IMWAYR: Spetember 16th

Hello Hello!

Another week of reading is here and we are loving all the books. I started a book but with some of my previous students, we are loving Storm Runner. I also love that I have an excuse to hang out with all my now fifth-graders. I have missed having them in class (even though they are just down the hall). I'm always looking forward to their daily hugs on their way down the hall. 

Well....with that being said, here is what we are reading this week. 

I hope you have a wonderful week full of reading :)

Don't forget to comment what you are reading and what you are liking about your book or books!


A Swirl of Ocean Review and Interview

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A touching, timeless novel--perfect for fans of Lisa Graff and Lauren Wolk--about a girl who discovers that the ocean is holding secrets she never could have imagined.

Twelve-year-old Summer loves the ocean. The smell, the immensity, the feeling she gets when she dives beneath the surface. She has lived in Barnes Bluff Bay since she was two years old, when Lindy found her on the beach. It's been the two of them ever since. But now, ten years later, Summer feels uncertainty about her place with Lindy and starts to wonder about where she came from. One night, Summer goes for a swim and gets caught in a riptide, swallowing mouthfuls of seawater. And that night, she dreams of a girl. A girl her age living in the same town, but not in the same time. Summer's not persuaded that this girl is real, but something about her feels familiar.

Summer dreams again and again about this girl, Tink, and becomes convinced that she is connected to her past. As she sees Tink struggle with her sister growing away from her and her friends starting to pair off, Summer must come to terms with her own evolving home life and discover how the bonds that make us family can help heal the wounds of the past.

From Melissa Sarno, the author of Just Under the Clouds, comes a new story of discovery, family, and finding where you belong.

My Review: 

I feel as though the characters truly draw you in to each and every moment of their lives. With the dreams interwoven as chapters in the book, you’re immersed in lives that are mysterious; that you truly have to read every word to figure out. I love the unknown of parts of the plot, much like that of the ocean. This is a story to be shared, and loved.

Teacher Reviews: 

Reviewers Praise for A SWIRL OF OCEAN:
“[T]he restless interplay between moon and sea becomes a framework for exploring the uneasy intertidal zone between childhood and adult maturity. How preteen girls negotiate this supremely trying life passage is explored in some of the year's best middle-grade releases; add this to the list.” --Kirkus Reviews
"[A] deeply affecting novel with honest emotion. Propelled by authentic characters, the adroitly woven plot meshes past and present, dreams and reality, and love and friendship. [A]n involving, bracing summer tale for all seasons."--Publishers Weekly
"[R]ich with imagery and thoughtful contemplations...the way in which Summer ends up being connected to Tink highlight[s] the dreamy tranquility of the girls’ seaside town."--The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books 

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself as an author and
everyday person? What are your likes/dislikes?
A: I am also a mother, so a lot of my time is dedicated
to my 5 year old and 2 year old. We live north of
New York City, in a more rural area, and a lot of our
activities involve playing on nearby farms, going out in the
forest, and wading through creeks to catch frogs. We like to
 get dirty. When I have some rare time to myself, I run,
hike, or bake cakes. And, if I’m not writing, or doing
any of the above…I’m reading.
Q: When did you know you had a gift of writing?  
A: I discovered a love of writing when I was a young girl.
I would sit in my room, on my scratchy green rug, and
write stories in marble notebooks. I wrote my first novel
when I was twelve. It was called Ten Is Enough and was
loosely (i.e. entirely) based on the sitcom: Eight Is Enough.

In seventh grade my English teacher, Mr. Bell, took one
of my assignments and hung it up on the bulletin board
because he liked my story so much. He hadn’t done
that with anyone else’s work and it made me think
that, maybe, writing was something I was good at.
Q: Where did the inspiration come for A Swirl of Ocean?
A: A Swirl of Ocean was inspired by a dream I had years
 ago about a girl and the ocean. It was one of those hazy,
blurry dreams, I could sense more than see
and I had a
deep feeling in my gut that it was about a girl who was a
part of the ocean and the ocean was a part of her. I didn’t
know what that meant or where it would lead but every time
I thought about what I would write “next” I thought of that girl. 

