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1. YUM: Your Ultimate Manual for Nutrition

YUM: Your Ultimate Manual for Good Nutrition. Daina Kalnins. 2008. Lobster Press. 192 pages. [Source: Review copy]

YUM is an informative nonfiction read for upper elementary and middle grade students. Its focus is on teaching young people the basics of nutrition, on how to be more aware of what they're putting in their bodies.  It is not a diet book, a how to lose weight book. If nothing else, the book will teach readers HOW to read food labels and basic definitions of key terms. 

In the first chapter, the focus is on macronutrients: carbohydrates, fats, and protein.  In the second chapter, the focus is on micronutrients: Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Calcium, Iron, Zinc, Potassium, and Sodium. In the third chapter, the focus is on how the body digests food. In the fourth chapter, the author provides sample menus and recipes for breakfast, lunch, supper, and morning and afternoon snacks. In the fifth chapter, the practical advice continues on how to make changes and establish good habits. This last chapter covers a little bit of everything: food safety (how long to keep food, how to tell if food has gone bad, etc), grocery shopping, eating out, etc.

The book is written for kids and with kids in mind. The advice is specifically for what growing, active children need to be eating to be healthy.

Nutrition books can become dated quickly, this one isn't as up-to-date as I'd like. But it still has some good, basic information.  One thing that makes it continue to be relevant is how reader-friendly it is.

My favorite chapter is probably the one on micronutrients. I loved learning what each nutrient does in the body, and which foods you should eat to get that nutrient.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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2. Let’s talk about Caldecott: This One Summer

TOSLet’s talk about This One Summer. I know many of you have already talked about it, and I’m sure some of those conversations have been very interesting. As a member of the 2015 Caldecott Committee that chose This One Summer by Mariko & Jillian Tamaki as an honor book, I’ll try to clear up some points that have lead to questions.  According to the Caldecott definitions, “’A picture book for children’ is one for which children are the intended potential audience. “Children are defined as persons of ages up to and including fourteen and picture books for this entire age range are considered.” (Caldecott Manual, page 10) The Expanded Definitions also says, on page 69, “In some instances, award-winning books have been criticized for exceeding the upper age limit of fourteen. If a book is challenging, and suitable for 13-14 year-olds, but not for younger readers, is it eligible? Yes…” Yes, this book is for older readers. Here’s an interesting look at that question in Travis Jonker’s interview with the Tamakis.

This One Summer is a coming-of-age story about a girl entering adolescence and both appeals to and is appropriate for young readers age 12-14. Twelve, thirteen and fourteen year-olds fall well within the scope of audience for the Caldecott Medal and Honor books. Although this book is challenging in many ways, the committee found it to be “so distinguished, in so many ways, that it deserves recognition” as well as “exceptionally fine, for the narrow part of the range to which it appeals, even though it may be eligible for other awards outside this range.” (page 69 – Caldecott Manual). There are many people who do not realize that the Caldecott terms include books for older readers. I see this as an opportunity for us, as ALSC members and librarians, to deepen understanding of the award.

Committee member Tali Balas add sticker to the book. Photo by Angela Reynolds

Committee member Tali Balas add sticker to the book. Photo by Angela Reynolds

According to The Caldecott Manual, a “picture book for children” as distinguished from other books with illustrations, is one that essentially provides the child with a visual experience. A picture book has a “collective unity of storyline, theme, or concept, developed through the series of pictures of which this book is comprised.” (page 10) The committee followed this definition closely, and This One Summer shows, through pictures, a collective unity of all three, with particular strength in storyline and theme. Graphic novels certainly provide us with a visual experience. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has a great article on using This One Summer in a classroom, which you can read here, and a “make your case” article for adding it to your collection here. And for those of you who are graphic novel fans, don’t miss this podcast with Mariko Tamaki. I love how she talks about the images being like paragraphs.

The Caldecott Committee, as directed by the manual, considered each eligible book as a picture book and made our decisions based primarily on illustration. The committee gave This One Summer an honor because of its excellence of pictorial presentation for children, as defined in the manual. If you haven’t seen it, take a look at the amazing use of just one color. Jillian Tamaki creates mood so vividly with her washes of indigo, deepening the shade when the plot gets darker. The story has much to do with water; the monochromatic blues remind us just how changeable a lake (and an adolescent girl) can be. The images in the book intertwine and play with the words, creating an authentic summer experience. I just love the image on pages 70-71 where Windy is dancing around the kitchen. It shows her personality, and Rose’s, perfectly:  setting up the tension of youthful energy and quiet contemplation. There are many images throughout the book that give us this deeper insight. Go looking for them. They will astound you.
*Special thanks to fellow committee member Sharon McKeller for help with this article.

The post Let’s talk about Caldecott: This One Summer appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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3. The Sculptor Book Review

Title: The Sculptor Author: Scott McCloud Publisher: First Second Publication Date: February 3, 2015 ISBN-13: 978-1596435735 496 pp. ARC provided by publisher via NetGalley Comic book authority Scott McCloud wrote and illustrated the graphic novel The Sculptor, his first work of fiction in over 20 years. The fact that it's already in development for a film should give you a clue that it's a

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4. Day 31 of the March SOLSC! #SOL15

Congratulations, writers! You completed the 8th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge! Check back tomorrow for a chance to sign the Participant Pledge.

