Lilliam Rivera's WE LIGHT UP THE SKY - New YA Release

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Lilliam is a true genre bender and SF nerd – and while she’ll always call the Bronx her first home, we’re excited to help launch her first book set in her adopted home of Los Angeles, as well as her first sci-fi novel: an alien invasion set from the point of view of three Latinx teens. You can read more of Lilliam’s thoughts behind WE LIGHT UP THE SKY in her first look cover reveal with EW, where she describes the book’s genesis:

 

“This book actually came to be because one day I stepped outside my home to see this launch, I think it was for Space X, where some sort of rocket was going to fly around L.A. like two or three years ago. Elon Musk was out there doing something. I was trying to figure out the best place to view it from when I saw these young kids who told me I had just missed it but they'd captured it on their phones. Their excitement showing me their photos really captivated me. It led me to wonder what it would be like for these young kids to really experience an alien invasion.”




Should you save a world that doesn't want to save you?
Award-winning author Lilliam Rivera explores the haunting story of an alien invasion from the perspective of three Latinx teens.

Pedro, Luna, and Rafa may attend Fairfax High School together in Los Angeles, but they run in separate spheres. Pedro is often told that he's “too much” and seeks refuge from his home life in a local drag bar. Luna is pretending to go along with the popular crowd but is still grieving the unexpected passing of her beloved cousin Tasha. Then there's Rafa, the quiet new kid who is hiding the fact that his family is homeless.

But Pedro, Luna, and Rafa find themselves thrown together when an extraterrestrial visitor lands in their city and takes the form of Luna's cousin Tasha. As the Visitor causes destruction wherever it goes, the three teens struggle to survive and warn others of what's coming--because this Visitor is only the first of many. But who is their true enemy--this alien, or their fellow humans?

Pura BelprĂ© Honor-winning author Lilliam Rivera examines the days before a War of the Worlds-inspired alien invasion in this captivating and chilling new novel.















Enchanted Misadventures with Great-Aunt Poppy - Review

 

Spooky recommendation for this 2021 year! 


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A typical December for the Alexanders consists of gingerbread baking, movies, and looking at Christmas lights, but after their parents are called in to work, Ava, Nolan, and Charlotte are sent to stay with their most feared relative for a week-Great-Aunt Poppy. Have mom and dad gone mad?    
                                                                                                                                               
Of course, the children are terrified. Who wouldn't be? No one believes them when they say that Poppy-or Groppy as they call her-is a witch. If the haunted house isn't bad enough, there are thousands of crazy cats, chaotic and deadly spells, and even worse-frightening howls from the woods that grow louder and closer every second. Something deadly lurks outside. Staying alive while living with Groppy for an entire week is-well-impossible!                                                         
In order to survive the holiday, it will take all the bravery and wit the kids can muster. But who knows? Things aren't always what they seem! The best holiday surprise this Christmas might be hiding in the most unlikely place imagined!

Spooky is the genre of the year I feel like and sometimes kids think they're ready for scary, spooky, suspense;  but in reality they don't want it that scary - this is the BEST recommendation for those kiddos! This was the right amount of spooky-esque and so well written that kids are going to buy in big time. Ava, Nolan, and Charlotte are just like all kids their age. They're about to go stay with a great-aunt they hardly know and not looking forward to this moment whatsoever. Everything their "Groppy" tells them not to do... they do. Ending and resulting in amazing adventures along the way. Of course with disagreements and disobedience comes getting into a little bit of trouble, but throughout all of that they learn how to be together, work together, and use teamwork. 

Magic
Mayhem
Mystical Creatures
The magical creation that is perfect for the holiday season, but slightly eerie.. only in a slightly way. 

These are a few of my favorite reviews I read on Goodreads! 




Profile Image for Laurie Evans.

Wouldn’t you just love to spend Christmas in a haunted house with a real witch? Well, the Alexander children are about to do just that! Ava is the oldest of the three siblings and is the only one who has ever met Great-Aunt Poppy. After meeting her she nicknamed her Great-Aunt Groppy because she dressed and looked like a Groppy. Nolan and Charlotte, Ava’s younger siblings, thought that Ava was just exaggerating… that is until they actually met her themselves. (Insert creepy music here)!

