My Must Read Titles for 2019

For those readers and list makers, nothing is more exciting than January! The time to make an amazing list of books to read for the year!

Where will our reading lives take us? What adventures and emotions will we experience through the books we read? Always, there are endless possibilities.

So many books. Limited time.

New books to distract us from other books.

A must read list ensures not all are forgotten!


Join the #MustReadin2019 community!

To read more about the challenge and add your list, read here.


Here are the 30 titles I am going to try and read over this year. As always these titles will represent only a portion of my reading. My goal? To read most of these. I use this list like a road map of where to turn next when I come to a pause in my reading choices. It is always waiting to guide me. But it also waits patiently when I am distracted by new books. Often, I am.

Making a list like this – a To Read list – also allows us to reflect on the reading that we want to do. I know I want to emphasize middle grade novels. I didn’t read as much as I usually do in 2018 so my list has more titles that are published in 2018 or earlier (19 titles) and fewer 2019 releases (11 titles).

Here is my list:

Published in 2018 or earlier

The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery

The Soul of an Octopus

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi


After Zero by Christina Collins

After Zero

Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka Read April 7th 2019 5 stars

Hey, Kiddo

The Dollar Kids by Jennifer Richard Jacobson Read April 19th 2019 5 stars

The Dollar Kids

Wonderland by Barbara O’Connor Read November 19th 2019 5 stars
Wonderland by Barbara O'Connor

Harbour Me by Jacqueline Woodson Read January 6th 2019 5 stars

Harbour Me by Jacqueline Woodson

A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena  Read February 11th 2019 4 stars

A Girl Like That

Far from the Tree by Robin Benway Read February 17th 2019 5 stars

Far from the Tree

The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden  Read March 19th 2019 5 stars

The Benefits of Being an Octopus

Lu by Jason Reynolds


All That I Can Fix by Crystal Chan Read January 22nd 2019 4 stars

All that I can fix, chan

From You to Me by K.A. Holt

Girl sitting on pier and lookingat the river

Sweep The Story of a Girl and her Monster by Jonathan Auxier  Read March 24th 2019 5 stars


Tight by Torrey Maldonado


Wild Blues by Beth Kephart Read January 29th 2019 5 stars

Wild Blues

(Time Castaways #1) The Mona Lisa Key by Liesl Shurtliff

The Mona lisa key

The Last (Endling #1) by Katherine Applegate

The Last (Endling #1) by Katherine Applegate

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang  Read March 2nd 2019 5 stars

The Prince and the Dressmaker

Published in 2019 

The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman Read June 16th 2019 5 stars

Padma Venkatraman The Bridge Home

The Lost Girl by Anne Ursu Read May 12th 2019 5 stars

The Lost Girl

The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart  Read July 2nd 2019 5 stars

Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise

Dig by A.S. King

Dig, King

Song for A Whale by Lynne Kelly Read December  29th 2019 5 stars

Song for A Whale

Shouting at the Rain by Lynda Mullaly Hunt Read March 7th 2019 4 stars

Shouting at the Rain

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Wargather Read September 17th 2019 5 stars


The Size of the Truth by Andrew Smith Read June 16th 2019 5 stars

Size of the Truth by Andrew Smith

To Night Owl from Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer

To Night Owl from Dogfish

Where the Heart is by Jo Knowles

Where the Heart is

The Mighty Heart of Sunny St James by Ashley Herring Blake

The Mighty Heart of Sunny St James

What novels are at the top of your TBR list? Please share! 


Monday April 2nd, 2018

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

Each week I share at least one reading photo of the week. As I have been on Spring Break, I have no student photos to share. Instead, here is my gorgeous morning view as I read and had coffee at the place we rented in San Francisco.

And a little more bleak – an empty shelf in the library on Alcatraz.

#classroombookaday titles allowed us to explore endangered animals and human actions both positive and alarming.

Classroom Highlights 

I do have to share some amazing photos of our school wide day of play on the last day of school before the break. The theme in my room was building. But often I found that the books called to little builders and the theme became reading. 🙂

Join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers and share all of the reading you have done over the week from picture books to young adult novels. Follow the links to read about all of the amazing books the #IMWAYR community has read. It’s the best way to discover what to read next.

