Author Spotlight: Abby Cooper

Hello, readers! We hope you are gearing up for a fabulous holiday weekend! I know mine will be filled with yummy grilled food, time outdoors and packing. Womp, womp. Yep, packing. We are moving into a rental while we search for the perfect house in the country OR the perfect land in the country to build on. (I’m hoping for the latter to come true

In between eating, playing and packing, I am sure I’ll get some pages read in the many books I have going right now. One of them being Bubbles by Abby Cooper! I am about 2/3 of the way through it and, all I can say is, if you LOVED Sticks and Stones, you will LOVE Bubbles! Promise!

In anticipation of Abby’s sophomore release, she agreed to an interview for Teachers Who Read. We hope you enjoy learning a little more about one of our favorite authors!! J  

1.   Tell us a little about yourself:
Hi! I'm Abby Cooper, and I live in Minnesota. I'm the author of Sticks & Stones and Bubbles. Before I was a writer, I was a teacher and school librarian. When I'm not writing or reading, I'm hanging out with my miniature poodle, Louis, eating cupcakes, and watching bad reality TV. 
2.  Tell us about your most recent book.
Bubbles releases on Monday, July 3rd from FSG/Macmillan. I'm so excited for it to be out in the world! This book follows 12-year-old Sophie as she navigates friendships, school, and family with one extra challenge - she's started seeing thought bubbles above people's heads that say what they're really thinking. At first, it's cool, but it quickly turns difficult. I hope readers enjoy this book, and that it leads to discussion about perception, communication, and honesty. 
3.  When did you decide to be a writer?
I always wanted to be an author, ever since I was little. I was lucky to grow up with parents who read to me often, and I developed a love of books early on. As a kid, I wrote all the time, but as I got older, I didn't write nearly as much. I had so many more worries and fears in my head and I was truly my own biggest roadblock. It took a lot of convincing (from my students when I was a school librarian) for me to get out of my own way and start writing. I'm so grateful to them for getting me to write again. Now I get to live my dream!
4.  If you weren't a writer, what would be your dream job?
I was a school librarian before I became an author, and, besides this job, I'm pretty sure that's the best one there is. I would happily do anything that allowed me to work with kids and books! On a slightly different note, I'd also be super interested in working at a bakery as a taste tester. :)
5.  Can you tell us a little about your writing strategy? Do you plot your stories or do you free write?
I try to start out with a general idea of who the characters are, what the big problem is, and where I want things to end up. Then I write and see what happens! For me, the first few drafts are just for figuring out exactly what the story is, and then I go back and revise and revise and revise.
6.  What is your ideal writing ambiance? Is there anything you MUST have when writing?
I like to keep things pretty simple - all I really need is a quiet space. Snacks are good, too. 
7.  What inspired you to write Sticks & Stones and Bubbles?
Initially, I was inspired by my students. They'd heard me talk about my idea for Sticks & Stones, and when Wonder came out they practically begged me to write it, because they wanted similar books and thought my idea could fit the bill. It was interesting to me to see how much they loved Wonder, and how badly they wanted books where the main character was drastically different than everyone else. I think a lot of kids in the middle grade age group feel like they're different from their peers for all kinds of reasons. I want kids to know that whoever they are, they're important, and whatever they're dealing with, they're not alone. My characters face some unusual challenges (to say the least!). I hope that their courage and determination will inspire students to handle whatever comes their way and to see that being different can actually be a wonderful thing.
8.  What are your favorite books? (all ages)  
My all-time favorite is Frindle by Andrew Clements. I also love: Dory Fantasmagory by Abby Hanlon, the Cody books by Tricia Springstubb, the Betty Bunny series by Michael Kaplan, Fenway and Hattie by Victoria Coe, Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper, Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, anything by Rebecca Stead, Wendy Mass, or Natalie Lloyd, the Jessica Darling books by Megan McCafferty... I could keep going, but I'm cutting myself off before this blog post turns into a short novel!
9.  What were some of your favorite books when you were in 4-6th grade?
I remember reading the Landry News by Andrew Clements, The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin, and Tangerine by Edward Bloor. I was also really into the Little House series those years. And I definitely can't forget Harry Potter - the first one came out when I was in 4th grade, and life has never been the same!
10.        What are you reading now? What do you recommend?
Most recently, I read Shannon Hale's Real Friends, which I thought was fantastic! I've read a lot of great middle grade lately, including 14 Hollow Road by Jenn Bishop, Almost Paradise by Corabel Shofner, Things That Surprise You by Jen Maschari, Amina's Voice by Hena Kahn, and Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk. I love middle grade! 
11. What advice do you have for young, aspiring authors (or old, aspiring authors, haha!)
Write! I know that sounds silly, but it's a lot easier said than done. Like I said before, I was my own biggest obstacle. No matter who you are, your first draft is not going to be your final draft, so don't create unnecessary stress for yourself by demanding immediate perfection. Allow yourself to put your ideas down on paper, and remember that your writing process is just that - a process. Enjoy it! 

