Reader Spotlight

Blog name: The Fairview Review
Blog URL:
Your name: Suzanne Costner

A nice place to start is with your library origin story – how did become the school library media specialist at Fairview Elementary School? Can you briefly explain your role and your favorite aspect of your job?

I have always wanted to be a librarian, and after several years as a classroom teacher, I realized that my favorite activities all revolved around the books I used with my students. So I completed my LMS degree and moved into the library. I had a wonderful mentor in the school where I was teaching, and she helped me with the transition to the nearby school where I am now librarian. I teach a library class for each homeroom once a week, and also have classes schedule extra time to come in for research or other projects. My favorite part of the job is connecting my students with the right books and watching them become avid readers.

How is technology incorporated into your library, for your students but also for yourself and your staff? Do you have any goals for incorporating further technology into your library?

I began the blog as a way to incorporate more technology into the library program. I wanted to offer the students an authentic audience to share book reviews, rather than just writing a book report for the teacher to check off in the gradebook. I’ve had a few students take advantage of the platform, but most are more excited about reading the books rather than writing about them. I’ve slowly been adding MakerSpace activities to the library, and the most popular so far is the green screen. Our plan is to record student book talks, then attach QR codes to the covers of books for other students to access the videos.

I serve as a “tech teacher leader” for my school. Part of the role is to model technology integration for the other teachers, and to offer support as they try to implement new things. We have used the Quiver AR app and Plickers in guidance classes, robotics and computer coding in the library, and apps like Epic! ebooks and Quizlet in classrooms. The big focus lately has been the green screen. I’ve used it to record voter public service announcements with the 5th graders; the 4th grade has recorded math instructional videos on how to solve word problems and also infomercials starring the founding fathers of the original 13 colonies; the basketball teams even came in and made an appreciation video to show the coach at their banquet. I lead training sessions on using online resources, STEM lessons, and equipment like the green screen or document cameras.

Which book(s) would you suggest for a middle grade level reluctant reader?

There are so many great stories that are not thick, intimidating books, so I usually start with those. Series like The Zack Files, Eerie Elementary, or The Imaginary Veterinary are fast-paced and include lots of humor to up their appeal. I also reach for anything that is heavily illustrated or in graphic novel/manga format such as the Dragon Breath, Babymouse, and Amulet series or anything by Doug TenNapel (Cardboard is a big favorite). And then I look for topics that appeal to the students like the I Survived books. Once I find one book they enjoy, it is much easier to say, “If you liked that, then try this.”

How long have you been reviewing books online and why did you start? Do you find reviewing the books helps you better recommend them to students?

I began the blog in June 2013, as something to offer the students in place of writing book summaries or taking AR tests. I wrote out some reviews to show them a sample of what they might do, and became hooked on it. I have always read children’s and YA books to be able to find new titles to use in my classroom or to add to the library, so sharing my thoughts about them was a natural progression. Reviewing definitely helps me think of which student(s) a certain book would be perfect for. It has become a ritual when they come up to the circulation desk, they ask me which of the books in their stack I have already read. And there are several students who come in the door and call across the room, “What should I read next?”

Do you have a favorite moment when you provided someone with a book?

My first year in the library I had a family come in for the book fair on a Friday afternoon and the father asked me to help his son find a book. “He hasn’t found anything that he likes since he finished the Harry Potter series,” the dad said. So I showed them The Lightning Thief and told them to take it home and try it over the weekend, and if he didn’t enjoy it, I would exchange it for something else. Monday morning both parents came in and I asked if their son had started the book and did he think he would like it. The mother replied,” Start it! He read the whole thing in one sitting and we’re back for the rest of the series!” And I thought to myself, “The library is where I belong.”

Which upcoming Middle Grade book(s) on NetGalley are you the most excited about recommending?

Oh, I’m glad you put that (s) on book, because there is no way to pick only one. For fantasy readers I would say Jen Calonita’s Tricked (Fairy Tale Reform School #3). For graphic novel lovers, Gene Luen Yang’s Secrets and Sequences from the Secret Coders series (coding, robots, and graphic novel format all together). If readers enjoy humorous fiction with action, then The Matchstick Castle by Keir Graff. And for a bit of suspense/supernatural elements I would say Journey’s End by Rachel Hawkins.







