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A site to help parents learn about great books for their kids ages 4 - 14. I'm the Friday Librarian at Redwood Day School, an independent K-8 school in Oakland, CA.
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1. Tech access in our libraries: making an impact on a limited budget -- #ALSC14

As a school librarian, I love helping kids and teachers discover the opportunities that technology offers for learning, creating and engaging with the world. Whether it's through the power of creating a multimedia presentation about a book they've loved, or the fun of competing with friends while kids play math games online, technology offers our children opportunities to learn in new ways.

Many schools are offering "one-to-one" programs where each child has their own personal computing device, whether it's a laptop, iPad or Chromebook. But in California, we operate on a very limited budget. So my question has been: how can I make an impact as a school librarian by looking for smaller funding opportunities? How can I increase access to technology in smaller, incremental ways?
With this in mind, I am presenting at this year's ALSC Institute a session called "Tech Access on a Budget". This conference is for children's librarians across the United States, through a division of the American Library Association called ALSC: Association for Library Services to Children. I wanted to share our presentation here.

I am presenting with three other dynamic, smart, passionate women and have learned so much creating this presentation. Talk about the power of technology -- we had never met in person before we showed up 30 minutes before our presentation! All of our connections had been through email, Google video chats and conference calls.
Cen Campbell is the founder of LittleeLit.com, "a crowd-sourced, grass-roots professional learning network that works to develop promising practices for the incorporation of new media into library collections, services and programs for families with young children." This is a terrific resource for librarians. I first reached out to Cen because of her work with young children in a public library setting, and I wanted to combine our school and public library perspectives. Cen was a member of ALSC's Children and Technology Committee and I'm a member of AASL's Best Apps Committee.

Suzanne Flint is a child development expert who works for the California State Library, helping administer the federal grants provided by the Library Services and Technology Act. She has provided an invaluable perspective both as a funder and as a child development expert. Suzanne and Cen have worked together developing the initiative: Early Learning with Families 2.0.

Claudia Haines is a children's librarian at Homer Public Library in Homer, Alaska, in rural south-central Alaska. Integrating interactive digital media into offerings like storytime is part of Claudia’s efforts to inspire kids to use a variety of tools to create and explore at the library. Definitely check out Claudia's blog, Never Shushed.
We had our first presentation yesterday and are presenting again today. We know that many librarians cannot travel to the ALSC Institute -- please share this with librarians you think would be interested. And I know we would all be happy to answer any questions you have about our experiences increasing children's access to technology in developmentally appropriate ways.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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2. Andrea Davis Pinkney to visit Berkeley students: Friday, September 19th

One of my great joys is connecting students with authors who inspire them. The moment I first read Andrea Davis Pinkney's Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America, her voice filled me with hope and song. I knew I wanted to share that same voice with students in Berkeley. And so I'm thrilled that she will be visiting this week, speaking at an elementary school, a middle school, and with families at a fireside chat.

A lot of work goes into arranging an author visit like this, but most important is getting the students excited about meeting her. I want to give students a sense of the author's work and what she's like as a person before they meet her. We're sharing this presentation throughout Berkeley schools:


I especially like sharing resources from TeachingBooks.net with my students -- listening to how authors pronounce their name, hearing their voice, and watching videos. My students really liked the variety of images I was able to share -- from pictures of Andrea with her family to illustrations from her books.

It's a busy week here in Berkeley, as we get ready to host several author visits -- Andrea Davis Pinkney, Rita Williams Garcia and Jacqueline Briggs Martin. They're all in town for the ALSC Institute. We feel incredibly lucky to be able to connect these inspiring authors with our students.

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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3. In the Rainforest, by Kate Duke (Let's Read and Find Out Science, stage 2) (ages 5-9)

Many kids love learning about different regions of the world. In fact, one of the real highlights of the perennially popular Magic Treehouse series is that Jack and Annie can visit so many places just by wishing. So I'm thrilled that there's a new volume in the terrific series Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science.

In the Rainforest
Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science, stage 2
by Kate Duke
HarperCollins, 2014
Your local library
Amazon
ages 5-9
Have you ever wanted to visit the tropical rainforest? Well, be sure to bring along your bug repellent, waterproof backpack and notebook. Duke draws kids right into her informative book by having a two kids join a guide as they explore a tropical rainforest. Speech bubbles keep the tone fun and casual, while the main text is more traditional informative nonfiction.
"Ready for a tour of a tropical rainforest? Come on--the trip starts here."
Readers learn about what a tropical rainforest is like, both in terms of its ecology as well as the animals and plants that live there. Throughout, Duke helps readers compare tropical rainforests to forests in temperate climates. For example, as you can see in the spread above, she illustrates that a tropical rainforest will typically get ten times as much rainfall as a temperate climate.

This book works well both as a read-aloud and as a book for young students to browse through themselves. The pictures, captions and dialog boxes are all very informative and easier to read because of their conversational tone. For example, in the picture below the young girl says, "Hey, my sneakers are still dry. I thought a rainforest would be like a swamp."
"The thick layer of leaves up above keeps a lot of the rain from getting down here, except during the rainiest months."
I wholeheartedly agree with the Kirkus review of In the Rainforest:
"Duke’s friendly cartoons effectively communicate the immense variety of plant and animal life found in rain forests and feature cutaway views and close-ups in several spreads."
My first and second graders at Emerson are going to love this book. Last year, we had a group of 2nd graders who formed a book club to learn all about rainforests together. They loved reading Afternoon on the Amazon (Magic Treehouse book #6) so much that they wanted to learn more about the Amazon rain forest. The teacher encouraged nonfiction book clubs so students could build their knowledge of different topics in a small group. It was a great success.

If you like this, I'd highly recommend another favorite nonfiction picture book: No Monkeys, No Chocolate, by Melissa Stewart and Allen Young. This book also uses colorful artwork with a cartoonish feel and a blend of conversational dialog and informational text. The authors take readers on a journey from cocoa pod, following the life cycle of the tree back to stems, roots and beans. Throughout, they weave in the concept of the interdependence of plants and animals.
The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, HarperCollins. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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4. 365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Browne's Book of Precepts, by R.J. Palacio (ages 8-13)

