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Work Smarter: Picture Books That Pack a Punch + Giveaways!

Work Smarter Not Harder

We all have that stack of books that make it into the workshop as a mentor text:

  • Owl Moon by Jane Yolen for teaching small moments and beautiful story language
  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White for building a scene and using dialogue
  • Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman for teaching character description and strong leads
  • Fireflies by Julie Brinckloe to help students narrow their topic for personal narratives

and so many others!

Here are seven more to add to your pile that you may not yet know about that pack a punch when we enter the workshop with a job to do, inspiring writers. These books will liven up workshop time and offer more than just ideas! If you have used any of these books please share your own ideas in the comments below!

 

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Bear Despair by Gaëtan Dorémus

Storytelling at its finest! This wordless picture book encourage the use of talk in the workshop. A story about the journey of a bear looking for his teddy bear, this book provides a catalyst for conversation and students can be the writers of this story. Allowing students to take the reins of the words allows for less pressure and multiple tellings! This book will provide a window into your reluctant writer while also teaching character description and feeling within those characters. Take a journey with the featured character in this mentor text and open a world of words for your students.

Ideas:

Use this book as a starter for your students to write their own wordless books.

Try pen illustrations, as this book does, to create texture.

Use this book to illustrate the importance of character’s expressions and feelings in a piece.

This book can be used to show conflict and character relationships.

Encourage students to try writing a story that introduces new characters along the way, throughout a story.

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Fall Leaves by Loretta Holland Illustrated by Elly MacKay

By far a beauty among books, each illustration is a paper cutout and shows artistic expression even the youngest writers will appreciate. However, this story offers more than glorious illustrations. The poetic language taps into the poet in each child and shows them story language in a whimsical poem. Below each line of poetry, which graces each page, is additional information about the metamorphosis that is brought about by seasonal changes in the universe.

Ideas:

This book offers a peek into nonfiction ideas. Imagine allowing students to write a nonfiction piece and then pull out a word or two from each portion to create an accompanying poem. Yeah, I want to do that!

This could be done with any piece of writing! Taking bits and re-purposing them into a poem. Show students how to create a poem and pull the most important elements to tell a different, yet similarly connected story.

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Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis Illustrated by Gilbert Ford

A bit biography, a bit narrative and a bit non-fiction, this book has it all! This is the story of George Washington Gale Ferris Jr., an inventor and eccentric idealist. The story of Ferris is amazing and inspiring with real quotations sprinkled in about the making of the Ferris Wheel. At the end there is a works cited page showing the origin of each quote, a bibliography of texts and websites that were used in the creation of the book. On nearly every page lays a small paragraph of informational text nestled into the illustration telling of different elements of the time period using rich vocabulary.

Ideas:

This book inspires ideas in students. What would they invent? What purpose would it serve?

Talk about the true art of research and telling the whole story, this book will encourage students to step out of the box when telling a story using factual information.

Combining genres, this book shows students how information and narrative can seamlessly work together.

There are connections to history, mathematics and engineering.

Feathers

Feathers, Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart Illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen

This book digs deeper into specific information related to the text, students will learn so much! The poetic language, offered by lines of text at the top of each page, model simile beautifully. The book is set up like a scrapbook with a collection of illustrations on each page. Text and illustrations offer this specified informational text related to a bird, sharing its region and name. Students will love learning about these animals. The similes that grace each page are supported by the illustrations and comparisons. There is even additional text about scientific findings and an author’s note.

Ideas:

Melissa Stewart offers wonderful resources to teachers related to all of her books.

A teachers guide for Feathers is here.

Also a readers theater page for further exploration of the topic is here.

This book would offer wonderful examples of simile, as I stated above, helping students make comparisons between everyday items and animals. Melissa even has activities directly linked to the simile examples and a video here.

