Grant and to ALAN’s website. We also have links to class library book recommendations, graphic novel recommendations (after it was requested by an attending teacher), and read aloud recommendations. If part of the presentation doesn’t work or if images are missing, please let me know.

Top Ten Tuesday: If These Authors Write It, I’ll Buy It

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

It’s not very often that I’ll auto-buy an author’s book, but these 10 authors have made the cut for various reasons. Which authors’ books will you buy automatically? I’d love to know which authors I should add to this list.

Miranda Kenneally

1. Miranda Kenneally–Although the Hundred Oaks series isn’t your typical series, I usually get bored after five books. That’s simply not the case with these books. I can’t get enough of them! I’ve read all six and every single one is different and very much its own book. I’ll buy whatever Miranda writes.

2. Trish Doller–I don’t think I need an explanation for Trish’s books either, to be honest. Her books never fail to make me swoon and/or cry.

3. Matthew Quick–Adult or YA, I will automatically read his books. They are so utterly fabulous, which is why he’s my author crush.

Sarah Dessen

4. Sarah Dessen–Does this choice really need an explanation? :)

5. Amy Fellner Dominy–Amy’s books keep getting better and every time I read one I thoroughly enjoy it.

6. Geoff Herbach–Geoff Herbach’s writing has such a strong and authentic voice that it’s impossible to resist reading his books. Not that I would ever feel the need to resist reading one!

Michelle Hodkin

7. Michelle Hodkin–The Mara Dyer trilogy was too much fun not to trust that the rest of Michelle Hodkin’s books will be great.

8. Laurie Halse Anderson–Maybe not her middle grade since I’m not as drawn to MG titles, but I’ll definitely always buy her YA. There are times that I find myself craving a Laurie Halse Anderson book, which is usually when I decide to read Speak out loud to my students.

9. Neal Shusterman–I still need to finish reading the Unwind dystology and I plan on reading Challenger Deep before school starts, but nevertheless, he’s a staple in my classroom library. His books are smart, insightful and engaging.

10. John Green–It feels like a cliche adding him to this list, but I have to be honest. Even though I’m not into all the hype, I do enjoy his books and know that I will.

Waiting on Wednesday–First & Then by Emma Mills


Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.  It’s designed for bloggers to spotlight the upcoming releases that they simply can’t wait to read.

I try not to focus too much on book covers, but seriously, this cover is SO PRETTY! It’s what grabbed my attention and drew me to the book. The synopsis sealed the deal. Have you read an early copy? Is it as good as it sounds?

Title & Author: First & Then by Emma Mills

Publisher: Henry Holt & Co. (BYR)

Release Date: October 15th, 2015

First & ThenSummary (From Goodreads):

Devon Tennyson wouldn’t change a thing. She’s happy watching Friday night games from the bleachers, silently crushing on best friend Cas, and blissfully ignoring the future after high school. But the universe has other plans. It delivers Devon’s cousin Foster, an unrepentant social outlier with a surprising talent for football, and the obnoxiously superior and maddeningly attractive star running back, Ezra, right where she doesn’t want them first into her P.E. class and then into every other aspect of her life.

Pride and Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights in this contemporary novel about falling in love with the unexpected boy, with a new brother, and with yourself.

Book Trailer Thursday (172)–After the Red Rain by Barry Lyga

Book Trailer Thursday

I just discovered After the Red Rain by Barry Lyga, so I’m happy I stumbled upon the book trailer as well. Admittedly, I’m not as excited about dystopian/post-apocalyptic stories as much anymore, but this one has me intrigued. I’m also interested since it’s co-written by actor Peter Facinelli and producer Robert DeFranco. The story sounds fresh and appealing to my students, plus Barry Lyga writes excellent books.

After the Red RainSummary (From Goodreads):

A postapocalyptic novel with a cinematic twist from New York Times bestseller Barry Lyga, actor Peter Facinelli, and producer Robert DeFranco.