"Maybe it was exactly what I needed to hear at that particular moment in my life..."
-- Mr. Browne, in 365 Days of Wonder
Last week was exhausting, both at home and at school. So I welcomed a quiet, quiet weekend to recharge. I found myself paging through a book I bought for a teacher friend of mine, R.J. Palacio's new book 365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Browne's Book of Precepts. It was indeed, just what I needed at that moment. I could turn the pages, finding nuggets that stayed with me, settled in my heart and sent ripples out into my tired soul. I know my students and my teachers will love turning to this again and again.
365 Days of Wonder:
Mr. Browne's Book of Precepts
by R.J. Palacio
Knopf / Random House, 2014
Your local library
Amazon
preview on Google Books
ages 8-13
Wonder is a book that swept through my school, passed from child to child, in 2012. Palacio tells the story of a young boy starting middle school, after being homeschooled for six years. Auggie has severe facial deformities, and we read about his journey from several points of view -- connecting not only with his character, but thinking about how we would act if we were sitting next to him in class.
"This is a book that is truly reaching kids, speaking to them, making them think - think about friendship, about bullies and about what it means to be kind." (read full review here)
In this new book, we hear directly from Auggie's teacher, Mr. Browne. Throughout Wonder, Mr. Browne shared precepts, or "words to live by," as he explains to his students. At the beginning of each month, he would share a new precept and students would write a reflection about the precept at the end of the month.
precept from 365 Days of Wonder
In this collection, Mr. Browne shares 365 precepts -- gatherings of quotes by philosophers, song writers, politicians, fictional characters, and students across the nation.
precept from 365 Days of Wonder
contributed by Cole, from Regina, Sask. Candada
Ms. Palacio has heard from hundreds of students about #thewonderofwonder and the impact her novel has had on them. In a wonderful move, she asked her fans to send her their own precepts, written in their own handwriting. And so intermingling quotes from Aristotle and Goethe are sayings and drawings submitted by real kids.
precepts from 365 Days of Wonder
contributed by John, from West Windsor, NY
And so I want to begin the week carrying this special book in my heart. I want to remember the power of a smile to connect me to other people. I want to choose kindness, even in the smallest moments. And I want to see my students each as individuals with a host of stories inside each one of them. But I also want to talk about these ideas with my students -- to be explicit.
e-card from choosekind.tumblr.com
This book was just what I needed to recharge. Thank you, Ms. Palacio, for keeping Mr. Browne's ideas alive in your heart and sharing them with the world.

I purchased the review copy at my local, wonderful bookstore: Mrs. Dalloway's. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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5. You Are (Not) Small, by Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant (ages 4-8)

"Who's grown over the summer?" I asked my 2nd grade class today -- and 20 hands shot high into the air. They ARE bigger, and yet... they're still little kids, right? So are they big, or are they little? And what's that all really mean, anyway? Anna Kang's new picture book, You Are (Not) Small, helped us talk about this -- and then extrapolate to what it meant about other things in our lives.

You Are (Not) Small
by Anna Kang
illustrated by Christopher Weyant
Two Lions, 2014
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-8
A small purple creature walks up to a larger orange fuzzy one and the orange creature promptly declares, "You are small." Well, I wonder how that makes the little guy feel? He turns around and says, "I am not small. You are big."

It's not me -- it's you who's different. They each bring out a host of friends to show how they're like everyone else -- and it's the other guy who's different.
My students could easily relate to the argument that quickly escalated into a shouting match. When a giant stomped into the middle of the scene, forcing everyone to reevaluate who exactly was big and small, I could just see my students' perspective shifting.

I loved talking with 2nd graders about how they could relate to being big AND small at the same time. As 2nd graders, they are now the big kids out at recess with the kindergartners and 1st graders. They know how everything at school works. But if they walk upstairs, right away they feel small again peeking into the 5th graders' classroom.

Even better was the way I could encourage them to apply this to other areas, seeing how they might feel good about themselves doing one thing, but not so good doing something else. Duncan said he felt "big" when he played baseball, but not so big when he had to be catcher. We even applied that to ourselves as readers, and what it meant to choose a book that was "just right" for ourselves -- not worrying about other kids in the class.

Tonight, I shared with the teachers this excerpt from an interview with the author, Anna Kang:
Where do your ideas come from?

My childhood, observing my daughters and what they experience, characters I want to see come to life, a particular feeling or problem.
Christoper Weyant and Anna Kang
Where specifically did “You Are (Not) Small” come from?

I’ve been playing a version of the dialogue in the book in my head since I was a child. I’m considered “small” or “petite” here in the U.S. (I’m Korean American), and among other things, it’s extremely challenging to find clothes that fit. When I was nine years old, I spent the summer in Korea, and I remember shopping with my Aunt and discovering racks and racks of clothes that were exactly my size in every store we entered, as if the clothes were custom-made specifically for me. The clothes weren’t in a special “petite” section or in a younger, more “junior” section. They were just clothes. Regular, everyday clothes for a nine-year old girl. For the first time in my life, my size—in addition to my skin color, hair and eye color—was “normal” and unremarkable. I suddenly looked like everyone else in the world, including the people on TV, in movies, advertisements, and in books. As a child, this was an overwhelming experience. It made me feel incredibly safe and empowered, and it boosted my confidence and grounded me when I returned home at the end of the summer. I was not “other” or “different.” I was just “me.”

I eventually learned that how you saw yourself and others depended on your personal experience and your community, that perspective is subjective and not necessarily the entire truth.

So, years later, when I sat down to write a story for a children’s book, this idea naturally popped out.

source: Cracking the Cover
I look forward to talking with kids specifically about Anna's experience -- I think many will relate.

What a terrific way to begin the year -- recognizing that we all have strengths and weaknesses, that we are all growing and have changed over the summer, but we're all growing at our own pace.

Many thanks to friend Alyson Beecher for recommending this at her site Kid Lit Frenzy -- check out her interview with Anna and Christopher. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Two Lions. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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6. Percy Jackson's Greek Gods, by Rick Riordan -- pure read-aloud fun (ages 9-14)

This week we began reading aloud Percy Jackson's Greek Gods with our 10-year-old. It is so much fun, I just have to share it -- even though we're barely a fraction into it. While I usually only share here books I've read in their entirety, I wanted to capture some of the laugh-out-loud moments we've been having. I also want to encourage you to keep reading aloud with your kids, even when they're reading proficiently on their own. That time together is pure gold -- treasure it and store up as much as you can.

Percy Jackson's Greek Gods
by Rick Riordan
illustrated by John Rocco
Disney Hyperion, 2014
Google Books preview
Your local library
Amazon
ages 9 - 14
Right from the introduction, it's clear that this is no ordinary retelling of the classic Greek myths. Percy is on top form, combining good natured humor and sarcastic wit:
"I hope I'm getting extra credit for this," Percy Jackson starts. "A publisher in New York asked me to write down what I know about the Greek gods, and I was like, 'Can we do this anonymously? Because I don't need the Olympians mad at me again.'"
While we haven't read the rest of the Percy Jackson novels together, my daughter knows plenty about them from her friends. She's curious about the Greek gods, but it's really Percy's voice that captured her attention.

Percy starts from the very beginning of time, with Chaos ("a gloomy, soupy mist with all the matter in the cosmos just drifting around"), Gaea the Earth Mother, and Ouranos the sky. Riordan packs a huge amount of detail into his tales, and we are finding it hard to keep track of all the names. So far, we've watched Kronos overthrow his father Ouranos, with the help of his four brothers Koios, Iapetus, Krios and Hyperion. And now Kronos is terrified that his father's curse will come true, and he will be destroyed by his own children. But the main characters are familiar to me, so I can help keep us on track.
"Without a word, (Ouranos) wrapped them in chains and tossed them into Tartarus like bags of recycling."

Want to have a taste of Percy's irreverent tone? Just read this chapter that begins the section on the Olympians and you'll see why this book has my 10 year old giggling each night:
"Why is Zeus always first?
Seriously, every book about the Greek gods has to start with this guy. Are we doing reverse alphabetical order? I know he's the king of Olympus and all--but trust me, this dude's ego does not need to get any bigger.
You know what? Forget him.
We're going to talk about the gods in the order they were born, women first. Take a backseat Zeus. We're starting with Hestia."
I just love the way Riordan infuses his retellings with plenty of modern attitudes. "Maybe you'll feel better about your own relatives, knowing that the first family in creation was also the first dysfunctional family." But he also doesn't skimp on the details, foreign names and intricate family trees. That's why this is working so terrifically as a read-aloud.

