Spark creativity book

The One with all the Book Recommendations

This morning I visited my children’s school library here in Bratislava. It made my heart do a little polka (dressed in full lederhosen) to see so many English books in one place. I found a lot of their old favorites – Pony Pals, Artemis Fowl, Ivy & Bean, Lola at the Library.

I wanted to pull them all out and start making book displays immediately.

Honestly, I thought about asking if I could stay for the day. I long to make a Rick Riordan bulletin board with a flame border and help the 5th graders create their own “Top Books of my Elementary School Years” bookmarks for the younger kids. I want to turn the covers out on all my top picks and add review cards for the older kids to tape onto the shelves near their top page-turners.

Having the right books makes such a difference for every reader. I know you know this. When you see a bored student flipping through a boring book, you want to snatch it right out of their hands and give them something AWESOME.

So today, I want to share a visual display of awesome.

If I could put all these books on every high school shelf, I would. Have a browse, and see if there’s something new you’d like to add to your classroom library.

As always with book recommendations, you should preview the book or read the Common Sense media review to make sure it’s right for your classroom.

Recommended: Jason Reynolds

Jason Reynolds is that rare author who is truly in touch with the needs and voice of his audience of young people. While I haven’t read every book he’s written, I’m close.

I’d recommend Ghost for middle grades, Long Way Down for 9th, and All American Boys for 11th/12th. I listened to Stamped on audiobook and found it clear and compelling; it would be a great addition to a set of nonfiction book clubs, or you could use pieces of it in a unit on social justice and antiracism. Ain’t Burned all the Bright is a beautiful collaboration with artist Jason Griffin, a visual diary detailing one boy’s experience with the George Floyd protests in the COVID context – incredibly accessible and perfect for your choice reading shelf or a mentor text for a multigenre project.

Recommended: Nicola Yoon

Nicola Yoon writes such unique stories. None of her books is like anything I’ve ever read before, and that’s saying something. Everything, Everything and The Sun is also a Star are a tie for my favorite, and they both deserve space on your choice reading shelf!

Recommended: Elizabeth Acevedo

Elizabeth Acevedo is a writer and a performance poet, and the two intertwine in really cool ways in The Poet X, still my favorite of her works. It has mature moments, but that’s because it doesn’t shy away from things really happening in many teenage lives. (And did you see all those awards shining on the cover?)

Recommended: Angie Thomas

While I haven’t found a copy of Nic Blake yet, I’ve read all of Angie’s other books and found them all compelling. For me, the very best was On the Come Up, with The Hate U Give a close second and then Concrete Rose as a great extension for kids who love The Hate U Give. I had the pleasure of seeing Angie speak a few years ago, and she makes such a strong connection with her youth audience. She writes out of her experiences as a teenager, and her characters live and breathe in the pages.

Recommended: Gareth Hinds

Honestly, I’m just starting to dive into Gareth Hinds’ work, but I’m so excited about what I’m discovering that I wanted to share it here. I love that he’s bringing graphic novel versions of texts long taught in the canon to our students. Having a few copies of a graphic novel version of one of these while studying it as a core text would open up many fresh activity options in class.

Recommended: Adib Khorram and Becky Albertelli

Now more than ever, we need to be sharing stories of LGBTQ+ characters in class when possible. Of these popular titles, I’ve read and really enjoyed They Both Die at the End, Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, and Darius the Great is not Okay, and I would highly recommend them all.

Recommended: Michelle Obama and Trevor Noah

I didn’t read memoirs as a teenager, but they have recently become a beloved genre for me. I think I just didn’t know about them in high school, but your students can get a leg up on me with these.

Memoirs would make for fantastic book clubs, themed displays on your choice reading shelves, or whole class texts. These are some of my top favorites combined with some I hear raves about from fellow educators. My personal favorite on this list – no, I can’t, it’s a tie – would be Becoming and Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime (there’s a YA version for younger kids!). I have heard from teacher after teacher that students love Noah’s memoir as a full class text!

Recommended: Kwame Alexander and Jason Reynolds

Verse novels are skyrocketing in popularity these days. These are some of the top recs I’ve received in the teaching community to consider. Again, you could easily pull book clubs around verse novels, use them for your First Chapter Friday program with a display in your choice reading library, or pull one that works for your curriculum as a whole class text.

