6 Tips for Building and Using Lit Kits in your Classroom

As an English teacher and a high school librarian I want to instill a true love of reading in my students.  I want students to find a book that they can connect with and fall in love with.  Nothing makes me happier than having a student tell me that the book I recommended was the first book they enjoyed.

The other English teachers and I have worked really hard to develop a set of Lit Kits for each grade level at our school.  It's been a process of trial and error and we have switched out titles through the years and updated the kits as books get lost or damaged.  In general, each kit has 5-7 titles and 5-6 copies of each title.  There are 30-32 books in each kit.  I preview / 'book talk" each book for my students and then let them pick any book from the kit.

The primary focus for using the kits is ENJOYMENT and promoting a LOVE OF READING.  We give students time each class to read and do not require daily summaries, lit logs or a reading journal. We monitor accountability through group meetings.  Students who are reading the same title meet once a week to discuss their book.  I give my students book marks and on the back they can jot down ideas for their discussion as they are reading.  Grab a FREE set of bookmarks HERE.


1.  PICK BOOKS YOU KNOW YOUR STUDENTS WILL LOVE
This is key! These kits are not about the books that kids should read, but rather the books you know they will WANT to read.  I pick books I know that my students will love and my list might end up being very different from your list. I have a variety of genres in each kit.  Grab a list of the Lit Kit books I use HERE Keep in mind what my students enjoy, might not work for yours.

2.  INCLUDE AT LEAST ONE NON-FICTION BOOK
All of our kits have a non-fiction book that my students can choose.  It is amazing how many of them have never read a non-fiction book and it is wonderful how many are surprised to find themselves enjoying it as they read.  Often, once they read one non-fiction book, they'll end up reading many more in our collection.

3.  INCLUDE BOOKS OF VARYING LEVELS
It is important to provide a variety of levels of books - at least one lower level book and at least one higher level book.  (This will really vary depending on your students.)  Students need to feel like there's at least one book that's accessible to them in each kit.  When I preview / book talk the books to the kids I usually say something along the lines of "If reading isn't your favorite thing to do..." or "If you don't have a lot of time for reading right now..." or "If you're looking for a more challenging read...".  I just like to give the students options but I do not want to assume that I know what book is best for them.  Student choice is paramount to the success of the Lit Kits.

4.  DIVERSITY MATTERS!
It's important to me that my students see themselves in the books they read, so as much as possible I include books that represent a diverse range of authors and characters and will appeal to kids from across a wide spectrum.  As a Canadian teacher I also try to highlight Canadian and Indigenous authors and stories.

5.  MAKE IT ALL ABOUT THE LOVE OF READING
I give the students class time to read, class time to discuss and class time to think about a final project.  I do not require daily summaries or reflections, but I do ask each group to present to the class their review of the book (without giving away the ending!). These book reviews are an informal presentation - every member of the group must contribute something, they have to share the theme, and what they did or did not like about the book.  Because of the book review presentations students often ask to read other titles from the kit when they are done with their original book.

6.  STUDENT ACCOUNTABILITY
I know many of you are reading this and thinking... but what if the students don't read the book? How do you know they have read it?  I monitor the students' weekly discussions with their group and can easily figure out if someone hasn't read the book just be eavesdropping.  I have read most of the books in the kits so a quick conversation will also let me know what is going on.  IF students are NOT keeping up with their book I can have a chat with them and figure out what their challenges are.  If necessary we can switch books or I can find a way to help them get where they need to be. If you are required to have students keep a reading log or reading journal check out my Reading Journal for ANY Novel Study and Lit Circles.

 I think the key to success with Lit Kits is giving students CHOICE and having a project to wrap up their reading.  I like to let my students know their options as we START reading so that they can keep it in mind as they are working through the novel.  We either do a NOVEL INQUIRY PROJECT or use one of the PROJECTS for ANY NOVEL that I have created.

THE NITTY GRITTY
We store our Lit Kit collections in large plastic containers that are labelled with the grade level and kit number.  We have color coded each grade and have therefore color coded each book.  For example all of our 10th grade books are coded with blue stickers and then number according to which kit they belong to.  We have 6 kits for 10th grade so a book with a blue sticker and a #4 is from 10th Grade Lit Kit 4.

