Product Feature: Warcross by Marie Lu

Are you a junior high or high school teacher looking for an exciting read that will capture the interest of even your most difficult to please students? Consider Warcross!


Hailed as a cross between Hunger Games and the popular video game World of Warcraft, Warcross is a high-energy thrill ride set in a future where virtual reality gaming has become a worldwide obsession. At the center of the story is Emika Chen, a teenager struggling to make it on her own. Desperate for money to pay her bills, Emi decides to hack into the big Warcross tournament to steal a valuable powerup. When Emi inadvertently glitches the game while hacking it, she exposes her identity. Just like that her hopes of finding the money to pay her landlord are gone.

However, Emika’s life takes a drastic turn when she is contacted by the creator of Warcross, Hideo Tanaka. He is impressed by Emi’s skills and has a job offer for her. Hideo pays her debts and flies her to Tokyo to learn more.

Hideo needs a spy on the inside to help uncover a “security threat.” Emi goes undercover, only to find herself thrust into a dangerous plot, with consequences that reach far beyond the virtual world of Warcross. With dangerous foes on both sides, Emi learns that trust can be a dangerous weakness in the game that she is playing. As the secrets begin to come out, Emika must make a difficult choice about how to move forward…and neither option seems safe.

Book Facts

  • Ages 12+
  • Lexile 810L
  • 368 pages

For an in-depth study of this book focusing on plot development and characterization, check out this no prep novel study for Warcross. It features an engaging introductory activity to get students thinking about the themes that will be introduced in the novel and the role that technology plays in their own world. Student materials are available as Google DriveTM paperless resources or in printable form.


The novel study also features a student packet with comprehension questions, as well as many graphic organizers to analyze the setting, characters, plot, theme, and conflicts. The graphic organizers can be completed as a class for younger students, or in groups or alone for older or more advanced students. Writing prompts ask students to demonstrate what they have learned and to make connections to broader ideas. After completing the book, students (or student groups) will select a project to complete.

Other resources from around the web:




Product Feature: Warcross by Marie Lu

Product Feature: Wishtree by Katherine Applegate


This is the cowardly message sent to the new family in the community. The young Muslim family to whom the message is directed is seeking peace and safety. The young girl, Samar, has only one desire…a friend. Instead, the family finds a hateful message, directed toward them, carved into a neighborhood tree.

In this beautifully written book by the masterful Katherine Applegate, we find a story that can teach us all something about community, friendship, acceptance, and family. The story is told from a rather unexpected point of view…that of a tree. Red is a pillar of the community, an oak tree that has watched families move in and out for more than 200 years, many of them immigrants just like Samar’s family. However, Red is much more than just a simple tree. Red is a wishtree. Every year, community residents come to Red with the deepest desires of their hearts. They write a wish on a simple ribbon or scrap of fabric and tie it to Red. And sometimes…those wishes come true. Can Red make Samar’s wish come true after the rude introduction to the neighborhood that the family has already received? Red hopes to, but it seems that the message left for Samar’s family has put Red in very serious danger. While Red works to make Samar’s wish come true, an army of animal friends come to Red’s assistance.

This book strikes a perfect balance on so many levels. It tackles a serious topic, but does so while also making readers smile, giggle, or, at times, laugh out loud. It is a thoughtful book, giving even teenage students plenty to think about, but the book’s short chapters and cute, comical characters will make Wishtree a fun read (or read-aloud) for elementary students.

Book Facts

  • Ages 8 – 12
  • Lexile 590
  • 224 pages


For an easy study of this amazing book, be sure to check out our updated no prep novel study. It has everything you need to do an in-depth study of the book and now includes digital options for paperless classrooms. The 139-page unit includes:

  • Student Worksheet Packet (digital option)
    • Vocabulary
    • Chapter Questions
    • Discussion Questions
    • Focused Minilessons on Figurative Language, Greek and Latin Roots, Point of View, and Synonyms and Antonyms
    • Science Words Worksheet
    • Student Projects
  • Vocabulary Crossword Puzzles
  • Section Quizzes (digital option)
  • Final Exam (digital option)
  • Vocabulary & Definition Cards (digital option)
  • Word Wall Cards
  • Character Matching Game
  • Q & A Dice Game
  • CCSS Checklists, Grades 4 – 5

Other resources from around the web:





Product Feature: Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

Product Feature: Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science


Hearing the words “traumatic brain injury” can be devastating news after learning a friend or family member has been in an accident. With all of the medical knowledge and technology available today, brain injuries are still incredibly dangerous, difficult to treat, and filled with uncertainty.

