Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Happy Birthday, Harry Potter!

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter, #1)

Today I read a fantastic Children's Book-A-Day Almanac blog post by Anita Silvey.  It inspired me to write what the Harry Potter books have meant to our family.  In 1998, the year Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was published in the United States, our oldest daughter, Libby, was five, and she was an avid reader. She first read it when she was in first grade.  Much to my shame, when she asked me to read it afterward because she loved it so much, I put it off.  I can't explain why I did that.  I feel a little like some of the first publishers who read and rejected it must feel like today.  Fortunately, that didn't stop Libby from pursuing fellow Harry Potter readers.  At that time, my husband traveled a lot, so she brilliantly slipped the copy of the book into his suitcase without saying a word about it, burying it below a few t-shirts.  Ed remembers opening up his suitcase late that evening in the hotel and discovering it.  Of course, he read it.  Who could resist that kind of marketing?  After sharing his enthusiasm with me and chuckling about the way he was introduced to it, I finally read it.  The magic had begun...

I often call it the second greatest story ever told, and part of my love of the series includes the way the entire Harry Potter saga wove its way through our family and friends.  My younger daughter, Katie, also loved the series, and so did our closest friends and their kids.  We went to every midnight book release party together (yes - in costume - we are THOSE people), a Harry Potter train ride through our quaint little town, every midnight movie release, and devoured every new installment in the series, buying multiple copies of each one when it was released so we didn't have to wait for another family member to finish it so we could read it.  I'll never forget the feeling of those midnight book release parties at various bookstores, anticipating the opening of those piles of boxes marked "DO NOT OPEN UNTIL...," trying to vie for a good place in line in order to get our hands on the freshly published, never-before-opened books.  We had never before experienced that before, and we probably never will again.

Getting ready to go to the midnight book release of
 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince 2005

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Midnight Movie Premier
Libby's Senior Year 2011 (Libby is ALWAYS Dumbledore)

Jim Trelease, the read-aloud expert, has written many times about the effect Harry Potter has had on our culture and reading.  He has argued that the Harry Potter series raised vocabulary and comprehension skills among children.  In this article, "Two Lessons from Harry Potter," he researched the word count in several classics and found this:

  • Goosebumps: 8 words per sentence; 22,450 words in book.
  • Heidi: 19.6 words per sentence; 93,600 words in book.
  • The Hobbit: 18 words per sentence; 97,470 words in book.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame: 15 words per sentence; 126,000 words in book.
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: 13.5 words per sentence; 214,536 words in book.

  • Reading the Harry Potter series is no simple feat!  If your child isn't ready to tackle this kind of reading, the next best thing is to listen to the incredible Jim Dale read them on audio.  It is a theatrical experience.  He created over 200 voices throughout the series...a staggering number! 

    I remember where I was when I finished the final intallment of the Harry Potter series in 2009 (on our basement couch), and as I relunctantly read the very last words, I was stunned into silence and tears.  I couldn't believe it was over.  Fortunately, though, he'll live in our family fabric forever.  As seems fitting (and somewhat magical), the series began in Libby's life when she was a first grader, and it ended with the last movie her senior year.  Harry's and Libby's lives just seemed to intertwine that way.  You can imagine how I felt leaving the last movie, in the wee hours of the morning.  It was the end of an era. Thank you, Harry Potter.  We miss you, our relunctant hero.

     "’It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it.  Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well.’” (Dumbledore) p. 718

    Friday, July 27, 2012

    2nd Summertime Mock Newbery 2013 Club

    It was a hot day, but that didn't stop the Mock Newbery 2013 Club from meeting and talking about books!  We again met at our local library's beautiful gazebo.  Members of our club brought books they had read or were in their TBR pile.  We also invited the kids to bring a sack lunch.  Last time one of the girls brought brownies.  Reading and chocolate - now that's what I call heaven!  I made up a flier of what each of the teachers in the club had read since our last meeting and how many stars they rated each on Goodreads.  The kids also talked about their recommendations and thoughts about whether what they had read were Newbery-worthy.  Conversations also wove around vacations, plans for the school year, the Oympics (one student was decorating for a party her family was throwing for the opening ceremonies!), other books that weren't read for the Newbery Club, etc.  We also planned for the Newbery Club to continue meeting this school year, but since the kids would be in sixth grade this year and wouldn't have a common time during school to meet, we decided to meet after school.  I'm happy about that because I won't be with this district anymore and will be moving to a new school district close by, so I still may be able to meet after school with this group.  My former school is also lucky enough to have Barbara O'Connor as a visiting author this year, so I'm going to have to figure out how to visit for that!!  Her books were discussed during the meeting since everyone is preparing to see her.  My favorite book by her is Greetings From Nowhere, so I put in a plug about that!  Then we all had fun going into the air-conditioned library to check out more books!  Here is a list of what we talked about this time:

