How to Rock Your Read Aloud & a Conversation w/ Colby Sharp: Books Between, Episode 45

Episode Outline:

Listen to the episode here!


Hi everyone and welcome to the Books Between Podcast! I believe in the power of stories to connect us to others in our world.  My goal is to help you connect kids with incredible books and share inspiring conversations with the authors and educators who make that magic happen.  Every other Monday, I bring you book talks, interviews, and ideas for getting great books into the hands of kids between 8-12.

I am Corrina Allen – a mom of an 8 and 10 year old, a 5th grade teacher, and now making multiple visits to the orthodontist for both of my daughters. Farewell popcorn and hello palate expanders!

This is Episode #45 and Today I’m discussing some ideas to make your read alouds even better and then sharing with you a conversation with educator Colby Sharp about The Creativity Project!

Two quick announcements. First, the March MG at Heart Book Club pick is The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street and the April book is The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson. So adjust your TBR pile if you want to join us for those conversations later this spring.  And remember that #MGBookMarch is going strong this month, and I have been so inspired by all of your responses. If you haven’t yet, I hope you’ll jump into the conversation!

How to Rock Your Read Aloud

41oQ29LcQTL._SX400_BO1,204,203,200_Last week, I had to be out of my classroom for three days for special ed meetings and various professional development training. And so I left some short picture books for the sub to read while I was away and the students foisted some of their favorites on them as well. And let me tell you – my students had OPINIONS about those experiences when I got back!  And it got me thinking – it is SO hard to grab a book you’ve never read and be open and vulnerable enough in front of an audience to read it aloud well. It takes some bravery to take those chances to give yourself over to the book. In case you were
wondering, it was
The Book With No Pictures – the incredible book that “tricks” the reader into saying silly things.

So today I am going to share with you some ways that you can rock your read aloud with your students, your own kids, or any group of children. I’ll chat about what to do before,
during, and at the end of your read aloud.  And I’ll read aloud some non-spoilery samples from one of my all-time favorite books – and the one whose
sequel is released tomorrow – The Wild Robot.

Before the read aloud

There are some things you can do to prepare ahead of time to make that read aloud really come to life.

  1.  Pick the right book!

Some books just aren’t that great to read aloud. My daughters asked me to read aloud El Deafo a few years ago and it worked…okay… since they could sit on either side of me and see the illustrations, but I think a whole class read aloud of a whole graphic novel would be tough.  Books with short chapters are really great. Books that have tons of internal thinking or long sections of description can be tough though. Also, some of the classics have tricky sentence structure or difficult vocabulary. Or contain messages or stereotypes that we don’t want to perpetuate anymore. So – look to resources and people you trust for some good recommendations.

  1. Listen to great examples

If you want to improve, listen to other people read aloud to pick up their tricks. And listen to audio books. There are often samples you can listen to on Audible that will give you some ideas of voices to do. Or how to modulate your voice and tone and speed to match the story and the characters. We’ll chat more about that in a bit, but I have learned SO much from Jim Dale’s performance of Harry Potter. And Neil Gaiman’s readings of his novels, or most recently, the masterful performance of The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Robin Miles. Listening to those examples, helped me realize that a good read aloud IS a performance.

  1. Preview the book ahead of time.

It really helps if you’ve at least read the chapter before so you don’t get lost in the sentences. And read it out loud – even if you’re just mouthing it to yourself. Three things to pay attention to: new characters you’ll have to voice, punctuation, and dialogue tags (the part of the sentence that says “she yelled”, or “he said angrily”). I am reading The 516KJ8Rsa9L._SX342_BO1,204,203,200_Wild Robot with my class right now. I’ve read it before so I thought I was all good, but I didn’t skim Chapter 45 first so when we got reintroduced to the otters, I forgot that the first otter speaking was Shelly and so I read it in a low male voice – and so I backed up and reread it in a more female-coded voice. (I could have decided to just have our Shelly have a low voice – sometimes I think it’s good to adjust expectations a bit. But, I’d recommend just being intentional about it.)  Or sometimes the dialogue tag at the end will say, “he whispered.” and oops! I didn’t whisper that. Skimming the chapter ahead of time will help.

