#HappyPottermas Part 2, Bridging the Gap: Books Between, Episode 64

Episode Outline:

Listen to the episode here!


Hi everyone! And welcome to Books Between – a podcast for teachers, parents, librarians, and anyone who wants to connect kids between 8-12 to books they will love for a lifetime.

I’m your host, Corrina Allen – a mom of a 9 and 11 year old, a teacher, and recently – staying up way too late wrapping presents and watching cheesy Netflix holiday specials like The Princess Switch and The Holiday Calendar. And apparently losing my voice a bit – it seems a tad scratchy tonight.

I believe in the power of the right story at the right time to transform you into a different kind of reader. And a different kind of person. And Harry Potter is that one series that seems to have accomplished that for so many.

In today’s special #HappyPottermas episode you’ll hear some clips from a variety of kids, parents, educators, and authors about what Harry Potter has meant to them.

And then I’ll share with you a conversation with one of the founders of #HappyPottermas and the MGBookVillage website, author Jarrett Lerner and – David Marsh – and educator and the creative force behind the LEGO Batman Book Talks on YouTube.

Main Topic – #HappyPottermas Audio Submissions

  • Katelynn Giordano (@Mrs_Giordano), 6th Grade English Teacher
  • Stephanie Lucianovic (@grubreport) –  author of The End of Something Wonderful: A Practical Guide to a Backyard Funeral  and Hello Star
  • Rajani LaRocca (@rajanilarocca) – author of Midsummer’s Mayhem and 7 Golden Rings
  • Jazz Anders (@snazzsinclair) – student, Kid YouTuber Snazzy Reads
  • Amber Stivers Anders – library aid, Jazz’s mom
  • Karen Chow (@KChowrites) – author, contributor at MG @ Heart

Jarrett Lerner & David Marsh – Interview Outline


Our special guests this week are author Jarrett Lerner and educator David Marsh. We talk about the influence of Harry Potter, our favorite books, the movie adaptations – among lots and lots of other things!

Take a listen…

Topics we chatted about

  • Introductions
  • How Harry Potter first came into our lives
  • Growing up with Harry Potter
  • Skipping the beginning chapters of The Sorcerer’s Stone
  • Favorite characters
  • Pottermore
  • Favorite book
  • Movies vs. Books
  • Adult appeal of Harry Potter
  • Harry Potter merch
  • Harry Potter sorting
  • Prizoner of Azkaban movie
  • DtqAMiAVAAAoyAY.jpg-large
    David’s Harry Potter swag!



Jarrett Lerner on Twitter – @Jarrett_Lerner

David Marsh on Twitter – @Davidmarsh80

The Harry Potter books

Pottermore website

Tight (by Torrey Maldonado)

The Bicycle Spy (Yona Zeldis McDonough)

Skylark and Wallcreeper (Anne O’Brien Carelli)

Oathbringer: Book Three of the Stormlight Archive (Brandon Sanderson)

Stella Diaz Has Something to Say (Angela Dominguez)

We’re Not From Here (Geoff Rodkey)


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 booksbetween@gmail.com or message me on Twitter/Instagram at the handle @Books_Between.

Books Between is a proud member of the Lady Pod Squad and the Education Podcast Network. This network features podcasts for educators, created by educators. For more great content visit edupodcastnetwork.com

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 MGBookVillage.org. 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.




Between a Reader and a Writer: What Happens When You Don’t Enjoy a Book

Kathie: I want to thank you so much for doing this post with me. I really feel like we’re part of an amazing, supportive kitlit community, but I wanted to find a way to discuss some topics with candor that I really think will help others who might have these questions, but are afraid to talk about them.

Jarrett: Thank you for proposing it and for inviting me to be a part of it. I love the idea behind it, and agree that it could be really beneficial — for us, and for the community at large. Let’s get to it!

Kathie: You and I frequently discuss how not every book is meant for every reader. We encourage kids to read what they love, and abandon books when they don’t enjoy them. Both of us do that on a regular basis.

