Book 2 in the series!
An 'alternate history' of the USA where George Washington was named King of America, and we follow his descendants as they lead in contemporary times.
Had my concerns that I wouldn't love the sequel as much as I did the first, but it more than exceeded my expectations!
Without giving away too much, McGee's writing and ability to change readers' minds on how things should work out is GENIUS level. I'm amazed with her storytelling and emotional punches.
For Royalty watchers (& even those like me who aren't), readers who root for independent women, and those looking to swoon for a few hundred pages.
SAY IT LOUDER:
Cult of Pedagogy Podcast: HOW ONE DISTRICT LEARNED TO TALK ABOUT RACE
Yeah, I'm on an antiracism and equity theme lately. I don't see anything wrong with that...
So what is your name story?
I was named after The Unsinkable Molly Brown of Titanic fame! How cool is that? My mom had an Aunt Molly, and she gave me part of her maiden name for my middle name (Branden). I was born with critical health issues, so my parents prayed for the fighting and unsinkable will of Molly Brown to carry me through. I try to harness her courage and helper spirit as part of my own identity. While I'm not a Molly Brown fangirl, it was a neat experience to visit the Titanic museum in Belfast and snap a selfie with her part of the exhibit!
Our names mean something to us & we can learn so much about a person by asking them to share their name story. It's fun to learn what it means - Mollee means 'Star of the Sea,' but Molly means 'Bitter' hah! - and discuss whether that's an accurate representation of your identity. My friend and colleague, Stacy Lovdahl, said, "this connects the student to story, a better way to know them than we get in a survey or worksheet." And that's it: the first step in building a relationship with your student.
Go beyond the roll call. Ask your students,
- What does your name mean (either do a search, or explain in your own words)
- What do you want to be called
- What is your name's history
And perhaps most importantly,
- Teach me how to pronounce your name
Let's normalize providing pronunciation opportunities for our students, like we are normalizing pronouns. As a child with a differently spelled, but mainstream, name, I don't have many issues with my name being mispronounced. By having ALL students provide that pronunciation clip, students with names that teachers don't often get right have less of a 'spotlight' on them to provide that support to their teacher.
Side note on this: I was a librarian with up to 700 kids a year. It was very challenging to put the correct name to the correct face, nevermind correctly pronounce them, 100% of the time. Yes, part of that is laziness. And I never thought to have kids record themselves on Flipgrid so I could study them! But I DID emphasize that if I ever got their name wrong, they should correct me. One of the things I learned is that some students take that as a burden to have to correct their teacher. So, I evolved and told all students they could call me out if I got someone wrong - one kindergarten class was especially great at this when I put an emphasis on the wrong syllable of a beautiful girl's name! I'll never forget how to pronounce it for as long as I live, after having a chorus of 25 precious voices singing it out correctly!
In the vein of pronunciation, honor what your students request to be called. If you aren't familiar with the term of 'Dead Names' in the Transgender community, I urge you to Read more about Dead Names on Popsugar. This applies to all students: if they go by a middle name, abbreviations, or anything else. Honor them.
It breaks my heart to think of the stories of kids who submit silently to whatever their teacher chooses to call them, rather than the teacher taking time to understand what the student prefers to be called.
Alright y'all - I'm not here just to stand on my soapbox. I wouldn't just state what I believe you should do, without supporting you with some kind of content that you can take and make your own.
After posting this activity online, I received some thoughtful & important feedback from educators - I encourage you toread through the thread to review more in-depth, but I wanted to stress here that like turning their cameras on, students need a sense of safety before sharing. You're likely just getting to know these kids, which means they haven't built trust in you yet -- don't expect them to open up completely. I'm very grateful for those who shared feedback on Twitter to help me make sure this is clear!
- Filling out these personal stories may be uncomfortable or impossible for some students - make them optional
- For example, children in foster care, those who have been adopted, or don't live with a parent, may not know their name stories - instead, they could share "what I like about my name" or a different prompt
- You may also have students that live with other children or family members of different last or family names - this can be a sensitive topic for them, and again, they should choose whether or not to share that story
- While it's helpful to build a community where students are safe to share their pronouns, not all non-binary or transgender students are ready to do this. Again, making that prompt optional is imperative
Before you grab the template, another reminder that I invite you to customize this to fit the class community you're looking to co-create with your students. I left it with little decoration as possible, so you can add your own color scheme, icons, and prompts -- hopefully what you choose to use will be helpful to you and your students!
You can grab this slide template in a forced copy by clicking here.
This template is licensed under creative commons - that means it's available to you to share, use and remix to make it work for your students. I just ask that you don't publish it on any place that monetizes it.