  1. Review

When continuing a read aloud of a chapter book, I have found that it’s helpful to do a quick recap of the last section.  In my class, we call this “Previously in The Wild Robot” and I’ll call on a few kids to refresh our memory of what happened and where we left off. And sometimes I’ll even reread the last paragraph or two just to pick back up the threads of the story to get that momentum back. I notice that my Audible app does this automatically – when I stop the book and restart, it goes back about 15 seconds – which is so helpful.

During the read aloud

As you are performing the story, there are three elements that when they are working well, you will have a memorable and awesome read aloud! Those three elements are your voice, your body language, and your audience.

Let’s talk about your voice first because there’s a lot going on here. First of all, project your voice. And probably more than you think you have to. I don’t know about your space, but I am battling a TON of white noise in my classroom – the heater is blowing, the projector is whirring, the class across the hall is making some noise. So you have to cut through all that and angle your mouth further up than maybe you naturally would.

When you are reading aloud a text, you want to try to find the music and rhythm in the language. It’s about how the cadence and inflection of your voice matches the tone of the scene and how the characters are feeling. If it’s something mysterious is happening, add that little question to your voice. If it’s a sad moment, then you’ll want to slow down and maybe read more carefully with that emotion coming through.

For example, on page 58 of The Wild Robot, there is the part where Roz falls down the cliff:

Expressing the right tone is about finding that rhythm, but it’s also about volume. If a character yells – you yell. And whisper those poignant lines so your class leans in to hear them. Use the dramatic slow down. Speed up when there’s energy or a chase or big climatic scene.

And repeat important parts – look up at the kids. Give them a moment to digest and think. Those lines in the book that give you a deep message, that foreshadow something later, that are the heart of the story – repeat them! And maybe emphasize a different word the second time.

Here’s an example from Chapter 37 of The Wild Robot where we first meet a new character – Chitchat the squirrel.

SO in that section, based on the cues of the text – I made my voice bouncy when Chitchat bounces across the lawn and then fast and sort of nervous when she’s talking.

Another hugely important aspect of using your voice to convey meaning is by what most kids call “doing the voices”. That’s often their biggest compliment to an adult who reads out loud to them – that they do the voices well.  And it takes some practice and some planning to figure out how to perform and almost embody those various characters. Something that has really helped me is to think about what actor or actress might be cast in that role and then try to “do” their voice.  In The Wild Robot, I modeled Roz on Alexa. The older goose, Loudwing, was Julia Sweeney for some reason. Here’s an example from Chapter 44, The Runaway:

Now, YOU and the students might not hear those actors in my voice, but it helps me to keep the character’s voice straight and consistent throughout the book. And it gives me ideas of different ways that I could do different voices.

Now let’s talk about your body language!  First of all, move around the room instead of just sitting in one spot. And try gesturing with the hand not holding the book.  If a character is described as doing an action, like pointing, I’ll point. If the author has the character cough or sneeze – do that! And let your facial expressions reflect the tone of the story and mood of the characters. If there’s anxiousness in the description, furrow your brow and curl into yourself.  If they are described as smiling, I’ll smile as I say that part. And you can hear that smile in your voice. The children look for visual cues to understand the text so add a little performance to it.

A last way to really boost the engagement of your students or children during the read aloud is to get them involved in some way.

51JRcqfTfaL-1._SX409_BO1,204,203,200_Shorter picture books are easier to do this with because they can often see the words to say them. My class loves reading the colored words in books like She Persisted or You Don’t Want a Unicorn.

But it’s a bit trickier when you are reading aloud a novel. But – there are some ways to do it.  One idea is to include your audience in some kind of small action.

I remember when I was taking a graduate education class, my professor read us Seedfolks. And I vividly recall her gently placing imaginary seeds into the palms of each of our hands as she read. Just that small little thing brought us into the story, and I’ve never forgotten it.  (It also goes to show that you are never too old to enjoy a read aloud! And that you can get cool ideas by listening to experienced people read out loud.)519mQUtDjYL._SX309_BO1,204,203,200_

In our class, one of the mentor texts we use a lot is Eleven by Sandra Cisneros. And there’s this part where the teacher dumps this nasty old red cottage-cheese-smelling sweater on the desk of one of her students. So, of course when I read it aloud, I mimic dropping that sweater on a student’s desk and then aim the teacher’s dialogue at that kid.