    Summer of the Gypsy Moths
    I liked this one a lot!  I can't wait to share this with kids during the school year to see what they think!

    Three Times Lucky

    The kids in the club really enjoyed Three Times Lucky!

    The False Prince (The Ascendance Trilogy, #1)
    I listened to this on audio and LOVED it!

    The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook
    The cat fans in our group highly recommend this one!  However, it's not just about a cat.  The characters are reconciling their father's death.

    Kepler's Dream
    I'm currently reading this and enjoying it.

    The Lions of Little Rock
    We discussed this important book at our last meeting, but it came up again.  This is a favorite of several of our members who are rooting for it to win the Newbery.

    Glory Be
    More of our members are reading this book, too, and we all love it.  Both Glory Be and The Lions of Little Rock have sparked conversations about empathy and disbelief that this kind of segregation and discrimination happened in our country. 

    Deadweather and Sunrise (The Chronicles of Egg, #1)
    Our librarian and co-leader read this one and really enjoyed it.  It's in my TBR pile.

    Oddfellow's Orphanage
    We admired the illustrations in this little book, and the members who read it said their only complaint was that they wished it was longer!

    One for the Murphys
    I've put this amazing book in my blog before, but our librarian just read it, so I get to brag about it some more.  LOVE it!  None of the kids have read it yet, so I'm really looking forward to hearing what they think.  We gave it a good plug and one of the kids took it home.

    Horten's Miraculous Mechanisms: Magic, Mystery, & a Very Strange Adventure
    Our other co-leader enjoyed this book and called it quirky and fun.  It's now in my TBR pile.

    Double Dog Dare
    This was in one of the kids' piles.  I'm looking forward to reading it!

    Several of us have read this one, and we like it a lot.  Clever premise!

    May B.
    I've blogged about this title before, too, but each time someone in our club reads it, it gets brought up again because everyone loves it.  Our librarian told a story about how she connected to it. 

    The Secret Tree
    A couple kids read this book and enjoyed it.

    I'm so excited that children's authors have given us such a wide array of great books to read and discuss.  There are so many more we need to read and lots more coming out before the end of the year.  Here are some titles I'm looking forward to reading:

                           A Boy and A Bear in a BoatA Boy and A Bear in a Boat

           Capture the FlagCapture the Flag

                     The Great UnexpectedThe Great Unexpected

                  What Came from the StarsWhat Came of the Stars

                         On the Road to Mr. Mineo'sOn the Road to Mr. Mineo's

                The Year of the BookThe Year of the Book

    So little time, so many books!

    Thursday, July 26, 2012

    Sentence Collecting

    Several years ago I took a Teachers as Readers Ohio Writing Project class with Sharon Rab.  It was a fabulous experience.  We were able to read some fantastic books and meet some amazing authors.  Some of them included Libba Bray, Shannon Hale, Anne Lamott, and Jodi Picoult.  Rab's assignment for when we were reading the books was to "collect" sentences while reading and mark them with sticky notes.  Reasons to collect a sentence could be because it resonated with us, beautiful language, symbolism, connections, foreshadowing, characterization, predictions, wonderings, etc.  After finishing the book and reviewing the sentences we collected, we compiled them, and then we were to choose one, head our paper with it, and expound upon what the sentence meant in an extended response.  Before we met the author, we would meet at a restaurant or book store, share a couple sentences and read our papers.  I loved the exercise and felt like I made deeper connections to those books than any before, and I remembered them better.  Now I use post-it flags whenever I read books for school or book clubs.  I decided to adapt the activity to my fifth grade classroom to see what happened.

