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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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26. Common Core IRL: Digital Resources for students studying Colonial America

As a school librarian, an essential part of my role is curating resources: selecting, organizing and sharing information. It can be overwhelming for students and teachers to search for good information; the size and scope of the Internet makes this all the more true.


As we have seen with the Common Core IRL project, print resources are not necessarily plentiful on the American Colonies. Digital resources are an essential tool for students.

I created the following Google Doc to share digital resources with our students (you may copy and share the Google Doc using this link). 


To make this document easily findable, I created a visual link on our library catalog, Destiny. You can explore the visual links in our catalog by going to http://library.berkeley.net/ and selecting any of the elementary schools. Click on the Visual search tab on the right. The Emerson catalog looks like this:


Within the History collection, you'll find different types of curated resources: books and encyclopedia articles, websites, maps and more. Keeping these links on the library catalog has many advantages. First of all, it's an easily findable place for students and teachers. In addition, we are training our community that the library is a central hub for information resources. Finally, we can hold onto these resources for teachers to use year after year.

These resources are an essential part of the Common Core standards for both reading informational text and writing. As students delve into these digital resources, they will need to read and identify the main point of a paragraph, page or article. ELA Common Core standard RI.5.1 states 5th grade students will "determine two or more main ideas of a text and explain how they are supported by key details; summarize the text." This is essential when reading websites.

How are you sharing digital resources with elementary students? Are you finding that they are able to read and digest them? Or are they surfing through them, without finding key information?

I am excited to read about other resources my colleagues have found in their search: Common Core IRL -- In Real Libraries. This week, we are excited to share:
If you are going to be at the American Library Association's annual conference later this month in Las Vegas, we hope you can come to our presentation on the Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries. Here are the details:
Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries
ALA Annual Conference
WHEN: Sunday, June 29, 2014 - 10:30am to 11:30am
LOCATION: Las Vegas Convention Center, S228
Hope to see folks there!

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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27. Super Star, Super Connections -- the true power of books

How do you measure the true impact we have on one another? How can I tell as an educator that my work is helping children? Is it test results. Clearly no. Is it the number of books kids read? Well, maybe, but I don't think so. Really, it's whether kids can discover books that mean something to them, that sink in and stay with them.

This spring, my 5th graders have gone **crazy** for Kwame Alexander's The Crossover. As soon as I read the first few chapters aloud, kids were clamoring for it, devouring it in just a few days and passing it to their friends. This book clearly connected with my students' love of basketball, it captured their language and attitudes, and the story sunk into their hearts.

Each year, we host the Emerson Poetry Slam where every 4th and 5th grader performs a poem they have written. This year, two brothers performed a poem that was inspired by The Crossover. Listen to the recording of Marlaun and Mariaun reading Super Star and read the poem below:

Super Star by Marlaun
performed by Marlaun and Mariaun (click for audio recording)

Dunkin like Michael Jordan,
Sinkin threes like Kevin Durant,
Throwin dimes like Chris Paul,
That what they call me.
Crossover so sweet, like Allen Iverson,
Leave you slippin,
Tossin alley, like the fab five,
Step back, so smooth,
Like Dirk Nowiski,
Call me the show stopper,
Like Joakim Alagiuan,
That what they call me.
All net what you hear,
Floater game, Steph Curry
Tony Parker tear drops so good,
Leave you cryin,
Klay and Steph, the slash bros,
Make it rain,
That a shame, what they do,
Slash, slash,
Everybody a star, but not me,
I’m a super star,
That’s what they really call me.
Moments like these, where you can see the way a book speaks to a kid, kindle a fire deep inside me. I think it's because I see the fire spark inside a kid, bringing forth their creativity, their confidence, their ability to communicate their ideas to other people.

As Marlaun and Mariaun prepare to graduate, I'd like to send them with Kwame Alexander's Basketball Rules. (PS: HMH can you please make some posters with these??!!)
If I could, I would send a copy of The Crossover to every 5th grade across the nation. If you have a favorite 5th grade teacher, pick up a copy for them. What a great way to celebrate the end of the school year and the impact that teacher can have on kids.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books, and Marlaun

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28. Common Core IRL: Life in Colonial America (grades 3-5)

Our older elementary students spend a lot of effort learning how to read and write informational texts, especially in 4th and 5th grades. The Common Core State Standards identify some of the key skills students need to master in this process. Students and teachers often ask their librarians for help finding resources for their research projects.

