Books Everyone Should Read

This post was done for my classroom website, I stand by my children’s book selections, so I wanted to share them with anyone interested in a good read!


Summer is approaching, and in my mind, it will be READING SEASON! I’ve compiled a list of some of my absolute favorite books for kids. This list is in no particular order, and I’ve copied and pasted from some of what I’ve written on a few of these books before. After scouring my classroom shelves, my account (a cool website that allows you to track all the books you have read and want to read), and my brain, I’ve come up with the list below. The titles are all links to Amazon, and a lot of them are $5-$10. The library will have all of these as well!

1. Running Out of Time, By: Margaret Peterson Haddix. I have read this book aloud every year. I still get excited when Jessie finds out the truth about her life. This book starts a lot of dialogue about what we believe about society.

2. Percy Jackson and the Olympians, By: Rick Riordan. The series takes the reader on an adventure in a world where the Greek Gods are real and their family lines still continue. If you find that you are someone who loves to get pulled into a completely new world, then you need to read all the Percy Jackson books!

3. Harry Potter Series, By: JK Rowling. This is one of my all time favorite story lines. Harry Potter is one of the reasons I became a teacher. I wanted to talk about stories this great with kids. I have a hard time believing that there is anyone left who hasn’t read these books. But if you haven’t, you are missing out. 

4. Hatchet, By: Gary Paulsen. The adventure of Brian, a young boy who finds himself alone in the wilderness is absolutely unforgettable. The story hooks in the reader, and I know I find myself wondering if I could be as smart and brave as Brian. The book is great for teaching and thinking about descriptive writing.

5. Island of the Blue Dolphins, By: Soctt O’Dell was one of my favorite books in elementary school. One of our literature circle groups is currently reading it, and I had to take it home and finish it IMMEDIATELY. This is one of those books that just gives you a feeling of a world you would never know, or expect to know. I find it difficult to describe without giving away to much, but the book it phenomenal. I have several copies of this book, so if you have interest in borrowing, let me know.

6. The Invention of Hugo Cabret, By: Brian Selznick. When I first read this book, I was in absolute awe. The story is told through pictures AND words. When you think back on the story, you can’t even remember whether what you are remembering is part of the written story or illustrated story.

7. Wonderstruck, By: Brian Selznick. My mom gave my sister and me a copy of Wonderstruck for Christmas. Emily and I both read it in one day. We couldn’t put it down. Unlike Hugo, this isn’t one story told through pictures and writing. This is two separate stories, told fifty years apart. One story is through the artwork, and the other story is through the writing. The stories do come together, but it seems like they are far too different to ever get together.

8. Chasing Lincoln’s Killer, By James Swanson. This story turns history into an exciting mystery. It is the true story of the hunt for John Wilkes Booth after he assassinates the president.

9. Turtle in Paradise, By Jennifer Holm. Last summer I read Turtle in Paradise, and it turned out to be the perfect summer story. I loved that it had a bit of history to it; it is about a little girl during the Great Depression. Her mother needs work and gets a job as a housekeeper. There is a catch, the lady she works for does not like children. So, Turtle is shipped off to live in Key West with her aunt and cousins. It was a sweet story about making the best of a situation and finding out that things will be okay! The book was a Newberry Honor book last year.

10. The Clockwork Three, By: Matthew J. Kirby. This was a complicated story of three children. The three kids have some problems, big problems. One supports her family financially, and the other two are orphans, eventually their stories intertwine and they solve a mystery… The book is a tough read, but I definitely recommend it for someone looking for an interesting challenge.

11. The Cabinet of Wonders and the rest of the Kronos Chronicles Series, By: Marie Rutkoski. I LOVE this series. It seems a shame that it has not reached the fame of Harry Potter or Percy Jackson. The storyline is a bit more complicated, and it is a bit of a tougher read. The story is magnificent, I have recommended this series to many adults who have loved it as well. In 2011, when the second book came out, our class wound up with an autographed copy. We were curious, so we began corresponding with the author. It was one of the coolest things EVER. If you are curious about it, you can see our correspondence here.

12. James and the Giant Peach, By: Roald Dahl. This is just an absolutely fantastic story. The story has stuck with me since I was in elementary school.

13. Matilda, By: Roald Dahl. The girl who loved books has a tough life. I had some great conversations with my literature circle group this year about how parents help us to be good people. My kids asked some good questions, like, “Do some kids have terrible parents? What do they do?!” Matilda overcame, and that lesson never goes out of style.

14. When You Reach Me, By: Rebecca Stead. This book won the Newbery Award in 2010. It is a science fiction, time travel, set in the 70’s novel. The story line goes from the end of the story, to the beginning. When the threads come together, it is pretty surprising. It is definitely for patient readers, but it is worth it.

15. A Wrinkle in Time, By: Madeleine L’Engle. This book is more of a middle school read, but the blend of science in mystery is magnificent. There is an entire series, that are all a little different, but very, very good.

16. Holes, By: Louis Sachar. Holes is the story of a boy sentenced to a boys work camp for a crime he didn’t commit. As the reader discovers who did do the crime, they will also discover a curse that has run in Stanley’s family for generations.