Books I loved:

Dear Girl, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Paris Rosenthal illustrated by Holly Hatam

If you have read this book, then you know. It is a must own, must gift, must share title. If you haven’t read it yet . . . go! Find a copy!

I Am Enough by Grace Byers with pictures by Keturah A. Bobo

Beautiful message. Full of joy. Just loved the illustrations. Another title that would make a wonderful gift book.

The Digger and the Flower by Joseph Keufler

A testament to the power and beauty of nature. A sweet little book about an unexpected friendship.

Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix written by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and June Jo Lee with illustrations by Man One

Such an interesting story of how Roy Choi and a friend opened a food truck serving Korean tacos and their rise to popularity. The illustrations are so unique.

Harriet Gets Carried Away by Jessie Sima

Oh little Harriet, what a girl you are! Everyday costume wearing Harriet has quite the adventure when she heads to the shops with her dads in search of party hats.

Little Fires Everywhere  by Celeste Ng

I so rarely read adult novels but I kept seeing this title everywhere. I was quickly pulled into the many layered story lines.

The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Yes! This title was every bit as compelling as The War That Saved my Life. Sometimes sequels are immensely satisfying. This is absolutely the case here. Ada is a character I will never forget.

The Key to Everything by Pat Schmatz

I got my hands on an ARC of this book and was excited as I had really loved Schmatz’s Bluefish. This one was not so memorable. I enjoyed parts of it but it just didn’t come together.

Good Dog by Dan Gemeinhart

I am just going to say it – this is one strange book. Which is not a bad thing. In fact, it is quite a good thing. Not at all what I was expecting and quite like nothing I have ever read. High energy, fast paced and wonderfully endearing.

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate 

Wow. Just, wow.

Daisy Dreamer and the Totally True Imaginary Friend  by Holly Anna 

There are so many titles about imaginary friends and magical elements to real life events in the transitional chapter book market. I think this is a book my students will enjoy and will likely get the next few in the series.

Up next? I am pages away from finishing The Wild Robot Escapes by Peter Brown

Reading Progress updates:

2018 Chapter Book Challenge: 15/60 complete

2018 Transitional Chapter books: 8/40 complete

Goodreads Challenge: 76/300 books read

Progress on challenge: 3 books ahead

#MustReadin2018: 9/30 complete

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: 8/40 titles

Diverse Books in 2018: 13/40 books read

Sad books: Slice of Life #15

Be warned, I am about to rant a little. Yikes and oh my, I think we need to be so careful with how we talk about books we don’t like.

I just read a comment about how books about grief are boring. Okay, sure, not every reader loves every kind of book. Personal preference reigns supreme in the literary world. I just don’t understand why some people bash emotional books. If a book explores death, grief, sickness, pain or suffering, it is painted with a wide sloppy brush saturated in black paint: too dark, too sad, too depressing, to be avoided.

It is “too easy to write about grief” the criticism continued. Grief seems, to me, one of the most complicated things to write about. At least to write well. It is comprised of such a range of feelings: anger, sadness, guilt, confusion, pain. To hit all of these things correctly for a character. Believably. Honestly. This is not easy.

Grief and hope are intertwined. When a character stands balanced precariously between them, that is when the reader feels the most. Achieving that balance in life or in words, is not even close to easy.  But it is truly beautiful.

Sad Books #sol16

Readers seek out what they need. When we find books that allow us to experience emotions we can explore vicariously and from a distance, a book can really be the right book at the right time.

Stories let us choose our vantage point: witness, companion, fully immersed. That choice keeps us safe. That choice lets us have the experience we need.

I know I have avoided highly emotional books out of fear of my own strong reactions. Books that especially scare me? Books where children die, go missing or contract an incurable disease. But honestly, when I finally pick up emotional titles and let myself be surrounded by the story, it is here, where I feel the most human. Sometimes, turned inside out and raw but sharp and clear and wiser.

Not that I am an advocate for only sad books. Hardly! Different readers want different experiences and they seek out books looking for a myriad of things: adventure, action, humour, drama, escape, high fantasy, etc. No one genre makes us more or less of a reader.

For a while I thought amusing stories were fun but kind of forgettable. Then I began sharing silly, funny and absurd stories with my students. There is nothing like the amused joy of a room full of children sharing a story together! Laughing deep and contagiously? It doesn’t get much better.

