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…



Top Ten Book Covers and Illustrations

Once again I’m chiming in with another Top Ten list on a day that isn’t Tuesday!  Today is…..


Top Ten Book Covers and Illustrations

Since I read so many amazing picture books (and novels with pictures), I thought I would highlight my favorite picture books.  Most of these are chosen solely because of their covers, but a few are sprinkled in with just amazing illustrations in general.

Press Here, by Herve Tullet

This is a fun book with lots of primary colors, dots, and a fun an interactive text.  Seriously, press there and have fun with the colors!

Dave the Potter:  Artist, Poet, Slave, by Laban Carrick Hill, Illustrated by Bryan Collier

This cover is eye catching and drew me to this book.  I can see Dave’s artistry, his dedication to his craft, and his focus on beauty.


There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, by Simms Taback

I really enjoyed the art style in this book.  It is fun to explore the various cut-outs as the old lady swallows more things!

Corduroy, by Don Freeman

This book’s cover drew me in – the warm red background and the fuzzy bear just signaled childhood to me.  Great illustrations throughout this book as well.

How to Be a Superhero:  A Colorful and Fun Children’s Picture Book; Entertaining Bedtime Story, by Rachel Yu

This is a fun, entertaining book that is illustrated in a comic-book style.  I loved all the colors!


Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, by Mo Willems

This hilarious pigeon makes the story, but the illustrations are simple and interesting!  I love his style.


Llama Llama Red Pajama, by Anna Dewdney

This cute little llama who gets so scared at night is all of us when we are home alone.  I love the mix of the colorful pajamas and the dark background.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, by Wiliam Joyce

This wonderful story has beautiful illustrations of books that walk, fly, and draw in new readers.  Also, a book about books couldn’t be passed up for this list.

This is a Moose, by Richard T. Morris and Tom Lichtenheld

I loved the cheesy moose in this story.  The illustrations, and commentary from the “director” really make this a humorous book for children and adults.

The Day My Butt Went Psycho,  by Andy Griffiths

What list of amazing covers and illustrations would be complete without a book title with the word BUTT in it?  This humorous novel comes complete with a neon, sparkled, swirly pattern and the words BUTT and PSYCHO! in giant letters.  This is a cover that made me want to read the book.

So, what are your favorite picture books?  Which book’s cover made you have to read the book?  Should I have added something different to this list?  Let’s talk below….

Top Ten Novel Study Books

It is not actually Tuesday, but this week I am working on posting my Top Ten Lists exploring the 84 books I read this semester.  This post features my…


Top Ten Novel Study Books

Since I am hoping to work with middle grades readers, I thought I would reflect on the novels I have read and find the 10 I would most want to include in my reading lessons.

1. Dear Mr. Henshaw, by Beverly Cleary

This is one of my favorite books from my childhood.  When I teach this book as a novel study, I will be sure to tie in writing lessons.  It would also be really fun to have my students write to their favorite authors.  Maybe some of these authors would even be willing to Skype-visit with us!

2. The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman

I thought that this book was really interesting and would be great to teach to higher readers.  I would have them look at the imagery and try to incorporate art lessons with the novel.  It would be really fun to have students illustrate their favorite scenes as part of a plot diagram lesson.

3. Nothing But The Truth, by Avi

This is one of the first novels I read this semester and it has left a lasting influence on me.  I would love to teach this novel alongside a civics lesson.  It would be fun to have students even act out portions of this book in a classroom readers theater.

4. The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick

This book may seem intimidating to some, but the illustrated novel by Brian Selznick would be a fun book to explore with some of my lower readers.  I think they would get a self-esteem boost just from reading something SO large!  I would tie lessons that explore how the illustrations move the story along into teaching this novel.

5.  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling

The first in the Potter series would be fun to teach.  I could use this novel to teach the steps in the Hero’s Journey or the idea of characterization.  Students could chart how Harry learns who he is in his world.  I would also tie in writing lessons where students write their own hero’s journey story.

6. I Lived on Butterfly Hill, by Marjorie Agosin

I really loved this novel, especially as it explored the culture of the main character.  I would tie in cultural studies into lessons with this novel.  It would be also fun to do cultural and food studies tied in with a Life Skills class.  Everyone likes yummy food!

7. Mr. Popper’s Penguins, by Richard and Florence Atwater

This was a fun and silly book.  I would teach this book as a novel/movie study.  I have not personally seen the Jim Carrey film, but it make for an interesting comparison.  I would also tie in lessons about animals (penguins, of course) and Antarctic explorers.

8. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E. L. Konigsburg

This novel would be an excellent introduction to Renaissance art.  We could look at examples of Michelangelo’s painting and sculptures, while discussing museum curation  It would be very fun to incorporate creation of our own sculptures through integrated art lessons.

9. The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster

This is a great novel to explore imagination and creating fun and exciting worlds.  I would tie this novel study into narrative writing.  I would have them write a story set into their own world – complete with illustrations!

10. The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate

I am taking a page from this class and would teach The One and Only Ivan as a Newbery study.  This would be a great way to introduce literary awards, Newbery criteria, and set up our own Mock Newbery.

These are the 10 books I would use for novel studies in my future classroom.  Which books did I leave out?  Are there other lessons I can tie into the novel studies?  Let’s talk below…

Top Ten Tuesday: The Best of the Semester

I cannot believe that this semester is over!  I’ve read 84 Children’s Lit books in just over 15 weeks.  I’ve read books that I have loved, and books that I have loved to hate.

