Kids Managing Covid - 13 Things Strong Kids Do! - Review


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The internationally bestselling author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, Amy Morin, empowers tweens, teaching them how to think, feel, and act stronger than ever! Perfect for fans of The Confidence Code for Girls, this book tackles mental strength in a relatable way. Filled with fun graphics and illustrations throughout.

“This book is a powerful gift to kids—it shows them how to help themselves!” —Claire Shipman, New York Times bestselling coauthor of The Confidence Code for Girls

Do you worry that you don’t fit in? Do you feel insecure sometimes? Do you wish your life looked as perfect as everyone else on social media? Do you have anxiety about things you can’t control? Being a tween can be really hard, especially in today’s world.

You balance it all—homework, extracurricular activities, chores, friendship drama, and family, all while trying to give the impression that you know exactly what you’re doing. Sometimes when we try to look perfect on the outside, we can feel rotten in the inside.  Do you want to become a stronger person, inside and out? By picking up this book, you’re already taking the first step toward becoming a better person where it counts—by training your brain.

Prominent psychotherapist and social worker Amy Morin offers relatable scenarios, then shows tweens the ways they can develop healthy habits, build mental strength, and take action toward becoming their best selves. 13 Things Strong Kids Do gives tweens the tools needed to overcome life’s toughest challenges.

This nonfiction middle grade book is an excellent choice for tween readers in grades 5 to 8, including those living through the stresses of homeschooling, returning to the classroom, and navigating a changed and stressful world.

A person sitting on a table

Description automatically generatedAmy Morin is a licensed clinical social worker, instructor at Northeastern University, and psychotherapist. She is the author of the international bestseller 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, as well as 13 ThingsMentally Strong Parents Don’t Do. Amy is a regular contributor to Verywell, CNBC, Forbes, Inc., and Psychology Today. She gave one of the most viewed TEDx talks of all time and was named the “self-help guru of the moment” by The Guardian. She lives in Marathon, Florida. 13 Things Mentally Strong Kids Do is her fourth book.



“Morin, a clinical social worker, lays out the 13 everyday habits that could be holding you back from achieving your best self. For example, dwelling on the past and resenting others for their success is not making your life any better. (Again, shocking!) Morin wants to help you change these negative behaviors into positive maybe you should let her.”

Cosmopolitan on 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do

Watching parents try and navigate not only life, but answers to kids during this pandemic as a teacher has been a struggle. When everything changed a year ago, I felt I was drowning in juggling teaching and being home with my two toddlers who just weren't really understanding much of anything. I had parents emailing me on how to manage the situation, what best ways to support, and even still trying to navigate those who chose to work from home during this school year. This is a great book to empower kids to understand how truly strong and resilient they are. 

I especially loved that this story was not preachy or condescending. I feel like kids get enough of that in their day to day, either in person or via social media/gaming outlets they turn to. The language she uses is simple and easy to follow for readers of this age group. The way it's written is helpful in being able to target this audience and really engage her intended audience. 

I highly recommend for those who need a little boost of confidence - this school year has been challenging. This may just be the right book to remind those kids who they are, and all they have to offer. 


Author Recommendation: Melanie Weiss


Melanie Weiss lives in Oak Park, Illinois. Her debut novel, Spoken,

received a 2019 Readers’ Favorite Award for Young Adult-Social Issues.

Melanie is available for Author Visits at Schools and Libraries for grades 1 to 12.

Please contact directly at: 

*Click the titles to order! 

Oliver's Birthday and the Robin's Nest (ages 5-9)
I loved reading this story to my 5 (almost 6) year old. Birthdays are starting to become a big thing to him and this was such a great message. I appreciated how much it models important social skills - empathy, understanding, siblings (did I tell you I also have a 2 (almost 3) year old, so the fighting is real when it happens), and respecting nature. I plan to read and reread with him so that we can have constant discussions of these important social characteristics. 

Synopsis: What kid doesn't want to have an epic birthday party? Seven-year-old Oliver has always wanted an awesome party, but because his birthday is on the Fourth of July, his friends are busy celebrating America's birthday. For his eighth birthday, Oliver's family plans a Pirate Ship Bouncy House party for him two weeks early, so all of his friends can attend, dressed in pirate gear, of course!

But then there's a new problem. A mommy robin builds a nest and lays her eggs tucked in the greenery on Oliver's back deck, just inches from the spot on the driveway where the birthday Pirate Ship Bouncy House will sit. While Oliver is mad, his older sister becomes the robins' biggest fan and teaches Oliver all about them, winning him over. After the bird babies hatch, Oliver wants to help protect the robin family. But can he still have the amazing birthday party he has dreamed about for so long?