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If…A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers by David J. Smith Illustrated by Steve Adams

You will hit the jackpot with this title. I learned so much in the hour I poured over this book’s illustrations and information. It doesn’t actually take that long to read but I would suggest reading it once and then diving into each page to discover the true meaning of things. This book takes big ideas and breaks them into tangible pieces that children and even adults can appreciate. Did you know that all the water on the earth can be represented by 100 glasses or that the inventions for the last 1000 years can be scaled down to the size of a ruler when laid out next to each other? Yeah, I didn’t, but this author made everything that you wonder about easily understood in a matter of two pages per idea. It is brilliant.

Ideas:

This book hits every content area, not an exaggeration. You could make links to population, continents, the economy and so much more.

It is a great example of non-fiction text features and the way they draw in a reader.

The illustrations make direct links to the content, a great resource for visual learners.

You can take in bits of each piece. Students could take one idea that they wonder about, research it and make their own page for a class book of big ideas. Imagine the learning that would take place by all your students. A class project that will never be forgotten encouraging so much collaboration between peers.

At the end of the book there are two pages of parent and teacher notes that guide you with activities and ideas to create understanding of big ideas through small parts. He even invites you to share your own ideas and activities at his website. What a great resource for teachers to collaborate and share.

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The Scraps Book by Lois Ehlert

I am a fan of Lois Ehlert and her artwork. Her books are so unique, colorful and wonderful for children. I found this book to be especially unique in that it is set up like a scrapbook, highlighting the events of this writer. She takes children on a journey through her writing life and shares how she gathers ideas. She lays out pages of materials she uses as a writer as well as items that create ideas for later in her writing space. She talks about the fact that everything she creates doesn’t end up in a book but she is patient and waits for the right time. Ehlert explains that many revisions are necessary for both her artwork and her writing.

Ideas:

What a wonderful opportunity to share with students that we all need a writing space. This would be a great book to launch ideas for what this might look like in students’ homes.

Have students begin to keep scrap books of items that might be a writing idea.

Why not write about your life? This book would be a great mentor to students writing about their own lives and the things that are most important to them.

This book also shows how things change and evolve as we write, a great thought when talking about revision with students.

Also, Lois Ehlert has a website that features information about the book here!

  • One more worth mentioning:

 Sebastian and the Balloon by Philip C. Stead

Wow! This book taps into imagination like no other. Exploring and noticing the world around you comes alive in this story about a boy who takes a ride in a homemade hot air balloon. This book allows students to use this idea of noticing to tap into their own imaginations and gather ideas as writers. With detailed descriptions of tiny moments and partial repeating lines this book takes you on a journey and will inspire your writers.

Ideas:

Where would they fly? What would they see on a journey in a balloon? What an ideal topic that would allow imagination and creative expression.

This book will help students notice what is already around them and idea lists could be made following a reading of this book.

What about trying a repeating line!

 

Phew! Lots to take in and I’m sure your cart will be full at your nearest favorite book dealer. This post is sure to empty your pocket book, but well worth it. Wait, did I mention I might be able to help out? Six of these publishers are offering a giveaway of their book! See giveaway information below and maybe you will be a winner!

Giveaway Information

  • This giveaway is for a chance to win:
    • Bear Despair-Thank you Enchanted Lion Books
    • Fall Leaves-Thank you Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing
    • Mr. Ferris and His Wheel-Thank you Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing
    • Feathers, Not Just for Flying-Thank you Charlesbridge Publishers
    • The Scraps Book-Thank you Beach Lane Books
    • If…A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers-Thank you Kids Can Press Publishers
  • Last minute addition! I just heard from the publishers of Sebastian and His Balloon and they are offering a giveaway as well. I am still waiting to hear from all the winners. I will post them on here as soon as I know!

Winners!