This year, both Cathy Potter (of the Nonfiction Detectives) and I have helped classes with research projects on the American Colonies. So we thought that we would share some of our resources as part of our ongoing Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries series. Check out these great posts this week:

Life in the American Colonies -- what an enormously huge topic. My biggest challenge in finding resources was helping students who are reading below grade level. They need clear information, well organized and presented, but not too complicated. Two books stood out to me from my search.
Life in a Colonial Town
(series: Picture the Past)
by Sally Senzell Isaacs
Heinemann / Capstone, 2001
Lexile 680 / GRL O
Your local library
Amazon
ages 8-12
Using clear, straightforward language, Isaacs describes daily life in the American colonies, primarily during the years 1650-1750. I especially like the basic introduction Isaacs provides in the first chapter, along with a simple timeline and map.
"A colony is like a small, new village or town. It is created in a country by people from a foreign, or different, country. Beginning about 400 years ago, people from Europe started coming to America to start colonies" (p. 4).
The text is organized into short two-page chapters, each focusing on a different aspect of everyday life. Students will gain a sense of colonists' houses, schooling, clothes and diets. I would recommend this book as a good starting place for students who need a basic introduction. It does not cover several topics my students were interested in, such as the conflict between Native Americans and European colonists, the slave trade, or religion. Here is another example of the text:
"Many colonists built wooden houses. The wood came from nearby forests. Most houses had a stone fireplace. Its fire heated the house. It was also used for cooking" (p. 12).
As students develop a clearer focus for their informational reports, they need books that go into more depth. But how can we do this for students who have trouble reading more complicated text? We have experimented with Capstone interactive ebooks and are liking our initial experience.

The real story about government and politics in colonial America
(series: Fact finders. Life in the American colonies)
by Kristine Carlson Asselin
Capstone, 2012
Lexile 720 / GRL T
Google Books preview
Your local library
Amazon
ages 9-12
Asselin examines how government was organized in the colonies and the relationship between European governing countries and the colonies. Students will find the description of leadership and government in different Native American societies, including the Iroquois and the Powhatan confederacies, very interesting. As the colonies grew, England developed more systematic forms of government for the colonies, with clearly established local roles.

"Each town or county elected two citizens to the colony's assembly."
Students have loved the audio narration that accompanies the Capstone interactive books--with a real human voice, and not just computer text-to-speech narration. These digital books have worked well on Chromebooks in the classroom, and are accessible to all students (we purchased an "unlimited copies" version for our school). We have integrated them into our FollettShelf, accessible through our Destiny Catalog and it has worked very well during our pilot year.

Both of these texts will help students with both reading and writing skills. As students read these texts, they must work to identify the author's main points and learn how to summarize the text (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.2). Teachers can use these as mentor texts, showing writing that introduces and develops a topic (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.5.2). For example, students and teachers could look at the way Asselin develops her main point about the role of governors in the colonies:
Much of the Common Core really continues our work helping students learn to read, understand and write informational texts. It is a difficult job, one that requires providing interesting materials that students can access independently as well as mentor texts we can look at together.

I am excited to read about other resources my colleagues have found in their search: Common Core IRL -- In Real Libraries. This week, we are excited to share:
  • Great Kid Books - Life in Colonial America (grades 3-5)
  • Kid Lit Frenzy - Primary sources (grades 4-6)
  • The Show Me Librarian - Historical fiction (grades 4-6)
  • The Nonfiction Detectives - Comparing perspectives (grades 4-6)
  • Great Kid Book: Digital resources (grades 4-6)
The review copies came from our district library collection. 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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29. The Night Gardener, by Jonathan Auxier -- deliciously creepy, certainly frightening! (ages 10-14)


My students and I have had the best time sharing our latest favorite book: The Night Gardener, by Jonathan Auxier.
"Ooooh, I had nightmares last night from reading it! Did you?"
"Yes!! But I couldn't stop reading!"
"And then I heard the leaves rustling outside and I was sure he was out there!"
"Who? Who are you talking about?"
"The Night Gardener! You've got to read it, but only if you like getting scared!"
Half of our Mock Newbery book club is certain there's no way they're going to read it, but the other half can't wait to get their hands on it. If you like creepy stories full of atmosphere, suspense and mystery, you'll definitely want to find yourself a copy.
The Night Gardener
by Jonathan Auxier
Abrams, 2014
Your local library
Amazon
Google Books preview
ages 10-14
*best new book*
Molly and her younger brother Kip are orphans fleeing the Irish famine, looking for work in England. They've been told there's a job waiting for them at the Windsor estate, but the local folk are nervous telling them that it's in the sourwoods. An old storyteller tells them, "They say the sourwoods changes folks... brings out something horrible in them." Little do Molly and Kip know just how much the sourwoods will change, tempt and test them.

