Five in Five with 5th grade teacher Jana Eschner

photo Jana EscherHi, Jana! It’s great to have you here as part of our month-long #MGGetsReal initiative where we strive to highlight tough topics in books for kids who might need them most. Thanks so much for all you do in your 5th grade classroom to educate, befriend, and mold today’s students. Now let’s have some fun.


  1. Let’s start with the most important question first: Do you prefer an amusement park or the beach?

I much prefer a beach to an amusement park. I’ve never been a big fan of crazy rides that scare me or make me sick. I love splashing around in water and relaxing under an umbrella with something cold to drink and a good book. If someone is playing fun music nearby, that’s even better! 


Book review: What Flowers Remember by Shannon Wiersbitzky

What Flowers RememberWhat Flowers Remember by Shannon Wiersbitzky
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One day Old Red is training Delia as his flower apprentice, and the next he can hardly remember her. As heartbroken as Delia is when Old Red’s memory starts to slip, she turns her sadness into a town-wide effort to preserve Old Red’s best memories in a notebook, so he can pull one out at any time—to remember. This is a beautiful story of a girl on a mission to help her best pal regain the moments from his life that meant so much. Though a flower may wilt and die, its seeds have the power to live on.

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Five in Five with author Shannon Wiersbitzky

Hey there, friends! Thanks for joining me for this Five in Five with Shannon Wiersbitzky, author of both What Flowers RemembShannon W. for TSer and The Summer of Hammers Angels. I’ve been so lucky to get to know Shannon after she invited me to participate in her campaign to highlight middle-grade books that tackle tough topics, which we’ve lovingly titled #MGGetsReal. Kids need to be able to see themselves within the pages of a book, and I was so glad to join Shannon and the other authors on this project. Readers, if you’re like me, you’re probably ready to get to know more about Shannon, so here we go …

  1. What made you decide to become an author and what’s your favorite thing about it?

I’ve loved writing for as long as I remember, but when my first son was born and I was home on maternity leave, I realized I had stopped doing it. There was always a stack of books for reading, but I wasn’t journaling, and there was no creative writing. And so I simply started again. At some point I thought, maybe I have something to share to others through this process. That was when I got serious about children’s books.

Writing is one of the best and most challenging things I’ve done. It relaxes me, it frustrates me, it humbles me, and it makes me think more deeply about others. I find I’m a better person when I’m writing. (My family thinks so too.)


Book review: Comfort by Joyce Moyer Hostetter

ComfortComfort by Joyce M. Hostetter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ann Fay is anything but a typical 14 year-old girl. Instead of hanging out with her best friend Peggy Sue at the movies, or playing at recess like the regular kids, Ann Fay—stricken with Polio the year before—works a Saturday job to help support her family, spends recess alone with her clickity leg brace, and worries incessantly about why Daddy is a whole different man since returning from the war. Longing to feel normal, a sparkle shines bright in her eyes when she’s offered the opportunity to live at Warm Springs—a place in Georgia for Polios to receive rehabilitation treatments. But she also thinks her family will crumple without her. With her parents’ blessing, she finally agrees to attend Warm Springs and for the first time feels she’s in a place where everyone’s just like her. There’s real comfort in that.

Ann Fay progresses quickly and is soon walking with a cane and making friends. Life is perfect, until Junior Bledsoe from back home shows up at Warm Springs with bad news from back home, forcing Ann Fay to leave the one place she feels her best in. But family comes first, and it’s time to step out of her comfort zone and face her daddy and his war neurosis (PTSD).

This story is exquisitely told, with both beautiful language and heartfelt revelations, “I learned quick enough that when someone drops a bomb in one small place on this planet, it shatters the whole universe. And not just for a little while either. The breaking goes on forever…”

Readers will love Ann Fay and enjoy her journey as she realizes that, “Something that hurts can make us stronger. You just have to face it, and after a while it starts to get better.” Yes, Ann Fay, it really does.

