National Poetry Month Book Recommendations

Hello, Sweeteas,

A few recommendations (upper elementary and middle school) for National Poetry Month:

When Green Becomes Tomatoes by Julie Fogliano

The White Cat and the Monk by Jo Ellen Bogart

When the Sun Shines on Antarctica by Irene Latham

The Death of a Hat – Selected by Paul B. Janeczko

National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry – Edited by J. Patrick Lewis (great for Earth Day – April 22)

A Child’s Anthology of Poetry – Edited by Elizabeth Hague Sword

Out of Wonder by Kuame Alexander

And a great list:

Happy reading!

“Some people will tell you there is a great deal of poetry and fine sentiment in a chest of tea.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson


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Girl Protagonists with Scientific/Detective Minds

Hello, Sweeteas,

To culminate Women’s History Month, here’s a list of books with girl protagonists with scientific and/or detective minds:

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

12-year-old Willow Chance is a genius with an obsessive-compulsive personality and an extraordinary knowledge of nature and medical conditions who’s in need of a family.

Echo Falls Mystery Series by Peter Abrahams

13-year-old Ingrid Levin-Hill is an amateur sleuth and a budding thespian. Not surprisingly, she’s also a devoted fan of Sherlock Holmes.

Enola Holmes Mystery Series by Nancy Springer

Enola is the 14-year-old sister of much-older and famous Sherlock Holmes. Throughout her investigative adventures she proves that she’s as–if not more– intelligent, talented, and resourceful as her brother.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate and The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

11-year-old Calpurnia Tate is happiest when making scientific observations with her grandfather. Her mother, however, wants her to conform to the social expectations of the time period.

Flavia De Luce Mystery Series by Alan Bradley

11-year-old Flavia de Luce has an extraordinary knowledge of chemistry, a fascination with death, and a talent for solving murder mysteries.

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm

11-year-old Ellie Cruz’s grandfather is a scientist who has discovered how to reverse aging and has now returned to being 13. As Ellie helps him with his discovery and predicament, she becomes more and more interested in science.

The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron

10-year-old Lucky has a brain full of questions, which is why she wants to be a scientist. She also wants to find her Higher Power so she can gain special insight into the uncertainties of life.

Hold Fast by Blue Balliett

11-year-old Early’s father has vanished, and she, her mom, and her brother are forced to move into a homeless shelter. Early uses her talent for recognizing patterns and rhythms to solve the mystery of her father’s disappearance.

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee

11-year-old Ophelia doesn’t believe in things that science can’t explain. After her mother’s death, her father takes a job at a museum, where she discovers a marvelous boy who’s a prisoner of the magical and evil Snow Queen.

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

14-year-old Violet is the oldest of the Baudelaire children. Her talent as an inventor helps her and her two siblings escape many dangerous situations.

Three Times Lucky and sequels by Sheila Turnage

11-year old Mo LoBeau has a wild imagination and is always up for an adventure. With the help of her best friend Dale, she starts the Desperado Detective Agency.

The Westing Game by Erskine

Tabitha-Ruth (Turtle) Wexler, one of the heirs chosen to solve the book’s mystery, is an intelligent and underestimated 13-year-old girl who excels at playing the stock market.

The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency Series by Jordan Stratford

11-year-old genius Augusta Ada Byron (better known as Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer) and 14-year-old adventurer Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (better known as Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein) combine their talents and abilities and set up the Wollstonecraft Detective Agency.

Wonder at the Edge of the World by Nicole Helget

13-year-old Lu Wonder has a thirst for knowledge of the mysteries of the natural world and wants to be a scientific explorer like her father. She embarks on a life-changing quest with her friend Eustace.

A Wrinkle in Time and sequels by Madeleine L’Engle

Meg, the heroine of the story, is an extremely intelligent twelve-year-old girl who has a hard time fitting in at school. Her parents are scientists and her youngest brother–with whom she has a special bond–is a genius.

Lastly, two classic series:

Nancy Drew Mystery Stories by various authors

Nancy Drew is a rich, talented, and intelligent teenager who enjoys spending her time solving mysteries.

Trixie Belden Series by various authors

Trixie is a farm girl who manages to discover mysteries all around her. She solves them with the help of her brothers and friends, who together form a good-Samaritan club called the Bob-Whites of the Glen.

Happy reading!

