Expert Book Lists

It is a snowy day here in Wyoming.  Today, I had the pleasure of exploring the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) website and blog.  I’m grateful for the chance to add to my personal lists from the wealth of resources from knowledgeable advisors.

The Book Lists

I think the best feature of the YALSA website is the numerous book lists that they gather.  I found myself lost in the lists, gathering resources for my future classroom library.  These are just a few of the amazing lists I combed today!

  • Best of the Best (2016)
    • Collection of YALSA Top Ten Lists
  • Audiobooks
    • A 10 amazing audio books for teens
  • Best Fiction
    • 2016’s top 10 YA Lit fiction picks
  • Graphic Novels
    • Graphic novels are super popular right now.  This is a list of 10 YA graphic novels to explore.
  • Paperbacks
    • Paperback picks for teen readers
  • Quick Picks
    • We know that we will encounter some reluctant readers.  This page has a huge list of options we might recommend to these readers.

The Hub – a YALSA Blog

The experts at YALSA also curate a blog called The Hub.  I fell down a huge rabbit hole when I visited The Hub.  Some of the articles I loved are listed below!

I really loved all the book lists and the tie-ins to other popular culture (the True Crime article has a tie in to The People v. OJ Simpson, the Serial podcast and the Netflix series Making a Murderer).

What did I learn?

Well, I first learned to explore the YALSA sites with my TBR at hand!  I only added 11 titles to my TBR.  Here are the ones I added.MoreTBRsI also learned that the amazing people at the YALSA are experts at what they do!  The depth of quality and breadth of topics covered on the site and the blog really show their expertise.

Have you added to your TBR List?  Did you find another amazing corner of the YALSA sites?  Let’s talk below…



IMWAYR – March 28, 2016

ItsMondayGraphicThis past week was our Spring Break at work.  Lucky for me, I had lots of YA Lit to read!

This week I found some cool resources on the web (okay, not a book, but still).  I finished 2 books this week and made major progress in a couple of other books.  So, here we go!

Around the Web

We spent this past week exploring social media and YA Lit.  Here were a few of my fave links from this week – for both YA Lit class and other bookish things!

Social Media in YA Lit:  Article that looks into social media as a plot device.

Teen Girls and Social Media:  Not about YA Lit particularly, but an NPR article/interview that explores the deeper, darker side of social media.  This interview is especially focused on violence and sexuality among teen girls.

Best Books of 2016 (So Far):  One of my fave reading gurus, Donalyn Miller, has posted a couple of YA books that she loved in March.  I trust every recommendation she has.

Dame Maggie Smith’s Bookish Roles:  Book Riot is pretty hilarious.  They have a list of the best “bookish” roles Dame Maggie Smith has played.  Of course, Professor McGonagall is high on the list.  But, she is one of the best actors ever.

Best Book Nerd Tweets:  Here are some hilarious Tweets curated by Barnes and Noble online.

Books I Finished

This week I finished up An Abundance of Katherines, by John Green.  This was an okay book, but not my favorite.  Colin is trying to get over a pretty horrible break up with a girl named Katherine – the 18th one he has dated.  As Colin and his friend Hassan spend a summer in a small rural town, they both learn a little about themselves and the people that they meet includinoriginal_books-books-on-taigan-john-greens-an-abundance-of-katherines-signedg Hollis (a factory owner) and her daughter Lindsey Lee Wells.

Overall, it took me quite a while to get into the character of Colin – I found I wasn’t really connecting with him.  Once I became invested in his story, the book went a bit faster.


After finishing Crank, by Ellen Hopkins, this past week, I really, really wanted to continue to read Kristina’s story.  This week I read the second book in the trilogy Glass.  In Glass, we pick up after Kristina has given birth to her son Hunter.  She is still living with her mom and step-father and her younger brother.  However, she is still fighting her addiction to meth and the overwhelming urge to be Bree.

Kristina/Bree goes through the struggles of trying to find a job, keep a job, being kicked out of her house, trying to take care of her son, and fighting this monster.  I don’t want to put in any spoilers because I know that some other folks are reading it now too.  Let’s just say… it.  You won’t be sorry!

Making Progress (In Progress)

I am also, for probably the first time in my life, trying to read more than one book at a time!  I don’t know how it is really going, but here is what I’m still working on reading.

Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke, is the story of Mo, his daughter Meggie, a crazy “aunt” named Elinor, a mysterious stranger called Dustfinger, and the evil Capricorn.  Sound complicated?  Well, Mo is a very well respected book binder.  He and his daughter love to read and they are like two peas in a pod.  Then late one night, Meggie sees a strange man outside her window.  Mo brings the man in and Meggie learns that a very dangerous man named Capricorn wants Mo and a special, dangerous book.

Mo and Meggie attempt to flee in the morning, but Dustfinger is right there waiting for them.  He climbs into the van with them and they all venture to Elinor’s “house”.  It’s not really a house because it is stuffed full of books without much space for people (my kind of house, really).  Mo and Meggie, and the book, are safe – for now.

But….someone comes and kidnaps Mo in the night.  Meggie and Elinor attempt to find this Capricorn character and rescue Mo.  Dustfinger is along for the ride, or so it seems.

AND that’s as far as I have gotten so far  This monster of a book is lovingly being called “The Doorstop” by my husband – but at over 500 pages, he’s not wrong.  I’m starting to get into the story a lot more.  So hopefully, next week I will have finished it!

That’s it from here…for now!  What did you read this week?  Any great resources about teens, their reading, and social media to share?  Let’s chat below…


Snapshot of the Week – March 26, 2016

Snapshot Saturday seems to be dependent on what I got done in the week before!  This past week I got a lot of homework done and a lot of reading done.  I have a few pictures that illustrate my past week and my future reading!

This Past Week – Homework and I’ve Read It Additions
My books, my computer, my TBR list...
My books, my computer, my TBR list…
I’ve Read It Additions





Right Now
Reading this gem for book club!


I’m also working on Inkheart and Hollow City.

My Future Reading

Future reading includes the titles on this ever growing TBR List

IMG_0937 IMG_0941

Books I’ve pulled out for the near future!

What pictures capture your reading week?  Share them here!

Virtual Book Communities

Last week I thought about how talking about books within our classrooms helps develop a sense of our classroom community.  These classroom communities provide our teen students with a place to read books, talk about books, learn about the favorite books of others, struggle with books, and be a community.

But, what happens outside our classroom doors?  How do teens discuss their reading lives when they are not in school?  Some would think they don’t talk about their reading lives.  However, I found this is not the case!

How It Used to Be

Way back in the Stone Age (the 1990s) I was in high school.  My friends and I might talk about what we had read, but there was no Google or Facebook (or MySpace or blogs really) to talk with others.  We had to do it “old school” and talk face to face or even on the phone.

Image Credit:
     Image Credit:

Maybe it wasn’t quite the tin can era.  However, we were limited to people we knew when talking about books.

How It Is Now

Today’s teens have many different avenues for talking about books and developing their community of readers.  There are still all the “old school” ways – talking in class, discussing books at lunch or in the hall, hanging out with your friends over a book, and calling each other on the phone.

Today’s YA readers are going past these prehistoric methods though.  In my web research this week I found out that teens use a variety of platforms and social media services to talk about books.  They are not limiting themselves to people they know in person.  Rather, they are enlarging their reading community to include anyone who has access to the web.

Tech and the Community of Readers
Image Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons

There are about a million different places that teens, and YA readers in general, go online to share book recommendations, get ideas, and talk about (or to!) their favorite authors.

These are a few of my favorites…

  • Goodreads – Goodreads is a pretty amazing site for cataloging your favorite books, rate the book after you have finished reading it, and get ideas from your friends.  You can connect your Goodreads account to your blog (check out one of my shelves on the right of this page), Facebook, or Twitter account.
  • Twitter – This has been the coolest new to me social media this semester!  I never had a Twitter account before, but I have found that it can be extremely exciting to talk books on Twitter.  I can tweet to my favorite authors, join in discussions with my classmates or with other readers, and share my thoughts in 140 characters or less.  Still working on keeping it to 140 characters….but a girl has to have a challenge now and then!
  • Blogs – Following the blogs of other readers is an amazing way that teens (and YA readers) can share their musings, their ideas, and their reviews about books.  Reading my classmates’ blogs has been a strong stitch in the fabric of my YA Lit Class community.  The blogs are places we can discuss ideas about reading and share books that are our favorites (or our not favorites).  I haven’t really explored how a person finds a new blog for suggestions.  Do you know how?  Be sure to let me know in the comments.
  • Pinterest – This is a new social media site for me.  I just joined Pinterest in January and mainly to get ideas for another class (Pythagorean Theorem time!).  But did you know that there is a HUGE Pinterest community that pins different images or articles or sites about books?  I definitely have fallen down the rabbit hole of Pinterest this week and have found some amazing resources.
  • Snap Chat & Instagram – Here are two social media sites that I don’t belong to.  However, it seems that teens are using these platforms to visually talk about books  This is great, especially for those who like to read but do not like to write – they can share their faves via a picture!  Then, they comment on each others’ photos and start the conversation there!

