Changing Seasons

“But that’s how life is, Yuriko-chan. In our lives we must experience both beginnings as well as endings. It is like the season changing after the last cherry blossom falls.”  

This quote is from my MG historical fiction, The Last Cherry Blossom (Sky Pony Press), based on events in my mother’s life in Hiroshima during WWII and surviving the atomic bombing at 12-years-old. Yuriko’s (main character) Papa expressed the above sentiment to her, and it’s one of the reasons I chose my title.  I thought of cherry blossoms TLCB cover smaller.jpgscattering as they fall from branches. At first glance, one may think the beauty of the blossoms is lost, yet it’s just as lovely watching the fallen blossoms glide along with the river current or strewn along a walking path.  

In the final chapter of The Last Cherry Blossom, Yuriko moves to Tokyo with a relative she barely knows (No spoilers, in case you haven’t read it yet) and must start a new life after the atomic bomb took away all that she knew or ever wanted. At that time, she wondered how she’d survive all these changes, never mind thinking something good could come from it all (I’m writing about how my mother dealt with these feelings in my current WIP) 😊. Yet, those horrific events eventually led her to meeting/marrying my father, moving to the U.S., and having me.  

Interestingly, if I hadn’t been hospitalized for over a month from a near fatal blood clot, my Mom may not have shared her August 6th memories with me. The blood clot caused nerve damage and I spent months learning how to use my left leg again after being diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome(CRPS). CRPS is a neurological pain disorder in which the autoimmune system attacks itself along with the sympathetic nervous system. Physicians have said it’s possibly a result of the radiation my mom was exposed to, which weakened my immune system.

After my hospitalization, I needed help to care for myself and my then 4-year-old daughter while my husband worked during the day. My parents helped me with that. During that time, my mother began revealing what happened on August 6th. A momentous occasion because she hadn’t discussed her experience of the atomic bombing with anyone. In fact, I was nine-years-old when she first told me she was born in Hiroshima, not Tokyo.  And when she told me, it was still too painful to discuss it further. She also asked me not to tell anyone. Twenty-two years later, she released these painful, horrific memories with each passing day of my recovery.

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At first, I had thought it was cathartic for her to finally be able to say it out loud, cry, be angry and unburden all that simmered within her for over 40 years. I’m a fixer by nature and felt that I could be useful again by being there for her. But as the days turned to weeks and another hospitalization, I sank deeper into depression because CRPS took away the person I used to be. However, my mother helped me to realize that even though she thought of giving up, she was grateful that she didn’t because she had me and a granddaughter she loved more than anything else in the world.  She showed me that despite the tragic events, something wonderful can also happen. She opened her heart to me and by doing that, she opened my path to rediscovering writing. I realized that if my mother had the courage and strength to survive after August 6th, then I could create through my own pain and loss.

I expressed my heart-felt appreciation to her 8 years later when I began writing The Last Cherry Blossom.  After reading one of the drafts, she told me that she finally understood why she survived. She couldn’t or didn’t know how to tell her story, but I could do that for her, for her Papa-for my Japanese family. I’m grateful we could give each other the gift of seeing the beauty in life’s changes as when the last cherry blossom falls.

~ Kathleen Burkinshaw

Kathy-400x565.pngKathleen Burkinshaw is a Japanese American author residing in Charlotte, NC. She’s a wife, mom to a daughter in college, and owns a dog who is a kitchen ninja. She has presented her mother’s experience in Hiroshima to middle and high schools for the past 8 years. Writing historical fiction also satisfies her obsessive love of researching anything and everything. The Last Cherry Blossom, is recently nominated for the NC School Library Media Assoc. YA Book Award,a SCBWI Crystal Kite Award Finalist (southeast region), 2016 & 2018 Scholastic WNDB Reading Club selection, nominated for both the 2018 NC Sir Walter Raleigh Fiction Award and the 2018 Sakura Medal in Japan.

Abby’s Top 4 Books of the Year!

Here are my top 4 favorite books that I read so far.

51UrTYDm5HL-1._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg1. The Peculiar Incident On Shady Street by Lindsay Currie

If you love scary spooky stuff you will love this book. It spooked me out. It is about thisgirl named Tessa who moves into this new house and she thinks the house is haunted but is it really?



51ky-SRzpKL._SX336_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg2. Hilo by Judd Winick

It is about this boy who falls out of the sky and this boy and girl named D.J and Gina who are trying to get Hilo home but he does not know how.



