The Year Without a Summer - Review

The Year Without a Summer by Arlene Mark

Out August 16! 

Click to purchase! AffLink

Explosive volcanic eruptions are cool, really, cool. They inject ash into the stratosphere and deflect the sun’s rays. When eighth grader Jamie Fulton learns that snow fell in June in his hometown because of an eruption on the other side of the world, he’s psyched! He could have snowboarded if he’d lived back in 1815 during the year without a summer.

Clara Montalvo, who recently arrived at Jamie’s school after surviving Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, has a different take all this. She is astounded—and disturbed—by Jamie’s frenzied enthusiasm for what she considers an obvious disaster. The teens’ battling arguments cause science class disruption and create academic trouble: Jamie’s headed for a failing grade in science, and may not even graduate from eighth grade; Clara’s scholarship hopes are dashed. And school isn’t the only place where Jamie and Clara are facing hardship: as they quarrel whether natural disasters can be beneficial, their home lives are also unraveling. Uncertainty about Jamie’s wounded brother returning from Afghanistan and Clara’s unreachable father back in Puerto Rico forces the two vulnerable teens to share their worries and sadness. As their focus shifts from natural disasters to personal calamities to man-made climate changes, the teens take surprising steps that astonish them. Ultimately, through hard work and growing empathy for each other, as well as for their classmates’ distress over the climate change affecting their lives, Jamie and Clara empower themselves and the people they touch.

A historical fiction middle grade story that focuses on natural disasters, with environmental concerns woven in with two 8th grade protagonists. Jamie - with parents who are very hard on him in regards to his inability to care for anything other than the snowboarding team (like grades) and Clara whose family moved to the states from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. 

A lot of middle school problems that are common and something that students can relate to. A lot of topics are covered in the story. You do learn that the title of the book came from a catastrophic, real event, the 1815 Indonesian volcano that spewed enough ash to change the climate for many countries. 

A story that student who enjoy historical fiction/environmental issues will enjoy. Also anyone struggling with parents who they feel are "hard on them" but essentially just parenting and not wanting them to waste their potential.

Spark and the League of Ursus - Recommendation

 League of Ursus Series! Must HAVE! 

Action packed! Suspenseful! Imaginative! Representation!

Toy Story meets Stranger Things in this epic tale of warrior teddy bears and the children they protect.

Spark is not your average teddy bear. She’s soft and cuddly, sure, but she’s also a fierce warrior. At night she fulfills her sacred duty: to protect the household from monsters. But Spark’s owner Loretta is growing up and thinks she doesn’t need her old teddy anymore.

When a monster unlike any other descends on the quiet home, everything changes. Children are going missing, and the monster wants Loretta next. Only Spark can stop it. She must call upon the ancient League of Ursus—a secret alliance of teddy bears who are pledged to protect their human friends. Together with an Amazon-princess doll and a timid sock monkey, the bears are all that stands between our world and the one that lies beneath. It will be a heroic chapter in the history of the League . . . if the bears live to tell the tale.

An army of toys, a menacing threat, and a thrilling adventure collide in the high-stakes sequel to Spark and the League of Ursus.
Spark may be a cute and cuddly teddy bear, but she’s also a fierce protector. Weeks after rescuing her human owner—a budding young filmmaker named Loretta—from a hideous monster, everything seems to be returning to normal. But then Spark is summoned before the mysterious Grand Sleuth, the high council of teddy bears, who task her with a dangerous mission: locating the portal to the monster’s world.
During her daring quest, Spark discovers a terrible secret that changes everything. In order to keep Loretta and their whole town safe, she must enlist the help of her loyal toy friends and team up with an unexpected ally. As the menace grows, Spark realizes that Loretta has a hidden power that may be the key to saving them all . . .
This dark middle grade fantasy is perfect for fans of the Nightmares! series and Holly Black’s Doll Bones.

Series information and fun activities can be found here:

Activity Guide: Click Here 

Surely Surely Marisol Rainey - Review

 Surely Surely Marisol Rainey

Erin Entrada Kelly

I get asked so often for chapter books targeting younger age kiddos and I am so excited to share the second installation of Marisol Rainey's adventures! Marisol is one of the best characters for those beginning chapter book readers, as well as a great night time story to read with your child. 

“Anyone who has ever had trouble feeling brave will be empowered by Marisol.”—NBC News

Everyone loves sports . . . except Marisol! The stand-alone companion to Newbery Medal winner and New York Times–bestselling Erin Entrada Kelly’s Maybe Maybe Marisol Rainey is an irresistible and humorous story about friendship, family, and fitting in. Fans of Clementine, Billy Miller Makes a Wish, and Ramona the Pest will find a new friend in Marisol.

Marisol Rainey’s two least-favorite things are radishes and gym class. She avoids radishes with very little trouble, but gym is another story—especially when Coach Decker announces that they will be learning to play kickball.

