Our Wonderful, Marvelous, Miraculous Visit with Cassie Beasley & Circus Mirandus


The magical day finally arrived.  After 3 weeks of school, lots of circus photo booth pictures, invented tickets to Circus Mirandus, and many pages read, Cassie Beasley came to our school!  The students have been buzzing with energy all week long.  They’ve repeatedly asked, “Is today the day that she’s coming?”


Thanks to our PTA every 3rd-5th grade classroom got a copy of Circus Mirandus and 20 additional copies were given away to students who added their name to our raffle by taking a picture or making a Circus Mirandus ticket.  I announced all of the winners on our morning broadcast.

Hannah and Will from Avid Bookshop arrived early and helped setup all of the books for autographing.  We worked together to place post its in all of the books to make the signing smooth.

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When Cassie arrived, it was so much fun walking her down the halls of our school through our Circus Mirandus tent and looking at our display of photo booth pictures.

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We also took time to look at all of the tickets that students submitted and admired the student choices and how long each ticket was valid.  We smiled at the crown of Artemis and how the student thought it should be good forever because it was a goddess crown.

Today was Cassie’s very first school visit, but you would not have known it without her saying it.  She engaged the energetic students with a timeline of her life to show how she was a real person who first thought writers looked like people like Gandalf.  Students connected with her as she told the story of how she was so engaged in reading while in school that she completely missed a fire drill.

She shared with students how it took 2 1/2 years to write Circus Mirandus, even though the first draft was written in a week.  They saw pictures of her overflow bucket of revisions and heard about her filing cabinet which stored all of the drafts and notes.  Cassie even showed notes from her sister that were being scribbled onto her manuscript up until the final stages of the book and how she continued to see things she had missed and added them in.

Students saw that even though Cassie has a book in print that is getting tons of buzz she is still working hard.  She gave them some insight into the projects she is currently working on and how she covers her tables at home with notecards, ideas, and manuscripts.  She wants to think about each character and spends time getting to know each one on a notecard.

Cassie showed students lots of evidence of how her life makes its way into her writing.  We saw a picture of her black tea that is just the way Aunt Gertrudis likes it and her parrot which was the inspiration for Chintzy.

There were just so many nuggets of information that Cassie shared with the students to inspire both their reading and their writing lives.  I can’t wait t see how this early author visit inspires student work throughout the year.

Cassie left plenty of time for questions, and wow…..students had some profound questions.  One student asked about what Cassie does to make herself keep going with her writing.  The student explained how she often starts writing but never finishes it.  Cassie shared how it is sometimes hard to keep going, but you just have to make yourself sit down and write.  She reminded about how she can change what goes onto the paper, but she makes herself get something down.

Our students gave her a thunderous applause, and students who won a book or purchased a book stayed behind to get books signed.  These students continued to talk with Cassie.  I just love how authors have a celebrity status in the eyes of readers.  So many students just wanted her to sign something for them, and Cassie was wonderfully pleasant the whole time.

Before Cassie left, we had a bit of fun in our circus photo booth.

I have to send a huge thank you to Cassie for taking time to visit our school.  Thank you Avid Bookshop for working diligently to make this connection happen and for helping the book selling and autographing process go so smoothly. Thank you Dial Books for Young Readers, a Division of Penguin Young Readers Group for supporting Cassie’s visit to our town. Thank you PTA for being such a supporter of our library programming and believing in our students and teachers.  We believed in this author visit, and we certainly saw a bit of magic today.



Creating Hype for an Author Visit: Circus Mirandus


We are over the moon with excitement that Cassie Beasley is coming to our school on September 3 thanks to her, her publisher Penguin Random House, and Avid Bookshop.  Sometimes author visits happen at the last minute, but this one has been in the works since the summer.  I read the book and fell in love with the story.  Even before I was done, I was talking with Avid Bookshop about the possibility of Cassie coming to our school.  We created a proposal together, and many emails and conversations later the visit was scheduled.

As a part of my proposal, I suggested that our PTA would buy a copy of the book for all 3rd-5th grade homerooms.  The book would be available to students to read or the teacher could even read it aloud.  I’m excited to say that our entire 3rd grade is reading the book aloud and many of the 5th grade classes are starting it. During our library orientation, I read aloud the beginning chapter of the book as well as the beginning of the chapter starting on p. 65 which details how Ephraim first made it into Circus Mirandus.  We learn that you can’t pay to get into the circus but must instead offer something of your own to the ticket taker.  For Ephraim, it’s a fish from his boot which results in a week-long pass to the circus.