    I bought bunches of the one inch post-it notes and modeled the activity using Patricia Polacco's Thank You, Mr. Falker.  I read it straight through one day so as to not interrupt a powerful story, and we briefly discussed it and then the kids wrote a few sentences of response in their notebooks that day.  The next day, I explained that we were going to choose sentences that meant something to us or to the story and mark them.  We were also going to explain why we wanted to look at those sentences more carefully.  We gathered in a circle, and I marked sentences with the post-it notes whenever a student raised his/her hand to suggest we mark one.  We waited for why until after the story was over and could go back one by one.  I tried to limit them to only one or two sentences per page.  It's important to not mark everything - we all teach that concept when highlighting, underlining, or circling key concepts or ideas - relevant and irrelevant details.  Then we picked what we thought was one of the more important sentences about which we could say a lot.  We were done for that day.  That night, for my homework, I wrote a model extended response for that sentence and shared it with them the next day.  At that point, I didn't have other student models to share because it was the first time I did it with students.  The following years I showed them student models.  Then we chose another sentence that was important from the book, and they wrote another one in their notebooks.  These responses were much briefer than the papers we did for the OWP course obviously, but they certainly got the concept.  Then when we met in book groups, the kids were required to mark a certain amount of sentences per chapter or assignment.  I asked them to just stick the post it note on sentences while reading, without stopping to write, so as to not interrupt their flow, and then go back and write on the post-it notes after they were done with the assignment.  These became discussion points for small groups.  They typed or wrote up the best sentences they collected (usually 15-20), along with the pages numbers and explanations why they picked the sentences. Then they chose one sentence about which to write the extended response.  I loved how they interacted with the texts, and the collecting gave them a lot to talk and write about.

    Of course, the activity is not without its problems.  Not all the sentences the kids marked seemed to be significant, and not all the reasons why they picked them were sophisticated, but they got better as the year went along and after I showed them many more examples and models.  Some variations on this could include marking only figurative language examples after presenting a mini lesson on similes, metaphors, personification, etc., or marking only characteristics of a character and how an author shows us his/her personality, or marking quesions and then finding answers, etc., depending on what the focus is for that book or unit.

    This coming school year, I will introduce this activity and in September focus on marking sentences in which students can make connections since my new school district's reading pacing guide starts with that.   Then we can talk about why those connections help them understand the text better.  Also, since nonfiction is going to be such an integral part of the upcoming Common Core standards, I'd like to do more sentence collecting with informational texts and focus on nonfiction reading skills.  Marking charts, maps, photographs, etc., can also help students make meaning with complex nonfiction text features.

    Sentence collecting can be modified for any grade.  Primary students could use sticky notes on illustrations in picture books or wordless books.  If students aren't writing yet, they could interact by drawing pictures.

    Let me know how you may be using this type of interaction with text in your classrooms or any other insights/suggestions you have.

    Here are some examples of students' work when using this activity:




    Friday, July 20, 2012

    Personal Text Set

    In the spring of 2008, I took an Ohio Writing Project class called Teachers as Readers with Sharon Rab.  One of the assignments was to compile and reflect on books that made a difference in our lives.  We had to keep it to ten, which was a very difficult task.  Looking back on the list, I think I would compile a different one today, even though that was only four years ago.  However, it's interesting to see which books I chose to include at that time.  I wouldn't want to change that.  Part of our history is seeing what we write at points of time in our lives.  We continue to evolve, but part of writing and reflecting is to show us who we were, who we've become, and who we may be in the future.  That's why I love the memoir genre so much.  I would encourage you to make your own text set.  You could even make a personal one for you and then one with texts you use in the classroom.  I think this would be a great exercise for students.  I've never tried that before, but I think they would love it.  You could do one with them in the beginning of the year and then one at the end to see if they would add to it or keep it the same.  It would be an important exercise to explore who they are as readers.  Here was mine in 2008:

    Personal Text Set
    Holly Mueller
    April 26th, 2008

    1.  White, E.B. Charlotte’s Web.  Harper & Row Publishers, New York, 1952.
     “It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.  Charlotte was both.” p. 184
    It doesn’t matter how many times I read this line...I tear up.  This is my favorite children’s story.  E.B. White has an uncanny ability to be funny and yet profoundly, staggeringly poignant at the same time.  His themes of life, death, perseverance, friendship, and humor are woven throughout this simple and meaningful story. E.B. White says the theme of his life is “complexity-through-joy.”  I can’t help but get choked up through Charlotte’s explanation of her impending death, while chuckling simultaneously at Wilbur’s overly dramatic, comical wailing.  Then there’s the line “Nobody, of the hundreds of people that had visited the Fair, knew that a grey spider had played the most important part of all.  No one was with her when she died.”  Gets me every time.