Kim-Mr. Ferris and His Wheel

Kathy-Feathers

Carol Wilcox-If…A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers

Cara Cahill-The Scraps Book

Laura-Bear Despair

Erin Radway-Sebastian and His Balloon

MJ- Fall Leaves

  • For a chance to win a copy of one of these wonderful titles, please leave a comment about this post by Thursday, November 13th at 11:59 p.m. EDT. I’ll use a random number generator to pick the winners, whose names I will announce at the bottom of this post, by Sunday November 16th.
  • Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win.  From there, my contacts will ship your book out to you.  (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only.)

Remember to join us next Monday evening, November 10th, when we host a Twitter Chat about working smarter, not harder.  The chat will begin at 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time.  Just search and tag #TWTBlog to participate.

 

Click on the image for more information about the Twitter Chat.
Click on the image for more information about the Twitter Chat.

Betsy Hubbard View All

Daughter, sister, wife, mother, teacher, and writer.

188 thoughts on “Work Smarter: Picture Books That Pack a Punch + Giveaways! Leave a comment

  1. Just love your blog. I am a PreK to 5 teacher librarian and your list of books in this post are great. I love Melissa Stewart and Lois Ehlert, There are some great PBs here for writing ideas!Thanks!

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  2. I love Mentor Text. They offer so much to students young and older students. All these books would be a great addition to my classroom.

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  3. What a joy to see a Phillip Snead book! And the “Scraps” mentor text lead to a lovely lesson for my new teacher. Your work is appreciated, thanks.

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  4. I love that you share books that may not be the most frequently hyped books on the market. I’m always sure to find many new titles and ways to use them here. Thanks!

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  5. Thanks for the great book list! I love that it includes a variety of genres and styles. Keep up the great work with the blog! You guys are so smart!

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  6. Even if I didn’t win one of these great books, it’s a great reference of books to add to a wish list…
    Thank you for sharing these titles-Mr. Ferris and His Big Wheel is actually in my “TBR” pile.

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  7. Your blog was shared with me (an elementary librarian) by my reading coach. Love it! And your ideas for purchase in my library. Always looking for great titles that I may have missed and you hit on a few I’d like to add to my next order (unless I’m one of the winners that is ;-)….). Planning to subscribe to your newsletter. Thanks so much!

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  8. I am loving these posts! I am constantly working at working smarter not harder with writing in my third grade classroom. Being new to third grade, from a K class, there are a lot of firsts for me. I think the list of mentor texts will enhance the writing program in my classroom. Thanks for all that you do.

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  9. Hi,
    These books look fantastic! Thanks for taking the time to include activity ideas too. I really like the sound of If…A Mind-Bending New Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers. I think it would really appeal to many of the kids in my class.
    Sally

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  10. I love, love, love picture books, and am excited to add some of these to my collection. I’ve got the Mr. Ferris book, and Melissa Stewart’s Feathers book already. I’m especially excited to check out the Lois Ehlert and Fall Leaves titles. Oh, who am I kidding? They all look good! Thanks for sharing these with us!

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  11. It’s always wonderful to see a list of fresh new books. Thank you for this! I’m anxious to read Fall Leaves, and if I can get Mr. Ferris out of a student’s hands, I’ll read that one with new eyes, as well.

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  12. I am a new teacher and I live in a French-speaking area, so there are not many English bookstores close by, and there are not many English picture books at garage sales and thrift shops. Nevertheless, I am always on the lookout for quality picture books that can be used in many applications. My collection is small, but I am building it up slowly. These books seem amazing, and I could definitely make use of them! Thank you for the opportunity to win these great titles.

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  13. Wonderful, beautiful, fresh books for writers’ workshop. I have many books , but none of these. I really am interested in Ferris. May even buy it today. Thanks for sharing.

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  14. Thank you for this post (and giveaway)! I’m most interested in Fall Leaves, Mr. Ferris and His Wheel, and The Scraps Book. Off to go add them to my Amazon shopping list.

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  15. Oh goodness! I love when you share books on this site- it feels like a present! I am most interested in the book about the Ferris wheel as I teach a biography unit in spring, gives me some good mentor text ideas ! Also that Book called If… Looks like so much fun and interaction for kids and adults! Thanks!