For this re-cap post, I have borrowed from another KidLit meme and have created a list of my Top Ten Books of the semester.

How did I choose?

I rifled through my GoodReads shelf for Children’s Lit and realized I read a lot of amazing books.  I had no idea how to narrow this list to just ten,.  I started by sorting my GoodReads shelf by my rating.  I apparently found over 20 books 5 star worthy.

I then decided that since I have read a wonderful collection of picture books and novels, I wanted to highlight five of my favorites from each group.  I chose books that I have not stopped talking about, that I have shared with others and that I have bought for others.  I’ve also included some I knew I had to have a copy of for my classroom.

And here they are……

The Picture Books

  • The Adventures of Beekle:  An Unimaginary Friend, by Dan Santat

This is my hands down favorite picture book of the semester.  Beekle’s art style, different take on the story of an imaginary friend, and the many layers to the story make Beekle a #1 in my book.  I ended up checking it out 3 times from my local library before I bought it.  I have shared my copy with students, family friends, and other teachers.  I also have purchased this book for more than one person too!

  • The Day The Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt, Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

I had heard a lot about this book from many of my classmates’ blogs.  Everyone said it was an original book with excellent illustrations.  Well, they were right!  I checked this out from my local library and shared it with a 5th grader I was tutoring.  We both really enjoyed the illustrations that mix drawn images with photos.  The story of the crayons, and the demands they make, is a new thing to me too.  This is a great book and sparks discussion and enjoyment. 

  • Press Here, by Herve Tullett

press herePress Here is a fairly simple picture book with a simple premise.  You follow the directions and literally “press here”.  The interactive nature of the book was something I had not really experienced before.  There is no book I read that was so effective in creating reader-book interactions.  I loved the primary colors of the illustrations and the fun actions you do as you interact with the book.  This was such a fun book that my nephew will be Pressing Here all day on Christmas! 

  • So You Want to Be President?, by Judith St. George and David Small

SoYouWantToBePresidentThis is one for my history nerd self.  This book has amazing illustrations, especially some very creative images of our presidents.  This nonfiction picture book gives us all some amazing facts about the presidents of our country.  These include some of the “normal” facts as well as the crazy, unknown facts.  This book is in the top ten because it shares information and shows that history does not have to be boring!

  • Separate Is Never Equal:  Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation, by Duncan Tonatiuh

SeparateIsNeverEqual-SibertThe final picture book on the list is another nonfiction picture book.  I have to say I had never heard the story of Sylvia Mendez and her fight for inclusion.  The artist’s style of illustrations were amazing.  I honestly first chose this book based on its cover!  Tonatiuh’s telling of the Mendez family’s fight for education is poignant, simply explained, and thought provoking.  This is one I will have for my classroom and one that everyone should read.

The Novels

  • The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate

IvanThe One and Only “required” novel this term was The One and Only Ivan – a Newbery winner.  This is probably my number 1 new novel I read this semester.  I laughed with Ivan and his friends, I cried with them, and I was stirred to share this amazing work with others.  I read a couple of chapters to a classroom of 8th graders and they were silent and paid attention.  If a novel can bring a group of 8th grade students to a stand still and have them be quiet for an extended period of time, it deserves a honored place in every classroom.

  • Crenshaw, by Katherine Applegate

b7214-crenshaw_finalThe week we read Ivan I was surfing the KidLit-o-sphere for more information about Katherine Applegate and stumbled across reviews, interviews, and lots of praise for her new novel Crenshaw.  This story delves into the mind of its main character just as much as Ivan did.  Katherine Applegate is the master of making me cry with just a few simple words.  This book also deals with issues of poverty and homelessness.  One thing I have found interesting is the Crenshaw food drives that have been spurred by the book across the nation.  Read Crenshaw. 

  • The Watsons Go To Birmingham – 1963, by Christopher Paul Curtis

watsons go to birminghamI expected this historical fiction novel to be amazing.  My professor recommended it, so I bought it.  The day I cracked into it, I was transported into the world of the Crazy Watsons.  I was really surprised that this Newbery book did not spend the entire novel describing and delving into the Birmingham church bombing.  Rather, Curtis creates a family like any other family, and makes us care about each member of the family.  He then pushes us to explore senseless violence and how it impacts everyone.  It definitely gives you something to think about.

  • I Survived:  The Shark Attacks of 1916, by Lauren Tarshis

ISurvivedSharkAnother work of historical fiction, this is the second book in the I Survived series.  This tells a story that centers around New Jersey shark attacks in 1916.  These sharks strayed up the river into fresh water and attacked people during the summer of 1916.  I loved this book because it allowed me to get deeper into the mind of a young boy who wasn’t quite accepted by his peers.  This book also has suspense and action.  My 5th grader (see “Crayons”) recommended this to me and she picked a great one to share!

  • Maniac Magee, by Jerry Spinelli

This novel is one that has stayed in my mind.  Maniac Magee is a young boy who doesn’t belong on either side of town – the white side or the black side.  Spinelli crafts an intense story that examines the uneasiness we feel when faced with someone unlike ourselves  One thing that I really loved about this novel is that I often found myself forgetting what race Maniac was.  I know that sounds simple, but Spinelli crafted characters who were so true to life that their race did not matter.

There’s my list.  What did you put on your list?  Would you have picked something different off my list to highlight?  Let’s talk below….