Mrs. Yusko Reads

Reading: Mischief and the Magical Librarian

Friday Five 3-22-19

March (Book) Madness

I miss the excitement that March always brought to the library: Read Across America, Women's History Month, pulling all the books with green covers ("I don't know the title, but the cover was green..."), and March Madness. From reading challenges, to a tournament of books, the lead up to spring is a great time for display ideas in the library.

The last few weeks I've been traveling around the country highlighting the best #yalit of 2018 and I returned home just in time to ignore the NCAA tournament bracket waiting for me. (Let's be real, Gonzaga let's me down every year I pick them so it's probably best that I just give up this year). And it reminded me that there seemed to be a lot of books about basketball this year. So, in the spirit of March Madness, I offer you some of my top picks from the last year that include BASKETBALL...and other spring sports. And maybe some sports that I just wanted to include because where I live, we don't really have "seasons."

Happy Reading!

Kindergarten - 3rd grades:

Dude by Aaron Reynolds (surfing)
Game Changers by Lesa Cline-Ransome (tennis)
The Field by Baptiste Paul (soccer)
Rescue and Jessica by Jessica Kensky (running)
Girl Running by Annette Bay Pimentel (running)

4th - 8th grades:
Sunny/Lu by Jason Reynolds (books 3 & 4 of the Track series)

Rebound by Kwame Alexander (basketball)
Mascot by Antony John (baseball)

Knockout by KA Holt (boxing)
Out of Left Field by Ellen Klages (baseball)
Baseball Fanbook by Gary Gramling/Sports Illustrated (baseball)
Rising Above by Gregory Zuckerman (two books: women/men in sports)
Between the Lines by Sandra Neil Wallace (football...and art!)

9th-12th grades:
A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti (running)
Becoming Kareem by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (basketball)
Swing by Kwame Alexander (baseball)
Here to Stay by Sara Farizan (basketball)
Loser's Bracket by Chris Crutcher (basketball)
Attucks! by Phillip Hoose (basketball)
Proud by Ibtihaj Muhammad (fencing)
Grand Theft Horse by G. Neri (horse racing)
After the Shot Drops by Randy Ribay (basketball)

Adults (and high school):
Three Year Swim Club by Julie Checkoway

What Made Maddy Run by Kate Fagan

Fiction & NonFiction Pairing: Speak + Speak + Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson

Hard to believe, but it has been 20 years since the publication of Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. It is impossible to put into words all that the book (and the AUTHOR!) has done for YA Lit.

Ms. Anderson is currently on tour for her newest book, so if she is anywhere close to you, GO SEE HER! I just live-streamed a panel at the Virginia Festival of Books where she talked with Jason Reynolds about writing "tough topics" in books. The Virginia Humanities Facebook page has the video online, so you should check it out! So many good sound bites!!

For this Fiction/NonFiction pairing, I'm highlighting Speak (the novel) and pairing it with Speak, the new graphic novel adaption, AND Shout, Anderson's newest memoir IN VERSE.

The graphic novel belongs on any shelf that has the original novel. If you read the novel with your classes or book club, please include the graphic novel: either as a compare/contrast of formats or to help lower level readers access the content and participate in discussions.

Anderson's memoir Shout is, in a word, fantastic... and one of only three 5 star books that I've read so far in 2019. Divided into parts, it focuses on her childhood, rape as a young teen, high school, and college years in part one. The second part includes her life as an author after Speak was published, and her life as a survivor. For book/author lovers, she has several great poems about sitting at a National Book Award dinner with Walter Dean Myers (which she read in the live-steam I highlighted above). This is a POWERFUL book and has garnered ALL the starred reviews possible already. Expect to see this one on all of the end of the year "Best" lists.

There are many interviews that you can find given by Anderson about this new book. Here's one.


If you follow me on social media, you know that I'm a big fan of using picture books with my middle and high school literature classes. I typically open every middle school class by reading one aloud, and I use them at the end of the day with my high school class.