Now imagine the case of a traumatic brain injury that occurred before MRIs, EKGs, or even antibiotics. The prognosis must have been incredibly grim. There is one case—an unbelievably severe one—that defied all odds. In 1848 a young man named Phineas Gage sustained a massive brain injury when an explosion sent a metal rod into Phineas’s cheek, through the frontal lobe of his brain, and out the top of his skull. He survived the event, astounding everyone who witnessed it or took part in his treatment. Even today, an accident of that magnitude would make national news headlines. But Phineas became much more than just an artifact of obscure medical history. He unknowingly laid the foundation for our modern understanding of both neurology and psychology.

In the book Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science by John Fleischman, we can learn the fascinating story of Phineas Gage—how his accident occurred, how little it seemed to affect him immediately after it occurred, how his doctors treated this injury that was unlike any they had ever heard of, and how Phineas’s life was both much the same as it was before, and at the same time, forever changed by the accident.

This book is a fascinating study that can be a valuable addition to a variety of topics at the middle school or junior high level. It is an engaging way to make connections and cement the knowledge gained in a study of the physiology of the human brain. It is also an ideal introduction to psychology. For those just looking to incorporate more nonfiction texts into their ELA content, Fleischman’s book is a stellar example of a nonfiction page-turner. Students can’t get enough of the gory details of the accident and Phineas’s bizarre behavior provides fodder for lots of discussion.

Book Facts

  • Ages 10 – 12
  • Lexile 1030L
  • 96 pages


For an easy study of this great book, be sure to check out our updated no prep nonfiction book study. It has everything you need to do an in-depth study of the book and now includes Google Drive™ digital options for paperless classrooms. The 100+ page unit includes:

    • Anticipation Guide (digital option)
    • Student Vocabulary Bookmark
    • Student Worksheet Packet (digital option)
      •Focused Questions on Figurative Language, Synonyms/Antonyms, & Greek and Latin Roots
      •Chapter Questions (fill in)
      •Discussion Questions
      •Student Projects
    • Chapter Quizzes and Final Quiz (m/c) (digital option-Google Forms™)
    • Vocabulary Crossword Puzzles
    • Final Vocabulary Quiz (matching)
    • Vocabulary & Definition Cards (digital option-list available for easy use with Kahoot, Quizlet, Flippity, etc.)
    • Word Wall Cards
    • CCSS Checklists for Grades 6 – 8


Other resources from around the web:

From Listenwise: Learning About Brain Science from Phineas Gage (Audio File + Text)

WUSF – University of South Florida Radio: Why Brain Scientists Are Still Obsessed with the Curious Case of Phineas Gage (Audio File + Text)

TEDed Lesson: Phineas P. Gage (video + questions)

Harvard University Gazette: Lessons of the brain: The Phineas Gage story (video + text)

From Inside the Mind of a Criminal (Can the story of Phineas Gage help explain some criminal behavior?)

Product Feature: Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science

The Whiz Mob and the Grenadine Kid

Great new book for middle schoolers – The Whiz Mob and the Grenadine Kid by Colin Meloy is an old-fashioned caper…it’s got a great plot! Kids won’t see it coming.

Check out the review by Publishers Weekly:

Or this one in the New York Times:

And here’s a great novel study packet to accompany the book:


The Whiz Mob and the Grenadine Kid

Book Review: When You Reach Me

Every few years, I read a book that really has an impact on me, and this one did, in a very profound way. I have a feeling that Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me is going to stay with me for a very long time. Its intended audience is ages 8-12, but I think even teens will love this book. I’m not sure 8-year-olds will be able to comprehend everything in it, but I AM sure it will give them plenty to think about and possibly figure out on their own…not a bad gift to give your 8-year-old!