Also check out the great ideas from my fellow Secondary English Coffee Shop colleagues that can be used with ANY NOVEL.


HAPPY LIT KIT BUILDING!





5 Reasons to Incorporate Exit Tickets Into Your Classroom Routine


Hello teachers!
Brittany from The SuperHERO Teacher's Resources here to talk all about why you should incorporate exit tickets into your daily classroom routine. If your teaching style is anything like mine, you love spontaneity in the classroom just as much as you love a solid classroom management plan that paves the way for an engaging and innovative lesson.  My first couple of years teaching, I struggled to find the balance between fun and focus.  I honestly wasn't sure if it was possible to have both-- until I began incorporating exit tickets.  You're probably thinking: "wait-- I thought exit tickets assessed student comprehension"-- and you would be right, but they also help with SO much more.  Let me explain! 

1. Exit tickets are a classroom management miracle.
I am not even exaggerating when I say incorporating exit tickets will transform your classroom management.  Picture this: it's the end of a class period and you just finished up the best lesson of your career... 5 minutes early... You start to notice students packing up, fidgeting, and then the sweet student who loves discussing the daily lunch menu breaks out into chatter with the person next to them.  Soon, every student in the room is in a debate about whether square pizza or chicken nuggets are better (square pizza, obviously)! It's stressful and nearly impossible to avoid... that is, without exit tickets! If your students know they have an exit ticket prompt they have to complete before they can leave the classroom, they will remain focused on the task at hand and there won't be time for the excess chatter that inevitably occurs moments before the bell rings. Exit tickets are a classroom management hack that students will be oblivious to.  It's not a punishment, it's a routine that is developed to track their comprehension and growth... It just so happens to also prevent them from focusing on the distractions around the room.


2. Exit tickets create student routine. 
Classroom routine and classroom management kind of go hand in hand, in my opinion.  If a routine is developed from the beginning, your classroom management will be in tune.  When I used exit ticket and bell ringer journals in my classroom, the students knew the moment they entered my classroom that they had a 5 minute bell ringer prompt to complete and at the end of class they were to reflect on the lesson by completing a 5 minute exit ticket prompt.  Developing these daily routines allowed me the opportunity to be more spontaneous and exciting in my lessons and delivery. Using an exit ticket journal, like the one linked here, gives you all of the prompts you'll need for an entire year, taking the stress of developing them off your shoulders.



3. Exit tickets assess student comprehension. 
The most common reason teachers use exit tickets is their ability to assess student comprehension in a quick, simply way. In five minutes or less, teachers can determine whether their lesson is successful or if there needs to be some re-teaching the following day. Exit tickets don't have to be in a question format either-- they can be visuals, graphs, images and more, which will help meet the learning styles and expectations of each student in your classroom.  You can test out an entire week of exit ticket prompts using the freebie I designed from one of my Exit Ticket Journals.  Simply click here, download the free resource and share with your students.

4. Exit tickets track student growth.
Tracking growth is important for both you AND your students. When students have a moment to reflect on their comprehension of a lesson, they can process where they may be struggling or excelling in your class. If you're using something like an exit ticket journal, students have the ability to go back and see how far they've grown from the beginning of the school year, which can serve as motivation and inspiration to continue working hard throughout the school year.  These simple prompts provide students with a visual representation of their progress in your class, whether it's a unit or an ongoing theme over the course of an entire year.


5. Exit tickets help teachers reflect on their teaching practices. 
Reflecting on our own teaching practices is equally as important as helping students reflect on their progress! However, I think we all know how time consuming it is to do a pre-test and post-test for every single unit or lesson.  Exit tickets can be assessed in seconds, especially visuals.  For example: if you asked students to shade in their understanding of the day's lesson on a bar scaled 1 to 10 and you see that most students shaded in 5 or less, you'll know that re-teaching needs to occur the following day. While you may have days that students are confused or lacking comprehension, you'll also find exit ticket responses to be rewarding-- because you'll see the positive things they take away from your lessons, too!

Looking for an entire year of exit tickets? Check out my Exit Ticket Journal here.
Download two free weeks of exit tickets here! 