Recommended: Omar Mohamed and Alan Gratz

Both these books are such powerful narratives about the experience of being a refugee, told in wildly different ways. When the Stars are Scattered is a graphic novel about the life of two brothers in a refugee camp. Refugee tells the story of three different young people fleeing from three different conflicts around the world. Both these books could help students understand and empathize more with what is happening in Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan, Myanmar, and Venezuela.

Hopefully, you’re excited to dive into some new titles after this visual tour! There are so many more categories I could include here, so I’ll link you here to an incredibly comprehensive list of recs I created last summer if you want to go deeper.

If you need help to fund your books, check out this post: The Dos and Don’ts of Donors Choose.

If you want to set up a classroom library for the first time, check out this post: Setting up your ELA Classroom Library

If you liked these book recommendation graphics, you can follow along with me on Instagram for more…

Let Students Write the Children's Book Version

Illustrated children’s books have so much to offer. Bold, bright, full of imagination and color, they can help you introduce new units, provide mentor texts for elements of writer’s craft, approach your essential questions in new ways, and make your students smile. Next week I’ll be bringing you an interview on the podcast with Pernille Ripp about so much of this. This week, let’s take a deep dive into one way to get students started writing children’s books of their own.

This project, which you can do with any novel, short story, or even poem, invites students to take the text that you’re studying and reimagine it as a children’s book.

There are so many ways to do this.

They can try to tell a pared-down version of the whole story in a way that children would find appealing.

They can narrow in on a character and theme and bring a corner of the text to life in a new way.

They can come up with a lesson or takeaway from the book that children might want to learn and have the characters teach it.

No matter how they reboot your class text, they’ll need to think deeply about writer’s craft, the role of visuals, and the essentials of the text you’ve just read. So let’s talk about what that might look like in class. (By the way, you can sign up for the free complete curriculum for this project at the end of the post!).

Start at the Library

This project is a great excuse for a visit to the children’s shelves at your local public library. Take your card and maybe your kid’s or your partner’s or your friend’s too (with permission of course), so you can check out a trunk full of books. Talk to the children’s librarian. Ask for books with great main characters, unique visuals, award-winning approaches to important themes, etc.

These books will become your mentor texts. Some you can share aloud with students and talk about what the author and illustrator have done. Others you can stand up on every available surface in your room and let your students explore as they imagine possible written and visual options for their stories.

Introduce the Project

Once you’ve got your mentor texts ready to go, and you’re nearing the end of the text you’d like students to create from, you can introduce the project and let students start to think about the possibilities. As they come up with general ideas for their stories, now is a great time to start sharing books you’ve brought in, with a focus on different aspects that students can be inspired by.

Maybe one day you talk about characterization, sharing a read-aloud with a unique, vivid character and then letting students explore other texts from your mentor library and start brainstorming details about and even descriptions of their own main character.

Maybe one day you talk about story pacing, sharing two read-alouds with very different types of story progressions, and then letting students storyboard ideas for how to move through their own stories.

Maybe another day you talk about the role of visuals in children’s books, showing students different types of visuals and discussing their affect on the reader, then letting them explore a gallery of pages you’ve laid open around the room. You might follow this up by having students create a vision board for how they might use visuals to tell the story in their own book. They could sketch or draw, collage, or use a digital design tool like Canva to lay out their visual concepts.

Work on the Books

Now that students have been thinking about their stories and building up components for a while, you’ve hopefully created that magical environment Brown Professor Eileen Landay called “thick air,” in our interview about integrating the arts and ELA back in episode 77.

I love this idea, of building a rich layered environment where kids are ready to create. As Landay and her co-author, Kurt Wooton, put it in their book, A Reason to Read, “We must be much more creative in our teaching, because for students to create interesting work, they must be inspired. It is our job to light that initial spark by creating thick air through the range of materials, texts, and ideas we bring to the classroom environment” (123).

Before students design that very first page, think about how you will showcase the books at the end. Will you eventually create a digital gallery you can share with your local library? Will you plan to have every student print a book and do a read aloud at a local elementary school? Will every student choose and print their favorite page for a display that runs through the main hallway of your school? Let students know up front what format their books will eventually be presented in, but then give them the opportunity to create and design as they wish. Maybe they’ll paint their own pages (like in The Quiltmaker’s Gift), create collages (like in Jabari Jumps and Joseph had a Little Overcoat), draw fun cartoons (like in Mo Willems’ books) or use digital illustration with Canva, Photoshop, or even Google Slides.

For kids who aren’t inclined to design on paper, Canva is a wonderful free tool for digital design. In the video below, I’ll walk your students who are interested in this option through the four most helpful design moves on Canva – in my opinion of course – when designing a children’s book page.

