Digging Deeper – With Just One Day to Go!

Tomorrow THE BENEFITS OF BEING AN OCTOPUS will launch into the world, and I am overflowing with emotions. 

A good chuck of those emotions are connected to how excited OTHER people are about this book! I’m honored to have been interviewed by high school student, Kester Necum. You can read Kester’s interview here.


I’m also moved by the Emu’s Debuts post created by Christina Uss, Anna Crowley Redding, and Kat Shepard, that includes not only an interview of me, but also a conversation with four awesome educators about the book. Read it HEREFinally, Hayley Barrett celebrates the magnificence of the octopus here.

I am counting down the hours until tomorrow with my many arms, and I will do my best not to explode before we get there.


Our First Trade Review!

THE BENEFITS OF BEING AN OCTOPUS has gotten its first trade review, and it’s a STARRED REVIEW from School Library Journal!!!


You can read the full review at Barnes and Noble.

I’ve also been so touched by the reviews written by teachers and librarians who have read advance copies of the book and see their students reflected in the pages. And just the other morning, I got a review from Kester Nucum, a high school student, that moved me to tears. I’m pretty much over the moon about all of this.



School Visits!

I’ve officially become a presenter with the Children’s Literacy Foundation! Their mission is to “inspire a love of reading and writing among low-income, at-risk, and rural children up to age 12 throughout New Hampshire and Vermont,” and I LOVE it! I’ve already gotten to visit two summer programs, Green Mountain Camp for Girls and the Title 1 Summer School program in Swanzey, NH. At Green Mountain Camp for Girls, we talked about persistence, running with your passion & how sometimes you find out you’re stronger than you thought. And at the summer program in Swanzey I got to talk about THE BENEFITS OF BEING AN OCTOPUS for the first time. This was my message:

1) Recognize your superpowers,
2) Name the obstacles in your path,
3) Find the courage to raise your voice,
4) Team up with allies who listen and support you!

In the book, the main character Zoey uses a Sharpie to give herself her own octopus tattoo to remind herself of her inner strength, and I was excited to give these kids their own temporary octopus tattoos to help THEM remind themselves of their own inner strength. One girl told me that she’s going to save her tattoo for when her cat dies so that it can help her remember to be strong!

I’m excited to be booking school visits for the coming school year! Check out my page for teachers and librarians, and contact me if you’d like to find out more!

#MGBookChat: Building Book Access in Book Deserts

What a fast and furious — and fabulous — #MGBookChat we had last night on Twitter. I had the privilege of co-hosting it with Susan Sullivan, and we focused on the topic of “Building Book Access in Book Deserts.” If you missed it, here are some of the highlights!


A Book Trailer!

I am so excited about this book trailer that students at Brattleboro Area Middle School put together for The Benefits of Being an Octopus. To celebrate, I’m giving away one advanced reader copy of my book! If you’re on Twitter, here’s the tweet with the details. If you’re not on Twitter, leave a comment below if you’d like to be entered into the giveaway. I’ll pull a winner on July 1st.

And definitely make sure to watch this trailer!



#KidsNeedBooks Is Evolving to #KidsNeedBooks AND #KidsNeedMentors! We’re thrilled that authors & educators are teaming up to help students learn to love reading & writing. Building relationship between authors and classrooms can be so powerful. Imagine a book delivery from an author in the fall, staying in touch throughout the school year (via postcards or e-mail or Flipgrid), and a Skype classroom visit (or maybe even an in-person visit) in the spring. Kristin Crouch, Kristen Picone, Jarrett Lerner, and I are excited to help make this happen. We’ll be piloting a #KidsNeedMentors program this year, and we’d love for you to be part of it!

AUTHORS: If you’re interested in being part of this, please fill out the Author Sign-Up Form. We’ll contact you over the summer to let you know who you are partnering with for the year. Thank you for being willing to participate!


We’ll be limited in how many connections we can foster, based upon the number of authors that sign up, but we are dedicated to making as many connections as possible. (Please note that Title 1 Schools will get preference.) We will contact you with more information sometime over the summer. Thank you!

We know it can take a village to help students develop a love of reading and writing. Here’s to coming together as a village and reaching as many students as we can.