Abby has read some great books and has some great advice! If you have not read Sticks and Stones yet, add it to your TBR pile immediately! I read it aloud to my fourth graders last year and they adored it. My students are really looking forward to reading Bubbles (which comes out on Monday, July 3rd) and I am really looking forward to discussing it with them at our summer book club meeting in August!

Thank you so much, Abby! We loved chatting with you and learning more about you! You’re very inspiring and I think many people can relate to the problem you had before becoming a writer. We are our own worst critics (I know I am!).

We have just one last question . What’s next after Bubbles?! Do you have another great Abby Cooper idea brewing?? We hope so!


How Joining a Book Club Transformed My Classroom

I’ve made fierce enemies and even fiercer friends in book clubs. And while I consider them an integral part of my personal and professional life it wasn’t until my recent experience in a National Writing Project book club that I considered the implications for my classroom.
Book clubs are not about assigning kids jobs or grades. They’re about allowing kids to discuss their thoughts and feelings. I read Disruptive Thinking by Kylene Beers and Bob Probst at the end of this year and rushed to incorporate the Book, Head, Heart framework.
I realized this is what I had been missing. I don’t want the focus to be about the meaning of a word or a picture of the setting. While those things certainly have their place, the students’ need to authentically discuss their thoughts and feelings supersede any grade they could earn.
Book clubs aren’t about me. Even though I have passionate opinions about the books, I hold my tongue when a student doesn’t fall in love with Stella & Ivan. (BTW, how does that happen?!?)
Book clubs are not the place for test prep. I don’t want them to associate reading with a test. Or 50 multiple choice questions. I just want them to read to like reading. OR to change their thinking. Or, to paraphrase Beers and Probst, to create capable and compassionate readers.
Book clubs create communities. This one is obvious. Professional Communities. Classroom Communities. School Communities.

If you’re interested in book clubs, follow educators like Stacey Riedmiller, who started a Books on Blankets program or Pernille Ripp, who incorporates them into her 7th grade classroom. And remember to check out Cassie’s post on her Mock Newbery Club.

Some of my students participate in a cross-county book club that meets every 5-6 weeks. Sometimes we Skype with the author, but mostly, we just talk. This group consists of teachers, students, and parents. Often, we make our thoughts and opinions public via social media. We are thankful that authors take the time to respond. 


It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

Happy Monday, Friends!

Whether you are participating in summer #bookaday, setting summer reading goals or simply reading whatever strikes your fancy at the moment, we hope you are enjoying every drop of summer and reading until your reader-heart is full.

We would love to know what you are currently enjoying! Share in the comments below! 


Review: Things That Surprise You by Jen Maschari

Goodreads summary: 
Emily Murphy is about to enter middle school. She’s sort of excited… though not nearly as much as her best friend Hazel, who is ready for everything to be new. Emily wishes she and Hazel could just continue on as they always have, being the biggest fans ever of the Unicorn Chronicles, making up dance moves, and getting their regular order at The Slice. 

But things are changing. At home, Emily and her mom are learning to move on after her parents’ divorce. Hardest of all, her beloved sister Mina has been in a treatment facility to deal with her anorexia. Emily is eager to have her back, but anxious about her sister getting sick again.

Hazel is changing too. She has new friends from the field hockey team, is starting to wear makeup, and have crushes on boys. Emily is trying to keep up, but she keeps doing and saying the wrong thing. She want to be the perfect new Emily. But who is that really?

Things That Surprise You is a beautifully layered novel about navigating the often shifting bonds of family and friendship, and learning how to put the pieces back together when things fall apart.

