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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. Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelley Barnhill -- deep magic (ages 10-14)

I can't wait to share The Girl Who Drank the Moon with my students and hear their thoughts; it's a story full of deep magic, wonderful characters, powerful themes and rich language. Magical stories have fascinated me since I was a young girl--starting with classic fairy tales, their all-powerful witches and the young people who outsmart them. This is sure to be a favorite this fall, especially with my fantasy-loving readers.

reading The Girl Who Drank the Moon while camping this summer
The Girl Who Drank the Moon
by Kelly Barnhill
Algonquin / Workman, 2016
Your local library
Amazon
ages 10-14
preview
*best new book*
A terrible crime happens once each year--the people of the Protectorate must sacrifice a baby, leaving it in the forest for the witch who threatens them. They believe that this child saves them all: "Sacrifice one or sacrifice all." But who is telling this story? Who makes the family sacrifice their child? And what happens when the child is left in the forest? Right away, questions start swirling in the readers' mind.

This complex story quickly unfolds, revealing that the Elders hold the power in the Protectorate, enforcing this tradition ruthlessly--and the submissive populace rarely questions them. This year, however, things go differently as the grieving mother protests vehemently when her baby is taken to be left in the forest. Barnhill quickly raises the questions of truth, power, authority and loyalty--themes that readers will reflect on throughout the story.

As soon as the Elders leave the baby in the forest, a kind witch named Xan rescues her. Xan accidentally feeds the infant moonlight, which gives her powerful magic. Aware that magic is both a power and a responsibility, Xan decides to raise the infant--whom she names Luna--as her granddaughter.

Barnhill skillfully weaves together three separate plot lines: Xan and Luna's relationship together as Luna grows into adolescence; the grief the madwoman--Luna's mother--endures after her baby is taken from her; and the questions that arise in a young apprentice to the Elders after he witnesses the madwoman's breakdown.

I cannot wait to hear what students in my Mock Newbery club say about this story. Will they react most to the characters? Or will they start thinking about the themes that Barnhill raises? How will they react to the uncertainty and complexity in the plot? It will be a terrific choice for book clubs to read and discuss.

I loved listening to Kelly Barnhill talk about the beginning of the story with my friend librarian Laura Given, in the summer reading podcast. Definitely listen to Kelly and then listen to Laura read aloud the opening chapter in her podcast PCS Reads (hopefully the podcast will embed below).

I love how Donalyn Miller and Stacey Riedmiller share their thoughts about this magical story in their NerdyBookClub review:
"It is impossible for mere mortals to adequately communicate the beauty of Barnhill’s language or the emotional resonance of Luna’s story, so we won’t even try. All we can share is our pale impressions of it like memories of a moonlit night in the woods...

The Girl Who Drank the Moon reminds us that all great stories offer readers rich explorations of what it means to be human–even when the “people” are dragons and witches. Whether our scales and warts show on the outside or not, we are all flawed, but our choices show the world who we really are."
The Girl Who Drank the Moon is a book that I want to savor, reread and talk about. It is definitely a complex story that juggles many themes and plot lines, asking readers to consider different characters' points of view and motives.

The review copies were kindly sent by the publisher, Algonquin Books for Young Readers / Workman Publishing. 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.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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2. Starting School: 10 favorite picture books (ages 3-6)

Starting school is a big deal in a little person's life. I love sharing these ten picture books with kids throughout the fall. In part, it's creating a shared experience--letting kids know they aren't the only ones going through these experiences. It's also a time to notice all the changes and talk about what's happening.

10 picture books for the beginning of school
Preschoolers will particularly like the energetic, sweet rhyming in Susan Katz's ABC, School's for Me and the fun song that goes along with Pete the Cat.

Kids new to kindergarten will be reassured that they'll quickly get used to kindergarten, just like monkey in Monkey: Not Ready for Kindergarten. Other new kindergarteners will love the out-of-this-world energy of Planet Kindergarten. My teenagers still smile at the classic ABC story of Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten.

If your little one is anxious, they might like the upbeat reassurance in Little Lola, or they might like the way Hyewon Yum turns the tables in Mom, It's My First Day of Kindergarten! showing how nervous parents are, even if the kids have everything under control.

Do you have any favorite books to share as your kids start the school year? I love adding to my collection!

The review copies were kindly sent by the publishers, Macmillan, Harper Collins, Chronicle, Penguin, Random House, Simon & Schuster and Boyds Mills. 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.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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3. Screencastify -- tech tool for flipping the classroom & giving students the stage (ages 9 and up)

Many kids love having the stage, but don't actually want everyone looking at them all at once. Digital recording tools allow kids to capture their voice & video, practice their presentations and share their best work--all without the intimidation of being on stage. We've used digital recordings for kids to share their poetry, interview authors and practice presentations.

Screencastify has been a reliable, easy tool for our students. They use Chromebooks at school, and there is a great free Chrome extension for Screencastify. This has many applications in the classroom, library and at home.

Here's a presentation I have put together to help teachers learn how to use Screencastify. I hope it gives you some ideas about how you can use it to engage kids. 

This YouTube playlist shares different Screencastify Tutorials you might find useful.

I hope you get a chance to try this tool out. Let me know if you have any success engaging kids with this easy-to-use tool.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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4. School's First Day of School, by Adam Rex and Christian Robinson (ages 4-8)

Across the country, kids are starting school, anticipating changes, wondering about new teachers, looking forward to seeing friends. Adam Rex and Christian Robinson bring a terrific new spin to these transitions by asking: how does the school feel about all of this?

School's First Day of School
by Adam Rex
illustrated by Christian Robinson
Roaring Brook / Macmillan, 2016
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-8
*best new book*
All summer long, Frederick Douglass Elementary has been getting ready. Everything is clean and spiffy, quiet and orderly. "Won't be just us for long," says his friend Janitor; soon school will start and "you'll be filled with children." Janitor says, “Don’t worry--you’ll like the children,” but school does worry.
"Won't be just us for long," said Janitor. "Soon the teachers will come, and then you'll be filled with children."
As the children arrive, the school is nervous. So many children! "They got everywhere." And when some kids are bored or sad, school worries that it isn't good enough. "'This place stinks,' said one, and the school gasped." One small girl is so sad and upset that her mother has to carry her into school.
"Then they came, the children did, and there were more of them than the school could possible have imagined."
Kids will laugh at the way Adam Rex flips this story, getting them to think about the beginning of school in a whole new way. Christian Robinson's illustrations are colorful cut-paper collages, full of diverse kids. I love the way Rex's humor is gently witty, encouraging readers to relate to the school's feelings without going overboard on the personification.