“There was a teapot, in which Mma Ramotswe — the only lady private detective in Botswana — brewed tea. And three mugs — one for herself, one for her secretary, and one for the client. What else does a detective agency really need?” –Alexander McCall Smith, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

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Black History Month / I Love to Read Month

Hello, Sweeteas,

February is Black History Month as well as I Love to Read Month. Awesome.

Here’s a fantastic website to help you find books by African American authors:

And you’ll find the Coretta Scott King award winners here:

The list of award winners includes March: Book Three by Congressman John Lewis and Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell:

March: Book Three is the final installment of the March Trilogy, a black and white graphic novel about the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, told from the point of view of Congressman John Lewis. It has won several awards including the Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award, the Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in young-adult literature, the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award, and the YALSA Award for excellence in young-adult nonfiction.

Also, here’s the list of Newbery Award winners:

And last, but not least, three book recommendations from different genres:

1- Historical Fiction: Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis:

Of all of Christopher Paul Lewis’s books, Elijah of Buxton is my favorite. It made me laugh and it made me cry. This is the story of eleven-year-old Elijah Freeman, the first free child born in Buxton, Canada, a settlement of runaway African American slaves just over the border from Detroit. The book won a 2008 Newbery Honor Award, the 2008 Coretta Scott King Award, the 2008 Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction, and the 2008 Canadian Library Association Book of the Year for Children Award.

2- Poetry: Poetry for Young People: Langston Hughes edited by David Roessel and Arnold Rampersad and illustrated by Benny Andrews:

Langston Hughes (1902-1967) was an American writer considered to be a primary contributor of the Harlem Reinassance. This is an illustrated collection of some of his best-known poems. It won the 2007 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Award.

3- Folktales: The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales told by Virginia Hamilton:

The People Could Fly is a beautiful illustrated collection of folktale retellings. It won the 1986 Coretta Scott King Award.

Happy reading!

Why hasn’t someone invented an alarm clock that just hands you a cup of coffee? –Anonymous

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2016 Favorites

Hi, Sweeteas,

Happy 2017! I counted the books I read in 2016 to see if I met my goal of approximately 1-2 books read per week (52-100). I read 76 books, so, yes, I met my goal!

Here are my favorites and why:

The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell 2016 *****

In Russia during the reign of the Tsars, twelve-year-old Feodora and her mother teach tamed wolves to fend for themselves in the wild. Then soldiers come, burn down their cottage, and take Feodora’s mother prisoner. It’s now up to Feodora and the wolves to rescue her. Rundell’s writing style is gorgeous, and the story line is riveting.

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo 2016 *****

Three unlikely friends each have an important personal reason for learning to twirl a baton and winning the Little Miss Central Florida Tire Competition. But, of course, only one can be the winner. A beautifully-written story with themes of friendship, perseverance, and self-discovery.

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown 2016 *****

A stranded robot learns about life by caring for an orphaned gosling and becoming an integral part of an island’s community of wild animals. But then her makers find her. An unusual and tender story about family and community values.

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley 2016 *****

Nine-year-old Ada was born with a twisted foot and can barely walk. Her abusive mother has not sought treatment for her and has never allowed her to leave their apartment. But when her brother is sent out of London to escape the war, Ada does something extraordinary: she sneaks out and joins him. What follows is the story of the difficult and tender relationship between Ada and her brother and the woman who is forced to take in the two children. The question is, what will happen after the war ends? Will the children have to return to their cruel mother? An inspiring story about family, courage, perseverance, and hope.

Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee 2016 *****

Two close-knit sisters, Jules and Sylvie, are separated when one slips into a fast-moving river and disappears. Jules is brokenhearted and refuses to believe that her sister is gone forever. But as fate would have it, at the moment of Sylvie’s disappearance a “shadow fox”–half of the spirit world and half of the animal world–is born. A fox with a special connection to Jules. This is a beautifully-written mystical and poignant story about coming to terms with loss.

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge 2016 *****

Faith is a smart and knowledge-hungry girl in a time when girls either understood and accepted their place in society, or figured out how to manipulate the system, or rebelled and endured the consequences. Faith’s pursuit of justice and revenge for her murdered father leads her to discover a tree that reveals truth when fed lies. Her decision to use the tree proves to be life-threatening, but as a result of her ordeal, Faith learns empathy and self-respect. An exciting and thought-provoking book.

Chocky by John John Wyndham 2015 *****

Matthew has an imaginary friend. At least that’s what Matthew’s parents initially believe. But then Matthew tells them about Chocky, the being who lives in his head, and things get weird. The story is told from the point of view of the father and explores themes such as environmental stewardship and what it means to be human.

Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin 2013 *****

Sacha is a 10-year devoted Young Pioneer in the Soviet Union during Stalin’s Reign of Terror. His world shatters when his father, the best Communist he knows, is arrested. Sacha is suddenly forced to face the cruel realities of life under Stalin’s regime. A simple but powerful story about political indoctrination and oppression.

The Best Man by Richard Peck 2016 *****

Archer, a middle school student, has a bit of a hard time  understanding the complicated world of adults. He has four grown-up models: his grandpa, his dad, his uncle, and his new teacher. Two of his role models are getting married, and he will be the Best Man at the wedding. Archer wants to be the best Best Man he can possibly be. A humorous family and coming-of-age story.

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk 2016 *****

12-year-old Annabelle is being bullied by the new girl at school. Betty, the new girl, is more than just mean; she’s also cruel, manipulative, and a skilled liar. When Betty turns her attention to Toby, a traumatized WWII veteran, Annabelle knows she has to do something about it. Lying seems to be the only option. But lies, even when told with good intentions, can have unintended consequences. A grim but powerful story about the prejudices that cause people to believe certain lies and the dangerous consequences of lying.

Happy reading!

“It’s coffee time! Coffee! Coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee!” –from the movie Dante’s Peak

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Reading about Human Rights

Hi, Sweeteas,

December is Human Rights Month. Here’s a link to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (check out the cool illustrated version).

Many outstanding middle grade books explore human rights topics.

For example:

1- Historical fiction books such as:

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt

Revolution by Deborah Wiles

Geronimo by Joseph Bruchac

The Game of Silence by Louise Erdrich

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli

The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan

I Lived on Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosín

Red Scarf Girl by Ji-Li Jiang

Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata

Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin

2- Books about current human rights issues such as:

Sold by Patricia McCormick

Bamboo People by Mitali Perkins

Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai

I Am Malala by Malala Yousafsai

The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney

George by Alex Gino

3- Dystopian novels such as:

The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

4- And many more:

One of my favorites from the historical fiction list is Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt, a novel based on a dark chapter in the history of Maine:

In 1911, the racially-mixed residents of Malaga Island were cruelly evicted from their homes. All evidence of inhabitation was promptly removed or destroyed, including the village’s cemetery. Some villagers perished during the process of floating their homes downriver, searching for a place to relocate, and some others were sent to a home for the “feeble-minded,” where they soon died. The whole ordeal was a shameful tragedy. Schmidt does an excellent job of presenting this sad historical incident in a way that’s appropriate for the middle grade audience. When asked why he writes books that are very serious, Schmidt answers: “Living is a serious business. Funny is good, of course. We all like to laugh. But I want more than that. Much more.”

Perhaps we could take a little break from all the fun and laughter of the holiday season and learn about how people all over the world–including here in our own country–have suffered and are suffering from human rights violations, and about how we can participate in the promotion and protection of human rights.

Happy holidays!

“Tea and honey is a Very Grand Thing.” –from Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne

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American Indian Middle Grade Books

Hi, Sweeteas,

November is Native American (or American Indian) Heritage Month. I recently discovered a great website on Native American children’s books: American Indians in Children’s Literature (creator: Debbie Reese).

The website “provides critical perspectives and analysis of indigenous peoples in children’s and young adult books, the school curriculum, popular culture, and society.” In other words, important food for thought. It also includes book recommendations and a fantastic list with photos of native writers and illustrators.

Here’a a list of the middle grade recommendations on the website:

2010 list

Bruchac, Joseph. Hidden Roots

Carvell, Marlene. Who Will Tell My Brother?

Dorris, Michael. Sees Behind Trees

Erdrich, Louise. The Birchbark House

Loyie, Larry. As Long as the Rivers Flow: A Last Summer before Residential School

Ortiz, Simon. The People Shall Continue

Smith, Cynthia Leitich. Indian Shoes

Smith, Cynthia Leitich. Rain Is Not My Indian Name

Sneve, Virginia Driving Hawk. High Elk’s Treasure

Sterling, Shirley. My Name is Seepeetza

 2013 list

Dembicki, Matt (editor). Trickster: Native American Tales: A Graphic Collection

Edwardson, Debby Dahl. My Name Is Not Easy

Gansworth, Eric. If I Ever Get Out of Here

Guest, Jacqueline. Triple Threat

Garcia McCAll, Guadalupe. Under the Mesquite

Mclaughlin, Timothy P (editor); Nelson, S.D. (illustrator). Walking on Earth and Touching the Sky: Poetry and Prose by Lakota Youth at Red Cloud Indian School

