Best Black Friday Deals on Books

Here’s the thing, there is no natural, witty, or even ethical way to segue from a day of celebrating gratitude and thankfulness to a day of untethered spending and materialistic gluttony. This dichotomy between Thanksgiving day and Black Friday is one of the great mysteries of current American culture.

After living in the U.S. for more than twenty years now, I am not even judging anymore. I have given up trying to understand and have resorted to happily participating in the madness of Black Friday. I have presents to give. I have children that need to be clothed. Not to mention, there are gadgets out there that need to be owned by someone. And so I shop.

On the off-chance that you shop today too, here are some great Black Friday deals I have found on books or book related items.

  1. The coupon code NOVBOOK18 will give you $5 off $20 purchases on printed books only.
  2. Be sure to keep scrolling through the Lightning Deals as there are regularly great deals on individual books throughout the day.
  3. There are some decent sales on books. This is not even remotely an exhaustive list, but may jump start your search down the rabbit hole!
    1. The Pout Pout Fish (hardcover) – $11.98
    2. The Chronicles of Pryidan (paperback box set) – $22.34
    3. The Mysterious Benedict Society (paperback) – $6.99
    4. The Wednesday Wars (paperback) – $5.59

Barnes and Noble

  1. Online – 20% off all purchases over $40 (excluding books already 50% off) using coupon code BLKFRIDAY.
  2. In Stores – 25% of any item using BLKFRIDAY code.
  3. 20% off hardcover new releases seen here.
  4. 50% off selected books (including certain picture books, young reader bestsellers, young adult, collectible editions, and gift books).
  5. $10 each on selected Christmas books.


  1. The Little Engine That Could board book – $3
  2. Dr Seuss’s ABC Board Book – $3.34
  3. Corduroy board book – $4
  4. Disney 5-Minute Snuggle Stories – $5
  5. Disney 5-Minute Mickey Mouse Stories – $5
  6. Disney 5-Minute Christmas Stories – $5
  7. Disney 5-Minute Princess Stories – $5
  8. 5-Minute Pete the Cat Stories – $5
  9. 5-Minute Paw Patrol Stories – $5
  10. 5-Minute Peppa the Pig Stories – $5
  11. Baby Einstein Let’s Learn collection – 12 board books – $5.50
  12. Sesame Street My First Library Collection – 12 board books – $5.99
  13. My First Library: Eric Carle – 12 book board book collection – $5.99
  14. My First Library Disney Baby – 12 board book collection – $5.99
  15. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Meltdown – $6.67

These are the most popular kids books on sale. There are many other books for older kids and adults that you can find here. In all fairness, I should also mention that Amazon is price matching the 5-Minute Stories books for $5 as well.

Half Priced Books – 20% off everything using code FRIDAY18

Audible$6.95 for the first three months

Epic! – This is an excellent ebook resource for kids books. You can get 50% off various membership plans.

Out of Print – If you are looking for non-book items that are literature related, is your place. They are having a BOGO sale on adult, kid, and baby T-shirts. You can use the code READ20 and get 20% off your first order. Just take my money now!

May you find the perfect gifts for the lucky people in your life. And a little something for yourself too!




On Taking the Road Less Traveled (and Possibly Never Reading Again)

It has been two months and nine days since the last time I wrote anything of substance for this beloved blog of mine. I can tell you, unequivocally, this is not how I envisioned starting off my third year of blogging. In my mind, this third year would be the year it all just came to me, not the year it just abandoned me. I blame many things.

  • I blame my friend who, earlier this year, called me a “consistent.” A jinx if I ever heard one.
  • I blame myself for giving me permission to write less often. Give me a week and I will take a month, or two, every. time.
  • I blame this ridiculous tiny laptop keyboard. I am grown woman and I need a desktop sized keyboard.
  • I blame time, of which there is none.
  • Most of all, I blame reality.

Because here is the reality.

On August 11th, my family packed up our van, with only enough space remaining to eat and take breaths, and moved across the country for four months. Earlier in the year, my husband had been offered a research fellowship in the Chicago area and, while all the other fellows decided to long distance commute, we, naively, choose the path less traveled.

We rented out our house, were offered a place to stay at the destination university, got the kids on board, and started making plans. The only question, as I naively (yes, you are detecting a theme, it will continue) saw it at the time, was what to do about school for the kids. We had kids going into sixth, fifth, second, and Kindergarten. I could not bring myself to ask them to start new schools for one semester. Moving across the country is hard enough, but adding new schools to the mix just seemed cruel. Instead, I thought, naively, I used to be a teacher and once a teacher always a teacher, so why not teach them myself?! The kids were surprisingly, and, yes, naively, excited about this plan.

I had so much fun lesson planning again, buying curricula and school supplies, and formulating my in home classroom atmosphere. My husband graded his last papers for the next four months with giddiness. The whole family bonded over plans for what to see on our road trip from L.A. to Chicago and all the people we would visit along the way and once we were there. We proceeded to, happily, book our weekends solid.

And so, with all our metaphorical boxes checked and our literal ones packed, we started out on our exciting new adventure. Our goal was to hit the pause button, slow down, reconnect, and explore.

It has been wonderful. We

    1. Went to the Grand Canyon
    2. Explored part of Rocky Mountain National Park
    3. Spent time with amazing friends
    4. Went fishing
    5. Floated down a river
    6. Reconnected with cousins
    7. Went hiking
    8. Went to Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium
    9. Saw the Cubs win at Wrigley Field
    10. Played on massive sand dunes
    11. Reconnected with life long friends
    12. Ate
    13. Ate more
    14. Kept eating
    15. There’s a lot more eating

And we are only one month into this trip. While I have yet to see my brother, who I adore and my former boss and friend, who I admire, our trip has been all we hoped it would be.

