Banned Books Week

Banned Books Week

It’s Banned Books Week and I just love seeing all of the discussion, advocacy and events around the country. This week always inspires me to find new writers to love and to pull out and re-read books that have become best friends. I was browsing the American Library Association’s list, 100 Most Challenged Books Of The Last Decade, and am proud to say it included many of my beloved titles. Here are a few of my favorites from that list – all of which I highly recommend:

Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Monster by Walter Dean Myers 

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien

And although I tried to limit it to just 5, I can’t resist adding these challenged young adult books that I have loved and happily recommended. 

The Chocolate Wars by Robert Cormier

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

Happy, Happy Reading. I’ll leave you today with this beautiful quote from Maya Angelou. 

“When I look back, I am so impressed again with the life-giving power of literature. If I were a young person today, trying to gain a sense of myself in the world, I would do that again by reading, just as I did when I was young.”

College Transition Advice Books

College Transition Advice Books

It was so fun to see photos of freshmen move-in day at my alma mater this week. It brought back so many happy memories and reminded me of what a huge leap it is to leave the security of high school and home and plunge all-in to a whole new journey. 

Today’s Weekly Reads represent my favorite “how to” books for students heading off to college. There are hundreds of these titles available but these are a few that stand out.

How to Win at College by Cal Newport

I’m not one to quote book jackets but in this case, the comments hit the mark. How to Win at College proves that “success has little to do with being a genius workaholic, and everything to do with having the right game plan.” 


Getting the Best Out of College. A Professor, A Dean and A Student Tell You How to Maximize Your Experience by Peter Feaver, Sue Wasiolek and Ann Crossman 

Great practical advice for a broad range of college challenges and choices that come up from students AND their teachers.  What I love most about this one though is that advice is given within the perspective that college is an investment and your first job as a student is to grow it through wise choices, saavy moves, and taking thoughtful advantage of what is offered. 


First in the Family. Advice About College From First-Generation Students by Kathleen Cushman

You might be the first in your family to go to college but with the community you’ll come to know in this book (and the first rate advice they provide) you’re not going it alone. From the introduction, “Whether you attend a private four-year college, a state university, or the local community college, you have much to learn from others who have gone before you. In this book, students like you lend a hand along your college journey.”


Making the Grade With ADD: A Student’s Guide to Succeeding in College With Attention Deficit Disorder by Stephanie Sarkis. 

Written by a licensed mental health counselor who has ADD herself, this guide covers academics, money management, health issues, relationships with friends and intimates, and planning for the future.


Congratulations New Collegians!



Weekly Reads

Weekly Reads

Weekly Reads

Everybody ready for Back-to-School? Or, dreading the return of homework? Today’s Weekly Reads are a few of my top study skills guides that will make all the difference this year. 

How to Learn. A Guide for Kids and Teens by Barbara Oakley, Terrance Synowsk and Allistair McConville.

I like this one for late middle school and early high school. Teaches study and learning tips through the lens of understanding a bit about how the brain works. 


Learning to Learn by Gloria Frender. 

I’ve been recommending this book FOREVER. The illustrations are a little cliché but the tips and techniques still pack a punch. Mastering even just a handful of Gloria’s tools will yield happier study time and stronger grades. Great for early middle school students.  


What Smart Students Know by Adam Robinson

Way more than a collection of study hacks, the ideas in this book take some thought work and practice. But, the underlying idea is that you learn to teach yourself which is a transformative skill that will work with any subject and any grade level. For high school students.   


How to Talk So Kids Can Learn by Adele Faber and Elaine Maslish

For parents dreading the frustration of homework time, this might help. The sequel to the classic How to Talk So Kids Will Listen has great strategies for effective communication, reduction of conflict and ultimately will help you raise a self-directed, self-motivated learner. 



Happy Reading!



I Love You, Michael Collins by Lauren Baratz Logsted

I Love You, Michael Collins by Lauren Baratz Logsted

I Love You, Michael Collins 

by Lauren Baratz Logsted

Readers ages 8-12

I didn’t want to like this book.  Other readers’ reflections had created a bit of bias, and I was prepared to be equally (if not more so) critical.