Jarrett: Yes — and I think that’s an important thing for kids to not only intellectually understand, but also have the confidence to practice. Something I’ve been thinking about more and more lately is the fact that many (if not most) kids aren’t always going to have other “book people” in their lives to thoughtfully, caringly point them in the direction of their next book (or even physically put that book in their hands!). The goal of so much of education is independence. How is a kid supposed to be able to navigate a bookstore or library if we haven’t encouraged them to develop their reading identity, to embrace and spend time reading what they love and to not to feel badly if something isn’t right for them? Forcing or otherwise compelling kids to read books they have no interest in or actively dislike can permanently turn them off from reading. What should be a joyful, productive experience gets tainted by boredom, frustration, and even shame.

Kathie: That’s an excellent point. Many middle and high school kids are turned off reading because they are forced to read books that don’t speak to them, and then analyze them to death. I’d really like to see them encouraged to independently choose books, and to do writing projects based more on themes than on a certain book. I also think they need to be introduced to more of the wonderful YA books that are out there right now, with their timely content, than just the classics. But that’s a whole different topic for another time.

Kathie’s fondest book-related memory from her childhood is curling up in a chair with her mom reading alternate pages of Anne of Green Gables.
She runs the children’s department in a rural public library in Manitoba, Canada, where she lives with her husband and daughter. She is a member of the Manitoba Young Readers’ Choice Awards (MYRCA) Committee, and is passionate about sharing her love for middle grade literature.
Find her on Twitter @kmcmac74 and on Instagram  @the_neverending_stack.

Jarrett: Yes! That’s such an exciting idea. Imagine how much more productive and beneficial it would be if a student were allowed to write a report on a book of their choosing. I know that might not always be practical in a classroom setting. But maybe there’s a happy medium. Maybe instead of assigning a single book, an educator could present, say, a dozen choices, and let students decide which one to dive deeply into. I am sympathetic to the pressures and constraints educators face, and know that many large-scale changes need to be made so they can have the freedom to be more creative in their assignments. It’s one of the reasons I’m so appreciative and in awe of those educators who, despite these pressures and constraints, strive to make every day in the classroom enjoyably, excitingly productive.

And yeah — let’s definitely save that “classics” discussion for another one of these chats! I think it’d be a good one!

Kathie: I also want to say that there are many reasons that a reader might not like a book, and sometimes they have absolutely nothing to do with the quality of writing. For example, I read an eARC of a novel in verse by an author I love, but there are often many issues with the formatting in eARCs. This greatly affected the flow and negatively impacted my experience with the book, but had nothing to do with the writing in any way. The reader’s mood can also affect whether or not they enjoyed a book. I set aside a book I abandoned this summer when I just couldn’t get it to it, but I loved it when I picked it up again this fall. So many factors affect how a reader feels about a book.

Jarrett: And think about all the things that could get in the way of a kid’s enjoyment of a book! Childhood and adolescence are marked by periods of such rapid development, and that development is so often accompanied by emotional turmoil. It can be like riding a roller coaster! Concentrating on a book can be a monumental task when you’re riding that roller coaster. (Which, by the way, is all the more reason we should have kids reading books that actually interest them — it’ll increase the chances they put in the effort to concentrate on them!) As adults, we have much more practice and skill when it comes to setting aside whatever else is going on in our lives or heads and focusing on a book, and even then we can’t always do it!

Kathie: As a reviewer, authors often know that I have an ARC of their book, and I’m never sure how to respond when I haven’t enjoyed their book. I usually stay silent, but I still want to support the author. What are some ways that reviewers can support the person, but not that particular book? (Do you retweet or share their news?)

Jarrett: I think this also comes down to the difference between intellectually understanding something and actually, in practice, being okay with it. We all know that not every book is for every reader, and I think we all know that’s a good thing. But obviously, when feelings get involved, when it’s your book that you’ve spent years working on, it can be difficult to remember that.

I think the key here is to distinguish between a book that isn’t for you and a book that, more objectively, isn’t good. For instance, a book that perpetuates stereotypes — that’s something that you clearly don’t want to support in any manner. But how about a book that is, say, a little too science fiction-y for your personal taste? It might not be for you, but if you can imagine another reader — a science fiction fan — really enjoying it, then I think there are ways to promote and celebrate it. I do my best to read widely, to be as knowledgeable as possible about the books already out there, and to stay aware of what’s coming soon. If I’m at a school visit, it’s important to me to be able to recommend books for every kind of reader.