Would you stay with a witch for a week?
Great-Aunt “Groppy” sure dressed the part of a witch with her all black clothes, purple and green striped socks, and big moles on her face that you could see for miles. And her house? Oh yeah, it fit the part to with spider webs in every crook and cranny, paint peeling, and shutters hanging on by just a nail. And did I mention the cats? Black cats with yellow beady eyes? It seemed like there were hundreds and hundreds of them. Not to mention the owls on the wallpaper that seemed to watch you wherever you went. And the blood-curdling howls that came from the woods that surrounded the house. Oh my!!
Forget a week! Would you stay even one night???
The Alexander children didn’t have a choice. Their parents were both doctors and the week before Christmas was horrible at the hospital with all kinds of sickness. The Alexander children would have to spend Christmas in a haunted house with a witch and hundreds of black cats. Could things get even worse? Oh yes, especially when Groppy tells them “Don’t go up the stairs!” Wait, what?
Insert here the magic, mayhem, and monsters part!
When Nolen wakes up on the first night to find a cat at his window, he doesn’t think anything about it, that is until he lets it in and he starts talking to him. Meet Merlin, the talking black cat! He very quickly lets Nolan know about a magic room that has a cauldron full of a wishing spell and he can get whatever food he wishes for (Nolan is a very picky eater and couldn’t eat what Groppy served for dinner). Nolan slides the doorknob on the red door from the left to the right and… voilĂ , the most perfect grilled cheese sandwich Nolan had ever seen.

Who wouldn’t want a magic spell to wish for anything you want?
The Alexander children find out very quickly that it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. If you do not word your wishes in just the right way, bad things can happen… and boy do some bad things happen! What do you think is going to happen when Great-Aunt Groppy find out about what they have done? And what about the werewolf that is roaming through the woods at night? Did I forget to mention that? Well, if you want to know what happens you are just going to have to check it out for yourself! Don’t miss this one!!

Want to know why I love this book so much?

This book just blew my mind with how amazing it is!! It starts right off the bat full of suspense when the kids first pull in in Great-Aunt Groppy’s driveway and it doesn’t let up until the very end! Throw in some humor from Nolan ("Just bury me outside by the shed and on my tombstone write the words: Here lies our favorite child. We should have fed him pizza and let him stay at home.") and some sassiness from Merlin (“Well, there is no need to get snippy,” the cat hissed back. “You only asked if I had a name. You didn’t ask what it was.”) and you’ve got yourself a fantastic book!!

This book has just the right amount of scariness and suspense to keep any reader reading way past their bedtime! I loved every minute of it and it only keeps getting better the more you read. I could not put it down! As a matter of fact, when I finished I sent a message to Hallie and told her that I had to have a book two of the Alexander kids and Great-Aunt Groppy (and she assured me there would be one - yay!!) I will be ordering several of these for my library because once I book talk this one, they will fly off the shelves!!
This book just blew my mind with how amazing it is!! It starts right off the bat full of suspense when the kids first pull in in Great-Aunt Groppy’s driveway and it doesn’t let up until the very end! Throw in some humor from Nolan ("Just bury me outside by the shed and on my tombstone write the words: Here lies our favorite child. We should have fed him pizza and let him stay at home.") and some sassiness from Merlin (“Well, there is no need to get snippy,” the cat hissed back. “You only asked if I had a name. You didn’t ask what it was.”) and you’ve got yourself a fantastic book!!

This book has just the right amount of scariness and suspense to keep any reader reading way past their bedtime! I loved every minute of it and it only keeps getting better the more you read. I could not put it down! As a matter of fact, when I finished I sent a message to Hallie and told her that I had to have a book two of the Alexander kids and Great-Aunt Groppy (and she assured me there would be one - yay!!) I will be ordering several of these for my library because once I book talk this one, they will fly off the shelves!!







September + October MUST have library additions!

 Reading Round-Up! 

Must have books for your middle grade classroom! 


Partly Cloudy by Tanita S. Davis 
On sale 9/7/21, Katherine Tegen Books 
Ages: 8-12 MG



Review: Partly Cloudy by Tanita S. Davis gives keen insight into the many microaggressions white people enact against Black people without a thought on their impact. Because of a terrible sixth grade year at school, and a few changes in the family situation, Madalyn begins to live with her great uncle Papa Lobo during the week. She attends a new school becoming the only Black student in her grade. While she makes new friends, one begins to say and do things that make Madalyn uncomfortable and Madalyn must decide how to have the uncomfortable conversation about race.