Integrating Tech into My Reading Community

I am very thankful to my YA Lit Class and our professor Dr. Ellington for making us a community.  You see, I take this class online and have not ever actually met any of my classmates in person!  However, thanks to the wonders of the internet, I now have some amazing bookish friends.


My books, my computer, my TBR list...
My books, my computer, my TBR list… and my mess!

I am continuing to integrate tech into my reading life.  I currently use Goodreads, Blogs, and Twitter – especially for my YA Lit class.  I am going to continue to explore the depths of Pinterest to find lists and ideas about books.


I am also very lucky to be part of an “online book club” for YA Lit Class.  We “meet” every week in a Google document and talk about a book.  This week we discussed Crank and had really, really, really good discussion.  Without the web, I wouldn’t be able to have this experience.

Always More Questions

As I shared with the ladies in my book club yesterday, I always end up with more questions than answers.  This is especially true when the topic or idea is something I want to know more about (okay….so everything)!  I’m going to leave you with some questions.  Please answer below and let’s keep this conversation about tech and reading going!

  • How do you discover a new blog to follow?  What are your criteria for a “good” book blog?
  • Would you rather post images and photos or words when discussing books?
  • Is there still a place for the “old school” technology and books?  Do we put enough emphasis on being able to discuss books and themes orally?
  • How do we develop strong writers and readers if they communicate in 140 characters or less?
  • What is the best place online that you have found to get new book ideas?

Reading Response: 20 Better Questions

I finished An Abundance of Katherines, by John Green this afternoon.  The following answers to Twenty Better Questions contain spoilers and illusions to spoilers.  Read at your own risk!

  1. What character(s) was your favorite? Why?

My favorite character is Hassan because he lives life with a sense of humor.  I love how Hassan can take a situation that may be painful or unhappy and see the humor in it.

2. What character(s) did you dislike? Why?

The Other Colin (TOC) for sure!  He always seemed kind of smarmy and like he wasn’t a good person.  I thought that he would be taking advantage of Lindsey all along.

3. Does anyone in this work remind you of anyone you know? Explain.

The way that Colin can remember nearly anything reminds me often of my husband.  He is so intelligent and knows so many random things (that always seem to come up in our conversations because that is how we are).  This aspect of Colin is certainly my husband.

4.  Are you like any character in this work? Explain.

I think there are ways that I am like Lindsey.  I want to be liked and accepted.  I feel like in high school I did change myself some so that I would be more likable by my peers.

5. If you could be any character in this work, who would you be? Explain.

I’d love to be Hollis.  Well, Hollis minus the pink obsession.  Hollis is such a kind and generous person – working all hours of the day and doing everything to keep the people in her town employed and take care of all of them.

6. What quality(ies) of which character strikes you as a good characteristic to develop within yourself over the years? Why? How does the character demonstrate this quality?

I would want to develop Lindsey’s characteristic of caring and authenticity that we see when she visits with people from the factory.  As she goes to interview the “oldsters” with Hassan and Colin, we get a glimpse of the girl she truly is because they all remember her kindness and the compassion she has for the people in her town.

7. Overall, what kind of a feeling did you have after reading a few paragraphs of this work? Midway? After finishing the work?

After reading the first few pages in this work, I really felt like this was going to be an agonizing journey through Colin’s post-breakup depression.  I wasn’t really drawn into this book like I was when I read The Fault in Our Stars.

Midway through the book, I finally got a sense of who Colin and Hassan were and started to feel invested in the story of Colin and his breakups.

After finishing the book, I am pretty pleased with the interplay between math and language.  Ultimately John Green did an excellent job blending my two loves of math and language as he tells this story.

8. Do any incidents, ideas, or actions in this work remind you of your own life or something that happened to you? Explain.