41dshYyYGIL._SX337_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg3.Wonder -by RJ Palacio

It is about this boy with a facial deformity who does not want to go to a school at first but it ends up happening so he goes to school but people bully him. He has a friend named Summer and kind of Jack Will. But this boy named Julian bullies him now.


516KJ8Rsa9L._SX342_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg4.The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

It is about a robot who gets dropped on the shore and then he meets all sorts of animals and he finds a bird with no home so he takes care of him and now he is his mom.



Screen Shot 2018-05-09 at 10.59.16 PMHi! My name is Abby and what I like to do when I am not reading is gymnastics. Also I like to play with my dogs and friends. I also love writing. I like to play on my iPhone 7.


Educator Spotlight: Denise Golden

In the Educator Spotlight today –  5th and 6th grade teacher Denise Golden! 

Please tell us about yourself!

My name is Denise Golden and I am a 5th and 6th grade ELAR teacher in Bigelow, Arkansas. This is my first year to teach 5th grade, but I have taught 6th grade for the last 5 years. I love 6th graders!!! My favorite time of the day is independent reading! I am a firm believer in student choice. I love to read and I am so thankful to be a part of Book Voyage which keeps me up to date on great books and wonderful authors.


What are some of your favorite middle grade books or authors?

Wow! This is a hard question. It changes yearly as I make a shelf of my top 5 favorite reads. The Crossover and Rebound by Kwame Alexander, Finding Perfect by Elly Swartz, Forget Me Not by Ellie Terry, Refugee by Alan Gratz, Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea, Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds, Walking With Miss Millie by Tamara Bundy, and The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling.  I have just recently began reading Harry Potter and I am obsessed!

What was your favorite book as a child? Why did you love it so much?

My favorite book as a child was Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume. I remember my mom buying it for me from a book order when I was in 4th or 5th grade. I loved this book, because I could relate to Margaret. She was in school trying to fit in, growing up wanting her period, and experiencing her first crush.

Who is your favorite fictional teacher?

Mr. Terupt from Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea  I want to be one of his students.

Tell us about your classroom library?

My classroom library is my pride and joy! I am known for it at my school. I have over 1,000 plus books. My room is pretty much wall to wall books. I pride myself on having/keeping an up-to-date current library. I am always buying books, working book orders, and begging for books from my principal. I love it when former students and teachers come to me for books!

What are some must-have books to include in a classroom library?

The must-have books that I am working to add in my library are more diverse books. I know that may sound like a “Sunday School Answer”, but it is important for my students to see themselves in books. Also, graphic novels are a must! The students love them. Yes, they are reading when they are reading graphic novels.

What are the “hot” books in your classroom right now?

The Crossover and Rebound by Kwame Alexander

The Track Series by Jason Reynolds

The Contract Series by Derek Jeter

Forget Me Not by Ellie Terry

Scar Island by Dan Gemeinhart

How do you stay “in the know” about new/upcoming books?

What keeps me “in the know” with books is my wonderful book club, #BookVoyage. It is a book club made up of 10 wonderful teachers from all over the United States. Also, I follow Colby Sharp on social media with his book recommendations, and Pernille Ripp on Instagram is wonderful to recommend books.

Take a picture of something in classroom and tell us the story of it!


This is a picture of my author wall. I love for my students to see pictures of the actual authors of the books they are reading. I want them to see authors are real people and they can be an author. Plus, it raises my “cool” factor when I can say I have met that author! Ha!

IMG_5741.jpgYou can connect with Denise on Twitter at @dgoldenreads .






Want more inspiration? Check out the other #MGEducators interviews and guests posts!






Will you be doing any reading this summer? OF COURSE you will! Why not spice up your reading life by participating in #MGBookVillage’s #MGSummer BINGO!

On the BINGO board below, you’ll see that each square corresponds to a different reading- or book-related challenge. Complete a full five-square line (vertically, horizontally, or diagonally), and you’re a #MGSummer Winner! Complete the whole 25-square board, and you’re a #MGSummer Champion! (Contact a Village administrator in order to get your badge.)

Participants are encouraged to share their progress on social media, but it is not required. If you DO post on Twitter, Instagram, or anywhere else, don’t forget to include the #MGSummer hashtag, so other participants can see what you’re up to.