SPOKEN (ages 12+)


Again, another story that Weiss has provided a positive message - this time to teens! This story helped teens understand how important it is to work through their issues and give themselves some self worth. The support and friendships and first loves Roman gained throughout the story were fantastically woven in. There were so many teen "angsty" issues that helped and allowed Roman to find where he fit, where he belonged. I believe this is the type of story so many young adults need to read. 

Synopsis: High school freshman Roman Santi has everything -- good looks, great friends, a mansion with an infinity swimming pool -- except the one thing he really wants. A relationship with his father.

When Roman’s life gets turned upside down, (thanks, Mom!?), he is forced to leave his pampered Hollywood lifestyle and move into his grandparents’ Midwestern home. Sleeping on a lumpy pullout sofa and starting at a new high school is the worst, but Roman’s life starts to look up when his pink-haired friend, Zuzu, and his crush, a classmate named Claire, introduce him to performance poetry through the high school's Spoken Word Club. While his mom is flying back and forth to L.A., trying to return them to the life they had, Roman becomes part of a diverse group of characters who challenge his rather privileged view of the world. Through Spoken Word, Roman recognizes the hole in his own life he needs to fill and discovers his voice. Spoken Word leads Roman on a journey of new friendships, first love, and finding the dad he never knew.


Crossing Lines (ages 14+)
A timely story provided for teenagers now in 2021 and how our lives were turned upside down in the past year. The story covers the political strife that students are faced with. A school shooting puts the main characters on opposite sides of gun control; which seems to be how much the world has become in the last few years. Weiss did a great job of addressing this issue. Finding common ground when there are major differences is so hard and so huge (Adults even need a big taste in this lesson). Check out Crossing Lines to see how Alli and Brandon navigate this issue. 
Synopsis: Midwestern high school seniors and swim teammates Alli and Brandon are the perfect couple, enjoying their final months of high school and making big plans for the future. When a horrific school shooting sparks a national movement, Alli gets involved with protests in support of gun control legislation, while Brandon defends his pro-gun beliefs and stays on the sidelines. These shifting priorities lead Alli and Brandon to question not only each other but their world views, as they begin to stand up for something bigger than themselves for the first time. Ages 14+



Haley's Spring Break Reads



The House That Wasn't There - Book Blog Tour


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THEMES: friendship, life changes, loss and grief, embracing who you are, and family. 

Magical realism has become the types of book that students seem to  go  after when they want a little something to connect to, but also feel as though they can escape the every day worry of real life - which is exactly what The House That Wasn't There can do for young readers. This is one of those novels that really helps student see themselves in a book. 

Oak and Alder are suddenly living next door to one another and their relationship is

 not off to a great start. Alder's knowledge of his father is minimal, but his favorite

 picture was taken in front o the walnut tree in the yard between his and his

 neighbor's house - the tree meaning so much to him. BUT THEN, Oak is forced to

 move from San Fransisco to LA and her mom has plans for some construction on

 their property - including removing the large tree. 

Alder is devastated. 

Oak feels ignored and invisible. 

BUT - suddenly, two lonely kittens, a storm, and this "magical" experience  draw them

 together. Bridging this friendship they both did not expect, nor wanted, at the time. 

Key teaching points: Major themes, excellent character development, multiple POVs


Alder has always lived in his cozy little house in Southern California.

And for as long as he can remember, the old, reliable, comforting walnut tree has stood

between his house and the one next door.


That is, until a new family—with a particularly annoying girl his age—moves

into the neighboring house and, without warning, cuts the tree down.


Oak doesn’t understand why her family had to move to Southern California. She has to attend a new school, find new friends, and live in a new house that isn’t even ready—her mother had to cut down a tree on their property line in order to make room for a second floor. And now a strange boy next door won’t stop staring at her, like she did something wrong moving here in the first place.


As Oak and Alder start school together, they can’t imagine ever becoming friends. But the two of them soon discover a series of connections between them—mysterious, possibly even magical puzzles they can’t put together.


At least not without each other’s help.


Award-winning author Elana K. Arnold returns with an unforgettable story of the strange, wondrous threads that run between all of us, whether we know they’re there or not.




Elana K. Arnold is the author of critically acclaimed and award-winning young adult novels and children’s books, including the Printz Honor winner Damsel, the National Book Award finalist What Girls Are Made Of, and Global Read Aloud selection A Boy Called Bat and its sequels. Several of her books are Junior Library Guild selections and have appeared on many best book lists, including the Amelia Bloomer Project, a catalog of feminist titles for young readers. Elana teaches in Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program and lives in Southern California with her family and menagerie of pets.