Or one time I was reading a poem where one of the characters got their shoulder bumped by another person, so as I read that part and walked past a student I dipped down and (gently!) bumped their shoulder with mine.  Now, you have to know your kids well enough to know who would respond well to that. Adding those little actions can really get the audience more invested and involved in the story.

At the end of the read aloud

At the end of the read aloud time, when you’ve got to stop. Always try to end on a cliffhanger – even if it’s the middle of a chapter. A lot of authors are really skilled at those chapter endings but you want to leave them wanting more! Begging to read just one more chapter! And sometimes – indulge them!

Most importantly – enjoy yourself!  If you are having fun reading the story and you are getting into it – your kids will love it, too.

51fDe0NaimL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_There a hundred reasons why read alouds are so important. Of course it models fluency and introduces sophisticated vocabulary. I’ll just end by  mentioning that many accomplished readers talk so fondly about those early experiences being read to that sparked that passion for story in their lives. For me, that’s my 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Simile, reading The Search for Delicious to us. I just fell head over heels for that story in a way that it became part of me. Read alouds create this shared experience that you and those children will have forever.

And now – I would love to hear from you! I am always looking for ways to improve my read alouds, and I’m sure our listeners would love more ideas as well. And I am sure you have some awesome suggestions! You can email me at or connect with me on Twitter/Instagram at the handle @Books_Between.

Colby Sharp – Interview Outline

Our guest this week is Colby Sharp! He is a teacher, one of the founders of the Nerdy Book Club site, a co-host of The Yarn podcast, organizer of NerdCamp Michigan, and now…. author of The Creativity Project!  A few weeks ago we sat down to chat about the book, what’s been inspiring him in his classroom, books he’s been reading, and so much more!

Take a listen…

The Creativity Project

The Creativity Project will finally make its way into the world this March. How did this project get started?

Logistically – how did the exchange of prompts work and how did you decide who received which prompt? Did you get to see them before they went out?

Are there some responses that are really memorable to you?TCP-Promo-Cover-PromptMap-v4-flat-600

I love that The Creativity Project works not only as an anthology that you could just enjoy as a reader, but also as a spur to your own writing. It’s going to be a great resource for teachers!

Have you used the prompts in your own classroom?

What writing projects are you working on now?

Your Teaching Life

You recently switched grade levels – going from teaching 3rd grade to 5th grade. How has that been going for you?neverstop

What have been some of your favorite, most memorable teaching moments with your students this year?

What does reading look like in your class?

Your Reading Life

Something that I think about a lot is how sometimes it only takes ONE person to really influence a child’s reading life – either in a positive way or sometimes in a negative way.

Was there someone in your life who impacted you as a reader?

What have you been reading lately that you’ve liked?


cropped-justcolby_72_crop-22Colby’s website –

Colby on Twitter and Instagram

Student Podcasts: Colby’s Students & Corrina’s Students


Books & Authors We Chatted About:

Hatchet (Gary Paulsen)

Holes (Louis Sachar)

Enticing Hard to Reach Writers (Ruth Ayres)

The Truth as Told By Mason Buttle (Leslie Connor)

Freak the Mighty (Rodman Philbrick)

See You in the Cosmos (Jack Cheng)



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.


A Conversation with Jack Cheng: Books Between, Episode 44

Episode Outline:

You can listen to the episode here.


Hi and welcome to the Books Between Podcast! I believe in the power of stories to inspire us and to change our lives for the better. And I know that being a reader encourages us to be more empathetic and to be better citizens in our world.  And I want to help you connect kids with those amazing, life-changing stories and bring you inspiring (and fun!) conversations with the authors and educators who make that magic happen.  Every other Monday, I bring you book talks, interviews, and ideas for getting great books into the hands of kids between 8-12.

I am Corrina Allen – a mom of two tween girls, a teacher to 23 fifth graders, and I’ve beenScreen Shot 2018-02-26 at 12.46.42 AM planning a baby shower this week! My brother (who is also a teacher) and his wife (whois a librarian) are expecting their first this April. So – of course, I had to throw them a picture book themed baby shower.