Lerner_author photo
Thanks to a pair of bookish parents and older siblings, Jarrett discovered the wonders and delights of reading and writing at an early age. He hasn’t stopped doing either ever since. His first-ever book project was a comic book about a family of ducks, titled “The Ducks.” Now he writes about farting robots, belching knights, and other very serious matters. You can find his first book, EngiNerds, wherever books are sold. That book’s sequel, Revenge of the EngiNerds, hits shelves February 19, 2019.
Find him online at www.jarrettlerner.com and on Twitter @Jarrett_Lerner.

Kathie: Yes! I frequently recommend books at the library that I don’t personally enjoy, but that I know a certain reader will like. I can appreciate a good book even if I’m not the right reader for it.

Jarrett: Exactly. And not every book review has to be about loving or being moved by or connecting deeply with a book. A review can say, more simply, “This book is (a), (b), and (c), and it would be great for fans of (x), (y), and (z).” That is a hugely valuable review. I’d even argue that it might be more valuable than a review that focuses more on the reviewer’s personal love for a book.

And as you mentioned, there are ways to support a person and what they have to offer readers, even if you don’t personally love their books. In my mind, retweets and shares don’t imply the latter. If a person is doing good work, you can give them a boost without, say, telling everyone to run out and get their book.

Kathie: That’s very helpful, thanks for the perspective. Now, can we talk about the fact that a 3 star review is NOT a bad review?

Jarrett: Hahaha, you really want to open this can of worms with an AUTHOR?!

Kathie: Yes! If there’s one thing as a reviewer I’d like an author to understand, it’s that a ⅗ rating still means I liked the book. I don’t publicly discuss any book less than 3 stars, and I don’t even give it a Goodreads rating, but a 3 is still a positive review in the eyes of many reviewers I know.

Jarrett: I get it! And I agree! My own reviewing has changed substantially in the past few years. I think I review less personally these days. I used to focus much more on what a book did for me, and now I tend to focus on what a book can do for other readers — in particular, obviously, the kids the books are (or should be) intended for. Because of that, I tend to give lots and lots of 5-star reviews — because I believe that the book, in the right reader’s hands, could be their everything. I tend to share my personal reactions for social media. If I’m going wild about a book on Twitter and/or Instagram, then you’ll know it resonated with me in a more personal, subjective way.

It’s a strange and exciting time we live in, where, thanks to things like Goodreads and Twitter and Instagram, we can see what everyone’s reading and what they think of it and how many stars they gave it. This, combined with the fact that the kid lit community is, for the most part, overwhelmingly warm and supportive and positive, makes any review that isn’t a 5-star rave seem sort of negative. Things are complicated further when there’s so much interaction between book creators and book consumers. I also sort of think the 5-star system detracts from some of reviews’ nuance. Those stars, however many they are, can become the focus, when really it should be a reader’s thoughts and reflections and recommendations that should be.

I also think that authors shouldn’t be reading their reviews. And if they can’t help it — and I understand that! — they should do their best not to obsess over it. It’s not productive, and there’s nothing they can do about it. And, I mean, they signed up for this! We all know that once we put a book out there in the world, it ceases to become only ours. It’s just as much our readers’ book.

Maybe to help add some of the nuance back to the 5-star system, we can share what these ratings mean to us?

Kathie: Sure! Here is the rating system that I use:

5 stars: This book is absolutely amazing, I loved it!

4 stars: This was a really great read

3 stars: I liked this book

2 stars: This book was OK

1 star: This book was pretty awful

I carefully curate my TBR pile, so many of the books I read I’ve chosen because I know I’ll like them. I give a lot of 4 and 5 stars ratings; it seems like I enjoy everything I read, but that’s not the case. I only publicly share anything above 3 stars, so you’re only seeing the positive side of my reading life. It’s not a realistic look at what I read, and many reviewers are like that. Like we said earlier, I abandon books on a regular basis. I have a 60 page rule, and if you haven’t hooked me by that point, I’m usually on to the next book.

Jarrett: Do you get nervous when you post a review that isn’t 5-stars and/or a rave? Has worry about an author’s potential reaction ever kept you from sharing?