Teaching Points: Finding your voice, changing friendship, relatable fears and insecurities for middle grade kids, courage, discussing middle school struggles 

 

Looking for a Jumbie by Tracey Baptiste 

Illustrator: Amber Ren

On sale 9/21/21, Balzer + Bray

Ages: 4-8 PICTURE




Review: The best introduction to Jumbies (Caribbean mythical creatures) and all of the mystery they hold. All about believing in the unknown and not being afraid to push forward to find what you are looking for. Plus, the illustrations are gorgeous! 

Teaching Points: Courage, Caribbean folklore, spooky 

 

Major Makes History: From the Shelter to the White House by Jill Twiss (author of A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo)

Illustrator: Maribel Lechuga

On sale 9/28/21, Harper Collins

Ages: 4-8 PICTURE




Review: A feel good story from Major's perspective about how he was saved, but also how he saved President Biden.  

Teaching Points: Dogs POV, adopting animals, background info on Presidents and adopting dogs 

 

A Hundred Thousand Welcomes by Mary Lee Donovan

Illustrator: Lian Cho 

On sale 10/12/21, Greenwillow Books

Ages: 4-8 PICTURE




Review:  I love a story that shares insight into how other parts of the world live - in A Hundred Thousand Welcomes we are being welcomed from all over with compassion - and students need to see that. 

Teaching Points: Family, friendship, empathy, and welcoming others! 

 

THE MERMAID QUEEN book 4 in the Witches of Orkney middle grade fantasy series by Alane Adams

On Sale 10/12/21, SparkPress

Ages: 8-12 MG




Review:  Living in a household where my husband holds his standards high when it comes to Norse Mythology - I found him more engaged in discussions with this story as I discussed appearances of Thor, Odin, and Loki in this 4th installment to the Witches or Orkney. For students who are heavily influenced by historical events and fantasy based storytelling - this series is right up their alley! 

Teaching Points: Loyalty, commitment, girl power, very fantasy based, a part of a series. 


 

Keeping It Real by Paula Chase 

On sale 10/19/21, Greenwillow Books

Ages: 8-12 MG





Review: Mari and her best friend Justice are both go-getters who come from different sides of the tracks. Mari's family owns a business, Flexx Unlimited, which leaves Mari set for life; whereas, with Justice the only way he's going to make it out after they graduate is through scholarships and opportunities. Which when one arises at Flexx, an internship, Mari finds herself wanting to be doing something as well this summer since all of her friends seem to be working. Mari finds a way to get into her parents business to help out, but they are insistent she WORK - it won't be fun or all sunshine and rainbows just because of who she is. The other interns aren't thrilled with the work they've been given at first, but as time goes on some start to open up to the ideas of what they are doing. The only problem is, one girl, Kara, does not have a soft spot for Mari at all - then a big family secret drops that might change Mari's whole life trajectory.. or does it?


Teaching Points: Friendship, family, honesty, growing up - challenges/pains, very engaging for middle grade students 




Ghost Girl by Ally Malinenko - Review and Interview

 

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Perfect for fans of Small Spaces and Nightbooks, Ally Malinenko’s debut is an empowering and triumphant ghost story——with spooky twists sure to give readers a few good goosebumps!

Zee Puckett loves ghost stories. She just never expected to be living one.

It all starts with a dark and stormy night. When the skies clear, everything is different. People are missing. There’s a creepy new principal who seems to know everyone’s darkest dreams. And Zee is seeing frightening things: large, scary dogs that talk and maybe even . . . a ghost.

When she tells her classmates, only her best friend Elijah believes her. Worse, mean girl Nellie gives Zee a cruel nickname: Ghost Girl.

But whatever the storm washed up isn’t going away. Everyone’s most selfish wishes start coming true in creepy ways.

To fight for what’s right, Zee will have to embrace what makes her different and what makes her Ghost Girl. And all three of them—Zee, Elijah, and Nellie—will have to work together if they want to give their ghost story a happy ending.








The perfect book to order for your spooky season roundup coming up!!! All the middle grade students wanting scary but not murder mystery - this is THE BOOK!