Best of all, this story sets up a wonderful conversation: ask kids how different characters are feeling, how those feelings change, why they change. As young children get ready for a big transition, it's a good moment to focus on feelings. PBS Parents talks specifically about helping five-year-olds build their emotional tool-kit:
"Emotional self-awareness involves identifying and understanding one's emotions ― including "big feelings" that can sometimes overwhelm us. As Fred Rogers reminds us: 'When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary.'"
Reading aloud together, talking about picture books, helps children build empathy as they think about other people's thoughts and feelings. What fun to think about the school having feelings, too!

Illustrations copyright © Christian Robinson, 2016, shared with permission of the publisher. The review copies were kindly sent by the publisher, Roaring Brook / 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.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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5. Mock Newbery Book Club: Fall 2016 favorite books (ages 9-12)

Throughout the summer, I look for the best new books to bring back to our Mock Newbery Book Club. Are you interested in starting your own club? It's easy! Read all about our process at the ALSC Blog: Hosting a Mock Newbery Book Club. Here are some titles I will share with our 4th and 5th grade students, as the best new books for 2016.

Fall 2016 Mock Newbery Books
In order to honor students’ voices, we encourage them to nominate books similar to the way Newbery Committee does. Two kids have to agree to nominate a title that meets the Newbery eligibility requirements. The only criteria is that it has to have been published in 2016 by an American author, and it has to stand out as an excellent book. They'll look at these summer & fall releases, the books they've been reading from the spring (see Spring 2016 favorites) and any others they find.

We then manage and massage the final list to ensure a wide range of diversity. We (the organizing librarians) limit the final list to 10 titles so that it isn’t overwhelming and so that we can focus our discussions within the time allotted.

The fun is seeing which books catch fire, ignite students' passion and spread from one kid to the next!

I'd like to give a special thanks to my reading buddies in Berkeley--Armin Arethna, Becca Todd, Jessica Lee, Joal Arvanigian, Zoe Williams, Olivia Sanders, Mia Caporal, Suzy Mead, Simone Miller and many others. I also am so appreciative of friends in our Voxer Mock Newbery group--this group of librarians and teachers help keep me in touch with other classes across the country.

Many thanks to the publishers for sharing review copies: Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Random House, Scholastic, Algonquin, Boyds Mills, Disney Hyperion, and Little Brown. 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.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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6. Mock Newbery Book Club: Spring 2016 favorite books (ages 9-12)

What books have been in your summer reading piles? As we prepared for summer last June, our Mock Newbery Book Club met to talk about books we've loved this spring and start our summer wish lists. Today, I'd like to share the books our kids talked about most as they headed into summer. Head over to the NerdyBookClub to read more about hosting your own Mock Newbery Book Club.

Emerson students building personal "To Read" lists with friends
The Mock Newbery Book Club at our school has been a highlight each of the last three years. Together with Armin Arethna, my buddy from Berkeley Public Library, we created a space, an environment, a community for students to grow as readers and share their excitement about different books. Our essential goals as we drew students together for this book club have been threefold:
  • Honor students’ voices and their choices about reading
  • Develop students’ opinions and thoughtful engagement with books
  • Harness kids’ enthusiasm so they help create “book buzz” about new books
Throughout the spring, we met informally to talk about new books we were reading. Here is the selection of books we heard kids recommending most often to friends. We are trying to build consensus around which books kids will want to talk about, as we head toward our fall nominating meeting.
Mock Newbery Spring 2016 favorite books
4th/5th graders' Mock Newbery Book Club Spring 2016 favorite books:
We welcome all 4th and 5th grade students--kids love being part of a club. We work hard to introduce a variety of books to students, so that there is diversity in genre, race, ethnicity, style and reading levels. The Newbery Committee itself is reading many many more than these ten titles, but we try to focus on ten books that reflect a range of interests and reading levels for our students.

We are never all reading the same book--instead, we focus on asking students what they're reading and what they think about it. We talk about the Newbery criteria, but really that just helps them think more carefully about a book, going beyond, "I loved it!" to talking about the writing, the story, and the characters.

I'd like to give a special thanks to my friends in our Voxer Mock Newbery group--this group of librarians and teachers help keep me in touch with other classes across the country. Many thanks to the publishers for sharing review copies: Simon & Schuster, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, HarperCollins, Candlewick, Macmillan, Random House, Scholastic and Abrams. 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.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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7. Beach reading for summer days: 5 picture books to share (ages 3-8)

Welcome August! I am going to embrace these summer days, plan trips to the beach, and make time for reading and relaxing. If you want to savor the fun, check out these five favorite picture books.


  • A Beach Tail, by Karen Lynn Williams, illustrated by Floyd Cooper -- I love this gentle, warm portrayal of an African American son and father enjoying a summer day at the beach. Gregory ventures farther and farther down the beach, soon realizing that he has lost sight of his dad. Children especially relate to Gregory’s problem-solving and courage.
  • If You Ever Want to Bring a Piano to the Beach, Don’t! by Elise Parsley -- A perfect book for when your own headstrong child is driving you crazy. When head-strong Magnolia demands to bring a piano to the beach, her mom just calmly tells her, “Don’t lose it.” Each antic leads to crazier situations. Magnolia shines as the true star, with exaggerated expressions that will get all would-be divas laughing.
  • Sea Rex, by Molly Idle -- "Ready for a carefree day of fun in the sun?" Read this picture book for a charming look at instructions for just what to do. I love how the straightforward text is complemented with funny illustrations as the day goes awry in big and little ways.
  • Surf’s Up! by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Daniel Miyares -- "SURF'S UP, BRO!" Dude yells to his best friend, but Bro doesn’t respond--he’s too caught up in his book. Dude can’t believe it! “You’d rather read a book than go to the beach?” “Dude, books are fascinating!” Great dialog and bright illustrations make this a terrific celebration of reading, friendship and the beach--perfect for summer!
  • Twenty Yawns, by Jane Smiley, illustrated by Lauren Castillo -- After spending a day at the beach, Lucy's parents are sure she'll fall right to sleep. Now that it’s time for bed, she is wide awake. How will she fall asleep with the mysterious moon shining through the windows? Smiley’s simple, reassuring text is complemented by warm, evocative illustrations. Castillo portrays this biracial family in an especially lovely, straightforward way.

Many thanks to the publishers for sharing review copies: Boyds Mills, Little Brown, Chronicle, North/South, 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.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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8. Staying Informed about Election 2016 (ages 6-10)

As a parent, I want to encourage my daughters to be engaged, responsible and respectful. It is important to learn about politics, to vote responsibly, to take part in our democracy. At home, we talk about the importance of being open minded and not jumping to assumptions or spreading rumors. Staying informed is an important responsibility.

I also want my kids to know that they can do anything they set their minds to, if they apply themselves with grit and determination. Yesterday, Hillary Clinton made history becoming the nation's first woman nominated as the presidential nominee of a major US political party.

