March 15


Announcing the Flight of the Puffin Read Aloud: Connecting Classrooms Coast-to-Coast by Ann Braden

Last week at the grocery store I was putting cans of beans in my shopping cart when I heard a quiet voice: “Ann? Is that you?” I looked up, and for an absurdly long moment the two of us studied the other’s eyes, the only part of our faces visible between our masks and winter hats. I gasped when I finally realized it was my friend who I hadn’t seen since last April. And then, as I started to laugh at the ridiculousness of us barely being able to recognize each other, I felt something open up inside me. Like part of the emotional wall I’ve built around myself over the last year was starting to crumble.

Human beings aren’t meant to be divided from each other. Yes, right now we need to maintain distance to stay safe and keep our masks on, but connection doesn’t actually require being next to each other – or even being able to see each other. Really, you don’t even have to know each other.

I wrote Flight of the Puffin in part because I was struck by how everyone believed our country to be so divided –– yet when I traveled from state to state talking with students about The Benefits of Being an Octopus, it was clear that at the level of the heart there was so much connecting us.

Flight of the Puffin is about four (very different) kids who live in different parts of the country –- and who all feel isolated. It’s about the ripples from a single small act of kindness from a stranger. It’s about how these kids start to recognize that they are awesome just the way they are –– and that they’re not, in fact, alone.

This is a book about building bridges across divides: geographic divides, political divides, divides within families, divides within ourselves. When I wrote it, I never imagined the magnitude of the pandemic-induced divides we’d be facing – and how isolated we’d ALL be feeling. This is a time for us to recognize how connected we are, despite these divides.

And that’s why I’m over the moon to announce that Penguin Random House and I are launching the “Flight of the Puffin Read Aloud: Connecting Classrooms Coast-to-Coast!” Kicking off April 19th, there’ll be five amazing weeks of videos with me reading Flight of the Puffin to you and your students (we’ll read the whole book together!), along with additional videos of discussion questions, ways to connect to a classroom in a different part of the country – and classroom activities focused on reaching out with postcards to those feeling isolated (#PuffinsUnite!)

Each week will have its own set of on-demand videos for you to use with students whenever it’s convenient. And since the Read Aloud will start two weeks before the book publishes, everyone participating will receive the first 84 pages of the book to get started, as well as a starter kit with blank #PuffinsUnite postcards.

You can join the Flight of the Puffin Read Aloud here:

Hopefully by the end of the read aloud, it’ll be clear that even though we’re masked up and apart from one another, we’re all still connected — maybe even MORE connected than we were before. Because you’re not alone. And your students aren’t alone. And together we can let kindness take flight!


Ann Braden is also the author of The Benefits of Being an Octopus, which was an NPR Best Book of 2018 and is currently on 10 state lists. She founded the Local Love Brigade, which has chapters all over the country sending love postcards to those who are facing hate. She also founded GunSenseVT, a grassroots group championing the common ground on the issue of guns in Vermont, which helped pass landmark gun violence prevention legislation. She is a former middle school teacher, the co-host of the children’s book podcast “Lifelines: Books that Bridge the Divide,” and a co-organizer of #KidsNeedMentors. Ann lives in southern Vermont with her husband, two children, and two insatiable cats.





Libby comes from a long line of bullies. She wants to be different, but sometimes that doesn’t work out. To bolster herself, she makes a card with the message You are amazing. That card sets off a chain reaction that ends up making a difference in the lives of some kids who could also use a boost—be it from dealing with bullies, unaccepting families, or the hole that grief leaves. Receiving an encouraging message helps each kid summon up the thing they need most, whether it’s bravery, empathy, or understanding. Because it helps them realize they matter—and that they’re not flying solo anymore.