Feature Friday 7.28.17


It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

Happy Monday! Here at TWR, we are soaking up every last bit of summer by reading as much as we can. We are beginning to think about our classrooms though and thinking about getting in there soon, are you? I know I personally like to have things done a little sooner than necessary because it makes those days right before school starts a little less hectic so spending time in my classroom unpaid is worth it for my mental health later!

I just finished Wishtree by Katherine Applegate and it met ALL the hype it’s been getting. I’ll be honest, this book is getting A LOT of buzz this year so I was nervous it wouldn’t meet those high expectations I had formed but, let me tell you, IT DID! I’ve always liked trees, but now I think I have an even bigger appreciation and love for them. Read it. You will not regret it!

What have you been reading and loving lately? What are you reading right now? We love to know what our readers are enjoying so let us know in the comments! 


Just Finished: Two Highly Recommended Novels

Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein

Goodreads Summary: 
At the start of 1991, eleven-year-old Ali Fadhil was consumed by his love for soccer, video games, and American television shows. Then, on January 17, Iraq’s dictator Saddam Hussein went to war with thirty-four nations lead by the United States.

Over the next forty-three days, Ali and his family survived bombings, food shortages, and constant fear. Ali and his brothers played soccer on the abandoned streets of their Basra neighborhood, wondering when or if their medic father would return from the war front. Cinematic, accessible, and timely, this is the story of one ordinary kid’s view of life during war.

I know what you are thinking, the title makes you question it, right? But, boy will it ever make you reconsider questioning a book title again. I found myself turing page after page of this book wanting to know more about Ali and his life in Iraq during the Gulf War. It's interesting to watch a young boys viewpoints of his own country, then ran by Suddam Hussein, and how he felt about America, where he desired to be desperately. I was reading this story as my husband was watching Lone Survivor and I couldn't help but find myself crying for both sides of the war. Those who are innocent and stuck in an environment where they are pegged as guilty. 

Ali's story is one that will resonate with young, middle grade students and will strike up conversations for days to come. Comes out in February 2018, but I highly recommend preordering this book so that the publishers know how desperately teachers want to instill empathy in their students. 

The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora 

Goodreads Summary:

Save the restaurant. Save the town. Get the girl. Make Abuela proud. Can thirteen-year-old Arturo Zamora do it all or is he in for a BIG, EPIC FAIL? 

For Arturo, summetime in Miami means playing basketball until dark, sipping mango smoothies, and keeping cool under banyan trees. And maybe a few shifts as junior lunchtime dishwasher at Abuela's restaurant. Maybe. But this summer also includes Carmen, a cute poetry enthusiast who moves into Arturo's apartment complex and turns his stomach into a deep fryer. He almost doesn't notice the smarmy land developer who rolls into town and threatens to change it. Arturo refuses to let his family and community go down without a fight, and as he schemes with Carmen, Arturo discovers the power of poetry and protest through untold family stories and the work of Jose Marti. 

The way that Pablo intertwines all of the history of Latin America into a story instilling the importance of family, and never giving up, speaks to your soul. This was such a heart print book for me in so many ways. I love the way that it makes you laugh, and still sneaks in some ways to make you cry. You will cry tears of sadness, and tears of happiness. Pablo makes sure that you remember to be proud of who you are, your family, and where you came from, and to never forget how hard you worked or your family worked to get to where you are. This book will speak to middle grade students who find themselves wondering about their voice and where they fit in with their crazy family or friends, and all while trying to understand what these feelings about a girl are and how to handle that. This book will be included in my 2018 Mock Newbery for next year. I can't wait to book talk with my students. This book is already out and if you teach grades 5-8, I highly recommend ordering. 


Smart Cookie Review: Cassie & Amber

What was it about Smart Cookie that made you want to read it? 

Cassie - I loved Elly’s style of writing in Finding Perfect and I knew that anything by her I immediately was going to want to read. Then reading the back synopsis, I loved Frankie already.

Amber - I agree! After reading Finding Perfect and watching my kids go nuts for it, I knew that I would NEED anything that Elly writes! I first noticed how adorable the cover for Smart Cookie was and when I read the synopsis I felt that Frankie sounded very similar to Molly which put a huge sold sign up for me!

What was your initial reaction to Smart Cookie? Did it hook you immediately or did it take some time to get into?

Cassie - I was hooked immediately. Not long into the story it talks about how Frankie is a “barefooter” and that is SO ME. I couldn’t believe that someone else took notice of kids being barefoot that they would actually include that description in their writing, so I was super excited to have something in common with Frankie. 