This is Episode #44 and today I’m sharing with you a conversation with author Jack Cheng about his debut middle grade novel (and the MG at Heart February Book Club pick) See You in the Cosmos! And then I’ll end with a Q&A.

A few quick announcements. For those participating in the MG at Heart Books Club – the Twitter Chat to discuss See You in the Cosmos will be on Monday, March 6th at 8pm EST. Just follow the Hashtag #mgbookclub and I’ll see you there! Also, the March book is The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser. And the April book is The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson. If you want to know the rest of the schedule along with other great middle great content, please head over to – we have a book-release calendar and a great blog. One of my favorites from this past week is the post from Sayantani Dasgupta (author of The Serpent’s Secret) called “Nothing About Us Without Us: Writing #OwnVoices Fantasy in the Age of Black Panther”  – if you haven’t read it yet – it’s great. (And go see Black Panther – it was phenomenal!!)

So – there’s lots going on at MGBookVillage. It’s where all the transcripts of this podcast can be found. And – Kathie and Jarrett and Annaliese and I have been cooking up something pretty awesome for March. So stayed tuned!


Jack Cheng – Interview Outline

Joining me this month to ask Jack Cheng questions is one of the founders of the MG at Heart Book Club – and an author herself , Cindy Baldwin. Her novel, Where the Watermelons Grow, is out this July. We got the chance to connect with Jack on Skype last week and here is our conversation…

See You in the Cosmos

CA: For our listeners who haven’t yet read the novel, can you tell us a bit about Alex’s journey in See You in the Cosmos?cheng_jack

CA: The premise of this book is that the entire thing is recorded on Alex’s Golden iPod.  What were some aspects of writing the novel that were challenging because of that decision?

CB: Did you ever consider writing it another way?

CB: Alex is such a pitch-perfect balance of being really naive but also really precocious and shouldering a lot of adult responsibility. How did you strike that sweet spot in his voice between a kid who’s shouldering adult responsibilities but also being really clueless?

CB: How did you figure out how to assign time logs to the recorded entries? Did you read any of them aloud or was it all random guesswork?  

CA: Where you a fan of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos?  

JL: Yours is the second recently released kidlit book I’ve read in the past few months that voyager_golden_record_large_clock-r1f6c4faf1974455bac41f648cd2d6ad2_fup13_8byvr_324features the Voyager Golden Record and spacecraft centrally. (The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole is the other one.)  Carl Sagan said that “the launching of this ‘bottle’ into the cosmic ‘ocean’ said something very hopeful about life on this planet. I’d love to know what YOU think it is about the Golden Record project, and the launching of it out into space, that so captures and ignites the imagination, and why it might be a powerful thing for young people in particular to learn about.

CB: Have you ever built a rocket? And what kind of research did you do?

Your Writing Life / See You on the Bookshelf Podcast

CA: I just loved your podcast – See You on the Bookshelf – where you interview all the different people who helped make See You in the Cosmos as reality – from your agent and editor and copyeditor to the audio people. Why did you decide to create podcast to document the journey of your novel?See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng

CA: Did I hear that See You in the Cosmos was originally written as an adult book? If so – what changes did you make to angle your writing more toward middle grade?

CB: You tackle some serious topics in this book. You touch on child neglect, mental illness, running away, infidelity… What made you decide to explore these issues in this book? Why do you think it’s important to address difficult, mature topics like this in middle grade?

CB: Do you feel like you’ll continue to experiment with unusual formats in your work in the future?

CA: What are you working on now?

Your Reading Life

CA: One of the goals of this podcast is to help educators and librarians inspire kids to read more and connect them with amazing books. Did you have a teacher or librarian in your life who helped you grow into a reader?

CB: What role did reading have on your decision to be a writer?

CA: What are you reading now?

