Amulet Series is a Must-Have

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When I began teaching 5th grade language arts, I searched websites like Goodreads for books recommendations. Having taught 4th grade for 8 years, I already had a sense of what the age range 8-10 liked to read, but I was interested in finding more titles that appealed to the 10-12 range. I was particularly interested in acquiring high-interest books such as graphic novels, fanfiction books (Minecraft, Lego, Disney), and fly-off-the-shelves chapter books (The Swap, Spy School, The Unwanteds, Mother-Daughter Book Club.)

By chance, I found a recommendation for the Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi (Twitter @Boltcity), and I bought Book 1: The Stone Keeper. This was a purchase that would forever change my classroom library. I lent the copy to a student in my classroom, and I asked her if she would do a review of the book. “Will you read it and let me know your thoughts?” I said. She agreed.

She sat down with the book and three minutes later I heard a scream. Not a scared scream, but a scream of delight. Although all heads turned toward her, she kept on reading, eyes glued to the pages. It must have an exciting beginning, I thought. I was right. It has an awesome beginning. One that takes students on a page-turning adventure.

The next morning my student asked me for Book 2. “How was it?” I asked. “Amazing,” she answered. This simple one-word review was all I needed. I purchased all of the books in the series, and she read each one.

A book recommendation from a classmate goes far. Very far. Within 24 hours I had multiple students asking to borrow the book. Within a week, every student wanted a chance. Word spread like lightning. All of my readers wanted to read this series. My voracious readers, my two-books-a-month readers, and my reluctant readers. This series ignites interest in all readers. It is like magic.

As teachers, librarians, and parents, we know that it is difficult to find perfect matches for readers. But this series is one that I bet on every time. It is a winner.

Today the new Amulet Book 7 is released. My class has a sign-up sheet of people waiting in line to read it. We also have a sign on the door celebrating the arrival of Book 7 that says, “Coming Out this Week! Amulet Book 7! Sign Up!”

Thank you, Kazu Kibuishi, for writing such an engaging series. You have many fans- students and teachers!

To read reviews, see the Goodreads write-up, Amazon, and Common Sense Media. For ages 8+.

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Dana Johansen teaches fifth grade in Connecticut. She enjoys reading on the couch with her yellow lab, and she is getting excited for the new season of House of Cards to return. Dana is the co-author of the new book, Flip Your Writing Workshop, due out in April. She believes in balanced blended learning and uses digital texts, flipped lessons, and all things Google to differentiate, be time efficient, and increase her students’ autonomy in the workshop. She has taught elementary and middle school for fourteen years. Dana is a doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University where she studies blended learning in reading and writing workshop. 



Celebrating Raina Telgemeier’s Graphic Novels

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Today is the big release of Raina Telgemeier’s book, Baby-Sitters Club Book #4 Claudia and Mean Janine. My students are so excited! They’ve been counting down the days.

What would we do without Raina Telgemeier’s graphic novels?! My middle school students LOVE her books. My students read and reread them constantly. Here are 5 ways Raina Telgemeier’s books are helping my students become better readers:

  1. All readers adore them. They create enthusiasm for reading! Raina Telgemeier can do no wrong. Each of her books are gold! My middle schoolers adore them and are so excited that the new Baby-Sitters Club book is coming out today.
  2. My reluctant readers pour through them. I make a stack of books on my desk every Monday morning for students who need book recommendations. Smile and Sisters are my go-to books for my reluctant readers and they are on the top of my stack each Monday.
  3. These stories resonate with students. Each book has realistic characters who go through real-life troubles. Whether it is friendship challenges, family troubles, or difficulties at school, these stories feel very real and familiar to readers.
  4. Rebooting Baby-Sitters Club. Enough said. I remember pouring through the Baby-Sitters Club books when I was a kid. I couldn’t wait for the next installment by Ann M. Martin. Now, I am so excited to see my students take up these books- both the graphic novels and the originals.
  5. Illustrations! Raina Telgemeier’s graphic novels are not only inspiring my students to read, they are inspiring them to draw. I love seeing my students draw their own graphic novel characters.

Raina Telgemeier’s new book, Claudia and Mean Janine comes out today! Yippppeee! Her new graphic novel, Ghosts, comes out September 13! I pre-ordered it on Amazon! Yahoo!

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Originally from Pennsylvania, Dana Johansen is hoping that Punxsutawney Phil will not see his shadow on Feb. 2 and there will be an early spring. In the meantime, she spends her time teaching fifth grade in wintery Connecticut, sitting with her yellow lab on the couch reading YA Lit, and watching the tv show, The Big Bang Theory. She has taught elementary and middle school for fourteen years. Dana is a doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University where she studies blended learning in reading and writing workshop. She is the co-author of the books Teaching Interpretation and Flip Your Writing Workshop. 

Top Ten Graphic Novels

Graphic novels are superheroes in the classroom! They have unique powers that can rescues readers! Students are drawn to them and enjoy being swept away. Just like superheroes, graphic novels rarely get the praise they deserve. They are the humblest of books, yet they do so much good for our readers.

I cannot sing the praise enough for graphic novels! How many of my readers have been changed because of graphic novels? Too many to count. How many students have fallen in love with reading because of graphic novels? Too many to count. Graphic novels can change students’ lives as readers. And yet, we don’t sing their praise enough.

So here is a list of our Top Ten Favorite Graphic Novels (Appropriate for Grades 3-6). I can’t keep these books on my shelves. Enjoy!Screen Shot 2015-11-28 at 6.18.31 PM

  1. Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi
  2. Smile by Raina Telgemeier
  3. Bake Sale by Sara Varon
  4. Lunch Lady series by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
  5. El Deafo by Cece Bell
  6. Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
  7. The Babysitter’s Club by Ann M. Martin & Raina Telgemeier
  8. Dork Diaries by Rachel Renée Russell
  9. Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
  10. Comic Squad by Jennifer L. Holm


Typically found wearing mismatched socks, Dana Johansen spends her time teaching fifth grade in Connecticut, negotiating with her yellow lab about doggy dinner options, and plopping down on the floor in bookstore aisles to find new reads. She has taught elementary and middle school for fourteen years. Dana is a doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University where she studies blended learning in reading and writing workshop.