Hillary Clinton at the DNC, via ABC News
My daughters are clearly aware of the impact of this moment--but I wonder how they get their news. Buzz Feed? Or the New York Times? As parents and teachers, we need to show children that they can learn about a nominee's background so that they don't just mimic political slogans but rather have substance to support their views.

For children ages 6-10, I'd highly recommend two resources: Michelle Markel's picture book biography Hillary Rodham Clinton: Some Girls Are Born to Lead, and the news coverage on the Time for Kids' Election 2016 mini-site.
Hillary Rodham Clinton: Some Girls Are Born to Lead
by Michelle Markel, illustrated by LeUyen Pham
Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins, 2016
Amazon
Your local library
ages 6-10
Michelle Markel and LeUyen Pham bring upbeat energy and thorough research to this engaging picture book biography of Hillary Rodham Clinton. They give a clear sense of her challenges and accomplishments, and also help young readers see Clinton’s life in context.
"In the 1950s, it was a man's world...But in the town of Park Ridge, Illinois along came Hillary."
Kids will relate to many of the qualities and situations that Markel describes--from her youth to her political challenges. Markel concisely traces Hillary's path from law school through her position as U.S. Senator, giving young readers a sense of both her achievements and her drive.
"She wasn't frightened of the crowds...But she couldn't believe how people criticized her--in ways they'd never criticize a man."
LeUyen Pham truly set this book apart, making it my go-to resource to share with young readers. Bright colors and strong expressions draw readers in, capturing their attention, and Pham's attention to historical details is outstanding. She describes her research process in a terrific note--kids will love pouring over the pages identifying historical figures they know. My students especially love contrasting the opening spread (above from the 1950s) with the closing pages, showing the
"No one gets to stop a girl from being the greatest she can be. Hillary thinks everyone deserves that chance."
For election coverage, I stress that kids need to gather information from a variety of sources. I'm sure they'll hear snippets from friends, but they need to make a point to read more than the eye-catching headlines on BuzzFeed.

I've been particularly impressed with the balanced coverage on Time for Kids' Election 2016 mini-site. They have covered both Republican and Democratic conventions. They have introduced all of the major presidential and vice-presidential candidates with short, informative articles. Kid reporters are sharing their experiences at the conventions.
Time for Kids: Election 2016
I must say that I have been very disappointed that some other kids news sites I share with students, especially Newsela and Dogo News, have not covered the national political conventions this summer. It will be interesting to see how they decide to cover the race, especially as it increases in rancor this fall.

Illustration copyright © LeUyen Pham, 2016, shared with permission of the publisher. Many thanks to HarperCollins for sharing a review copy. 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.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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9. Time for play!: Herve Tullet's playful trilogy of picture books (ages 3-7)

Summer brings a chance for all of us, especially children, to revel in playfulness. Some of my favorite moments are watching kids read and play with Hervé Tullet's terrific picture books: Press Here, Mix It Up! and Let's Play!

Kids love the way these books invite them to be part of the story, as they tap, shake and and tilt the book to make the dots move and change. Each book features a bright yellow dot that bounces and morphs through the pages. They are simple and completely imaginative at the same time. Tullet told Entertainment Weekly,
“In the text, I use words that encourage the reader to play, gesture, and have fun with the child they are reading with. The book is really a tool for interaction between the reader and child that needs a reader’s voice in order to work.” --Hervé Tullet 
Press Here starts by inviting children to tap, shake and tilt the book to change the dot. Mix It Up! celebrates the delight children experience combining colors with their fingers, watching them blend and change. Let's Play! revisits this interactive experience, this time adding the element of emotions to the mix. Find them here:
Press Here enraptured my youngest daughter when she was in 1st grade, and was a real part of her reading journey. She read it over and over again--precisely because Tullet showed her that she, the reader, was essential to the story. Have fun watching Tullet read Press Here aloud with the delightful Rocco Staino for KidLitTV.

With the cacophony of political noise this month, some of it truly disturbing, I find myself wanting to escape into books--much like my friend Donalyn Miller described in her NerdyBookClub post today. Many thanks to Hervé Tullet for sharing his playful energy and fresh spirit to lighten my days.

Many thanks to the publisher, Chronicle Books, for sharing review copies. 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.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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10. Power of poetry for our children: Hope with Wings

I've been thinking about the power of poetry lately, how it helps us share our stories, reflect on emotions and have room for our own experiences to meld with author's ideas.

Yesterday, Kwame Alexander was interviewed on NPR about his reflection on talking about the tragedies of last week, with the police shootings. His comments have stayed with me today, and I'd like to share them with you. Below I've paired Kwame Alexander's words with a beautiful painting that Christian Robinson, an artist whose work I admire deeply, shared this week.

poem by Kwame Alexander, painting by Christian Robinson
As Kwame says, these troubles are not new, but he's writing from a space of "how can I make the world a little more beautiful? How can I make the world a little more hopeful." My personal conviction, as I wrote about yesterday, is we need to pay attention to the way we foster our children's imaginations, so they can create a better world. And literature, especially poetry, helps do this. Here is the poem Kwame shared on NPR:
WHEN

the world is not so beautiful
the flowers waste water

the women can no longer find their song
the children refuse to play

there are no men to teach to love
the ground inside collapses

the coldest winter screams
the summer burns red

the sea is full of blues
and the sky opens up

At least I’ll have poetry
a gathering of words

a get-together of emotions
a font of ideas

hope with wings

-Kwame Alexander
Today I visited the 9/11 Memorial, a powerful combination of historical site and memorial to honor those who were killed. I was struck by how much the New York community came together during this crisis to help each other. As I think about the tragedies of last week and talking with students, I want to honor the emotions of fear and anger caused by police brutalities. I also want to help our children see a positive way forward, to think about the world they want to help create, and how they want to respond to difficulties.

The 9/11 Memorial has an incredible education division. I'd like to share here a poem they present to children who come to visit the museum. It's called The Survivor Tree; it tells the story of a tree at the World Trade Center that was severely injured but was nurtured back to life. It's a beautiful poem, performed by Whoopi Goldberg.

I especially want to thank authors, illustrators, and actors--like Kwame Alexander, Christian Robinson and Whoopi Goldberg. They help bring hope into our lives, help make this world a better place, especially for those of us who work with children. I'd like to end with the same commitment I ended my past post:

There is a storm raging around us. We have to acknowledge this, bear witness AND hold a torch to create change. I am convinced that books help light the way, both in our souls and in our communities. We must take on this work and speak up for change.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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11. Bearing Witness: Reflections on institutional racism & sharing books with children

"Librarians: In a world where some folks want to build walls, you give kids the tools to tear them down." -- Matt de la Peña, 2017 Newbery acceptance speech
Grief and outrage, a combination of intense sadness and overwhelming rage have been swirling together as I've tried to process violent, disturbing news over the last month. I know that this is my space for sharing books for children. I also need space to bear witness to the crisis our society is facing, and to frame my work as a librarian in light of this crisis.