Kathie: Yes, it absolutely makes me uncomfortable, especially if it’s a book I’ve been really excited to read and I only gave it 4 stars. I do worry about author reactions, which is why I only focus on the positive aspects of the book, and don’t write an actual objective review. I realize I’m much more comfortable as a book cheerleader than a book reviewer because of the many connections I have with authors through the Village. I would rather support authors than analyze their books, so I’m still developing a role that works for me.

Jarrett: This is all so fascinating, and I’m so grateful that you, and other people like you, put so much care and thought into the sharing of books with others. As an author, I’m always so grateful that someone has even chosen to spend a chunk of their time reading my book. Anything they do beyond that is like icing on an already-awesome cake — even if all they do is say what the book is about and that it wasn’t for them. I try to keep that in mind when I happen to see a review that isn’t so great.

The only reviews that authors really have a right to be upset about, in my opinion, are those negative ones from people who clearly (at times even admittedly) haven’t read the book. I’ve seen some 1 star reviews that say, “What a stupid title,” or, “This looks bad.” THAT is a bummer. But if someone has taken the time to read your book and put in the effort to give some honest feedback — that’s awesome.

And speaking of awesome — “only” 4 stars, Kathie?! 4 stars is GREAT! That means you thought a book was “a really great read!” I hope any authors out there who might initially get upset about anything less than 5 stars on a review might reflect on all of what you’ve shared here. Thank you for sharing it all.

Kathie: Good point, and THANK YOU! I’m so glad we did this post, it was really thought-provoking and helped me see things from a different perspective. I look forward to doing this again with you soon!

Shoes…and Thoughts on Point of View

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about shoes. Not as in, those cute fringed boots I bought this past fall, but as in, can we truly ever walk around in another person’s shoes? Is it actually possible to experience and view a situation through someone else’s eyes? I have to admit, with so much divisiveness and disagreement in our country right now, I fear the answer is no, not really.

And this worries me. Sometimes keeps me up at night. I reason with myself in the dark as I toss and turn: well, if we aren’t able to be in another person’s shoes, feel what they feel, we can at least listen, and try to empathize as best we can, right? But not only have many people stopped listening to each other these days, more importantly, it seems we’ve forgotten how to compromise. And what worries me most is that our kids are witnessing this. What kind of example are we setting?

Several years ago, I got an idea for a middle grade novel that would eventually become Ethan Marcus Stands Up (Simon & Schuster/Aladdin 2017). A super-fidgety boy who’s fed up with sitting in school all day (he gets Sponge Bob butt) attempts to invent a device so kids can stand at their classroom desks. He’s never invented anything, and that’s not his skill set, but he’s determined and perseveres in spite of numerous fails. The idea was initially sparked when I was helping my son review for a science test. He needed to jog around our family room while answering questions because, as he told me, his brain works better when he’s moving.

Ethan Marcus Stands Up - Hurwitz.jpg

Anyway, I dove right in and started writing. In the first ten or so drafts, I narrated the story solely from the main character Ethan’s point of view. But draft after draft, something was missing, and I couldn’t figure out how to make it right.

I grew frustrated. I tried everything I could think of to fix the story, and almost abandoned the project. But one day, while procrastinating on social media, I got caught up in reading people’s argumentative back and forth comments on a particularly volatile post. It struck me how strongly, how vehemently, each person had interpreted the exact same situation in a completely different way. And sadly, no one was even attempting to understand anyone else. Their way, their opinion, was the way it was. I felt utterly disheartened. This is what we’ve become. Everyone firmly in their own shoes.

But then I remembered one of my favorite passages from To Kill A Mockingbird. It’s when Atticus says to Scout:

“If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” 

Talk about words of wisdom. That sat with me for a while, and then – lightning bolt. Not to make the leap from To Kill A Mockingbird to my measly little middle grade novel draft, but I suddenly knew what was missing. Shoes. Skin. Ethan shouldn’t tell the whole story, because he can’t. Each character needed to interpret situations from their own lens, and I realized I wanted this to be a pivotal theme of the story.

I put aside every previous draft and started fresh, writing the novel with five alternating points of view, sometimes with several or even all of them in one chapter. I drew from the back and forth commentary on social media posts (without the nastiness), having each character give his or her take on the same events and experiences.

In the first chapter, Ethan stands up during language arts and protests the agonizing constant sitting because, “It felt like if I didn’t get up that very second, I was going to explode. I thought about trying to explain (to Mr. Delman but) I knew my reasons wouldn’t matter to him. Stuff like that doesn’t matter to a row kind of guy.”