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Reading from the book is enough to create hype because it’s just that good.  However, a circus theme as well as the contents of the book lend to some other fun opportunities for students to engage with the book ahead of the author visit.  Our wonderful PTA also bought 20 additional copies of the book to be given out at our discretion.  I’ve decided to give 10 of these away to students who participate in 2 opportunities in the library.


The first opportunity is to think about what your ticket into Circus Mirandus would be.  I’m encouraging students to either make, bring in, or even take a picture of the object they would offer as their ticket.  I made a short ticket template for them to fill out with their name, ticket description, and how long they think the ticket would be good for at the circus.

We are displaying these on the tops of the library shelves.  When they turn in their “ticket”, I give them a ticket to put their name on and drop into our fish bowl.

The second opportunity is a photo booth.  I made a backdrop of red with quotes from the book.  I covered a table and cushion with a gold tablecloth and filled an empty Mariah Carey perfume container with fuzzy pom poms to look like gum balls.  Then, I ordered a set of circus photo booth props from Oriental Trading.  I put all of this together and included the wearable books from Capstone which contain beards, hats, masks, and teeth.  If students take their picture in the photo booth, then they earn another ticket into the drawing for a book.  I plan to print out the photographs and display them on the library windows.

Before the author visit, I will draw out 10 names and announce the winners so that Cassie can autograph the book for them.

Along the way, I’m tweeting about our fun and tagging Avid Bookshop, Cassie Beasley, and the publisher so that they can all follow along in the fun.

I have some other special decorations in the works, which I plan to complete this week.  I’ll keep those under wraps for now.

I’ve been emailing with Cassie and planning the visit.  I know that it is truly going to be a magical experience for us all when she comes.

Library Orientation for Third through Fifth Grade


Just as I did for the early grades, I pondered what message I wanted our upper grades to take away from library orientation.  I wanted to of course give them some reminders about routines and procedures, but I wanted them to leave with a sense that the library was a place for all readers to connect with books.  I wanted them to know that if they had never found a book that they connected with that I wanted to help them find that book.  If we didn’t have the book or topic in our library, then I wanted us to make sure that we did.

Over the summer, I saw John Schu post on his blog about a new site from Scholastic with the motto “Open a World of Possible”. On the site, there are several videos and resources about how reading opens possibilities for us all.  One of the best videos is the one asking kids of all ages to talk about why they read.

I asked students to first think about what their answer to the question “Why do you read?” would be.  I didn’t take any answers from them since I felt like it was a personal question at that moment in time and that some students may have never thought of the answer.  Then, we watched the video to see if we connected to anything the students said or if their ideas sparked some of our own.  At that point, instead of asking students to share aloud, I gave them an opportunity.  I created a Flipgrid with that same question and told them it would be available for the next two weeks.  I hoped they would think about their answer and share their voice with others in our school.  I loved that some of them did this before they even left the library.

I shared with students that one of the reasons that I read is to walk in other people’s shoes, especially people who are different from me. I also love to experience things in a book that I know I would never do in real life.  Books are my safe place to go into the spooky unknown, the thrill of the Hunger Games, or the magic of a schools for wizards.

Next, I shared a bit of a book that I connected with this summer called Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley.  These grades will all have an author visit with Cassie in September, so this lesson was also a way for us to start diving into her text.  I chose to read aloud starting on p. 65, which is the part where Ephraim first visits the circus as a young boy.  He is a believer, so he is able to find the circus.  However, he still needs a ticket to get in.  It is on these pages that Ephraim discovers that every person’s ticket into Circus Mirandus is different.  You can’t pay to get in but instead must offer something to the ticket taker that has a connection with who you are or simply what you have to offer.  For one boy, it’s a spool of thread and for Ephraim it’s a fish.

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I loved seeing so many students connect to this part of the story and want to read on.  I knew they wouldn’t all connect because it’s so hard for us all to connect with the exact same book.  However, this part of the story helped us talk about how we are each different.  We each have interests that we bring into the library when we search for a book, and those interests are our tickets into the books on the shelves.

Beyond “why I read” and connecting through interests, students have an opportunity to explore the library and refresh their memory on checking out books, using Destiny, and finding the various sections.  As in the past, I made some videos connected to QR codes.  Students used iPads to watch these videos and then start checking out books when they were ready.  I was able to talk to students about their interests rather than focusing on how to check out books.

I hope that students continue to think about why they read and that I can think of more ways to find out their interests and showcase their voices in the library.