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5. Picture book roundup - more funny ones!

Here are two new funny additions to add to my earlier post, Picture Book Roundup - new or coming soon!

We were reading these at work the other night.  All you could hear were laughs, chuckles, and "awww"s.


  • Dyckman, Ame. 2015. Wolfie the Bunny. New York: Little Brown.  Illustrated by Zacharia OHora.


This one had all the library staff laughing! Wolfie is the cutest little wolf in a bunny suit, but the star of this story is his sister, Dot. Doesn't anyone else realize that a wolf does not make a good brother for a bunny? Every time I read it, I find something else amusing in the illustrations.  See you at the Carrot Patch Co-op! (Bring your own shopping bag.)



  • Slater, David Michael. 2015. The Boy & the Book. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge. Illustrated by Bob Kolar.

This wordless book about a book and a "rough-and-tumble" little boy will crack you up and then make you say "Awww!" It's sure to become a librarian favorite. You'll love the blue book (but "read" them all!)




Musing for the day: How does one become a wordless picture book author? ;)

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6. Instagram of the Week - March 30

A brief look at 'grams of interest to engage teens and librarians navigating this social media platform.

It's that time of year when public, school, and academic libraries start to feel the madness -- the book madness, that is!  To coincide with the March Madness basketball tournament, many libraries are hosting their own tournament with brackets of books. Frequently called Literary March Madness or Book Madness, librarians pit books against one another and ask library users to vote for their favorite titles. The sky is the limit when it comes to organizing brackets as the examples below spotlight different genres or categories (teen books vs. banned books, humor vs. local writers), sports books in general, staff picks, or pit popular characters against each other. When it comes to the voting process, there is also a bit of variation with some libraries opting for traditional handwritten bracket sheets and others heading online via social media, Google forms, or Survey Monkey.

Is you library participating in the big book dance and hosting a literary tournament? We want to hear from you! How do you go about choosing which books to include? Do you set up the pairings yourself or are you a fan of an online bracket generator?  Which method of submitting votes have you found works best for your teens? Do you change your categories from year to year to keep it interesting?

 

Have you come across a related Instagram post this week, or has your library posted something similar? Have a topic you'd like to see in the next installment of Instagram of the Week? Share it in the comments section of this post.

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7. Call for Papers: Special issues of JRLYA

The Journal of Research on Libraries & Young Adults  has a new call for papers for a special issue highlight research-based best practices. Check out the full CFP below.

CALL FOR PAPERS:

Journal of Research on Libraries & Young Adults

Journal of Research on Libraries & Young Adults (JRLYA), the official research journal of the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), is currently accepting submissions for a special themed issue. Researchers, librarians, graduate students, and others who conduct research related to young adults (ages 12 – 18) and libraries are invited to submit manuscripts. Papers describing both scholarly research and action research are welcome and will be submitted for peer review and consideration for publication. Submissions are due June 30, 2015.

The special issue will highlight research-based best practices for serving young adults in libraries. It will include: 1) papers that report research studies about specific library practices; 2) papers that report original research and suggest how it can best be used in library practice; and 3) reports of how research was used to guide the design, implementation, evaluation, etc., of specific library services. For example, papers could present studies or analyses of: digital literacy research and library services for adolescents; research-based best practices for serving adolescents in specific settings, such as rural or urban libraries; serving adolescents through teacher and librarian collaboration; serving adolescents through collaboration with other agencies and institutions; LGBTQ issues and YA library services; or using adolescent information behavior research as a basis for library services. Papers that report library programs but lack an original research component or some type of scholarly analysis and connection to the broader field of YA librarianship will not be considered for peer review.

Writer’s guidelines are located at http://www.yalsa.ala.org/jrlya/author-guidelines/.  Email manuscripts and related queries by June 30, 2015, to editor Dr. Denise Agosto at: yalsaresearch@gmail.com.

JRLYA is an open-access, peer-reviewed journal located at: http://www.yalsa.ala.org/jrlya.  Its purpose is to enhance the development of theory, research, and practice to support young adult library services. JRLYA presents original research concerning: 1) the informational and developmental needs of adolescents; 2) the management, implementation, and evaluation of young adult library services; and 3) other critical issues relevant to librarians who work with this population.

 

 

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8. Classroom Slice of Life Story Challenge: Day 31 of 31!!

It's been a wonderful month of reading and writing. We hope that you're inspired to keep on writing. You are all invited to join us every Tuesday for our Slice of Life Story Challenge throughout the year. And, of course, we hope to see you all next year!

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9. How to Create Interactive Timelines

If you're looking for an awesome online report option for biographies or nonfiction texts, you'll love Hstry.co. Hstry is a site where students can create cool looking, interactive timelines with text, images, videos, and embedded quizzes. 

These are really good looking timelines! If you don't believe me, check out this sample on World War I, or this one about the History of Immigration in theUnited States. And your students can create timelines that look just as good.

In my case, however, I didn't want a timeline. My sixth graders had just read nonfiction books of choice, with topics as varied as fashion, venomous animals, and accidental inventions. I needed a venue that would permit them to show off their topic's most interesting facts. So in my case, my students used the site to create linear collages rather than timelines. The video below (which I created and hosted for free at Screencast-O-Matic) walks you through one of those projects.