The feeling of hopelessness and the sense that he will not ever be important is something I have dealt with.  I have been in the place that Colin and Hassan find themselves.  I felt like Hassan when I have been nearly paralyzed by the fear of becoming what I am to be.

9. Do you like this piece of work? Why or why not?

Overall I liked this piece of writing.  However, it is not going to be one of my top re-reads because the slow pace of action and not having an instant connection with the characters.

10. Are there any parts of this work that were confusing to you? Which parts? Why do you think you got confused?

I sometimes got confused when parts of the Katherines stories were told.  I think I got confused because that was Green’s intention – to keep us confused as to why the Katherine dumped Colin, and keep the memories of his loves shrouded in the hazy fog of recollection.

11. Do you feel there is an opinion expressed by the author through this work? What is it? How do you know this? Do you agree? Why or why not?

I believe that John Green is putting forth the idea that we all matter to others.  The long-lasting thing about a person is the way that they impact the lives of other people.

12. Do you think the title of this work is appropriate? Is it significant? Explain. What do you think the title means?

An Abundance of Katherines is appropriate because Colin is attempting to explain his love life through creating a mathematical formula.  I think it is important because he is so focused on his breakup with Katherine but is not looking at the world around him.

13. Would you change the ending of this story in any way? Tell your ending. Why would you change it?

I would change the ending by just telling a bit more in the Epilogue.  I would have loved to hear Lindsey’s thoughts and her hopes for the future with or without Colin, Hassan, or Hollis.

14. What kind of person do you feel the author is? What makes you feel this way?

I think that John Green is a person who believes in love and the goodness of people.  In this book we can see that the goodness and friendship that forms between the three main characters lead to the love and resolution of the stories.

15. How did this work make you feel? Explain.

I ended the book feeling like my nerdiness has been filled – I have worked through the story of Colin and the math of his story.  Ultimately, it is a good feeling.

16. Do you share any of the feelings of the characters in this work? Explain.

I feel the fear and apprehension that all three characters feel – the desire to stay in the familiar and not take the uneasy steps into the future that is unknown.

17. Sometimes works leave you with the feeling that there is more to tell. Did this work do this? What do you think might happen?

I did feel like the story just ended and left with some more to tell.  I think that Lindsey, Colin, and Hassan continue their epic road trip for the rest of the summer.  I also think that in the fall they go off to their respective colleges just a little bit changed for the better.

18. Would you like to read something else by this author? Why or why not?

I had already read The Fault in Our Stars a couple of years ago.  I really liked it.  I think I would want to try Paper Towns because I read it was a mystery.

19. What do you feel is the most important word, phrase, passage, or paragraph in this work? Explain why it is important.

“And the other moral of the story is that you, Smartypants, just told an amazing story, proving that given enough time, and enough coaching, and enough hearing stories from current and former associates of Gutshot Textiles that anyone – anyone – can learn to tell a damned good story.”(p.  208)

This really exemplifies the author’s theme that we can all be taught something by everyone we come in contact with.

20. If you were an English teacher, would you want to share this work with your students? Why or why not?

I would share this book with my students.  I would say in a book talk that this is a story of exploring who you were, finding who you are, and being changed into who you will be in the future.

IMWAYR – March 21, 2016

ItsMondayGraphicThis week I have been reading some pretty great books.  In between all of my awesome reading I have had to do various things for work.  I didn’t find as much time to read as I would have liked, but I for sure read more than the “required” 4 hours.

For book club discussion this week, we read a verse novel.  Crank, by Ellen Hopkins tells us the journey that Kristina experiences as she becomes addicted to meth (aka The Monster).  Kristina finds herself almost becoming a different person – this girl named Bree who doesn’t care about good grades and only cares about having fun and partying.

In the author’s notes, Ellen Hopkins says that this book is entirely fictional.  However, she based the story on the experiences of her daughter, and other people’s children, and their addictions to meth.

File_000 (4)
I took a picture of p. 337 & 338 to show the dual readings. Text is copyright the author and publisher.

This book really touched me.  In the way the pages are laid out, you can read almost two versions of this story – one in which you hear all the inner thoughts of Kristina/Bree, and one of what her family sees.  In the pages above you can see how the family may have seen what Bree is going through by reading the left justified words.

This book was amazing.  I know a book is great when I stay up WAY to late to finish it and am dragging the next day because I missed sleep to read!

I also started working on John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines.  I’m about half way now, but it has surprised me as well.