#KidsNeedBooks Update

Wow! What an incredible past few weeks it’s been. Since I wrote my first post about #KidsNeedBooks, hundreds of books have gotten into kids’ hands thanks to the generosity of over 85 authors, and giveaways are still going on. Check out this great article in School Library Journal about the movement!

We’re excited to keep this going, too. There are still some giveaways being offered (use the hashtag #KidsNeedsBooks to find them). We’re also hoping to to broaden out the program to foster real relationships between authors and under-resourced schools.

To stay in the loop about future giveaways and projects, you can sign up here!

Subscribe to #KidsNeedBooks


We’re hoping to build a list of all the organizations that currently offer books to schools that need them. If you know about a book donation program, will you add them using this Google Form? (You can see organizations listed so far here.) This way we’ll have a better sense of how to best help, and it’ll be easier for teachers and librarians to know what opportunities are available.

If you have ideas for other ways to get books into kids’ hand, will you share them in the comments? So far on Twitter, we’ve seen some inventive ideas like the book drive that librarian Jill Dodge organized to give the kids who qualify for free-and-reduced the chance to go book shopping during lunch, the school-wide Book Swap that Laura Mossa is organizing, and the school in Canada that collected books from families and donated over 2,000 books to nearby schools that needed books last year. It would be wonderful if we could all share ideas with each other.


I’m so thankful to all the authors who are helping to make this happen…Jarret Lerner, Intisar Khanani, and so many others. And I’m thankful for all of the teachers and librarians who are such champions for their students that online advocating for them!

Let’s all stay connected, and let’s all keep working to help kids have access to good books!

A Pre-Order Campaign and a Partnership!

Exciting News! My pre-order campaign launches today! Not only do pre-orders play a key role in a book’s success, but when you pre-order THE BENEFITS OF BEING AN OCTOPUS from Bartleby’s Books, you…

1) Support a fabulous independent bookstore
2) Get a signed, personalized copy
3) Get a pair of super cool octopus tattoos, AND
4) Support the Women’s Freedom Center!
For every pre-ordered copy, $1 will be donated to this amazing organization of fearless women working to create a society where violence is no longer tolerated. (Plus, I’m also excited to be partnering with the Women’s Freedom Center for an awesome launch party in September, so stay tuned for dates!)

Here’s the link to Barteby’s website: http://www.myvermontbookstore.com/
Isn’t that a beautiful “New Arrival” section on their home page??

Pre-order The Benefits of Being an Octopus from Bartleby's Books


A few weeks ago, the brilliant Donalyn Miller published a #NerdyBookClub post that highlighted a simple but powerful truth: kids need books. I’m a former middle school teacher, so I know how many obstacles can stand in a teacher’s path, and how many teachers push forward anyway determined to support their students with whatever resources they have. And I also know how hard it can be for many kids to have access to new books.

So, when I lucked into a bag of new middle grade books at a Vermont Library Conference this past Friday, it made sense to post of picture of them on Twitter and offer them to a classroom that needed them — especially because I know there are teachers who are hoping to send each child home with a book at the end of the school year.

But what I didn’t expect (although, in retrospect, I should have) was the response. There are SO MANY teachers who are passionate advocates for their students, working to support them as readers and eager to place these books into their hands. And THEN, author Jarrett Lerner decided to offer a stack of books of his own, and suddenly more and more authors and other book-lovers were following suit offering their own stacks of books! As of right now there are over 50 separate stacks of books being be given away, so we can reach over 50 different classrooms!!

Yes, we need the institutional change that will recenter the needs of students and the voices of teachers in decision-making about school budgets, but in the meantime, let’s bring together those of us who love books and love kids and figure out the best way to make sure as many students as possible have access to books this summer. As one teacher said of her student who lives with her family in a motel told her, “In the summer I turn into something I don’t like because I have nothing to do.” I know that there are so many kids just like her, and I am so incredibly grateful to all the authors who have stepped up with such generosity of spirit so that we can reach as many classrooms as possible and give those kids the books they need.

There are several giveaways still underway (I’ll link to them at the bottom, so you can make sure you’ve entered), but I wanted to announce the first round of winners! If you won, please contact me with your mailing address, and I’ll ensure your stack of books gets to you and your students!

First Round of Winners!

Ann Braden’s original set of books goes to….Elizabeth (@elizkyser)!

Ann Braden’s 2nd set of books goes to…. Bonnie Belsinger (@belsinger)!