Happy reading, all!

~Corrina, Jarrett, and Kathie

Fighting Childhood Fear and Trauma with Books and Art

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When I started writing THE BOY, THE BOAT, AND THE BEAST, all I had was a small idea about a boy waking up alone on a beach. I didn’t know what drove this boy or why his story had come to me, but when I got to the final scene, I understood both what the boy was looking for and why it was a story I wanted to tell—the boy’s struggles were my own.

Like many kids, I found much of my childhood challenging. First day of school, making new friends, even being called on in class brought anxiety. I wanted to be the best version of myself and wanted others to like me, but I had all these thoughts swirling around in my head telling me I wasn’t enough, that I’d fail or embarrass myself. Staying invisible seemed like the best course of action.

I couldn’t stay invisible forever, however, so as I grew up, I learnt a few things about believing in myself and quieting the bully in my brain. Many of them I learned from books. All of them I still use today, because that mean voice in my head is hard to silence completely.

That’s why THE BOY, THE BOAT, AND THE BEAST meant so much to me while I was writing it, and means even more now. When I was a kid with a bully in my head, characters in books helped me find strength and taught me ways to be more confident, and I wanted to give kids the same thing. So after the book sold to Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster, I knew I wanted to create a program that could help other kids who are held back by fear and anxiety—a way for kids to learn how to “Make Your Own Courage,” like the boy in the book.

To do this, I turned to my amazing friend Kirsten Cappy of Curious City (, and she, of course, knew the perfect person to help. Kirsten introduced me to Bonnie Thomas, LCSW (, an author and clinical therapist with experience in art therapy.

I was introduced to the power of art therapy when I was a reporter for the Tampa Tribune, when I covered a gallery exhibit of paintings by children who had been through the war in Croatia. The images were stunning, but even more amazing were their stories of healing. Through art—whether it’s drawing, painting, writing, or whatever form of creation that’s speaks to them—a child can more easily express the horrifying emotions they are feeling.

The boy in THE BOY, THE BOAT, AND THE BEAST uses stories to help him be brave, so I knew that art therapy would be perfect for the Make Your Own Courage project. After Bonnie read THE BOY, THE BOAT, AND THE BEAST, she thought so too.

“Children’s literature and stories have always provided rich material for exploring life’s experiences.  In this regard, stories and books are a valuable resource for counselors like myself that work with children—there’s a synergistic union where counseling and storytelling collide, where people can explore the beautiful, magical moments of the human condition,  as well as the heart wrenching, hard to look at, hard to feel experiences,” Bonnie says. “So, when Samantha M Clark contacted me about collaborating on an art therapy project related to THE BOY, THE BOAT, AND THE BEAST, I was instantly interested. The characters, the power of place, and the emotional content of Samantha’s book speaks to some of the rawness, and resiliency, of the human experience, which makes it prime for creative expression and art-based projects. I look forward to sharing this book and the activities with clients.”

Developed by Bonnie and myself, the Make Your Own Courage Art Therapy Project uses the Boy’s story to give adults tools they can use to help the scared kids in their lives. There are two programs: one for clinical therapists and one for parents, teachers, librarians or other caregivers.

Each program offers discussion points from THE BOY, THE BOAT, AND THE BEAST, focusing on what the Boy goes through and tools he uses to combat his fears. Along with each discussion point are fun exercises to help kids work through their own fears.

In the clinical program, the exercises have the potential to get kids to open up about any trauma they have experienced, a crucial step toward healing. Childhood trauma affects people all their lives, often morphing into other emotions, like anger, depression, eating disorders, addictions, and more. Look at this infograph about the impact of childhood trauma on adult disorders.

Through the exercises in the clinical Make Your Own Courage Art Therapy program, therapists can help kids begin to work through their trauma. This program is recommended for use by professional therapists because they can guide the child’s healing with deeper discussion.

In the second Make Your Own Courage Art Therapy program, the discussion points and exercises are designed not to dig into emotional trauma but more to help children see ways to turn their anxiety and fears into more positive feelings. This caregivers program is suitable for use by parents, teachers, librarians and other caregivers. As an example of the types of activities in the program, librarians can have children draw a comic where they’re the hero or create their own comfort box.

