Crossing the I’s and Dotting the T’s


Have you ever heard a song that feels anthemic? An injection of power, joy, and swagger. One that lets you shrug off the bad days? Makes you feel the world could be yours? Gets you out of your own head? Off the sofa? Out of bed? Everyone should have at least one song that makes them feel this way. I have a new one. A new one for the new year. Not actually new, it’s almost a year old, and in today’s short attention span world nine days is ancient, so forget nine months—“I Like That” by Janelle Monáe.

The key is to sustain that injection of power, joy, and swagger. Carry it with you longer than the powerful zen of a post-yoga high, which for me lasts about as long as it takes to turn left and merge into traffic. It isn’t easy. When my job is joyful, it’s an indefatigable high, and I feel every anthemic beat. When my job feels like part of everything wrong the notes become something tinny and distant, harder to grasp and almost impossible to remember.

You must be wondering what this has to do with books. Excellent question. So am I. It just felt like something I needed to say, but lets see if we can make the leap from here to books.

When the world of work gets me down, I can’t say, “Hey, my darling students give me a few minutes to pop in my earbuds, so the music can remind me of everything good and great.” So what do I do? Well, every once in a while I get little boxes of joy that provide sustenance until I can get into the quiet of my car and tell Siri to play the song I need to lift me up and away from the realities of the broken education system I can no longer ignore.

Those boxes come from publishers and on the inside are advanced readers copies (ARCs) of books. ARCs are books that aren’t yet published. Sometimes the publication date is 6 months away, but sometimes only a month away. Those books are lovingly nestled in bubble wrap, paper, and tissue. I don’t always open the boxes right away. Sometimes I put the boxes in the closet until I need them. Like saving up for a rainy day. Then on the days when the meetings, data, culturally unresponsive curriculum, and eduspeak get me down I open a box, which is usually accompanied by an awed hush and a Hallelujah chorus—my students geeking out over books. It’s so awesome.

Here’s hoping my and your 2019 is filled with anthems and ARCs. Here are 50 of the young adult books being released in 2019 that I hope to read this year. Full disclosure, I’ve already read a handful of these. As always, ARCs are welcome. My students think I’m the coolest when I get boxes of books.