It has also been a lot we (I, really) did not think it would be.

Turns out you don’t decide to home school (or as our liaison charter school calls it “world school”) four children for the first time flippantly, smuggly, or with any hint of arrogance. Life, and your children, will reprimand you, ever so severely and exponentially, for every “I’ve got this” moment you ever felt.

It is an exhausting pendulum between being there to see my daughter’s face light up when she understands her math and someone else screaming, “A real teacher would help all her students, not just one.” Or getting excited and planning an elaborate science unit all the kids can do together and then never having the time to actually do science, because reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic. Or actually getting to go on the super cool field trip you’ve been talking up and then having the children leave said field trip with eight hundred forty-nine mosquito bites each and one with poison ivy.

And all this “world schooling,” it’s happening in a two bedroom apartment one floor above academic offices. So all that shouting, running, jumping, and more shouting my kids are doing during the school day, yeah, all the people downstairs trying to work in their offices, they can hear it all.

I am so exhausted that not only have I not written anything at all for this blog since July, I have started and finished preciously ONE book since August 11th.

Yes, ONE book.

I have no time and when I do have time I read a few paragraphs and fall asleep. I had heard of this phenomenon but I had not experienced it personally until now.

This is a problem. It seems that the less traveled road we have chosen is a road without books.

I can tell you, friends, I am not my best self without them.

Not to sound overly dramatic, but it is quite possible that I have Lost my constant.

Here’s to hoping we will find our way back to each other.

In the meantime, you can find me increasingly cold, eating, yet again, and staring down four all to familiar students.

5 Ways to Slow Down that Summer Slide

Remember when I was all excited because we were going to ditch the whole “summer camp” idea and have “reading camp” instead?

Yeah, well…

Not so much.

You see, we live at the pool now. We have spent our summer either on our way to the pool, at the pool, on our way home from the pool, or just getting back from the pool. While this may not seem like a process that needs to take up entire days, let me explain.

It goes like this:

  1. “Okay, kids, we are going to the pool in 30 minutes. That means you need to start getting ready. Get something to eat, use the bathroom, find your bathing suit, towel, and goggles, and put on sunscreen.”
  2. The children do none of those things for 29 minutes.
  3. “KIDS, we are leaving for the pool in ONE minute. Get your things.”
  4. The children scream, scramble, and scratch trying to accomplish 30 minutes worth of tasks in one minute.
  5. As we walk out the door, “Does everyone have their towel, water, goggles, and shoes?”
  6. Crickets from the children.
  7. Arrive at said pool.
  8. Find a place to put everything they were supposed to carry themselves, but didn’t, down.
  9. Look up and catch your breath because…
  10. “MOM, where are my goggles?” “mom, can I swim now?” “MOM, you said you would get my water.” “MOM, can I swim now?” “MOM, where are my floaties?” “MOM, CAN I swim now?” “MOM, I have to go to the bathroom, RIGHT NOW.” “MOM, CAN I SWIM NOW?”
  11. Welcome to the pool.

You may be at the pool now, but don’t relax yet, and whatever you do, don’t even think about taking out that book you brought with you because:

  1. The moment children’s feet (bellies, heads, hands or butts, depending on their preferred method of entering the pool) touch pool water, their hunger spikes to previously unforeseen levels.
  2. You will spend the next how ever many hours you are there feeding them every 30 seconds.
  3. You will spend the remaining times trying to explain why you are not swimming right now, or if you are swimming, why you cannot play “shark” again right now.
  4. Should you dare to think that, because the fantastic swimming lessons teachers have accomplished the impossible and taught all your children to swim, you have a moment to open that book that keeps drawing your body closer and closer to the one table you were finally able to find in the shade, the urgent need for all things bathroom, food, and goggle-fixing related will present themselves in drips and splashes all over that beautiful paper you naively choose to expose.
  5. At some point, you will have to tell them they will have to leave the pool.
  6. All manner of evasion tactics are used at this point. The infamous go-underwater-everytime-your-parent-starts-talking move. The go-to-the-middle-of-the-pool move. The what-I-can’t-hear-you-it’s-too-crowded move. The move-closer-to-the-one-mom-my-mom-wants-to-impress-so-she-won’t-yell-at-me move.
  7. Somehow, when you are finally able to get the children out of the pool, the onset of exhaustion, starvation, and dehydration are immediate.
  8. Now is a good time to let go of the notion that you will take home everything you came with. You are just doing the best you can.
  9. You will now begin the 100 ft. trek to exit the pool. A trek that you should expect to take you 58 minutes.
  10. Good bye, pool.

Now back home:

  1. Should you happen to be driving home, make sure you do not have even the hint of air conditioning on because, despite the fact that you are feeling all 102 degrees of hotness in the air, they, most assuredly, are not.
  2. Also, just accept the fact that your car will now have a permanent chlorine/salt/mildew smell.
  3. Should you have the misfortune of having to remind your children that you walked to the pool today, good luck to you. Life can throw some pretty tough punches and this one is just not fair. I highly recommend bribery at this point.
  4. Should you have somehow forgotten that you all rode your bikes to the pool today, well, there is a special place in heaven for people who survive what you are about to experience. All those towels that somehow fit into your backpack on the way to the pool are definitely not fitting back in. And even though you carried full water bottles and bags of snacks to the pool and all that weight is now gone, nothing on God’s green earth weighs more than the wet towels strewn about your body. In addition, those once energetic, excited children’s legs that pedaled to the pool are now completely useless for repetitive circular motion. They can pedal approximately 2.5 consecutive rotations.
  5. Now you finally have everyone on their bikes, with helmets, actually following you, only to have one child’s bike get a flat tire and later, another child’s bike chain fall off. Thankfully, this day you had to ride your husband’s torture rack of a bike. So, that big bar across the top of the bike, which you have repeatedly forgotten about and crashed into, can now hold the owner of the flat tired bike. Meanwhile, you put into practice all the bike mechanic skills you never learned and fix the broken chain.
  6. I should remind you, at this point, you still have not actually left the pool parking lot yet.
  7. Once you finally arrive home, guess what, you need to feed them, again. And while they are eating, you gently remind them that, not only do they have to take a shower, but they also have to wash their hair. Then watch the scream, scramble, and scratch routine repeat itself.