Library Orientation for Kindergarten through Second Grade


Each year I ponder what to do for the first of the year library orientation.  Once again, it’s a time where you want to talk about procedures, expectations, etc, but I think more and more about what message I really want students to take away.

This year we are fortunate to have author and illustrator Mike Curato coming to visit our school in October.  His book Little Elliot, Big City has so many positive messages for students to start off their year.  I decided to use this book as a conversation starter about problem solving, helping one another, being a good friend, and feeling welcome in such a big place.

As students entered the library, I played the book trailer.

Then, we opened with the story. Little Elliot, Big City has very few words on a page, but the discussions that can blossom from those simple words and powerful illustrations are priceless. Over the course of reading the book to students, there were certain pages that started to stand out as the pages I wanted to pause on in order to connect the book with the first visit to the library.

First, we paused here:

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Students imagined an elephant in their mind based on what they had seen in a book, movie, or real life. Then, they talked with a partner about all of the differences. We could connect this to all kinds of library ideas such as how different we all are as readers: our interests, our stamina, our favorite authors, and more.

Next, we paused here:

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I loved hearing students talk about this page and how Little Elliot was a problem solver.  Even though things were challenging, he found ways to persevere.  Again, there were so many was to connect to the library and school.  We talked about the importance of not giving up, taking a deep breath, trying what seemed impossible, and the more classes I talked to the more ideas surfaced that I hadn’t even thought of.

Probably the most powerful page to talk about was here:

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We saw Elliot struggle to be noticed as he went into the city to buy a cupcake. Students came up with all kinds of ways that Elliot could get his cupcake, but then he leaves with nothing.  We pondered the question, “Why was Elliot able to be a problem solver at home, but not in the bakery?”  Students amazed me with what they said.  At home, Elliot was alone and could be brave. In the city, he was shy and scared.  Students also talked about how he knew how to use all the tools at his house like his chair, his books, and his broom. However, in the city, he didn’t know how to use things, so he felt helpless.  Wow!  The conversations just kept coming and each class had a statement that stood out.  I wish I had captured the brilliance.  It really made me think about all the tools students really need in order to use the library and how that can be a little scary even though I have no intention for it to feel that way.  It reminded me of the importance of smiling and patience as students ask over and over how to do things like check out their own books.

Our library really is a massive place, especially for a Kindergarten through second grade student. I don’t want them to ever feel like Elliot did in the cupcake store, so we had some honest conversation about what we could all do to make sure that happened.  I was honest with them about how I work alone in the library so there are times that I can’t leave a class to come over and help them.  I truly want to, but sometimes it’s just hard for me to do.

Suddenly, those rules and procedures for using a shelf marker had a purpose.  I wasn’t just giving students a rule for the library during orientation.  I was giving them a tool just like Elliot had his broom.  The shelf marker was a strategy for those times that students were unsure.  We talked about going to a section of the library and really examining the books on the shelf with a shelf marker rather than searching on the computer.

We also talked about how Elliot was a helper to mouse in the story and that we really all have to be like Elliot at some point.  We have to help one another.  We can’t wait on one person to be the person to help us.  Whether it’s another adult roaming the library, a student from another class, or a volunteer, we can ask anyone in the library to help us access what we want.

I really didn’t plan for Elliot to have so many connections to library orientation, but he did.  It just evolved.  Students left with a positive story, a strategy for finding books, and I hope a sense that the library is a welcoming place where we all take responsibility to help one another.

Expecting the Miraculous with Cassie Beasley & Circus Mirandus

I’m drawn to powerful words and stories, and over the summer, my eye was caught by the cover of Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley.  I had seen the book getting considerable buzz, but even without the buzz, the cover, with its cutout top hat and hidden world beneath the tent, caught my eye.

The back cover slogan, “You have to BELIEVE IT to see it”, spoke to me.  In fact, it spoke directly to our motto in the Barrow Media Center to expect the miraculous every day.  In our library, we believe in everything that we attempt.  We don’t always know what is going to happen, but we know that if we believe that we can do something, then miraculous things will happen even if they aren’t exactly what we thought would happen in the first place.

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This summer I visited our local independent bookstore, Avid Bookshop, and picked up my copy.

I only had to read a few words to know that I was holding magic in my hands.  Circus Mirandus is about a magical circus that only is visible to the people who believe in it.  In fact,  you can’t even get into the circus with a regular ticket.  Entry is different for each person who comes because each person has a different purpose for being there.  Micah Tuttle’s grandfather tells him fantastical tales of the Circus Mirandus and Micah first thinks these are only stories.  Granpa Ephraim becomes very sick and says that the magical Lightbender from the circus has promised him a miracle and he is doing his best to make sure the miracle is granted.  Micah realizes the circus is more than stories and makes it his mission to find the circus and bring the Lightbender to his grandfather to grant his miracle.  This book has the magic of Peter Pan, Wizard of Oz, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, and more.