    2.  Paterson, Katherine.  Bridge to Terabithia.  HarperCollins Publishers,  New York, 1977.
    “It was up to him to pay back to the world in beauty and caring what Leslie had loaned him in vision and strength.” p. 126  “’Shhh, yes.  There’s a rumor going around that the beautiful girl arriving today might be the queen they’ve been waiting for.’”
    I didn’t first read this story as a child.  I read it in graduate school at Miami University in Eileen Tway’s Children’s Literature class.  I was instantly captivated by this amazing story, and it sealed my love of children’s literature forever.  I knew then that I wanted to teach reading, and I wanted my students to feel the same love for this book that I did.  I remember last year when I taught this book to a small group of fantastic kids.  We had such profound discussions, and a student named Tyler exclaimed, “Wow – this class is deep!” 

    3.  L’Engle, Madeline.  Wrinkle in Time.  Bantam Doubleday Dell Books, New York, 1962.
    “’Oh, we don’t travel at the speed of anything,’ Mrs. Whatsit explained earnestly.  ‘We tesser.  Or you might say, we wrinkle.’” p. 62
    I read this in sixth grade, the grade in which I remember all my favorite books being read.  We had a teacher, Mrs. Parshall, who was creative, kind, and loved horses (I read all the Walter Farley Black Stallion books that year).  I loved her.  I also wrote a book that year in her class.  Writing an entire book was the most amazing experience ever.  It was about a horse show, and I illustrated and bound it with cardboard and contact paper, and sewed the spine.  But I digress...I was fascinated by the fantasy and science fiction of this story.  I loved the idea of time travel and good and evil.  IT was such a gruesome and fascinating evil force.  The kids were heroes – nerdy brainiacs who could save the world.  Who doesn’t love that idea?!

    4.  Goodrich, Frances, Hackett, Albert and Otto Frank.  The Diary of Anne Frank Dramatized.  Dramatists Play Service, Inc.,   New York, 1958.
    Anne’s Voice:  In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.
    Mr. Frank:  She puts me to shame.  p. 101

    I was in this play my freshman year in high school.  I was Miep – not a very big part (that’s an understatement – it was tiny).  She was the secretary in the office where the Franks, Van Daans, and Mr. Kraler were hiding.  But that didn’t matter to me.  I was the only freshman in the cast.  The director of the play ended up being my favorite teacher ever.  I was so enamored by the whole experience – the profoundness of Anne’s story, the experience of acting, hanging out with a small group of amazing people – it is an indelible memory. 

    5.  Lamott, Anne. Traveling Mercies:  Some Thoughts on Faith.  Anchor Books,  New York, 1999.
     “So I kept thinking, How much longer am I going to think about my hair more often than about things in the world that matter?”  p. 235
    The year this book was published was the year I moved from my hometown of Mason, Ohio to Pittsburgh, PA when I was 33. I had never lived anywhere but Ohio, and lived with my husband and two daughters on a three acre lot behind my parents’ house.  Needless to say, it was a traumatic move.   I joined a Newcomers book club there, and this was the first selection I read in that club.  I loved it.  I fell in love with Anne Lamott.  I connected to her spiritual journey, her lamentations about her curly hair, her struggles over parenting, her musings to understand herself, etc.  I gave it to one of my best friends that year on her birthday when we traveled on a girls’ weekend.  I ended up loving Pittsburgh and that book club.  I was so excited to meet her during this Teachers as Readers class.