Auxier does a masterful job at slowly building the suspense. Right away, Molly and Kip sense that something is not right at the Windsor home, but they welcome the warm bed, food and shelter. When they discover the power the tree has over everyone living there, they have been sucked into the terrible evil of the tree and the Night Gardener.

My students and I debated whether this was just a great, frightening story or one with depth and subtlety. While I agree that the climax was certainly heart-pounding, I suggested that Auxier asks readers to consider deeper themes than are apparent on the surface. What did they make when the old storyteller Hester Kettle (one of their favorite characters) told Molly,
"'You asked me for a story; now you call it a lie.' She folded her arms. 'So tell me, then: What marks the difference between the two?'" (p. 214)
When Molly asserts that a lie hurts people and a story helps them, Hester counters by asking her exactly what a story helps them do? And so I ask my students: when the tree gives Molly its secret gift, the gift she wants more than anything else, is it a lie? Or is it a story that she desperately needs to believe in?

I adore that this is a story that can be read on so many levels. Auxier starts with a quote from Paradise Lost, writes in his afterward that he drew inspiration from Something Wicked This Way Comes and The Secret Garden. But I also see connections to the desperate greed and dire consequences of The Picture of Dorian Gray. I want to leave my students ruminating over this passage:
"'I think I figured it out.' (Molly) sniffed, looking up at the stars. 'Hester asked me what the difference between a story and a lie was. At the time, I told her that a story helps folks. 'Helps 'em do what?' she asked. Well, I think I know the answer. A story helps folks face the world, even when it frightens 'em. And a lie does the opposite. It helps you hide.'" (p. 278)
And yes, just for the record, I definitely got nightmares reading this. I had to stop reading it at night and finish it early one Saturday morning. But it's a story that has stayed with me long after that quiet morning.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Abrams Books, but I've already purchased the first of many additional 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.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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30. Malcolm Little: The boy who grew up to be Malcolm X, by Ilyasah Shabazz (ages 7-11)

Our schools celebrate Malcolm X's birthday each year, but I have found it hard to figure out how to introduce this pivotal leader to young children. His biographies tend to focus on his strong views about African Americans' fight for equality "by any means necessary." And yet, I have come to realize that this is an extraordinarily simple view of a complex, inspiring man.

I am looking forward to sharing a new picture book, Malcolm Little, The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X, with children. Ilyasah Shabazz, Malcolm X's daughter, provides children with a heartfelt view of her father's childhood and how it shaped the man he became.
Malcolm Little
The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X
by Ilyasah Shabazz
illustrated by A.G. Ford
Atheneum / Simon & Schuster, 2014
Your public libraryAmazon
ages 7-11
Shabazz describes her father’s early years, especially focusing on the impact his parents had on him. Malcolm's parents, Earl and Louise Little, nurtured a love of learning, self-pride and independence. Young Malcolm endured tragedy brought on by racist community members who set fire to his home, but his parents showed him that their "faith, love and perseverance would sustain them."
"Despite the great loss of their house and all their belongings, they vowed to rebuild their lives."
This picture book fills a great need in our library. We have no other picture books quite like this -- all of our biographies are aimed at readers in grades 4 and above. Shabazz writes with passion and love, and I think it would be interesting to talk with students about her clear point of view. Her text is longer than many picture books, but it would work well as a read-aloud for 2nd through 4th grade.

I think it would be interesting for students to compare this book with information they learn in this mini-biography video from Biography.com.

Students might also be interested in the reflections from Malcolm X's relatives and friends that are shared on PBS's American Experience site.