I spent a good deal of time modeling the process of creating a Hstry timeline in class (and you'll need to do the same), but some students were still somewhat fuzzy on all the steps even after I finished. Plus, three students were absent the day I modeled the how-to. So I created the following video which walks students through the process. Note: do not make a video when all you have for audio production is a dollar store microphone. The project sheet to which the video refers is here if you care to see it.



One downside to this site is that (at present) students cannot publicly share their projects. So in my class we did mini field trips. Students logged in and set up their projects on their screens. I then randomly distributed our class name cards, and students went and visited the Hstry project belonging to the classmate whose name appeared on the card. While visiting, my students provided feedback via a form I created. After two visits, all students were allowed to return to their projects, read the feedback form, and then make corrections as needed. Following these revisions, we conducted two more staged visits, and then students were permitted to visit as they chose or return to their own laptop to improve their work.

Sample Applications for the Classroom:

  • Create a timeline of historical events.
  • Create a biographical timeline.
  • Embed multiple videos, each with its own quiz.
  • Do what my students did, and use it as a linear collage for a nonfiction book.
  • Create your own timeline (as a teacher) to provide students with needed historical context they need before a new unit. 
Notes and Caveats:

  • Again, student timelines are not publicly visibly (yet), and may never be, so plan accordingly.
  • Check-off sheets like the one I created are key to help students manage the content they're adding.
  • Looking for other creative, tech-oriented ways to create book reports? Check out these 23 iPad Alternatives to the Book Report.
  • No, I did not really read the book about chickens, but I did spend summers running a farm at camp, so I know my way around a chicken coop.

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10. My Thoughts: Finding Mr. Brightside by Jay Clark

4 soft sugar cookies.

Cover Love:  Yes.  Eye-catching and romantic.  Love it!

Why I Wanted to Read This:  The synopsis was what it was all about.  How could two teens, whose parents died in a car wreck when they were having an affair, find their way to each other?  I was intrigued by this idea!
Here it is from GoodReads:
Abram and Juliette know each other. They’ve lived down the street from each other their whole lives. But they don’t really know each other—at least, not until Juliette’s mom and Abram’s dad have a torrid affair that culminates in a deadly car crash. Sharing the same subdivision is uncomfortable, to say the least. They don’t speak.

Fast-forward to the neighborhood pharmacy, a few months later. Abram decides to say hello. Then he decides to invite her to Taco Bell. To her surprise as well as his, she agrees. And the real love story begins.
Romance?: Yep. On every page!

My Thoughts:
First of all, both of these characters are intriguing.  They are two teens who have had a traumatic thing happen to them (Juliette's mom and Abram's dad were having an affair which came out when they were killed in a car wreck) and their parents are no help at all.  Juliette's dad is barely functioning and Abram's mom is reliving her youth.   They are just doing the best they can.  But their best isn't not very good.  Juliette, for one, is super controlling and closed off.  She can't find her way to feeling anything.  Abram is obsessed with Juliette from the get go, but it hadn't reached a creepy level yet.  More like he wanted to be involved in her life because he had questions.  But he had given up on things that used to make him happy because they reminded him of his father (like tennis). 

This is a book where the main characters get together pretty early on, not romantically right away, but they forge a friendship early on.  And it's like two drowning people clinging to a life raft.  I am not sure how long their romance will last but its very clear they need each other.  They help each other heal and start to look forward.  They give each other purpose and that's what I loved.  Abram is so good for Juliette and she helps him too.  It;s a very sweet, nice little romance.

To Sum Up:  Adored this story and romance.  In my mind Juliette and Abram stay together for awhile and heal and grow and then separate when they are ready.  It might not be the best relationship for longevity.

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11. #662 – How to Read a Story by Kate Messner & Mark Siegel

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How to Read a Story
top book of 2015 general
Written by Kate Messner
Illustrated by Mark Siegel
Chronicle Books           5/5/2015
978-1-4521-1233-6
32 pages          Age 4 to 8

 

“STEP 1: Find a Story.
“STEP 2: Find a Reading Buddy.
“STEP 3: Find a Cozy Reading Spot.

“Kate Messner and Mark Siegel brilliantly chronicle the process of becoming a reader, from choosing a book and finding someone with whom to share it to guessing what will happen and—finally—coming to The End. How to Read a Story playfully and movingly illustrates the idea that the reader who discovers the love of reading finds, at the end, the beginning.” [book jacket]

Review

Early readers will love this short primer on how to read a picture book. A young boy sits among dozens of books trying to find the perfect one. If you look closely, you will see the dog is laying on what will become the final choice: The Princess, the Dragon, and the Robot. I love little details that ask the reader to pay close attention.

How to Read a Story_Int_Step 1

Step 4 says to look at the cover and try to decipher what the story will be about. Step 5 is the most exciting step as you finally crack the cover, turn to page 1, and begin reading.

“Once upon a time . . .”

I love this book. From the cover on, How to Read a Story is a perfect primer on reading a picture book—the start of a love of reading. One important point: talking like the characters, whether a powerful mouse or a hungry knight, using character voices will increase a reader and listener’s enjoyment of the story. The author uses different fonts to emphasize these changing voices.