    6.  Picoult, Jodi. My Sister’s Keeper.  Atria Books, New York, 2004.
    “Kids think with their brains cracked wide open; becoming an adult, I’ve decided, is only a slow sewing shut.”     “But I do remember feeling as if something had gone missing, as if the loss of a kid’s hero worship can ache like a phantom limb.”
    This book is one of the most memorable books I’ve read because of the sheer shock of it.  Picoult’s ability to show you different points of view and pull you into controversial topics is unique.  I loved how she changed voice and font as she told the perspectives of each of the characters, and how you were pulled into each character’s story.  She also interwove quotes by a character, and you think they’re by one character, but then they end up being another.  The ending is unbelievable.  I had to call my neighbor, who told me I had to read this book and yell at her.  Everyone who I’ve recommended this book to has called me afterward and done the same.  Ha!

    7.  Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  Arthur A. Levine Books, New York, 2007.
     “’It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it.  Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well.’” (Dumbledore) p. 718
    What can I say about the ending of one of the greatest stories ever?  I had to include this book in my text set because this entire series has had such an impact on my whole family.  My oldest daughter, Libby, who is now 15, was in first grade when the first Harry Potter book was published.  She was an advanced reader, so fortunately, she was able to read it when it first came out, and she stayed on the journey as each one was published.  We went to the midnight parties, and waited in line for the movie premiers.  When Katie was old enough, she read them all, too.  Ed and I also bought our own copies when each one came out because we weren’t patient enough to wait for the girls to finish their copies!!  I was so sad when I finished the 7th book.  I couldn’t believe it was the end of Harry’s story.  I thought she did a fabulous job wrapping it all up, and the connections and stories of each character were genius.  I also felt like this had to be in my text set because I believe J.K. Rowling is the force behind the explosion of children’s literature in recent years.  I loved an article by Jim Trelease that also credits her to the increase in reading scores in this country.  Bravo, J.K. Rowling!  I miss Harry!

    8.  White, E.B.  Essays of E.B. White.  Harper & Row, Publishers,  New York, 1977.  “I find this morning that what I most vividly and longingly recall is the sight of my grandson and his little sunburnt sister returning to their kitchen door from an excursion, with trophies of the meadow clutched in their hands – she with a couple of violets, and smiling, he serious and holding dandelions, strangling them in a responsible grip.  Children hold spring so tightly in their brown fists – just as grownups, who are less sure of it, hold it in their hearts.”  p. 16
    I was introduced to this collection by my favorite high school English teacher who was also the director for Diary of Anne Frank.  Can you tell he was influential in my literary life?  He would read some of these essays aloud to us in class.  He also read The Day No Pigs Would Die, which seemed to tie into White’s love for the farm and nature, and his themes of life and death.  That was a tragic story!  Anyway, my favorite section of the collection is The Farm.  His stories are so poignant and funny, just like Charlotte’s Web.  I grew up in the country, so my experiences of raising farm animals and working outside were similar to White’s, and I loved the way he described them.

    9.  Wells, Rebecca. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.  Large Print Press, Rockland, Massachusetts, 1996.
    “Whatever scars Vivi had inflicted with her unhinged swings between creation and devouring, she had also passed on a mighty capacity for rapture.”  p. 247  “But when the Ya-Yas chaperoned, they had a tendency to turn the whole event into their own party.” p. 183
    I read this book when I was in my late twenties, after I had my second daughter, Katie.  I hadn’t been reading for awhile.  I read all those classics during my stint as an English literature major at Miami, and then life got in the way, so I didn’t read as much.  So reading for pleasure had dwindled.  I must have heard about this book through word of mouth because I wasn’t even reading book websites or browsing book stores at the time.  I consider this book my re-entry into reading for myself.  I read it at a time when I could completely identify with the characters – raising kids, loving friends, trying to succeed at motherhood, being young and married.  The book circulated throughout my best friends, and we even called our kids the “Petite Ya-Yas.”  (You have to have read the book to understand this.)  When I saw the movie, I was struck about how it was mostly about the mother/daughter relationship.  I didn’t get that at all when I read the book – to me it was completely about friendship.  I read Little Altars Everywhere afterward.  I wish I hadn’t.  I wanted to love Vivi, and that book spoiled it for me.  There have been times when I’ve considered re-reading Divine Secrets, but I’m afraid it won’t be as good as I remembered it, and that will spoil the perfect memory I have of it.  Sometimes books hit you at the perfect time and place.