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When I read, quotes stand out to me.  Sometimes there is a single quote from an entire book that resonates with me.  I often tweet it out.  It happened this time, too.  One quote stayed with me:

I won’t give away how this quote fits into the plot of the story, but for me, it reminded me of how every day in our library we expect the miraculous.  It reminded me that often times there are very small magical things that happen even though I may pulling my hair out, dwelling on all the things I haven’t accomplished, and thinking about all of the things that went wrong.  However, it’s those small, magical moments that stand out.  It’s those small magical moments that are the most important and remind me why I press on.  It’s those moments that remind me the importance of empowering the voices of our students.

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Even Cassie’s dedication in the book reminds me of the importance of empower our students to believe that they can do anything they set their minds to.  She writes in her dedication:

“For Daddy and Mama.  When I was little, you told me I could do anything.  I’m not so little now, but you keep saying it.  I’m starting to think you really believe it.  I love you for that.”

I didn’t even have to finish Circus Mirandus to know that I wanted my students to experience the book and that I wanted Cassie Beasley to visit our school, but when I did finish, I knew that she had to.  When I read that she lives in “rural Georgia”, I immediately emailed Rachel Watkins at Avid Bookshop to learn more.  Between me, Rachel, and Janet Geddis, we began a conversation about what an author visit would look like and started talks with the publisher and author.  It took some time, but in my heart, I really believed that Cassie Beasley would come to our school at some point this year.

Just a few days ago, we got the confirmation that Cassie will visit our 3rd-5th grade on September 3 at 1:00.  She will also do an in-store visit at Avid Bookshop.  As part of my proposal, I said that I would introduce the book to all 3rd-5th graders and would also get a copy for every 3rd-5th grade classroom to use as a read aloud.  I love Avid Bookshop, because they got us our 10 copies for the classrooms just in time for school to begin.

Students will have an opportunity to pre-order her book for signing.  We are also purchasing additional copies of the book to give to classrooms thanks to our wonderful PTA.  You are probably wishing that you could also get your signed copy.

If you are in the Athens area, visit Avid Bookshop on September 3 from 4:30-5:30PM.  If you can’t make it to Athens, you can still get your autographed copy.  Just visit Avid’s website to order a copy.  Make a note that you would like to get your book signed, and they will ship your book to wherever you are!

We look forward to meeting Cassie Beasley in our school on September 3.  Expect to see lots of tweets and pictures during the event and a full post afterward.  I highly encourage you to read Circus Mirandus.  Your life will be rewarded!

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Coming Soon from Peachtree Publishers: Lilliput by Sam Gayton


LilliputSummer is a time for recharging, reflecting, and reading! Each summer I find myself with a little extra time to take a look at my stack of books that are in my ever-growing to-be-read pile.  In May, I received a package from Peachtree Publishers. It was wrapped in an aged box with a book, hot chocolate, thimble, and a letter.  I was immediately drawn to the artwork on the cover of Lilliput, written by ‘Sam Gayton and illustrated by Alice Ratterree.

The cover is filled with many details of characters, events, and objects in the book.  This summer, as I found time to read the book, I often looked back at the cover and understood a little more about the illustration that had caught my attention from the very beginning.

Lilliput is the story of Lily, a Lilliputian, who was stolen away from her home by the famous Gulliver of Gulliver’s Travels. Lily is being held captive by Gulliver while he writes his book of his travels.  She is his proof that the land of Lilliput actually exists.  Lily hatches multiple escape plans to get back to her home, but she repeatedly gets caught and punished for her efforts.  Across the course of her escapes, Lily meets a cast of amazing characters:

  • Finn, a clock maker’s apprentice who is being held prisoner himself
  • Mr. Ozinda, a Spaniard with a famed Chocolate House
  • Swift, a bird caged within a clock
  • Mr. Plinker, an evil clock maker who designs clocks that torture or force people to spend most of their time working rather than having fun

There really is a character for everyone whether you love animals, evil villains, giants, spoiled bratty girls, clever boys, or fairies.  Throughout the book, you’ll find several steampunk illustrations by Alice Ratterree.  I love every one of them!