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    • If…. Sounds like an amazing book that can be used for helping students understand Mindsets. I also love pairing poetry with nonfiction

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  16. Fall leaves is an incredible book. The illustrations are gorgeous. What I love is the play on the words “fall” and “leave”

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  17. Another excellent post. These are titles I would love to share with my teachers. I like how you not only listed the books,but also gave us ideas on how to use them.

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  18. With limited resources in starting a new K-5 elementary school, winning a give away like this would help out our teachers!

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  19. Thanks so much for these wonderful ideas. I look forward to trying out the ideas you suggest with my fifth graders. You have made me a better teacher and my students better writers.

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  20. I love a good picture book. They work really well in middle school so I’m always looking for ones that help me get concepts and ideas across. I already ordered some of these, so I guess if I win, I’ll have multiple copies (and that’s a good thing).

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  21. I don’t care how old you are…everyone loves a picture book. You can do so many things with pictures books. Just think of all the different directions you can go in and the conversations that you can have around these books. Great selection! Thank you for sharing and providing the wonderful ideas.

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  22. I love this list of books! I have most of the books in the first list (Owl Moon, Fireflies, etc), but what I really love is that most of your books are nonfiction. I use so many fiction texts, but there are so many wonderful nonfiction texts as well! Thank you for pointing these out!

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  23. I just discovered Scraps in our school library last week. What a great book for my first weeks of writers workshop. It’s so great for thinking and talking about storing up ideas and visions for future writings.

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  24. All the books you mention at the beginning of the post are my favorites, fallbacks and they never disappoint (not feeling so original!) and all the rest are brand new to me. Hope I win one!

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  25. So many great picture books to choose from! And great accompanying ideas! Thank you. I look forward to sharing these ideas with my team.

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  26. These look wonderful! I have a nice new collection of wordless books, many mentioned at the beginning of the year here, and would love to add some of these titles as well!

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  27. I just want to say a big thank you to you. I love reading your posts. Sometimes I read and feel validated, feel that I am on the right track; other times, I am wildly inspired and delighted to find interesting new texts to use in my Writer’s Workshop! Filled with gratitude for your sharing.

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  28. love that I found this blog on Facebook or Pintrest. I will definatley be sharing these books (and blog) with fellow instructional coaches

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  29. I love how any grade level teacher can read these recommendations and think about their writing workshop, that’s when you’ve hit a home run.

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  30. This post comes at a perfect time! Yesterday, I hosted a writing workshop discussion for those interested in sharing and learning together. At one of our next meetings, participants were interested in discussing mentor texts. Teachers were looking for old/new titles plus ideas on how to work with these books during the Writing Workshop. I am excited to share this list with my colleagues. Thank you!

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  31. Betsy, this post makes my heart sing! We can feel your passion for these titles. What I love most about sharing our favorite workshop titles is the genius way we ask kids to write along, side by side, with these authors/illustrators. Sharing these books with our young authors is a gift!

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  32. Many, many years ago, my eight year old son (now 27) worked for five months on a science fair project in which he collected over 100 feathers. Since one has to have a special license to possess feathers, we worked with a mentor at the St. Louis Zoo. Every Sunday, we would meet her, and she would give us feathers which had molted from birds who originated outside of north America. We took pictures of the birds in their cages and wrote about their habitat. He spent hours and hours measuring and noting the type of each feather and its function. His final project won a blue ribbon at the St. Louis Science Fair. When seeing the book, Feathers Not Just for Flying, many wonderful memories flooded my brain. I’d love to share that book and his project with my current students. What a connection! Thanks!!

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  33. I love your blog and always acquire new insights. Thank you for your dedication and willingness to share. The titles look intriguing and I will have to check them out more closely.

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  34. Thanks for the change to win! I love your blog and always forward your ideas to my writing/reading teachers who utilize your suggestions daily in the classroom. Thank you for your inspiration!!