Lots of books. Lots of genres. Available for lots of readers. This is how it should be. If we are in the business of helping books land in the hands of readers, we should not be painting any genre with a dismissive sweep. Instead, we should be polishing the shelves and helping them all shine.

And since I feel the current need to be champion for highly emotional stories (of the middle grade/young adult variety), I am going to share ten of my favourites.

Read one or all ten.

Cry a little and feel big.

The older I get, the more I realize that every time your heart breaks a little, it heals a little stronger with room for more.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

The Thing about Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

Bird written by Crystal Chan

Nest by Esther Ehrlich

The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart

See you at Harry’s by Jo Knowles

The Summer of Letting Go written by Gae Polisner

The Boy in the Black Suit written by Jason Reynolds

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt

Each Little Bird That Sings written by Deborah Wiles

Bad Irony: Slice of Life

I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.

Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.

Monday December 7th, 2015

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

I have been sharing a reading photo of the week each week. This week I have two.

First, this little reader who needed some help with new shoes. But, you see, he found a book he wanted to read and couldn’t help with the shoes because he HAD to read the book! Thankfully, Miriam also puts #booklove above all else and helped him out! 🙂 She tied laces and got to listen to silly poems!

IMWAYR There's a Book for That

And in honour of all of the Caldecott titles we have been reading, I have to share this photo of 3 girls taking in the amazing illustrations of past winners. This bookshelf has been very popular.

Celebration: Mock Caldecott moments

So exciting to enter into #MockCaldecott territory for #classroombookaday Lenny & Lucy was particularly charming in my room. The children adored it.


Join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers and share all of the reading you have done over the week from picture books to young adult novels. Follow the links to read about all of the amazing books the #IMWAYR community has read. It’s the best way to discover what to read next.


On the blog:

Cover Reveal: Dario and the Whale – to be released in March 2016

Celebration: Mock Caldecott Moments

Books I loved:

Toys Meet Snow written by Emily Jenkins and illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky

I have to confess I wasn’t sure I was going to like this book – just from the cover. But, oh how I was wrong. I loved the quiet magic of winter snow and exploration. And how incredible are the different perspectives shared by each character. I can see that this would have been a book my own children would have requested over and over when they were younger. A perfect book to gift.

Toys Meet Snow

What Floats in a Moat? written by Lynne Berry and illustrated by Matthew Cordell

Silly. Full of science and what happens if . . . ? And Matthew Cordell! Such fun. Would love to read this aloud to kids! I actually giggled just reading it myself.

What Floats in a Moat

A Pet for Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold

Fly Guy in picture book form. It works!

A Pet for Fly Guy

Use Your Imagination by Nicola O’Byrne

Children love fairy tale twists and anytime the bad guy might get outsmarted. This book was a fun read aloud!

Use Your Imagination

Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova written by Laurel Snyder and illustrated by Julie Morstad

So beautiful. The story, the illustrations, the inspiration. Wow.

swan the life and dance of anna pavlova

Green is A Chile Pepper: A Book of Colors written by Roseanne Greenfield Thing and illustrated by John Parra

This is a gorgeous book of colours. Colour, culture, family, traditions. Just wonderful.

Green is A Chile Pepper

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

Isn’t it interesting how books read at certain times hit us in different ways?  This book came to me just as I am in the middle of worry about a student I know. A student who told me that she wishes for more food. Food insecurity is always a reality for the children that I teach but sometimes I worry more than other times about particular children. A child should not be worried about hunger, about a home, about being able to stretch out on a bed. The existence of Crenshaw makes a lot of sense and, at the same time, none at all. Beautifully written by Applegate. I found this to be quite an emotional read.


I am currently reading The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall 

Updates on my 2015 Reading Goals:

2015 Chapter Book Challenge: 62/80 complete

Goodreads Challenge: 412/415 books read

#MustReadin2015: 16/24 complete

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: 71/100 titles

Diverse Books in 2015: 48/50 books read

A Year of Nonfiction Picture Books Revisited

I read a lot of nonfiction aloud to my class. I never get to as many titles as I intend to – the “must share” stack is always growing. It’s not necessarily due to lack of time. I make lots of time for nonfiction reading. It’s that I believe nonfiction read alouds need to be rich reading experiences. And so, they require time. Time for questions. Time for discussion. Time to think and absorb and ponder. We “stretch out” our read alouds over days and days – reading, writing, talking, drawing. I celebrate the time we take with each book because I know the learning is rich.