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Five in Five with author Joyce Moyer Hostetter

Guys, I’m really excited to have Joyce Moyer Hostetter here with me today. It’s been great getJoyces 3 booksting to know her through our #MGGetsReal campaign in which we spotlight important books for middle grade kids dealing with tough issues in their own lives. Joyce is the author of 3 awesome books, Blue, Comfort, and the forthcoming
book Aim. All three books are tied together in characters, but each with its own touching story. But let’s find out more about her in this quick Five in Five. Ready?

1.What made you decide to become an author and what’s your favorite thing about it?

Midlife. An elementary language arts teacher had predicted I’d be a writer someday. But after high school and college I dabbled in various hobbies and career options. Then, when I was 40ish, my beloved aunt died. I suddenly realized how quickly life can end and that I’d better get on with my dreams. Consequently, I attended a midlife retreat where I rediscovered my writer self. That retreat and my aunt’s death kick-started my writing for publication. I began a story that closely echoed my own childhood and raised some of my questions about life. It was never published but it was great practice.

My favorite thing about being an author? Home. Working from home. Giving my readers a story space that feels like home to them. Knowing that my books put them in touch with their own stories.


Five in Five with 6th grade ELA teacher Cheryl Mizerny

photo Cheryl Mizerny

Hey there, Cheryl. It’s so great to have you join me here today and thanks for supporting our #MGGetsReal campaign—spotlighting books with tough topics for real kids. We love educators and appreciate all you do on a daily basis. Keep on rocking in that classroom of yours. Now let’s get started because I’m excited to learn more about you.

1. Let’s start with the important question first: Where would you go in a time machine?

Back to 2001 when my grandmother was still alive so we could stay up all night talking and I could ask her everything I never did.


Book review: Ruby Lee and Me by Shannon Hitchock

Ruby Lee and MeRuby Lee and Me by Shannon Hitchcock
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Growing up can be tough, but it’s even tougher when you feel responsible for a terrible accident and are at odds with your best friend because in a moment of rage you called her something really terrible. Tensions are thick in this small North Carolina town as Sarah Beth and her best friend Ruby Lee navigate what it means to forgive, all while people are talking about the first African American teacher that is coming to the school. With a rich setting and lovable characters, this book is a heart-warmer. With mad-love for both this book and Shannon Hitchcock’s, The Ballad of Jessie Pearl, I cannot wait to see what she writes next.

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Five in Five with Shannon Hitchock, author of Ruby Lee and Me

Hiya, Shannon! I’m so excited to have teamed up with you for the #MGGetsReal campaign—to highlight books with tough topics for “real” kids. I can’t express how important it is for people to be able to find themselves within the pages of a book, especially kids who can be so self-conscious during their pre-teen and teen years.

And thanks for joining me for this Five in Five. I’m a huge fan of your books Ruby Lee & Me, as well as The Ballad of Jessie Pearl. What can I say? I’m a sucker for historical fiction and perfect execution of story. My readers and I are excited to learn more about you, so let’s get started. Quick and fun. Ready?


  1. What made you decide to become an author and what’s your favorite thing about it?

I’ve always wanted to write a book—always, as far back as I can remember, but it wasn’t until I became a mom and started reading children’s books to my son that I seriously pursued publication. My favorite thing about being an author is the easy part. I love holding a published book in my hands and seeing my name on the cover. Writing a book is like creating magic out of thin air.


Five in Five with 5th grade teacher, Mary Lee Hahn

photo marylee hahn

Hello, hello, Mary Lee! I’m so excited to have you join me for this super short and fun Five in Five. First I want to thank you for your dedication to the young people of our country. Teaching isn’t always rewarding, but I so appreciate you! It’s great to have you here as part of our month-long campaign #MGGetsReal where we spotlight books with tough topics for kids who need them most. But now, let’s have a little fun.


  1. TV or strenuous hike?

As long as the hike is not on a sweltering summer day with 90 degrees of heat and an equal percentage of humidity, I will choose it over TV every time. TV puts me to sleep. Nature and exercise invigorate me.