The ink and watercolor illustrations are cute and really add to the instructions as they draw you into How to Read a Story. Young kids—and parents—will love the young boy and his reading partner curling up in a soft over-stuffed chair reading and listening, until step 8, when they take a break to predict what might happen next in The Princess, the Dragon, and the Robot. Stiegel illustrates each possibility in a talk-bubble.

“Will the princess tame the dragon?
“Will the robot marry the princess?
“Will the dragon eat them all for lunch?”

How to Read a Story_Int_Step 2

During Step 2, everyone—except the dog—had better things to do than read to the young boy; by the end of his reading aloud, they are all interested in the end. Each of the ten important steps helps teach the wonderment of reading to young children. How to Read a Story looks fantastic and its text is important for all to learn. Once you have read a picture book—following the steps—there is one-step left:

“When the book is over say, ‘The End.’
“And then . . . start all over again.”

HOW TO READ A STORY. Text copyright © 2015 by Kate Messner. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Mark Siegel. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA.


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Purchase at How to Read a Story AmazonB&NBook DepositoryChronicle Books.
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Learn more about How to Read a Story HERE.
Meet the author, Kate Messner, at her website:  http://www.katemessner.com/
Meet the illustrator, Mark Siegel, at his website:  https://www.tumblr.com/tagged/mark-siegel
Find more picture books at the Chronicle Books website:  http://www.chroniclebooks.com/
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Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews


Filed under: 6 Stars TOP BOOK, Children's Books, Favorites, Library Donated Books, NonFiction, Picture Book, Reluctant Readers, Top 10 of 2015 Tagged: Chronicle Books, How to Read a Story, Kate Messner, Mark Siegel, Reading, writing

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12. Book of Earth (2015)

Book of Earth (Bradamante Saga #1) Robin Brande. 2015. Ryer Publishing. 395 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Bradamante knelt in the mud and cut away all of her hair. Rain peppered her bare scalp. The wind shoved at her in gusts, plastering her wet clothes against her skin. It was stupid, she knew, to kneel here in the storm--even in summer the combination of wet and wind could prove deadly. Her fingers were already wooden from the cold. But she continued working, pulling each new section of hair taut and slicing it away with her hunting knife.

Did I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Robin Brande's Book of Earth? No. I didn't LOVE it. Did I love it enough that I'd want to read more in the series? Yes. In fact, I probably would enjoy them more.

The main focus of Book of Earth is on world-building and introducing the characters. Both are important, essential even. But it had a prologue feel to it, like the real story had yet to begin. That's not to say that the book lacks action or suspense. But most of it comes towards the end.

Bradamante is the heroine of Book of Earth. Is she weak? Is she strong? Is she decisive? Is she impulsive? At the start of the novel, Bradamante has perhaps taken the first step towards her future. Her decision to cut her hair may seem small, but, it's life-changing. That night she has her first vision. (This first vision reminded me of Samuel's calling in the Bible. For those that are interested, you can read about it in 1 Samuel 3.) In the vision, she sees a teacher, Manat, and an older-stronger-wiser self. I believe at the time of the vision, she is twelve, but her older self, her "warrior" self is in her twenties. She listens to what Manat has to say. She's at a crossroads of sorts. She can choose what direction her life will take. She can choose to commit to the warrior-path knowing that it will be difficult and demanding and require tough sacrifices, or, she can remain where she is and take a more passive  role. (I hesitate to use the word "victim" here, but, in some ways it might apply. Since most readers can guess this will not be her choice, I'm not sure if it matters.) Bradamante chooses to become a warrior: to begin her training. But this training is unique. For it occurs NIGHTLY in her visions. She's training for the future while she sleeps. She wakes and plays instructor for her brother, Rinaldo. I'll be honest: these visions add strangeness to the novel. I wasn't sure, at the beginning, who Manat was, if she was a real person, or a spirit. Her brother also had some doubts about "Manat." Is his sister crazy? Why is she suddenly having all these strange dreams or "visions"? How does she know what she knows? Bradamante's biggest fear--at first--is that her new life will take her away from her brother. She is hoping that it WILL take her far, far away from her mother, however. But in her reckoning, the perfect life would take both of them far, far away, and they'd be together and both strong warriors.

Things don't go as Bradamante would wish. To say the least! And there's a dark, cruelty to the world Brande has created in Book of Earth. There were definitely scenes that brought the Bible to mind once again. (Genesis 19 and Judges 19). I'm struggling with how much to reveal--in general. How much is too much in a review? I will add this perhaps. There comes a time when Bradamante's training moves from nightly visions to reality. In other words, she begins to physically train and do battle with other would-be warriors. She continues to learn from Manat, Samual, and others. Not just how to do battle or how to survive, but, more meaning-of-life, philosophical, spiritual stuff.

The world Brande has created definitely has a spiritual side to it. But it isn't exactly a spirituality that one would recognize or distinguish as being "Christian". There isn't one God. In fact, lower-case "g" throughout. And all the talk is of each person finding and listening to their god. There isn't any one message to be spread or taught either. In fact, in quite a few places, it's stressed that what happens between a person and their god is private and personal and just for them. That being said, Bradamante's message from her god comes almost straight from the Bible--Jeremiah 1:5. Before I formed you in the womb I knew you. Before you were born I set you apart. That is the message Bradamante's god gives her along with: Do not be afraid. I have called you to this life. Do not be afraid. Be strong in body. Strong in mind. Strong in heart. And know that I am with you.