I thought I would make this post for Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday be all about the celebration of and learning from our nonfiction reading this year.

Here are (most of) the titles we read together in this “stretched out” style. We also read many other nonfiction titles – some in their entirety, some just a few pages here or there.

A Year of Nonfiction Picture Books Revisited There's a Book for That

I chose some particularly important learning to highlight here.

A Boy and A Jaguar written by Alan Rabinowitz and illustrated by Cátia Chien

In this title we learned that a love for animals can be deep and a promise to protect them can be deeper. Alan Rabinowitz is a huge inspiration for my students. They felt his anxiety growing up stuttering and were inspired by his commitment to his work.

 A Boy and a Jaguar A Year of Nonfiction Picture Books Revisited There's a Book for That

Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla written by Katherine Applegate and illustrated by G. Brian Karas

Ivan’s story prompted discussions of animals in captivity, of human cruelty, of just “why?” Lots of conversations. Thanks To Katherine Applegate and all of those who have loved Ivan, we love Ivan too.

 Ivan A Year of Nonfiction Picture Books Revisited There's a Book for That

Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey written by Loree Griffin Burns with photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz

This title allowed students to explore a question they had never before considered – just how do butterflies get to museums and science centres all over the world? But it did more than that. It gave students a close up view at the miraculous life cycle of a butterfly and allowed them to see the beauty in every stage.

 Handle with Care A Year of Nonfiction Picture Books Revisited There's a Book for That

The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkins and illustrated by Jill McElmurry

This book gave my students hope. It energized them. It reminded them about the power of an individual to impact a community. When we closed the book, students made comments like this one: “I like Kate so much. It happened a long time ago but her soul probably still speaks for trees. She was one person who did so much.”

 The Tree Lady A Year of Nonfiction Picture Books Revisited There's a Book for That

Galapágos George written by Jean Craighead George and illustrated by Wendell Minor

This title let us talk about extinction. It allowed students to grasp the true vulnerability of so many species. We read this after reading various books about endangered animals. Reading about a special creature that actually became extinct prompted both outrage and sadness. “So many animals could disappear because of humans . . . ” one child observed solemnly.

Galapagos George A Year of Nonfiction Picture Books Revisited There's a Book for That

Tiny Creatures The World of Microbes by Nicola Davies; illustrated by Emily Sutton

This title prompted a lot of “Wows” and a lot of hand washing! 🙂 It is so important for students to wonder about the world they can not easily see. The power of something very tiny is a very big idea.

 Tiny Creatures A Year of Nonfiction Picture Books Revisited There's a Book for That

The Iridescence of Birds: A Book about Henri Matisse written by Patricia MacLachlan with illustrations by Hadley Hooper

This title opened up the conversation about inspiration. What inspires an artist? What inspires any art? One child commented, “The book was about what inspired Matisse. Maybe we have inspiration all around us too.”

Iridesence of Birds A Year of Nonfiction Picture Books Revisited There's a Book for That

Our learning climbs up the walls, surrounding us all year.

A Year of Nonfiction Picture Books Revisited There's a Book for That A Year of Nonfiction Picture Books Revisited There's a Book for That

We learned. Some things. A lot of things, in fact. Not close to everything. It’s a huge amazing world out there. But wow, did we learn.

We wondered. We pondered. We talked and listened. We developed our curiosity. We considered things from new perspectives. Most importantly, we considered our place in the world. What do we impact? What can we impact? What do we notice? What do we not yet understand? What do we plan to find out?

A year of reading nonfiction.  I have described reading nonfiction titles with a class as building shared knowledge, one learning layer at a time. How exciting it was to build this developing understanding of the world with this group of children this year.

Thanks to Alyson from Kid Lit Frenzy for the inspiration to read and share more nonfiction picture books in 2015. Follow the link to Alyson’s blog to read about more nonfiction books you need to read!

#nfpb2015Looking for nonfiction titles to read aloud? Check out this list: Nonfiction Picture Books for Reading Aloud

Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases For the Rest of 2015

Considering how much I love books (the reading, the talking about and the book loving community) and how often I make lists of books, I thought it was time to begin participating in Top Ten Tuesday, a meme created by The Broke and Bookish.