Augusta Scattergood’s MG set of books goes to…. Lori Barber (@barberchicago)!

Augusta Scattergood’s YA set of books goes to…. Kristen (@Eatbooks4brkfst)!

Rebecca Caprara’s stack goes to……Kris (@readingteachkbp)!

Monika Schroeder’s stack goes to…Tina Stimpson (@tina_stimpson)!

K. A. Reynolds’ stack goes to…. Laura Mossa (@lauramossa)!

Janet Fox’s stack goes to…. Susan Sullivan (@SusanLSullivan)!

Wendy MacKnight’s stack goes to… Clint Whitten (@TeacherWhitten)!

J. H. Dielh’s stack goes to…. Susan Griffith (@fivewazoos)!

Beth Bolland’s stack goes to…Christopher Rushing (@rushing_teach)!

Amber Elby’s stack goes to….Ms. Horner (@msshorner)!

Robin LaFevers’ stack goes to….Mikal Brennan (@Mikalke)!

New Winners!

Jarrett Lerner’s MG stack goes to….Tamie Williams (@Librarystarr)!

Jarrett Lerner’s YA stack goes to….Thea Smith (@MLCTheaSmith)!

Monika Schroeder’s stack goes to… Tina Stimpson (@tina_stimpson)!

Laura Shovan’s first stack goes to…Tori Glass (@tori_glass)!

Laura Shovan’s second stack goes to…Jared Leaman (@Jlea85)!

Ginger Johnson’s stack goes to… Jill O’Connor (@OConnorJill)!

Lauren Greenberg’s stack goes to…Ashley Cox (@melloweducator)!

Marie Cruz’s first stack goes to…Susan Roberts (@quiltmom5600)!

Marie Cruz’s second stack goes to…Emily Golightly (@emilygolightly3)!

Anita Silvey’s three stacks go to… Adison Godfrey (@adisonhaleyy), Alexis Ennis (@Mrs_EnnisOMS), & Donna Miller (@DonnaMiller44)!

Mae Respicio’s stack goes to…. Sarah Williams (@teacherSarah21)!

Paula Chase’s MG stack goes to… Mary Thomas (@msmarythomas)!

Paula Chase’s YA stack goes to… Dani Fouser (@drfouser)!


Congratulations to the winners! I hope your students love their books!

If you didn’t win, don’t give up! There are plenty of giveaways still going on. Here’s a list of all the other authors who have offered up books and haven’t yet chosen their winner, so they’re still time to enter!

(And of course, given the way this movement has been spreading, there might be more giveaways coming, so  use the hashtag #KidsNeedBooks to keep track of new ones.)

Giveaways You Can Still Enter (as of 5/9)

Dusti Bowling – MG Books

Dusti Bowling – PB & Early Reader Books

Rachel Toalson

Sue Lowell Gallion

Jason VanHorn

Sarah Ratner

Laney Neilson

Rob Vlock

Lisa Schroeder

Shannon Hitchcock

Jill Diamond

Jody Feldman

Anica Mrose Rissi

Intisar Khanani

Dawn Vieiro

S. A. Larsen

The Mixed-Up Files

Ben Langhinrichs

Kit Frick

Kim Chance

Sandra Neil Wallace

Annabeth Dondor-Stone and Connor White

Jenn Bishop

Adrianna Cuevas

Kathleen Odean

Kate Foster – Phonics Readers

Kate Foster – Picture Books

Rebecca  Stern – Non Fiction

Victoria Piontek

Amanda Rawson Hill 

Tara Gilboy

Caryn Lix

Andrea Wang

Diane Magras

Rachel Lynn Solomon

Melinda Beatty (Angry Bird)

Tricia Springtubb

Terry Lynn Johnson

Brooks Benjamin

Katey Howes

Jarrett Lerner’s 3rd Stack!

Melissa Sarno

Samantha Clark

Laurie Morrison

Cordelia Jensen

Jeanie Franz Ransom

Jaime Temairik

Danielle Davis

Sarah Aronson

Melissa Roske

Rebecca Sky

Kathleen Burkinshaw

Jess and Stephanie

Jacqueline Davies

GoodReads with Ronna

If you’re looking for the giveaway of a full class set of The Benefits of Being an Octopus click here.


May we all remember what can happen when we come together. Books, kids, and connection – that’s a seriously powerful trifecta!