Amber - Ha! I love that! It’s nice when you relate with the main character. I loved the setting. The B&B and the characters all made me think of Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls (which I’m a big fan of!). I also really connected with the theme that all families are not the same and your support system is your family no matter what that support system looks like. 

What was your favorite quote or passage?

Cassie - goodness, how do I choose one? I don’t exactly have one specific I don’t think. I LOVE that she writes notes to her mom. I think this could be a great discussion with students about why they think she does that and what they might do. 

Amber - I also loved the notes to her mom! I don’t have any favorite quotes, but I loved the little bit of mystery this book had. What was going on with her grandma? What was going on with the B&B? What else was going on with her dad? I kept asking questions while reading and couldn’t wait to get some answers! 

What made the setting unique? Was the setting important or could the story have taken place anywhere?
Cassie- the fact that it’s in a B&B and they live there. I think that’s super interesting. That could lead to a lot of discussions about how a lot of parents have businesses and the familiar actually live in that location as well. Such as in The Exact Location of Home by Kate Messner, one of the characters families owns a funeral home, and they live above it - those would be good books to do comparisons next year when Smart Cookie comes out.  I also love the ghost hunt intertwined. Gives it a little something extra! 

Amber - I absolutely LOVED the B&B setting and thought that the setting was an integral part of the conflict. Without the B&B and it’s financial problems much of the plot would fall apart. The setting lent itself well to providing many additional characters and situations that Frankie could get herself into! 

If you could ask the author one question, what would you ask?

Cassie - What was your inspiration for this story? Did you let Frankie take the lead? 

Amber - I would also ask where the inspiration for the story came from and I’m curious how Elly wrote the story. Was the plot planned out? I would also ask Elly if she’s working on anything new for 2019! ;)

Preorder Smart Cookie today! 

& check out Elly's other amazing story, Finding Perfect



Author Spotlight: Jennifer Maschari


Welcome to Teachers Who Read - we are students of Mrs. Thomas's class who have a love of reading and want others to know about our favorite authors! 

Let's start things off with introductions, what is your name and where are you from? 

Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Cassie. I am so exited to answer your students' questions! My name is  Jen Maschari, and I am an author and teacher. I live in Columbus, Ohio with my husband and two English bulldogs, Oliver and Hank. 

Tell us about your most recent book.

I'd love to! THINGS THAT SURPRISE YOU is about a twelve-year-old girl named Emily Murphy who tries to solve her friend and family problems by following the advice from self-help CDs she orders off an infomercial. Emily's parents have recently divorced, and her sister is returning home from a residential facility where she was receiving treatment for her eating disorder. On top of that, her friendship with her very best friend Hazel isn't the same. Emily is trying to figure out how to navigate all of the changes in her life!

When did you decide you wanted to be an author? 

Great question. I've always loved to write. When I was younger, I would write funny poems in the style of Shel Silverstein. But I always thought that authors were these famous people who lived in castles, and that it wasn't a job for normal people like me! It wasn't till I got a letter back from a favorite author when I was in 6th grade that I thought maybe I could be one, too! Fast forward to 2010, I decided I wanted to try to write a book. I kept writing and practicing and getting better, and in 2016, my first book, THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF CHARLIE PRICE, was published!

What were your middle grade years like? 4th, 5th grade? Did you enjoy reading or writing? 

Oh goodness, I LOVED to read when I was that age (I still do!). I would sit in the aisles of the library and collect this huge stack of books to check out. I was an active participant in the summer library program and couldn't wait to write down all of the books I read. I enjoyed writing, too! I wrote all kinds of things - poems, short stories, research reports, speeches. 

What was your favorite book as a child? What's your favorite middle grade book currently (aside from your own)? 

As a child, I could not get enough of the Babysitters Club, Sweet Valley Twins and all of the subsequent super specials that went along with them. I read a lot of Nancy Drew, too! Reading a series was like getting to visit old friends in every single book. I also enjoyed THE GIVER (I think I've read it 10 times!) and GOODNIGHT MR. TOM. It's very hard to pick a favorite.  Books I've loved more recently would be Caela Carter's FOREVER, OR A LONG, LONG TIME and Esther Ehrlich's NEST.

What connections can students make with your book/books? Why should our teacher put your books in our library? 

Whether a kid needs a book as an escape or as a hand on their shoulder that says, "Me too! I know just how you feel," I hope that my book can be that for that reader. I hope that readers will be able to make connections to their own lives. Middle school can be a tough time (it was for me)! I think there are some cool connections to other things, too - whether you like dogs or science or are obsessed with a favorite book series - I think there is something for you in my books!

If you could recommend any books to us as 4/5th graders, what would it be? 