This is a good one to introduce STEM units, inventors, scientists, empathy building, and to celebrate different ways of thinking. You could follow up with more study on the contributions of Temple Grandin. We read this one in my middle school class (along with several others) the week that we started our "Shark Tank" Invention/Innovation project.

Sample March 2019 Webinar YA LIT

Curriculum Corner + Tech Tidbit: "Pass Go and Collect $200"

Here's a book to highlight a unique "invention" for Women's History Month: the creation of the Monopoly board game. Pass Go and Collect $200 by Tonya Lee Stone highlights the truth behind the game and who should be given credit for it.

This could work with a variety of grade levels depending on how you wanted to incorporate it:
1) an Invention/Innovation unit or a study of the patent process

2) discussion of overlooked inventors/scientists in history

3) study of the Great Depression

To help students understand life during the Great Depression, you could read/respond to letters written by children to Eleanor Roosevelt during the Depression. You can find these primary source documents online here.

Have a debate, or have students write a persuasive paragraph/essay on which creator of the game made the best (or worst) move selling their idea.

Have students create their own board game as a final project for a book they read, a unit of study in science/social studies/history, or as an art project.

Of course, you could always wrap up the week with an afternoon of board games, including Monopoly!

BookTube meets Becoming

If you have not read Michelle Obama's memoir "Becoming" yet, I HIGHLY recommend it. And she narrates the audiobook if you're looking for your next great listen.

If you did not get the chance to catch Ms. Obama on tour, you can listen to a quick segment of a panel (moderated by John Green) that debuted on "Book Tube" this month. Read more about the panel here.

Watch the segment on YouTube or by clicking below.

Teacher-Librarian Subscriptions

Looking to keep up-to-date on the BEST NEW BOOKS for your students, classroom, library?

Limited time or budget to attend PD workshops/seminars?

NEVER FEAR! Subscribe to MrsYuskoReads! There are levels to fit every budget, including the Teacher-Librarian rate... only $99 for 12 months of unlimited access to online booktalks and webinars about the best new books for your library/classroom, plus these monthly newsletters.

The most affordable way to get all the books from my all-day seminar, but in smaller monthly segments, from the comfort of your living room. A great value compared with attending my BER seminar...for those with a limited PD budget, or no seminar in your area this year.

FYI: the 2018 Handbook of YA Lit titles is ON SALE for $39 (contact me for a 2018 K-5th grade's free!). You can find it on TPT or on my website. And for those that WANT IT ALL, $149 gets you the Teacher-Librarian benefits, PLUS the handbook, PLUS a 20-minute Skype booktalk session with your class or staff).

Join now! Happy Reading!!

Art Imitates Life?

One of the books that I've been booktalking all year in my YA Lit seminars is Sadie by Courtney Summers, and excellent pick for high school mystery readers.

Publisher summary:

"Sadie hasn't had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she's been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie's entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister's killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.

When West McCray--a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America--overhears Sadie's story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie's journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it's too late."

The full-cast audiobook for this one was a Top 10 pick by the American Library Association, and does a good job of sounding just like an actual podcast. I've been pairing this book with a "true crime" podcast that is popular with teens and teachers alike: Serial.

The first season of this podcast tells the story of the murder of a high school senior and the trial of her boyfriend. You can find out more here. HBO has picked up the story where the podcast left off if you're interested in knowing how the real-life story ends. Read here to learn more about the documentary.

Coming to a School/Library Near You???

In addition to my BER seminars, this school year I have 9 seminars scheduled for school districts, ESDs, and state library associations around the country. These are some of my favorite seminars to do as I can often include kidlit, yalit, or both throughout the day.

Does your district offer on-site PD? I'm available! And already booking for the 2019-2020 school year. Full-day or half-day seminars...kidlit, yalit, award winners...I can work with you to customize the best PD for your teachers/librarians, at a time of year that you'd like. (And it's often more cost-effective for your district/library association to bring me in directly).

Do you think your district might be interested? Find out more here, or contact me @