One of the essential roles librarians can play as schools implement the Common Core standards is providing multiple resources for students to learn about important topics such as this.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of 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.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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31. Return of Zita the Spacegirl, by Ben Hatke - terrific adventure in a graphic novel (ages 8-12)

I was so happy today when a gaggle of 2nd grade girls wanted recommendations for fun, exciting graphic novels. They already love Babymouse, but they want MORE! What comics did I think they'd like? Zita the Spacegirl is one of my favorite series, and they'll giggle when they see this comic:

This week marks the release of the final installment of the trilogy: The Return of Zita the Spacegirl. If you love comics with adventure, fantasy and humor, you'll love this one just as much as the first two.
The Return of Zita the Spacegirl
by Ben Hatke
First Second, 2014
book trailer
Your local library
Amazon
*best new book*
We open this third installment to finds Zita locked in a dungeon by the evil Dungeon Lord. With utter courage and optimism, Zita is determined to escape. As she does so, she stops to help others in need--just as she always has.

I love the way Zita is a daring, courageous, caring girl -- the best sort of role model for our kids. Fourth-grader Emily writes,
"Zita is a fun character, and she really amuses readers. One thing I think is that the author made the characters very strong and alive... If I had to explain this book in three words those three words would be that this book is adventurous, lively, and awesome."
Take a look at this comic essay for another terrific way to sum up how special Zita is. It's by Jerzy Drozd, cartoonist and teaching artist. Check out his site Comics Are Great!, and encourage your kids to vote in Kids Comics Revolution!
Comic essay by Jerzy Drozd
The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, First Second Books, but I've already purchased the first of many additional 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.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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32. Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries -- Baseball LineUp (ages 5-13)

Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries has hit another home run showing how librarians and educators can work together to guide teachers and parents toward high-interest nonfiction that gradually increases in reading complexity.
Dodger Fan via Chris Yarzab, Flickr

This time, we have focused on baseball, finding nonfiction that kids like these young Dodger fans would love! We have found  general introductions to baseball, biographies about famous players, guides to help young players hone their skills, and a fascinating history of the Negro League.

We have prepared a concise summary of our recommendations -- feel free to download, print, and share it with teachers, parents and other librarians. Our goal is to show how librarians can help all students find engaging, interesting books to read.

Are you heading to the American Library Association annual conference in Las Vegas next month? Come see us on Sunday, June 29th at 10:30 a.m.!



Huge thanks to my fellow Common Core IRL colleagues. Again, here's the full batting line-up of our posts on baseball for Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries. Here's our line-up this week:
We hope to see you in the stacks -- or was that in the stands? Bring your bat, glove and favorite baseball fan and join us! The review copies 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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33. The Very Fairy Princess: Graduation Girl -- Blog Tour & Giveaway (ages 4-7)

Change is in the air all around my school, as children look forward to summer vacation. But change isn't always easy. What if you absolutely adore your teacher? Will next year's teacher ever be as wonderful? Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton show that this is a familiar feeling, in this delightful installment of their Very Fairy Princess series.
The Very Fairy Princess: Graduation Girl
by Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton
illustrated by Christine Davenier
Little, Brown, 2014
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-7
Gerry is getting ready for the end of the school year and celebrating her graduation! She's excited to celebrate, but the end of the year always feels a little sad. Students clean their desks, empty their cubbies, take home all their art projects. But Gerry is also a little nervous about leaving her teacher Miss Pym, who always knows just what this very fairy princess needs.

This story has gotten lots of giggles from my students. One loved Gerry's "exuberance"; others could connect to how change really can be hard. Others found it delightfully silly -- Gerry even worries that her teacher might be a grumpy witch with a wart on her nose! It's definitely the right fit for kids who like their stories sweet, with lots of pluck and sparkle.

Thanks to the publishers Little, Brown, one lucky reader (with a US mailing address) has the chance to win a copy of The Very Fairy Princess: Graduation Girl, just in time for the end of the school year. Please complete the Rafflecopter below to enter the giveaway -- entries due May 15th by 9pm PST:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

The review copies was kindly sent by the publishers, 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.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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34. Common Core IRL: Baseball books for middle grade fans (ages 8-10)

This week, Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries is bringing your books all about baseball. Our sports section is heavily used in our library, and I find it hard to seek out good nonfiction that are just right for middle grade readers. Kids in 3rd and 4th grade want interesting books, but they can't plow through dense text. Here are two books that combine excellent visual design and organization with clearly written text that fits the needs of our kids in 3rd and 4th grade.
Miguel Cabrera
Baseball Superstar
by Matt Doeden
Sports Illustrated Kids / Capstone, 2014
Google Books preview
Your local library
Amazon
grades 2-3
ages 7-9
This biography of superstar hitter Miguel Cabrera appeals to kids with its striking photographs, bold headings, and large font. In 2012, Cabrera won the first Triple Crown in the majors since 1967, leading the league in batting average, home runs and RBIs in the same season.
Miguel Cabrera, Doeden

As students read this high-interest biography, they must develop a timeline in their head. Doeden captures readers' interest by beginning with Cabrera's nerve-wracking first day playing for the pros (see the excerpt to the right), and then he moves back in time to Cabrera's childhood in Venezuela. Third graders must understand how this writing style hooks readers and how the individual events fit together to create a whole picture of Cabrera's life. These skills are essential for mastery of Common Core ELA standard RI 3.3.