There are so many things that can go wrong in kickball. What if Marisol tries to kick the ball . . . but falls down? What if she tries to catch the ball and gets smacked in the nose? What if she’s the worst kickballer in the history of kickball? Marisol and her best friend Jada decide to get help from the most unlikely—and most annoying—athlete in the world: Marisol’s big brother, Oz.

Told in short chapters with illustrations by the author on almost every page, Erin Entrada Kelly’s stand-alone companion novel to Maybe Maybe Marisol Rainey celebrates the small but mighty Marisol, the joys of friendship, the power of being different, and the triumph of persevering. Surely Surely Marisol Rainey is ideal for readers of Kevin Henkes, Meg Medina, Judy Blume, and Beverly Cleary.  

One of my favorite things of these stories are the illustrations. When I was teaching we always started the year in our writing journal of keeping lists - and from the very beginning kids are able to see Marisol's Favorites in a way that I know so many teachers as of their students to write it in their writing journal. (Also, the drawings are just so darn good!)
Marisol is such a fun and relatable character. Students of all ages are going through something, and sometimes all it takes is not feeling alone in those big moments. The idea that one on her list of LEAST favorite things is gym class. The reality is that so many students fear/dislike gym class and instead of understanding or respecting that emotion; society has always forced gym class as a MUST. Also, the constant comparison of siblings when one is better at sports vs the other - in this case, Marisol is wishing so much to be like her brother, Oz. Marisol struggles as her nemesis, Evie, points out her weaknesses, making Marisol feel even lower than before. As the story progresses, Marisol and her bff Jada, chalk up some courage to reach out to her brother, Oz, for some help in the kickball area. 
Small moments turning into big moments - something students of this age go through so often. Every part of Marisol Rainey books are relatable in more than one way. 
Highly recommend - a great/must have addition to those 1st-4th/5th grade classrooms. 



What are you most excited for this school year? 

The Hurricanes of Weakerville - Blog Tour


All his life, Alex Weakerman has had one passion: baseball. Specifically, the Hurricanes of Weakerville, Iowa—the scrappy independent-league team owned by his Grandpa Ira.

Even as team and the town have fallen on tough times, there's no place Alex would rather be than at the ballpark—a hot dog in one hand, a pencil and scorebook in the other, keeping track of each and every statistic. Alex has never been all that great at playing baseball, but that doesn’t matter. For someone as painfully awkward as Alex, being a fan—and a wiz with baseball stats—is all he needs.

When Grandpa Ira passes away, though, Alex is crushed. He's lost his best friend, and he doesn’t see any way that the team will survive. But Ira, it seems, has one last trick up his sleeve: his will names Alex the new manager of the Hurricanes.

Alex is as excited as he is terrified at the chance to finally put some of his fantasy baseball genius to use. But as he sets to work trying to win over the players, he soon learns that leading them to victory is about more than just stats. Will he be able to save his team, his hometown, and his family legacy?

From the author of The Fourth Stall, a SCBWI Sid Fleischman Humor Award winner and multiple state-award favorite, The Hurricanes of Weakerville is sure to appeal to middle grade readers looking for a funny book about real kids.

My love runs deep for a feel good baseball story. 

The way that Chris creates the flow of the story from start to finish reminded me so much of sitting down and hearing a story from a grandparent at a young age; the kind that you get puppy dog eyes for, you can't turn away - you want answers, but you don't want it to stop at the same time because it feels so good to be a part of something so genuine. 

The main character in the story, Alex, is experiencing a lot that students in the middle grades are also experiencing. The primary emotion that I know I hung on to was his grief over the loss of his grandpa. The sadness that one would have over a loss isn't as evident as you might think, but when a loved one is dealing with cancer and it's only progressing, you're actually dealing with the high emotion for quite some time. (I've had students who had specifically asked for a book with the C word in it, and also some who specifically want to stay away after losing someone close - so definitely a trigger warning to ensure kids know is there)

The family has owned the Weakerville Hurricanes for over a century, and Alex and Grandpa Ira shared this love for baseball and this team pretty deeply. When Grandpa passes, there's obviously a moment of pause unsure of how to proceed with the team, and life in general, but Alex then inherits all of his Grandpa's old scorecards...with annotations on them. Grandpa Ira's handwriting, his personality, his memory all shining through on these score cards and giving Alex a more in depth look at who Ira truly was. Not as Grandpa, but as Ira. What was his heart like? How did he truly take care of the Weakerville Hurricanes? With issues he faced, his empathy prevailed.

Alex then learns that the team is owned currently by a distant relative named Tex who plans to disband the team and tear down the stadium, the only way to save the Hurricanes and his Grandpa's legacy is to win the playoffs. A lot of issues arise along the way, which is how are adults going to listen to a 7th grade manager? 

There's a lot of baseball jargon, and more specifically the backend of baseball and managing a team. Which I personally loved and can't wait to share with my son, but if a kid doesn't know much about baseball, may need a crash course before diving in! 