My personal review: 
I laid down in bed last night thinking I was just going to read to page 170 so I would only have 100 pages to finish today. Well an hour and half later, I finished the whole book. 

I immediately felt this connection to the book that brought back so many memories of my middle school life. Part of me connected with Emily as well as Mina. I knew from the beginning exactly what Mina was struggling with, as I had struggled with something similar when I got into highschool. I had to be followed into the bathroom, I had to be monitored by teacher's daily, and I hated that I was struggling with it, but I also never realized how much it affected all of those around me.  I feel like the pressures that the girls all face in the story are going to be very relatable to for students 5th and up. It's an ever changing world, and girls especially are sadly put into this mold they have to fit in. I started telling my 4th graders last year that friends start to change in 4th grade and up, it's not a bad thing, but it's that people start to figure out who they are and what they stand for. It doesn't ever mean that that particular person won't hold a special place in your heart, but what it does mean is that you have to grow up and be comfortable with who YOU are and I think Jen does an absolute AMAZING job of teaching this theme throughout the entire story.

Just like the Goodreads summary mentions, Emily is dealing with her best friend, Hazel, changing and molding to fit into the Teen Scene society, the magazine type image of what girls SHOULD be, but Emily doesn't feel that way, she still loves her Unicorn Chronicle adventures, being in school, and staying a kid. 

The "D" word is something that was a tough subject for some of my students last year. I love how this beautifully describes the emotions that students go through when their parents are getting or are divorced. There's a moment in the story where I think all kids finally get to, but it does take some time, and I'm so glad that Jen included that in the story. 

Jen captured the characters so beautifully, so much that I immediately pre-ordered 3 copies for my Mock Newbery. This will definitely be a story I talk about at the beginning of the year of teaching 5th grade knowing that students are all experiencing and will experience the emotions captured in this story! 

Click on the picture to pre-order your copy NOW!: 

Amazon Affiliate Link

Jennifer Maschari will be featured on an author spotlight soon! Be on the lookout for questions students have about her writing and reading life. 


Summer Slide and BrainQuest

If you are a teacher you are more than aware of the summer slide and how detrimental it can be to incoming students, but one thing I have noticed in working with publishers this summer is that a lot of parents and kids don't even know about what we call the "summer slide." That is worrisome to me. 

One of the absolute BEST and biggest ways to beat the summer slide is through my favorite way of course: 

There's a big statistic right there. The importance of reading and how much students do enjoy it over the summertime... 

BUT...of course, there's always a but.... 

Let's say that reading isn't the only thing you're fearful of "sliding" in, what about math? What if you're like I was and just want to get ahead of the game before you start the next school year???

I don't know about you, but as a child I loved learning (probably why I became a teacher) so much that my mom always made a point to get the Brain Quest questions that came in rectangular flip cards. I used to love to study those and have her ask me. 

When I saw a Summer Brain Quest workbook I was super excited for those who are young students now! Brain Quest makes these for students of all grade levels, and they cover every content area *BOO YAH!* 

I think this is a great way to keep up with your academics as well as finding time to read. This can be something that you do together in car rides when you go on vacation, anytime you're waiting at a doctor's office, if they have a younger brother/sister that they can work with... The possibilities are endless when it comes to finding the time to continue your learning. 

If you are interested in reading more about the summer slide and what Scholastic suggests you can do, click here

If you are interested in purchasing the Brain Quest workbook click below! Remember, they have some for all grade levels! 


Considering Class Read Alouds

I’m 19 days and 19 books into summer. One of the first things I think about in planning for the upcoming school year is my why.  Not what I want my results to be. Or how I’m going to get there. Or even what I want students to learn. It’s why I structure my classroom the way I do. Why do I carve out time for silent reading? Every. Single. Day. Why do I let my students choose what they read and write about?  Why do I read aloud poems, and picture books, and short stories, and novels? And show speeches, and commercials, and TED Talks and clips from Game of Thrones? It’s because I value being a reader and writer and I want my students to have authentic experiences in my classroom. One of the foundations of my reading and writing community is our read alouds
Throughout the years, I’ve found some go-to books to start our year, including::
Thunder Dog
Nine, Ten

I love these three books because they’re about differences. All of them lead to powerful conversations that permeate our classroom all year long.