Ethan’s sister Erin (in the same class) has a completely different analysis “My brother’s gone insane. That’s the only explanation I can come up with. Out of nowhere, Ethan stood up and started arguing with Mr. Delman, saying something about a protest. I almost dropped my mechanical pencil. Let me clarify here that Ethan got a C-minus in social studies last year. I’m willing to bet that he never read the chapter on the famous demonstrations in history, so how could he even know what a protest is?”

Their friends Brian and Zoe have different takes on the experience, too. Through the book, one of the most interesting aspects is how everyone assumes mysterious Wesley is a bully. Rumors abound about his past, he looks mean and gives off a menacing vibe, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. He has secrets. All the kids do. But they see what they think they see in each other, and make judgements based on that.

I knew I wanted to illustrate that part of each character’s journey would be to realize, understand, and finally, appreciate that not everyone draws the same conclusions, even if they were in the same place together, watching the exact same scene unfold.

I carried this theme further in the sequel, Ethan Marcus Makes His Mark, released last month (Simon & Schuster/Aladdin). I added narration from Marlon, a genius and also on the spectrum. His literal, black and white observations are simply how he makes sense of the world around him, but they are misinterpreted by Erin, and she fumes every time he’s near. He told her that boys are better than girls at science because at the previous year’s school invention day, three boys won. He was referring to one instance, but she took it as a blanket statement. Marlon and Erin. Those dang shoes again.

EM Makes His Mark final 1.jpg

Throughout the first, and more completely the second book, both Ethan and Erin, as well as the other characters, learn to accept each other’s opposing outlooks and thrive because of them, eventually realizing they have way more similarities than differences. At the end of the second book, that’s what helps the kids finally succeed at making their invention.

I couldn’t help but include some shoe references in both books. Erin wears her mom’s too-big heels to an invention camp, believing she’ll look more professional, but then she trips and falls, smashing into Marlon and creating a huge, embarrassing scene. Another character, Connor, has a giant hole in the toe of his sneaker, which Erin is initially annoyed by, but Connor’s the one who calmly gathers the group and mediates their disagreements.

In this season of giving, my wish is that we all learn to better understand and appreciate each other’s different viewpoints. It may be difficult to truly experience the world from another person’s shoes, but that doesn’t mean we can’t keep trying. I have a new pair of cute, fringed boots if anyone would like to give it a try.

Michele Weber Hurwitz 1.jpg


Michele Weber Hurwitz is the author of Calli Be Gold, The Summer I Saved the World…in 65 Days (both Penguin Random House/Wendy Lamb Books), Ethan Marcus Stands Up, and Ethan Marcus Makes His Mark (both Simon & Schuster/Aladdin). Find her on Twitter @MicheleWHurwitz, and on Instagram @micheleweberhurwitz. Her website is micheleweberhurwitz.com. She lives in the Chicago area with her husband and three children. Ice cream is always welcome.

STEM Tuesday Spin Off: Recess Edition

StemLogo-SpinOff (1)


Today we continue the  STEM Tuesday Spin-Off guest blogger addition to the MG Book Village blog. As you will recall, members of the STEM Tuesday group at From the Mixed-Up Files…of Middle Grade Authors will share a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) post that ties middle grade STEM books, resources, and the STEM Tuesday weekly posts to the familiar, everyday things in the life of middle graders.

We’ll look at the things in life we often take for granted. We’ll peek behind the curtain and search underneath the hood for the STEM principles involved and suggest books and/or links to help build an understanding of the world around us. The common, everyday thing will be the hub of the post and the “spin-offs” will be the spokes making up our wheel of discovery. As  STEM Tuesday Craft & Resources contributor, Heather L. Montgomery often says, we’ll “Go deep!” on a common subject and take a look at its inherent STEM components.

For this second post, we will take a closer look at something that hopefully every middle grader gets to experience once a day and why it’s important:



The Hub: Recess

Spoke #1:  Get Outside/See the World

School is a great place to learn all kinds of interesting things about STEM. Topics might include how earthquakes occur and how mountains are made (plate tectonics), information about the newest Mars Lander, and even a peek into the world of nanotechnology. But sometimes the best type of learning for STEM is hands on. Recess is a great way to experience science up close and personal.