John Rocco's illustrations are magnificent. As Kirkus Reviews states, they "smoke and writhe on the page as if hit by lightning." Head over to John's blog to read more about his artwork and see sketches of some of the interior art as he is developing it.

An index, list of illustrations and suggestions for further reading are included in the back matter. My one complaint at this point is I wish there was a family tree and/or list of all the characters with a pronunciation guide. In the meantime, I think I will print out either this basic family tree from Encyclopedia Mythica.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Disney Hyperion Books. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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7. Dash, by Kirby Larson -- heartfelt story about World War II from a kid's point of view (ages 9-12)

Even as a child, I loved the way historical fiction whisked me away to live in another time and place. These novels helped me understand what it might have been like to live through difficult times in history. But they also gave me strength and courage to face my own difficulties. In Dash, by Kirby Larson, Mitsi Kashino and her family are forced to leave their home during World War II simply because they are Japanese American.

Dash
by Kirby Larson
Scholastic, 2014
Google Books preview
Your local library
Amazon
ages 9-12
*best new book*
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor has meant that everything has changed for Mitsi. Her best friends are avoiding her, she's getting mean notes in her desk at school, and everyone is looking at her strangely. At least she has her sweet dog Dash to keep her company. When Mitsi's best friends don't even send her Valentine's Day cards,
"Loneliness wrapped around her like a snake. She never, ever dreamed that her friends would desert her like this. How was she going to make it through the rest of the year? The rest of her life?"
Young readers will be able to empathize with Mitsi, especially with the way she finds comfort in art and in her dog. When her family receives the order to move to Camp Harmony and leave Dash behind, Mitsi is devastated. Larson builds the story carefully, first helping readers connect to Mitsi and then showing them how she felt torn from everything she knew. The story is infused with heart and feeling, but it never gets bogged down. I loved the period details, from the game "Hinky Pinky" or the slang Mitsi and her friends use ("I'm busted flat. Can't help.").

Through all of the loneliness and hardship, Mitsi holds onto her dream of being reunited with Dash. She receives letters from Dash, who is staying with a kind friend Mrs. Bowker, and finds solace in being able to write him back. As the Kirkus starred review states,
"Larson makes this terrible event in American history personal with the story of one girl and her beloved pet...This emotionally satisfying and thought-provoking book will have readers pulling for Mitsi and Dash."
For an in-depth review, head over to Librarian's Quest and her post: "Not Ever Again". I so agree with Margie when she writes, "Our hearts are bound to Mitsi as she struggles to understand, as she develops skills to adjust and survive and writes letters to Dash (Mrs. Bowker) and receives messages in return."  I'm certainly looking forward to sharing this with students and seeing how they relate to Mitsi. If you liked this, you'll also certainly like Duke, also by Kirby Larson. Check out what our students had to say about Duke in last year's Mock Newbery discussions.

The review copies were kindly sent by the publisher, Scholastic Books. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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8. Online Resources: exploring Japanese Americans' experiences during World War II (ages 8 and up)

As a school librarian, I want to find many ways to engage young children in exploring the world around them. Sometimes that comes from sharing a picture book or novel, and other times it might be helping them explore online resources. Recently I have been very moved by historical fiction about the experience of Japanese Americans during World War II, as they were forced from their homes following Executive Order 9066. Today I would like to share some online resources to help children learn more about these experiences.


The Remembrance Project is an initiative developed by the Japanese American National Museum which I highly recommend. As its website states, the Remembrance Project is
"a pioneering effort to build a permanent “living museum” online featuring the stories of those whose lives were forever changed by the signing of Executive Order 9066 by President Roosevelt on February 19, 1942, which instigated indignities and injustices for over 285,000 people of Japanese ancestry residing in the U.S. and abroad."
This introductory video featuring George Takei sets the stage for learning about the way Japanese Americans were treated here in America during World War II and the mission of the Remembrance Project. A short video like this helps children start building visual images to use in their understanding of historical events.


The Remembrance Project starts with a short introduction to Executive Order 9066, but students will be most interested in exploring pictures, memories and descriptions of the prison camps and people who lived through this ordeal. For example, I really wanted to learn about Minidoka Camp in Idaho, because Kirby Larson set part of her novel Dash in that camp. Tomorrow I will share more about this moving novel, but I want to start off by sharing these resources.
Students preparing to plant rye between classroom barrack buildings. Minidoka, ID. National Archives and Records Administration via the Remembrance Project
I especially like how easy it is to browse through the Remembrance Project, discovering information, photographs and primary source materials. This site will bring home for children how this is living history for many families, whether grandparents or great-grandparents had to go through this terrible experience.

For even more resource, check out the National Park Service website about the Japanese American Experience. This includes links to three National Park Service website as well as six other sites that children and families will find interesting.


I am very excited to share Dash by Kirby Larson with my students next week. I can't wait until Tuesday, August 26th, when it is released! Come back to my site on Tuesday for a full review (and giveaways!). In the meantime, here is the publisher's summary:
Although Mitsi Kashino and her family are swept up in the wave of anti-Japanese sentiment following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Mitsi never expects to lose her home--or her beloved dog, Dash. But, as World War II rages and people of Japanese descent are forced into incarceration camps, Mitsi is separated from Dash, her classmates, and life as she knows it. The camp is a crowded and unfamiliar place, whose dusty floors, seemingly endless lines, and barbed wire fences begin to unravel the strong Kashino family ties. With the help of a friendly neighbor back home, Mitsi remains connected to Dash in spite of the hard times, holding on to the hope that the war will end soon and life will return to normal. Though they've lost their home, will the Kashino family also lose their sense of family? And will Mitsi and Dash ever be reunited?
If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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9. A Place Where Sunflowers Grow, by Amy Lee-Tai and Felicia Hoshino (ages 5-10)

It is crucial we find age-appropriate ways to share about the terrible persecution of Japanese Americans during World War II in the United States. And yet, how do you introduce this topic to children, especially kids in elementary school? A Place Where Sunflowers Grow is a wonderful picture book by Amy Lee Tai, whose grandmother was sent to the Topaz internment camp during the war.


A Place Where Sunflowers Grow
by Amy Lee-Tai
illustrated by Felicia Hoshino
Japanese translation by Marc Akio Lee
Children’s Book Press, 2006
Your local library
Amazon
ages 5-10
Drawing upon her grandmother's story of internment at Topaz during World War II, Amy Lei-Tai finds a small piece of sunshine in young Mari’s story. Like thousands of other innocent American citizens, Mari and her family have been forced to leave their home simply because of their Japanese heritage. Mari loves art, but it's so difficult to find anything to draw in a place so hot and desolate.

“Flowers don’t grow easily in the desert,” laments young Mari during her first week at Topaz.
“It will take time, patience, and care,” her mother replies.
Eventually, with the encouragement of her family and her teacher Mrs. Hanamoto, Mari finds comfort in her weekly art class as she paints pictures that remind her of home.

I was really struck by how Lee-Tai’s delicate story brings this difficult time to a young audience. The story is written in both English and Japanese, and the lovely audiobook is also produced with both languages narrated a page at a time.