These resources are also incredible for incorporating exit tickets:
1. Growth Mindset Exit Tickets from The Daring English Teacher
2. Formative Assessment Power Pack from Room 213
3. Exit Slips for Any Subject from Presto Plans
4. English Bell Ringers and Exit Tickets from Tracee Orman

Have a fabulous day and keep changing lives!


3 Tips to Prevent Challenges to Your Curriculum

Banned Books Week

Imagine being so excited to introduce your favorite novel to a new group of students only to have a student say, "My mom said I can't read that book."

It's every teacher's fear to have a parent or community member question what you are teaching. Unfortunately, opposition to the reading material we select for our classrooms and libraries is so popular, a week was created in the 1980s to advocate for and educate the public about challenged and banned books. September 23rd kicks off this year's Banned Books Week.

During the sixteen years I taught in my last school district, two books were formally challenged by groups of parents. One group of junior (grade 11) parents opposed Robert Cormier's We All Fall Down because of its "inappropriate language" and depiction of teenagers doing "immoral" things.

Five years later, another group of parents of elementary-aged students opposed the read-aloud of Todd Parr's The Family Book during Tolerance Week because of the line "Some families have two moms or two dads." The parents believed it was "pushing a gay agenda."

Banned Books Week

Can you guess which one was banned? Probably not the one you thought...

In 2012, The Family Book was permanently removed from the elementary library and the curriculum for Tolerance Week (ironic, right?). We All Fall Down was retained in 2007 after a select committee deemed it to be age-appropriate. It is still taught in grade 11.

We had two different outcomes because the new (at the time) administrators were unaware of the proper procedure put in place five years earlier. Instead, they left the decision up to the school board who voted to ban The Family Book from the elementary and all GLSEN materials from being used in the entire district. Their decision was--and still is--a shameful embarrassment for our district that could have easily been prevented.


In recognition of Banned Books Week, I wanted to share my experience and tips for preventing a book (or any material) from being challenged AND what you can do if a parent or community member does challenge it.

1. BE TRANSPARENT
Let your students and parents know at the beginning of the year which novels, short stories, plays, poems, nonfiction passages, movies, etc. your students will cover throughout the year. Distribute a paper copy (as part of your syllabus) and post it on your website; make it easy for parents and students to find. This way if anything is questioned, you can point out that you informed students and parents at the beginning of the year what was going to be covered.

2. ASK PERMISSION
Send home a permission slip before reading or viewing material that could be questionable. In your permission slip, state your objectives for the unit or lesson and explain how the material you are reading or showing is vital to the learning process. Let the parent/guardian know that if permission is not granted, an alternative book or material that covers the same learning standards will be used in its place for their child. This will alleviate students trying to use the permission slip as a way out of doing the work altogether. You can download a free permission slip template here.

Free Download Editable Permission Slip

3. RAISE AWARENESS
I began celebrating Banned Books Week in my high school classroom after We All Fall Down was challenged to educate students about their freedom to read and the danger of censorship. I have an activity where students can choose if they want a piece of candy or a carrot stick for a snack. Halfway through the activity, I stop and take all the pieces of candy back and let them know that I forgot that I had received a complaint from a parent (or community member) about the dangers of sugar, so no one gets to choose candy. This sparks a great discussion about how one complaint affects the freedom of choice for all students.


  One of my favorite displays to coincide with this activity is an interactive bulletin board showing the reasons a book was challenged or banned. Students lift the flap to reveal the title. They are always shocked to see the titles of some of their favorite books revealed. I will also select books from my classroom library and wrap them with the Caution Labels. The curiosity alone is enough to make a student want to check out a book labeled "Drug use, profanity, offensive language, and considered 'pervasively vulgar'" (which are the reasons The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas has been challenged).

The Hate U Give - Banned Books Week


While these measures will help prevent some challenges, you may still encounter opposition in your district. When I began teaching and selling materials for The Hunger Games in 2009, I soon realized that opposition to certain books was far too common. Teachers began reaching out to me asking what they should do when parents complain about the book. Here is the advice I shared with them; it applies to any curriculum, whether it is a book, video/movie, poem, short story, etc.