With the days repeating themselves this way, our reading goals have stalled. My hopes of working on solidifying math facts and sight words, doing daily writing prompts, and getting through my own summer reading list have evaporated. While there has been a kind of maintainance, I can’t claim that much progress has been made.

Here are a few things that have kept our “summer slide” more like one of those bumpy baby slides that levels out every inch keeping your “slide” incremental and less like a water slide that flies you down so fast your “slide” has ended before you had time to get your mind around the fact that you started to slide.

  1. Writing Prompt Books: In years past, I have used a version of Writer’s Workshop for the kids’ summer writing projects. Additionally, they have summer research projects that give them a chance to put into writing what they have learned. This summer, I have not had the mental space to create my own writing prompts and one book has come to the rescue. My favorite is the brand new, Adventures with Zap: 107 Creative Prompts for Beginning Writers by Diane Landy. I love the creativity this book brings out in the kids.
  2. Audiobooks: I have often been hesitant to let the kids embrace the audiobook trend. I want them reading the words themselves. But then I realized that if I read out loud to the kids with no issue, I can’t have an issue with someone else reading out loud to them. After the days described above, I fall asleep in the middle of reading to them. Audiobooks have been the perfect solution. I still read to them, but now I don’t have to read through the entire bookshelf.
  3. Reading Challenge Charts: This summer, the timed reading charts have been a bit discouraging because none of us have as much time to read as we would like. I have found the reading charts to be much more inspiring. has one that has been fun. My oldest daughter’s charter school has one we have enjoyed as well. Pinterest is your friend with these.
  4. Board Games: Board games are the perfect way to sneak in those math and reading skills without them even realizing it. Some of our family favorites are Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan, Race to the Treasure, Clue, Doodle Dice, and Monopoly. I have recently been hearing about a game I really want to try with the kids called Quiddler. There is also this brilliant Sight Words Battleship game.
  5. Informal Math and Reading “Drills”: Cooking with the kids, or having them read the signs on the road, or the menu, or the map, or the directions for a game, or counting stop lights, or adding and subtracting snacks; all these things keep their minds using their reading and math knowledge. Additionally, there are puzzles and projects that have kids using their reading and math skills without formal drilling. is an excellent place to find resources for this. Recently, they created a crossword puzzle and answer sheet for the blog that helps kids learn about onomatopoeias and figurative language. If you are looking for more resources using figurative language, you can find them here.

Right, well, that was a long-winded way of recommending 5 ideas that you probably already knew about. I don’t know what you have going on for the rest of the day, but I am about to head to the pool.

“Okay, kids, we are going to the pool in 30 minutes. That means you need to start getting ready. Get something to eat, use the bathroom, find your bathing suit, towel, and goggles, and put on sunscreen.”…





Year Two!

Well Worn Pages is two years old!


It says a lot about how this second year has gone that the actual anniversary date is June 2nd but I am writing this on July 2nd and not publishing it until July 5th.

Where year one felt exciting, relaxed, and adventurous, year two has had an, ever so slight, lag. The excitement, fun, and adventure remain, but something else is in the mix.

Like all things sophomoric, the fresh, new shine has slightly dulled, only slightly, but the effect remains. My mind has become a little more greedy with the wealth of ideas it once gave. The excitement and enthusiasm are muddled with a questioning. I am teetering on the balance of “oh that was a cool experiment” and “this is becoming something real.”

To me, this is absolutely something real, something long term, something I thoroughly, unabashedly enjoy. But…I feel a nagging now when I sit down to write or read so that I can then write. There is a quiet voice reminding me that I should be spending my time investing in my kids, reading to my kids, having them read to me, playing with them, cleaning, cooking, answering emails, doing anything else that makes actual, real dollars. My family is very supportive of Well Worn Pages, so my apprehension is not from anything they have made me feel, but feel it I do.

I supposed an argument could be made that this blog is my mid life crisis. My chance to prove to myself that I could do something I always wanted to do: write. But now that I have the proof, I wonder: is my hobby in danger of becoming the equivalent of the proverbial, or occasionally very real, red Corvette? Something frivolous, burdensome, and even obnoxious. These are the quiet weights that have been added to year two.

While I remain hopeful and cautiously confident that this hobby of mine is beneficial, helpful, and, dare I hope, entertaining, I have decided that it is worthwhile, if only as a means of self-care. And I am happier for that decision.

Throughout year two, I have written less often, but the blog posts have been longer. Most blogging experts would view this as a failure and deem it completely backwards to marketing logic. But I have allowed myself to be free from the first-born felt pressure to do it “right.” There have been times this year, when keeping up the once a week writing pace was just too hard, so I relented and allowed myself to write when I could rather than when I felt I should. I would like to think the posts were better for it. There have been times when the pressure to find just the right gif or meme or picture stole my actual writing time and the result was no post at all. So I relented and allowed myself to write posts consisting of only words (gasp). I would like to think that a prose heavy post is better than none at all.

Even with all of this, I finished year two with a great sense of accomplishment, gratitude, and commitment. This blog brings me a great deal of joy and a much needed creative outlet. I am grateful to my family for giving me the time to read and write and for those of you who find what I read and write in any way interesting. I enjoy finding out what people will find most compelling and as I look back over the second year, the most read posts are telling.