Pair this picture book with novels for middle grade students, giving them a way into the story. Picture books can introduce the setting and historical time, providing a visual grounding for students. Here are a few other books on the experiences of Japanese Americans during World War II that I recommend for elementary students:
The review came from our local public library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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10. Back to school: easing your kindergarten worries (ages 4-7)

Are you getting nervous about the beginning of the school year? Will your child be able to make the transition to a new school, new teacher, new friends? There's nothing like the nervous excitement of the first day of school. Some kids are raring to go, while others are tentatively clinging to their parents. Whatever the case, try out these two new favorites to add some humor as you read about the first day of school.

Planet Kindergarten
by Sue Ganz-Schmitt
illustrated by Shane Prigmore
Chronicle, 2014
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-7
“The countdown started. Dad and I checked the plans for my next big mission… I am ready to explore: Planet Kindergarten!”
Planet Kindergarten, click to enlarge
Starting school is certainly exciting, but it can also be nerve-wracking. One imaginative little kid knows it might be just like blasting off into outer space. There are strange routines, new crewmembers, and you might even get a bit homesick.

Bold colors and a retro-style amp up the humor in this fun twist on getting used to a new school. You can definitely tell that Shane Prigmore has an animator's background -- check out his blog to see some of the fun inspiration he used in developing the artwork for this.
Planet Kindergarten, click to enlarge
I just love the way Ganz-Schmitt captures the joyful chaos of kindergarten. Share this with any kindergarten teacher, and she/he will love the line, "Gravity works differently here. We have to try hard to stay in our seats. And our hands go up a lot."
Mom, It's My First Day of Kindergarten!
by Hyewon Yum
Farrar Straus Giroux / Macmillan, 2012
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-7
In a delightful turning of the tables, a five-year old boy can’t wait to start kindergarten and his mom is anxious about his going to a new school.
“Will you be okay in the big kids’ school? You’re still so little,” she frets.
“Mom, don’t worry. I’ll be fine, I am already five!” he declares as he dashes off to school. 
The boy is full of confidence -- I just love the way that Hyewon Yum shows this visually, with the kindergartner big and bold, and his mom small and blue. Until he peeks inside the classroom door ... and the roles reverse again.

Enjoy this video to get a sense of this delightful story and artwork:


I hope your little ones come home declaring, "Kindergarten is awesome!!!" The review copies were kindly sent by the publisher, Chronicle Books and Macmillan. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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11. Back to School Fun: Silly and Sweet (ages 3-6)

Summer is ending and soon kids will head back to school. Some are excited for new adventures, but many will be sad to see summer over. Help your kids talk about the changes that are coming with two new books that take a silly and sweet look at the new school year. These are both perfect for little kids starting preschool or kindergarten.

Greenwillow / HarperCollins, 2014
ages 4-6
Lola is one cute little kitty, ready to pounce, play and explore. When she finds pink glasses, a stylish outfit and a backpack, she decides to join the rest of the kids on the school bus. "Hooray! Lola is going to school!" Lola has fun doing all sorts of activities at school -- writing, reading, painting, singing, and more. "Lola loved it all!" The story might be slight (dare I say fluffy like a kitty?), but it will help bring smiles to any little kid who's anxious about what happens at school. Lola's positive attitude is sure to rub off on them.
Monsters Love School
by Mike Austin
HarperCollins, 2014
Your local library
Amazon
ages 3-6
Mike Austin's monsters bring even more silliness to the scene, while still helping kids who are feeling nervous about starting a new school year. Summer fun is ending and all the little monster head to school. Most are excited to see their friends-- “Oh Yeah! Monster School!!” But one little blue monster is worried: “School?! Gulp.”
Blue is sure that he already knows his “ABGs and 413s and XYDs,” so why does he need to go to school? Sure enough, once Blue gets to school he starts having fun. Just look at how great art class can be:
Austin’s playful monsters are sure to bring laughs, with their bright colors and googly eyes. Check out what Kirkus Reviews had to say about Monsters Love School:
"Austin has masterfully folded some valuable information about the first day of school into his funny tale, but the monsters are the big draw. Not the least bit scary, their simple shapes and accessories and scrawled style will likely have kids reaching for their own 'monster pencils, monster crayons, monster ink and brushes.'"
Looking for more Back to School book ideas? Check out this article in School Library Journal: Backpacks, Lunch Boxes, and Giggles Galore: Back-to-School Adventures, by Joy Fleishhacker.

The review copies were kindly sent by the publisher, HarperCollins. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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12. Emily's Blue Period, by Cathleen Daly (ages 4-9)

Are there ever times that you feel the world around you is getting just too mixed up? Whether it's countries at war or friends not speaking with one another, there are times that the world seems turned upside down. Emily's Blue Period, a favorite new picture book, captures one child's reaction to such a moment and how art helped her find her way through.

Emily's Blue Period
by Cathleen Daly
illustrations by Lisa Brown
Roaring Brook / Macmillan, 2014
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-9
*best new book*
Emily loves art and particularly the artwork of Pablo Picasso. She's fascinated by the way he used shapes to compose his paintings in unusual ways: "He liked to mix things up." Emily wants to create art using all sorts of things as well, but lately she's been feeling as if her life is just too jumbled.
Emily's Blue Period, Cathleen Daly & Lisa Brown, 2014
Emily's parents have recently separated and her "dad is no longer where he belongs. Suddenly, he lives in his own little cube." Emily uses her art to express her feelings, connecting to Picasso and his blue period.
Emily's Blue Period, Cathleen Daly & Lisa Brown, 2014
I love the way Emily wrestles with her emotions, recognizing she is sad and frustrated. When her teacher asks her to make a collage of her her home, she is flummoxed--she has two homes now. Which should she show? Cathleen Daly reveals Emily's journey, letting us quietly watch her rather than telling us everything she's thinking. Lisa Brown's soothing illustrations help readers connect to Emily and visualize a sense of Picasso's blue period. Brown uses grey-blues throughout, creating a subdued tone that is never dark.

I won't give away the ending, but Daly's conclusion and Brown's final illustration are sure to bring smiles. I feel like I've found a kindred spirit in Daly. Here are just a few of the things she wrote on a recent Nerdy Book Club post:
  • As a child, "I enjoyed the company of a book as much as the company of most people, and reading as much as I did I developed a rich inner world that allowed me to be, for the most part, with or without a book, happy in my own company. This active, dense inner world also fueled a font creative endeavors."
  • "I read somewhere that Ray Bradbury said that writers should read, read, read as much as possible – this feeds the imagination to the point of bursting, that it’s likely to come spilling out on the page this way. This was certainly was true for me a child. I spent hours hanging out in the local library reading and writing."
  • "My main hope for the book is that it give solace and inspiration to young readers who may or may not be going through difficulties of their own."
Yep, a kindred spirit indeed. Share this book with children you know who are contemplative, or who are wrestling with their own blue period.

By the way, San Francisco Bay Area teachers and librarians -- both Daly and Brown live in our area. I especially love some of the material Brown shared in a recent interview over at Seven Impossible Things about her school visits. Definitely check it out!

Images used by permission of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group. The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Macmillan Books. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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13. The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion & the Fall of Imperial Russia, by Candace Fleming (ages 12+)

Like many of my students, I love getting lost in a story--so absorbed that I am transported to that time and place, that I live with the characters in my mind. I just finished reading to a new biography of the Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and his family, the last of the mighty Romanov monarchy, and I couldn't put it down. I highly recommend the audiobook and think many teens and their families will find it fascinating.