Police brutality and institutional racism are disturbingly intertwined. This week in Louisiana and Minnesota, two black men were shot by police, further examples of the longstanding pattern of disparate, unfair treatment of black people. These are not isolated examples. This violence is upsetting and unacceptable. All of us must bear witness and speak up against it. I am honored to share this painting by Christian Robinson, in response to these tragic events.
painting by Christian Robinson, shared with permission
It is essential that we recognize the injustice, to add our voice to the outrage caused by this violence. It is even more important that we take time to listen to people of color and honor their experiences, their feelings, their voices. We must listen to friend, to authors, to our students when they talk about the impact that these events have.

Jason Reynold's poem "Machetes" reverberates in my heart and soul, especially this week. He wrote it for and read it aloud during the Coretta Scott King Book Awards last month in Orlando, FL. Please read it in its entirety and listen to Jason perform it with powerful, raw emotion.
MACHETES
(written for and read during Coretta Scott King Honor acceptance speech, 2016)

if you listen closely
you can hear the machetes
cutting the air
in half
connecting for half a second with something
breathing and growing
breathing and growing
before being chopped
down like sugar cane in a Louisiana field
yes there are machetes everywhere
the sound of them cutting the air

chop CHOP
chop CHOP

we try not
to bend in the wind
try not to bow or bow
try to wrap fingers around our own
saccharine souls
and brace ourselves
for the

chop CHOP
chop CHOP

the machetes
cutting the air in half
coming for us

seems like folks like us be best
when we broken open
when we melted down
when we easier to digest

[read the full poem on the CSK blog]
My personal mission is to share books that build children up, that help them see that they are strong, that they are loved, that their imaginations can help them soar. My student Mahari, an African American 5th grader, loved reading Adam Gidwitz's fantasy novels, A Tale Dark & Grimm, In a Glass Grimmly, and The Grimm Conclusion. Mahari also championed Kekla Magoon's fantasy novel The Shadows of Sherwood, with its strong girl protagonist Robyn, who is of mixed race. Perhaps these books were just escapism, but I'd argue that these fantasy novels gave him strength, gave him a belief that he had inner strength, like the main characters, as he faced challenges in his own life. We must give students a full range of characters, so they can see themselves in the books they read and walk through the doors to many worlds.

This crisis is real: our society is crippled by institutional racism, poverty and inequalities. The National Education Association just held a conference specifically looking at the issues surrounding institutional racism. I really like this video they produced, working with Marley Dias, the 11-year old girl who started the terrific social media project #1000blackgirlbooks. In sixth grade, she already knows that racism and other built-in barriers are “keeping kids like me from reaching our full potential.”

To be an effective educator and a just member of society, I must bear witness to the devastating impact of institutional racism and poverty, especially upon children who deserve to soar. Part of this is entering difficult conversations and listening to my students.

As a librarian and book lover, this means I work extra hard to find stories that reflect the experiences of people of color. This means I work extra to include, draw in and listen to my students of color. As educators, we must listen to our students, honor their voices and their lived experiences. We can help all of our students identify the causes of injustices, and support them as they write about, talk about, think about how they want to change the world.

I feel eternally grateful to have a community that supports this difficult work, that helps me understand how I must listen to my students, how I must think not just about my intentions but the impact. I want to end with Jerry Pinkney's acceptance speech for the Wilder Award:
"Librarians and teachers have the most important job... they are the keepers of dreams, the dispensers of possibility."--Jerry Pinkney, 2017 Wilder Award acceptance speech
There is a storm raging around us. We have to acknowledge this, bear witness AND hold a torch to create change. I am convinced that books help light the way, both in our souls and in our communities. We must take on this work and speak up for change.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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12. Easy Readers with diverse characters: Expanding our collection (ages 5-8)

Easy Readers help children take their first independent steps in the world of reading. They allow children to take charge of their reading, to enter the world of a story and build meaning from both the words and the pictures. These books typically are small in size, use simple vocabulary and large font sizes.

The Cat in the Hat and Henry & Mudge are classic Easy Readers, but they do not reflect the lives of my students today. For several years, I've worked to expand our collection to include diverse characters, specifically in terms of race and ethnicity. Here are a few recent favorites:


  • Bradford Street Buddies: Backyard Camp-Out, by Jerdine Nolen -- Similar to the classic Henry & Mudge stories, this series features an African American family living in a multicultural suburban neighborhood.
  • Buzz Beaker and the Super Fast Car, by Cari Meister -- uzz Beaker, an African American boy who is always making new quirky things, invents a super-fast car to help get everywhere on time, but it will only go fast. Super fun? Or a recipe for disaster?
  • Get a Hit, Mo! by David Adler -- African American Mo Jackson may be the youngest and smallest player on his baseball team, but he overcomes the odds in this satisfying story that will have readers cheering him on at every step.
  • Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same! by Grace Lin -- Ling and Ting, Chinese American sisters who are identical twins, may look the same but they like different things, react to situations differently and want everyone to remember that they are not exactly the same. A delightful series full of humor and heart.
  • Sofia Martinez: My Family Adventures, by Jacqueline Jules -- Sofia’s happy, loving Latino family brings smiles, and many readers will relate to her stories. Bright illustrations and short chapters create lots of kid appeal.
  • Want to Play? (Confetti Kids) by Paula Yoo -- Pablo, Lily and their friends play together at the local park, having fun on the swings, playing basketball and going on the play structures. A diverse cast of characters and short, easy sentences make this a terrific choice for new readers.
  • When Andy Met Sandy, by Tomie dePaola -- A sweet story that shows a friendship developing slowly, tentatively between two children who meet at a local playground: dark-skinned Andy and red-headed Sandy. Expressive but simple illustrations and short, easy sentences make this very accessible for new readers.
Many thanks to the publishers for sharing review copies: HMH, Capstone, Penguin, Candlewick, Lee & Low and Simon & Schuster. 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.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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13. You Got This! Unleash your awesomeness, find your path, and change your world, by Maya Penn (ages 11-16)

If you want to fuel your teens and tweens' creative fires or you need a pep talk yourself, you'll want to read or listen to Maya Penn's inspirational debut. I especially enjoyed the audiobook, which Maya narrates herself.

Maya is a sixteen-year-old entrepreneur (see Maya's Ideas) who talks directly from her heart, encouraging other teens to find their passions and follow their dreams. Her TED talks have been watched by millions, and this inspirational self-help drew me in right away.