Find out from your building principal if your school has a plan in place and what it is. If not, follow these steps to be prepared before it happens:

HAVE A PLAN: 
Know exactly what to do when a parent/guardian or group/organization comes forward with a complaint. For instance, if talking directly to the parent/guardian and offering an alternative for the student doesn't work, take the next step and contact your department head and building principal. From there, an example procedure should be handled by the principal and/or department head and may include the following steps:

   1. Send the parent/guardian/group a formal letter asking if they wish to file a formal request for reconsideration of the material being taught. Include a reconsideration request form in the letter (see below) and give a deadline for when it needs to be filled out and returned to the principal (10 days seems standard).

  2. Have a committee in place for handling the request. This committee should be appointed by the principal and may include an administrator, a classroom teacher, a language arts teacher or reading specialist, a librarian, a community member, and a student. The committee will meet and discuss the request. They will also need to be familiar with the material being challenged (whether it's a book, video, etc.). After reviewing both sides (the teacher's and the parent/guardian/group's), the committee will make a final decision on whether the material(s) should be removed or not.

  3. Make sure the procedure is part of the school's handbook and/or posted publicly (i.e. on the school's website) so future administrators and teachers are aware of the proper protocol. Have copies of all documents ready to download and distribute, if needed. (See below for free editable forms.)

This plan is based on the American Library Association's (ALA) advice for schools and libraries facing a challenge. You can find numerous resources on their website.

I have also created editable documents based on their drafts that you can download here.

banned books week

Most importantly, do not let a challenge get you down. One or two or even a group of parents challenging the materials in your classroom in no way reflects your teaching ability or your good judgment. Do not back down. Many novels have been challenged over the years but that doesn't mean they should be removed from the shelves or from the curriculum.

Even though they may not be vocal, you probably have far more people on your side than you realize. Reach out to other teachers, your followers on social media, and the ALA (you can report a challenge here) and I guarantee you will find parents and teachers who will support your cause.

If you have any questions or concerns, please comment below. Also, check out these amazing resources for books that are frequently challenged or banned:

To Kill a Mockingbird Bundle by Room 213

The Giver Unit Plan by Presto Plans

Of Mice and Men Escape Room by The Classroom Sparrow






Scaffolding Writing Instruction: Why I Use Sentence Frames

When it comes to teaching, one of the most beneficial things I try to do for all of my students in every lesson is provide layers of differentiation and scaffolding so that I reach as many kids as I can. When it comes to teaching writing, one way I scaffold instruction comes in the form of sentence frames. But first, an anecdote.

I’ll never forget my first teaching job. It was a long-term substitute position teaching ninth grade English to students who were severely behind grade-level. I was still in my pre-service teaching days, and I was completely unprepared. The first couple of weeks were awful. My classroom management skills were abysmal, the kids were not cooperating, and I was beginning to second-guess my career choice as an educator. Yes, it was THAT bad.
It wasn’t until one day when I had, at the time what I perceived to be, a crazy idea. I was going to get those kids to work whether they wanted to or not….and like I said, my classroom management wasn’t something to brag about. After reading a short passage with the students, I wanted them to write a brief paragraph responding to the text. I was desperate. All earlier attempts of assigning a writing prompt in the class failed. And it failed because of me. These students were not at the level, both language wise and ability wise, for what I was assigning earlier. However, at the time, I didn't realize this.
Scaffolding writing instruction in the secondary ELA classroom. So, in response to this situation, I wrote a fill-in-the-blank paragraph on the board before class started. After reading the selection, I slowly read the fill-in-the-blank paragraph aloud to the kids and modeled different types of responses that were appropriate for the blanks. Then I asked my students to copy the example from the board onto their papers and fill in the blanks with their thoughts.
And let me tell you something: it worked!