Model and Confer

I’ve been diving deep into Penny Kittle’s work lately (she’ll be a guest on the podcast in April!), and I’ve learned a lot from her about the power of modeling and conferring. As your students workshop their books, you’d do well to spend you time doing a little bit of modeling of how you might go about the project yourself, and mainly conferring with your students to help them with their writing.

If you do choose to do some modeling, consider projecting or displaying a page or two that you are creating and inviting attention as you walk students through the choices you’re making.

For example, I created this two page spread to introduce my main characters for an underwater version of Romeo & Juliet. I wanted to keep things simple at first, introducing the main characters and letting children notice how the ocean looks different for each turtle and wonder why.

During these workshop days, you can also invite students to share their work along the way. In partners or as a whole class, spend a little time for students to share the pages they’re working on and what they feel is working well. When you see a student doing something AMAZING, shout them out (with permission) and let everyone else see too. Perhaps you might print finished pages or snap photos of them for a growing display of what’s working.

Keep those mentor texts handy, so students can always be grabbing them for inspiration.

Keep it Up

Now it’s just rinse and repeat for as long as you want to devote to the project. As your students finish up, you might do peer editing and/or you might ask your students to find a kid in their lives they can read the book to and get a reaction from before their final edits. Tell them they should not just ask the child if they like the book, but have some specific questions ready, like…

Did you find any parts of the book confusing?

Did you feel like the illustrations fit together well with the story?

Was there anything you wanted to know more about?

Do you have any questions about the main character?

Showcase the Final Work

As your students finish their books, it’s time to showcase them in whatever manner you’ve chosen. They definitely shouldn’t just sit in a pile waiting to be graded! This is the perfect time for a truly authentic audience.

Pair the final project with a reflection explaining how the book captures essential qualities of the original text you studied in class.

I hope you and your students will try this project, and love it!

Get the Complete Project!

Feeling like you want to try this, but don’t have time to create the project guidelines? I’ll be sending these out to all the teachers I work with this very Friday, but if you’re not on that list yet, you can join below and this project will be the very first thing you get from me. Then you can expect regular emails on Fridays chock full of my very best teaching ideas for your creative classroom.

    Built with ConvertKit


    Book for creativity and inspiration

    Already in stock!!!


    This book is for you if:

    You have already outgrown the seals made of a toilet sleeve and plasticine caterpillars, but it is too early to pay for electricity (or simply do not want to)... ,. ..but the desire is not enough, because there are no beautiful ideas. In general, you don’t like children’s crafts, you need something more interesting and aesthetically pleasing to also get involved in the process.

    You understand that it is easy to consume and have fun, but it is the Creation of something with your own hands and your mind that models reality and the rest of your life. We want to grow creators, not consumers.

    You are always looking for how to organize a holiday for children, what to do with them and how to surprise them. The book will help you find the theme of the party and make props.

    You are looking for beautiful, creative content for your social media feed and want to express yourself through creativity.

    A book for those at risk. He does not leave himself a resource and time to relax, get distracted, rustle papers and make an octopus - an alien.


    To boost creativity and fine motor skills, hold a tadpole concert, look original and survive praise and rave reviews.


    Creativity is for the brave, but I'll help you achieve magnificence a little faster, since I've already done some of the work. Just cut the blanks of 6 such projects and assemble the project.


    Yes... gone are the days when 101 games were made from a regular stick. Now, in order to merge with the real world, stronger means are needed. For example, this book with a strange title.


    Don't let the criticism run wild, you can only praise and admire. And if you want to get a specific result, then do each of your projects and evaluate how different and good they are, each in its own way.

    "...They say that if you put your hands in your brains and shake it a little, you can be left without brains, but with a beautiful haircut. Today we definitely need a beautiful haircut, but for now we can do without brains..."


    In this book you will definitely catch it - inspiration! As soon as sparks sparkle in your eyes, run to create without hesitation.


    Do you dream of your own mobile home or want to rule from your own castle? Dreaming is good. Let's make our dreams come true.


    Now we don't have to be shy - we create our own world, from which pieces of paper and positive emotions fly.

    But you still periodically check the remnants of your strength and make sure that you do not break the floor in creative ecstasy.


    Joint creativity means wonderful minutes and hours spent together. Even if you didn’t say a word to each other while simultaneously exterminating gouache, you definitely became closer and friendlier.


    Let's create a context for the game - let's take some handsome goblin, insidious dragons and a pinch of imagination. That's all the reason to dive into the game and not emerge for a very long time.