Years later I was watching a documentary about the secrets
of the ocean and how we can understand and uncover
 entire histories and civilizations by studying the depths
of the ocean floor. It fascinated me that the ocean could
 “hold” on to a history and I began to wonder what it would
be like if we could understand that history in mysterious ways,
 by making the ocean a part of who we are, too.

My main character, Summer, wants to understand something
about her own history. Her own past. And she learns it by
capturing ocean water, swallowing it, and dreaming an
entire mysterious history that she slowly learns belongs to her.

Q: Did you do any research for A Swirl of Ocean?
A: I had to do research on turtles and shells. I learned
about the Diamondback Terrapin, one of the few turtles
who live in brackish water, which is marshland. And
the spirula shell, which is found in more tropical climates,
and comes from a ram’s horn squid. A sighting of a ram’s
 horn squid is very rare because they live in the depths of
 the ocean, so most people have only seen their shells.
Q; What was the hardest scene to write?
A: All of them! Drafting is a long, difficult process that
 I often find quite painful. It isn’t until I get to the revision
 stage, when I feel like I finally have the framework for
 the story and characters, that I can refine, gain some
momentum, and put together an intricate puzzle.
Q: What are you currently reading?
A: In middle grade, I recently finished the fantastic graphic
 memoir by Shannon Hale and Leuyen Pham, Best Friends, and the beautiful My Jasper June by Laurel Snyder.
I also read a lot of adult literary fiction and I’m catching
up on a new-to-me Japanese author, Banana Yoshimoto,
whose spare prose, even in translation, is really amazing.
Q: How do you get started on your writing, and what
advice would you give to middle grade students who are writing?
A: Writing, for me, started out as play. It was a “game” I
 played on the computer, typing little sentences and stories
on the keyboard, watching them disappear, then turning on
the computer the next day to write something else. I began
to enjoy it so much, I started to get those thick marble
 notebooks at the drugstore and fill them up with stories.

My best advice for young writers is to be observant. Look
at your world, think about your day, the people around you,
the places you go, and write down the things you find most
interesting. Keep a notebook and try to fill it, each day, with
 just one thing, big or small, that intrigued you. Those little
tidbits start to add up and sometimes they spark ideas for a 
larger story.

Q: Can you describe your revision/editing process for students?
Also, do you start writing on paper/computer/etc?
A: I mostly write on the computer. If I’m stuck, I often scurry
 over to a notebook and write a little bit there. It gives me a new
 view. Then, once I’m un-stuck, I type what I wrote and keep going.

Once I finish a first draft, I usually let my work sit for a while.
 I do other things I love: read, bake, play with my kids, or go
 running. Once I’ve had that time away, could be weeks or months,
I read the book over and I think about what isn’t working or
what could be better. Then I start to list the things I’d need to
do to make them better. Sometimes, I don’t know what would
 help, so I just let the problem sit in the back of my mind and
hope that, someday, I’ll figure it out. Usually, with time, I do.
Once I’ve made one revision, I send it someone else to read. I
get that person’s feedback and then I’ll go through the process
again. I’ll go through that process again and again until I feel
it’s ready. It’s a long slog but it’s the only way I know of doing it.
Q: Future projects that you are currently working on? 
A: I am currently revising one very messy novel and writing
a new one whose idea I can’t seem to shake. I’ve never played
with two stories at the same time before, so that’s new for me.
 It just feels like the right thing to do at this moment, to be involved
 with both.
Q: What else would you like teachers and young readers to know?
A: When I was a young girl, I wanted to be an author but a lot
 of the books I read were written by authors who were dead! I
didn’t know anyone in my life who had a creative job, like
being a writer or an artist. So, it wasn’t something I thought I
could do and, yet, it was the only thing I actually wanted to do. I
want young people to know that writing is a job and it’s an
important one because stories can change the world. If it’s
 something you want to do in your life, remember, there are
many people out there who do it as a job. They can be examples
 to you. Many of them teach writing classes or provide mentorship
or editing services so, sometimes, you can even learn from your
favorite writers.  