Here they are, the most viewed posts of year two:

5. A Wrinkle In Time: Movie Review

4. Best Books of 2017

3. 50 Family Favorite Picture Books

2. In Defense of Buying Everything on that School Supply List, When You Can

1. To Father’s That Read

When I think back on these posts and what led to the writing of them, the questioning voices sneak back into their dusty corners. I am having way too much fun to let fear, comparison, and insecurity keep me from this.

It is my hope that year three will bring good books, interesting connections, and enjoyment!


Summer Reading Guide: Early Elementary School

This week, I am going to channel my inner Prince Humperdink (a sentence I never imagined myself using, by the way) and…

“Skip to the end.”

I am tired. You are tired. This seems like a good week to just “skip to the end” and get right on with listing good books.

We already have lists for the junior high aged kids and the upper elementary school kids. This week, I am recommending books for the early elementary school students, which for my purposes would probably be first through third grade. Although, advanced Kindergarten readers could likely be included. There are so very many books for this age group. It can be overwhelming standing in front of the beginning chapter book section of your library trying to decipher the quality differences between eighty-eight Rainbow Fairies books, one hundred two A to Z Mysteries books, and five million Magic Tree House books. Although I can make this particular scenario simple. Given those three options, always go with the Magic Tree House. But that’s not the point. The point is there are way too many options in this particular reading category. And no one has time for that.

To that end, here are some books for this summer that your chapter book reader will enjoy.

If they like adventurous kids like themselves:

Jaden Toussaint, The Greatest (Marti Dumas) – If I sound like a broken record at this point, you will just have to forgive me. The Jaden Toussaint books belong in every library. Your children (and you) will immediately be drawn to Jaden’s character, his cleverness, his hijinks, and his humor. As an added bonus, Dumas leaves Easter eggs for her adult readers throughout her books, just check out the title of this one.

Jada Jones (Kelly Starling Lyons) – I just discovered these books this year at the book fair at my children’s school. In full disclosure, I have not read one all the way through yet, but the parts I have read lead me to recommend them as an excellent choice for this age.

Clementine (Sara Pennypacker) – Clementine is the answer for all your Junie B. Jones woes. I have checked these books out more times than I can count.


If they like problem solving:

Calpurnia Tate, Girl Vet (Jacqueline Kelly) – These illustrated chapter books follow the beloved character of Callie Vee from The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. The books pick up her story with her  now as a vet in training. These are definitely ones to read.

Keena Ford (Melissa Thompson) – Much like Clementine, Keena has a knack for finding herself in problematic situations and trouble. Thankfully, she also has a knack for getting herself out of these circumstances.

Clubhouse Mysteries (Sharon M Draper) – Because there are only so many Boxcar Children books a person can read, we all need another alternative. The Clubhouse Mysteries are just the thing. Sharon Draper is a wonderful writer and these books do not disappoint.


If they like stories with animal personification:

Fantastic Mr. Fox (Roald Dahl) – Fantastic Mr. Fox is an absolute delight of a book. Like most of Dahl’s work, this book has twists and turns, humor, unique character perspectives, and thoroughly enjoyable storytelling.

Mercy Watson (Kate DiCamillo) – While Mercy Watson is no Wilbur, she is just as endearing. My kids have like these books a great deal.

Ralph S. Mouse books (Beverly Cleary) – I mean, a mouse who just wants to ride a motorcycle and see the world, how can you not want to read about that?! These books are fun, funny, and, in true Cleary fashion, connecting.


If they like dragons and fantasy:

My Father’s Dragon (Ruth Stiles Gannett) – One boy goes on an adventure that leads him on an improbable rescue mission. If that’s not classic fantasy fiction, I’m not sure what is. There is a good reason these books have endured for the last fifty years.

Princess in Black (Shannon Hale) – Somehow, it has not been until this year that my younger kids discovered the Princess in Black books. They were an instant hit. These books will see your dragon and raise you a unicorn and they will do it successfully.

How to Train Your Dragon (Cressida Cowell) – As usual, before there was a movie, there were the books. And again, the books are better.


If they like a twist on “the classics”:

My Weird School Fast Facts (Dan Gutman) – Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the rhyming teacher related titles as much as the next person. However, I have found that, although there is no limit to the number of My Weird School books one could read, there definitely is a limit to the number one should read. When you find yourself needing to suggest your children take a break from said books, the new-ish “Fast Facts” series is an excellent switch.

Magic Tree House Fact Tracker (Mary Ann Osbourne Pope) – Sometimes its a good idea to substitute the magical world for the real world. Sometimes. In those times, these are an excellent switch. (Yes, I know I just used that same sentence for the last books, but I meant it when I said I was just tired. I will get back to the regularly programmed originality next week, hopefully.)

If you have other books you would add to this list, I would love to hear them.






Summer Reading Guide: Upper Elementary

I am done. Just. Done.

I am done with:

  • School lunches. My children have not eaten a vegetable in their lunches in weeks. And those notes I write to each kid every day for said lunches, yeah, those stopped about two weeks ago.
  • Unpacking school backpacks. Yes, I hear you, they are supposed to do it themselves. But I can’t anymore. I physically cannot say, “Did you empty your backpack?” or “Is there anything in your backpack I need to see?” one more time. I certainly am not reaching my hands inside that dark cavern of unseen pencil shavings, eraser putty, sticky candy wrappers (from the day they had that one sub who gives out candy), mildew from the leaky water bottle, and, what is now, paper pulp from a bevy of missed notices.
  • School clothes. Ugh! Just the laundry. And the everydayness of that laundry. Please, no more.
  • Organization of any kind. I want my Google calendar back. It has been co-opted by purple (my color for school events on the calendar). Each child has a different event every day that requires something different. I can no longer keep track. Don’t misunderstand. I am not complaining about school events. I absolutely love fairs, and awards assemblies, and talent shows, and open houses, and art nights, and field days, and field trips. Really, I do. But again with the everydayness?!