Oooh! I just finished Danielle Davis' ZINNIA AND THE BEES which was so fun! It's about a girl named Zinnia who is a yarn-bomber (cool, right?) and gets a hive of honeybees stuck in her hair. It was such a quirky and charming read, and I am certain that Zinnia and my main character, Emily, would be fast friends and commiserate about their problems together. I also loved Linda Williams Jackson's incredibly powerful book, MIDNIGHT WITHOUT A MOON. I am counting down the days till the sequel, A SKY FULL OF STARS, comes out. VILONIA BEEBE TAKES CHARGE by Kristin L. Gray is another one I'd suggest! It's so full of heart and the main character is incredibly memorable (just take a look at that book cover!)

Last question, any advice as young readers and writers?

Read, read, read! Write, write, write! Observe the world. Try new things. Know your work doesn't have to be perfect the first time (or the third time or the fiftieth time!) Know that your writing voice and story is powerful because it is unique to you. 


Jennifer Maschari is a classroom teacher who writes books for young readers. She is the author of The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price and Things That Surprise You. She has another stand-alone middle grade novel coming out in 2018 from Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins. Jennifer lives in Ohio with her husband and her two stinky (yet noble) English bulldogs, Oliver and Hank. 

IMWAYR 7.17.17

Let us know what you're reading in the comments below. And for more PB, MG, and YA reads check out the following blogs:




Using 6 Word Memoirs to Promote Books




Top 10 Nerd Camp Tips

Hello! We have a guest blogger today! We have collaborated with Amanda from My Shoestring Life and put together some of our favorite pieces of advice for the quickly approaching Nerd Camp MI!

We LOVE Nerd Camp and over the years we have learned a thing or two. Check out our must-have #nErDcampMI tips! Shout out to nerdy author, Jess Keating for the blog post idea with her Nerd Camp tweets last week! Jess will also be at camp! 

 Amber: Be prepared to want every.single.book from every.single.author that is there. The authors are some of the nicest people around and just as happy to be there as we are - in fact, many of them fund their trip to Nerd Camp themselves! Go through the list of authors that will be at Nerd Camp this year and scour your shelves for your books (if you like autographed books). When I got home, I put a “signed copy” sticker on the books so students would know it was signed. Those moments when a student realized they had a signed copy were always my favorite during the school year! Ask authors to sign your books in between sessions, before sessions, after sessions, anytime! They are so gracious and so excited - it’s also fun to get pictures with them too! There is also a local bookseller, Book Bug, on site so if you forget a book and really want a signed copy, they have you covered. :)

Amanda: Meeting authors, snapping photos, and getting them to sign my books was one of the best parts of Nerd Camp! I came to camp last year with an entire tote bag of just books! Everyone was so gracious and friendly that I regretted not bringing a few more books. My students loved that some of their favorite books had special messages from the authors themselves. Those copies were quite the coveted reads!

This year, you’ll also want to bring a Sharpie or two because there will not be a designated book signing.

 Amber: With that much excitement and amazingness in one school, it can get toasty! Dress accordingly... I tend to be cold in air conditioning and the rooms that have a lot of people can get hot, so I like to dress in layers and always have a cardigan. Not all the rooms have air conditioning, so it was important to be able to remove layers when it got too warm. If I’m not wearing a tank top with a cardigan, I’ll probably be wearing some sort of bookish t-shirt and comfortable pants or shorts. No need to get fancy! Comfort is key.

Amanda: It was HOT last year! Some of the more crowded sessions were standing room only and there was either little/no air or full out arctic blasts! Be prepared to be a little sweaty and at times quite cold. No one is super dressed up - shorts and your favorite nerdy tee are perfectly acceptable attire!  And definitely wear comfortable clothes and shoes because youll be walking around all day.

 Amber: When you recognize someone from social media, say hi! Often times there is so much going on, they might not see you. This is a tip that I need to remind myself of often because I can get quiet and shy in big groups. Luckily, the “nerdy” crew is like my tribe and I find myself comfortable with everyone quickly because we all have such similar interests!

Amanda: Definitely say hi! Meeting in real life is the best feeling - especially after many of us have tweeted and collaborated online! Also, having a name tag really helps! I wore a nametag last year with my first and last name plus my Twitter handle! This was great because then people could easily approach me and introduce themselves. I also found it less intimidating if someone else was wearing a name tag, too! Then I was certain I knew who I was approaching and talking to. DIY your own simple one using an old button and some laminated cardstock!

 Amber: I’m not sure about other providers, but I have Verizon and the cell service is not great for me at the school. I try to conserve battery by keeping my phone on airplane mode and waiting until I’m back at the hotel at the end of the day to post anything to social media. Note: I did not notice a big difference with Twitter though, I usually tweet the entire two days and follow the hashtag #nErDcampMI. If I try to post anything to Facebook it takes too long and drains the battery. I just keep my phone on airplane mode in between tweets and keep an external battery with me at all times because, let’s face it, we’re all addicted to social media!