Blog Tour-Castle of Concrete

Castle of Concrete

My Synopsis:

Sonja has just moved to Russia. Young and Jewish, she moves in with her mother, with whom she's been estranged. The book is set in the early 90s, and the Soviet Union is collapsing. Thrust into a new school, Sonya finds herself navigating through relationships with her mother, classmates, and potential boyfriends. 
Throughout the book, we see Sonya transform as she responds to anti-Semitic events. There are bits of Russian language interwoven in the story, and I did quite a bit of Googling. Although the more I learned about this time period, the more I wondered what would happen to Sonya. Not only does she have to make decisions about every-day teenager stuff-like what to wear-but, there are moments when she must make difficult choices in regards to the political turmoil happening around her. 

What I Think:

This is an #ownvoices novel that features a Jewish protagonist-definitely a book gap in our classroom library. I believe this will increase awareness of this turbulent historical event. 
There are many tension-filled events to keep the reader interested. And, the end!!! The last 50 pages have to be devoured all at once. 


IMWAYR September 9th

Good morning everyone! I hope you all are getting back into the swing of school and are adjusting well. It has taken till now to adjust LOL. Today is the start of week five of my school year. I can't believe it's already week five. WOW!!! I have been in a reading funk too. I was really having trouble balancing work, children, and getting in time to read. I have made a goal for September to read every night before I go to sleep. That means NO TV WATCHING until I fall asleep. You can take a look at my progress on my Instagram page @theliteracyjunky.

Well, here we go with a week full of reading. :)

Thank you for stopping by and I hope you enjoy your week!

Don't forget to comment what you are reading this week. 


My Jasper June: Blog Tour

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Synopsis: “This book is a treasure—a touching story of friendship, loss, and finding beauty in the everyday, with characters who stay with you long after you’ve turned the final page. I absolutely loved it.”—R. J. Palacio, New York Times bestselling author of Wonder

Laurel Snyder, author of Orphan Island, returns with another unforgettable story of the moments in which we find out who we are, and the life-altering friendships that show us what we can be.

The school year is over, and it is summer in Atlanta. The sky is blue, the sun is blazing, and the days brim with possibility. But Leah feels. . . lost. She has been this way since one terrible afternoon a year ago, when everything changed. Since that day, her parents have become distant, her friends have fallen away, and Leah’s been adrift and alone.

Then she meets Jasper, a girl unlike anyone she has ever known. There’s something mysterious about Jasper, almost magical. And Jasper, Leah discovers, is also lost. 

Together, the two girls carve out a place for themselves, a hideaway in the overgrown spaces of Atlanta, away from their parents and their hardships, somewhere only they can find.

But as the days of this magical June start to draw to a close, and the darker realities of their lives intrude once more, Leah and Jasper have to decide how real their friendship is, and whether it can be enough to save them both.

My Review: 

A feel-good, magical story about a family’s experience with grief and all of the emotions that loss can exhume. 

Leah is a young girl trying to find her way after experiencing a devastating loss that she never thinks her family is going to come back from; and then she meets Jasper, a girl who becomes a sliver of light in their world of darkness. 

Jasper’s life isn’t typical in any way to Leah, but Leah slowly learns that normal is not a label she aspires her family to withhold. After her families loss she becomes aware that everything is forever different, and Jasper is the friend she needed to ensure her life is lived. 

A story of hope, friendship, and family. 

Will I book talk this to my students? Already have.
Will they check it out? Already have. 

Navigating through grief and loss is something a lot of our students are experiencing on a daily basis, and if they are also experiencing such loss - their parents more than likely are too. Laurel portrays this so accurately as I think about how I handle my father's passing a lot more differently than my mother, but we are both still grieving almost two years later. For middle grade students, these stories are needed, they're necessary. For myself, it's comforting to feel that others out there know my emotions - not that all students will want to feel that camaraderie, but a lot also do. This is a story that softly allows them to understand that their grief is okay, their actions are okay, and that yes in the end, everything will be okay. It may not ever be the normal again, but it will be a new normal that as a family they will learn to navigate together. 