Book of Earth kept me reading. Even if I didn't always "like" a particular scene. (Intense scenes can make me uncomfortable in the moment. I want to know what happens, if characters get out of a situation. But until they do--I have an almost hate-to-look reaction.) For the most part, I cared about the characters and thought they were well-developed. (Jara and Astolpho are other characters I came to care about.) The world she created was interesting. Not one I'd like to visit, mind you, but interesting all the same. I do want to know what happens next.

© 2015 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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13. Review of the Day: Red by Michael Hall

Red: A Crayon’s Story
By Michael Hall
Greenwillow (an imprint of Harper Collins)
$17.99
ISBN: 978-0062252074
Ages 3-6
On shelves now

Almost since their very conception children’s books were meant to teach and inform on the one hand, and to inform one’s moral fiber on the other. Why who can forget that catchy little 1730 ditty from The Childe’s Guide that read, “The idle Fool / Is whipt at School”? It’s got a beat and you can dance to it! And as the centuries have passed children’s books continue to teach and instruct. Peter Rabbit takes an illicit nosh and loses his fancy duds. Pinocchio stretches the truth a little and ends up with a prominent proboscis. Even parents who are sure to fill their shelves with the subversive naughtiness of Max, David, and Eloise are still inclined to indulge in a bit of subterfuge bibliotherapy when their little darling starts biting / hitting / swearing at the neighbors. Instruction, however, is a terribly difficult thing to do in a children’s book. It takes skill and a gentle hand. When Sophie Gets Angry . . . Really Really Angry works because the point of the book is couched in beautiful, lively, eye-popping art, and a story that shows rather than tells. But for every Sophie there are a hundred didactic tracts that some poor child somewhere is being forced to swallow dry. What a relief then to run across Red: A Crayon’s Story. It’s making a point, no doubt about it. But that point is made with a gentle hand and an interesting story, giving the reader the not unpleasant sensation that even if they didn’t get the point of the tale on a first reading, something about the book has seeped deep into their very core. Clever and wry, Hall dips a toe into moral waters and comes out swimming. Sublime.

“He was red. But he wasn’t very good at it.” When a blue crayon in a wrapper labeled “Red” finds himself failing over and over again, everyone around him has an opinion on the matter. Maybe he needs to mix with the other kids more (only, when he does his orange turns out to be green instead). Maybe he just needs more practice. Maybe his wrapper’s not tight enough. Maybe it’s TOO tight. Maybe he’s got to press harder or be sharper. It really isn’t until a new crayon asks him to paint a blue sea that he comes to the shocking realization. In spite of what his wrapper might say, he isn’t red at all. He’s blue! And once that’s clear, everything else falls into place.

A school librarian friend of mine discussed this book with some school age children not too long ago. According to her, their conversation got into some interesting territory. Amongst themselves they questioned why the crayon got the reaction that he did. One kid said it was the fault of the factory that had labeled him. Another kid countered that no, it was the fault of the other crayons for not accepting him from the start. And then one kid wondered why the crayon needed a label in the first place. Now I don’t want to go about pointing out the obvious here but basically these kids figured out the whole book and rendered this review, for all intents and purposes, moot. They got the book. They understand the book. They should be the ones presenting the book.

Because you see when I first encountered this story I applied my very very adult (and very very limited) interpretation to it. A first read and I was convinced that it was a transgender coming-of-age narrative except with, y’know, waxy drawing materials. And I’m not saying that isn’t a legitimate way to read the book, but it’s also a very limited reading. I mean, let’s face it. If Mr. Hall had meant to book to be JUST about transgender kids, wouldn’t it have been a blue crayon in a pink wrapper? No, Hall’s story is applicable to a wide range of people who find themselves incorrectly “labeled”. The ones who are told that they’re just not trying hard enough, even when it’s clear that the usual rules don’t apply. We’ve all known someone like that in our lives before. Sometimes they’re lucky in the way that Red here is lucky and they meet someone who helps to show them the way. Sometimes they help themselves. And sometimes there is no help and the story takes a much sadder turn. I think of those kids, and then I read the ending of “Red” again. It doesn’t help their situation much, but it makes me feel better.

This isn’t my first time at the Michael Hall rodeo, by the way. I liked My Heart Is Like a Zoo, enjoyed Perfect Square, took to Cat Tale, and noted It’s an Orange Aardvark It’s funny, but in a way, these all felt like a prelude to Red. As with those books, Hall pays his customary attention to color and shape. Like Perfect Square he even mucks with our understood definitions. But while those books were all pleasing to the eye, Red makes a sudden lunge for hearts and minds as well. That it succeeds is certainly worth noting.