Want to teach this title in your classroom? Check out this amazing teacher's guide for 


Tour Stops:


March 28 Nerdy Book Club @nerdybookclub

March 29 YAYOMG @yayomgofficial

March 30 Unleashing Readers @UnleashReaders

March 31 Teachers Who Read @teachers_read

April 2 Maria's Mélange @mariaselke

April 7 Bluestocking Thinking @BlueSockGirl

April 10 A Library Mama @librarymama

April 12 Storymamas @storymamas


365 Days to Alaska - Review


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A thoughtful middle-grade debut about a girl from off-the-grid Alaska adjusting to suburban life
Eleven-year-old Rigel Harman loves her life in off-the-grid Alaska. She hunts rabbits, takes correspondence classes through the mail, and plays dominoes with her family in their two-room cabin. She doesn’t mind not having electricity or running water—instead, she’s got tall trees, fresh streams, and endless sky.
But then her parents divorce, and Rigel and her sisters have to move with their mom to the Connecticut suburbs to live with a grandmother they’ve never met. Rigel hates it in Connecticut. It’s noisy, and crowded, and there’s no real nature. Her only hope is a secret pact that she made with her father: If she can stick it out in Connecticut for one year, he’ll bring her back home.
At first, surviving the year feels impossible. Middle school is nothing like the wilderness, and she doesn’t connect with anyone . . . until she befriends a crow living behind her school. And if this wild creature has made a life for itself in the suburbs, then, just maybe, Rigel can too.
365 Days to Alaska is a wise and funny debut novel about finding beauty, hope, and connection in the world no matter where you are—even Connecticut.

Amazing book. It has wonderful and startlingly realistic characters, vivid depictions of both Alaska and Connecticut, perfect pacing, and one of my favorite main characters I've ever encountered in middle grade or any genre—Rigel Harman. Transplanted unwillingly from Alaska to Connecticut, Rigel is a complex, sensitive, and deeply good human being whose journey to adapting to her new surroundings is totally believable, fascinating, and moving. I really appreciated that Carr pulled no punches in describing some of the downsides of modern suburban/urban life (things like pollution, wildlife destruction, wastefulness) from Rigel's point of view while also showing her journey towards adapting to it while retaining her own identity and sense of self. All of the minor characters are also extremely well done and believable, especially the father. As a former homeschooler, I appreciate that she depicted homeschooling realistically and respectfully, and didn't make it the focus of Rigel's challenges adapting to her new school in Connecticut.

I just love everything about this book. I hope it gets the wider recognition and awards it deserves, and I can't wait for Carr's next book! 

*Some reviews from Goodreads worth adding: 
Stacy Greene - When I started reading this book, I couldn't put it down! I was immediately caught up in the stream of the life of Rigel and her family. The book begins in Alaska and being someone who has always wanted to visit there, I was entranced by the descriptions and the place it held in Rigel's heart. I was swept along as Rigel was uprooted and traveled to Connecticut (for 365 days - until, as her father promised she could return to Alaska and they could be reunited) and the adjustment began. Having lived overseas as a child I found the adjustment to life in Connecticut to be reminiscent of the culture shock I experienced whenever I returned to the United States.
If I had to describe this book in three words, I would say caring, captivating, and funny. I cared about Rigel from the moment I met her and could identify with the multitude of feelings she was experiencing in her quest for understanding and belonging. The author of this book told a compelling story, so much so that I found myself so caught up in it that I kept reading because I wanted to see what would happen next. The author's writing style was smooth and easy to read. What endeared me even more to the book was the author's sense of humor. It takes a lot to make me laugh and at several points, I found 365 Days to Alaska to be laugh out loud funny. It wasn't necessarily something being said to make me laugh, but rather how the author put things. I am planning to reread this book at some point so I can savor the story.
I am so impressed with this author and her debut book. I hope that she is writing as I type this review because I would love to read more books by Cathy Carr!

Faith Hough - Quick: read the publisher's description of this one.

If you know me, you’ll know that summary just tweaked a couple of sensitive points. As a former homeschooler and current homeschooling mom, my radar is always out for portrayals of homeschooling–and I’ve become less tolerant when they’re done poorly and fall into cliches and stereotypes. I’m also a Connecticut transplant who has found it possible to live at least somewhat off the land, even in a suburb of a big city. I confess that the main reason I wanted to read this book was to make sure it didn’t spread any untruths about homeschooling, Connecticut, or subsistence living. It’s not really the best attitude with which to approach a book.

And then… I was blown away. Cathy Carr takes a fairly commonly-done theme and plot and makes it shine with perfect characterizations, believable struggles and emotional arcs, and just plain excellent writing. I absolutely loved this.