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About the Author
Laurel Snyder is the author of picture books and novels for children, including National Book Award nominee Orphan Island and the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winnerCharlie & Mouse. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she currently teaches in Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program. She lives in Atlanta with her family and can be found online at

Follow the rest of the book tour here: 
September 4 Open Book Reviews 
September 5 Teachers Who Read 
September 6 Nerdy Book Club
September 9 Read Wonder 
September 10 About to Mock 
September 11 Novel Novice 
September 12 Create Explore Read 
September 13 Book Monsters 
September 16 Maria's Melange 
September 17 Writer's Rumpus 
September 18 Bluestocking Thinking 
September 19 Storymamas 
September 20 Amber Kuehler


Author Interview: Kimberly Jones & Gilly Segal

Q: Tell us about your book, and what inspired it. 
A: We started this novel in 2015, amid the civil unrest that arose on the heels of the Baltimore protest, as civil unrest swept the country and as people stood up and spoke out about police brutality and racial injustice and inequality. In that charged environment, we thought about how teens experienced those events. In particular, we wondered how two girls, one black and one white, might navigate the same incident. 

Thus began the story of Lena and Campbell. 
Q; Without giving away any spoilers, what’s your favorite part of the novel?
A;It’s when when they try to leave school and see the cops. Each girl’s life experience informs how she views that moment. One character’s experience of police is that they are authority figures to whom she can turn for assistance. One character’s experience is that police are authoritarian figures who may present a danger. Putting them together in a scene where they’re confronted with a parking lot full of police was bound to evoke polar opposite reactions from them.
Q: What are some challenges unique to writing with another author?
A;Beyond the mechanics, our favorite part of writing together was the lessons we learned. For example, we learned that compromise does not always mean meeting in the middle! Sometimes, one person had a passion for a particular point. Whenever that was the case, we followed that passion - the novel was always better served in the end by taking that route.
Q: Finish this sentence: We hope I’m Not Dying with You Tonight...
A: We hope the book calls to kids (and the people who put books into kids’ hands) both that have similar and dissimilar experiences to these girls. We hope kids who have similar life experiences will connect with these characters and get to see themselves as the hero of the story. We hope that people who don’t have similar life experiences to these characters will find something to relate to, and that reading about them will plant a seed of empathy. We hope that INDWYT encourages all readers to consider the positive, as well as notions they want to challenge, in the characters, and in themselves.
Q: What are you currently reading?
A; Gilly is reading It's a Whole Spiel: Love, Latkes, and Other Jewish Stories by Kathrine Locke and Laura Silverman. Kim just finished Jackpot by Nic Stone. 
Q: What else would you like us to know? 
A: Issues of violence and racism are personal. Sometimes when we talk about them with broad brush strokes or see them as social media sound bites, it’s easy to distance ourselves from the individuals experiencing the events. We wanted to think and talk about these topics in a very personal way. The cultural backgrounds of these two characters influence the way they navigate and interpret the events of the night. However, we also wanted to reflect one crucial characteristic they have in common: they’re both girls. That creates a bond, informs how they perceive their circumstances, and informs the choices they make that leads them down a path toward unforeseen trouble. We like to wonder: if either one of these characters had been male or male presenting, would the story take place? What do you think?

Book Summary by Lillie C.

 The book I’m Not Dying With You Tonight is about two girls who never met until
there was a big fight at school, forcing them to work together to get to safety.
While Lena and Campbell realize the fight is out of hand, they escape only
to find out the fight has propelled the neighborhood into chaos. As they make
their way through the city they come across several situations that
are presented from both Lena and Campbell's perspectives.
Two dreaded hours after they start their journey, they finally make it to 7th
Street where a giant riot broke out. However, their stories don't end there...

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