I’m Glad You’re Here

As a teacher of 7th graders and high school students for many years, I am a big believer in the power of words. I began writing for tweens and teens because I wanted to tell stories that help readers understand that we are not alone. Our triumphs and our pain connect us to one another. As C.S. Lewis claimed, “We read to know we are not alone.”

But stories are like doors: they open us up to new ways of thinking, new kinds of relationships, and new opportunities to see ourselves and the world creatively and differently. In my writing and teaching for young children, middle-graders, teens, and teachers, I hope to offer a few doors along the way.

I currently teach at Endicott College in the Education department, where I passionately hope to inspire new teachers to make a difference by working towards classrooms focused on justice, relational connection, and meaning.


I write books because I have questions. As Zora Neale Hurston claimed, “Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.” I believe that we write to figure things out, and to help one another with our questions along the way.  Here are some of my books; be sure to check out your LOCAL INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORE to see if they’re available. Also available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other retailers.

Even More Fantastic Failures

Coming out on September 15 of 2020, Even More Fantastic Failures explores the lives of admirable and courageous people from Joan of Arc to Ayanna Pressley to Grace Hopper to Ryan Coogler to Emma Gonzalez AND MANY MORE AMAZING PEOPLE who have struggled, failed, and been rejected but nonetheless have found ways to keep pushing forward to make themselves and their world better and more just.

Some reviews and commentary on  the original Fantastic Failures

In this hybrid of collective biography and self-help, Reynolds hammers home the message that everyone fails, and failure can be used as a source of enlightenment, insight, and inspiration. Thirty-four people and one horse (Seabiscuit) are held up as examples of those who achieved success despite numerous adversities and setbacks. Many of the six- to eight-page profiles are of well-known figures, such as J.K. Rowling, Nelson Mandela, Albert Einstein, Steven Spielberg, and Frida Kahlo. Among the lesser known is Ilhan Omar, who came to America with her family from Somalia as a refugee and recently became the first Somali-American Muslim woman elected a national lawmaker. Luis Fernando Cruz, raised in Honduras with little access to computer science education, nevertheless channeled his passion into inventing accessible technologies for computer users with disabilities. Om Prakash Gurjar, once a child laborer, is a children’s rights activist protecting children from slavery, trafficking, and forced marriage. Intermixed with the profiles are brief highlights of additional figures. Each profile includes inspirational words from Reynolds that are similar to what one might see on posters in a school guidance office: “Nobody gets to tell you who you are—that’s your job, and yours alone,” for example. Reynolds concludes with 100 questions about failure and success to prompt reflection and inspiration. An upbeat, reassuring showcase of notable, successful people who refused to let adversities and setbacks stand in their way. (bibliography) (Collective biography. 8-12)  (Kirkus 7/15/18)

This collection highlights the times when high achievers either failed outright or faced drastic setbacks in achieving their goals. Each chapter opens with the idyllic and humorous story of a particular person’s road to success. This book communicates well that failure is an important part of growth and achievement. The breadth of different people and fields of study covered is a positive. Readers will connect to the challenges of Duke Kahanamoku, a champion swimmer and actor who popularized the sport of surfing in the 1930s and 19402; Om Prakash Gurjar was forced into helping his parents pay back his debts at the age of five. He went on to advocate for children forced into labor and eventually won the International Children’s Peace Prize. These stories serve as a model and send the message that success is rare at first attempt and failure is necessary to succeed. The text is well written and engaging. VERDICT: An entertaining pick for biopgraphy collections. (Patricia Feriano, Montgomery County Public Schools, MD, School Library Journal (August 2018))

Failure is the new success. (Translation: Success is a long, mistake-ridden path through trial and error.) Failure is trending now and Luke Reynolds is ready to ride the wave. Writing with an eye toward including younger readers (he begins with J.K. Rowlings’ story), he tells [readers] of all ages that failure is a learning experience and not a sign of defeat. Recounting thirty-five notable examples (including Nelson Mandela, Vincent Van Gogh, Christopher Reeves, Temple Grandin, Steven Spielberg, Rosa Parks, and Seabiscuit), he adds a multitude of shorter “Flop Files” (which include Steve Jobs, Ellen DeGeneres, Julia Child, Vera Wang, and Conan O’Brien) to let your [readers] know that not getting it right the first time is a valuable prerequisite for ultimately achieving their goals. Those first mistakes are often crucial to uncovering the ultimate path to success. Exercises for recognizing the gems-in-the-darkness and maximizing re-do efforts are woven throughout this inspiring tome. (Anna Jedrziewski Retailer Insight)

Fantastic Failures by Luke Reynolds shares some interesting stories of failures that gives the reader evidence of the importance of a growth mindset. This quote sums it up nicely: “…in order to really learn who we are as people, we need to experience some failure. We need to understand what it’s like to try something and get it wrong – to take a few risks.” Accounts of Albert Einstein, JK Rowling, and even Oprah Winfrey demonstrate that failure is not fatal. Readers will love the “100 Questions about Failure and Success (and everything In-between) to Get Your Mind Sparking and Your Heart Pumping” at the end of the book. This would be a great family or class read to engage in conversations about growth mindset, persistence, and the value of failure. Definitely recommend this book! (Lena Marie Rockwood, educator NetGalley)

I skimmed my way through some of this book. As I did I realized that this book could be an excellent starting point for research projects. I love that the author provides readable source notes, primary documents (images, quotes), and a questionnaire at the back. Great resource for any classroom. (Samantha Leane, educator NetGalley)

This book, written by a seventh grade English teacher, is replete with the biographies of those who faced significant challenges in reaching their goals. Just a few of those featured are Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, J. K. Rowling, Oprah Winfrey, (the horse) Seabiscuit, Vincent Van Gogh, Christopher Reeve, Albert Einstein and Hillary Rodham Clinton.  Each entry starts with a fantasy description of how things went before, more accurately, detailing the setbacks that were faced along the way. The author believes that it is important that young people focus, not on being perfect, but on risk taking and learning. He tells his own story of having been a poor student and then turning things around. The author offers comments to students suggesting coping mechanisms when they face challenges. This book is broad and expansive. It would be an excellent resource for students and school libraries. (Joyce Laudon, media reviewer (website: https://joycesmysteryandfictionbookreviews.wordpress.com/) NetGalley)

Some of the stories I was familiar with, but it doesn’t hurt to hear again. We need to know it is okay to fail but not give up. So many people are becoming perfectionists but forgetting the importance of learning from mistakes and failures. Great format to remind them. (Vanessa Eyre, librarian NetGalley)

When were we taught that failure was a bad thing? Was it something we were taught or is it just an instinct we’re born with? It does make sense though, if you’re working on something, that the last thing you want to happen is for it to fail. But this book changes that! With 35 inspiring stories of successful people who made major mistakes on their way to the top, this book shows you that, not only is failing a necessary part of life, it’s actually a good thing!

(Maddy, youth reviewer at McLean and Eakin Bookstore in Petoskey, Michigan)


3 Blogs: Writing, Teaching, Parenting

Here are links to three blogs housing information and ideas from many years: Intersections: Focused on the ways genres of life cross paths–writing, parenting, teaching,  faith, and social justice Middle School Lessons and Activities:  A Real-Time Blog I kept for my 7th grade English Students, complete with links to activities, projects, lessons, and readings A …


Please feel free to reach out to me with comments, questions, or to connect about school visits (both in person or via video conferencing) by e-mail at LWReynolds@gmail.com.