The Family Romanov:
Murder, Rebellion & the Fall of Imperial Russia
by Candace Fleming
narrated by Kimberly Farr, et al.
Penguin Random House, 2014
Listening Library, 2014
Preview on Google Books
Your local library
Amazon / Audible
ages 12 and up
* best new book *
Candace Fleming pulls the reader into the story of the fall of Imperial Russia by providing both an intimate look at the royal family and a careful understanding of the political and social context of their time. It's interesting to read a story when you know the ending, but I found myself on the edge of my seat at several points, wondering just how it would turn out.

Tsar Nicholas II ruled over the immense Russian Empire, which stretched from the edge of Germany and the Baltic Sea all of the way across Europe and northern Asia to the Sea of Japan. He wed his beloved Princess Alix of Hesse in 1894, just weeks after he ascended to the throne.

But the world around them began crumbling under the weight of tremendous social inequalities and poverty, exacerbated by Nicholas's own ineffective political leadership. Fleming helps readers understand this context by using a myriad of primary sources: diaries, letters, first-hand accounts of life in Russia at the turn of the century. Fleming decided, according to an interview in Kirkus Reviews, to keep “any context as close to the story as possible.” These contemporary accounts help readers understand both the day to day lives of the Romanov family and also the discontent and anger that ran through Russia at the time.

Kimberly Farr imbues the audiobook with heart and soul, helping listeners connect with the family members and envision their world. She subtly changes her voice so listeners know when she's reading an actual letter or diary, bringing the myriad characters to life. I also really liked the way the producers used different narrators, often with Russian accents, to read diary excerpts from other individuals. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award for July 2014.

Show teens this video from History.com to get them interested in the mystery surrounding the Romanov's deaths. It's likely they know Anastasia from the animated film, but I'm guessing they don't realize its historical basis.

You might also have interested kids listen to Fleming talk on TeachingBooks.net about her inspiration for writing the book, which stems back to when she was a young teen and discovered a book on her mother's bookshelf. She then reads aloud a chapter from the book, to give readers a sense of her voice.

Other reviews:
The review copy comes from our home library, purchased from the terrific Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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14. Reading Online: How will it affect developing readers?

I read with interest a recent New Yorker article, Being a Better Online Reader by Maria Konnikova, and I would love to explore my thoughts on this article. We all are reading much more online than we did ten years ago, but how is this affecting the way young children are developing as readers? How is this affecting the way teachers and librarians help students learn to read, discover a love of reading, and develop their critical thinking skills?


Over the past several years, I have observed these changes:
  • most adults read for work online -- mainly on desktop or laptop computers
  • many adults read for pleasure using digital devices, like the iPad, Kindle or Nook
  • most children (ages 7-12) read primarily print books when reading for pleasure or school
  • students are learning to research online, starting at about age 8-9
  • standardized tests are shifting to online assessments
I feel very strongly that if we are going to start assessing students online, then we need to provide specific experiences and instruction for reading online. Explicit instruction is crucial -- it is unfair to assume that our children are "digital natives" and learn through osmosis how to read online. If we make those assumptions, we will simply reinforce the digital divide that is created by unequal opportunities and access.

Konnikova points out that the way we read online is different than the way we read in print. She steers clear of passing judgment, but rather ponders how this affects the way we acquire knowledge. Konnikova writes,
On screen, people tended to browse and scan, to look for keywords, and to read in a less linear, more selective fashion. On the page, they tended to concentrate more on following the text. Skimming, Liu concluded, had become the new reading: the more we read online, the more likely we were to move quickly, without stopping to ponder any one thought.
I would argue that this skimming is an essential skill for coping with the huge amount of information we have to sift through online. We need to teach our students how we skim effectively. But we also need to talk with them about strategies for when we discover a nugget -- how we need to consciously slow down to digest the information.

Later, Konnikova looks at research that has explored this point -- that we need to teach our students explicit online reading skills:
Julie Coiro, who studies digital reading comprehension in elementary- and middle-school students at the University of Rhode Island, has found that good reading in print doesn’t necessarily translate to good reading on-screen. The students do not only differ in their abilities and preferences; they also need different sorts of training to excel at each medium. The online world, she argues, may require students to exercise much greater self-control than a physical book.
I have noticed this with my own daughter, whose high school is now one-to-one iPad. She likes reading her English texts online because she can annotate them well, but she prefers to read in print if she is just absorbing and enjoying a book.

Schools must specifically teach students in 4th grade and above how to apply their reading skills to digital reading. Starting in elementary school, they need to practice researching online and teachers need to talk about how this might be different from reading a print book. It is essential that our schools invest in technologies, so that teachers and students can learn these skills. But I would also argue that it's essential for schools to invest in librarians who understand this intersection between reading, information and digital experiences.

Adults often ask me if kids will continue reading print books. I believe the answer is absolutely yes. First of all, there's access and quantity issues. Children in first through third grade need to read 10-20 short books every week. They want to browse through physical copies. Schools, libraries and families need access to inexpensive paperbacks. Even highly digital affluent families are reluctant to continue purchasing ebooks at this rate.

I would also argue that there is something more tangible, more comforting, more reassuring for young kids holding print books. Konnikova quotes Maryann Wolf, author of Proust and the Squid, as saying “Physical, tangible books give children a lot of time." Young children need that time. Families need that time.

It is interesting that I read this article online, following a link suggested by KQED's Mindshift blog. But I returned to it several times, reading it in different chunks, rereading it, skimming it again. This type of repeated reading might be what our students need to get comfortable doing, taking the time to dive into ideas and ponder them.

As you watch your children and your students, are you noticing that they are reading digitally more than they were a few years ago? Is the way they are reading changing? The digital world certainly brings more opportunities within easy reach for many students, but how are we preparing them to take advantage of those opportunities?

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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15. The Racecar Alphabet, by Brian Floca (ages 4-8)

Wow-oh-wow. The Racecar Alphabet, by Brian Floca, is absolutely brilliant -- perfect for young speed racers (and their parents, too!). Kids will be drawn in by his dynamic illustrations, but they'll come back again and again for the layers of information they discover with each reading.

The Racecar Alphabet
by Brian Floca
Atheneum / Simon & Schuster, 2003
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-8
You can just about feel the wind and hear the roar as you see the 1934 Mercedes-Benz thundering across the cover, can't you? But this is no ordinary alphabet book. Floca combines alliteration, rhythm and rhymes to pull readers right in. Here are the opening stanzas:
Automobiles--
machines on wheels.//

Belts turning,
  fuel burning,
the buzz and bark of engines.
   The flap of a flag--
     a race begins!
But there's more! Look closely at the endpapers as you open the book, and you'll notice that the cars are arranged in chronological order. Read the text again and you'll notice that each letter of the alphabet progresses through automobile history, from the 1906 Renault (emblazoned with a number 1, because it's on the A page) to a 1934 Mercedes-Benz (number 9, "instruments / indicating speed") to a 2001 Ferrari F1 (number 26, "zipping, zigzagging, with zeal and zing").
The Racecar Alphabet, by Brian Floca
Brian Floca, winner of this year's Caldecott Award for the mightily impressive Locamotive, brings readers right into the race, shifting perspective at each turn. Just look above as the BMW barrels down on you, or below as you sit in the driver's seat:
The Racecar Alphabet, by Brian Floca
Floca writes in his blog about his inspiration for writing The Racecar Alphabet:
When I came across an image of one of those cars a few years ago, a switch went off in my head. I had never been much of a racing fan, but suddenly I appreciated how extraordinarily beautiful these cars could be. Here was sculpture, nothing less. It just happened to be sculpture you could drive through scenic European settings at extraordinary speeds.
I truly believe that picture books are an essential way we can introduce our children to art. I'm guessing many parents will never take their children to a museum. But here, they can get a feel for the importance of perspective, colors, lines, and composition. And make tons of zooming, churning, speeding noises at the same time!

