Sunday, October 21, 2018

You say 'Yes," I say 'No'...

Episode 6 - Multiple Perspectives
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Italian journalist Oriana Falacci is quoted as saying “There are three points of view to everything - yours, mine, and the truth.” As an educator, I am constantly reminded that the way I see the world isn’t everyone’s reality. One student’s experience in the library, classroom, hallway or lunchroom can be completely different from what I witness and believe to be true. In most books, readers are privy to only one perspective, usually that of the protagonist. Thankfully, several middle grade authors have taken on the challenge of writing stories from multiple points of view. I’m going share four of them with you today.

Welcome to Happy Reading, a podcast that spotlights wonderful novels aimed at 8-12 year-olds that center around a common theme. I’m your host, Sarah Threlkeld, an elementary librarian, former 6th grade reading teacher, and someone who occasionally needs a gentle reminder to consider other people’s view of the world before jumping to conclusions. Ever since I read Flipped by Wendelin van Draanen (which I happened to gush about in episode 9 of the podcast’s first season), I have been drawn to books written from multiple perspectives. Here are four more titles I adore and I hope you will too.

Every Shiny Thing by Cordelia Jensen and Laurie Morrison
Not only is our first book written from two different perspectives and by two different authors, it is also written in two different styles. In Every Shiny Thing by Cordelia Jensen and Laurie Morrison, Sierra’s story is told in verse while Lauren’s is told in traditional prose. Using alternating styles of writing was a brilliant move since it clearly distinguishes the two characters and reflects their personalities.  Lauren lives a privileged life and has never wanted for anything, yet she feels unfulfilled. Sierra and her mother struggle to make ends meet, yet she is happy and grateful for the love and support she feels. When Sierra’s mom ends up in jail, Sierra moves in with a foster family that lives across the street from Lauren and the two girls slowly form a friendship that will challenge and change them. Here are three poems written from Sierra’s perspective and part of a chapter from Lauren’s point of view.

The Perfect Score by Rob Buyea
High-stakes testing has been controversial for decades, but in recent years it seems like students are starting to question the need for and validity of these state-mandated tests, which is wonderful to witness. What happens when young people push back against testing? Who is helped and who is harmed? What are the consequences? These questions are explored in The Perfect Score by Rob Buyea, author if the Mr. Terupt series and master of writing middle grade books from multiple perspectives. In The Perfect Score five very different middle schoolers  band together to push back against a system that to them seems unnecessary and even harmful. Will they succeed in changing their school’s approach to testing? Will their carefully crafted plan be a success or will they be punished with never ending detention? Here’s the first chapter of this thought-provoking novel that will appeal to readers of all ages.

Two Naomis by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and Audrey Vernick
As a child of divorce, I know how difficult it can be for kids and parents to work through the pain, confusion and guilt that often results from familial separation. It is especially challenging to move forward and accept that your mom or dad will probably start dating and may even remarry. Oh, the horror! As you can probably tell from the title, Two Naomis by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and Audrey Vernick, is about two girls named Naomi, both of whom have divorced parents. They end up meeting when Naomi Marie’s mom and Naomi Edith’s dad start to get serious about their relationship. Despite having a lot in common, the girls are not interested in becoming friends and struggle to work together on a video game project for a class their parents forced them to enroll in. Will the two Naomis ever get along or will they chip away at their mom and dad’s newfound love until no one is happy? You’ll have to read the book to find out. Here are excerpts from each girl’s perspective that will give you insight into their different personalities and views of the world.

The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy
My husband and I have one child and feel like life is pretty crazy, so I can’t imagine having four kids, let alone four rambunctious, active, outspoken boys like the two dads do in The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy. Ranging in age from six to twelve, the Fletcher boys are looking forward to a new school year, especially Frog who is starting Kindergarten. As the weeks pass, however, it is clear that the year is not going according to plan. From a grouchy new neighbor to a disastrous camping trip to a Halloween party that doesn’t go as expected, life is never dull in the Fletcher house and that’s exactly what makes this book so much fun to read. The characters are interesting and entertaining, and readers will easily relate to the various everyday challenges of being a family. The different voices of the four boys are well-written and, thanks to chapters written from each character’s perspective, it is easy to keep track of each person’s storyline. The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher is the perfect book for upper elementary readers who enjoy realistic fiction stories and crave diverse characters. The first chapter is written in third person, which will give you a sense of each family member’s personality.

There you have it, four fabulous middle grade novels written from many different  points of view. If you are looking for some amazing picture books that explore the idea of different perspectives I highly recommend Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel. If YA is more your thing you can’t go wrong with the books that David Levithan has co-written with other beloved authors. If you know of other middle grade titles that fit this episode’s theme I would love to hear about them. You can always contact me through my website,, and find me on Twitter as WordNerd153. Thanks so much for taking time out of your day to celebrate middle grade fiction with me. Until next time, happy reading!

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Reading, Writing and...nope, that's all we need

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Whoever wrote that little ditty about sticks and stones was not a fat kid in the 80’s. I am willing to bet that he didn’t struggle with acne, had perfect vision and was celebrated for some kind of athletic ability because words most definitely hurt. Words are powerful. They can inform and inspire, degrade and divide.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Incarcerated Parents

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One Friday night in high school I was on my way out the door to a football game when my mom got a phone call that stopped me in my tracks. A family member had been arrested and was sitting in a jail cell. My mom insisted I go to the game, but I couldn’t enjoy myself because all I could think about was how a person I loved had committed a crime and I had no idea what would happen to them. Luckily for me and my family, my relative was released after a day and somehow life returned to normal. Sadly, for over two million kids in this country, that isn’t the case. Approximately 1-in-28 children have an incarcerated parent. I can’t even begin to imagine how growing up with a mother or father in jail would affect me.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Brrr, it's cold in here!