I'm always struggling whether to get books about a specific team or general books on a sport. Individual stars change in their popularity overnight, it seems. So I was very happy to find this next book on key skills for playing baseball.
Play Baseball Like a Pro
Key Skills and Tips
by Hans Hetrick
Sports Illustrated for Kids / Capstone, 2011
Google Books preview
Your local library
Amazon
ages 8-10
Hetrick balances simple direct text with enough information to make this guide interesting for 8- to 10-year-olds, but not overwhelming. He clearly states a main idea and then develops it with a short explanation.
"If your head is out of control, your body will be too. If your body is out of control, so is your pitching arm. Stay balanced. Keep your head directly over your body. And be sure to keep your eyes on the catcher's mitt until the pitch is hit or caught."
Third and fourth graders work on identifying the main ideas in what they read, distinguishing main ideas from supporting details. They also need to explain how the main idea is supported by key details. Baseball fans will be able to see so much more easily what teachers mean by "main idea" and "supporting details" if they are reading a book like this. Common Core ELA standards 3.2 and 4.2 ask students to do just this.
Play Baseball Like a Pro, Hetrick
 The visual design of Play Baseball Like a Pro draws students in, but it also helps them organize their ideas. Third and fourth graders will also appreciate the white space and size of font. Baseball fans will love the quotes from a wide range of pro players.

Be sure to check out all of the terrific posts on baseball for Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries. Here's our line-up this week:


We hope to see you in the stacks -- or was that in the stands? Bring your bat, glove and favorite baseball fan and join us! The review copies 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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35. Andy Griffiths brings laughter & giggles to Emerson kids (ages 7-10)


Emerson kids have been raving about Andy Griffiths' 13-Story Treehouse series, passing it from kid to kid. It especially appeals to kids who want a funny story. So I was thrilled when our local bookstore A Great Good Place for Books asked if we'd like to have him visit our school. YES! YES! YES!
The 13-Story Treehouse
by Andy Griffiths
illustrated by Terry Denton
Feiwel and Friends / Macmillan, 2013
Your local library
Amazon
ages 7-10
Andy had kids laughing up a storm. Really, this was the noisiest author visit we've ever had. Kids were so excited to respond to Andy's questions, laughing and talking to their neighbors the whole time. Andy told jokes, shared about his storytelling technique (it's all about surprises), and even showed us a mutant baby dinosaur.

Andy Griffiths & his Catanary visit Emerson
My favorite part? I love how Andy gives total permission to laugh at anything -- whether it's stinky underwear or stuffing your face with marshmallows. He tells plenty of poop jokes, because he knows his audience (hello, have you listened to 8 year old boys?), but he also gets us laughing at our greatest fears.

More than that, Andy encourages kids to go crazy following their own imaginations wherever it takes them. Surprise the reader and -- better yet -- surprise yourself with how much fun you can have along the way.

The 13-Story Treehouse combines silly humor with plenty of adventure to keep kids reading. Our 5th graders thought it was terrific, but it's also grabbing hold of our 2nd and 3rd graders. I really think Andy and Terry struck the right balance between humor, story and illustrations. Kids give a big thumbs up to the 26-Story Treehouse as well. Just check out this trailer as Andy reads aloud the first chapter:



Thanks so much to Andy for his time and laughter, and to Macmillan Kids for sponsoring such a great visit! The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, but many more were purchased for our school library and classrooms! 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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36. Common Core IRL: Baseball Edition

The Common Core State Standards declare that students must read more nonfiction throughout their school years, in order to fully prepare for college and career choices. If you tell your typical 9- or 10-year-old that, they are likely to roll their eyes and moan, "But nonfiction is boring!" My reply?
"Nonfiction can be really interesting when you get to choose what to read."
We know that kids are more motivated to read when they get to choose their book. So why not harness this interest as we encourage kids to read nonfiction? Librarians are excellent resources. We scour the field for interesting, informative books that are clearly written, well designed and filled with excellent illustrations. We understand both reading levels and children's interests.


