Great new adventure fantasy

July 7, 2015 | Posted in Blog: Story Stories, Book Reviews, libraries | By

Need an adventure/fantasy for 8 years and older? Like Narnia, and other great tales in this genre, Wildwood by Colin Meloy allows readers to wonder about the foundations of our society by setting up an entirely new one just outside our own. At the outset of the story, Prue’s baby brother is abducted by crows and taken to Wildwood, just across the Willamette River from Portland. Prue – and her friend Curtis ­– become embroiled in the machinations of politics and power in Wildwood when all she really wants to do is retrieve her baby brother.

There is much that I love about Wildwood: the moderate pacing, the varied point-of-view, the fair-enough handling of the parents, and mostly the main character Prue. I love Prue’s journey to get her brother back, and everything she learns and does along the way. Meloy deals with the themes of justice, peace and non-violence adeptly and still manages to keep the story entertaining.

This is a well-crafted story, one I would be pleased to read to a classroom full of fourth graders, or my to own family



  • Title: Wildwood: The Wildwood Chronicles Book 1
  • Author : Meloy, Colin
  • Illustrator: Ellis, Carson.
  • Copyright: 2011 Unadoptable Books LLC
  • ISBN: 978-0-06-202468-8
  • Dewey Decimal Number: Fic Mel
  • Reading Range: 6.3


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Imagine This. A Friend.

June 24, 2015 | Posted in Blog: Story Stories, Book Reviews, teaching, writing | By


Imagine this. A friend.


Beekle gets tired of waiting to be imagined, and sets off on a journey through the real world to find his friend.


What is so magical about this book is the interplay between the real and the fantastical. The combination of both elements in such close proximity makes us believe anything is possible. Beekle is a spectacular creature, yet he is wearing a crown held together with Scotch tape. Heck, I could make that crown.


Maybe I could have a friend like Beekle.


And that, right there, is the magic in this book. It is filled with everyday magic that could give even those of us in our saddest and loneliest moment a glimmer of hope.


Dan Santat assumes that we have spectacular imaginations, like the kids in the story. Just check out the endpapers if you need more evidence of miraculous friends.


Children do have imaginations like this – all they need is a little time, encouragement and inspiration. I’m so thankful Santat has provided us some inspiration in The Adventures of Beekle the Unimaginary Friend and glad he has a Caldecott Award to show for it.


If you’d like a CCSS aligned worksheet for first and second graders to get started on a story about an unimaginary friendship of their own, try this free download: Unimaginary Friend Story Sheet.


Title The Adventures of Beekle the Unimaginary Friend

  • Author Dan Santat
  • Illustrator Dan Santat
  • Copyright 2014
  • ISBN 978-0-316-19998-8
  • Dewey Decimal Number PB San
  • Reading Range K-3 (3.3)
  • Book cover image

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Gone Fishing – A Novel for Second Graders

June 13, 2015 | Posted in Blog: Story Stories, Book Reviews, Libraries, libraries, teaching, writing | By

Gone Fishing is a treasure for many reasons. First of all: kids love it. It has just enough mischief and naughtiness to spice up a read-a-loud and keep any reluctant reader turning pages. The sibling rivalry at the center of this story will hit home with anyone who has, well, had a sibling. Even for those of us who don’t normally fish, the slimy details keep us involved and invested because we identify with Sam and rejoice as he overcomes his frustrations and failures.

The second reason this book is such a treat you may not even notice up front: it’s a novel-in-verse. And what’s even better is that the audience is second and third grade, where we have a dearth of novels-in-verse. Gone Fishing is perfect for this age group because the subject matter is on-point emotionally: a younger sister horns in on her big brother’s fishing trip with dad. Even more appealing to teachers: the poetry is meticulous. After you’ve been through the book once to catch the plot, you will enjoy re-reading to enjoy Wissinger’s craft. Here, the various poetic forms reveal the emotions as true and entertaining, without being overwrought. And, each form is outlined in a neat appendix, handy for future – and practicing – poets.

Gone Fishing is a natural fit for the second grade English Language Arts Standards in Reading Literature. The story is told from two very different points of view – both Sam and Lucy ­– making this a perfect read to “speak in a different voice for each character when reading dialogue aloud (CCSS ELA Literacy 2.6).” This short book will help round out the range of complexity called for in the Standards (CCSS ELA Literacy 2.10) by introducing a wide variety of poetry.

Some students may be lucky enough to try writing some of their own poetry using the examples in the back of this book. Turning our complaints, failures and frustrations into entertaining poems can take a lot of the sting out of the curves we all get thrown every now and again. Kudos to Wissinger for setting this shining example of resiliency.


  • Title Gone Fishing
  • Author Tamera Will Wissinger
  • Illustrator Matthew Cordell
  • Copyright 2013
  • ISBN 9780547820118
  • Dewey Decimal Number Fic
  • Reading Range 1-3 (2.6)

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Out of My Mind is Must-Read Middle Grade

May 31, 2015 | Posted in Blog: Story Stories, Book Reviews, Libraries, libraries, teaching | By

Out of My Mind is told by a girl who cannot speak – or even move at all – yet she loves words. Melody is practically trapped in her body. But she feels words. Sees words.

