10 Minute Review: Wish by Barbara O’Connor


I often make the mistake of reading middle grade novels with awards in my head. Thinking about what the National Book Award Committee or the Newbery Committee might think about a book is fun, but it often taints my reading experience.

The time I spent with Barbara O’Connor’s Wish was magical. I never once thought about what award committees will think of this book, not because it doesn’t deserve consideration, but because this book is so obviously perfect and important for kids that it doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks. Wish contains so much of what I love about middle grade fiction: an engaging plot (the word engaging doesn’t do it justice, but I’m too tired to think of something better), a main character that readers will fall in love with, unforgettable supporting characters (not an easy thing to do), and a setting so real you feel like you’ve been there.

I don’t really have anything else I’d like to say about Wish, but I would like to say that Barbara O’Connor is one heck of a talented writer. My students love her books. Reading them aloud builds community, empathy, and it is just plain fun.

I hope you’ll check out Wish when it comes out August 30th.

5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Interview: Brian Farrey

A few weeks ago I finished Brian Farrey’s awesome middle grade novel The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse. I found Brian’s world fascinating, and I found myself trying to figure out the mystery even when I wasn’t reading the book.

It was a lot of fun interviewing Brian for today’s post. Enjoy!

5,4,3,2,1 Interview

1. Can you tell us a little bit about THE SECRET OF DREADWILLOW CARSE ?

I wrote THE SECRET OF DREADWILLOW CARSE for anyone who was ever told not to ask questions and I hope that they walk away understanding how important it is to be curious.


2. What is best part about being a writer?

The best part about being a writer is playing with words. It’s not just throwing a bunch of letters down on the page and hoping they make sense. It’s playing. It’s writing and re-writing and playing and playing to find just the right way to say what absolutely needs to be said.

3. What’s the hardest part of being a writer?

The hardest part of being a writer is dealing with the voices in your head that tell you your writing is horrible. All writers have these voices. I silence mine with a very liberal consumption of chocolate.

4. If you could spend one day living in the world of a book, which book would you pick?

If I could live in any book’s world, I’d spend the day fighting corruption in the magician government and brokering peace between the humans and djinn in Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus books. I probably wouldn’t get much accomplished in a single day but I’d give it my all.


5. What advice do you have for the young creators in my classroom?

Here is my advice for young creators: don’t give up. Ignore the voices in your head that try to trick you into stopping. Ignore anyone who tells you you’re not good enough to do what you’re trying to do. There’s a quote attributed to Thomas Edison that goes: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  When you create and fail, start again with Way #10,001.


The Yarn Unravells Kelly Barnhill


A new episode of The Yarn! Sitting down with Kelly Barnhill at Anne Ursu’s house during NCTE was a whole lot of fun. We talked about her book The Witch’s Boy. Enjoy!

Did you miss an episode of The Unraveller? Never fear! We created a playlist on Soundcloud.





Did you miss Season 1? It is never too late to catch up!

The Yarn Unravells Chris Grabenstein


had a ton of fun chatting with Chris for The Yarn. He’s a great guy, and he really cares about his readers. I cannot believe that he does more than 200 Skype visits a year! Whoa. 

We’re always looking for interesting stories to explore for The Yarn. If you have any ideas please leave a comment on this post or shoot us an email: theyarn@bkpk.media


Click here to subscribe to our wacky little newsletter. We promise to try and make it something that you actually like showing up in your inbox.

Did you miss an episode of The Unraveller? Never fear! We created a playlist on Soundcloud.




Did you miss Season 1? It is never too late to catch up!

Spring Break Reading 2016

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As soon as school ends this Friday, the Sharp crew will pile in our mini-van and head for Gulf Shores, Alabama. It is my favorite week of the year. A week spent on the beach with my family is a little slice of heaven. Usually, I pack a whole bunch of books with the the idea of reading them all during break. It never happens. Watching four kids run around is a full-time job. The best job. Hopefully, I’ll be able to finish 3 or 4 of the 10 books I plan taking with me to ‘Bama.

I’ll be sharing this post with my third graders late this week as we continue to plan for reading over break.

Books I’m Taking on Spring Break

My Seventh Grade Life In Tights

By: Brooks Benjamin


Audacity Jones

By: Kirby Larson


Lizzie and the Lost Baby

Cheryl Blackford


Six Kids and a Stuffed Cat

By: Gary Paulsen


Waylon! One Awesome Thing

By: Sara Pennypacker

Illustrated by Marla Frazee


When Friendship Followed Me Home

By: Paul Griffin


Maxi’s Secrets

By: Lynn Plourde


A Clatter of Jars

By: Lisa Graff


Some Kind of Happiness

By: Claire Legrand


Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White

By: Melissa Sweet


It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 3/28/16


I haven’t done an IMWAYR post in ages. I’ve missed doing them, so I’m going to try and get back in the saddle.