    10. Spinelli, Jerry. Stargirl.  Alferd A. Knopf, New York, 2000.
    “It was during one of those nightmoon times that it came to me that Hillari Kimble was wrong.  Stargirl was real.”  p. 12     “The echo of her laughter is the second sunrise I awaken to each day, and at night I feel it is more than stars looking down on me.  Last month, one day before my birthday, I received a gift-wrapped package in the mail.  It was a porcupine necktie.”  p. 186
    Jerry Spinelli is one of my favorite children’s authors.  His writing is so distinct:  sentence fragments, repeated words, made up adjectives, bittersweet chapter endings.  My students love his books.  They can be weird, disturbing, quirky...but they’re always thought-provoking and real.  His characters are never perfect, the situations are always sticky, and the reader is always left with something to think about.  I can’t read the ending of Stargirl without tearing up. 

    What are some books that would be on your list?

    Tuesday, July 17, 2012

    Death and Loss in Middle Grade Novels

    I've gotten my share of teasing about why I read and love books about death and loss from friends and colleagues - both novels written for adults, and chapter books and picture books written for children and young adults.  Even some of my students have laughed when I say I can't wait to share a book with them, and they say, "Does someone die, Mrs. Mueller?!"  It's time to defend myself in this blog post about why I think books about death or dying make for some of the most profound literature! ;-) I'm going to concentrate on intermediate grade novels, and one very special picture book.

    Death, dying, loss, and the fear of loss seem to preoccupy a lot of us.  I just read a Facebook post about a friend celebrating her anniversary, and how it makes her sad to think time is going by so fast.  Even celebrations can make you feel the sting of mortality:  weddings, birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, retirements, even births.  The older you get, the faster time seems to fly.  The loss of a loved one can especially make you realize how fleeting this life is, and how each day needs to be celebrated and lived fully.  I think we'd be surprised how many children have been touched by death, illness, or loss: divorce, a parent losing a job, a sibling or best friend moving away, moving, a pet's illness or death ( DON'T discount this one!), a family member injured, ill, or passing, etc.  When a book brilliantly addresses the very real pain of loss, but then shows us how to embrace hope and life, I'm hooked.  I just finished See You at Harry's Jo Knowles by Jo Knowles, and I spent the next few days thinking about what it is that makes that kind of story so moving.  It's the impact a death makes on your life.  It makes you think about your own story and how you want it to touch someone else.  You want your story to exist before you, and you want it to continue after you're gone.  Like Knowles says in her book, "When all that's left of me is love, give me away."  That's what we want - something that lasts of us after we leave.  Not long before my grandmother died, she gave my children and me pictures of her and said, "Remember me.  You won't forget me, will you?"  When one of my best friends recently passed away, his dying words were, "Remember me in the good times, okay?"  We all want our legacies to remain in the friends and family left behind.  Kids get that, and when they're dealing with loss, one of the best gifts we can give them is a story about that very thing, and remind them they're not alone.

    Here are some of my favorite middle grade stories that address death, dying, injury, illness, disabilities, abandonment, or loss and then help us choose hope:

    Each Little Bird That Sings


    Chasing Redbird

    Hattie Big Sky

    Love That Dog

    Same Sun Here

    Greetings from Nowhere

    May B.

    How to Steal a Dog
    See You at Harry's

    Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life

    Ida B. . . and Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the World
    Out of My Mind

    Bridge to Terabithia

    The Absolute Value of Mike

    Dead End in Norvelt

    One for the Murphys

    Okay for Now

    The Mighty Miss Malone


    Fig Pudding


    The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

    Chains (Seeds of America, #1)

    Eight Keys

    The One and Only Ivan

    Tuck Everlasting

    Kindred Souls

    Because of Winn-Dixie

    A Corner of the Universe

    Missing May

    The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane


    Everything on a Waffle

    Our Only May Amelia

    Charlotte's Web

    Bud, Not Buddy

    Because of Mr. Terupt

    The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #1)

    Small as an Elephant

    A Mango-Shaped Space

    Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Harry Potter, #7)

    Summer of the Gypsy Moths

    And one incredibly moving picture book...

    City Dog, Country Frog

    And one young adult novel I recently read that has to be included in this blog...
    The Fault in Our Stars

    I know this list is not by any means exhaustive, and there are some books on my "to-read" list on Goodreads that will undoubtedly be added.  What are some of your recommendations (old or new) for books to read on this topic?