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REVIEW: You Carried Me by Melissa Ohden


Melissa Ohden always knew she was adopted. But when she was a teenager she found out that she survived an abortion. This memoir is her story – about her adoptive family, about her reaction to the news of the abortion, and about her journey to integrate that piece of information into her identity, her calling and her faith.

I received a copy of this book from Plough Publishing and Handlebar in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions on this book are my own. You can read more about my review copy disclaimer here.

Abortion Survivor Memoir


Wow, this is an amazing and touching story! I appreciated the author’s honesty and transparency as she shares her journey. My heart broke as I read about her struggles as a teen to reconcile the abortion information and as she shared that she felt like damaged goods.

I was surprised by the hateful, angry, suspicious responses her story has received in pro-choice circles over the years. My guess is that it is painful to think about what abortion really is when you look at an adult who wouldn’t exist if the procedure had gone as planned.

This is a memoir with grace and forgiveness at its core. And that is beautiful. Ms. Ohden’s story had a fair number of surprises still to come, but her faith encourages – and helps – her to keep offering empathy and understanding to the people who are part of her story.

My favorite parts of the book were when she talked about being a voice – a voice for unborn babies, a voice offering forgiveness for grieving parents who had abortions, a voice for those who are pressured to abort their children.

This is an emotional read. If you have experienced an abortion or miscarriage (which Ms. Ohden does), some passages may be difficult for you to read. Be sure to take care of yourself as you read.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

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SATURDAY SMORGASBORD: 8 Authors I Buy Automatically


I do an incredible amount of “book work.” I read magazines about books, I read web posts about books. I read book reviews. I track book release days. I do a lot of reading.

There are a few authors that I will buy almost without even bothering to read a blurb about the book. These are my “go-to” folks. These are the ones who have written new series and I have followed them merrily along without hesitation. Here they are:

(Links below are affiliate links. Revisit the top of this post for more information.)

Jen Hatmaker Jen Hatmaker

I will read anything Jen Hatmaker wants to write – books, Facebook posts, Instagram posts, emails. You name it! She makes me laugh while “telling it like it is.” She is an encourager and an affirmer. If you’ve never read her stuff before, I’d recommend starting with For the Love.



Jennifer Lynn Barnes Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The book, The Fixer was my favorite book of 2015 – and I read over 300 books in 2015! The sequel, The Long Game: A Fixer Novel is shaping up to be my favorite for 2016. I tried her series, The Naturals, from the library after eyeing the covers in bookstores over and over. I fell in love with that series, too. There’s a smart, sassy quality to both series that I adore. Jennifer Lynn Barnes is my go-to recommendation when I am talking to people about books for teens.


Kate Messner Kate Messner

Capture the Flag was probably my first encounter with Kate Messner’s work and it remains my favorite book of hers to this day (although there is stiff competition!). I’ve also loved The Seventh Wish, All the Answers, and the Ranger in Time series (Rescue on the Oregon Trail – think Magic Tree House with a dog). She writes books – and characters – that connect with readers’ hearts. When she puts out a new book, I pay attention!


Jenn McKinlay Jenn McKinlay

The Library Lovers series (Books Can Be Deceiving) is the only one of hers I have read from start to the latest installment. But I like her writing style so much, I’ve picked up and started her cupcake bakery series and her hat shop series. I haven’t had time to really dig into those series, but I love her writing style. Her books click for me no matter what series she is writing.


Mo Willems Mo Willems

Knuffle Bunny. The Pigeon. Piggie and Gerald. Diva and Flea. Leonardo. Edwina. Amanda and her alligator. If you’ve read these, you know what I am talking about. Funny, clever writing. Endearing characters. If you don’t know what these books are, get to a bookstore immediately! I recommend starting with I Will Surprise My Friend! or I Am Invited to a Party! . I’ll say “you’re welcome” now. I know you’ll love them!


Donalyn Miller Donalyn Miller

Donalyn Miller is known in teacher and literacy circles as “The Book Whisperer” (also the title of her first book). When Donalyn talks – about how to conference with readers, about what real readers do, about great books you should read – people listen. The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child and Reading in the Wild: The Book Whisperer’s Keys to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits were my two favorite books when I was a teacher/ librarian. I love the practical advice given in them for teachers who want to build a classroom that celebrates reading. I recommended these to every teacher who talked to me about ways to improve the reading culture in their rooms. I attend any and every presentation she gives at a conference. I follow her recommendations on GoodReads and Twitter. She is the real deal for teacher resources. Even if I am not teaching when her next book comes out, I would buy it without hesitation.