Baseball season is getting under way. Kids are playing, going to games, and following their favorite pro teams. This image (below) captures for me the essence of baseball as our national pastime -- little kids going to games with their dads. So why not engage kids by offering a range of interesting books all about baseball?
Boys of Summer, via debaird, Flickr
This week, our intrepid group of Common Core IRL literacy experts are going to bat for readers -- coming up with great baseball books to recommend for kids. We will focus on nonfiction for kids to read along the reading spectrum, from beginning readers to advanced middle grade readers. We will include books to read aloud to children, because it's essential to read engaging, interesting nonfiction aloud to our children.

Here's our batting line-up for Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries:
We hope to see you in the stacks -- or was that in the stands? Bring your bat, glove and favorite baseball fan and join us!

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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37. Outside the Box, by Karma Wilson -- silly, heart-warming poetry (ages 6-11)

As a kid, I loved the wacky poetry of Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein. They twisted words like a verbal gymnasts, making them dance and flip in my head. Their humor still resonates with kids--which is why they love this new collection of poems, Outside the Box, which combines quirky observations, outrageous situations and unexpected twists just like the great Seuss and Silverstein did.
Outside the Box
by Karma Wilson
illustrated by Diane Goode
McElderry / Simon & Schuster, 2014
Your local library
Amazon
ages 6-11
Wilson declares from the very beginning that humor's her game, but she always invites young readers to see more in a situation than there is at face value. Her poems are full of familiar situations, from playing hide-and-seek to wanting the coolest shoes. Her rhythm and rhyme will make you want to read them aloud, with a smile on your face.

But these poems also have an edgy feel, dipping into nightmares, ghosts and werewolves. Just take her poem, "Boogie Man" with the "chains he likes to rattle." Dark and creepy, until you come to the word play: "'Cause me and Boogie Man are friends. We boogie every night."

Diane Goode's illustrations do a lovely job of adding humor or making light of awkward situations. For more of her illustrations, take a look at all the draft and finished artwork she shares on her website.
Boogie Man, by Karma Wilson
I especially like finding poems that older kids will want to read aloud to each other. Here is a poem  that one of my students marked to read aloud:
Laugh It Up...

I've often
laughed until
I cried,
bent over,
doubled in half.

But I'd really
love it if just
one time,
I could cry until
I laughed...
by Karma Wilson
Not all of the poems are "deep and meaningful" -- some just make us laugh. I hope you enjoy sharing poetry with your kids. It can bring laughter, it can sprinkle sunshine, and it can warm the heart.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Margaret K. McElderry/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.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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38. The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander -- a powerful, booming novel in verse (ages 10-14)

WOW oh WOW. When a book hits a sweet spot, it zooms from one student to another. As soon as I read the opening lines of The Crossover, with its basketball cover and bouncing rap beat, I just knew I had to read it aloud to my 5th graders. But nothing prepared me for how it hooked them. To say they are loving it is an understatement. Fifth grade boys are just about wrestling each other to see who's going to get it next--jostling each other over a poetry book!
The Crossover
by Kwame Alexander
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014
Amazon
Your local library
preview available here
ages 10-14
*2015 Emerson Mock Newbery*
*best new book*
For Josh Bell, basketball and his family are everything to him. He pushes himself to excel, but he loves every minute he spends with the game--especially the way he plays it with his twin brother Jordan and his dad. Kwame Alexander captures Josh's voice and the power of basketball in a way that comes alive for my students. They love the rhythm and pulsing movement, the attitude and sass in Josh's words. Just look at this first page:
The power of this novel comes not only from Alexander's language but also from the characters and their emotions. As Josh and Jordan (JB) near the championship playoffs for their school's division, friction develops between the brothers and trouble is brewing with their father. Josh starts to resent the fact that JB is spending too much time with his new girlfriend. I love the relationship Josh has with his dad. They tease each other, push each other, question each other in a way that feels so real.

Alexander engages kids on so many different levels. I especially like the Basketball Rules that Josh's dad shares with his sons. How is basketball like life? That's something all sorts of kids can think about, in a way that takes layered meanings to a different level.

Our whole class is having a blast reading this aloud. I am projecting it on the screen so we can see the words dance on the page as I read it aloud. I want to try to create some audio recordings with kids reading it, because I know they'll bring so much to it. We already have four copies at school and the books are bouncing from one kid to another.