17. The Giver, By Lois Lowry. This book is for higher readers who love to contemplate societal structures. The book is intense and unforgettable.

18. Where the Sidewalk Ends, By: Shel Silverstein. It may not be a novel, but it is a “must own” book. The poems make you giggle and the cleverness of them makes the reader feel clever themselves.

19. The Hunger Games, By: Suzanne Collins. This is on my list because I think it is an absolutely fascinating series, but make sure you have a parent’s permission before reading it. The series is rather violent, and I’ve noticed some 5th graders starting to read it. The adventure and dystopian society suck you in.

20. The Shadows: The Books of Elsewhere, By: Jacqueline West. This is a newer series, I’ve only read the first two so far. The Shadows is actually a pretty scary story, it gave me the heebie jeebies! I’d like to explain more… but I just don’t want to give anything away. If you liked to be scared just a litte bit, it would be a good fit. The story is an easy read.

If you have any favorites that you think people should read, add them in the comments! I’ll update the list as I find more wonderful books.

Happy summer reading!

Kid Lit

I love books. Always have. This year I have reignited my love for children’s literature. I would be embarrassed to share how much money I have spent on books since started a fourth grade classroom. The urge to buy two of every book is very hard to overcome. See, I need one book for my personal shelf in the classroom and one for the library. Books that make it to the class library are well loved. I’m ecstatic that they are being read, and more ecstatic to hear them discussed, but I feel a twinge of pain when I see how beat up they get. Therefore, I need two of everything! Two of everything is not so practical, books are not so cheap.

My Goodreads list is now full of novels for children. I am finding that when I attempt a “grown up” book lately, the story line cannot pull me in the same way. Whether the book is about an imaginary world (which many are) or not, all of the kid lit books I’ve read have a sense of magical wonder. I want to learn more about their worlds, and like Peter Pan, I don’t really want to grow up anymore. Children’s literature lets me experience the best parts of being a child, while still being a grown up, where I know everything does turn out okay.

Here are a few of my recent loves. I have also been doing book reviews on my classroom blog, A few of my students are working on reviews that we hope to have published after the holiday as well!

The Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series by Rick Riordan is just a fun ride. Like many novels for kiddos, it is about a boy who just doesn’t fit in. Percy finds out there are reasons he doesn’t fit it. The books are just a really fun quick read. Rick Riordan has also branched out to start two more series. I recently read The Red Pyramid and am almost done with The Lost Hero. And the guy is a teacher from San Antonio, who doesn’t want to support that?

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Soctt O’Dell was one of my favorite books in elementary school. One of our literature circle groups is currently reading it, and I had to take it home and finish it IMMEDIATELY. This is one of those books that just gives you a feeling of a world you would never know, or expect to know. I find it difficult to describe without giving away to much, but the book it phenomenal. I have several copies of this book, so if you have interest in borrowing, let me know.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick is MAGICAL. The book has 284 pictures in 533 pages. The story is told through pictures, and words. There are stretches of 20 pages or so, where there are only pictures, and then a couple pages of words. The words pick up right where you were with pictures. Hugo is a boy who is all alone and lives in a train station. The book gives me the chills. It is the only novel to ever win the Caldecott Medal, which it won in 2008. The book is already in production for a movie to be released next year. I can only hope it will be just as magical.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Disclaimer: this book is not for elementary age children. A colleague who is currently on her way to becoming a librarian introduced me to this book. It is more a middle – high school aged book. In this story, children from each district from ages 12-18 are put in a drawing every year. A boy and a girl are selected from each of the 13 districts. Those selected are sent to the Capital to participate in the Hunger Games. Basically, they are trained, dumped in a arena, and meant to compete for their lives. Only one person may leave the arena. It is televised to each district. This book is insanity. There are two more in the series, that I haven’t gotten to yet, but I’m dying to read.

Clearly, I could go on for awhile. I have found great satisfaction in discussing these books with my students (and colleagues). I truly love bonding with them over books, and in some cases they are books that the students wouldn’t have attempted on their own. I love that I can speak highly of a book, and several kiddos run to the library to get it. I also love having colleagues with the same interests. Regan (the future librarian) and Lauren (the mentor) have a great passion for books as well. Having adults to have impromptu book talks with has been one of my favorite things about my new career path.

I have five days off now. I think I shall read some. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing

This one time I became a fourth grade teacher the Friday before school started.

I have been trying to find a teaching position for quite some time. I’d hoped to teach at the school I worked at last year as an aide and they had hoped to hire me. Due to circumstances at the district level, teaching at my school didn’t seem like it would actually pan out. When I returned to work as an aide for the year, I was asked if I would be interested in teaching the 4th grade. My interest had been more with special needs children or younger children, but everyone needs to start somewhere.

Teaching the fourth grade has, thus far, been the most exciting and stressful thing I have ever done. I have been told many times that it will never be as stressful as it is the first month in your first year of teaching. This had better be true. I knew teachers worked very hard. I know many teachers. I worked in a school for a year. It turns out that teachers work REALLY REALLY hard. It is a very different type of hard than my previous office life. All the work I do pays off. I work harder on a lesson, and the lesson goes smoother! I grade papers and I don’t have 20 kids asking me how they did. I read the books they are reading and I have conversation topics! I make a cute word wall and they use bigger words!