This is just the start... how else do you plan to get to know your students, and help them develop more in their identities?
Please reach out and share if you use this and where it leads to - I'd love to know!
There are so many creative 'match-making' strategies out there that I've been trying to curate and share, to inspire us "book-matchmakers" to help readers during these times
Some awesome examples include:
- Librarians on Tik-Tok doing "Liked this... read that" videos
- SC Librarian Tamara Cox created a Netflix 'binge reading' graphic that's fully customizable!
---- TRUTH: I'm a huge Avid Bookstore fangirl. I just got to visit for my first time in February & left with a shirt & a book where a character applies to work there (Yes, No, Maybe So). Let me stop here and plug INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORES! Your local indie would love your support during these times, and always. My local shop, Downtown Books in Manteo, NC is one of the top supporters for our district & community readers. Another favorite indie, Books to be Red on Ocracoke Island is a must visit - they've been re-building after Hurricane Dorian wiped out the island last fall. And the newly opened Black Garnet, a Black, woman-owned bookstore located in the Twin Cities, Minnesota, can be shopped online!
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Do your kids LOVE historical fiction? Take our mini-quiz to find out what book they should read next! All these great reads are perfect for ages 10+. Share your result in the comments below! More about the books: THE NIGHT DIARY by Veera Hiranandani: In the vein of Inside Out and Back Again, comes a poignant, personal, and hopeful tale of Indiaâs partition, and of one girlâs journey to find a new home in a divided country. THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley: This #1 New York Times bestseller is an exceptionally moving story of triumph against all odds set during World War II. For fans of Counting by 7s and Sarah, Plain and Tall. ECHO MOUNTAIN by Lauren Wolk: Echo Mountain is celebration of finding your own path and becoming your truest self. Lauren Wolk, the Newbery Honorâ and Scott OâDell Awardâwinning author of Wolf Hollow and Beyond the Bright Sea weaves a stunning tale of resilience, persistence, and friendship across three generations of families, set against the rough and ragged beauty of the mountain they all call home. ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY by Mildred D. Taylor: A Newbery Award-winning masterpiece, set in Mississippi at the height of the Depression, this is the story of one familyâs struggle to maintain their integrity, pride, and independence in the face of racism and social injustice.
A post shared by Penguin Kids (@penguinkids) on
So I wanted to get in on this action...
For YA and MG, the waves at the top will bring you to a longer list of books that either have a summer or back to school vibes. I linked to my Bookshop.org lists, but librarians could create lists or collections in Destiny or whatever virtual catalog you use!
For each book cover, readers can click (on the PDF or Slides version) and it brings them right to the book description to learn more about it.
If you have other suggestions, for any age level, Summer or Back to School vibes, either drop the titles in the comments or reach me on Twitter, @MolleeBranden!
Upper elementary / middle grade
picture books for all
- One Day in December by Josie Silver
Devoured it. Worthy of a future re-read
- *Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
Cannot believe how long it took me to read this amazing book. So many lines were recognizable from being shared widely by other writers, readers and fans of Anne Lamont. This book changed me to my core. I now have a bird decal in a 1” box where my wrist rests on my keyboard to help me remember that writing, working & reflecting should be done “bird by bird.”
- The Magic Words by Cheryl Klein
The writing book I needed this year. Will go back to over and over.
TOP YOUNG ADULT
- *A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi
Powerful. Should be widely read, IMHO.
- Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson
Another one that should be widely read. Speak was transformational for me… this one was tough because of the subject, but so many times I was saying YES! aloud while reading.
- Children of Blood and Bone by Toni Adyemi
Hooked from the very first chapter. One of those books I found myself reading every spare minute I could find. Anxious to dive into Book 2
TOP MIDDLE GRADE
- New Kid by Jerry Craft (GN)
I couldn’t wait to get this book in my library. ALL kinds of students read it over the past year and it became a favorite for many… that’s how universal the message is!
- Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling
This sequel was what I hoped for in one of my fave MG of all time. Even though Aven is a 9th grader, it’s very middle-grade friendly.
- Tunnel of Bones by Victoria Schwab
Set in the catacombs of Paris, it’s spooky sequel to another favorite series of mine! Book 3 will take place in NOLA! (yessssss)
TOP KID LIT
- Little Dreamers by Vashti Harrison
Obsessed with this series and with Vashti’s incredible illustrations
- Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina
Read it because it was the Newbery Medal Winner, absolutely deserving of the honor. A modern, complex update to the Blume & Cleary contemporary kids stories.