Now when I was a kid, I ascribed to inanimate objects a peculiar level of anthropomorphizing. A solo game of war turned a deck of cards into a high stakes emotional journey worthy of a telenovela. And crayons? Crayons had their own lives as well. There were a lot of betrayals and broken hearts in my little yellow box. Hall eschews this level of crayon obsession, but in his art I noticed that he spends a great deal of time understanding what a crayon’s existence might entail if they were allowed families and full lives. I loved watching how the points on the crayons would dull or how some crayons were used entirely on a slant, due to the way they colored. I liked how the shorter you are, the older you are (a concept that basically turned my 3-year-old’s world upside down when she tried to comprehend it). I liked how everything that happens to Red stays with him throughout the book. If his wrapper is cut or he’s taped together, that snip and tape stay with him to the end. The result is that by the time he’s figured out his place in the world (and shouldn’t we all be so lucky) he bears the physical cuts and scars that show he’s had a long, hard journey getting to self-acceptance. No mean feat for a book that primarily utilizes just crayon drawings and cut paper, digitally combined.

Not everyone thinks, as I do, that Mr. Hall’s effort is successful. I’ve encountered at least one librarian who told me straight out that she found the book “preachy”. I can see why she’d say that. I mean, it does wear its message on its sleeve. Yet for all that it has a purpose I can’t call it purposeful. What Hall has done so well here is to take a universal story and tell it with objects that almost every reader approaching this book will already be familiar with. These crayons don’t have faces or arms or mouths. They look like the crayons you encounter all the time, yet they live lives that may be both familiar and unfamiliar to readers. And in telling a very simple fish-out-of-water story, it actually manages to make kids think about what the story is actually trying to say. It makes readers work for its point. This isn’t bibliotherapy. It’s bibliodecoding. And when they figure out what’s going on, they get just as much out of it as you might hope. A rare, wonderful title that truly has its child audience in mind. Respectful.

On shelves now.

Source: Final copy sent from publisher for review.

Like This? Then Try:

Professional Reviews: Kirkus

Other Reviews: Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast st Kirkus

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14. The Babies & Doggies book by John & Molly

Honestly, I should just type the name of this superb new book by John & Molly and leave it at that. The Babies & Doggies Book - it says it all. But there is an added brilliance to The Babies & Doggies Book that must be noted. As a parent and a bookseller, I have long known that babies LOVE looking at pictures of other babies. I have also long bemoaned the lack of quality board books with

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15. Classroom Slice of Life Story Challenge: Day 30 of 31

It’s the penultimate day of the Classroom Slice of Life Story Challenge! What a month it has been!

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16. 30 Days of Teen Programming: Providing for the Underserved

"Mrs. Thompson, why we only got two Bluford High books?"  "We need more manga."  "I like that Sharon Draper lady.  We got anymore of her books?"  These were just a few of the questions and statements directed at me about our high school media center's collection when I became a media specialist.  Through day-to-day direct observation and through results of a student survey, I quickly realized areas of our collection that were being underserved - manga and urban fiction.  There were groups of students who were all clamoring for the same few titles that we had of a certain genre or series and our "hold lists" were growing longer by the day.

Several reasons may attribute to underserved groups in a library program.  Community dynamics change.  Our small suburban school system has seen tremendous growth in the 18 years that I have been here - 400% growth.  That translates into a graduating class of 78 in 1998 to a graduating class of 478 in 2015.  In the same time period, our minority population grew from 5% to 30%.  Our media center's collection does not reflect this growth.  Another reason for underserved groups is the rapid growth in new styles of writing, like manga.  It can be difficult to know whether new styles of writing are going to be accepted by your patrons, and we hate to waste money on books that are just going to sit on the shelves.  We started out with three different manga series to test the waters.  The popularity of these titles exploded!  They rarely made it back onto the shelves as students would grab them from the "re-shelf" cart as soon as they were checked in.  They also became our most stolen titles!  (We do not currently have a book security system.)  There were titles that our students desperately wanted to read, so why wouldn't I listen to them to continue to foster their love of reading.

As a reader, I cannot stand to read things in a series out of order.  Many of my students are the same way.  Why did we only have some of the Bluford High series?  Why were #1, 4, 6-8 of Full Metal Alchemist missing?  Our database showed that we had owned, at one point, #1-15 of the manga series BlackCat, but several of the titles were now marked "Lost".  I set filling in the gaps of the asked about series as my first goal in strengthening our collection for our underserved patrons.  In the urban fiction section, we went from two Sharon Draper titles to all 10 of her young adult titles.  We were also able to fill in the missing Bluford High titles, which serve our urban fiction fans as well as our Hi/Lo students.  For the manga patrons, we filled in all of the holes in the series we already had and aimed to include four new series a year.

Another strategy for building our collection for these underserved populations was to get input from the students.  In adding more manga, we allowed the students who were most interested in these series to help us with the selection of new titles.  They perused catalogs and looked online for reviews and suitable content (as some manga is aimed at a more adult audience). My African-American girls, who were devouring the urban fiction, asked about adding the Drama High series.  They loved looking for new authors to tell me about as well.  With the addition of the new titles, plus the marketing of the items through displays, our circulation increased 67% in one year!  Allowing students to assist in making our collection stronger for them gave them a sense of ownership and pride in our media program.

YALSA's Teen Programming Guidelines states that librarians should "create programming that reflects the needs and identities of all teens in the community."  Many media centers and libraries run into the problem of having an underserved population, and it is the duty of the librarian to recognize the needs of all patrons and work to strengthen the weak areas.  Investigate your collection for missing titles and allow your teens input.  These practices can go a long way in reflecting the needs of the communities we serve.