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Winter isn’t coming, it’s already here! This year has been especially brutal for most of the United States, and since I love nothing more than getting cozy on the couch with a good book when the temperature drops and the wind starts to blow, I thought it only made sense to dedicate an episode to books set during the winter.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Run for your life!

Episode 2 - Running

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Growing up I had no interest in sports. I didn’t want to participate in them, talk about them, or watch them. My older brother played soccer for years, dabbled in basketball (he is 6 foot 4, after all), and even went through a phase where he rode his bicycle everywhere. I was content to let him be the athlete in the family while I read, baked, hung out with friends, and watched TV. As you can imagine, I wasn’t the healthiest kid on the block. In fact, for years I joked that the only way you would see me running was if I was being chased by a homicidal maniac and even then it wasn’t guaranteed. Then, at some point in my mid-20’s, I had the crazy idea that I should start running. Fourteen years later I still lace up my running shoes several times a week and head out the door. It keeps me sane, makes me feel strong, and puts a smile on my face. This time of year people often focus on things for which they are thankful. Since I am grateful for running and books, it only made sense to record an episode that combines the two.

Welcome to the second episode of the second season of Happy Reading, a podcast that celebrates middle grade fiction by theme. I’m Sarah Threlkeld, a current elementary librarian, former 6th grade reading teacher, and finisher of six half marathons. Today I am going to spotlight three middle grade novels and a YA title, all of which celebrate the joy and agony of being a runner. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be inspired to take a jog around your neighborhood after listening to this podcast.

Between the rhythm of your footfalls, the sound of your breathing and the thump, thumping of your heart, running is its own kind of poetry, so it makes perfect sense that Sharon Creech wrote heartbeat, about one girl’s love of running and how it centers her when everything seems to be changing, as a book in verse. Twelve-year old Annie just found out her mother is pregnant, which was completely unexpected. Her grandfather is struggling to remember the details of his life and Annie’s best friend Max is acting strange. Luckily, Annie has one thing in her life that will never change - running. But is it enough? Here are three poems from heartbeat by Sharon Creech.

Excerpts: pages 4-5, 10, and 15-19

Bang! When you’re a runner that can be an exciting sound, one that gets your adrenaline pumping and cues your legs to pump up and down faster than the wind. If you’re middle schooler Castle Crenshaw, who prefers to be called Ghost, it’s the sound that haunts him, the one that he heard the night his father chased after him and his mom in a drunken rage, threatening to shoot them if they left. Now Ghost runs his mouth, runs on the basketball court, and runs away from all of his problems. He has no idea he can also run to compete, until he sees an elite track team practicing at the local park and he knows his feet can help him fly past everyone else. Will Ghost be able to take direction from Coach, bond with his teammates, and stay out of trouble, or will his past destroy his chances for a shot at the Junior Olympics? Here’s an excerpt from Ghost by Jason Reynolds.

Excerpt: pages 6-7

As someone who will never be a top finisher of a race or even place in the top hundred, I really appreciate the tagline on the cover of Sidetracked by Diana Harmon Asher - it reads “The most important race is with yourself.” Joseph Friedman is having a hard time figuring out his place in the world. He is plagued by anxiety, bullied by classmates, and struggles academically. He doesn’t have any friends, unless you count his grandfather, and doesn’t seem interested in much except surviving middle school. Then on the first day of seventh grade two things happen that will change Joseph’s life - one of his teachers convinces him to sign up for the newly formed cross country team and he meets Heather, a new student who seems fearless and inspires Joseph to face some of his fears, too. Sidetracked is thought-provoking, funny and full of endearing characters that readers will cheer for. I couldn’t stop reading it and can’t wait to add a copy or two to my school library. Here’s the scene where Joseph visits the new track for the first time and runs into Heather, who he has only admired from afar.

Excerpt - pages 20-23

What would you do if the one thing you were most passionate about was suddenly taken from you? That’s exactly what happens to sixteen-year old Jessica in The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen. One moment Jessica is basking in the glory of achieving a personal best in the 400 for the Liberty High track team and the next she’s in a hospital bed, her right leg missing from the knee down. Her family and friends are optimistic that life will eventually return to normal, but Jessica is certain that she will never again experience the joy that running brought her. Then she meets Rosa, a classmate with cerebral palsy who is confined to a wheelchair. Rosa believes Jessica is capable of more than just learning to live with a prosthetic leg. Will Jessica begin to believe it too? Here are two short chapters from the beginning of The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen.

Excerpts - pages 6 and 16-17

Dying to run a 5k yet? Or at least prepare for a reading marathon? If you know of other fabulous middle grade books about running, I would love to hear about them. You can track me down on Twitter as WordNerd153 or email me through my website, You’ll also find transcripts of each episode on my site, as well as links to the books I spotlight.

Thank you so much for listening to this podcast! I hope you discovered a few books to add to your TBR pile and were inspired to log a mile or two. Shoutout to my dear friend Emily Moore, who is an exceptional librarian and also a runner. In fact, I bet she listened to this episode while pounding the pavement. Until next time, dear listeners, happy reading!