I can't wait to show the kids this video that Kwame Alexander made to share The Crossover with librarians. I just hope parents and teachers can find it in their local bookstores.


Best new book? You betcha. It's already gotten five starred reviews. My favorite review comes from Guys Lit Wire. Here's what they have to say:
If you haven't heard of The Crossover yet, you're officially on notice. Here's your chance to read this book before the awards talk. And, yes, there should be serious awards talk about this book and not just because it has already received five starred reviews but because it is a breath-taking and dazzling fast break work of art. So, forget the awards talk (though it will certainly be warranted) and believe me: you should know this book because you'll want to put into kid's hands and share it with them.
I couldn't agree more. I also want to put this into every 5th & 6th grade teacher's box across the country. Please share this with a teacher, a kid, a family you know and love.

The review copies 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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39. Supporting the Common Core State Standards: Librarians at the Center

The Common Core State Standards are nation-wide standards that outline what skills each student should be able to do in mathematics and English Language Arts. They were developed with the goal of preparing our students to be college and career ready by the end of high school, planning how to work up to that end point.


Our students in Berkeley are in the middle of taking the new online SBA tests. It is a field test year, and no results will be tied with individual students. But I can assure you that you’ll be hearing lots about the Common Core in the coming months as the statewide results come in. So, what’s my attitude? I believe that there are positive aspects to the Common Core and concerning aspects. I’m both a glass half-full and glass half-empty type of person.

Please try to separate what you hear about the assessment from the curriculum. In my opinion, many of the standards are based on solid, important teaching goals. That’s my focus today -- to help you see how our library work can support those teaching goals. As librarians, we pour in more water, improving students’ skills by providing access to engaging, relevant material.

What do librarians have to do with all this anyway? The Common Core asks students to read more nonfiction, to use more primary sources, to consider author’s perspectives and opinions, and to read more. Can teachers provide all this material for students? I don’t think so. Can families? No -- no one can do it on their own. Librarians can provide essential support to students, teachers and families in their communities.

Below is a presentation I gave this week to the California Library Association. I've tried to encapsulate my views on key ways librarians can support students, teachers and families. We are all in this together.



If you'd like further information, I recommend exploring these sources:


If you have any questions, I'd love to hear from you. We are all on a learning journey together. Many thanks to all of my colleagues at Berkeley Unified School District. I have learned so much from all of you. The views expressed here are mine alone, and do not represent my employer.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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40. Celebrating Earth Day: A Conversation with Molly Bang

Molly Bang inspires me with her luminous artwork and her ability to convey complex scientific processes through a narrative story that appeals to young children. I wanted to talk with her about how she tries to convey her understanding of the way our Earth works to young children. She has written several books with her longtime friend Penny Chisholm, a biologist from MIT who studies microscopic phytoplankton and photosynthesis.

Molly Bang
MAS: What were your hopes and goals in creating your Sunlight Series of books?

MB: We are a part of nature. And the more we forget that, the more we are going to be in trouble, as we already are. And what Penny and I are hoping is that with an understanding of how we are a tiny part of the system of the natural world, the better we will be able to make decisions.

We also wanted to make these books as literary and beautiful and clear and simple as we possibly could. We both wanted to make these books that children would really want to read, not books that they had to read. And that they would be as good as any kind of a story book.

MAS: That’s something I really enjoy about your books, this idea of creating a kind of narrative in the story. I love how the sun talks directly to the child.

MB: We tried to figure out a way “in” for each book. So for My Light, the city lights look like stars that have fallen to Earth, and indeed they are. For Living Sunlight, the sun tells the child to hold your hand over your heart. “Feel how warm you are. That is my light, alive inside of you." As soon as we made the sun the speaker, it made all the difference. We kept that throughout, and the trick has been how to involve the child right from the first sentence. Ocean Sunlight begins with, “Dive in,” pulling the child right into the action. Our newest book, out this fall, is Buried Sunlight: How Fossil Fuels Have Changed the Earth.

MAS: Why did you call it Buried Sunlight?

MB: Well, that’s exactly what it is! Sunlight was caught in carbon chains millions of years ago and buried under layers of sand and rock. And now we’re releasing that sunlight energy several thousands of times faster than it got buried. It's vitally important for children - and their parents! - to understand this disconnect.