Take a look at the ecosystem around your school. How would you classify it? Is it a forest? A grassland? A swamp?

Here is a great resource to check what you find:

Type of Environmental Ecosystems by Sciencing.com

Check out this book for information, too.

The Wondrous Workings of Planet Earth by Rachel Ignotofsky

To get more info about the science outside that is all around you (and above you), maybe try one of these books:

Spoke #2: Being Healthy

Being active means being healthy. Moving about and exercising is a great way to stay active. Recess is the perfect time to run, jump rope, do cartwheels, or just walk around. When we exercise, our heart rates increase and blood pumps just a little faster throughout our body, giving us energy and increasing our lung power. Movement allows your muscles to stretch and bend, keeping them toned and fit. Exercise creates lots of chemical interactions within your body, which of course, is part of life science.


Website resource:  The Many Benefits of Exercise on KidsHealth.org

Other books that might inform/inspire you to exercise:


Spoke #3: Sports and Games

Let’s face it, recess is all about the games! Whether you play soccer, volleyball, or even tag, you are moving about and having fun.  Studies show that many kids love playing sports. Sports teach us a lot about how to interact with others. It helps with coordination and fitness, and sports are just plain fun. What is your favorite sport to play?


Website resource: Sports Illustration Kids

Sports books that will fascinate you with fun facts and cool kid athletes



Spoke #4: Olympics

If you want to take the sports topic even further, take a look at one of the ultimate worldwide sporting competitions: The Olympics! These athletes spend their entire days training for their specific event. It might be running, skiing, sledding, or even table tennis. Working hard to meet and athletic goal is a great quality. And you’d be surprised how much science goes into all that training (or maybe not. After all, you probably understand by now that science is ALL around you!)


Here’s a great resource for those interested in the science behind the Olympics

Science of the Olympic Winter Games by NBC Learn

Check out these books for more about the science and the people behind the Olympics:

Spoke #5: Helps You Relax

Even if you can’t get outside for recess, because of the weather, it’s still good to take a break during the day. I find myself writing for hours at the computer. Then when I get up, it’s hard to move because my muscles have been still for so long. Moving about, even if you aren’t running or jumping, is still a good thing. But recess, is not just good for your muscles, it’s also good for your brain to take a break. Maybe you just stretch in place. Or perhaps you do some yoga poses. Give it a try.  Close your eyes and clear your mind. Take a deep breath and let it out. Do you feel yourself relaxing? You should.



Website resource: Science Shows the Meditation Helps Children’s Brains and Behaviors 

Spoke #6:  Physics/Forces and Motion

Movement at recess is related to one of the most basic ideas in the universe: physics. Physics, specifically forces and motion, comes into play every time we move. Remember Newton’s Laws? Those three statements that tell you how every object behaves? They totally apply to recess. You get on the swing and start moving your legs back and forth. That causes your body to go forward and backwards. Yep. That’s Newton’s Law #3, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Why do you keep swinging when you stop moving your legs? Newton’s First Law: An object in motion tends to stay in motion, unless acted upon by an outside force.  I told you, science, is EVERYWHERE.



Website Resource: A whole host of blog pages on how Forces and Motion work by Physics4Kids.com 

A fun look at physics and how it affects us:


As we can see by taking a closer look at an everyday event like recess, STEM is ALL around us. Next time you go outside, walk down the hallway, or just sit in your classroom take a look at your surroundings. I bet you will find TONS of science, technology, engineering and math in your sight. You are even sitting on an object created by STEM right now (hint: your chair!)

So Be Curious.. and observe… and you will see that STEM is EVERYWHERE! Don’t forget to check out STEM Tuesday for more great STEM book and activities ideas!

Jen Author Photo-2017 Jennifer Swanson is the creator and administrator of STEM Tuesday blog. She is also the award-winning author of over 35 nonfiction books for kids. When not writing, she spends her day at the beach, chasing her dog in the waves and looking for science amidst the sand. You find more information about Jennifer and her books on her website www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com


Happy Birthday to the MG Book Village!

MGBV logo

Can you believe it?! It’s our first birthday! The MG Book Village has been around for one full year!