You Got This!
Unleash your awesomeness, find your path, and change your world

by Maya S. Penn
North Star Way / Simon & Schuster, 2016
Amazon
Your local library
ages 11-16
Curious, enthusiastic and genuine are words that immediately come to mind when I think about Maya Penn. At eight years old, she started her own company by selling headbands that she created. She's also really interested in animation, so she taught herself how to create her own films. In this inspirational self-help book, she shares about her own experiences to encourage other teens to develop their own passions and create plans to change the world.

Tweens and teens enjoy Maya's upbeat, casual tone as she starts by talking about her process. She encourages readers to use a dream board to brainstorm ideas and identify what creates sparks they might use to ignite their plans. I especially liked the way she helps kids understand different thinking styles and ways to keep yourself motivated.
watch Maya Penn on The View talk about her business
The length and detail make this best suited for middle and high schoolers, although several fifth graders were drawn to it. I'd love to see some more of Maya's terrific ideas illustrated for the tween audience--much like an American Girl book. Hand this to creative teens and see what dreams they build, or recommend it to families as a great audiobook for summer listening.

Library friends, I'm excited that Maya will be speaking at ALA Annual Conference on Saturday, June 25th at 3:30pm.

Many thanks to the publisher Simon & Schuster for sharing review copies--I've also purchased several copies for local schools and summer reading projects. 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.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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14. Hilo: "Outstanding!!" shout 1st graders at author visit with Judd Winick (ages 6-10)

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15. Summer Reading 2016 for 5th & 6th graders: #FamiliesRead

Kids know that practice is important in developing any skill; our job as parents is making our expectations clear AND creating a positive environment to encourage practice. You'll have much more success persuading your kids to read if they are able to choose what to read.

Validate their reading choices, engaging them to think and talk about what they read. Prod them a little to try something new--I often like to talk about it in terms of having a varied reading diet. Here are some of my favorite books to hook 5th and 6th graders.


Exciting Adventure & Fantasy
Ambassador, by William Alexander
Jinx, by Sage Blackwood
Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard, by Jonathan Auxier
A Tale Dark & Grimm, by Adam Gidwitz

Funny Stories (levels Q-R-S-T)
The 52-Story Treehouse, by Andy Griffiths
Dead End in Norvelt, by Jack Gantos
Timmy Failure, by Stephan Pastis
Zorgamazoo, by Robert Weston

Adventure and Historical Fiction
Echo, by Pam Munoz Ryan
A Night Divided, by Jennifer Nielsen
Some Kind of Courage, by Dan Gemeinhart
The War that Saved My Life, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Graphic Novels We Love!
Amulet series, by Kazu Kibuishi
The Nameless City, by Faith Erin Hicks
Olympians series, by George O'Connor
Roller Girl, by Victoria Jamieson

Stories that Touch Your Heart
Booked, by Kwame Alexander
Fish in a Tree, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, by Laura Shovan
Pax, by Sara Pennypacker

Fascinating Nonfiction
Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World's Most Dangerous Weapon, by Steve Sheinkin
Where Do Presidents Come From? by Michael Townsend
Rhythm Ride: A Trip through the Motown Sound, by Andrea Davis Pinkney
You Got This! Unleash Your Awesomeness, Find Your Path and Change the World! by Maya Penn

CLICK HERE for all of the 2016 summer reading lists, grades K - 5.

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.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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16. Summer Reading 2016 for 3rd & 4th graders -- #FamiliesRead

Kids read every day during the school year, sharing books they like with friends. Keep those reading muscles strong over the summer by feeding them a steady diet of fun books to read!

Here are some of my favorite chapter books, graphic novels and nonfiction for kids who have finished 3rd and 4th grades. Each day this week, I'll be sharing a post to help families read over the summer, organized by grade levels.

Click for a link to the full summer reading lists
including printable PDFs
Note: Our schools use the Fountas & Pinnell reading levels to help indicate "just right books" for students. I like to band these levels together, to look at a group of similar books.

Favorite Chapter Book Series (levels N-O-P)
Bad Kitty, by Nick Bruel
Dory Fantasmagory, by Abby Hanlon
Lola Levine, by Monica Brown

Funny Stories (levels Q-R-S-T)
The 13-Story Treehouse, by Andy Griffiths
The Terrible Two, by Mac Barnett and Jory John
Timmy Failure, by Stephan Pastis

Adventure and Historical Fiction (levels Q-R-S)
Chasing Secrets, by Gennifer Choldenko
A Night Divided, by Jennifer Nielsen
Some Kind of Courage, by Dan Gemeinhart

Exciting Adventure & Fantasy (levels Q-R-S-T)
Forest of Wonders (Wing and Claw), by Linda Sue Park
Shadows of Sherwood, by Kekla Magoon
Wings of Fire, by Tui Sutherland

New Graphic Novels We Love!
Coral Reefs: Science Comics, by Maris Wicks
Roller Girl, by Victoria Jamieson
The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Romeo & Juliet, by Ian Lendler

Stories that Touch Your Heart (levels Q-R-S-T)
The 14th Goldfish, by Jennifer L. Holm
Booked, by Kwame Alexander
The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, by Laura Shovan

Fascinating Nonfiction
Baseball: Then to WOW, by Sports Illustrated Kids
Can We Save the Tiger, by Martin Jenkins
Dog Finds Lost Dolphins! (National Geographic Chapters), by Elizabeth Carney

CLICK HERE for all of the 2016 summer reading lists, grades K - 5.

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.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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17. Summer reading 2016 for 1st & 2nd graders -- #FamiliesRead

First and second graders have made monumental leaps in their reading this year. Keep those reading muscles strong by feeding them a steady diet of fun books to read!

Here are some of my favorite beginning readers, chapter books, graphic novels and picture books for kids just finishing 1st and 2nd grade. Each day this week, I'll be sharing a post to help families read over the summer, organized by grade levels.

Click for link to full summer reading lists
including printable form
Note: Our schools use the Fountas & Pinnell reading levels to help indicate "just right books" for students. I like to band these levels together, to look at a group of similar books.

Beginning to Read (levels G-H-I)
Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret, by Bob Shea
Don't Throw It To Mo! by David Adler

Developing Readers (levels J-K)
Abuela's Birthday (Sofia Martinez), by Jacqueline Jules
Buzz Beaker and the Outer Space Trip, by Cari Meister

Exploring Animals All Around
I, Fly: The Buzz about Flies and How Awesome They Are, by Bridget Heos
Puppies and Kittens (Scholastic Discover More), by Penelope Arlon

Beginning with Chapter Books (levels L-M)
Boris for the Win, by Andrew Joyner
Lola Levine Is Not Mean, by Monica Brown

Graphic Novel Series We Love!
Bird and Squirrel, by James Burks
Hilo, by Judd Winick

Having Fun with Chapter Book Series (levels N-O-P)
The Critter Club, by Callie Barkley
Notebook of Doom, by Troy Cummings

Fascinating Nonfiction
Miguel Cabrera, by Matt Doeden
Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions, by Chris Barton

Picture Books Full of Imagination
Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl's Courage Changed Music, by Margarita Engle
Surf's Up, by Kwame Alexander

CLICK HERE for all of the 2016 summer reading lists, grades K - 5.