So, how does she tell the story?

That’s the question.

I absolutely loved Out of My Mind by Sharon M Draper and I have yet to find a middle school student who does not also adore the book. I understood Melody, who has cerebral palsy and is unable to speak, yet is highly intelligent. Draper does an exceptional job of getting the reader to feel what Melody feels and to empathize with her. The stakes in the story are high enough to keep you reading yet not falsely trumped up as some middle grades can be. There is no unnecessary death, rather the normal ups and downs of a fifth grader, told through an extraordinary lens: Melody’s.

I would recommend this book to any middle school reader who enjoys complex characters, and a realistic yet unusual story well told. This book will stay with you because it will expand your understanding of the human experience.

For teachers, this book will help with the Common Core Literacy standard to describe how a narrator’s point of view influences how events are described (ELA Literacy RL 5.6). Melody can describe events so accurately yet she is nearly unable to participate in them, verbally at least. Teachers will be able to imagine all sorts of ways to simulate this feeling for students in class. Abled-students have real difficulty with this feeling. Chapters one and two are particularly rich with “concrete words and phrases and sensory details” called for in the ELA Writing standards (ELA Writing 5.3d).

Out of My Mind

Sharon M Draper


978-1-4169-8045-2 (e-book)




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I Join a Blog Tour

May 19, 2014 | Posted in Blog: Story Stories, writing | By

Lynn Hazen was the first friend I met when I started writing for children seventeen years ago. We’ve been friends – and readers for each other – ever since. It’s fitting that Lynn Hazen is the one who tagged me for my first ever blog tour. Lynn introduces me to many things that I end up later enjoying. Thanks, Lynn! Here goes…

What am I currently working on?

All my work is fiction. I’m revising a tween novel about a preacher’s daughter, which is completely different from my own family. My husband is a minister, but I have two daughters, the family in my novel has only one, and our real church is three blocks away from where this fictional church is set. My novel is completely different from my real life. Also I’m working on a young reader’s series about a male one-eyed cat. My one-eyed cat is female. I like to write outside of my comfort zone.

And I’m revising a middle grade novel about a leprechaun and a picture book about a little square. These two are, however, entirely factual.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?

Well, my YA is unfinished. My middle grade is unfinished. I have one Early Reader finished in a series, but it’s not published yet. Same goes for my picture books. I would say lack of an ending is the major difference between my work and the work I read. Since I’m a librarian, a good portion of the books I read are completed. Those, naturally, are the most satisfying, and entertaining, stories to read to children. As a writer, however, I do read a number of manuscripts in various states of completion.

Other differences include that I write about religion from an unusual viewpoint: from the inside but also slightly irreverently. I would also say my work is different because the worlds I create all closely resemble the real world, but are just a bit off.

If I could triangulate a place for myself on the literary landscape I would want to exist between Judy Blume, Richard Peck and Norton Juster. That’s a pretty big triangle, so even if I have really bad aim, I may be able to find myself somewhere in there.

Why do I write what I write?

Well, my main goal is to entertain. Only a reader would be able to say whether I’ve attained that goal or not. Someday I dream of inspiring someone to speak up, or to change. I think every writer wants that secretly: to better the world by changing somebody, or to give someone hope. That’s my secret desire: to save the world with a word or two.

 How does my individual writing process work?

Horribly. It’s redundant, with many extraneous parts: like a Rube-Goldberg machine of writing. Sometimes I’m drawing (leprechauns and squares), sometimes I’m researching, Sometimes I’m staring at the wall. I call that thinking. Sometimes I’m reading. Lots of times I’m drinking Diet Coke. Sometimes I’m just scrolling up and down the pages really fast to see the blocks of text I’ve created and verifying that they look like a real book. Wowie! That’s when I know it’s time to go and watch TV. At least TV will have a plot.

Who’s next? Tag you are it!

I am tagging my multi-talented friend Susan Taylor Brown.


Susan Taylor Brown: Full-time dreamer, poet, writer, and artist.

Susan  is the author of the middle grade verse novel Hugging the Rock, which was named a Notable Children’s Book. Some of her other books include Oliver’s Must-Do List, Can I Pray With My Eyes Open?, Enrique Esparza and the Battle of the Alamo, and Robert Smalls Sails to Freedom in addition to over 50 books for the ESL market.

Susan has been the recipient of several grants from the Arts Council Silicon Valley which allowed her to be Writer-in-Residence for the San Jose Alternative Schools At-Risk program and to teach poetry to incarcerated teens.

In addition to writing, Susan is a mixed-media artist, nature photographer, and a gardener obsessed with California Native plants. When she’s not doing something creative, she’s probably deep in conversation with Zoey, her white German Shepherd.






Visit some of these other authors on the blog tour:

Lynn Hazen

Sharry Wright

Ann Jacobus

Frances Lee Hall

Emily Jiang



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