Rookie of the Year, A #BookJourney Adventure, Part II

Here’s Part II of the conversation with the #BookJourney Crew… But if you missed Rookie of the Year, A #BookJourney Adventure Part I, click the link. We’ll wait for you to come back!

So nine passionate and inspiring educators — Scott Filllner, Christina Hanson, Sarah Levy, Nicole Otting, Beth Parmer, Kristen Picone, Stacey Riedmiller, James (Jimmy) Sapia, and Amanda Schreiber — passed around an ARC of Rookie of the Year in a shared learning adventure called a #BookJourney. I asked them questions about their experience.

But before anything, the teachers mention many wonderful books in the post (mine!). I link to them on Indiebound throughout. Please consider purchasing one of those books. It helps the authors. It helps the independent bookstores. Then share the book with a kid you know. Or surprise a teacher with an end-of-the-year gift. Everybody wins.

“Let’s talk about the


How did it come about?

What was your favorite aspect?

KRISTEN: The Rookie of the Year #BookJourney began last winter. Victoria Coe tweeted out she was reading an ARC of it. I mentioned how much I loved A Whole New Ballgame and that I was excited about the second book. To my surprise, she said she would mail it to me! Soon after, Victoria asked if I would send it to Jimmy when I was done. I knew Jimmy was also part of the Booked #BookJourney, so I sent him a private message. The next thing I remember is a private Twitter conversation between myself, Jimmy, Beth, Scott, and Stacey asking if they would want to be part of the Rookie of the Year #BookJourney. It was that same day we decided to create a Voxer group so that we could not only chat through post-its, but we could also actually talk to each other.

STACEY: I think Rookie of the Year was the book that really started developing our friendships. We started going above and beyond to send cool things with the books – like Dunkin’ Donuts gift cards — to help enhance the experience. I only wish I could send bottles of orange soda with Raina Telgemeier’s Ghosts!

BETH: To read about an inspiring teacher like Mr. Acevedo and to be able to share our admiration of him with others –that was powerful. I became a better reading teacher this year because I saw the ways connecting with others enriched my reading experience. That became my goal for my students.

The Rookie of the Year #BookJourney began last winter.

SARAH: I strive to be like Mr. Acevedo…and I’m dying to have a bathtub in my classroom now!

STACEY: Rookie of the Year is a book that we all relate to because in a way, we’re all Mr. Acevedo. It’s like you had us teachers in mind. It became a huge talking point in our group because you write books that our kids know are real.

JIMMY: Mr. Acevedo is one of my favorite literary characters to date. We had so many Voxer conversations, both serious and comical, about his philosophy about education. Because of Rip and Red, we’ve also had many meaningful conversations about acceptance, treating others with respect, and accepting others’ differences. I know these conversations have helped me develop as a teacher.

NICOLE: There are some great conversation pieces for our students in regards to reading for enjoyment, accepting others even when they are different, and how we may not always understand the decisions made by our coaches or teachers, but there is always a lesson to be learned mixed in somewhere.

SARAH: I think Rip and Red’s relationship is a shining example of what a friendship should look like.

NICOLE: I loved all the fun phrases I get to say because of the book. Boo-yah! Zwibble!

AMANDA: If the #BookJourney crew taught at my school I think we’d be yelling Boo-yah! and creating our own elaborate handshake actions every time you re-tweeted or replied!

SARAH: My absolute favorite aspect of the Rookie of the Year #BookJourney was talking about the book with my students and eventually bringing the book in for students to see! I read the first chapter aloud to them and let them flip through the pages.

CHRISTINA: Being one of the last people to read Rookie of the Year, it was great to read all of the post-its the #BookJourney crew already wrote! It’s so cool that many of us had similar thoughts and feelings during certain parts of the story, especially the chapter called “U R Never 2 Old 4 Picture Books.”

KRISTEN: My favorite part of the Rookie of the Year #BookJourney will probably be when I get it back! I was the one who started that journey and starting a journey is a whole different experience than getting it midway through or near the end. When I read it, I was alone with my thoughts, connections, and feelings. I’m so anxious to see everyone else’s post-its, get their insights/reactions, and to then share it with you!

As the author of the #BookJourney book, it’s super exciting and a bit nerve-racking watching from afar. A group of people, who read a tremendous amount of children’s literature, are closely reading my novel. Not everyone is going to like every book. You’re going to have divergent viewpoints. So how do you avoid “group think” pitfalls? How do you address the differences of opinions?

BETH: Part of the beauty of this group is that we challenge each other in our thinking. We respect each other’s opinions and are open to ideas that are different from our own. We’ve said things on Voxer like, “Oh, I’ve never thought about it that way,” and “I’m going to have to go back and re-read that.”