Thank You!Processed with VSCO with a6 preset


Jack’s website –

Jack on Twitter and Instagram

Jack’s See You on the BookShelf Podcast

Original Cosmos Series

Information about the Voyager Golden Record

Audio version of See You in the Cosmos

Books & Authors We Chatted About:

Pale Blue Dot (Carl Sagan)

The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole (Michelle Cuevas)

The Kid Who Only Hit Homers (Matt Christopher)

Orphan Island (Laurel Snyder)

Origin of Species (Charles Darwin)

Q & A

This week I’m going to end by addressing some questions and comments that I have been getting a lot over the last two weeks. In the wake of the most recent school shooting, at the Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14th – many many people have emailed and messaged me to express their anguish and to simply ask, “How is everyone doing?”  I know a lot you listening have been reaching out to me and to each other and hoping that maybe something’s different this time.

Every time I record a show I start by saying that I am a mom and I am a teacher.  And living in this society that glorifies gun violence and seems to tolerate it against its most vulnerable, I want to tell you what that means.

So as a mom, it means that my husband and I send our girls to school and we hope and feel lucky when they come home safely. As a mom, it means that your heart shreds a little more every time your child comes home and tells you where they hid during that day’s drill.  And as a mom, it means all too often I need to pull over to the side of the road on the way home from work to dry my tears at the latest news of yet another shooting of a child – in a school or in a neighborhood where all they’ve done wrong is wear a hooded sweatshirt. But as mom, you pull yourself together so you can listen to your children tell you about their day without dimming their smiles.

And I am also a teacher living in a culture where we and our students have become prey. And I want to tell you what that means.

It means that twice a year my students and I practice a lock down in case a shooter is in the school. They hide. Try to be quiet. And I shut the lights and hover near that locked door and plan how I might react if it wasn’t a drill. How could I use my body to shield theirs. Is there something nearby I can grab and use as a weapon?

A stapler?  Should I have grabbed that screwdriver out of the science kit?  

And I know it would never stop them. But it might just slow them down, a little. So that some could escape and there might be one less family to suffer that unimaginable grief of losing a child.

But being that shield would mean that my own children would be left without a mother.  And yet – all teachers I know do it willingly and gladly. Because we protect our kids – no matter what. That is the deal.

And I know my own teachers would have done the same. I know my daughters’ teachers would do the same. They’d protect those lives with their own.  But our society has broken that promise of protection.

And it is a heavy heavy burden placed on the shoulders of our children and our teachers. And it is too much. And I’ve even been asked – well, hey – what if you had a gun? Couldn’t you save more kids? First of all, a handgun is no match for assault weapon. And even a highly trained professional only averages an 18-25% accuracy rate in that kind of situation. When I think of where those other bullets might go in a school? For that reason and for a thousand more – NO! If you want to arm us, arm us with more counselors who serve students and not just sit in meetings about testing!

It’s already too much. But in return for that heavy burden on our children and their teachers – the drills, the anxiety that comes with every news story and every false alarm (and there are so many more of them than you know) – we expect action to end this brutal, soul-crushing gun violence. Action from our representatives, but also action from YOU.  Please.

Because our government WILL act. Once we are LOUD enough. And make them feel uncomfortable enough. And it’s really no surprise to me that the generation who grew up reading about Malala are at the forefront of this. They cut their teeth on the stories of brave young activists. They have finally gotten some momentum, so let’s help them.  I’ve called my representatives three times a week, and I’m going to the March for Our Lives on March 24th.

So I am begging you – please if you live in the US. – please help. Call the people who claim to represent you and I’ll see you at the march.



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.


Anna Meriano, 3 Fails & 1 Win: Books Between, Episode 43

Episode Outline:



Hi and welcome to the Books Between Podcast! I believe that books can change your life for the better. I know because books did that for me.

And I want to help you connect kids with those amazing, life-shaping books and bring you inspiring (and fun!) conversations with the authors and educators who make that magic happen.  Every other Monday, I bring you book talks, interviews, and ideas for getting great books into the hands of kids between 8-12.

I am Corrina Allen – a mom of an eight and ten year old, a 5th grade teacher, and excited about two things this week!  First, the Winter Olympics.  And second – today’s announcement of the American Library Association Youth Media Awards including t


he Caldecott, the Newbery, The Coretta Scott King, and lots more!  I am so excited for those authors and illustrators who will be getting those early morning phone calls. I’ll be streaming it with my class and can’t wait to chat more with you about it!