Child prodigy Colin has just graduated high school.  He’s just been dumped for the 19th time by a girl named Katherine.  You see, Colin has only dated girls named Katherine (19 of them in fact), and he has been dumped by every single one of them.

Enter Colin’s BFF Hassan.  A year older than Colin, he comes to the rescue by suggesting an epic road trip until Colin is no longer heartbroken.  The boys convince their families and take off on an epic adventure.

So far, they have driven all night, stopped to see some crazy sights (burial place of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Gutshot, TN?).  They end up meeting an eccentric company owner named Hollis, her daughter Lindsey, Lindsey’s boyfriend Colin (aka The Other Colin), and a hilarious cast of characters.

Meanwhile, our Colin is working on a Theorem of Katherines – a mathematical explanation of why he is always the Dumpee and why he keeps dating all these Katherines who are, clearly, Dumpers.

I am slowly getting into the book.  Part of me remembers Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and I kept feeling like there needs to be a female narrator/POV/main character.  So far, all Colin here.  However, my nerdy math-literature self is loving the mathematical explanations, the footnotes and random facts, and way that Colin thinks.  I’ll have to fill you in next week on how it ends!

That’s it from here!  What did you read this week?  Have you read Crank or An Abundance of Katherines?  What should I read next?  Let’s talk below…

Talking About Books

This week I spent some time reading Book Love, by Penny Kittle.  In her book, Kittle shares ideas of book talks, how they work for students, and the passion for books that students begin to share.  We also read a few articles about read alouds and the benefit they have for older readers.

As I think about my life as a reader and a teacher, I can see the importance of talking about books with students.  I want to record my current thoughts about talking about books.

The Book Talk

I’ve heard about book talks quite a bit this past year between Children’s Lit and now YA Lit classes.  Yet, I had never seen one.  That’s right….NEVER.  A quick YouTube search brought me to Ms. Jen Smith and this amazing book talk.

Now that I have seen this, I GET it.  She follows the format Penny Kittle lays out for us.  She holds the book and shows students the cover, the size of the book, and points out features of the cover that help draw the listener in.  Ms. Smith knows this book, she has read it, she shares how this book came to her (a student recommended it), and she knows the background of the author and why he wrote the book.  She reads short passages to the students.  She gives some background about the plot, but then supplements them with pieces of text that show the author’s voice, the action that is happening, and the pull of the plot.  This is a successful book talk – I’ve added the book to my TBR even!

I could do a Book Talk on ANY of these!

So, why would I take class time to do a book talk?  First, it helps to develop the community of readers in my classroom.  Penny Kittle emphasizes that we need to share our reading lives with students and the book talk is one way to do that.  Secondly, it is a great way to tell students about books they might not otherwise pick up.  Book talks can also be handed over to students throughout the year, giving them a chance to share the books that they love (and practice some speaking and listening skills along the way).


The Read Aloud

Book talks are great ways to share snippets of our favorite books with students.  Yet, how can we share some amazing books with students in a more in-depth way?  The answer to this is the Read Aloud.

A Read Aloud is when the teacher (or 2979328682_22e8a02813_osometimes the students) read part of a longer book or an entire book out loud to students.  The Read Aloud is a common feature of elementary classrooms and children’s libraries.  How can they work for teens?

Jess deCourcy Hinds explains the benefits of Read Alouds with teens in this article.  Read Alouds benefit teens, especially those who are dormant readers or who struggle with reading.  Teens often have a higher comprehension level when listening because the act of reading may require them to work very hard without much benefit.  Also, Read Alouds allow us to model reading strategies for our students – using context clues to define a word, reading with a proper pace and inflection, and sharing the fact that reading can be pleasurable.

These elements are essential to developing our community of readers because they model real-life pleasure reading.  It engages students and allows them to truly enjoy a book without the pressure of being assessed on the book’s features – especially if reading is a challenge.


My Future Classroom

My future classroom will be FILLED with books.  I want to also share with students some amazing and inspiring works.  I want to ignite their passions for reading and create a community of readers who share the goods and the bads of different written works.  I can do this by incorporating Read Alouds and Book Talks.  These are just two ways that I can talk about reading with my students and maybe, just maybe, help them to find their reading passions.

Well, what do you think?  Should we talk about books and share books with our students?  How do we “defend” these practices to the naysayers?  Let’s talk below….