The Wild Robot

By: Peter Brown

The Wild Robot is Hatchet 2.0! Kids are going to love Peter’s first middle grade novel. The Wild Robot is  a perfect read aloud. 12 year-old Colby would have read this book to shreds.



This image Little Brown created makes me giggle.

The Happiest Book Ever

By: Bob Shea

Bob Shea read us The Happiest Book Ever last week during his author visit. My 9 year old son was cracking up the entire time. Bob Shea just gets kids.


Video I Loved Last Week.png

Last week Mr. Schu premiered the book trailer for Melanie Conklin’s Counting Thyme. I love Counting Thyme. Hopefully, the trailer encourages a bunch of kids to pick up the book and give it a read.


If you haven’t listened to The Book Love Podcast you are really missing out. Penny Kittle has created what I feel is the best education podcast in the universe.


Do You Even Boxcar?


When I was a student at Parma Elementary back in the day, I remember seeing The Boxcar Children book in many of my classrooms. I’m not sure that I ever saw anyone read them, but I saw them. Always.

I’ve never read a single page of the series (FAIL).

As I began building my own classroom library many moons ago, students began donating copies of books in The Boxcar Children series. I created a tub for these books and plopped it on the shelf. Rarely did I ever see anyone actually pick up and read an entire Boxcar book. Each year I consider sending the Boxcar books home with my students at the end of the year to free up a little bit of shelf space in my classroom library, but I never did. Partly because I can’t let go to this iconic series, but mostly because the end of the year is so insane that I always forget.

Something crazy is going on in my third grade classroom at Parma Elementary this year. A handful of kids are devouring The Boxcar Children series. I knew this phenomenon had reached crazy hights last night when I read one of my student’s reading journals.

She wrote:

Over the weekend I was reading The Boxcar Children at my house because it is so good. I just couldn’t stop. The more I read the more interesting the Boxcar Children become.

Can the origin of this reading revival be discovered? I believe that it can. Each of our classroom iPads has the reading app EPIC available for my students to use during independent reading. EPIC has thousands of actual books available for kids to read. They have tons of great nonfiction. EPIC even has a few audio books. One of the series they have on audio is The Boxcar Children. About a month ago a couple of girls discovered this and decided that they would listen to The Boxcar Children together. Every day they would get an iPad, plug in their headphones, and press play on a Boxcar Children book at the exact same time so that they could listen together. It was adorable. I didn’t think too much of it, until their reading of The Boxcar Children became a bit of an obsession. If I’ve learned anything about reading in an elementary classroom, it is that once a couple of kids get crazy excited about a series it tends to spread.

I’m about to head to school on this chilly February morning. It brings me great joy that I’ll be entering a room where The Boxcar Children has found a new generation of readers.

The Qwikpick Papers: The Rat With The Human Face

I fell in love with my first Tom Angleberger book back in the spring of 2011. The Strange Case of Origami Yoda was in our Scholastic Book Fair, so I picked it up for my fourth graders. I took it home that night to check it out, and ended up reading it cover to cover in one sitting. I was hooked.

Through a little bit of research I was able to figure out that Mr. Angleberger had published two previous novels under the pen name Sam Riddleberger. I quickly picked up those books and devoured them. It doesn’t take many pages to realize that Tom is a master at creating characters that middle grade readers can’t help but fall in love with.

Tom’s latest book Qwikpick Papers: The Rat With The Human Face is long overdue. It’s crazy to think that it was 8 years ago that he published the first Qwikpick Papers book. In The Rat With The Human Face Lyle, Marilla, and Dave are back and they are looking for a new adventure.


One of the things that I love most about The Qwikpick Papers is how Tom celebrates kids from that live in the trailer park. At times I think that kids that live in trailers are made to feel inferior to kids that live in houses. Lyle and Marilla live in the trailer park, but that doesn’t define them. This isn’t a book about kids trying to find a better life outside of the trailer park. It’s a book about kids. Kids that want an adventure. They just so happen to live in the trailer park.

I hope that every middle grade classroom and school library purchases this book for their readers.

I hope that kids read this book and fall in love with the characters like I did.

I hope that it makes kids want to go on crazy adventures.

I hope you like The Rat With The Human Face as much as I did.