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17. Conferencing Outside the Box


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Library conferences often come to mind as the best places to put our bang-for-buck in-person attendance. But state and national library conferences are just the tip of the iceberg for great networking and learning experiences.  There are many opportunities to learn a ton if we step outside the library world and discover what else is out there.

Just within this month here in our state, we have had/are having three great statewide conferences that are perfect for public youth librarians to attend. One is with our library media peers in WEMTA; one with the WI Afterschool Association and one an early childhood conference full of great sessions. We made sure we could get a staffer to each.

Attending conferences outside the library world opens us up to new experiences, new ideas, new colleagues and new ways to approach our work. It's a great way to fill up our toolboxes and give even better service to our communities!

What are your favorite "out-of-the-library" box conferences (national or local)? I'd love to hear about them!

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18. Happy Birthday to my Mom!



Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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19. New Non-Fiction for Inquisitive Teens: Rockin Books from Zest

Zest Books is a fantastic publisher of non-fiction for teens. If you're looking for fun, engaging, and informative non-fiction, add these to your collection!



Secret societies are fascinating. Did you  know there's even a secret (and pricey!) club at Disney? Some of the groups may be familiar, some may be new, but all have interesting secrets to share! 

For teens looking for a fun read exposing secret clubs and societies, this is a book that would be a blast. It could also be a fun starting point for research projects. 



With so much information coming at teens, how do they know who and what to trust? How can they find out information for themselves? Debunk It helps teens sort out what's true and what's false. 

Debunk It helps teens sort out information and decide for themselves what to believe. 




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20. Rutabaga the Adventure Chef #1 by Eric Colossal, 128 pp, RL 3

Rutabaga the Adventure Chef by Eric Colossal began life as an online and is now available in book form and in full color (although I couldn't find any color images to share here...)! I absolutely love the character of Rutabaga and the world that Colossal has created for him to wander in. When we first meet him, he is trekking through the wilds with a huge pack on his back (it turns out to

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21. Margaret A. Edwards Award Committee

This year, I am on the Margaret A. Edwards Award Committee.

What this means for this blog: I will not be reviewing or writing anything about the Committee, books read, or authors considered. I will avoid reviewing or writing about any eligible titles or authors.

Given the scope of the Award, that means that there is still plenty of titles I can write about (especially new and recent titles).

I will also be blogging about the rules and polices for the Edwards Award.





Image from the YALSA Edwards page.


Amazon Affiliate. If you click from here to Amazon and buy something, I receive a percentage of the purchase price.

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

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22. Day 30 of the March SOLSC! #SOL15

Can you believe it is already Day 30 of the March SOLSC?

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23. Thinking (out loud) about learning in makerspaces

I recently made an expedition to SXSWedu in Austin. I was really excited about this conference because I thought it’d be useful to me as an educator/facilitator/enabler of science and technology-based programs and projects at my library. I was looking forward to hearing new-to-me perspectives on student (or in my case teen)-centered learning; maybe I’d pick up some tips on how to help teens feel comfortable expressing their interests or how to frame  a challenging project in a manageable way or chunk it into achievable pieces. What I most hoped to do, I think, was speak with other educators about the unique challenges and opportunities of learning in a makerspace-type environment. It was a valuable experience in many ways, but not quite what I expected. (The usual caveats apply – YMMV, perhaps I picked the wrong sessions, didn’t find the right folks to network with, etc.)

As I left SXSWedu and headed for home, I reflected a bit on my experience. I was disappointed, because I had hoped to connect with experts - people who knew more than me about what I was doing. I didn’t. At a panel where I expected higher-level conversation about makerspaces and learning, I left frustrated that the conversation was ‘what is a makerspace?’ and ‘low-budget vs high-budget’ and ‘you don’t NEED a 3d printer’ instead of ‘this is what makes a makerspace special, and this is how to maximize that opportunity.’ I wanted nuts and bolts and a user’s manual, and I got Tinker Toys. As I thought more and more about what had happened, it occurred to me that if I wanted to talk about this, I ought to just start the conversation I wanted to hear. To that end, here are the questions on my mind right now, and some of my possible answers.

Question 1: What’s the best way to enable teen-initiated learning in a makerspace?

A makerspace-based learning environment is very different from the structure of classroom-based learning, and I wonder how to scaffold learning and build skills methodically in such an unstructured, come-and-go environment (or whether I should even be worrying about that).

We could provide pre-chunked modules for each tool or skill (in physical or digital format). For example, a set of Arduino-themed handout-style modules, beginning with Blink and advancing to more complicated projects. We could curate a tailored, leveled set of links to digital resources for self-directed learning, like Youtube videos, Instructables, tutorials from sites like SparkFun and Adafruit, and resources created in-house. Another option might be leveled project challenges, with resources on hand and mentors (staff and/or teens) on-site to help. For example, “program the EV3 robot to follow a line maze” with Mindstorms programming books and websites accessible, and volunteers from a local robotics team.

Question 2: How should progress be measured or tracked in a makerspace learning environment?