The review copy came from our home library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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16. Race Cars: Read all about them! (ages 4-8)

Many of my young students love nonfiction. They're fascinated to learn real facts and quickly learn just where their favorite books are. Here are two nonfiction books for kids who love fast race cars.

Race Day!
National Geographic Reader
by Gail Tuchman
National Geographic, 2010
Your local library
Amazon
ages 3-7
Head out to the race track and see just what car racers do in this fast-paced book for kids just beginning to read. The dynamic photos and very simple text make this a great place to start with young speedsters. Here you can see how simple the text is:
Race Day, National Geographic, 2010
Share this either with a three year old who doesn't like to sit still for long stories, or a kindergartner just beginning to read. They'll love the bright photographs and clean design. For kids who want more info, but like learning about lots of different car models, try My Big Fast Car Book.
My Big Fast Car Book
text and design, Duck Egg Blue
Ticktock Books, 2014
Your local library
Amazon
ages 5-8
This book will draw in readers who look out the car window and tell you each car model that passes. Kids will learn about the LaFerrari, the Bugatti Veyron, stock cars and more. Each double-page spread has one large photograph of the car, with bite-sized facts surrounding it.
My Big Fast Race Car, Ticktock Books, 2014
The details make this more appropriate for a first grader listening to an adult read it aloud, or a reader who already knows a lot about racing. The language is actually quite complicated, probably too complicated for a preschooler to understand. But they'll love the pictures and learning the car names.
If you're looking for a good over-all introduction, check out Race Cars: Start Your Engines!
Race Cars: Start Your Engines!
by Molly Aloian and Bobbie Kalman
Crabtree, 2007
Your local library
Amazon
ages 5-9
Although it gets off to a slow start, I think this book will appeal to kids who want to learn more about what makes some cars faster than others. The first sentences have no kid-appeal: "A racecar is a vehicle. A vehicle is machine that moves from place to place." Any kids who wants to read this book will know that already. But the text picks up speed from there. Here's a section that talks about the shape of a race car.
Race Cars: Start Your Engines, Crabtree, 2007
I particularly like the design of this book. The diagrams, labels and captions draw kids into the content and do not overwhelm the reader. For example, after the section above on the shape of the car, there's a subsection on wings that help the race car move quickly and keep low to the ground. Other chapters cover topics such as Indy 500 cars, Formula One cars, dragsters and go-carts.

If you like sharing nonfiction picture books with kids, definitely head over to Kid Lit Frenzy, where Alyson Beecher hosts the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge every Wednesday. This week, she's sharing Sniffer Dogs (on my must-read list!), and you'll see links of all sorts of nonfiction books teachers and parents love sharing with kids.

The review copies came from our home library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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17. Number One Sam, by Greg Pizzoli (ages 3-6)

Kids love racing against each other -- but how do we help them learn to have fun racing without hurting their friendships? It's a delicate line that kids, especially competitive ones, need to learn. Here's a book you'll love sharing with your kids, because it will make them laugh, but it will also help them think.
Number One Sam
Disney Hyperion, 2014
ages 3-6
Sam is the number one racer, always coming in first place. Just look how happy he is racing around the curves -- he's a guy that kids will love cheering on. I love Greg Pizzoli's artwork, full of dramatic lines and curves, but imbued with such bright, happy colors.


But one race day Sam's friend Maggie comes in first place, and Sam is devastated. "The night before the next race, Sam didn't sleep one wink." Little kids will know just how nervous he is. Sam works hard not to be a sore loser, and to do his best to win the next day.


Pizzoli throws a delightfully unexpected twist in the story--Sam is driving his best, passing all his friends and confident that he will win the race again. But, oh no!!!, he sees five adorable little chicks crossing the road.
"Sam could steer around the chicks,
but would the other racers see them in time?"
I can't wait to read this to little kids and see how they react to Sam's dilemma! Pizzoli creates a situation that kids will be able to relate to: how they can be competitive but also good friends. What makes this book so great is that it will help families share an experience and create conversations. And Pizzoli does this while keeping the story trimmed down to its essence: dynamic yet spare, easy to read yet captivating.

Just take a look at the Kirkus starred review of Number One Sam:
"No. 1 takes on a whole new meaning. Pizzoli’s story is a simple class act. Do the right thing—you can’t lose, ever. And most of the time, the right thing is no great philosophical conundrum but as clear as the checkered flag.
A polished work, from the words to the finish on the race cars."
Number one in my book. I'll be sharing this with our kindergarteners as we talk about what it means to be a friend.

If you like this story, you might enjoy checking out:


The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Disney Hyperion Books. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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18. Race Car Love for little (and big) kids: Metropolis II at LACMA

Do you know any kids who love, love, love race cars? I grew up with one -- my youngest brother loved race cars so much, his summer dream job in high school was working on the crew of a race car team. So this week, I'm sharing fabulous books for race car lovers--especially little kids whose eyes go wide at every fast car.

I'll start by sharing a video and experience--because books really are just one way to share an experience, to open kids' imaginations up wide, to create conversations. Chris Burden's Metropolis II is a room-size sculpture made of an intricate system of model cars and trains zooming through a maze of highways in a model city.

Metropolis II, by Chris Burden at LACMA
I tried taking pictures, too, but since the essence of this exhibit is how the cars ZOOM through the maze of freeways, a still picture just can't recreate the experience. Watch the video below, and let me know what you think.



Here's the museum's description (from the LACMA website):
"Steel beams form an eclectic grid interwoven with an elaborate system of 18 roadways, including one six lane freeway, and HO scale train tracks. Miniature cars speed through the city at 240 scale miles per hour; every hour, the equivalent of approximately 100,000 cars circulate through the dense network of buildings." 
If you want to learn more, check out this video and interview with the creator: Metropolis II, by Chris Burden.

Do you have any favorite things to do with race car loving kids? Every time we visit Disneyland, I insist that we go on Autotopia. Are there other video clips you would show to get kids thinking of all the things they could build or race?

I hope you enjoy the race car books I'll share this week. Come back tomorrow for more zooming fun!

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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19. Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries -- 2014 ALA Presentation

I ardently believe that librarians can help develop engaged, passionate readers, much more so than scripted reading programs or dry textbooks. Moreover, I believe that librarians can contribute an essential perspective to the change toward implementing the Common Core State Standards.


I have been thrilled to collaborate with four amazing colleagues from across the country to develop these ideas and share our expertise. Below you'll find the introduction to our presentation at ALA, the American Library Association, and then the slides from our presentation.