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.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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18. Summer reading 2016: Preschool & Kindergarten -- #FamiliesRead

Summer is here. Kids are excited to have free time, but with that can come the eventual moans of: "I'm bored!" Head to the library or bookstore to stock up on a pile of books.

Here are some of my favorite books to recommend for kids just finishing preschool and kindergarten. Each day this week, I'll be sharing a post to help families read over the summer, organized by grade levels.

click for link to full summer reading lists, including printable form
Note: Our schools use the Fountas & Pinnell reading levels to help indicate "just right books" for students. I like to band these levels together, to look at a group of similar books.

New Picture Books We're Loving
The Airport Book, by Lisa Brown
Thunder Boy Jr., by Sherman Alexie

Wordless Books to Read Together
A Ball for Daisy, by Chris Raschka
Journey, by Aaron Becker

Favorite Books to Read Aloud
Bee-Bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park
Press Here, by Herve Tullet

Beginning to Read (levels C-D-E-F)
I See and See, by Ted Lewin
When Andy Met Sandy, by Tomie dePaola

Folktales and Trickster Tales
Can't Scare Me, by Ashley Bryan
Little Roja Riding Hood, by Susan Middleton Elya

Beginning to Read More (levels F-G-H-I)
Super Fly Guy, by Tedd Arnold
Up, Tall and High! by Ethan Long

Exploring Animals All Around
Biggest, Strongest, Fastest, by Steve Jenkins
Every Day Birds, by Amy VanDerwater

Picture Books that Make Us Laugh
Monkey Goes Bananas, by C.P. Bloom
Niño Wrestles the World, by Yuyi Morales

CLICK HERE for all of the 2016 summer reading lists, grades K through 5.

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.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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19. The Airport Book, by Lisa Brown: Full of things to see and talk about! (ages 2-8)

I love traveling, going to see new places and experience new things. But traveling with kids, well that takes a special sort of patience, humor and--above all else--preparation. I adore, adore, adore Lisa Brown's newest picture book, The Airport Book, precisely because she celebrates the adventure of traveling by airplane with kids, full of so many things to look at and so many stories within the main story.

The Airport Book
by Lisa Brown
Roaring Brook / Macmillan, 2016
Your local library
Amazon
ages 2-8
*best new book*
"Don't forget monkey!" a mom reminds her family, as they are finishing their packing. "Of course I won't forget monkey!" the dad replies, and kids will smile as the little girl announces proudly, "I pack monkey!" Right from the beginning, Brown engages readers with the story, encouraging readers to predict just what's going to happen when monkey goes missing.
"Monkey monkey monkey!"
"Did you forget to pack monkey?"
Young readers will start by following the toddler's cry for her beloved monkey. With an adult or older reader, they will then read the cool, composed voice explaining the experience. I like to think of this as the big brother coaching the little sister through the experience.
"Inside the airport you stand in lines. You stand in lines to get your ticket. you stand in lines to check your bags. There are lines for the restrooms. There are lines to go through security."
Linger on the page for a while, and you'll notice that there are all sorts of little stories within the central story. Readers will have a great time choosing a character and seeing what's happening to them in the next scene.
"You squeeze into your seat. Some bags go up top. Some bags go underneath."
Brown captures the busy nature of airplane travel without leaving the reader overwhelmed. Part of this is the reassuring, matter-of-fact tone of the main narrator and of the parents on the journey. Partly it's the satisfying story arc, both for the main character and the smaller stories. She balances detailed illustrations with a few large, open spreads of the airplane flying in blue sky.

I especially love how diverse Brown's airplane travelers are--in so many ways. The main family is multiracial, with a black dad, white mom, two brown kids. There are people of different ethnic and racial groups. There is a working mom, constantly on her cell phone. A dad is traveling alone with a little baby. A woman is traveling independently in a wheelchair. And yet none of this diversity draws attention to itself--it seems effortless and natural, and yet Brown carefully, thoughtfully includes in so many ways.

Check out these stellar reviews:
Illustration copyright © Lisa Brown, 2016, shared with permission of the publisher. The review copies were kindly sent by the publisher, Roaring Brook / 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.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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20. Baseball stats & history: Two terrific new books (ages 7-12)

Baseball season is in full swing. The weather has been fabulous for baseball viewing. Share these new books with kids who love baseball stats, stories and players.

Baseball: Then to Wow!
by the editors of Sports Illustrated Kids
Time, Inc. Books, 2016
Your local library
Amazon
ages 7-12
Whether it’s looking at changes in equipment or comparing playing styles then and now, this high-interest book provides opportunities for fans to analyze different aspects of the game. Emerson 4th and 5th graders are loving this book. Here's one student's favorite page -- showing the way baseball gloves developed from the 1880s to present day.
Great layout, photographs and illustrations engage kids and help them see the progression of the game over the past 150 years. The information is detailed, but broken into short chunks that kids can absorb.
Excellent photographs will draw kids in, but it's really the text that will keep them coming back for more. Even die-hard fans will learn new aspects of the game's history, equipment and players.

Check out this full review by my friend Brenda Kahn over at Prose & Kahn to read more about this new Sports Illustrated baseball book. She calls it "a fine addition to any collection. The clean layout provides an organized, humorous journey for the eyes."
Baseball Stats and the Stories Behind Them
What Every Fan Needs to Know

by Eric Braun
Capstone, 2016
Preview on Google Books
Your local library
Amazon
ages 7-12
Baseball fans love comparing stats to get a handle on how their favorite teams and players are doing. Braun introduces kids to the math behind the stats with this clear, high-interest introduction covering everything from basic batting averages to slugging and fielding percentages. Full of up-to-date stats and photos.

Look through this preview on Google Books to get a sense of the math and text -- I think this will be right for 4th and 5th graders, although some younger students will definitely enjoy reading this, perhaps with more parent support.

Examples are current, up-to-date stats. I especially like how the text explains both the math and the significance of the stats. Braun really captures the excitement of the game, and the way that stats help fans compare players.

If you're looking for a baseball math book for younger fans, you might check out The Math of Baseball, by Ian Mahaney.

The review copies were kindly sent by the publishers, Time, Inc. (via BlueSlip Media) and Capstone 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.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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21. Good Night Baddies & Fairy Tales for Mr. Barker: Two new delightful twists on fairytale favorites (ages 4-7)

My students love sharing fairy tales and they have so much fun reading new twists on old favorites. Two new favorites emphasize humor and downplay the traditional tales' darker sides, making them perfect for preschoolers and kindergartners.