I call this doneness “May.”

But the thing is, the closer to the end of May, and thus being done, we get, the more undone I become.

My grip on sanity is loose, at best. All I can think about is summer when all this will stop and we can rest, relax, and read in peace, contentment, and quiet. (I know, I know, but I need something. Just let me have this innocent dream of what might be!) We will call this tranquil time reading camp. Yes, I like that. Reading camp is definitely a thing. And it is happening at my house…but not until the end of this endless month!

Reading camp requires zero dollars. It can be run from the comforts of your own home (or anywhere else that is comforting to you). It does not even require that you find the books (unless you are so inclined). You can find a recommended reading list for your middle school aged children here. Now you will be able to add a reading list for your older elementary school aged children.

For the animal lover:

  • Ginger Pye (Eleanor Estes) – This is a must-read, heartwarming story for any dog lover. It is the sweet story of one family bonding with their new dog.
  • White Fang (Jack London) – The perspective this book is written from contributes to its long lasting appeal to readers. The story itself is one that your reader will not soon forget.

For the adventurer:

  • The Book Scavengers (Jennifer Chambliss Bertman) – This series a very entertaining. The stories follow two friends who find themselves in a “life imitates art” scenario as they have to follow clues to find their favorite author.
  • The Wild Robot (Peter Brown) – What do you do when your child has read every “how to survive the wilderness” book there is? You give them a book about a robot doing just that. This will be a favorite. As an added bonus, my daughter tells me that the sequel is even better! I have not had a chance to read The Wild Robot Escapes yet, but I will trust her on this one.

For the fantasy lover:

  • Jupiter Storm (Marti Dumas) – Again, by now, you are aware of my great appreciation for all things written by Marti Dumas. Jupiter Storm is no exception. I loved this book and my two older daughter’s loved this book. Between the girl power, the scientific process, the family relationships, and the dragon, the kids will not be able to put this book down. When they finally do, they will spend days flipping through the pages to watch the surprise unfold on the bottom corners.
  • Gregor the Overlander (Suzanne Collins) – Before her Hunger Games fame, Collins wrote an excellent series about a human boy, Gregor, who discovers a fascinating world underground that is in great danger.
  • 100 Cupboards (N.D. Wilson) – This is the very engaging story about a boy who discovers a cupboard full of doors that lead to other worlds. As happens, drama ensues.
  • Tuesdays at the Castle (Jessica Day George) – If your fantasy fiction enthusiast is looking for a twist on the princess in a castle kind of story, this is the one. It is the first book in a five book series.

For the budding scientist:

  • The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (Jacqueline Kelly) – This is the perfect story for your child who loves animals as much as they love science. But it is much more than a story about animals and science. It is a beautiful story about family, following through, and hope.
  • Hidden Figures (Margot Lee Shetterly) – As is usually the case, before it was a movie, it was a book. And, as is usually the case, the book is better.

For the detective:

  • Spy School series (Stuart Gibbs) – This highly enjoyable series follows an unlikely middle school aged boy who becomes a secret C.I.A. agent.
  • The Platypus Police Squad (Jarrett Krosoczka) – These books are funny, unique, and kids love them.
  • The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency (Jordan Stratford) – This series imagines a world in which Mary Shelley and Ada Lovelace met as young girls and found themselves entangled in intrigue, leading them to form their own detective agency. The books are very fun.

For the athlete:

  • The Track series (Jason Reynolds) – Yep, again. They are just that good. Really.
  • The Kicks series (Alex Morgan) – Part autobiographical, part fiction, US Women’s Soccer team star, Alex Morgan, writes about a young girl, Devin, trying to navigate a big move, a new soccer team, and trying to keep it all together.

Just for fun:

  • The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street (Karina Yan Glaser) – I love this book. It has become one of my most recommended books. This fantastic story about the children in a large family trying to save their family home is everything you look for in a story.
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society (Trenton Lee Stewart) – These books are my oldest daughter’s most recommended books. A group of kids volunteer to be a part of a special society, but after many tests and challenges only a few remain. Now they have to find a way to work together.

My work here is done. Just like me!


Summer Reading Guide: Junior High Edition

As I write, my fifth grade daughter is telling me, for the six hundred fifty-sixth time, that she only has eleven more days of elementary school left. This fact seems thoroughly exciting to her. Time cannot move fast enough for her. She seems to sense the cusp she teeters on and is no longer satisfied to wonder what lies ahead. She is ready for what comes next.

I, on the other hand, am not ready at all. It is continually remarkable to me how moments in parenting can have such long build up times and yet find a way to sneak up on you. You have nine months of pregnancy to prepare, adjust, and anticipate the birth of your baby, and yet, the moment is always a surprise. You have five years to enjoy, discipline, and teach your precious babies before you place them in the loving care of a long line of teachers, and yet, that first day of Kindergarten is a complete shock. Then you have six long, comfortable years to laugh, learn, and grow with your fantastic elementary school age children, all the while knowing what comes next, and yet, the day it ends is going to be a surprise (despite the dictated second by second countdown).

Almost since the moment I found out I was pregnant the first time, I have worried about and dreaded the middle school years. Those years were so painful and dramatic for me that I felt, and still feel, completely powerless in knowing how to help navigate my own children through them. I know I cannot protect and shelter them from every harm, whether physical or emotional, but a little gentle bubble wrap between twelve to fourteen should just be standard. What she senses ahead with ease and expectation, I look back on with difficulty and hurt. And while I know in my head that she is not me, and her story will not be mine, my emotions are not convinced!