  During the rest of the year, students have choice in the read alouds, and vote based on genre, topic, and how they want to feel when we read it. Below are some read alouds I’ve done in the past, along with a few that I'm considering, categorized by emotions. What chapter books are you thinking about reading aloud?

  The Red Bandanais my top contender for our first read aloud. The kind folks at Penguin Random House sent me an ARC of the Young Adult edition, so I’m anxious to see how that compares to the adult version. If you’re not familiar with this story, it’s about a former Boston lacrosse player who helped people evacuate the World Trade Center buildings on 9/11. Check out the Nerdy Book Club post for more resources. 


IMWAYR- 6/19/17


Who Would Win? Recommendation

Who Wins?

I wanted to share with you today a little bit about this amazing resource, Who Wins? by Clay Swartz illustrated by Tom Booth. In this book they have cut up the pages so that you can randomly select any of the historical figures listed to "compete" against the other historical figure. They have provided you with more than 100,000 possible combinations, which means most of the match ups are going to be completely hypothetical, but it provides great talking points, as well as research material. 

The winner is entirely up to YOU, the reader. The author has provided you with interesting facts, short biographies, and they even rank them in 6 different categories: wealth, fitness, wisdom, bravery, artistry, leadership, and intelligence. All of the stats given are completely subjective, so you as the reader are able to interpret the data in any way you want and then justify your decision of the winner based on the facts given. 

Ways to use in the classroom:

I am a reading and writing teacher, so when I see this resource I don't think necessarily about the historical interest as much as I do the reading and writing components. As I have looked through this resource, I have been thinking of several different ways to use this in the classroom. In our Texas state standards, the TEKS, every year there are research standards that our students are required to master, as well as persuasive writing standards. I immediately think about a writing piece and how students can use this as research, and then collaborate or individually continue research online, and then create a persuasive piece on why the person they feel would win would win. 

Here's a quick example: 

I randomly opened the pages to those below.. 
Jane Austen V.S. Pablo Picasso

In looking at their pictures, no of course they are not a likely mash up, but in comparing their numbers they are very similar in a lot of ways. This would give students the opportunity to research and learn more about their two individuals and then persuade their peers and myself, their teacher, as to why they feel either Jane or Pablo would win. Even then I think they could take it even further and create a project with a group or partner and then present... I even think this could also be like a biography museum where they dress up as the winner and then present their winner and their why. 

You can find this book here on Amazon: 

Do you have any other ideas of use in this classroom? Drop your ideas below in a comment!! I look forward to sharing more resources for use in the classroom from Workman Publishing over the next few weeks! 


Review - Three Pennies by Melanie Crowder

I don't know what it is about orphans, but give me a story where the main character is an orphan and I am immediately sucked in.

Perhaps it was growing up with Mary Lennox from The Secret Garden or Sara Crewe from A Little Princess. We can't forget about The Boxcar Children either.  Then came Harry Potter and Liesel Meminger from The Book Thief. And, of course, classics like Oliver Twist and Huck Finn. All books with memorable orphans that overcome their difficult circumstances.

However, the orphan that probably hooked me for life was Anne Shirley. There is no orphan more endearing than Anne (in my opinion). I could return to Avonlea with Anne any time, she is one of my favorite fictional characters.

I love reading (or watching on the screen) and getting to know these young characters that overcome such hardship in the early years of their lives. It's inspirational and makes me feel like I can overcome anything I may be up against. 

Recently I met a new orphan to love and her name is Marin. I first heard about Three Pennies by Melanie Crowder on the Books Between podcast, hosted by Corrina Allen. I immediately put the book on hold at the library and it came in right away. It sat on my shelf for awhile and I even renewed the loan twice. Then it was mentioned AGAIN on the podcast on a different episode and I knew I had to pick it up. The chapters are short and the story is a page-turner, so I had to force myself not to devour it all in one sitting. 

In Three Pennies, Marin is convinced her mother is looking for her and despite finally being placed in a foster home that could potentially turn into a permanent home, Marin continues to search for her biological mother, even sacrificing her chance at living in a stable environment with a loving foster mom. She is determined to get answers about her mother and convinced the woman that gave her up for adoption wants to be a family again. 

Falling in love with Marin was easy. She has a tough shell (as many fictional orphans do) but is a softie on the inside. She doesn't want to like her foster mother Lucy, but she does. Through Lucy, Marin begins to understand what a mother really is to a child and that being related biologically is not a prerequisite to mothering.