There are many criticisms launched at the Common Core standards, ranging from concerns with the speed of implementation to issues surrounding the assessment of students and teachers. Yes, each of us has our concerns, that’s for sure. But we also know that this is our reality. Our schools are implementing these standards and so we want to try to have a positive attitude. The glass is half full.

We must be part of the conversation and look at how our expertise helps teachers engage students with nonfiction, develop their reading skills, and deepen their critical thinking. Districts and policy makers are going forward with the Common Core. We can either jump on board and take part in the conversation, influencing it in a way that will be good for kids, or we can stay on the sidelines and watch it go by.

Above all else, we want to make reading nonfiction fun, exciting and interesting for students.

Below is the presentation we made at ALA. I loved developing this presentation my colleages, and can't wait to continue developing our body of work.


We would love to hear thoughts and questions you have. Please share this presentation online with friends and colleagues. Let us know if you have any questions at all.

Special thanks go to my remarkable colleagues and collaborators:


Please share our slides and PDFs with colleagues and friends. Let us know if you have any questions. We look forward to continuing our collaboration through the school hear.

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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20. Cleopatra In Space: Target Practice, by Mike Maihack (ages 8-12)

Do your kids love graphic novels? I know many parents tear their hair out worrying that their kids will only read comic books and graphic novels. But please, please believe me that these books can really feed a child's imagination. They draw us in, asking the reader to be much more actively involved in creating the story than a movie does. One of my students' new favorite graphic novels is Cleopatra in Space: Target Practice. Hand this to fans of Amulet and Zita the Spacegirl.

Cleopatra in Space:
Target Practice
by Mike Maihack
Graphix / Scholastic, 2014
Amazon
your local library
ages 8 - 12
This fun mash-up between ancient Egypt and outer space features a young Cleopatra who’s more interested in combat training than algebra lessons. Cleo is zapped into the future by a mysterious tablet and learns that an ancient prophecy declares that she is destined to save the galaxy from the tyrannical rule of the evil Xaius Octavian.

Maihack pulls in readers with his colorful artwork, charming heroine and plenty of action. I especially love Cleo's spunky, fearless character. Just look at Maihack's use of color, angles and expression.
Here's what my friend and huge sci-fi reader Charlotte has to say about Cleopatra in Space over at Charlotte's Library:
"A must for fans of Zita the Spacegirl and Astronaut Academy.

A must for those who want books with strong girl characters to offer young readers of any gender, and, Cleo being brown girl of ancient Egypt, a great diverse read!"
You can also check out the Kirkus Reviews and SLJ's Good Comics for Kids review. I know kids at our school can't wait for the next in this fun new series!

The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Graphix / Scholastics Books. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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21. Paddington: summer reading for this winter's movie (ages 5-10)

Paddington Bear holds a special place in our hearts, as a small bear who travels to a far away place in search of a home. Our family was very excited to see that he's coming to the big screen this winter in a new film. We are listening to the audiobook again, laughing at this sweet, silly bear's adventures, and looking forward to the new movie.
A Bear Called Paddington
by Michael Bond
audiobook narrated by Stephen Fry
movie produced by David Heyman
US release date: December 25, 2014
movie website
ages 5-10

One fateful afternoon, the Brown family meets a small bear in Paddington Station, London. He had traveled all the way from Darkest Peru as a stowaway, with a sign around his neck reading "Please look after this bear. Thank you." Mrs. Brown insists that they invite him to stay in their home, just for a while -- and what adventures they have!

I wonder which version our family will enjoy more. Stephen Fry narrates the audiobook using a stately English accent -- "earnestly well-meaning" as the AudioFile review calls him.

It will be interesting to see what approach the Paddington movie takes. Just take a look at the trailer -- it's clear that David Heyman (producer of several Harry Potter movies) is emphasizing the adventurous side of Paddington:



Will kids like it? Oh yes. For fun, you might want to browse through the beginning of the movie website. My hope is that families also read the original story aloud or listen to the audiobook. HarperCollins is rereleasing the original novel, along with many movie tie-ins.

Thanks to Big Honcho Media for bringing the Paddington Movie to my attention. I'm always excited to see how popular culture might bring families back to reading classic children's stories we have enjoyed. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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22. Comics Squad: Recess -- lots of laughs & great fun! (ages 8-12)

The surest way to make my kids happy? Invite all their friends over to play, give them pizza & ice cream, and let them do whatever they want to do. The next best thing? Bring them the newest comic book that's got stories from all their favorite authors. Kids I've talked to are super excited about Comics Squad, a new collection of short stories edited by the creators of Babymouse, Squish & Lunch Lady. Heck, the school librarians I know are super excited about this, too!

Comics Squad: Recess!
edited by Jennifer L. Holm, Matthew Holm & Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Random House, 2014
your local library
Amazon
ages 8 - 12
*best new book*
Kids don’t need any convincing that recess is the best time of the day, but they’ll have a blast celebrating it with some of the favorite characters. This anthology features eight short comics, some featuring favorite characters like Babymouse and Lunch Lady, and others introducing new characters.

One of my favorite parts is the Mash-Up Madness, showing how kids could combine their favorite characters for some wacky fun:


I love listening to kids make connections between the comics they read here and others that they know. One 10 year old thought "300 Words" was hilarious and asked, "Is Dan Santat the guy who wrote Sidekicks?" Yep -- she was totally right.

Many kids have a much deeper knowledge of graphic novels as a body of work than teachers and librarians. They recognize the visual styles of artists they love. They'll spot Raina Telgemeier's comic in here right away. This collection not only will appeal to kids who get a chance to visit their favorite characters like Babymouse and Lunch Lady. It makes them feel part of this larger phenomenon -- graphic novels for kids.

Watch this terrific trailer and you'll get a sense of just how much fun these comics creators have had putting this together. I also really enjoyed reading Jarrett Krosoczka's post in the Nerdy Book Club about how Comics Squad developed as a project between friends and colleagues.



A must have for our school library! The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Random House Books. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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23. How Comics Create Life-Long Readers -- interview with Jenni Holm

My students are big-time fans of Babymouse & Squish comics, and they are super-excited by Comic Squad. Jennifer Holm lives in the Bay Area, and has been very supportive of schools and bookstores in the area. Recently she took some time to sit down with me to talk about her work.

Jennifer L. Holm
This interview originally ran in Parents Press, a local SF Bay Area newspaper I write a monthly column for. I wanted to share it here with readers beyond the Bay Area.

Mary Ann Scheuer: The kids at my school are going to just love Comics Squad: Recess -- seeing all their favorite comics characters in one place! Why do you think so many kids love to read comics? What makes them fun to read?
Jennifer Holm: I’m so glad — I really think comics can hook some kids on reading. You know, we’re living in a visual society — with video games, the web, advertising, movies and TV. Comics are the ultimate visual storytelling treat. Did you know that graphic novels are one of the fastest growing categories in publishing and bookselling?

MAS: I’m not surprised! They certainly are the most popular type of book in our school library. I worry that some parents think that reading graphic novels is really simple for kids, but that’s not true. How do you explain this to parents?
JH: I think that comics teach you a lot of great reading skills like inference, character development, setting and plot structure. When Matt and I were kids, we loved collected volumes like Snoopy. It built our confidence as readers. I think that’s part of what’s so satisfying for kids -- getting immersed in the whole world of the story.