The site has grown in ways we never could’ve imagined, thanks in large part to the input, feedback, and contributions of YOU — the members of this wonderful kid lit community. We just wanted to take this opportunity to thank every one of you, and to once again encourage you to get involved. You can send thoughts, suggestions, and ideas to us at mgbookvillage@gmail.com or on social media. We look forward to continuing to celebrate and discuss all things Middle Grade in the coming months and years.

The Electric Eighteens’ 2018 Mega Year-End Giveaways

As 2018 draws to a close, this year’s MG and YA debuts wish to thank the teachers and librarians who have been such important friends during our debut journey. We’re giving away a full set of 25 middle grade debuts and 44 young adult ones, each to a lucky classroom or school library. All you have to do is follow the requirements for the giveaway you’d like to enter (no purchase necessary, just social media stuff). Thank you for being there with us!

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Click here for more information about the MG giveaway!

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Click here for more information about the YA giveaway!

#HappyPottermas Part 1, A Conversation Across the Pond: Books Between, Episode 63

Episode Outline:

Listen to the episode here!


Hi everyone! And welcome to Books Between – a podcast for teachers, parents, librarians, and anyone who wants to connect kids between 8-12 to books they will love for a lifetime.

I’m your host, Corrina Allen – a mom of two tweens, a 5th grade teacher, a Ravenclaw, and celebrating all things Harry Potter this month! I believe in the power of stories to give us the language and situations to help us identify and make sense of what is wonderful in our world. And give us the words and the way to fight against the injustices we see. And few books do that better than Harry Potter. Across generations parents and educators who grew up inspired by Rowling’s stories are sharing the books with the children in their lives.

In today’s episode you’ll hear some short clips from a variety of librarians, and parents, and educators, and authors about how much the series has meant to them.  And the special moments in their lives that were made a little more magical by Harry Potter.Ds2bST1XcAABnFm

And then I’ll share with you a lenghtier conversation from across the pond where I chat with two of the founders of #HappyPottermas – Annaliese Avery from Suffolk in the UK and Lorie Barber from Chicago in the U.S.

Defintely check out #HappyPottermas on Twitter and all the Monday night #MGBookChat topics throughout December will be all about Harry Potter! And I really would love to hear YOUR thoughts about Harry Potter as well So, if you are interested in being featured on this podcast later in December, just check out the link posted in the show notes, which includes very quick and easy instructions on to submit an audio clip to me. And I can’t wait to hear from you!

Main Topic – #HappyPottermas Audio Submissions



Funk Harry Potter Wedding Cake
Josh Funk’s Harry Potter wedding cake!

Annaliese Avery & Lorie Barber – Interview Outline

Our special guests this week are Annaliese Avery and Lorie Barber – two of the founders of #HappyPottermas!  We talk about Harry Potter inspired advocacy, the challenges of friendship trios, and the our thoughts about the new Fantastic Beast movies.

Take a listen…

Topics we chatted about

  • Introductions
  • How Harry Potter first came into our lives
  • The origins of #HappyPottermas
  • Harry Potter ushering in a golden age of children’s books
  • Harry Potter fueled activism
  • Flawed characters & friendship trios
  • Teaching Harry Potter
  • Complicated characters in Harry Potter
  • The Crimes of Grindlewold / The Fantastic Beast movies
  • The Harry Potter books vs. the movies
  • The Cursed Child
  • Sorting in Schools
  • Harry Potter in the UK vs. Harry Potter in the U.S
  • Looking at Harry Potter through a critical lens

Some pics from Lorie’s classroom!


Annaliese Avery on Twitter – @AnnalieseAvery

Lorie Barber on Twitter – @BarberChicago

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Jess Lifshitz on Twitter – @Jess5th

The Harry Potter Alliance

A Monster Calls

The Harry Potter books

The Cursed Child

Pottermore website


Okay, that wraps up our show this week!  Remember to check out #HappyPottermas throughout December for some magical fun and remember to send in your own audio submission for a future episode.

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 booksbetween@gmail.com or message me on Twitter/Instagram at the handle @Books_Between.

Books Between is a proud member of the Lady Pod Squad and the Education Podcast Network. This network features podcasts for educators, created by educators. For more great content visit edupodcastnetwork.com


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.

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 MGBookVillage.org. 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!