Lightning Round!

The last book that made you smile:



The Dragon Hunters by James Russell and Link Choi



Your favorite Storytime book to read:

Anything by Mo Willems. We Are in a Book (with Elephant and Piggie so excited to be the characters in a story), is a great one. My students also love Double Trouble in Walla Walla by Andrew Clements. I think they like listening to me try to read it without getting tongue-tied.

The most popular books in your library right now:

I Survived series, A Series of Unfortunate Events (thanks to the Netflix series), Secret Coders series, and spooky books by Mary Downing Hahn.

And to finish off our interview, if you could have coffee (…or something stiffer) with any author, dead or alive, who would it be, and why?

I would love to have tea with Anne McCaffrey and talk dragons with her. I periodically go back and read through all the Pern books and remember when I found the first one while I was in middle school. She wrote such a wide range of science fiction/fantasy and I love all the various worlds she imagined and shared with us.

Thanks so much Suzanne, for spending time with us and answering our questions!
Please make sure to check out the The Fairview Review and more Middle Grade available on NetGalley! 

Would you like to nominate someone to be featured in our Reader Spotlight series? Fill out this form!



sarahWe’re excited to welcome Sarah Ross-Koves as our featured educator this month! Sarah is a high school English and Social Studies teacher at Carson City-Crystal High School in Michigan, and also shares her classroom projects and insights on her blog. Keep reading to discover how Sarah became a teacher, how she is integrating technology into her classroom and school, and what she’s reading via NetGalley.

A nice place to start is with your educator origin story – how did you become a high school English and social studies teacher?

Teaching has always been in my soul. My father was a high school math teacher, and I would force my three brothers to play school with me on a regular basis. I grew up in Northern Michigan where I graduated from Harbor Springs High School. I attended Central Michigan University and joined Phi Mu Fraternity. There I earned a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education with majors in history and English and a minor in speech communications and drama. I graduated in December and had my first teaching job before my diploma even arrived. I taught for eighteen months at Northwest Academy in Charlevoix, MI before taking a job at Onaway Area Schools. I was in Onaway for five years teaching mostly seventh grade English and world geography. While at Onaway, I was accepted to the Fulbright Teacher Exchange Program to be one of three U.S. teachers to go to Hungary for a year-long exchange. Sadly, I was laid off and had to give up my exchange spot. Several months later I was hired to teach high school English at Carson City-Crystal High School where I have been happy working ever since. I am married to a chef who works at Alma College, and we have three girls – a freshman at The University of Michigan, a high school freshman, and a third grader.

You also assist with school improvement and technology – can you talk a little about this and any initiatives that you work on? Do you have any goals for incorporating further technology into your school and classroom?

Every year our building and district have to write a plan for growth in our school, and I have been part of this committee for the last seven years. We are currently in the process of evaluating where our students, teachers, and building currently are in an effort plan our goals for next year.

I have been the high school building technology representative for the last five years. This means that I am a point person for technology in the high school, and I assist our district technology director and technician. I am responsible for your student data system, which houses our enrollment, attendance, and grades.

This past fall I presented at both the Michigan Google Conference and the Michigan Moodle Moot on technology in the classroom. In January I finished the last of my Google Trainer Certification tests and am currently working on planning some trainings to be able to apply for Google Trainer in the spring. This past Tuesday I guest hosted a Twitter Chat at #2ndarela on Google Apps for Education.

As our district moves from shared carts to one to one devices, my goal is to go completely paperless in my classroom. In addition I would like to expand my classroom to the world by publishing content with my students and connecting with other classes around the world.

In addition to being an educator, you also run a blog, Kovescence of the Mind – can you describe the focus of your blog? Also, can you explain your blog name, since it’s fairly unique?

Two yKovescenceears ago when I decided to start my education blog, I turned to family and friends on my personal Facebook page for assistance with a name. I could not believe the response that I got. Kovescence if a combination of my last name, essence, and scene. It is a place for who I am as a teacher and what is happening in my classroom. This portion came from a friend. of the Mind is the education portion of what I write about. This idea came from a former co-worker.

Kovescence of the Mind is an online resource for secondary teachers. I currently teach English and AP Psychology, so there is a portion of content that focuses on that, but I also try and provide resources and tips to teachers of all levels and subjects. In addition, homeschool families and tutors can find resources of interest too.