This story is woven together so simply and told almost poetically. Written in three different engaging perspectives I found myself surprised when I didn't have a favorite voice. I *always* have a favorite narrator in alternating perspective books. Melanie Crowder wrote each character with such a likable voice, I loved each one. I also appreciated the short chapters (and I know kids will, too). I cannot wait to share this book with my students and it is definitely going on my Mock Newbery 2018 list of books.

Don't let this one pass you by. 


Author Spotlight: Karina Glaser

Let's start things off with introductions, what is your name and where are you from? 
My name is Karina Yan Glaser, and I was born in Chicago, moved to Los Angeles when I was in first grade, and moved to New York City for college. I still live in New York City now, in a neighborhood called Harlem. My parents are originally from China, and I was the first person from both sides of my family to be born in the United States.

Tell us about your most recent book.
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street is a story about five kids who are trying to convince their third floor neighbor and landlord to renew their apartment lease five days before Christmas. They resort to all types of bribes, good deeds, and blackmail in order to convince their landlord to let them stay in their home!

When did you decide you wanted to be an author? 
I wrote my first book when I was in first grade. My dad brought it to his office and made photocopies, and I signed copies for my family. It was about two kids who wanted a pet, so basically it was a non-fiction book about my brother and me.

What were your middle grade years like? 4th, 5th grade? Did you enjoy reading or writing? 
My family moved a lot when I was growing up. By the sixth grade, I had attended six different schools, and it was really hard to find friends since I was always the new person. (I was also very shy back then!) I spent a lot of my recesses reading or in the library, and I always found books and stories to be very comforting in the midst of so much transition.

What was your favorite book as a child? What's your favorite middle grade book currently (aside from your own)? 
Oh my gosh, I cannot choose a favorite! I loved so many books growing up. Back in fourth and fifth grade, I loved The Baby-Sitter's Club series by Ann M. Martin, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigburg, Matilda by Roald Dahl, the Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, and The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. My current favorites are too long to list! I read and recommend middle grade books for a book website, so I read hundreds of amazing books every year. Here are a handful of my current favorites: See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng, Matylda Bright and Tender by Holly M. McGhee, Ghost by Jason Reynolds, The Best Man by Richard Peck, The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt, Ice Whale by Jean Craighead George, the Chains trilogy by Laurie Halse Anderson, The Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall, The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly, the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon trilogy by Grace Lin, A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park, and The Birchbark House series by Louise Erdrich. Is that enough? I could happily list a hundred more!

What connections can students make with your book/books? Why should our teacher put your books in our library? 
I came from an immigrant family that lived in the suburbs, and growing up I was often lonely and loved books with big families set in New York City. To me, New York City seemed like a magical place! So I set out to write a book about a large family living in contemporary New York City, and I thought about what some big challenges would be for this family. Housing insecurity is a huge issue not only in New York City but around the country and world, and I thought lots of kids would be rooting for the Vanderbeekers to stay in their home and community because the security and importance of home is something we can all relate to.

If you could recommend any books to us as 4/5th graders, what would it be? 
Have you heard of Gene Luen Yang? He's the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, and he has a challenge called Reading Without Walls. It asks readers to expand their reading horizons and read outside their comfort zone. 
He gives three suggestions: 
1. Read a book about a character that doesn't look or live like you, 
2. Read a book about a topic you don't know much about, and 
3. Read a book in a format you don't normally read for fun.

In the spirit of that challenge, I recommend the following books:
For challenge #1: It Ain't So Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas, Cilla Lee-Jenkins, Author Extraordinaire by Susan Tan, Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia
For challenge #2: Ghost by Jason Reynolds (about running), A Dog in the Cave by Kay Frydenborg (about human and dog evolution), The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich (about a Native American family during the pioneer years)
For challenge #3: Real Friends by Shannon Hale (graphic novel), The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary by Laura Shovan (book in verse), and Freedom Over Me by Ashley Bryant (picture book)

Last question, any advice as young readers and writers?
Read, read, read! Carry a notebook around because you're never going to know when writing inspiration will strike!

Thank you so much for participating in our author spotlight! 
This was so fun! Thanks for inviting me!

**Interested in pre-ordering Karina's book, click below to purchase from Amazon!**