    A fun party is a cake, compote and Creative. I'll help you get creative. From what to meet guests, to what to stun them. Not to mention what to do with them.


    Look around! There are so many empty walls around that need your attention. Let's save on interior decorators and create decor ourselves.

    Tf! Consider this issue resolved! In the book you will find a bunch of ideas that are not ashamed to give for the holiday, if, of course, you can tear your treasures from your heart.


    We're tired of being adults, how are we still holding on! There are crises and illnesses around, as if no one cares about the health of our psyche. Let's take care of ourselves. We make a teapot and relax.

    "...Find one free wall, look askance at it so that it becomes ashamed of its lack of ideas and make a promise to save it from boredom and despondency..."

    If you are not yet ready to become the owner of the paper version , you can purchase an electronic version of the book with 25 inspiring projects.

    PDF, 75 pages

    Buy PDF

    After the purchase is completed, the e-book will be sent to the email address provided during the ordering process.

    About the creators of the book:

    "We have two traditions in our family - cutting cardboard and cutting felt. I think you have already figured us out. From the point of view of common sense, it is difficult to explain. Apparently, this is just such an age. The age of idiocy, sabotage and energy..."

    My name is Dasha Serzhenko, and until this year I did not plan to write a book about creativity. I studied to be an architect-designer, but then I worked as a video designer on a TV channel. With the birth of children, I completely immersed myself in a more material world - the world of home decor and founded the Ivanka Home brand. Then the children grew up, and pencils, paints, glue, scissors disappeared from my locker and settled in the bowels of the nursery . .. Since the disgrace cannot be stopped, it must be led! And we began to do various creative projects with children. And then we decided to work on a book that would inspire other families to destroy cardboard, decorate the house and hold creative parties with friends.

    In contact with

    IG @IvankaHome

    Reviews of the book:

    Book for creativity and inspiration

    Electronic PDF format, 75 pages

    Buy PDF


    See you in the Book with a glass of compote!

    © Serzhenko Daria Vladimirovna

    [email protected]

    “Sparks of joy. A simple happy life surrounded by things you love" online • AUDR • ISBN: 978-5-699-90623-9

    Sparks of joy. A simple happy life surrounded by things you love

    People often buy with this book

    Manga Magic cleaning. The Japanese art of putting things in order at home, at work and in personal life

    535 ₽

    Freedom from trash. 7 emotional blocks that prevent you from parting with unnecessary once and for all

    560 ₽

    The path of the minimalist. How to choose the main thing and get rid of the superfluous in all spheres of life

    759 ₽ 309 ₽

    Magic cleaning at work. Create the perfect atmosphere for productivity and creativity

    269 ₽

    Worked on the book

    Marie Kondo

    Housekeeping specialist, consultant, author of four books on organizing home life. Included in the TOP 100 most influential people in the world according to Time magazine (2015)

    About the book in Bombora's blog


    Useful at home: what to do in quarantine


    Author's other books

    Manga Magic cleaning. Japanese art of putting things in order at home, at work and in private life

    535 ₽

    Magic cleaning at work. Create an ideal atmosphere for productivity and creativity

    269 ₽

    Magic diary for 3 years. The Japanese Art of Keeping Only the Best in Life

    Magic diary for 3 years. The Japanese Art of Keeping Only the Best in Life

    Books of the KonMari Method series. Japanese Secrets of Ideal Order”

    The joy of the small. Diary of a minimalist

    659 ₽

    Magic diary for 3 years. The Japanese art of leaving only the best in life

    The joy of the small. How to get rid of rubbish, put yourself in order and start living

    539 ₽ 259₽

    Magic diary for 3 years. The Japanese art of leaving only the best in life

    Less is more. Minimalism as a way to a conscious and happy life

    560 ₽

    From scratch. Books for a happy life

    Zen cleaning. Effortless and stress-free method of restoring order from a Buddhist monk

    249 ₽

    Nothing superfluous. Minimum of things, maximum of happiness

    Magic cleaning for children. How the Art of Tidying Helps Child Development

    560 ₽

    Magic cleaning. An easy way to a happy life

    Easy. The art of a simple and happy life

    199 ₽

    Digital minimalism. How to clean up the digital environment, stop depending on gadgets and do what you like

    369 ₽

    Minimalist's house. Room by room, the path from chaos to a meaningful life

    560 ₽ 299 ₽

    Magic cleaning at work.

    Learn more