Let me address a few of those sensitive points:

I loved that, despite depicting a fairly sheltered life in Alaska, the author never blamed homeschooling itself for any lack of social grace or awareness. In fact, by contrasting shy Rigel with her outgoing sisters, Cathy Carr demonstrates that personality, more than educational-style, will effect a child’s social skills. A large part of the book also focuses on the failings of the school system in allowing for good social interactions–all the bullying and peer pressure that is so much a part of that environment. This was all balanced and true-to-life. I so appreciate that the hackneyed “homeschooled kid learns to thrive in school environment” theme was completely eschewed in favor of a theme that allowed for real personal growth.

I could have gone for a slightly more nuanced view of Connecticut. We do have farms and nature sanctuaries and some good, old-fashioned small towns. We’re not Alaska. But we’re not all Fairfield County rich kids. Even Fairfield County rich kids aren’t all Fairfield County rich kids. That said, Cathy Carr again avoided the most harmful stereotypes, so I appreciated that. She also showed how beautifully diverse our state is. I know it’s impossible to show an entire culture in one story, and Rigel was exposed to only one small bit of CT.

The off-the-grid lifestyle was shown to be difficult and impressive, rather than odd and unbalanced–even while showing its common pitfalls. Yes, an 11-year-old kid uses a gun to hunt. But it’s clear that this 11-year-old has been taught more gun safety than your average middle aged guy. She respects the gun as a dangerous tool and wouldn’t use it lightly. Her parents allow her to hunt because she is responsible and capable. This all could so easily have been twisted into disrespect for those who live such an extreme lifestyle–but it wasn’t.

Finally, I have to add that 365 Days to Alaska is an excellent family story. Like another recent favorite, What Happens Next, it shows that sister relationships are worth fighting for.

A bittersweet story about coming of age -- self-awareness, finding friends who embrace you and your quirks, dealing with changes, surviving and thriving. 

Character development - plot - setting 


If You Like.... Then Try This....

If you are new around here, you may not be familiar with the three of us on our social media platforms. My Instagram handle is @cassie.m.thomas and on there I share (every 3rd photo actually) an image of If you like _____, TRY _____ where I give several similar books that a child may want to try after they finish the main book. If it's a specific theme I focus on, I will mention that - or a specific author. But ultimately I try to hit all of the major plot points with my recommendations. All of these posters are actually available to you HERE in a Google Drive folder to print off! I range from early middle grade (3rd grade) all the way to YA books. If there are ever any books you'd like this poster for, PLEASE let me know! I'm constantly asking on my Instagram for more ideas. :) 


Guest Blog Post: Kiri Jorgensen - "Why We Teach Literature To Kids"

 Why We Teach Literature To Kids

Every human on the planet spends their life learning how to see beyond their own bubble. Some people get pretty good at seeing a broad scope, others don’t branch much beyond the next tier, but there’s happiness to be found in any level of ‘looking beyond’. The goal isn’t just to see, but to find joy. 

As a teacher, I love using middle grade novels with my students to help them practice extending beyond their own bubble. I love showing them new worlds and new people and new ideas. My goal has always been to help them become better humans as they learn to see the joy. I want them to see other kids being resilient and finding happiness. I want them to see other kids having challenges but creating positive solutions. I want them to see other kids exploring and reaching and learning, on a quest for truth and contentment. I want to show them new perspectives, and new understandings all with the intent of helping them become just a little more noble, and more compassionate, and more thoughtful. Good literature does all of this for our kids. 

Sometimes as teachers we struggle to find ‘new’ traditional stories that ring true with these kinds of themes. It’s hard to sift through the fluffy stories, or the heavy-handed stories, or even the ones just poorly written. Finding good literature for kids is hard. Especially in today’s world. 

That’s why I started Chicken Scratch Books. We need strong new traditional middle grade novels for our kids to discover themselves in. We need new traditional novels parents and teachers can trust to present age-appropriate themes with positive outcomes. We need books that kids will love to read and learn from, and see themselves in as they look outward. 

At Chicken Scratch Books our only agenda is good literature gatekeepers can trust. Plus, we offer more than books. For each book we publish we create an online Novel Study Course for students that helps them dig deeper into the story with help from the authors themselves. Our courses are a mix of video instruction, online work, and ‘paper and pencil’ assignments geared for middle grade kids. The courses are standards aligned and are equivalent to a six week novel study unit. They work great for individuals, small groups, and even whole classes. 

Come check out Chicken Scratch Books. We published our first novel and course March 1, 2021, titled Sophie Murphy Does Not Exist by Tiffany Blanchard.  It’s a contemporary story about a girl trying to find the purpose of life with lots of humorous bumps along the way. We have more great stories in multiple genres, plus their companion courses coming soon.  We are teachers, writers, parents, and entrepreneurs, and we love good books for kids. 

At Chicken Scratch Books, we offer more than good literature. 

*Be sure to check out the website for more resources for you as an educator as well! Full review of Sophie Murphy Does Not Exist coming soon! 


IMWAYR: 3.8.21