These oncoming years that I have, previously, been able to ignore, shut away, and block off, are now, unavoidably, upon us. I am ill-prepared, nervous, and excited. When she was a baby, I was overwhelmed, exhausted, and completely lost as to how to help this tiny human flourish. I would check out every parenting book I could find and hang on to the things that were consistent throughout each book. But now, again feeling overwhelmed and lost, I have read exactly zero books on parenting during this new phase and I avoid talking to parents of teenagers about parenting.

With denial firmly established and recently identified, it is past time for me to move forward with reality.

A friend helped me take a few steps in the right direction a few weeks ago by asking me for book recommendations for middle school students. I was, unsurprisingly, excited and got to work on a list right away. I realized that this is an age group that I often skip over in my recommendations. As I worked through my book list, I thought about my daughter reading these books. I found myself looking forward to her broadened literary adventures and our discussions of them. While so many things around her may be changing, at least one thing will not, she and I will still read together. And that gives me great comfort and confidence.

If you share a home with a middle school aged kid and find yourself in need of some comfort and confidence, here are some excellent books to read together. While each of these books can be enjoyed by anyone, for the sake of ease, I have given them very general categories. These are not definitive, merely directive. And, there are many more books than these. As always, I would love to hear your recommendations.

For the athlete:

  • Crossover (Kwame Alexander) – Kwame Alexander is a gifted storyteller. His lyrical style of writing is creative, accessible, and enjoyable. He has many books to his name, but Crossover is my favorite. The characters he develops are so tangible and relatable you cannot help but connect with them.
  • Track seriesGhost, Patina, Sunny, and, coming soon, Lou (Jason Reynolds) – If you have spent any amount of time around Well Worn Pages, you know that most of my lists include something by Jason Reynolds. This series is one of my favorites to recommend to kids. The books are so refreshing, interesting, and compelling.

For the world events journalist:

  • A Long Walk to Water (Linda Sue Park) – This remarkable story follows two children, in two different eras, living through war in Sudan.
  • I am Malala (Malala Yousafzai) – This is a perspective changing story of a girl whose name we all know now. She took a stand against the Taliban to advocate for the education of girls and nearly lost her life in the process.
  • Refugee (Alan Gratz) – The book follows three different kids through three very different wars throughout recent history. It is heartbreaking, shocking, and based in reality.

For the historian:

  • The Witch of Blackbird Pond (Elizabeth George Speare) – The Witch of Blackbird Pond is a Newberry Medal winner. It is a fascinating story of a young girl sent to Puritan America by herself. It is a story of struggle, friendship, misunderstanding, and cultural tension.
  • Lions of Little Rock (Kristin Levine) – This book tells the story of the desegregation of schools in Arkansas through the eyes of two girls and their commitment to maintain their friendship.

For the fantasy enthusiast:

For the deep thinker:

  • The Giver (Lois Lowry) – Here is another excellent Newberry Medal winner. Like A Wrinkle In Time, this book had a significant impact on me. It is worth the wait to read it when it can be thought through and understood.
  • The Book Thief (Markus Zusak) – There are many twists in the telling of this World War II novel. The narrator’s voice and the perspective of the main character are particularly unique and excellently done. This would be a great one to read together and talk about.

Coming of age stories:

  • Brown Girl Dreaming (Jacqueline Woodson) – Woodson’s autobiographical work in this book is remarkable. The way she tells the story of her transitional childhood is, by turns, intriguing and relatable.
  • Full Cicada Moon (Marilyn Hilton) – The pain of moving, of being uprooted and un-rooted and the struggle to understand identity and cultural contexts; what could be more recognizable to middle schoolers?
  • Esperanza Rising (Pam Munoz Ryan) – Ryan has a way of telling stories you need to hear in such a way that you want to hear them. The story of Esperanza’s transition from life in Mexico to life in California is no exception.

Just for fun:

  • Holes (Louis Sachar) – This hilarious book is a Newberry Medal winner and a National Book Award winner. It is funny, heartfelt, cheeky, and great fun. Who knew digging holes out in the desert could amount to all that?!
  • The Westing Game (Ellen Raskin) – This book is one of my all time favorites of the Newberry Medal winners. It is Clue (the board game), murder mystery dinner, and a logic puzzle all in one. This one makes for a fantastic read aloud.

Books create bonds at any age. And, when it comes to middle schoolers, we can use all the help we can get creating and maintaining those bonds.

Here’s to these doing just that!

Teacher Appreciation Day: The Tale of Two Teachers

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week at my daughters’ school and it has me looking back. Looking back to two very different classrooms, with two very different teachers, at two very different times in my life.

The year was 1987. Life was all Michael Jackson, BMX bikes, and playing in the dirt. Carefree, fun, and a little bit messy. Everything a kid could want. Until I entered my fourth grade classroom.

That year I happened to be in a third/fourth grade combo class. In my memory, our class was extra big and I was extra lost. I sat directly in the middle of the class, floundering, all in immediate view of my teacher who seemed to watch my every flail.

School was a constant source of anxiety for me, particularly in the early grades, as I struggled a great deal with math and reading. I had changed schools three times in the first three years of school and never seemed to be able to find my footing in the classroom. Thankfully, I had been blessed with kind, patient, lovely teachers in second and third grade and was beginning to gain confidence. Until I entered my fourth grade classroom.