The first option that springs to mind is badging – digital, physical, or both. A bonus (and a drawback) of this method is the opportunity to engage an artistically inclined teen volunteer to design the badges. One major question for this method is the procedure for issuing badges. There could be an online form to fill out, though that feels disconnected and impersonal, and I know I value any chance to engage with a teen during the learning process. Staff could be the primary issuers, but that reinforces the adult-as-authority dynamic. Teen mentors could also be deputized to approve badge earning, but organizing that as a face-to-face interaction could be complicated. Would these badges stay with the badge earner, or in the makerspace? Would we need to create physical artifact to hold the badges?

Chart-based tracking is a simple, time-tested method. The information is all in one place and easily accessible, but it feels (to me) a bit internal and closed off. It could be made more accessible, however. A binder is more restricted than a Google Doc, and quite private as opposed to a classroom-style wall chart.

It could be handy to track progress on the resources themselves, especially for those teens who are looking for help learning to use a resource. Imagine a sticker on the back of a resource sheet or ‘Expert’ badges displayed alongside digital resources – the teen looking at those resources can easily see peer mentors. Privacy issues could come up here, but an opt-in system might alleviate that worry. One possible complication is the difficulty of scheduling peer-to-peer learning sessions with so many demands on teens’ time.

In addition to those questions, I’ve been thinking a bit about some of the unique challenges and opportunities inherent in makerspace-based learning.

One challenge I’ve run into more than once is a complicated first foray into learning a new tool, resulting in frustration and discouragement and eventual abandonment of the project altogether, which in turn colors the teen’s view of the tool and makes it less likely that the teen will attempt to use that tool again. I hope that providing a structure for learning new tools and skills (see: Question 1) will ameliorate the problem. In discussions with others, I’ve also heard the suggestion of leaving the project as-is, in hopes that the teen will revisit it or that another teen’s curiosity will be piqued and they’ll take up the challenge. (Tangential – should projects be marked abandoned or off-limits to limit toe-stepping?)

Some makerspace materials are disposable, but many must be reused (for example, Arduinos), but being able to show off projects is important. What’s the best way to record these projects for posterity and ensure that the maker has some artifact of their accomplishment? Video clips? Time lapse photography? And what’s the best way to store and catalog these digital artifacts so that they’ll be accessible to the makers? Should they also be publicly accessible?

 

Caroline Mossing is a Teen Services Librarian in the Teen Library at the San Antonio Central Library.

 

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24. Unlocking Achievements in Summer Reading

Photo by Jeremy Kunz

Photo by Jeremy Kunz

We are constantly analyzing and tweaking our Summer Reading Club to make it easier and more fun for both patrons and staff. Last year, I talked about how we went “prizeless” and this year we’re taking it a step farther and giving out a free book to every child who finishes the Summer Reading Club (instead of plastic prizes or raffles). Having just one prize to hand out simplifies things immensely for my staff and a book is a great prize to encourage further reading.

But then the question remains: what about those kids who want to do more? Certainly we will have some children who complete the Summer Reading requirements in June and look to us for more to do. Without handing out prizes all summer, what can we offer them to keep them occupied (and keep them reading!)?

This summer, we’re going to try a card with additional “achievements to unlock” once they complete the Summer Reading Club and collect their coupons and free book. This won’t be for additional prizes (although some of our “achievements” will be connected to prize drawings), but just for the pride in unlocking achievements and the fun of having something else to do.

We’re going to include five achievements on our card and kids can try to unlock all of them or just do the ones that interest them. They are:

1. Dollars and Sense – one of our local banks has sponsored this program with us for the past several years. They donate a couple of Visa gift cards and every child who reads a book about money or finances over the summer can enter to win. The idea is to increase financial literacy in our children.

2. Bedtime Math – we provided this program last summer along with our Summer Reading Club, but we did not really succeed in promoting it, so participation was really low. I’m hoping that by making it one of our achievements, we can drum up more interest.

3. Super Reader – read an additional amount and then come in and decorate your own superhero that we’ll hang from the ceiling. I’m excited to have a visual for how much kids are reading this summer!

4. Read Around the World – we are bringing back the map bulletin board to encourage kids to read a book set in another country and write a short review for us to post.

5. Add to our Kids’ Choice display – we’re dedicating one of our displays to feature kids’ favorite books. To unlock this challenge, kids will choose a book and write a short recommendation on a bookmark that’ll go in the book.

You can download a non-spiffy, very basic draft of our achievement card here. (We will size them down when we run off copies.)

We’ll include the achievement cards at the front of our coupon packets that go out to every child who completed the Summer Reading Club. The card will direct families to ask for additional instructions at the Children’s Desk since some of the activities are not self-explanatory or they may have to pick up a form or log from us. As achievements are completed, we’ll stamp their card.

I’m not sure how this will go this year, but I’m hopeful that it will give kids something fun to do while still being fairly easy on staff to maintain.

What do you do to encourage your kids to keep reading and/or engaging with the library all summer long?

— Abby Johnson, Children’s Services Manager
New Albany-Floyd County Public Library
New Albany, IN
http://www.abbythelibrarian.com

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25. The Case for Loving by Selina Alko

The Case for Loving: the fight for interracial marriage By Selina Alko; Illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko Arthur A. Levine Books: an imprint of Scholastic, Inc. 2015 ISBN: 9780545478533 Grades 5 thru 12. I borrowed this book from my local public library. Richard Loving was a caring man; he didn’t see differences.                              There was one person Richard loved

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