The story takes place during the late 1970s in New York City. This is a well-plotted story that weaves so many seemingly random threads into the most detailed tapestry… but I don’t want to give anything away. You need to read this book for yourself!

Content Advisory: The only thing I found even mildly objectionable was that the main character’s mother “swipes” things from work.

From the author’s website:

Four mysterious notes change Miranda’s world forever.

By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it’s safe to go, and they know who to avoid. Like the crazy guy on the corner.

But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a new kid for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda’s mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then Miranda finds a mysterious note scrawled on a tiny slip of paper:

I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own.
I ask two favors. First, you must write me a letter.

The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows things no one should know. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she’s too late.

When You Reach Me won the Newbery Medal in 2010. The New York Times said it was “smart and mesmerizing.” The Washington Post said it was “incandescent.” The Philadelphia Inquirer said it was “lovely and almost impossibly clever.” The Wall Street Journal said, “Readers … are likely to find themselves chewing over the details of this superb and intricate tale long afterward.”

I say: Run — don’t walk, RUN — to your local library to check out this book, or, better yet, buy a copy of this one for yourself because it’s a keeper. You may want to get another copy to give a friend. You’re going to want to talk with someone about it after you read it. And re-read it. And maybe even re-re-read it. Yes, it is that good! Because of this book, Rebecca Stead’s name will always be on my list of favorite authors.

Book Review: When You Reach Me

Book Review: Projekt 1065: A Novel of World War II


Projekt 1065 A Novel of World War II was published by Scholastic Press in October 2016. The author is Alan Gratz.

Content Advisory: contains violence.

This novel will, no doubt, have special appeal for middle-grade boys.  With a Lexile  level of 780, the text is simple enough to read for third or fourth graders. I would not, however, encourage younger kids to read this book. More about that later. From its short chapters and its opening line, “It’s hard to smile when you’re having dinner with Nazis,” it pulls even reluctant readers into a fast-paced, intriguing spy story. At the same time, it gives us a fascinating view of Nazi Germany during World War II.

The main character is a 13-year-old Irish boy named Michael O’Shaunessey. All children in Nazi Germany were required to be members of the League of German Girls or Hitler Youth (for boys), and Michael was no different. What IS different about Michael is that he is a spy. His mother is one, too. Michael’s father is the Irish ambassador to Germany. Other embassies were closed in Berlin during World War II. Ireland was neutral during World War II, and that is why the Irish embassy is still open in Berlin in 1943, when this story takes place. Since his father is a diplomat, Michael’s family enjoys a level of freedom from Nazi oversight that allows Mrs. O’Shaunessey and Michael to take pictures and gather information that is useful to the Allies, and Michael’s father sends them to Ireland in his diplomatic pouch, which is safe from Nazi eyes.

The boys in Hitler Youth were used to aid the Nazi war effort. When a British RAF plane is shot down over Berlin, Michael and the other boys are sent to scour the countryside to find the missing pilot. Since Michael’s loyalties lie with Britain instead of the Nazis, he tries very hard, and succeeds, in finding the pilot first. He helps Simon hide and later that night leads his parents to the hidden pilot. Simon has a sprained ankle and needs a place to hide until he can get away. The O’Shaunesseys take Simon, who is Jewish, back to their home in the Irish embassy and hide him in a closet, a crime that is punishable by death.

Michael defends a smaller boy named Fritz against bullies, and as he comes to know Fritz better, learns of Projekt 1065. This top-secret German project is the development of the jet engine, something that would give the Nazis a huge advantage over Britain’s Royal Air Force, which drops bombs on Berlin on a daily basis. Fritz’s father has the blueprints out in plain sight in his study in Fritz’s home. It turns out that the jet engine factory was Simon’s secret mission; he was taking pictures of the facility where the engines were to be built to gain information for the Allies. Simon encourages Michael to get closer to Fritz in order to gain access to the blueprints for the new jet airplanes. Since Michael has a photographic memory, it is easy for him to memorize the blueprints. Then Simon draws them with Michael’s help so the blueprints can be given to the Allies.