This is Episode #43 and today I’m talking about some fails, some wins, and bringing you a conversation with author Anna Meriano about her debut novel (and the MG at Heart January Book Club pick) Love, Sugar, Magic!

But first I have some exciting news to share with you — I’m joining the fabulous team at!  MGBookVillage has become THE place for all things middle grade, and I’m so thrilled to be working with Annaliese Avery, Jarrett Lerner, and Kathie MacIsaac who’ve done such an incredible job developing a home for lovers of middle grade that I can’t imagine we ever made do without it!

MGBookVillage has it all; a book-release calendar, a Kids’ Corner, a monthly book club (MG at Heart), an all-day twitter chat on Mondays (#MGBookathon)—and so, so much more.

And from now on it will be the new home of the Books Between podcast and where you can find all our transcripts.

Three Fails & One Win

And now a new segment I am calling three fails and a win. So – I am going to share with you three failures.  And then one thing that went well recently.  I think we all have the tendency to share our achievements and hide our failures, only revealing things that put us in a positive light. Inadvertently, it can lead to people feeling like they aren’t living up to all the amazingness they see on Instagram and Facebook and Pinterest, and next door. It’s an unrealistic view of teaching and parenting and it makes it seem like there are just these amazing rockstar kidlit advocates who have success after success. Nah! In the interest of acknowledging that the most learning happens through our mistakes, I’ll share three of mine with you today. And then I share something good that happened.

Fail #1

Last summer I had an great conversation with Jillian Heise about #ClassroomBookADay and was so inspired to give it a try this year. (If you want to hear that conversation about the power of reading one picture book a day with your students, check out episode 30). Screen Shot 2018-02-03 at 7.33.09 PMSo, at the beginning of the year I made this GIANT public display of 280 blank polaroid-style frames – all waiting for me to post colorful pictures of the books we are reading. And I have! Up until about like 40. Now – we have STILL been reading those picture books. Mostly.  We’ve missed a few days here and there, but – ugh that display has embarrassingly just… stalled. And I want to catch up but now I can’t quite remember the order of the titles we’ve read or even the names of them all.  And in fact, one of my eagle-eyed gals noticed that we have Not Quite Narwhal on there twice.  Not my best moment of this year.

Fail #2 

So last summer, I secretly pre-ordered a certain book for my daughter.  I will withhold the name because it doesn’t really matter but I’ll just say that it was the next title in a fun graphic novel series that my 8 year-old daughter LOVES. She’s picky with her reading, so when she finds something she likes, I RUN to the ball. Well, I thought I was getting the Best Mom Ever award when a few weeks ago the book arrived on our stoop Tuesday afternoon and I gleefully called her into the kitchen as I whipped the book from around my back and held it out to her with a GIANT grin on my face! TA-DA!! And she….backed out of the room cringing. And then told me she’s just not into those books as much anymore.  Okay then – mom win turned into major mom fail.

Fail #3

This is the one I refer to as The Armadillo Book Debacle. So, a couple weeks ago my daughter comes home upset because she’s going to have to pay $15 to replace a missing library book. Well – High Alert in the Allen household! We tear apart the house looking for it. All the bedrooms, under the couch cushions. I look at school. I call the 51J3OjN-s9L._SX398_BO1,204,203,200_grandparents! Nowhere is this darn Armadillo book. And my husband and daughter start to think they saw it go in the backpack and back to school. And mistakes happen, so we email the librarian and explain that we think it was returned and could she look? And I just want to say – she was extraordinarily nice about it!  And so – she’s looking all over the school for it.

Yeah, you know where this is going don’t you? A couple months ago we had a party at our house. And, like happens, there comes a point when you have cleaned and scrubbed and dusted and vacuumed and people are just about to arrive! So you switch from cleaning mode to hiding mode. You know,  there’s that one dirty casserole dish in the sink so you shove it in the oven. And there’s a stack of random papers and mail and books that you haul down into the basement. Including an Armadillo book that ended up tucked away in a corner of our basement for two months. My fault.  Awkward email back to the librarian.

And…. a WIN!