- Front Desk by Kelly Yang
Such a unique story, but told in a way that readers can connect to Mia’s struggles and hopeful outlook.
- *Becoming by Michelle Obama
So glad a friend recommended this, especially to listen. When Michelle talked about her mid-20’s professional struggle, questioning if she had picked the right career… it was exactly what I needed to hear this year. Being a school librarian was a true joy and I enjoyed so much of it, but like Michelle, I felt like there was something more for me to go out and discover.
- Say Nothing by Patrick Keefe
While this is very Northern Ireland specific, the storytelling and background history is incredible for any reader.
- Pride by Ibi Zoboi
Heard good things about this Pride & Prejudice retelling & they were all correct.
MEMORABLE GRAPHIC NOVELS
- *Guts by Raina Telgemeier
- *White Bird by R. J. Palacio
- Hey Kiddo (GN) by Jarrett Krosoczka
Books with * are top 5 faves of the year
"Maybe the only thing that has to make sense about being somebody's friend is that you help them be their best self on any given day. That you give them a home when they don't want to be in their own."
- Poet X, Elizabeth Acevedo
"I ponder... the wisdom of leaving behind a small but sure thing for an uncertain future." - Rayne & Delilah's Midnite Matinee by Jeff Zetner
"Often during tough times, the first instinct is to exclude. But this book is about what happens when you include, when, despite all your suffering and your heartache, you still wake up every morning and look out at the world with fresh, curious eyes." - Front Desk, by Kelly Yang
"Sometimes you don't need words to feel better. You just need the nearness of your dog." -A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
That also means I dedicated less time than usual to reading, but I still added a decent list of titles to my 2019 Read List! Below are some highlights from the summer of my favorite Kid Lit selections. I also included the Bingo Challenge board I used and filled in through the summer with a variety of books, which included lots of nonfiction... a (wide) genre I don't usually read!
Join #YearofYA on Sept. 25th as we break down summer reading with our monthly twitter chat! ALL are welcome - we pick a theme, you pick what books you want to read! Learn more at bit.ly/yearofya
I’ve shared my love for Aven’s story for the past couple years, handing it off to teachers for read alouds, or my 5th graders eager to find a book that grips them like Wonder. In Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus, readers pick up Aven’s story just as she’s about to enter high school - where it’s a challenge for most kids to fit in and find their place, but a different kind of challenge for a girl with no arms. Since closing the cover of the first part of Aven’s story, I’ve been anxious to read about how she would navigate friendships, crushes, and developing her identity as a high schooler.
Reading it for me, I appreciated how author Dusti Bowling incorporated the complexity of family structures, facing tough truths, and authentically showed the insecurities of teenagers finding their place in the world. Aven’s voice is as unique and loveable as she was in the first book, but with the dimension of growing emotional maturity. I also loved how Dusti incorporated Punk Rock throughout, including “showing it to the Man!” There’s a great discovery through the book as Aven comes to understand how other people, and her own insecurities, don’t define her.
For my readers (elementary who are always reaching for Middle Grade titles), I’m thrilled that while this covers life as a 14 year old entering high school, there isn’t any content to stop a mature elementary-aged student from enjoying this book; yet certainly would appeal to teenagers going through these experiences themselves. There are so many amazing lessons to be learned through Aven’s journey, I’ll be encouraging my students to check this one out!
Oh, there's also reference to Cave Creek, AZ, which is just down the road from my parents' home, so it was extra fun to be able to picture the setting very well!
Blustery, wet winter days have morphed into blustery, wet POLLENY spring days here on the Outer Banks. It was a long winter, after 2 big storms blew along the coast of NC, followed by wind & cold (but no snow) and wind. And now, the buds are finally emerging and that yellow dust is EVERYWHERE.
I'm dreaming of summer, not only for this pollen to leave me alone, but also for sunny days with toes in warm sand and a book on my lap. Lucky for me, I got to escape to Gingerbread Island with Cat and Chicken back in November and I've been anxious for April 2nd to arrive ever since... yes, I know April 2nd isn't summer!
But it is the release day of Gillian McDunn's beautiful debut, Caterpillar Summer.
There's so much I loved about this middle grade:
And perhaps nothing more than how forgiveness is taught through the heart of a young person.
Caterpillar Summer is easily my favorite Middle Grade novels, and is a must-add to your Middle Grade library collection!
If you're in NC and looking to bring an author to school, be sure to check out Gillian's website! Students get so much from hearing from authors and it develops a bond to the book like nothing else. Jo Watson Hackl visited students at my school in November, and Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe has been the #1 checked out book ever since!
Note: My links will bring you to Amazon, but your local indie is the best place to buy books!