Overall: 5 stars. A wonderful middle grade story that is one for the keeps. So many underlying themes to discuss. Teaching points: the writing structure, plot development, character arcs, themes, humor in writing. 

A person wearing a striped shirt

Description automatically generated with medium confidence

Chris Rylander is the author of the acclaimed and bestselling “Fourth Stall” saga, the “Codename Conspiracy” trilogy, and co-author of book three in the New York Times bestselling “House of Secrets” series. He lives in Chicago, where he eats a lot of raspberry jam and frequently tries to befriend the squirrels on his block.

The Hurricanes of Weakerville Blog Tour 

6/21 Nerdy Book Club @nerdybookclub

6/22 A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust @bethshaum

6/23 Teachers Who Read @teachers_read

6/27 LitCoachLou @litcoachlou

6/28 Bluestocking Thinking @bluesockgirl

6/29 Walden Tumblr @waldenpondpress

7/1        Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers @grgenius

Drifters - Kevin Emerson BLOG TOUR


Jovie is adrift. She’d been feeling alone ever since her best friend, Micah, left her behind for a new group of friends—but when Micah went missing last fall, Jovie felt truly lost.

Now, months later, the search parties have been called off, and the news alerts have dried up. There’s only Jovie, biking around Far Haven, Washington, putting up posters with Micah’s face on them, feeling like she’s the only one who remembers her friend at all.

This feeling may be far closer to the truth than Jovie knows. As strange storms beset Far Haven, she is shocked to discover that Micah isn’t just missing—she’s been forgotten completely by everyone in town. And Micah isn’t the only one: there are others, roaming the beaches, camped in the old bunkers, who have somehow been lost from the world.

When Jovie and her new friend Sylvan dig deeper, they learn that the town’s history is far stranger and more deadly than anyone knows. Something disastrous is heading for Far Haven, and Jovie and Sylvan soon realize that it is up to them to save not only Micah, but everyone else who has been lost to the world and set adrift—now, in the past, and in the future.

I wish I could say I love sci-fi, buuuuut - The big thing I can say with Kevin Emerson, is that he always pulls me in. I have thoroughly enjoyed every title he has put out even if I'm unsure until I dive in. Middle grade science fiction with a Stranger Things vibe - with a focus on friendships, but the whole plot line and solution are entirely different. 

Jovie and Micah are best friends that live in Far Haven. When Micah disappears after they’ve been estranged she doesn’t understand why no one seems to remember her. She’s determined to figure out what happened, and then other odd things begin happening. 

I love how there's a correlation between being adrift or becoming a drifter and loneliness. How often do kids feel like they're not seen or heard? This theme will strike a chord with readers. We see how family and friends are so important as well as how we're all connected in a community. I also love a book with mysteries or secrets to unravel—and this story is full of them.

Recommended for students who find themselves loving anything MPH, watches Stranger Things, plays anything sci-fi, but also students need to have the focus and commitment because this book is THICK. (if they seem unsure, hook them on to his Last Day on Mars series and then this after the series!)

Themes: friendship, connection, childhood, determination, feeling lost/getting found, grief, mystery 

Teaching points: Recreating scenes, using the mysteries to curate endings, researching (grade appropriate) conspiracy theories - curating a story to tell the theory, visual representation (one pagers, POV eye, setting activities), analyze multiple POV/perspectives/alternating times,  

TW: child disappearance, trauma, grief, memory loss


5/9/22 Nerdy Book Club @nerdybookclub

5/10/22 Bluestocking Thinking @bluesockgirl

5/11/22 Charlotte's Library @charlotteslibrary

5/13/22 Maria's Mélange @mariaselke

5/16/22 Teachers Who Read @teachers_read

5/23/22 Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers @grgenius

5/27/22 A Library Mama @alibrarymama

5/31/22 Unleashing Readers @unleashreaders

The Aquamarine Surfboard - Reviews


The Aquamarine Surfboard
Kellye Abernathy

“Age never matters, these things are about bravery and heart.”

Thirteen-year-old Condi Bloom’s dream is to learn to surf, but her laid-back beach town isn’t what it used to be. Big resort owners are taking over the cove. Worse, someone’s harassing the Beachlings, the mysterious old women living in the cliffs off Windy Hollow, a lonely tower of rock that people say is haunted. When a new surfer boy named Trustin shows up in town and invites Condi to a forbidden surfing spot, she’s swept into an extraordinary underwater adventure, where a surprising encounter with Koan, the Riddlemaster of the Sea, changes her life. Along with Trustin, his quirky twin and a mystical aquamarine surfboard, Condi learns the untold stories of the Beachlings, uncovering the timeless secrets of Windy Hollow.

Ebbing and flowing between reality and magic, times past and present, The Aquamarine Surfboard by Kellye Abernathy is a riveting beach tale about opening up to mystery, building community when and where you can — and discovering the ocean is filled with magic—the really BIG kind—the kind that changes the world.

Tone - Theme - Imagery  - Vocabulary - Author's Craft - Literary Devices

Live your dreams!