Jarrett Krosoczka Jarrett Krosoczka

We were first introduced to Jarrett Krosoczka’s work with the Lunch Lady graphic novel series (Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute). Then we checked out his picture books. When he released the first Platypus Police Squad middle grade novel, I hesitated, wondering if he could handle a longer form like this. I should not have hesitated! I remember being delighted at the intricate mystery in book one (Platypus Police Squad: The Frog Who Croaked). We loved the whole series. When Jarrett said he was picking up the Jedi Academy series (started by Jeffrey Brown), I was completely on board. I have seen Jarrett present at conferences, and I will forever be a fan after the way he interacted with my son several years ago when we met him in person.

Rick Riordan Rick Riordan

I don’t remember how we discovered the Percy Jackson series (The Lightning Thief ). I just remember our whole household fell hard for this series about a kid with ADHD who finds out he is the son of the god Poseidon. We have read them multiple times and have the books in multiple formats – physical, audio, graphic novel. We have read Riordan’s Egyptian series (starting with The Red Pyramid ), his crossover books between Percy, Annabeth, Carter and Sadie. We have started the Trials of Apollo series and are currently reading book 2 in his Magnus Chase series,Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 2 The Hammer of Thor . The books are funny and completely engaging. The characters are kids you love spending time with. As long as Rick Riordan keeps writing them, our family will keep reading them.


So, what do you think of my list? Who would be on your “Must Buy” list of authors? Leave a comment below.

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BOOK NEWS: October 11, 2016

It’s Tuesday – release day! Eventually I would like to get these posted a few weeks in advance so you can check out and plan for books that are coming that you might want to read. For now, though, here are just a few of the books releasing on October 11, 2016 that you might be interested in:

Books for Kids

Cat Knit by Jacob Grant Crime Biters 2 It's a Doggy Dog World by Tommy Greenwald Peter Powers by Kent Clark Preaching to the Chickens by Jabari Asim The Day Santa Stopped Believing in Harold by Maureen Fergus  The Fox Who Ate Books We Found a HatStowaway in a Sleigh

Cat Knit – a book about best friends, Cat and Yarn
It’s a Doggy Dog World (Crimebiters 2) – Book two in the series about a boy who thinks his dog might be a vampire crime-fighting dog
Peter Powers and His Not-So-Super Powers! – Superpowers story about a boy whose powers aren’t so super
Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis – Picture book biography about the childhood of John Lewis
The Day Santa Stopped Believing in Harold – Christmas books are starting to come out. This one has a clever twist.
The Fox Who Ate Books – What is a book-loving fox to do to get his fill of books?
We Found a Hat – Third book in an interconnected set of outstanding, funny books
Stowaway in a Sleigh – A cat follows Santa home.

Books for Older Kids/Teens/Young Adults

Liberty by Kirby Larson The League of Unexceptional Children Get Smart-ish by Gitty Dane Shvari Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella by Megan MorrisonIsabella for Real by Margie PalatiniKyle Finds Her Way by Susie SalomSpy Ski School by Stuart Gibbs The Movie Version by Emma WunschStar Wars: Ahsoka by E. K. Johnston Black Widow: Red Vengeance by Margaret Stohl The Midnight Star by Marie Lu

Liberty (Dogs of World War II) – Book three in this historic fiction series
The League of Unexceptional Children: Get Smart-ish – Book two in this mystery series
Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella (Tyme 2) – Book two in this fairy-tale inspired series
Isabella for Real – Girl becomes overnight YouTube celebrity
Kyle Finds Her Way – Sticking up for another student lands Kyle in a creative problem solving group at school
Spy Ski School (Spy School) – Book 4 in this spy school series
The Movie Version – YA about a girl whose life isn’t going they way she thought it would
Star Wars Ahsoka – The untold story of Anakin Skywalker’s apprentice (I have this one and can’t wait to read it!)
Black Widow Red Vengeance (A Black Widow Novel) (A Marvel YA Novel) – Book 2 in this series staring Marvel’s Black Widow
The Midnight Star (A Young Elites Novel) – Third and final book in this YA series


Books for Adults

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult The Mothers by Brit BennettA Most Novel Revenge by Ashley Weaver
Small Great Things: A Novel – A black nurse defies orders to help the baby of white supremacists. Trouble ensues.
The Mothers: A Novel – This book about young love and big secrets is getting a lot of positive buzz.
A Most Novel Revenge: A Mystery (An Amory Ames Mystery) – Book 3 in this historic mystery series

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REVIEW: Razzle Dazzle Unicorn by Dana Simpson


Phoebe’s best friend is a unicorn named Marigold Heavenly Nostrils. Phoebe is a bit of an outcast at times. She has trouble with a mean girl named Dakota. She thinks her parents are weird. Through it all, Marigold is there to share secrets of magical creatures, extol the sparkly virtues of being a unicorn, and having Phoebe’s back every step of the way.