Writing THE BOY, THE BOAT, AND THE BEAST scared me and stretched me—many times I thought I couldn’t do it—but living the boy’s story helped me push through my negative thoughts of failure and gain confidence in myself and my work. I hope that through the book and the Make Your Own Courage Art Therapy Project by Bonnie and I, readers will find their own strength and hope.

For more information about the Make Your Own Courage Art Therapy program, visit my website at ( You can learn more about Bonnie Thomas here (

Screen Shot 2018-06-16 at 6.38.56 PM.pngSamantha M Clark is the author of THE BOY, THE BOAT, AND THE BEAST (Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster) and has always loved stories about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. After all, if four ordinary brothers and sisters can find a magical world at the back of a wardrobe, why can’t she? While she looks for her real-life Narnia, she writes about other ordinary children and teens who’ve stumbled into a wardrobe of their own. In a past life, Samantha was a photojournalist and managing editor for newspapers and magazines. She lives with her husband and two kooky dogs in Austin, Texas. Samantha is the Regional Advisor for the Austin chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, and explores wardrobes every chance she gets. Sign up for news and giveaways at (

Using Flipgrid to Inspire Readers w/ Nikki Mancini: Books Between, Episode 52

Episode Outline:

Listen to the episode here!


Hi everyone and welcome to Books Between – a podcast to help teachers, parents, and librarians connect kids between 8-12 to books they’ll love.  I’m your host, Corrina Allen – Screen Shot 2018-06-25 at 11.46.05 PMa teacher, a mom of two girls, and finally done with school and on to summer break! I said goodbye to my 22 fifth graders last Friday at their Moving Up Ceremony since they are off to the middle school! And I gave each one of them an end-of-the-year gift which includes a Krazy Straw and a pack of Kool-Aid that I attach to a book. And each of my students gets a different book – one that I have hand-picked for them based on everything I’ve learned from a year of getting to know them as readers and as people. Each June I spend about 2 hours browsing the Syracuse Scholastic Warehouse to select something I think each child would like.  

This is Episode #52 and oday I’m sharing with you a conversation with 5th grader teacher Nikki Mancini. We chat about how to use Flipgrid to inspire readers, and of course, what middle grade books we’ve been reading lately.

Today’s episode is sponsored by MoxieReader – a literacy app that’s like a fitness tracker for your reading life. It gives educators insights into their students’ reading lives, unnamedcustomized recommendations, and a way for kids to set and work toward their own reading goals in a way that is engaging and fun. If you are looking for a way to ditch those reading logs and instead have students track their reading in a more natural way, you will definitely want to check out MoxieReader.  As you recharge and reassess your teaching methods this summer, it’s the perfect time to explore a new tool. So head over to and the use the code welovereading and try it out!

A couple quick announcements for you! Our next episode features Diane Magras – author of the Middle Grade at Heart book club pick The Mad Wolf’s Daughter. The July pick is Just Under the Clouds and I’ll be chatting with author Melissa Sarno in a couple days so watch out for that episode.  Where the Watermelons Grow is the August pick and for those of you that like plan out even further – we are reading The House That Lou Built for September. And… the Middle Grade at Heart Book Club now has a Flipgrid!  I’ll drop a link to that in the show notes – along with the password so you can join the conversation and hear directly from the authors.

MG@Heart Flipgrid:

Password: mg@heart

Also, our Monday night #MGBookChat Twitter chats have been awesome!  Some of our upcoming topics include graphic novels, building classroom libraries, and the importance of refugee stories. So set a reminder for Mondays at 9pm EST and check out #MGBookChat for great conversations between educators, librarians, and authors about how to get great books into the hands of middle grade readers!    

For me, Twitter has been an incredible positive influence on my teaching life – connecting me with amazing and inspiring educators across the globe. And one of those PxJLxySl_400x400educators is Nikki Mancini – who you may know as @missnikkiin5th. I kept seeing her talk about this thing called Flipgrid and finally I was like – you know what? I’ve got to invite her on the show.  I knew that Flipgrid could be a powerful tool, but I had some questions and figured you all might find value in that conversation as well.

After we chatted, I decided to try it out this summer. Because, I had the opportunity this year to meet my incoming 5th graders!  So, I could do what I’ve never done before – I
opened up my classroom library and let them take home 2 or 3 (or more!) books to enjoy for the summer. And along with their books, I send them home with a sheet explaining how to access our Flipgrid and posted two topics – one to introduce ourselves and one to share our summer reading!  Before the day was done I had two kids already submitting videos and whoa – I am just brimming with ideas about how to harness this for next year and expand it even further! And I hope this conversation leaves you excited as well. Plus – right after we recorded this conversation, Flipgrid announced that it is now FREE for educators! Oh yeah!