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  35. Thanks for the change to win! I love your blog and always forward your ideas to my writing/reading teachers who utilize your suggestions daily in the classroom. Thank you for your inspiration!!

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  36. Thank you for these ideas! Several students are on a book making craze and need ideas on how to maintain a storyline. My co-teacher and I were JUST talking about how to do this!

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  37. I would appreciate the opportunity to use any of these wonderful books with the teachers and students that I work with. Thanks so much!

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  38. This has been a great week of posts – I have been sharing with my staff and it has generated good conversation – will be sure to include librarian on this one : ) Fall Leaves looks like one I need for sure.

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    • These look great. I’d be honored to win any of them. I am really interested in Mr. Ferris and His Wheel. Third grade teachers at my school just asked yesterday if we could order new biographies and even mentioned adding inventors–this would be perfect!

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  39. Looking beyond our favorites to find new ways to inspire our students should be part of our goal. Thanks for reminding us of this and sharing titles you use.

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  40. I love your blog. It is full of wonderful ideas that I use in my kindergarten class. Bear Despair looks especially wonderful for these younger reluctant writers. I can just imagine working all together to create the script. Thank you.

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  41. Thanks for the chance to win. I am especially interested in the Lois Ehlert book. I hadn’t seen that one before and it looks like something my class would enjoy.

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  42. Loved hearing about these titles and ideas how they could be used. I agree with a prior post, several of them would be great for wonder time/genius hour…

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  43. This is why we love teaching! No matter how bogged down we can get thinking about the every day pressures, we read a post like this and we are energized and excited and can’t wait to get back into the classroom…..endless possibilities! The power of your words, “you could or you could.” Thank you.

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  44. I am always so excited when your site shares new mentor text titles and how you would use them in class!!! Can’t wait to explore and learn about each one . . . I’ll definitely be checking these titles out! Thank you 🙂

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  45. Thank you for all the information that you provided on the books. I have been using some of the books already for Reader’s Workshop. However, your additional information provides so much more. In addition, you have provided a lot of great information on books like The Scraps, If, Feathers…., etc. that is amazing!

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  46. Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful books with us. It is so easy to get stuck using the same pieces of literature. Knowing of a good piece of literature to use with my kids is such a blessing and truly makes me work smarter not harder. I look forward to reading your posts every morning before I start my day.

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  47. I love it when you teach me about picture books and how I might use them to spur on writing in my classroom. I’ll add all these books to my wish list. Such inspiration!

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  48. I am always looking for picture books that can be used with older students and many of these books would be wonderful talking points on many levels. I love the book If… I can see how I can use this with my students to introduce inventions and how ideas are connected. Thanks for all the great tips provided with each book!

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  49. Thanks so much for sharing out these titles, all of which are new to me. I am definitely ordering Scraps and Mr. Ferris and His Wheel. We’re launching nonfiction reading/writing with A Long Walk to Water, but I am excited about the idea of incorporating a few nonfiction picture books to get us started. 🙂

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  50. Thank you for introducing me to the author Melissa Stewart! I’m excited to start using some of her resources. I love how she encourages students to send her their writing and gives them an authentic audience.

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  51. Mr. Ferris and His Wheel looks amazing!!! (Honestly, all of them look great.) I am about to start an informational writing unit, so I’ll have to add that one to my list of mentor texts. ; )

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  52. Already placed a hold on some of these titles from my public library. I appreciate how you share your thoughts on how best to use these books in the Writers Workshop!

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  53. Wonderful ideas that spark thoughts of other books that could be used in similar ways! Also, I’m thrilled to read about so many books I’ve not yet read. Such a blessing to this book-lovin’ heart! Thanks!

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  54. Wow! What a great post filled with ideas…what a great collection of books!! My fingers are crossed. And if I win, I’ll respectfully ensure that as many writers as possible hear these stories to further inspire and inform their writing!

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