My teacher seemed to take an almost immediate disliking to me, or so it seemed to my nine year-old self. He would publicly ridicule my reading. Put me on the spot. Highlight my every struggle. The effect he had on my confidence and reading was devastating and far-reaching. To this day, I do not enjoy reading out loud (unless it is to my children who love my reading despite it’s stutters and pauses). This teacher confirmed my worst fears that I should be embarrassed of my abilities, or lack thereof. And I was. Deeply so.

In the years after fourth grade, it became easier and easier to simply quit trying. My fixed mind set was rooted and well-established. I became an expert evader. As reading aloud in the younger classrooms began to be replaced with book reports and reading logs in the older ones, I became an expert faker. It became a challenge I would give myself: how little of the book could I read and still get an acceptable grade.

It was surprisingly easy. Until I walked into my Senior World Literature class.

Something came over me my senior year of high school and I decided to take two literature classes, World Literature and African Literature. A shocking decision for this proud non-reader. I have no recollection of what led to that decision, but what I do recall was encountering a teacher that would change the course of my education, and (in a totally non-cliche way) my life.

Mary Beth Wallestad-Oyebade was the embodiment of what it means to be a teacher. She was challenging, encouraging, patient, determined, and excited. She immediately saw through my defensive, self-preserving tactics and gently proved to me that I did not need them. She piqued my interest with books I never would have thought of reading. Then demanded (in the best way) that they actually be read. She was patient with my shallow misunderstanding of Jane Austen and taught me how to look deeper. She was encouraging in my writing and taught me how to write clearer. And, most importantly, she was honest and real with us and taught me how to be as well.

Ms. Wallestad never let me off the hook. She never let me settle. She pushed me, always gently. She planted in me an appreciation for the art of a clever turn of phrase. She gave me a love of the written word and showed me I had every right to that love as anyone else. What had once been a closed off world to me became open, compelling, and accessible.

It would still take several years for the skeptical, reluctant reader mind set to ebb, but with each book I read, either by choice or for college, my confidence and interest grew. By the time it came to my Children’s Literature class in college, I had found my way. All thanks for a teacher who saw something different than everyone else.

In college, when I was struggling with the realization that being a nurse might not be what I actually want to do with my life, it was Ms. Wallestad’s ability as a teacher that sparked my turn towards education.

Now as I watch my children, under the care of their teachers, I am, once again, profoundly grateful. They have teachers who are inspiring them, challenging them, and giving them the tools for a life-long love of learning.

And so, to you teachers who have given us so much, we thank you. You deserve more than a day, or even week, of appreciation. But even when we are not saying it directly, your influence is long lasting and significant.

Thank you!


10 Poets to Read with Your Kids (Besides Shel Silverstein)

When my oldest daughter was in 2nd grade, she had a teacher who did something I had not heard of before. Rather than playing background music while the students were working, this teacher would play Shel Silverstein audiobooks. At first, I was skeptical about this strategy. I thought it would be distracting. How could they concentrate on their work while also listening to poetry?

My skepticism (about this at least) was laid to rest by half way through the year when my daughter would start quoting Shel Silverstein poems for any life circumstance that arose. Most often this involved quoting “For Sale” at the slightest sibling annoyance!


Notice the dog earred page!

This teacher inspired me. I had visions of listening to poetry in the car, in the house while the kids were playing together, during bedtime, and all other times in between. All with the dual results of the children absorbing poetry while creating a peaceful, quiet, contemplative environment. But, like most of my inspirational ideas, none of this happened.

As it stands now, my children have absorbed exactly zero poems. Well, I take that back, they know Philip Schuyler’s rap in “Take a Break” from the Hamilton soundtrack thoroughly and will quote it at any opportunity. I am of the opinion that every song on that soundtrack is poetry at its finest.

Additionally, I think an argument could be made that most picture books are actually poetry, what with all the rhythm and rhyme. If you took the text of picture books and wrote them on a single page, they would be called poems. So, now that I think of it, the kids are fine, they know more poems than I could have hoped for.

Hamilton and picture books aside, I have failed on the poetry front. This is ironic for me as poetry saved my sanity as a teenager. The reading and writing of poetry gave me an outlet for things I could not otherwise express. My love for both reading and writing was sparked and fueled by the genre. One would think that would be a motivating factor in passing on that love to my children. And yet…

Now, during the waning days of National Poetry Month, I have a renewed sense of the importance of exposing my children to poems. Here are a few of the books and poets that we have enjoyed.

  1. Kwame Alexander – For the elementary school aged kids, Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets is one of my favorite, recent, collected works of poetry. It has the benefit of not only exposing the kids to poetry, but also famous poets. Alexander is most well-known for his young adult novels, The Crossover, Booked, and Solo, which are expertly written in verse. He was awarded the Newberry Medal for The Crossover.
  2. Marilyn Singer – Singer has mastered the art of the mirror poem. She is a clever and entertaining writer. Beyond mirror poems, A Stick Is an Excellent Thing is a great book of poems to read with kids.
  3. Bob Raczka – Anyone who can title a book “Wet Cement: A Mix of Concrete Poems” automatically deserves to be on a list of poets to know. It is exactly that subtle play with words that make poetry fantastic, and he has done it IN HIS TITLE!
  4. Jacqueline Woodson – In the genre of novel-in-verse, Woodson is a gift. Brown Girl Dreaming is a remarkable book that every child fifth grade and above should read at least once. She has been awarded almost every award there is, including a National Book Award.
  5. Bravo! Poems for Amazing Hispanics (Margarita Engle) – My kids and I thoroughly enjoyed these poems. When we moved to the Los Angeles area, I knew that I needed to find a way to give my kids more exposure to Spanish-speaking important figures, many of whom had a significant impact on the area we live in. This book has been an excellent introduction.
  6. Nikki Grimes – While Grimes has a great deal of poetry to her name, One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissancee is my personal favorite. In this book, she takes her own poems and matches them up with famous poems of the Harlem Renaissance.
  7. Thanhha LaiInside Out and Back Again is another stand alone novel written in verse. It is a Newberry Medal Honor and National Book Award winning book that uses the power of poetic verse to convey a rarely heard story.
  8. Nikki Giovanni – While Giovanni is most well-known for her poetry aimed at adults, she does have several works that are for children. She is one of the great poets of our time and having our children exposed to her poetry is important.
  9. Patrick Lewis – Lewis has books of poetry about all manner of things ranging from cars to animals to math, math based on Edgar Allen Poe poems no less! He is clearly very good at what he does and children respond accordingly.
  10. Poetry for Young People and Poetry for Kids series – These two series are aimed at introduce “the classic” poets to young readers. The Poetry for Kids series is geared toward an elementary school age audience, while the Poetry for Young People series is more for the middle school age student. These are good introductory collections for helping students get to know the essential works of important poets.
  11. BONUS ROUNDI’m Just No Good at Rhyming and Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups (Chris Harris) is a must have! This book is an absolute delight. My favorite poem in the book is “Alphabet Book (By the Laziest Artist in the World).” You will want this book in your house. It will be read again and again.