Not only did it work, but the students ALL sat quietly and wrote their responses. They were working. They were engaged. They were demonstrating their understanding, and they were trying their best. Afterward, I had them take turns reading their responses aloud in the classroom. Again, I had 100% participation.
However, this strategy only worked because I experienced a complete failure before this victory. I wasn’t meeting my students’ needs, and I wasn’t giving them appropriately differentiated material that matched their ability levels. I just expected these ninth graders to be able to sit in their seats and write because after all, that is what I was able to do when I was in the ninth grade. That failure is one-hundred percent on me, and I own it. I was expecting work that did not match their capabilities. And, as a direct result of that, I created an environment in which the students didn’t feel comfortable. They weren’t comfortable with the work, nor were they comfortable with me. And that was a big problem!
This was one of the most significant learning experiences of my teaching career. And I am very thankful that it’s a lesson I learned early on. We can’t just teach and expect grade-level, common core work from high school students if they aren’t there. There are so many outside factors that we must take into consideration when it comes to students’ learning equations, and as teachers, we have to acknowledge and accept that sometimes things are out of both our hands and our students’ hands. So, this is where sentence frames come into play.
A student won’t know how to properly craft an argumentative claim about a piece of nonfiction text if he or she doesn’t understand how the parts of speech work together. Students can’t learn, and study, and work on mastering nouns and verbs and prepositions if outside forces, forces in which they have absolutely no control of, are working against them. There are students who are hungry, anxious, homeless, victims of neglect and abuse, responsible for the care of their siblings, and doubting their existence. We owe it to our all of our students to understand this.

We have to go back to the basics and build our middle school and high school students up, even if that means teaching concepts and skills at the beginning of the year that are five grade-levels below what we teach. By teaching to our students’ needs rather than to what the grade-level standards dictate, we can then begin to move toward grade-level skills as the year progresses. Afterall, we can't teach the quadratic equation to kids who don't understand simple multiplication.
One of the biggest reasons why I use sentence frames in my classroom is because they help every student. Sentence frames are not just for our EL and below-grade-level students; they benefit every single learner in the classroom. And yes, I even use them with my college-bound juniors and seniors because sentence frames model concise writing and help reinforce academic writing.
As educators, we are more well-read than our students. We’ve read works by many different authors of varying abilities and have seen how authors craft their stories and arguments. Our students, not so much. It is our job to teach them how to engage with, understand, and respond to a text.

Some teachers may shy away from providing students with sentence frames because they may believe that in doing so, the work is becoming “too easy” or “too watered down.” However, if it is what our students need, shouldn’t we be doing it? Giving our students structure and sentence frames isn’t diluting the work. It’s not watering it down, and it certainly isn’t making it too easy. It is teaching them how to respond. A sentence frame provides our students with the structure they need to help them get their thoughts from their brain onto their paper. Sentence frames don’t tell students what or how to think, they show them how to structure their ideas logically.
As time goes on and students utilize sentence frames in class, you’ll begin to notice that students stop using the frames verbatim and start adding their own style to the frame. This is progress. As even more time goes on, you’ll notice that some of your students won’t use the frames you provided them with, but that they were able to write loosely within the structure entirely on their own. This is learning!
As a result of this learning experience, I created my differentiated writing responses for literature. For each writing topic, I created two handouts -each with a different level of differentiation. The level with less scaffolding guides students through the response and helps students organize their thoughts. The handout with more scaffolding provides a series of sentence frames to help students learn how to write academically about the literature they read. These organizers were game-changers in my classroom. Not only did I create generic scaffolded writing prompts for every piece of literature, but I also created some for specific works of literature: Romeo and Juliet, Of Mice and Men, and Lord of the Flies.

I believe so much in sentence frames and providing students with differentiated writing scaffolds that I am sharing this differentiated writing task with you. Click HERE to download a sample writing assignment that you can use in your classroom with any piece of fiction. This is a direct excerpt from my Differentiated Writing Tasks for Any Text resource, and I know it will help all of your writers, not just the struggling ones.
Here are some of my favorite sentence frames to use in the classroom. These can be used menu style where students create their paragraphs by selecting which frames to use, or you can use them for specific responses.

Sentence Frames to Talk about a Text:
According to _________, one reason why _____________.
Furthermore, __________ argues that ___________ because ___________.
As stated in the text, _________________.

Sentence Frames to Talk about Literature:
In the short story, the author describes ____________.
After ____________, the main character then _______________ which ____________.
The theme of the story is fully developed when __________________.

