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I Never Met a Fiction I Didn’t Like: Characters Creeping into Reality, from the March Sisters to Simon Snow

anne and gil

When @Call_Me_Gil started flirting with @AnneWith_An_E on Twitter, their followers took to calling them “Shirbert.” Yes, that’s two contemporary (fictional) young adults named Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe, no realer than the L. M. Montgomery characters who first appeared widely in 1908. In this modern-day webseries re-imagining, Anne (as played by Mandy Harmon) started a […]

Was Jo March a Ravenclaw? Authors, Fans, and Who Makes the Rules

Little Women illustration by Barbara Cooney (1955). Scarf composite by Charlotte Reber and Lolly Robinson.

What are Harry Potter’s kids up to? Should Jo have married Professor Bhaer? Could Bella Swan have depended less on Edward? For many readers, part of being a fan is the desire to know more than what’s spelled out on the page. And when answers aren’t readily available, some readers are happy to create them […]

We need (more) diverse authors


In the Age of Testing, it seems creativity is often left by the wayside. Professional development for teachers these days focuses on practices that supposedly raise test scores. Practice questions. Test-prep software. Data analysis. Incentives. To make room for these practices, it seems that many high schools no longer teach creative writing. We teach reading […]

The Unstoppables app review

unstoppables menu

The Unstoppables app (Cerebral: The Swiss Foundation for Children with Cerebral Palsy, May 2015) introduces a diverse group of four young friends with complementary strengths: Melissa, who is blind, can reach high objects with her cane. Mai can jump over obstacles and crouch to go under them. Achim, who is in a wheelchair, can travel […]

Are we doing it white?


Martha and I are teaching a class–that is, we are trying to teach a class, which has thus far been cancelled twice due to snow–on reviewing, and we’ve just assigned the students Malinda Lo’s provocative series of essays about reviewing and diversity. You all should take a look, too. It’s reminding me of a too-brief […]

Thinking about school as a privilege

Virgie Goes to School with Us Boys

As our year in second grade began last fall, my students and I spent some time thinking about why we go to school. In our first few weeks together, I tried to help my students understand that going to school is a privilege that has not always been (and is still not) available to everyone. […]

We need diverse books because of Ferguson


I have no idea what actually happened between Mike Brown and Darren Wilson in those unfortunate moments — and neither do you. Some people lie. Some cops lie. Evidence can be portrayed or interpreted in multiple ways. Let’s stop pretending that we (or our news sources) are the sole possessors of indisputable facts. But don’t let that cause you […]

#we need diverse (picture) books

little melba

Of course we do. Last year’s amazing crop of picture books included those illustrated by artists of color such as Yuyi Morales, Brian Pinkney, Jerry Pinkney, Angela Dominguez, Bryan Collier, Don Tate, and Kadir Nelson. This year we will see picture books illustrated by Christian Robinson (two of ’em), Yuyi Morales, Raul Colon, Duncan Tonatiuh, Jason Chin, Susan […]



I was having a passing conversation recently with a high school senior in a humanities classroom, and he said he hated “school books.” I asked why, and he said the only time black people are in books at school, they are slaves. It made me want to cry. Or maybe scream. Then I thought of […]

Family Is What You Have

Last year, on a twenty-seater plane coming home from a speaking engagement, it became apparent that I was the only person on board not related to everyone else in the passenger section. My closest fellow passenger sat across the aisle singing a song about the purple dinosaur. She smiled at me—my cue to dig a […]