Graphic Novels for Kids - Phoebe and her Unicorn


I adore this series! If you are looking for a fun graphic novel for kids, check this series out!  I always find some laugh-out-loud moments in each book, and this is no exception. Marigold is a hoot! There are panels that beg to be read out loud, especially when she declares “UNICORN” in a fancy-shmancy font for the answer to anything. Phoebe’s parents are sassy and fun. Great stories in this book with Max, Phoebe’s friend at school, and Sue, a friend at camp. This is a great book/series for fans of Babymouse, Big Nate, Bird & Squirrel, Binky the Space Cat or the Sunday comics.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Pictures for the other books in this series are below.

Phoebe and her Unicorn series

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SATURDAY SMORGASBORD: My Favorite Teachers in Children’s Lit


Today’s post is all about TEACHERS! I love teachers. I loved being a teacher (One year I taught history and science to a split class of 2nd and 3rd graders. I taught a creative writing club to elementary students for 3 or 4 years.  And I was a teacher/librarian at an elementary school for five years. It was my most favorite job ever!). My father was a teacher for over 30 years as was my father-in-law. Many of my friends are teachers. Teachers are rock stars!

There are several literary teachers that I adore and I wanted to post about them today. Here they are:

The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds Vashti’s Teacher in The Dot

The woman never gets a name but she is a key component to how Vashti thinks about art. She challenges Vashti to make her mark and own it. And her encouragement gets passed on to another young artist through Vashti.

Teachers are inspiring.


Mrs. Granger in Frindle Frindle by Andrew Clements

At the beginning, Mrs. Granger calls Nick out for trying to distract her at the end of the day. Kids probably aren’t sure they like her at the beginning. Adults might cheer that she gets Nick with a pretty awesome consequence. This is not a soft and sweet teacher. She is tough. Her expectations for her students are high. But as the Frindle story unfolds, you start to wonder what those looks in her eyes might really mean. And at the end, you find out she was rooting for Nick all along!

Teachers see things in their students that the students don’t yet see in themselves and then try to call those things out.

Mr Terupt in Because of Mr. Terupt  Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea

Mr. Terupt is the rookie teacher for a group of fifth graders including the class clown, the genius, the kid who hates school, the mean girl, the new girl, the fat girl, and the outsider. These seven students share the story of their school year together with Mr. Terupt – their struggles, their triumphs, the times the grow, the times they fail, and the accident that changes things for all of them.  And this is just the first of three books where we get to watch these particular students grow. But we also get to see the impact Mr. Terupt has on them. He wants more for his students than occupying space in a classroom. He challenges them to creative projects to really cement the learning for his students. Mr. Terupt is inspiring!

Teachers are creative and innovative.

Ms. Bixby in Ms. Bixby’s Last Day Ms. Bixby's Last Day by John David Anderson

I posted about this book earlier this week here. You don’t get a lot of information about Ms. Bixby right off the bat, but as you read, you discover why she makes such an impact on her students, especially these three boys.

Teachers care about their students lives outside of the school day. 


Mr. Howell in Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett (Origami Yoda 4)   The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett by Tom Angleberger

If you aren’t familiar with this fun series, you should really check it out. It starts out as a series about a kids with an origami Yoda puppet that gives advice. But the series becomes so much more  when the emphasis moves to the school’s program to improve standardized test scores. In this particular book, the students (with a plethora of origami Star Trek characters) stage a rebellion against the school’s inane test prep program. I can’t say too much about Mr. Howell’s role, because that would be a big spoiler. I’ll just say this:

Teachers go to bat for their students.

Mrs. Twinkle in Chrysanthemum  Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

Chrysanthemum feels special and loved. She especially likes her name. But when she gets to school, the other girls tease her for being named after a flower and for having such a long name. Poor Chrysanthemum starts to wilt at school. But when Mrs. Twinkle arrives and says how much she adores the name, how she is also named after a flower, and that she might even name her baby Chyrsanthemum, the other girls change their tune. And Chrysanthemum can bloom at school once again.

Teachers are clever, and understand group dynamics and how to diffuse difficult situations.

Do you have a favorite teacher from children’s literature?