Here’s to hoping that my children will begin quoting more “reading” by Jacqueline Woodson along with their Silverstein “The Crocodile’s Toothache.”

Library Cards: What’s In Your Wallet?

Some days I feel as though my brain is turning into actual mush.

I blame the years of not sleeping through the night. I blame the years of managing the family laundry/meals/schedule trifecta. I blame the years of trying to remember four different children’s names, bedtime songs, and special, un-washable, irreplaceable items.

I in no way blame the scientifically proven link between brains-turning-to-mush and years of a diet consisting solely of sugar and carbonation. I absolutely do not blame the scientifically proven link between brains-turning-to-mush and years of a perfecting a sedentary lifestyle.

Whatever the cause, it is happening. Here’s the proof. This is a series of texts between myself and my daughter’s softball coach “J.” You will notice her asking me several innocuous questions which I answer one of two ways, either with absurd inaccuracy (as in the case of claiming that my 6 year-old daughter was born in 2013) or complete misunderstanding (as when she tells me my daughter will have to move up to the next level and I say a version of “I understand, but will she have to move up?”).



It is a humiliating tragedy of errors.

Sugar, sedentary lifestyles, and general laziness aside, what I actually blame is the whipping boy of the moment, social media. All the click bait-y titles, the numbered points typed in bold that scream “ignore the rest of this article, only read me,” the stylized block quotes in middle of the text that give you any additional information you could have possibly gleaned, and the pictures or gifs, oh my, it all works towards reducing my ability to thoroughly read through something, even a text.

While there is nothing wrong with these forms of reading and writing, in small doses, in large doses, it has begun to shift my habits. Habits that were originally honed in the library. There I learned to be thorough, precise, and exploratory.

I need those habits back. And so, during this National Library Week, I would argue that what we need more than our cellphones is our library cards.

Your library card offers you a portal into a magical world where the walls are, literally, lined with books, where there is, literal, peace and quiet, and where you can walk out the doors with your arms loaded with books…for free!

But that’s not all!

  1. Story time – Children story times have become an essential part of most libraries. Often there are Parent and Baby classes offered for babies as young as six months old. Different classes then continue all the way through preschool. During my parenting-of-young-children phase, these classes were my life line. I looked forward to them as much as the kids did. There were years in there where library story time was the only social outing we could manage in a week. And, in additional to all that, the classes are very effective in helping establish a love of books in your children.
  2. Classes – Libraries do not just leave you stranded once you start school. Throughout the week, libraries offer a variety of classes to school age children, teens, and adults. You can learn everything from knitting to coding to basket weaving and almost anything in between. Your libraries newsletter or weekly email update are an important resource for finding out what is available to you and your children.
  3. Book Sales -While this benefit is not free, it is much, much cheaper than anything else you can find. You’ll be spending so little money for so many books that it can *almost* feel like you are getting them for free (although my husband would strongly disagree). Library book sales have become so popular that many libraries are adding Friends of the Library book stores right into the library buildings. It is an exercise in self-discipline to not spend all the money there.
  4. Computer/Internet Access – Libraries offering free internet and computer access is one of the most important ways that libraries are able to significantly help the members of their community. With so much job, housing, and information searching done online, having a free place to access those resources is a start in leveling the playing field.
  5. Events – From Family Science Nights to local author meet and greets to music concerts, there is always something going on at the library that you can enjoy…for free! We have seen all manner of reptile shows, magicians, science nights, Lego building contests, art nights, and on and on. I have noticed that, more and more, libraries are also starting to have book clubs. Some are online book clubs but others are “in house.” While I have yet to participate in one, I find this option to be perfectly fitting. What could be more appropriate than meeting with a book club…in a library.
  6. Bonus Round: Inter Library Loan – Inter Library Loan is the magical technology that gives you access, not only to the books available in the library building you are in, but also libraries across your county. If you are willing to wait, your free reading options are almost limitless with this option. There is a science to getting books on hold through this system. (Oh, that would make an excellent library class!) I cannot recommend using this resource enough.

It should be pointed out that many libraries will allow you to get a library card from them even if you do not live in that town or even county! Sometimes there are restrictions, such as being unable to access the online catalog of e-books, but that is a small thing to sacrifice for the possibility of an extra library card. There is always space in your wallet for an extra library card or 5!

I have found no evidence of this study yet, but I am confident if someone were to study it, they would find a direct, scientifically proven link between the number of library cards you own and your brain-turning-to-super-power level.

So don’t worry about all the sugar, sedentary-ness, and social media, just get another library card!