Sigafus, Kim and Ernst, Lyle. Native Writers: Voices of Power

Starr, Arigon. Super Indian: Volume One

Tingle, Tim. How I Became a Ghost

And here’s a link to the American Indian Youth Literature Award (AIYLA):

Previous Middle School Winners:

2014 How I Became a Ghost: A Choctaw Trail of Tears Story by Tim Tingle

2012 Free Throw & Triple Threat by Jacqueline Guest

2010 Meet Christopher: An Osage Boy from Oklahoma by Genevieve Simermeyer

2008 Counting Coup: Becoming a Crow Chief on the Reservation and Beyond by Joseph Medicine Crow

2006 The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich

2016 Middle School Winner: 

In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by Joseph Marshall III:

Lakota boy Jimmy McClean embarks on a journey with his grandfather, Nyles High Eagle, to learn more about his Lakota heritage and the story of Crazy Horse.

2016 Middle School Honor Book:


Look for any of these books in your neighborhood library (if you don’t see them, ask a librarian).

Happy reading!

“Honestly, if you’re given the choice between Armageddon or tea, you don’t say ‘what kind of tea?” -Neil Gaiman


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Spooky Halloween!

Hi, Sweeteas,

What a glorious October! I’m looking forward to a delightfully spooky Halloween. I hope you are too! 😀

Here are two well-known authors who write creepy ghost stories for young people:

1- Mary Downing Hahn ( has been writing books for children for more than 30 years. She is best known for her “not-too-creepy” ghost stories and mysteries such as Wait Till Helen Comes (AR 4.6)*, The Old Willis Place (AR 4.2), All the Lovely Bad Ones (AR 4.5), The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall (AR 4.4), Where I Belong (AR 4.2), and her most recent: Took (AR 4.3). My favorite is Wait Till Helen Comes:

Twelve-year-old Molly, her ten-year-old brother, Michael, their annoying seven-year-old stepsister, Heather, and their parents move to a country house that used to be a church and has a cemetery in the backyard. Soon after, Heather starts warning Molly and Michael that an angry ghost named Helen is going to come for them. Is the ghost real? Is it really coming for them? And what will it do to them–and to Heather–when it does? A suspenseful, creepy story!

2-Dan Poblocki ( is a writer of mystery and horror books for young people. His creepy reads include The Stone Child (AR 5.2), The Nighmarys (AR 4.8), The Ghost of Graylock (AR 4.8), The Haunting of Gabriel Ashe (AR 4.8), The Book of Bad Things (AR 5.4), The House on Stone’s Throw Island (AR 5.3), and his most recent: Shadow House: The Gathering (first books in the series) (AR 5.1). I found The Book of Bad Things to be particularly creepy:

Cassidy Bean is spending the summer in upstate New York, in a peaceful town called Whitechapel. But peace disappears when Ursula Chambers, an old hermit and secret hoarder, passes away under strange circumstances. The people of Whitechapel greedily start claiming the items Ursula left behind, which causes Ursula’s ghost to start appearing all over town warning people to return her belongings to her creepy farmhouse. Cassidy decides to solve the mystery behind all the spooky incidents and discovers that there are more bad things in the world than anyone can imagine. This book gave me nightmares!

12 more spooky/creepy books you may enjoy:

The Halloween Tree (AR 4.7) by Ray Bradbury

The Graveyard Book (AR 5.1) by Neil Gaiman

The Night Gardener (AR 4.9) by Jonathan Auxier

The Doll Bones (AR 5.4) by Holly Black

How to Catch a Bogle Trilogy (AR 5.2) by Catherine Jinks

From the Dust Returned: A Family Remembrance (AR 5.3) by Ray Bradbury

Something Wicked This Way Comes (AR 4.8) by Ray Bradbury

Horowitz Horror (short stories) (AR 4.6) by Anthony Horowitz

The Dark-Thirty: Southern Tales of the Supernatural (AR 4.6) by Patricia McKissack

Ghost Fever/Mal de Fantasma (AR 5.1) by Joe Hayes

Skeleton Man (AR 4.8) by Joseph Bruchac

Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Madness (AR 8.8) by Edgar Allan Poe

Look for these spooky books in your school or neighborhood library.

Happy reading!

*AR = Accelerated Reader reading level

“As long as there was coffee in the world, how bad could things be?” -Cassandra Clare, City of Ashes

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