As Michael gets closer to Fritz, he sees the other boy’s fanatical loyalty to Hitler and learns that Fritz would literally do anything for his country and the Führer.

While I enjoyed the story about an Allied spy in Nazi Germany, there were some things about this book that really bothered me. Michael is trying to help Fritz gain a place in the elite SRD (like a junior Gestapo squad for kids). An older boy, Horst, pits Michael and Fritz against each other in the boxing ring, knowing that they are friends. In the boxing ring, Michael knocks Fritz down a time or two, whispering to him to stay down. But Fritz just keeps coming back for more. Finally, Michael shows no mercy, punching Fritz repeatedly in the head after he’s down. They both gain a place in the SRD for showing the Nazi leaders that they will do whatever it takes to get the job done. Michael describes how something came over him in the ring and he became like the monsters he hates.

In the second instance, Michael needs to win a spot on the “science team” – he needs to be one of four boys chosen to go to a conference in Switzerland. The four boys’ purpose for going is to kill a top scientist who is working on developing the atomic bomb for the Allies. Michael plans to save the scientist and stop the bombing that would injure many scientists and innocent people.

Content Advisory – here is what I object to:
After Michael initially is not chosen for that team, he “does whatever it takes” to accomplish his goal – he savagely attacks one of the four boys on the team (Horst) and leaves him “alive – but just barely” and blood pooling around him. Did Michael kill him? We don’t know.

So, to solve a problem, Michael resorts to very violent behavior. True, it is against a bully who, it might be argued, deserved it. The theme of the book is that sometimes, people have to be sacrificed to win a war. Michael asks at one point, “How do you decide who to sacrifice and who to save?” By the end of the book he has decided on his own who to sacrifice and how to solve his problem by using violence and beating someone (almost?) to death.

Even with my own abhorrence of violence, I would still recommend this book to ages 12 and up. I do think teachers and parents need to be aware of the violent scenes so they are prepared to discuss them with kids, realizing that the story took place in wartime, and the setting of the war and the violent Nazi culture perhaps justified these events.  Other reviews I have seen don’t even mention the violent scenes.  Perhaps I’m the only one bothered by them.

The School Library Journal says,

“A winning combination of action, suspense, and historical setting. Recommended for all collections.”
“He (the author) doesn’t shy from challenging his readers, offering them a coming-of-age story that concludes that sometimes good people must be sacrificed or wrong things must be done in order to win a larger battle.
A rare insider’s glimpse into the Hitler Youth: animated, well-researched, and thought-provoking.”

To learn more about the history, this could be paired with a great nonfiction text about Hitler Youth:  Hitler Youth:  Growing Up in Hitler’s Shadow (a Newbery Honor book) by Susan Campbell Bartoletti. Alan Gratz, author of Projekt 1065, recommends Bartoletti’s book and says it was an invaluable resource for him in writing Projekt 1065.

Book Review: Projekt 1065: A Novel of World War II

Milestone Celebration! A NEW Freebie!

My Reading Resources is celebrating a TpT milestone this month! Though it still feels like every product sold is worthy of celebration, this is a great opportunity to celebrate a little longer and do a little something special, and perhaps give you something to celebrate, too.


As this year is an election year, I thought you might appreciation an election-themed item.  This new freebie is a question and answer dice game for Dan Gutman’s The Kid Who Became President. The game is a part of my novel study and it is such a fun addition to the classroom. You can use it in your centers as a way to check comprehension, or you can divide your class into groups and give each group a game board to play as a test prep activity.  There are several general questions about American government – you can pick out which question cards to use in the game and even use it without reading the book!

Also check out my novel study for The Kid Who Ran for President, and my Kid Who Ran/Kid Who Became President novel study bundle.

Milestone Celebration! A NEW Freebie!