Sentence Frames to Agree with Evidence:
Confirming with ______________, further evidence shows ________________.
Similar to _____________, __________ also suggests _______________.
Likewise, ____________ also states ______________.

Sentence Frames to Argue or Disagree:
Even though __________________, there is evidence to believe that _____________.
While __________ states that ____________, contradicting evidence from __________ proves that _______________.
Despite ____________, _____________ argues that ________________.

Additional Resources for Scaffolding Writing
Sentence Fluency by Stacey Lloyd
Narrative Writing by Addie Williams
Literary Quote Analysis by Nouvelle ELA


10 Diverse Books to Add to Your Classroom Library (Fall 2018)




Hi, friends! It’s Danielle from Nouvelle ELA, and I’m here to share with you my most anticipated reads for this fall. I’m constantly on the lookout for diverse books to add to my classroom library, and I’m excited to share with you some soon-to-be-published titles. Also, keep reading to find out how to score free books for your classroom library!


I cohost the YA Cafe Podcast, a roundtable discussion about a new YA book each week. Our show breaks down into a spoiler-free and spoiler section, and our whole goal is to help you figure out which books you’d like to add to your classroom library. We’ll help you know which books hook reluctant readers, which books will resonate with your avid sports fans, and which books maybe need a content warning.


10 Diverse YA Books for Fall 2018



Here are ten books we’ll be talking about in the fall on the podcast and in IG stories. I haven’t finished reading all of these books yet, but I’ve been researching them, and I’m confident in my recommendations.




1. Mirage by Somaiya Daud (28 August 2018)

Eighteen-year-old Amani has grown up on a poor moon under the rule of an oppressive empire. She dreams of a life where she and her family can safely farm and barter for what they need to survive, and maybe even have a little leisure time left to read her precious poetry. But when Amani is kidnapped and taken to the Royal Palace, she learns she must act as the body double for the cruel princess and put her very life on the line for a regime that seeks to wipe out her culture.

This is a book of court intrigue, rich prose, and a connection to spirituality and tradition. I LOVED this book, and you can read my full review here.


2. Ignite the Stars by Maura Milan (04 September 2018)

Everyone in the universe knows his name. Everyone in the universe fears him. But no one realizes that notorious outlaw Ia Cocha is a seventeen-year-old girl. Ia is a skilled pirate and a brutal outlaw who risks everything to fight the imperialist nation that destroyed her home. She is captured and placed in the regime’s military academy, and everything she’s every believed is tested.

This is a thrilling sci-fi adventure with a bold heroine.
This is an anthology of short stories written by authors your students will definitely know and love, as well as some newcomers. Every story is an #OwnVoices story, meaning that authors are writing protagonists who share in their identity and experiences. The stories range in setting and genre, so your students will be sure to find something that suits them.

I enjoyed Nijkamp’s This is Where it Ends and Before I Let Go, so I’m really looking forward to reading this anthology. I’ve started it, and am intrigued so far!


[This post includes Amazon links for your convenience.If you choose to order through these links, Amazon will give me a small kickbackthat I put towards maintaining my teaching blog. This kickback does not increase your costs.]


4. A Blade So Black by L. L. McKinney (25 September 2018)

An urban-fantasy reimagining, A Blade So Black follows Alice’s journey from real-world Atlanta to the nightmare world of Wonderland. When her mentor is poisoned, Alice has to embark on a dangerous journey to find the antidote. The twists and turns take her through numerous perils, and she has to stay focused and determined to keep from losing her head.

Y’all. I LOVE reimaginings, and this one sounds right up my alley! I love dark fairy tales like The Hazel Wood, and I think A Blade So Black will really amp up the tension to the next level.


5. Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa (02 October 2018)

One thousand years ago, the great Kami Dragon was summoned to grant a single terrible wish—and the land of Iwagoto was plunged into an age of darkness and chaos. In this bright new saga, the half-kitsune, half-human Yumeko sets out on a brave quest for survival. She meets one of many who would steal the scroll for themselves and attempt to harness the dragon’s wish, a young Samurai Kage. Kage and Yumeko form a fragile alliance to find the scroll, with a horde of demons at their backs and the weight of survival on their shoulders.