  •   "A girl who delights in the macabre harnesses her inherited supernatural ability. The creepy supernatural current continues throughout, intermingled with very real forays into bullying (Zee won’t stand for it or for the notion that good girls need to act nice), body positivity, socio-economic status and social hierarchy, and mental health. . . Warning: this just might spurn frenzied requests for Frankenstein." –– Kirkus Reviews 

  • ·         This is a chilling story that will ­delight upper elementary readers who enjoy truly creepy books.” –– Julie Overpeck, School Library Journal 

  • ·         “My absolute favorite part of this book (besides the library-love, which I am always here for) was that CONSENT is the secret weapon. (I don't think that's spoilery because I'm keeping it out of context for this review.) I was cheering as I read and think it's such a great message to make consent so powerful. Love, love, love.” –– Candice, Goodreads Reviewer, 5 stars 
















INTRODUCING! Read to Lead - Literacy BLITZ!

 

WHAT IS? 




Read to Lead is: 

    A FREE game-based literacy program to help boost student engagement and achievement. 

    Choose from a library of online learning games, lessons, and projects that support CASEL’s Social-Emotional Framework and align to College and Career Readiness standards. Bonus: Use filters to find learning games for your students based on the skills they need to develop the most!" (See screenshots below! Just an intro to the skills offered!)

    Allow students to build literacy and social-emotional competencies within the context of an immersive “day at work” so students can connect the dots between school and their future.

    Invite students to take on the role as the “boss” in a virtual workplace scenario and watch student agency and confidence soar. Build friendly competition with the national leaderboard that counts every word read in classrooms around the country!





Games for grade 5-9! 

Here’s how you can get started engaging your students and be up and running in less than 5 minutes.

  Create your free Read to Lead account!

 Choose which Blitz you’ll do first (Reading Comprehension, Vocabulary Development, or Social Emotional Learning.)

 Start assigning the learning games to your students! (Hint, they are all linked in your bundle for easy access!)

How can I fit this in?: 

Several ways to utilize Read to Lead include (aside from the above listed): 

  • Warm up
  • Exit ticket
  • Themed day
  • Tutoring
  • Extra practice
  • Early finisher
  • Assessment prep 


Head to my Instagram page: @cassie.m.thomas to see Read to Lead in action all this week! 
Sign up for your FREE account TODAY! 












It All Comes Back To You - YA Review

 




About the Book: Kiran’s older sister is in love with Deen’s older brother. That would be complicated enough, but Kiran and Deen once had their own little love story—at least until Deen ghosted Kiran with no explanation. Now these two are forced back together to help plan their older siblings’ nuptials—if they don’t strangle each other first. Pride and Prejudice meets When Dimple Met Rishi in this enemies-to-lovers rom-com about first love, second chances, Muslim culture, loss and grief, and of course, gaming. Amazon | Goodreads | Bookshop

 

  • “Replete with desi and Muslim cultural references, this romantic drama offers an emotionally wrought story of owning one’s self and one’s past.” —Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
  • Let me just start off by saying this has the "hate each other irl, but unbeknownst to them they're actually bffs online" trope. Which is really just the superior trope let's be honest.Sami on Goodreads, 5 stars
  • “Farah Naz Rishi’s depiction of two second-generation desi young adults is probably the most accurate I’ve ever seen from a YA author. The dialogue, lingo, mannerisms between Kiran, Deen, and their respective friends were so accurate, it hurt.…Farah Naz Rishi knocked it out of the park. bookwormbullet on Goodreads, 5 stars
  • Content warnings: References to death of a parent, references to drug use, emotional abuse, anxiety, guilt.



Since I was a teen I have been a sucker for the reuniting exes - the what could have been, becomes. So much that my husband and I were together and then we split up, only to get back together (and married a few years later!).. This was such a feel good, fun, and easy to read YA contemporary following two exes - Deen and Kiran. After losing her mother, Kiran's life goal was then to ensure her, her father, and her sister were kept together. As she learns her sister, Amira, suddenly announces that she is seeing someone and might move cross-country with him after getting married, Kiran makes it her life goal to stop the wedding from happening. On the flip side, Deen is so happy his brother has found someone that brings him so much happiness that he is willing to do whatever it takes to keep the wedding afloat. 

Because of this, they become very much involved with each other but not always in a positive light. As the story goes on, we learn so much about their involvement previously. The story ends in a great light and nothing felt forced or rushed. 

I highly recommend for any YA classroom, all the contemporary lovers. 

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