Good Night, Baddies
by Deborah Underwood
illustrated by Juli Kangas
Beach Lane / Simon & Schuster, 2016
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-7
With charming rhymes, Underwood creates a scene where fairytale villains come together at the end of a long day to share dinner and bedtime stories. The baddies really shine when given a chance.
Baddies sit politely dining,
no one throwing food or whining.
All day long they must be vile;
now, at night, they chat and smile.
The evil queen puts on pajamas, while the wolves brush their teeth (well, their fangs). The sweet rhymes and soft illustrations contrast perfectly with baddies' reputation--who would think that the troll enjoys a bubble bath after a hard day waiting for the three billy goats gruff?
"Evil queen, take off your crown;
trade pajamas for your gown.
Tuck your poisoned fruit away.
Find Snow White another day."
Children will enjoy recognizing favorite tales and spotting details from each in the illustrations. I absolutely agree with the BookDragon's review: "Deborah Underwood and Juli Kangas are a delightfully subversive team, proving even the meanest baddies need time to relax and recharge."
Fairy Tales for Mr. Barker: A Peek-Through Story
by Jessica Ahlberg
Candlewick, 2016
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-7
Young Lucy chases her dog through fairy tale lands, dodging bad guys along the way. Even before you get to the title page, young Lucy asks her dog, "Do you want to hear a story, Mr. Barker?" But the pup is distracted by a butterfly, and takes off out of the open window. When Lucy follows him, she enters one new fairytale world after another -- and readers must guess (along with Lucy) where she is.
"Where are we?" asked Lucy. She saw a broken chair, three bowls of porridge, and a little golden-haired girl."
Just as the villain enters the scene, Lucy knows that it's time to leave and invites her new friends to join her. Soon she's followed by Goldilocks, the three little pigs and Jack, with the three bears, the wolf and the giant all chasing them. Ahlberg uses the cutouts very effectively, engaging young readers and prompting them to wonder what's on the other side.

In each new scene, she provides just enough clues for readers to guess which tale Lucy has entered. This encourages young readers to take part in the story, actively engaging with the text. Jessica Ahlberg is the daughter of Allan and Janet Ahlberg, whose classic The Jolly Postman is one of my all-time favorite fairytale mashups. Jessica told Publisher Weekly,
“I think fairy tales are a great shared knowledge, and so if you assume prior knowledge you can play with expectations or make it into a guessing game, as I did in Mr. Barker. I think the fact that the tales are ‘universal’ gives the child reader power. I think it can be fun for them to spot changes, or mistakes, or to know what’s going to happen next. It gives them a bit of control, perhaps. Similarly, my protagonist is able to help the fairy tale people she meets, because she knows their stories and knows what’s going to happen before they do.”
It is interesting that both books draw only from European folktales and fairytales. The illustrations show mainly white characters, although Ahlberg draws both Lucy and Sleeping Beauty with brown hair and slightly darker skin tones.

The review copies were kindly sent by the publishers, Time, Inc. (via BlueSlip Media) and Capstone 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.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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22. The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, by Laura Shovan -- story full of distinct voices (ages 9-12)

Many of my students are drawn to realistic fiction because it gives them a chance to immerse themselves in someone else's story. In fact, a recent study has shown that reading literary fiction helps improve readers' ability to understand what others are thinking and feeling (see this article in Scientific American).

Laura Shovan's novel in verse, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, is full of distinct voices that prompt us to think about different students' unique perspectives. It's one my students are enthusiastically recommending to one another.

The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary
by Laura Shovan
Wendy Lamb / Random House, 2016
Google Books preview
Your local library
Amazon
ages 9-12
*best new book*
Eighteen fifth graders keep poetry notebooks chronicling their year, letting readers peak into their thoughts, hopes and worries as the year progresses. Fifth grade is a momentous year for many students, as the finish elementary school and look ahead to all the changes that middle school brings. This year is particularly full of impending change for Ms. Hill's class because their school will be demolished at the end of the year to make way for a new supermarket.

Through these short poems, Shovan captures the distinct, unique voices of each student. The class is diverse in many ways--racially, ethnically, economically, and more. At first, I wondered if I would really get to know the different students since each page focused on a different child; however, as the story developed, I really did get a sense of each individual as well as the class as a whole. Shovan creates eighteen distinctive individuals--with personalities and backgrounds that we can relate to and envision. And these experiences shape how each individual reacts to the year.

I particularly love novels in verse because they allow readers a chance to see inside character's thoughts without bogging the narrative down in too much description. As researcher David Kidd said (in this Scientific American article), literary fiction prompts readers to think about characters: "we’re forced to fill in the gaps to understand their intentions and motivations.” This is exactly what ends up being the strength of Laura Shovan's novel.

The funniest thing, for me personally, has been the shocked look of many of my students when I show them this cover. You see, our school is called Emerson Elementary School. "This is a real book?!?!" they say, incredulously. I know my students will particularly like the way these students protest the plans to demolish their school, bringing their protest to the school board.

As you can see in this preview on Google Books, this collection of poems slowly builds so readers get a sense of each student in Ms. Hill's fifth grade. The poetry feels authentic, never outshining what a fifth grader might write but always revealing what a fifth grader might really be thinking.

I highly recommend the audiobook for The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary. The diverse cast of Recorded Books brings alive each character. This would make a great summer listen, or a great read-aloud for the beginning of the school year.

The review copy for the audiobook was purchased from Audible and for the print copy it was borrowed from my local 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.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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23. Sharing wordless books with children: tips & favorite books (all ages)

Do you enjoy reading wordless books with your child? Do you like the freedom to make up your words and stories, or does it leave you a little lost? Wordless picture books tell the stories only through the illustrations, and they put much more of the storytelling role onto the reader.

Wordless books can be a delight and a challenge to read with children -- here are a few of my tips:

1. Encourage children to make up the story. There is no "right" or "wrong" way to read these books.

2. Spend time looking at the cover and talking about the book's title. What do you think this story is going to be about? What do you notice?

3. Take a "picture walk" through the pages, looking at the pictures and talking together about what you see.

4. Slow down and notice the details together. Talk about the characters' expressions, the setting, the use of color. What does the illustrator want us to notice?

5. Encourage your child to use different voices, add sound effects and use interesting words as they tell the story. Have fun!