This is the follow-up to A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice & Virtue, but it focuses on a new main character: Monty’s sister Felicity. In a society that believes that only men possess the intellect and determination to go to medical school, Felicity wants to study to become a doctor. She works against everything her parents tell her to want for her life in order to pursue her own dreams. Felicity gets an opportunity to research with one of her idols, as long as she can make the journey across Europe to meet him. She has no money to get there, though, and is forced to accept the patronage of a woman who insists on accompanying her. Soon, Felicity is thrust into another romp of a cross-continent adventure, and must keep her wits about her to get out of the dangerous situation.

Gentleman’s Guide was a fun and fast-paced book, and I’ve no doubt this one will be equally awesome. Felicity was a rockstar, even as supporting cast, and I can’t wait to have her front and center.


7. The Last Wish of Sasha Cade by Cheyanne Young (02 October 2018)

After a long battle with cancer, Sasha Cade dies. Her best friend Raquel is totally devastated. When she receives a letter from Sasha, Raquel is ready to do anything to connect again. Sasha has created an elaborate scavenger hunt for Raquel in an attempt to share one last secret with her friend. Her letter leads Raquel to her grave and introduces her to a mysterious stranger and the secret only he knows.

I haven’t read this one yet, but I’m expecting it to be partly mystery, partly grief, and partly self-discovery. I think it will be great for fans of Someone Else’s Playlist.



Want to get book recommendations delivered to your inbox? Sign up for the YA Reads Newsletter!

8. Blanca y Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore (09 October 2018)

Sisters, friends, and rivals… The del Signe sisters are cursed, and they know it. Their fate is wrapped up with a bevy of swans in the forest, and one day, they’ll play a twisted game that ends with one of them becoming a swan forever. But when two boys are unexpectedly drawn into the ‘game’, the spell stretches and expands, wrapping up the four fates forever.

This is a novel grounded in a fairy tale tradition, but with the rich complexities of contemporary YA. I’ve really enjoyed everything I’ve read by Anna-Marie McLemore so far, and I’m eagerly awaiting this book.


9. Odd One Out by Nic Stone (09 October 2018)

The New York Times best-selling author of Dear Martin has brought us a new contemporary YA novel about the complications of friendship, young love, and everything in between. This isn’t your standard love triangle, but rather a rich tapestry of the complexities of loyalty and sexuality and growing into yourself. Uncertainty is highlighted here, and the “moral” is that sometimes we have to live in that uncertainty for a while.


10. The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta (30 October 2018)

A sweeping LGBT fantasy set in renaissance Italy featuring magic, intrigue, and a debt repaid. Teodora is a mafia don’s daughter, and slightly magical. Her magic is her secret and her shame, since she turns her family’s enemies into decorative objects: mirrors, boxes, candlesticks… When the land’s ruler sends out poisoned letters to the Five Families, Teo’s father falls ill and only she can find the antidote. She must travel disguised as a boy, and encounters numerous challenges along the way. She also meets Cielo. A magic-wielding strega, Cielo can shift between appearing as male or female, and is able to disappear into a crowd. As the two form an unlikely alliance, Teo must reconsider everything she’s ever known, especially when it comes to matters of her own heart.


I know, right? These books sound AMAZING!


Getting Free Books for Your Classroom Library



One question I get all the time is how I’m able to read books for free and in advance for our podcast. This is a great question that has implications for building your classroom library.

Basically, the publisher sends me early copies of books for free in exchange for my fair and honest review. Read more about how to get early copies, and how to involve students in the review process.

I also recommend involving students in the book selection process. You can have students apply to be part of a Classroom Library Advisory Board and help you pre-read some of the advanced copies you receive. You can also download this FREE review sheet for students.






Be sure to check out the YA Cafe Podcast for more in-depth reviews for teachers and librarians. :) We also send out a monthly newsletter about more books you may enjoy.


Happy reading!


Resources from other Coffee Shop teachers:
Getting Your Teens to Actually Read (blog post by Room 213)
Genre Exploration Flipbook (by The Classroom Sparrow)
Text Features Preview Activity (by Addie Williams)



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