MAS: What are you excited about with Comic Squad?
JH: Kids aren’t growing up with newspapers the same way we did, so we want to provide the fun we had with Sunday comics. Comic Squad is the ultimate crossover comic, when all your favorite characters (and some new ones!) get together and have a party. We wanted to give kids a chance to visit with their old friends, but also to have some new fun.

MAS: I love the page Mash-Up Madness and the goofy combinations you came up with. I see kids creating their own comics at school all the time!
JH: I really think that teaching kids to doodle encourages kids to become storytellers. It makes them less scared about doing something perfectly. I love it when kids send us their own Babymouse and Squish comics!

MAS: So what’s the difference between comics we read as kids and graphic novels kids are reading today?
JH: We’re in a total renaissance of comics being created specifically for children. There’s more creative work happening with children’s comics in terms of style, story and genre than ever before.

MAS: What resources do you recommend for parents who want to find graphic novels their kids will want to read?
JH: Definitely seek out your local library and bookstore to see if they have a section of comics just for kids. One of the fun things about our collection is that it can introduce kids to some comic creators they may not have come across before. Here are some suggestions for parents:




MAS: Do you have any new projects that you’re excited about? Can you give us a sneak peak?
JH: I’m really excited about my newest novel, The Fourteenth Goldfish, which comes out next month. It’s set in the Bay Area and combines my love of science and stories, families and friendships.

Thanks so much to Jenni Holm for sharing her time and thoughts. She gives so much to kids -- we are all lucky to have her books in our lives, our libraries and especially our kids' hands.

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

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24. A Dog Called Homeless: celebrating the Schneider Family Book Award 10th anniversary (ages 9-12)

Today, I'd like to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Schneider Family Book Award. Each year, three books are honored for their artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences. If you're interested in a free giveaway and other blogs celebrating this anniversary, make sure to read to the bottom.

One of the reasons I love awards is discovering new books that I might have overlooked. I had ordered A Dog Called Homeless (2013 winner) for my library, but hadn't taken the time to read it yet. So in honor of the tenth anniversary, I chose to read a book I thought would appeal to my students. I'm so glad I did -- this is a very special book that touched my heart in many ways.
A Dog Called Homeless
by Sarah Lean
Harper Collins, 2013
Winner, Schneider Family Book Award
read a sample: HarperCollins
Amazon
Your local library
ages 9-12
Cally has lost her mother, and her family is struggling to deal with all their grief. Her father doesn't seem to be able to talk about it at all, but that makes Cally feel that her mother is completely gone. A year after her mother's death, Cally starts seeing her mother everywhere. She knows that it isn't really her mother, but she can feel her mother there watching her.

When her school holds a sponsored silence for a day to raise money for a local hospice, Cally reluctantly takes part. But she discovers that the silence is somehow a good reaction for her -- especially as she doesn't feel her father really listens to her anyway.

During this silence, Cally meets a new friend Sam when she moves into a small apartment. As Sam's mother says, Sam is "eleven. He’s blind and mostly deaf, but otherwise he’s just like you and me.” Cally learns to talk with Sam silently, by spelling words in sign language into his hand. This friendship really touched my heart. Sam and Cally understood each other. They listened to each other and shared their feelings and thoughts.

Sam encouraged Cally to talk to her mother, even silently through her thoughts. Here's a passage I found really powerful. The italics show Cally and her mother talking to each other through Cally's thoughts.
They painted the earth in the middle; and the sun went around the outside, and I said—
People get things the wrong way around. I remember.
She smiled. Exactly.
I don’t get it.
Well, what you think is on the outside is in the middle.
Like your name is my middle name.
Just like that.
I felt her in the middle of me. That’s when I noticed my belly didn’t hurt anymore. I’d gotten so used to aching.
I thought you were up in space or something.
Why would I go so far away? Just because you can’t see me it doesn’t mean I’m not here with you.
That’s what Sam said.
Cally was so lucky to have found Sam. Even though Cally insisted on not talking, she was able to connect with Sam. He could understand that just because you can't see someone, doesn't mean they aren't there. Cally discovers the power of watching, observing, noticing.

A Dog Called Homeless, like many of the Schneider Family Book Award winning books, would make a wonderful read aloud in a classroom or at home. It encourages kids to notice the people around you. Listen to them. Feel them. Don't expect everything to be right on the outside -- sometimes you have to look into the middle of something to find out what's really going on.

I'm happy to be participating in the blog tour celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Schneider Family Book Award. Check out all of the links of the Schneider Family Book Award 10th Anniversary Blog Tour & Giveaway:
July 6, 2014 Nerdy Book Club
July 6, 2014 Kid Lit Frenzy
July 7, 2014 Nonfiction Detectives
July 9, 2014 Teach Mentor Texts
July 10, 2014 There’s a Book For That
July 11, 2014 Kathie CommentsJuly 12, 2014 Disability in Kidlit
July 14, 2014 Librarian in Cute Shoes
July 15, 2014 The Late Bloomer’s Book Blog
July 15, 2014 CLCD
July 16, 2014 Read, Write, and Reflect
July 17, 2014 Read Now Sleep Later
July 18, 2014 Unleashing Readers
July 19, 2014 Great Kid Books
July 20, 2014 Maria’s Mélange
In celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Schneider Family Book Award, you may enter to win a set of all 3 Schneider Family Book Award Winners from 2014. Participants must be 13 years or older and have a US or Canadian mailing address. Just enter in the Rafflecopter box below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway


The review copy came from our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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25. Sharing books with friends + summer magic

Oh how I love summer, especially the chance to see friends I don't get to see often enough. I spent the day yesterday visiting with Helen Huber, terrific librarian from Cathedral School for Boys, sharing book after book with each other. We walked down to Mrs. Dalloway's Books and each ended up with several books. I recommended two favorite books to Helen: The 13 Story Treehouse and The Port Chicago 50.

The cutest moment was watching two eight year old girls sitting near the chapter book section, sharing their favorite books with each other. They pointed out which Judy Moody books they had each read. One was excited about the new Never Girls book that was out, about Tinker bell and the Disney fairies.

Here are two books which Helen recommend that I would love to get copies for myself. I have only looked at them briefly, so I can't give a full review. But they looked wonderful.
Norman, Speak!
by Caroline Adderson
illustrated by Qin Leng
Groundswood, 2014
Amazon
Your local library
ages 4-8
When a young boy adopts Norman from the pet shelter, the boy can't figure out why his new dog can't understand anything he's saying to it --- until he's at the park and Norman runs up to a man who's calling to his own dog in Chinese. I adored the sweet, unexpected turn of the story, as the little boy and his family decide to take Chinese lessons.
The Beatles
by Mick Manning and Brita Granström
Frances Lincoln Children's Books, 2014
Amazon
Your local library
ages 8-12
I love the way that Manning and Granström use a cartoon approach for this biography of the Beatles. They capture the energy and enthusiasm of the Beatles and provide plenty of information, all in a way that's very accessible to kids in 3rd through 5th grade. While I haven't read this book in detail yet, it looks like they strike just the right balance -- never overwhelming kids with too much information, but also not talking down to kids. I'm new to their work, and will definitely be watching out for more by this British pair.

Truly, it's a magical moment when friends get excited about sharing books. This happens in the school library all the time. I hope you're able to find a bit of this magic over the summer.

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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