These conversations will enrich your child's storytelling, bringing joy and meaning to the experience.
Here is a collection of my favorite wordless books, new and old, with a brief description (based on the publisher's description).
  • 10 Minutes till Bedtime, by Peggy Rathmann -- A boy's hamster leads an increasingly large group of hamsters on a tour of the boy's house, while his father counts down the minutes to bedtime.
  • A Ball for Daisy, by Chris Raschka -- A dog has fun with her ball, until it is lost. This story is about what it is like to lose something special, and find a friend.
  • Draw!, by Raúl Colón -- A boy who is confined to his room fills his sketch pad with lions and elephants, then imagines himself on a safari.
  • The Farmer and the Clown, by Marla Frazee -- A farmer rescues a baby clown who has bounced off the circus train, and takes very good care of him until he can reunite the tot with his clown family.
  • Flora and the Flamingo, by Molly Idle -- In this wordless book with interactive flaps, a friendship develops between a girl named Flora and a graceful flamingo, as they learn to dance together.
  • Float, by Daniel Miyares -- A boy loses his paper boat in the rain, and goes on an adventure to retrieve it.
  • Good Night, Gorilla, by Peggy Rathmann -- An unobservant zookeeper is followed home by all the animals he thinks he has left behind in the zoo.
  • Journey, by Aaron Becker -- A lonely girl draws a magic door on her bedroom wall and through it escapes into a world where she creates a boat, a balloon, and a flying carpet that carry her on a spectacular journey.
  • The Lion and the Mouse, by Jerry Pinkney -- In this wordless retelling of an Aesop fable set in the African Serengeti, an adventuresome mouse proves that even small creatures are capable of great deeds when she rescues the King of the Jungle.
  • Mr. Wuffles!, by David Wiesner -- Mr. Wuffles ignores all his cat toys but one, which turns out to be a spaceship piloted by small green aliens. 
  • Pool, by JiHyeon Lee -- Two shy children meet at a noisy pool and dive beneath the crowd into a magical undersea land, where they explore a fantastical landscape and meet various creatures.
  • Spot the Cat, by Henry Cole -- A cat named Spot ventures out an open window and through a city on a journey, while his owner (and the reader!) try to find him.
  • Tall, by Jez Alborough -- All the jungle animals help a very little monkey to feel that he is tall.
  • The Typewriter, by Bill Thomson -- Three children find a typewriter on a carousel, and begin an adventure that helps them discover the wonder of words.
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.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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24. The Thank You Book, by Mo Willems: A terrific finale for Elephant and Piggie (ages 4-8)

It's almost the end of the year for us, and kids are starting to think about how hard it is to say goodbye to favorite teachers. I wish I could give every teacher a copy of The Thank You Book, Mo Willem's terrific finale for his Elephant and Piggie series.

This is a must-read series; kids of all ages love the friendship and banter between Elephant and Piggie, especially 1st graders who are venturing into reading independently.

The Thank You Book
from the Elephant and Piggie series
by Mo Willems
Disney-Hyperion, 2016
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-8
*best new book*
Gerald and Piggie are best friends. They help each other, they play with each other, and they give each other advice--plenty of it. Piggie is outgoing, and Gerald is cautious. Piggie tends to be head-strong, while Gerald tends to be a worrier. This combination creates plenty of laughs, and it lets kids see different sides of their own personalities.

Kids love reading Elephant and Piggie books aloud--the whole story is told through dialog which bubbles over with emotion. As my friend Carrie Gelson wrote in her Goodreads review,
"This series has transformed many a little reader. It has given the gift of expression, confidence, laughter and fun. And it ends with gratitude."
Gerald and Piggie have starred in twenty five books(!!) together. For their finale, Piggie decides to thank everyone. She's so happy, that she's thanking of all her friends, "everyone who is important to me." But Gerald is worried that she might forget someone...someone very important.
"Thank you all for being great friends!"
Willems creates tension with ease, as Gerald gets more and more upset. Readers are just sure that he wants Piggie to thank HIM, but Willems pulls out the perfect surprise ending.
"You are forgetting someone! Someone VERY important."
In a delightful twist, Gerald turns to Piggie and reminds her that they need to thank their readers. “We could not be ‘us’ without you,” says Gerald. Piggie joins in, adding, “You are the best!” Talk about a moment that melts my heart, each and every time I read it. Willems honors the hard work that young readers do in bringing stories to life, and he does so with joy, humor and heart.

As a teacher and a librarian, I want to thank every child who's shared their reading lives with me, every parent who's entrusted their child to me, every author who's shared a bit of themselves with us through their words. Thank YOU, Mo Willems, for bringing so much joy to all of us, helping us create so many teachable moments, so many wonderful conversations.

Head on over to ThankoRama.com to download, print, and fill out your own #ThankoRama speech bubbles. Teachers, definitely check out The World of Elephant and Piggie Teaching Guide.

Thank you, my blog readers, for sharing the joy of reading with me and with all the kids in your lives! The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Disney-Hyperion. 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.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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25. Summer reading: Encouraging children to enjoy reading more

from Flikr, by Enokson
As summer approaches, kids get excited for freedom from the routines and structures of school. But parents often worry how they will encourage their children to keep reading. Kids have put a lot of effort into developing their reading abilities throughout the school year--what's going to happen to all those hard-earned skills over the summer?

Parents and children know that it’s important for children to develop strong reading skills--the question I hear so many parents asking is, “How can I get my child to enjoy reading more?” They’re absolutely right. Enjoying reading is key--we want our kids to get lost in books, totally absorbed in whatever they're reading.
from Flickr, by Piulet
We do what we enjoy doing--that’s basic human nature, isn’t it? Reading develops only with practice -- the more you read, the better you get; the better you get, the more you read. So how do we help children enjoy reading and choose to read more often?

Research has shown that two elements are key: children's access to interesting books and choice of books that they can read. It makes sense, doesn't it? I love the way Dav Pilkey, author of the Captain Underpants series, put it in What Kids Are Reading:
"What if all of your reading material was selected by, or restricted by people who believed that they know what was best for you? Wouldn’t that be awful? Wouldn’t you resent it? And isn’t it possible that you might begin to associate books with bad things like drudgery and subjugation?"
The first step to supporting your child is to encourage them to pick what interests them. During the summer, encourage them to seize the power and declare their own passions or interests. Baseball fan? Read biographies, baseball mysteries or sports magazines. Dolphin lover? Dive in deep, learning all about types of dolphins, threats on their habitats and scientists who study them.

The second step is to get a sense of your child's approximate reading levels--not to prescribe what your child can read, but to help her find books that are easy enough to read independently. Children will find the most success reading books in that they can read easily and fluently, especially during the summer.

The final step is to recognize that learning is social -- kids will get engaged more if you value their ideas, ask for their recommendations, talk with them. Do they resist talking with you? Figure out another way for them to engage with others--maybe it's high-tech and setting up a blog, maybe it's old-school and having a reading recommendation journal that you each put entries into, maybe it involves ice cream and friends who like to talk about books and hobbies.

Are you looking for summer reading ideas? Check out my recommendations, created for Berkeley Unified School District families.
2016 Summer Reading Suggestions
Please feel free to download these, print them and share with your friends. Most of all, try to make summer reading time a fun, relaxing part of your summer!

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books2016, Mary Ann Scheuer
Great Kid Books & Berkeley Unified School District


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