If you were not previously aware, 9 and 10 year olds are hilarious. They are like really funny. One of my kids relates everything to fishing, another arranges erasers in an army line daily, and there is a gal who will probably write a bestseller one day. These kids are awesome and I feel really blessed that after a year of trying I have a class of my own. These kids actually think I know what is going on with the entire world. That kind of belief in anyone is such a gift. I am one lucky gal.

This year I hope to grow as an educator and a learner. This year I hope to learn and incorporate the art of organization into my life. This year I want to fall in love with my job. This year I want to understand what it means to be 10 again.

More to come when I have more room to breathe. I miss my blog.

They are letting me come back on Monday.

Tomorrow I start my second week as a Special Education Aide. It seems like my cubicle life was ages ago and I’m very grateful for the opportunity. I get to work with a resource teacher and learn from her (and she is pretty fabulous I must say). And let’s face it, if I had tried to be the teacher, since I have no experience I would more than likely fall flat on my face. This line of work has been more satisfying in one week than two years in corporate America were.

Things that rock:

1. Kids think I’m cool for some reason

2. I get to figure out simpler ways to show a child a lesson, one on one

3. I sit in on different grade levels, different subjects, I have an opportunity to witness teaching styles of many teachers with many subjcts

4. Packing a lunch. After eating “to go” orders for two year, having some cheese and crackers and a side of fruit makes me smile

5. Kids do what I say. Kids I don’t even know do what I say, BECAUSE I AM AN ADULT – who knew?

6. My school’s mascot is Sharks

7. Since I’m not actually the teacher (YET) I get to leave at 3:3o

P.S. A big THANKS to April and her mom for the glorious “connections”

Gal Pals.

Bonnie, my NY friend/coworker left this morning. In the past week Michelle, Bonnie and I have spent almost every day together. I admire both these gals immensely and are one the most positive things I will be taking away from my job. Michelle listened to all of my crazy tirades, she made me laugh, she ordered me lunch and gave me life advice. My cubicle experience would have been entirely different if Michelle had not been there. Michelle brought me a fabulous butterfly balloons and a chocolate cake today, for this, I’ll keep her around.

Bonnie and Michelle

Michelle on right, Bonnie on left.

I am a lucky girl. Work is officially done. I get to go to Vegas tomorrow. Not bad at all.

One Week (7 days).

One week from tomorrow will be my last day in an uncomfortable chair, staring mindlessly at a computer for hours. Making a decision to change things has taken me more time than I care to admit or even know (maybe a year or more).

Like most college students in America, I left believing I had worked hard for something. That I had worked hard in high school to get in to a good college to work hard to get a good job. I did my interviews on campus, because that is what you do. I interviewed and fretted and couldn’t believe recruiters weren’t pushing each other over to hire ME. When I got my offer, I jumped up and down, I was moving to Houston and I was employed. I spent the next two weeks buying work clothes.

Then I started my job. When I started working and looked around and saw all the people who worked there, all the people who come every day, and all the people who have been coming everyday for 20 years, I FREAKED OUT. This was it? This is what I worked so hard for? I wasn’t using any of my good ‘ol college learning, I was learning systems and an industry I had never knew existed.

It was difficult to perceive how my work experience was compared to that of others. When I graduated, my friends were still in school. I had no close friends to compare experiences with and I didn’t know if all offices were like mine or completely different. I started working 8-4 (with usually an extra hour or so tacked on). Eventually my friends started getting jobs and then I got bumped and began working 11-7. While working 8-4, I was able to meet people for dinner or drinks and go to the gym regularly. When my schedule changed I couldn’t get basic errands done, my gym attendance dwindled and it was hard to find anyone who wanted to have dinner at 7:30. Work made me miserable. I knew it, but I didn’t. I complained, but didn’t really see that I had a choice. I often talked about making a change, but was too scared to initiate any kind of life movement and I just didn’t know what to do.

This past May, my brother and I drove from Orlando to San Antonio. (The week before the trip was probably the worst work week I’d ever had at the office, so that helped things a long as well). Spending a week with a recent college graduate reminded me of the ideals I had just two years ago. I couldn’t believe how much I had changed in just two years. Mostly, I didn’t like how I had changed. I have developed skills in dealing with angry clients and explaining financial documents. I don’t like angry people and I sure as hell do not like financial documents.

In one week I am leaving my job to pursue something with more meaning. I observed my friend Christine’s classroom, her fiance’ Justin’s classroom, Mrs. Oswalt’s kiddos, and several classes in one of my mother’s favorite schools all in May and June. These people showed me more about themselves that I expected to see and about the job they love. Teachers have a hard job, but they make a difference, they have purpose and meaning to their careers. They laugh. They have the joy of watching a child read and knowing they helped get him there. I have a long way to go, but I’m doing something. Change has been initiated and I can say I haven’t felt this happy in two years.

So let the countdown begin. 7 days.