This week’s theme? Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases For the Rest of 2015

Listed by date of release.

Survival Strategies of the Almost Brave by Jen White (June 2015) 

This is an unknown author for me but I am seeing some positive reviews from my Goodreads friends and I have a thing about resilient kids . . .

Survival Strategies of the Almost Brave Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases For the Rest of 2015 There's a Book for That

Delicate Monsters by Stephanie Kuehn (June 2015)

I have read two other titles from Kuehn. They were dark, serious and very well written – looking forward to more.

Delicate Monsters Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases For the Rest of 2015 There's a Book for That

The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly (July 2015)

I read the first Calpurnia Tate title to my children on a family holiday in Hawaii. We were smitten with the character, the time and the science. Sign me up for more.

The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases For the Rest of 2015 There's a Book for That

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness (August 2015)

A Monster Calls was a wow title for me. This one looks like a wild ride.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases For the Rest of 2015 There's a Book for That

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead (August 2015)

Rebecca Stead. Rebecca Stead. Rebecca Stead!

 Goodbye Stranger Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases For the Rest of 2015 There's a Book for That

I Crawl Through It  by A.S. King (September 2015)

Okay so who is with me in being thrilled that A.S. King is so brilliant and so prolific?

I Crawl Through It  Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases For the Rest of 2015 There's a Book for That

Stand Off (Winger #2) by Andrew Smith (September 2015)

Loved, loved Winger. Love Andrew Smith.

Stand Off (Winger #2) Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases For the Rest of 2015 There's a Book for That

The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell (September 2015)

So if one were to judge a book by its cover . . . this is pretty gorgeous. But I have also read two titles by Rundell this year and am ready for more.

The Wolf Wilder Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases For the Rest of 2015 There's a Book for That

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate (September 2015)

Yes, that Katherine. Oh so very excited.

 Crenshaw Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases For the Rest of 2015 There's a Book for That

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt (October 2015)

Okay for Now by Schmidt is one of my all time favourite MG titles. The man is brilliant.

Jupiter Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases For the Rest of 2015 There's a Book for That

What 2015 titles are you looking forward to reading?

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Fourteen favourites of 2014 (Part 2)

I am thrilled to share my favourite fourteen nonfiction titles of 2014!

2014 Nonfiction Picture Books

I love books. As in absolutely adore, frequently gush over, make piles, make lists, always reading kind of #booklove devotion. If you had asked me to talk favourites a few years ago, a nonfiction title would have made it on the list here and there. I have always appreciated the power of the nonfiction read aloud but . . . it wasn’t until I began participating in the nonfiction picture book challenges organized by Alyson Beecher (from Kid Lit Frenzy) that I have become absolutely smitten with nonfiction titles.

I have been busily tweeting about this as of late . . .

I am thrilled to renew my commitment to nonfiction reading by participating in the #nfpb2015 challenge! The more nonfiction I read, the more I learn and the more my students ultimately benefit.


More about my favourites of 2014. If these titles are not on your already read and loved or must read radar, consider adding them to the list!

Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla written by Katherine Applegate and illustrated by G. Brian Karas


The Right Word: Roget and his Thesaurus written by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Sweet

The Right Word

Gravity by Jason Chin


Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Emily Sutton


Weeds Find a Way written by Cindy Jenson-Elliott and illustrated by Carolyn Fisher


Shackleton’s Journey by William Grill


Eye to Eye: How Animals See The World by Steve Jenkins 


Creature Features: 25 Animals Explain Why They Look the Way They Do by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page


Born in the Wild: Baby Mammals and their Parents by Lita Judge

Born in the Wild

A Boy and A Jaguar written by Alan Rabinowitz and illustrated by Cátia Chien 


Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California’s Farallon Islands by Katherine Roy 


Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman and Rick Allen

winter bees

Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos by Stephanie Roth Sisson

star stuff

Feathers Not Just for Flying written by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen


I have included picture books here but must also note that Chasing Cheetahs: The Race to Save Africa’s Fastest Cats written by Sy Montgomery with photographs by Nic Bishop was an absolute favourite of the year.


I am also pleased to report that I more than met my goal of reading 65 nonfiction picture books this year. Grand total: 144 titles! 🙂

What are your favourites of the year?