Lucky for me, I opened the cover and let myself slip into the 1969 world of 10 year old Mamie.  Before Snapchat,  Google or the 24 news cycle. When the humble analog letter was the way we connected, and shared our thoughts and feelings.  

Mamie’s story unfolds in parallel with the historic Apollo 11 launch, the flight to the moon, the first walk, and splash down; connected through her letters to astronaut Michael Collins.

As the mission timeline moves along, we learn that Mamie’s parents are not happy. And when Mamie’s mother walks out and her family begins to disintegrate, she relates to the loneliness and responsibility that Collins must feel in his role as the lone caretaker of his ship.

Since we all know the Apollo 11 story, I’ll not fill this review with spoilers about Mamie’s. What I can say is that I loved Mamie’s voice, heart and bravery and I long for a friend as steadfast as Buster, her neighbor and confidant. And even though Michael Collins is a far-away hero to us and to Mamie, he has a powerful, familiar presence in the story.

Lots of fun references to products and styles bring 1969 to life alongside plenty of narrative allowing us to relive one of the greatest adventures of all time as a 10 year old might have experienced it then.

This book has a lot of awards and endorsements and I’ll add my enthusiastic recommendation as well.

Astrotwins – Project Blastoff by Mark Kelly with Martha Freeman

Astrotwins – Project Blastoff by Mark Kelly with Martha Freeman

Astrotwins – Project Blastoff 

by Mark Kelly with Martha Freeman

Readers ages 8-12

This has been an exciting summer celebrating the Apollo 11 Moon Landing and I am really enjoying reading and reviewing books related to space. Here’s the latest. Enjoy!

“Former astronaut Kelly takes a cool biographical fact—he and his identical twin brother, Scott, are the only siblings ever to fly in space—and spins it into an absorbing adventure.” Kirkus Reviews

 A summer visit with Grandpa starts the journey to space for eleven-year-old twins Mark and Scott Kelly. To keep the mischievous boys occupied, Grandpa suggests they build a spaceship and the idea sticks. The boys recruit some pals along the way and the story of an epic summer quest unfolds.

 What I love about this story? Definitely the science that the reader learns alongside the characters is an interesting, contextual way to slip in some knowledge building. The teamwork of the characters is a favorite piece for me, as each contributes and is valued according to his/her strengths – a theme that also runs through astronaut-author Kelly’s Moustronaut picture book series.

 Lastly, the book takes us back to 1975 before “google it” was the standard way to begin a search for information, when calls outside a local area had a surcharge and calculators were expensive tools, not a free phone app.

 A solid summer read and possibly, the inspiration for the next generation of space explorers.

Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed. Illustrations by Stasia Burrington

Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed. Illustrations by Stasia Burrington

Mae Among the Stars

by Roda Ahmen.  Illustrations by Stasia Burrington

Picture book for ages approximately 4-8

Published January 9, 2018

“If you can dream it….”

Not so much a biography but a testament to the power of supporting a child’s dreams. Mae Among the Stars introduces us to a young girl, who hopes one day to see the Earth from space. With warm, inviting illustrations, we follow our young dreamer as she reads about space, creates astronaut costumes and spaceships, and draws pictures of what she might see as she dances among the stars. At school, when Mae shares her plans to become an astronaut, she is ridiculed by her classmates and discouraged by her teacher who suggests she pursue nursing, “a good profession for someone like you.”  A despondent Mae returns home and there, receives the refrain of support and encouragement of her parents. Our heroine’s spirit restored, she vows to wave to her parents from space one day. And she did. Mae Jemison became the first African American woman accepted into the NASA’s Astronaut training program and in 1992, finally flew in space.  

This little picture book has drawn criticism from adult reviewers with a variety of grievances such as not enough information about Jemison’s accomplishments, how she reached her goal, and an overly simplistic view of how one becomes successful.

But I still love this book. Why?

The insensitive teacher who is ultimately proven wrong, the powerful demonstration of resilience that comes when young people receive consistent messages of belief and support, and the underlying message that every child has the right to dream.