AMANDA: We often agree on things, but we’ve definitely had different ways of looking at various books. I know personally, I had a differing opinion over one particularly celebrated book. I was really struggling to feel the excitement and needed some encouragement to finish. Yet, I never felt like I couldn’t express my true feelings. It was actually great to group talk and work through some of my issues. It helped me work through some of my frustrations.

JIMMY: We know we’re able to express how we feel in a safe and respectful environment. We all actively listen to each other’s ideas and their lenses for how they interpret the stories, specific characters, plot lines, etc. This has helped me open my eyes to new perspectives and a more diverse focus when reading. Being a part of this group has helped me to read more closely.

KRISTEN: Me, too. The journey has forced me to read more closely. I want my post-its to be thoughtful, thought-provoking, and meaningful to those who read them. The ultimate goal is, and always has been, to get books into the hands of my 5th grade readers. I may not love every book I read, but I know there is always a reader for that book.

STACEY: In the same way that we teach our students to politely disagree, we do that with each other. We are all alike, but also different. We bring different backgrounds to the table and if anything, we love when the dust gets kicked up, and we can all throw something in to get each other thinking. It challenges us as readers. We have to think about the lens with which we are reading. Are we reading this one with our hearts? Are we reading this one with a technical award winning eye?

JIMMY: It’s safe to say that our group is not an echo chamber, but a place to express our beliefs and thoughts freely. What’s better than that?

BETH: We know not all books fit all kids, and when you believe that, you carry it over to the adults you read with. We’re not all going to have the same favorites, and our reactions will be different. That’s real life. We are better for being surrounded by people that don’t all think the same way.

SARAH: One of the best parts about this group is the mutual respect we all share. Coming into the group, I felt a bit apprehensive because I am a special education teacher and currently co-teach in third and fifth grade. I don’t have my own classroom and cannot always put my ideas into action like many of my #BookJourney friends. However, right away, I could tell all opinions in the group — including my own — mattered and had value. I believe we all have an understanding that we each bring a different perspective to the table and this only helps us grow as educators and human beings.

KRISTEN: One of the best parts of this group is that we all have different tastes in books… some of us haven’t read Harry Potter (I’ll never tell who!). Others are sci-fi fans, while others tend to gravitate toward realistic or historical fiction. A few of the books we have read have led to separate Voxer groups so that we can discuss specific books without giving away any spoilers for those who haven’t read that book.

BETH: We always bring a ridiculous amount of humor into our Voxer threads so at the end of the day –or bright early in the morning– we are cracking each other up. No way to get offended or mad at anyone in this group!


Have you participated in a #BookJourney with other titles?

SCOTT: Yes! We are over thirty titles strong!

SARAH: Currently, we have about thirty-six #BookJourney books traveling around!

STACEY: Scott is the king of winning giveaways. He is so eloquent when he speaks that he ends up landing us book after book.

NICOLE: I’ve participated in Booked by Kwame Alexander, The Distance to Home by Jenn Bishop, Raymie Nightengale by Kate DiCamillo, Maxi’s Secrets by Lynn Plourde, and Finding Perfect by Elly Swartz. I’ve also just started Sticks and Stones by Abby Cooper.

CHRISTINA: The first #BookJourney book I read was Kwame Alexander’s Booked. Other books that I’ve read include The Distance to Home by Jenn Bishop, Soar by Tracy Edward Wymer, Eleven and Holding by Mary Penney, and most recently, Rookie of the Year! I am currently reading Finding Perfect by Elly Swartz.

Have you shared your #BookJourney experience with your students?

NICOLE:I have!




JIMMY: Yes! Yes! Yes!

NICOLE: I bring in the books I’m reading and show them how we do the post-it notes. I do book talks with my students about the books I’ve read.

AMANDA: It’s so powerful for my students to see how real readers interact. I’ve shared with them many of our post-its and messages. I’ve also talked about how we share our TBR lists and reviews on Goodreads. I’ve shared many of the #BookJourney tweets as well as the author responses, which always seems to get my students very excited!

JIMMY: I’ve shown my students many of the books we’ve read and the post-its. We have conversations about how this is a true book club. There is no over saturation of comprehension questions. It’s a safe place to share our thoughts and feelings.

STACEY: I talk with my kids all the time about #BookJourney. We do a lot of authentic responses to our books in my class. We are a true reading community. We share the books. I do book talks, and we anticipate release dates. My whole class read Ghosts before I sent it out in the crew. Hey, there was no way an advanced copy of that one wasn’t going to my kids first!

SCOTT: We use the books in discussions. We read passages from the books for modeling author’s craft. We use sample passages from the books to use as models of writing. I believe in showing students models of great literature to help them see what is possible.

JIMMY: I modeled my Kate DiCamillo author study around the premise of the #BookJourney. We must share our reading lives with students as a piece to the puzzle to create a passionate community of readers.