Alright – take a listen…

Nikki Mancini – Interview Outline


Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

What is Flipgrid and how did you first find out about it?flipgrid

Beyond the author element, what are some other projects or uses for  Flipgrid that you have done with your students?

What would you suggest for some quick, easy ways to get started with Flipgrid?

Where would you suggest people go to get more information about Flipgrid?

What are some things you’ve been doing this year in your classroom that you’ve been excited about?

What are your plans for next year?


Nikki’s website –

Nikki on Twitter

NerdCampNJ –

Nikki’s Author Connection Flipgrid:

Information about Flipgrid:

Educator & Student Info about Flipgrid:

Flipgrid Inspiration:

Flipgrid on Twitter and #FlipgridFever

Jewell Parker Rhode’s conversation about Ghost Boys on The Children’s Book Podcast


Books & Authors We Chatted About:

Smart Cookie and Finding Perfect (Elly Swartz)

Kat Green Comes Clean (Melissa Roske)

Babysitting Nightmares: The Shadow Hand (Kat Shepherd)

Amal Unbound (Aisha Saeed)

Daring Dreamers Club Series (Erin Soderberg)

The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street (Lindsay Currie)

Ghost Boys (Jewell Parker Rhodes)

Stanley Will Probably Be Fine (Sally J. Pla)

Someday Birds (Sally J. Pla)

Rules (Cynthia Lord)


Alright, that wraps up our show this week!

If you have a question about how to connect kids between 8-12 to books they’ll love or a suggestion about a topic we should cover, I would love to hear from you. You can email me at or message me on Twitter/Instagram at the handle @Books_Between.

Books Between is a proud member of the Education Podcast Network. This network EPN_badgefeatures podcasts for educators, created by educators. For more great content visit

Thank you so much for joining me this week. You can get an outline of interviews and a full transcript of all the other parts of our show at And, if you are liking the show, please leave us some love on iTunes or Stitcher so others can discover us as well.

Thanks and see you soon!  Bye!


Corrina Allen is a 5th grade teacher in Central New York and mom of two energetic tween girls. She is passionate about helping kids discover who they are as readers.

Corrina is the host of Books Between – a podcast to help teachers, parents, and librarians connect children between 8 and 12 to books they’ll love.

Find her on Twitter at @corrinaaallen or Instagram at @Corrina_Allen.



Takedowns and RPGs: Middle School Girl Athletes Rock And We’ve Got The Texts To Prove it!

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Have you ever wondered what it would be like if characters from different books met each other? MG Book Village Author Friends  Laura Shovan (The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary) and Denis Markell (Click Here To Start) were telling each other about their upcoming books (Laura’s Takedown and Denis’ The Game Masters Of Garden Place) when they realized that both novels featured athletic girls who seemed like they might be friends in real life. What could be more fun than to create a conversation between these two fierce and lovable sporty girls?

So imagine if you will that you’re Mikayla Delgado, getting ready for wrestling practice, when your phone buzzes, and you see this…

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Laura Shovan’s debut middle grade novel, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, was an NCTE 2017 Notable Verse Novel, a Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Book of the year, and won a Cybils Award for poetry. It was named the Arnold Adoff Poetry Award for New Voices honor book in 2018. Laura’s second children’s novel, Takedown, is about the first girl to join an all-boys wrestling team. Laura lives with her family in Maryland, where she is a longtime poet-in-the-schools for the Maryland State Arts Council.


Screen Shot 2018-06-18 at 9.54.56 PM.pngDenis Markell, although not a games master himself, has been telling stories for most of his professional career. His stories have been featured in Off-Broadway Musicals and Revues, in sitcoms, and even in an episode of the legendary animated series ThunderCats. His own story took fantastic turn when he met and married the illustrator Melissa Iwai, with whom he has created two picture books, The Great Stroller Adventure and Hush, Little Monster. His debut novel, Click Here To Start (Delacorte Press), was a Junior Library Guild Selection and an Amazon Best Book of the Month. His next book, The Game Masters Of Garden Place (Delacorte Press) will be published in July of 2018. (Photo by Nelson Hancock)