On the ruined planet Earth, where 50 billion people are confined to megacities and resources are scarce, Deedra has been handed a bleak and mundane existence by the Magistrate she works so hard for. But one day she comes across a beautiful boy named Rose struggling to cross the river–a boy with a secretive past and special abilities, who is somehow able to find comfort and life from their dying planet.

But just as the two form a bond, it is quickly torn apart after the Magistrate’s son is murdered and Rose becomes the prime suspect. Little do Deedra and Rose know how much their relationship will affect the fate of everyone who lives on the planet.

Review: Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten

Suicide Notes from Beautiful GirlsTitle: Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls

Author: Lynn Weingarten

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Release Date: July 7th, 2015

Interest: Mystery / Contemp

Source: ARC received from the publisher

Summary (From Goodreads):

Gone Girl meets 13 Reasons Why in this stylish, sexy, and atmospheric story about friendship packed with twists and turns that will leave you breathless.

They say Delia burned herself to death in her stepfather’s shed. They say it was suicide.

But June doesn’t believe it.

June and Delia used to be closer than anything. Best friends in that way that comes before everyone else-before guys, before family. It was like being in love, but more. They had a billion secrets, tying them together like thin silk cords.

But one night a year ago, everything changed. June, Delia, and June’s boyfriend Ryan were just having a little fun. Their good time got out of hand. And in the cold blue light of morning, June knew only this-things would never be the same again.

And now, a year later, Delia is dead. June is certain she was murdered. And she owes it to her to find out the truth…which is far more complicated than she ever could have imagined.

Sexy, dark, and atmospheric, Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls will keep you guessing until the very last page.

I’ve been on a mystery kick this summer for some reason, so I decided to give Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten a shot. Simon & Schuster sent me the ARC months ago and it’s been in the back of my mind since I first saw the cover. I’m happy I finally gave it a try because I really enjoyed it.

Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls takes an interesting look at friendships and relationships. We find out early on that June’s former friend Delia has killed herself, but we don’t know why or why the two girls are no longer friends. June is dating a guy named Ryan and there’s also a hint that he may be part of the reason why the girls’ friendship ended. A couple chapters into the novel the point of view switches  to third person and we get a glimpse of June and Delia as friends. I wasn’t expecting this switch, but it adds an interesting layer of mystery to the story.

These flashbacks of sorts help us see Delia as a character and another side of June. June doesn’t act the same way when she’s with Delia; she often came off as needy and insecure in these scenes. I would describe Delia as a taker and June is very much a giver and a people pleaser. June loves how different Delia is and that Delia wants them to be the best of friends who share everything. As the story progresses it’s easy to see that their friendship isn’t healthy, it’s actually quite toxic. June is wrapped up in Delia, even more so once she learns of Delia’s suicide, and this is when we see just how easy it is to be blind to what’s right in front of you. Delia has an unhealthy hold over June; they are very much co-dependent.

Honestly, it was hard to really like any of the characters in this novel, but that didn’t keep me from thoroughly enjoying it. And when I say that it’s hard to like them, it’s because they’re not good people. The characters are written well, but they’re awful to one another and those close to them. In this regard, Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls is very much like Gone Girl. I loved that book, but those characters are horrendous. I want to go into this more, but Lynn Weingarten wrote a book that’s difficult to review without revealing major spoilers.

Recently I was watching VH1 early in the morning since nothing good was on TV while I played with Jack and the music video for “Cool for the Summer” by Demi Lovato came on. I love the song, but I had never watched the video before. As I watched it, I instantly thought of Delia. She’s wild, shameless, and daring. If anyone else has read this book, please let me know if you think this is off-base or if you agree. I watched the video again before I started writing this review and I still feel the same way.

Anyway, Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls is a page turner for sure.  It will keep you guessing until the final page. When I finished my instant reaction was “I need to discuss this ending with someone ASAP!” I have spoken with two friends about it, but I’m still not sure what I think. I’m leaning mostly towards one idea, but there’s still a small part of me that thinks something else could have happened. Read it and let me know what you think!

Similar Reads: Like Mandarin by Kirsten Hubbard, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, You by Charles Benoit

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