My husband and I started a family blog last month Keeping up with the Koveses to share his recipes as a chef and as a place for me to share my fashions, crafts, and home tips. We did this to keep Kovescence of the Mind educational focused. We just did a cookbook review.

I love your My Classroom and Freebies features – there are so many great resources that you point to, but also original projects that you share with your followers. Do you have any favorites that you’ve found really resonate with other educators?

Thank you so much for checking out those pages. My most popular tip for teachers is the idea to print grading rubrics on mailing labels to make grading quicker. Sometimes I get funny looks in the copy room when I print a stack of labels. In terms of free resources my social studies bell ringers to start class with are popular (the first month is free). My build a neuron project, which uses clay to make a model is a big hit.

Speaking of resources, has having access to digital galleys impacted how you find titles for your classroom and planning? And also your book recommendations for students and other educators?

My membership to NetGalley has allowed me to recommend books to my students in my classroom as well as given me text to share with other teachers on my blog. I really enjoy searching the authors out on social media to share my reviews with them and connect on a more personal level. Some of my favorite titles for the classroom are Zero Day by Jan Gangsei in fiction and Amelia Earhart by W.C. Jameson, Foreword by Gregory A. Feith in nonfiction.

Zero Day    Amelia Earhart

On NetGalley, professional readers (including educators!) can access digital galleys before the book is on sale, but you can also submit feedback about those books directly to the publisher. Are there any specific kinds of feedback that you like to share with publishers about books that are appropriate for the classroom?

I think that publishers should look at the classroom as an often under-tapped market. If a book is right for their classroom, a teacher will seek many options to get copies for the class. My reviews, I hope, provide publishers with information on if the text is good for a classroom library (one copy in classroom) or for shared reading (multiple copies in a classroom) on top of just feedback if and how it could be used in the classroom.

In addition the early access is great for educators looking for the most recent material; this is why I will often request books that would apply to my AP Psychology classes. This is a subject that needs up-to-date texts.

And to end our interview, which upcoming book(s) on NetGalley are you the most excited about reading next?

I am still working my way through my first-of-the year list because I got book happy during our winter break. I just finished Leadership and Soft Skills for Students by Carey Green, and he did a wonderful presentation to our school. I have Untangled by Lisa Damour and Reading Reconsidered by Colleen Driggs and Erica Woolway on deck. There are so many great books and so little time during the school year.

Leadership and Soft Skills for Students     Untangled    Reading Reconsidered

Thanks so much Sarah, for spending some time with us and answering our questions!
Please make sure to check out Sarah’s blog Kovescence of the Mind, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Would you like to nominate yourself, or someone you admire, to be featured in our member Spotlight series? Fill out this form!

*Interviewed by Tarah Theoret





We’d like to welcome Alicia Vandenbroek as our featured librarian from Shackelford Library at Shackelford Junior High School. Alicia is a long-time NetGalley member, a tech-savvy librarian, an author, and reviewer who shares how she incorporates technology in her library, which upcoming titles she’s looking forward to, and tips for considering which books to read and review for your audience.  


A nice place to start is with your librarian origin story – how did you become a junior high school librarian?

I’ve had a passion for books for as long as I can remember. Even at a young age, my mom always made sure I had access to books from the library. I found out in high school that being a writer might be harder than I thought, so I began to investigate jobs that would allow me to write and also explore other passions (like working with kids). I soon fell in love with teaching. After six years, I started to look for ways I could still teach, but reach a larger audience. The library was the perfect fit! It is an ideal place for collaboration, the geeky tech stuff I enjoy, books, and kids… lots of kids! Add a makerspace into the mix, and it is literally my dream job. Right now it is such a joy to see students experience things that they never thought possible and challenge themselves to do more.

As a self-proclaimed “tech nerd,” how is technology incorporated into your library, for your students but also for yourself and your staff? Do you have any goals for incorporating further technology into your library?