The book is divided into 3 parts: Escaping, Searching, and Leaving. Each chapter is fairly short, which I love.  Short chapters make me read a book so much faster.  I always think, “I can read one more chapter. It’s only a few pages.” Before I know it, I’m done with the book.  I find this a big selling point for reluctant readers as well.

Lilliput is filled with adventure. You’ll be cheering Lily on as she works with other characters in the book to get back to the place where she belongs.  You’ll find yourself clenching your toes as you read faster and faster to see if this plan is the plan that finally works.  You’ll want to get your own revenge on the evil Mr. Plinker and stinky giant Gulliver.

My favorite quote from the entire book was:

It made me think about all of the things in the world that have held me back and all I’ve done to work to get beyond those barriers. Lilliput will inspire readers to keep trying no matter what obstacles are standing in their way.  Just when you are at your point of giving up is the point where you need to keep trying the most.

I highly encourage you to check out Lilliput when it is released on August 1, 2015.  I can’t wait to recommend this title to all of the Barrow readers when we return to school.

You can learn more about Sam Gayton here.

You can learn more about Alice Ratterree here.


Kicking Off Summer Reading with a Visit from Author Sarah Weeks

A few weeks ago our local independent bookshop, Avid Bookshop, emailed me with an opportunity.  Sarah Weeks, author of Pie and many other great books, was coming to Athens, and they wanted her to visit our school.  Hooray!  I try to jump at every author visit I can get.  For the visit, I needed to presale some books, which I always do, but this time we wanted to try something new and crazy. I’ve always wanted to do a school wide read, but I have never gotten the idea off the ground.  I saw this as a perfect chance to try it with a smaller number of students rather than the whole school. This author visit focused on upper grades. Our 5th graders would be gone to Skidaway on a field trip, so 3rd and 4th grade would be the classes coming to the visit. Rather than asking every student to buy a copy of the book, I decided to try a GoFundMe campaign to raise enough money to give every 3rd and 4th grader a copy of Pie as well as buy a few copies of Honey to give away to a few students.

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In just under 1 month, 28 donors funded our project.  These donors included community members, grandparents, families, and friends from around the country.  Thank you to each one of these donors who made this crazy idea a reality.

When Sarah Weeks came to visit our school, I got to make the exciting announcement and tell them about the 28 people who took time to donate money to the project.  I also told them that the deal from me is that I want each one of them to read Pie.  I want them to share it with families and spend time talking about it.  I also want them to make things together like family recipes or even pies.  My hope is that they will document this over the summer on a Padlet.

Sarah Weeks was phenomenal in her visit and I highly recommend her to any schools looking for a great author visit. She built so many frequently asked questions into her talk such as “What was your first book?”, “What is your current book?”, “Do you get writer’s block?”, etc.  Each question was answered with slides filled with great photographs, personal stories, and lots of funny moments.  The students laughed so much at Sarah’s stories about boys painting their fingernails, kids doing puppets shows through the shirts, and dogs joining.

She talked about a story arc and had students moving their hands to show the flow of a story through beginning, middle, and end.  She also told them a story about a cowboy on a horse in the airport and paused along the way to point out what part of the arc she was in during the story. What a great connection to what they are learning in writing class!

She showed them the many revisions that her work goes through and how important it is to listen to her editor. She connected this to all of the notes that students see on their writing papers and stressed how they needed to listen to their teachers’ comments because it helps make the writing better.

Sarah has so many books that she couldn’t talk about them all.  She started with books like the Oggie Cooder books and how he charves cheese into the shapes of states.

We had one student who knew every state she showed a picture of!

Sarah’s two new books are Glamourpuss and Honey.  She treated the students to a full reading of Glamourpuss and the high-energy students were mesmerized.  I loved how she showed Honey to the students.  She showed several slides with single words that helped students know some things the books was about, but then she showed students several characters from the book along with text from the book that gave the students a taste of the character.

Then, she showed the students how she had to do research to learn about how nail polish is made.  This story connected with a great story about how some girls in a library were painting their nails and several boys were very curious.  The librarian at the school hosted a nails at noon session in the library and it was attended by mostly boys who painted their nails and posed for some fierce pictures.

I couldn’t believe how much Sarah packed into an hour long presentation.  There was even time for Q & A.  She was engaging, funny, and a pro at keeping the student’s attention.  I loved getting to hang out with Sarah Weeks even for a brief time.  She is a fun person and a talented writer.

Thank you Avid Bookshop and Scholastic for bringing her to our school. Thank you to all of the donors who got Pie into the hands of all of our kids.

As I went to car riders today, I saw several students in the hallway already reading their books while they waited.  That’s what it’s all about!

It was a really fun day!