Amanda: I bought a cheap lipstick charger from Amazon just for Nerd Camp! I actually forgot it on Day 1 last year and my phone completely died! Between tweeting out memorable quotes and taking photos - my phone was dead by the time I reached our hotel. Definitely bring a charger because you’ll want to be able to take photos or live tweet during camp. Also, on Day 2 all the rooms and sessions are posted to Google Drive, so you’ll want your phone fully charged to help you find where you’re going!  

 Amber: This will be my first year volunteering for Nerd Camp Jr. and I am so excited! The Nerd Camp crew gives so much to us with the camp being free and I want to give back in any way I can! Nerd Camp Jr., for little readers and writers, is Tuesday evening after the teacher Nerd Camp wraps up. Many (if not all!) of the authors stay and help lead sessions with students from the Parma, Michigan area.

Amanda: I also decided to volunteer this year at Nerd Camp Jr.! Last year, we were hanging out and talking with Mr. Shu after the sessions as the line for Nerd Camp Jr. was beginning to form. It was so incredible to see all those kids waiting for their own camp experiences. I knew I wanted to be a part of that experience this year and help out since it’s run entirely by volunteers.

 Amber: The two days of camp go by SO FAST and I found myself not wanting to waste any time eating (which is SO not like me. LOL). Having snacks like granola bars in your bag or a packed lunch will be a lifesaver. Western High School is not near any restaurants or stores to try and pop into between sessions and waiting in line for lunch when you’re anxious for your next session is not fun (some of the rooms get full!). In past years we did eat at one of the open vendors (with the shortest lines) but this year I think we might bring our own lunch to eat on the run. Don’t forget your water! It does get toasty and I found myself downing water all day.

Amanda: It’s a full day of learning, so bring your lunch and snacks! Last year, the food trucks and cafeteria were swamped with 1,000+ nerdy friends all trying to eat and then get to their next sessions! Luckily, I had packed a few Quest bars to help keep me going while I waited in line for lunch. This year, my nerdy crew is bringing coolers and packing our lunch as to avoid the lines and hopefully have a little more time to eat and socialize between sessions! You’ll also want to bring an insulated water bottle to stay hydrated in the heat. There was a small coffee shop on site and several water fountains but I know I was thankful for my HydroFlask on both days!

 Amber: Last year we signed up for the Nerd Run. For two (good) reasons. 1. You get a shirt that says “Nerd Run”! Who doesn’t want that?! and 2. You get there early and get some steps in which will boost your energy level throughout the day! You do not have to run, we walked almost the entire race last year and skipped a leg of the race because we weren't there to win a race, just to get some exercise in to start our day (and get our t-shirt. Ha!)

Amber: In true ed-camp style, you vote with your feet. There is nothing formal about this PD, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. If you’re sitting in a session that is not what you thought it would be, it is completely fine to get up and go to your second choice. There are SO MANY great presenters and sessions, there is no reason to continue sitting in a session that is not going to benefit you. Each year I print out the session descriptions for Day 1, which can be found here, and I narrow down my choices during our 8-hour drive to Parma. I always waver on my choices and usually change my mind at the last minute, but I am so grateful that the notes are posted online so I can read through them later! There are not session descriptions for Day 2 because those are determined on the spot! It’s really cool to see it all unfold and you don’t want to miss it! If you have a topic that you feel others could benefit from, you should think about hosting a session, your name and topic will go on this storyboard along with your notes. In the past, I have learned a TON about technology and social media in the classroom, picture books, publishing, Mock Newbery and more!

Amanda: I totally agree with Amber! Nerd Camp is all about YOU and what’s going to be the most beneficial to you and your students! On Day 2, you can move around session to session if it suits your fancy! You can also take a break if you’re feeling the need to chill out a bit and shop the mini-Book Bug bookstore that is set up on site! Also, don’t be shy - if there is something you want to know more about - put it on the topic board! You can go to a session as a leader or learner. I know personally,  I learned so much from the Mock Newbery session last year even though I had already done some research on my own. I was also able to share some of my thinking with others who were just getting started!

 Amber: We all come to Nerd Camp to connect over our shared love of books and teaching reading and writing so we definitely want to be able to recognize you!

Amanda: Definitely have a recent picture up prior to camp. While many of us post photos of books (and/or dogs and kids), we don’t always post pictures of ourselves. It’s nice to put a face to a username before meeting up at camp!

And lastly.