CHRISTINA: Every Tuesday in my classroom, we have “Book Talk Tuesday” where I share a book that I’ve read. Then students volunteer to share books as well. After I read Booked, I brought it in and gave a quick book talk.  When I explained to them it was an ARC, they were like “Woah!  How did you get it before it was released?” I then told them the story of it being passed around to other teachers around the country and how we were commenting and making connections. The students wanted to read Booked so bad and were disappointed I had to send it off. Now after every book talk I give, the students always ask, “Is this a #BookJourney book?”

KRISTEN: My students are always asking about my latest #BookJourney books, especially when I display the book covers on my Reading Life bulletin board, courtesy of Donalyn Miller. So many of the journey books are now on my students’ personal TBR lists! Over the summer, I am hoping to use Padlet to stay connected with my students and continue to share titles with them.

“We talk about author’s craft, word choice, growth of characters, foreshadowing and making predictions.”

How can you apply what you’ve learned on the #BookJourney with your students?

STACEY: In so many ways! The kids know that their lead learner is a reader. They know I have a community of friends that I share and talk books with. They know that our work in the classroom is authentic because of that. They can and do the same thing that I am doing, just maybe in different ways. It makes reading a real-life-not-just-for-school thing.

NICOLE: We talk about author’s craft, word choice, growth of characters, foreshadowing and making predictions.

(Author’s Craft Sidebar: This is me playing Chapter Tetris as I work on the pacing in Tournament of Champions, the third book in the Rip and Red series coming next summer!)

SCOTT: We use the books to generate interest in reading. There is something magical about holding an ARC in your hand knowing you cannot buy it from a store or check it out at a library… yet. I’ve had many parents comment on how their child had to have this book or that book. I could tell them exactly when its book birthday was.

AMANDA: My students already know how much I value reading and how much I love sharing my books with them. However, through #BookJourney, I think they saw how books can connect strangers from all over the country.

SCOTT: Students in our room have started their own SPS Clubs — Secret Post-it Society Clubs. This is where they place post-it notes in books and return them to the library for unsuspecting students and adults to find. We had to make a “No Spoilers” rule!

KRISTEN: My students have always known me as a self-proclaimed “nerd.” They know I am an avid reader who is constantly buying new books to add to our library, but this experience shows them how connections can form around books. They learn the power of thinking about text and how sharing those thoughts can create a whole new reading experience for someone else. They are inspired to start their own book journeys and have asked if they can leave post-its in books for next year’s class to find. They see how social media can connect people in a positive way and can be used to foster relationships.

What advice would you offer to others looking to participate in a #BookJourney?

BETH: Quite simply, find a book you love and offer to share it.

NICOLE: My advice would be to get organized. It’s much easier to send books and discuss them when you have a framework or plan of how to go about requesting ARCs, sending them to your group, and sharing online. Organization is key!

JIMMY: Our Google Doc has our names, addresses, social media handles, websites, etc. We created tables of the books we’ve read and/or are reading. We also have an order the book will travel.

SCOTT: Establish a Voxer or another form of communication. We love the flexibility to share texts, pics, video, and voice. It’s private and allows us to give honest feedback to each other, the process, issues, and even books some of us have read and others haven’t without spoiling it for all members.

JIMMY: Be flexible. Sometimes you may have three or four #BookJourney books at a time. It’s fine to get skipped in order for someone who does not have a #BookJourney book at the time.

SCOTT: Nine to ten members is a large enough group. It took Kwame’s Booked over six months to make it to every member before it actually landed back in his hands.

AMANDA: Be patient and kind. And keep up with &ctz=America/Chicago" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Mr. Schu’s new release calendar!

JIMMY: Go about developing relationships with authors, illustrators, editors, and publishers in a respectful manner.

STACEY: Yes. Be respectful and genuine when interacting with authors and publishers.

JIMMY: Explain the purpose of a #BookJourney (or whatever others want to call their groups), and explain how we can play a small role in helping to promote a book via social media and the various hashtags used by teachers.

SCOTT: That’s an important point. We don’t want to confuse authors, illustrators, and publishers.  When we build these relationships we don’t want them to think that multiple people in the group are asking for copies of their book. Not that any of it is ever intentional; it’s just something we have noticed on Twitter.

KRISTEN: Just do it! Find people you connect with and share away!

AMANDA: What Kristen said. Create your own path. Find your tribe.

STACEY: Get together with people who care about books as much as you do.

KRISTEN: Any time that books make into the hands of more readers –of any age — it’s a win!

“Be respectful and genuine when interacting with authors and publishers

Follow the fifth grade adventures of Rip and Red. Be sure to pick up copies of A Whole New Ballgame and Rookie Of The Year.


Click a book cover to go to the purchase page >

Know a school that would love a visit from Phil?

It's easy!

Click a button to tell someone about school visits from Phil >