I have to end on a positive note. So I have this student who I love but he was tough nut to crack when trying to find a book that would hold his interest. In September, I discovered he had liked The One and Only Ivan, so I handed him my ARC of Wishtree weeks before it came out. Nope. I piled book after book after book on his desk – asking him questions about what he liked – to no avail.  It seemed like he was going to be one of those kids that you just hope the next person can help them find books they’ll love because it just didn’t click with you. But, then – I found out that he LOVES wrestling – like WWE wrestling. And 51N+1--1BgL._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_a friend on #mglitchat recommended these Choose Your Own Adventure style WWE wrestling books. I order them on Amazon Prime and two days later, I slid one across his desk and his eyes just lit up!  I even caught him reading it as he walked to the bus! Heread those books back and forth cover to cover for weeks. And now – he’s on to the second Tapper Twins book and on a roll and YES!!!  (I’ll link to those wrestling books in the show notes if you want to check them out. As far as I can tell there are only two of them – Race to the Rumble and then Night of Champions. Both are by Tracey West)

So, maybe my hallway display has stalled out, and I got overzealous with my child, and I embarrassed myself with the school librarian, but I helped that one kid get himself on his way.

Anna Meriano – Interview Outline

This week I had the opportunity to have a fantastic conversation with two authors Meriano_Credit_Rita_Meriano_copy_2debuting middle grade novels in 2018. Joining me today is Amanda Rawson Hill. She is the author of the upcoming book Three Rules of Everyday Magic and one of the
organizers of the MG at Heart Book Club. Her and I hopped on Skype to chat with Anna Meriano about her debut novel (and the January MG at Heart Book Club pic),
Love Sugar Magic.

Take a listen…..

Love, Sugar, Magic

CA: Your first middle grade novel, Love Sugar Magic, debuted last month. For those listeners who haven’t yet read the book – can you tell what the story is about?

MG-Meriano-LoveSugarMagicCA: One of things I loved about this book was that passing down of family recipes from mother to daughter generation to generation. So – did I hear that you aren’t actually much of a baker?

CA: Where did the recipes come from?

CA: In your novel, each sister has a special power, depending on her birth order. First born daughters have the gift of influence, second born daughters have the talent of manifestation, and the third borns have the gift of communicating with the dead.  Which gift would YOU want to have?  

ARH: I wanted to get some insight into how you wrote a big family so well…

Your Writing Life

CA: How long ago did you start writing Love, Sugar, Magic?

ARH: You’ve talked a lot about how you worked with Cake Literary, a book packager. I was wondering what the experience of doing that from the beginning with someone else was like compared to when you’re writing a book all on your own.  And how did it affect your creative process?

CA: What is Cake Literary and what is a book packager?rliidh27sfn6xh6n76hw

CA: How did you end up connecting to Leo?

JL: I’d be interested to hear about Anna’s experience with her debut group. The Electric Eighteens seem like such a positive and supportive bunch, and they’re so active in promoting one another. I’d love to hear what Anna got out of being a part of such a group — both in practical terms of promotion and things, and emotionally and psychologically, too, since the debut experience can be so confusing and exciting and overwhelming and joyful and terrifying and a million other things, too!

CA: The more I chat with authors about their process, the more I want to share with my students the idea that what they see as a finished story is the very tip of a gigantic iceburg of planning and writing and revising that never sees the light of day. What below-the-surface part of your writing process do you really enjoy? And what parts are challenging?

Your Reading Life

CA: Something that I think about a lot is how sometimes it only takes ONE person to really influence a child’s reading life – either in a positive way or sometimes in a negative way. Was there someone in your life who impacted you as a reader?

C: What have you been reading lately that you’ve liked?



Anna on Twitter

Cake Literary website –

Electric Eighteen Debut Group website –

Anna’s Nerdy Book Club Post is here

The Coco Movie

Books & Authors We Chatted About:

The First Rule of Punk (Celia C. Perez)

Goosebumps (R.L. Stine)

Calvin & Hobbes (Bill Watterson)

The Inquisitor’s Tale (Adam Gidwitz)

The Gauntlet (Karuna Riazi)

Betty Before X (by Ilyasah Shavbazz & Renee Watson)

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.

CorrinaAllenThank 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. Or even better – tell a friend about us!

Thanks and see you soon!  Bye!