Yes, I’m a nerd. That used to bother me, but I embraced my inner geek a long time ago. I even rock a Haven and a Firefly shirt from time to time (only nerds will get that). What I love most about tech is that it isIMG_0009 continually evolving. Life is a journey and you can never be complacent. Technology forces us to keep growing and expanding. I started learning code last year. I stink, but I know enough Scratch to stay one step ahead of my makers and we learn together. In the library technology is a huge part of my makerspace and my lessons. Last year we got a grant for a 3D printer and 3D Doodler pens, so I’m very excited to incorporate those into curriculum this year. We’ve added some life skill tech in the form of sewing machines and a button maker too. The plan is to do some cool wearable art this year.  In lessons we use tech to enrich the curriculum through activities like online research, speedbooking, and student lead projects. I try to lead by example and then I also offer classes at both a local and regional level.

In addition to being a librarian, you also run a blog, Poetry of Words – can you describe the focus of your blog and the types of titles you review there? 

Initially, it was going to be a book blog only, but occasionally I also blog about some of the cool things happening at school like our STEAM festival. I mostly review YA books because that is largely what I read, but I review other books also like professional, nonfiction, and some christian fiction. The blog gives a summary of the book, what I thought of the book, and then some other tips like grade level, genre, etc. Continue reading “Librarian Spotlight – Alicia Vandenbroek”





Welcome Mandy Peterson, Media Specialist at Schuyler Community Schools in Schuyler, Nebraska, as our guest. Mandy is a long-time NetGalley member, a plugged-in librarian and has been generous enough to answer our questions about the role of technology in her library. Keep reading to discover how Mandy became a librarian, what a 1:1 school is, and what she’s reading via NetGalley!

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A great place to start is your librarian origin story – how did you become a school librarian?

In my fifth year of teaching, I realized that the library was my favorite place to go. When my students were at lunch or in specials, I frequently could be found browsing or volunteering to reshelve books. During these visits, the librarian and I developed a nice comradery and I began bouncing ideas around for what grad program I should begin. Originally, I was thinking math or science. She suggested the library program at University of Nebraska at Omaha. The head of the Library program drove 2 hours to come visit me at my house. After that meeting with Dr. Rebecca Pasco, I was not only “sold”, but I was also confident that library was the right direction for me. I continued teaching while taking graduate courses to become a librarian. When the high school librarian in my district retired, I was fortunate enough to snag the position. We are currently taking the library from a traditional library to a 21st century library (as well as changing the role of librarian). I love working with the students, parents, teachers, staff, and community at Schuyler Community Schools!

How has having access to digital galleys impacted how you recommend titles for purchase but also to your students?

Through digital galleys, I know what’s coming up. As I read, I may not personally love the book but I can usually think of the student who will. So I talk to them, “Hey, I’m reading this book you might like. Here’s what it’s about…” Then I allow students to help me decide what to purchase. If they seem interested, I’m all over it. Digital galleys have also encouraged me to go outside of my personal preference zone. I am usually decidedly dystopian and sci fi young adult lit. Through NetGalley, I’ve discovered paranormal/horror, contemporary, and historical fiction that I really enjoyed. These purchases have been incredibly easy to make because I’ve seen the quality of the material. Purchasing on blind faith with tax payer money is rough. I am able to feel more secure when I’ve already previewed the material. I’ve actually recommended NetGalley books to family members, other library buddies, and community organizations. Since I also post my reviews to our blog, Twitter, Amazon, Facebook, and Goodreads, strangers are using my recommendations to decide what they should read – which is a very flattering notion!

Do you have a certain strategy for finding new titles, particularly on NetGalley?

I immediately head to Young Adult/Teen books. Not only is it what is mostly in the SCHS Library, but it is also what I enjoy reading personally. Don’t tell anyone but I am a bit of a total cover snob. The cover is what first attracts me. I am more apt to read the galley of an author I have never read before. Publisher summaries are a big deal. I find that a well-written summary can move a book from “meh, I’ll read it when I get time” to “I MUST READ THIS IMMEDIATELY!”.

What upcoming book on NetGalley are you the most excited about sharing with your students?

WOW! Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran hands down. I hadn’t read any of her books before and historical lit wasn’t really my interest. This book blew me away. I have my dystopian kids who are devouring the Shatter Me series (by Tahareh Mafi) and historical fiction fans reading The Walled City (by Ryan Graudin) – all are eagerly awaiting the release of Rebel Queen.

Click to view on NetGalley
Click to view on NetGalley







Continue reading “Librarian Spotlight”