This interview was originally conducted for Parents Press, a local newspaper in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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41. Celebrating Earth Day: Developing an understanding of ecosystems & endangered species (ages 7-12)

I have always been fascinated by the interdependence of species within an ecosystem. As we celebrate Earth Day with our students, I want to highlight two books that help children understand the complex interdependence within ecosystems and our role in help ensure their sustainability. There are no easy answers, but we must help our children understand the factors at play.
When the Wolves Returned
Restoring Nature's Balance in Yellowstone
by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent
photographs by Dan Hartman and Cassie Hartman
Walker & Co., 2008
Your local library
Amazon
ages 9-12
Dorothy Hinshaw Patent explains in clear text the changes that have come about in Yellowstone after the reintroduction of the gray wolf population. The Hartmans' photographs are bold and compelling, illustrating the environment and range of animals that live in this complex ecosystem. The design of this book makes it particularly successful for 4th through 6th graders interested in reading about more complex issues, but without lengthy text. The photographs always take center stage, but the text provides depth and understanding.
Can We Save the Tiger?
by Martin Jenkins
illustrated by Vicky White
Candlewick, 2011
Your local library
Amazon
ages 7-11
Using straightforward but compelling language, Jenkins starts by introducing the concept of what makes animals extinct.
"Some of the other animals and plants that we share the Earth with have coped with the changes very well. But some haven't. In fact, some have coped so badly that they're not here any more. They're extinct. This means we'll never see a live dodo... or a Steller's sea cow, or a marsupial wolf, or a great auk..." (pp. 6-8) 
With clear writing, an almost conversational tone, and large print size, this book makes a great choice for 3rd through 5th graders reading nonfiction on their own. Jenkins next turns to species that are barely hanging on: tigers, Asian elephants, sloth bears and the partula snail. He helps children understand the pressure that humans put on large animals like the tiger, who need plenty of room and prey for hunting. Fierce tigers usually eat deer and other wild animals, but when human developments spread into tigers' territory, conflicts arise.

These environmental issues are complex and still hotly debated. Just last month, the New York Times ran a passionate, thoughtful piece in the op-ed section called "Is the Wolf a Real American Hero?" I would point interested students to a range of resources on the subject, so they can see the complexities and the biases involved. In particular, I found these interesting:
Text to Text: 
Is the Wolf a Real American Hero?
and
Hunting Habits of Wolves Change Ecological Balance in Yellowstone
New York Times: The Learning Network
Wolves at the Door
Audio & reporting by Nathan Rott
Photography by David Gilkey
National Public Radio
After Major Comeback, Is the Gray Wolf Still Endangered?
by Elizabeth Shogren
National Public Radio
Wolf Restoration
Yellowstone National Park
National Park Services
The review copies 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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42. Celebrating Earth Day: A focus on Molly Bang's science picture books (ages 4-10)

Among my very favorite books are those by Bay Area author-illustrator Molly Bang. She captures a sense of wonder, respect for a child’s perspective and a passion for helping kids understanding the science that underpins the way our world works. I love highlighting these books as we celebrate Earth Day with our students.

My Light
written and illustrated by Molly Bang
Blue Sky/Scholastic, 2004
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-8
This first book in Bang’s “sunlight series” focuses on how the sun’s energy fuels first the water cycle, then electricity and power for humans, animals and plants on Earth. Connecting the dots from a city lit up at night to the twinkling stars, Bang excels in explaining complex science for young children.
Living Sunlight
How Plants Bring the Earth To Life
by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm
Blue Sky/Scholastic, 2009
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-9
The sun narrates this story, telling children: "Lay your hand over your heart, and feel. Feel your heart pump, pump, and pump. Feel how warm you are. That is my light, alive inside of you." The sun radiates across every page, spreading bright yellow dots as it travels. This light "becomes the energy for all life on Earth," as Bang and Chisholm explain. A beautiful, rich reflection that can be read at many levels.
Ocean Sunlight
How Tiny Plans Feed the Seas
by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm
Blue Sky/Scholastic, 2012
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-9
The ocean shimmers with the sun’s light, but did you know that the sun fuels a billion billion billion tiny plants called phytoplankton? “Half the oxygen you breathe every day ... is bubbling out of all the tiny phytoplankton floating in your seas.” Bang and Chisholm capture this majestic beauty and fascinating science.

Join me on Wednesday for an interview with Molly Bang. Head over to the Nonfiction Monday blog to read more fantastic nonfiction to share with your children. The review copies 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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43. A Snicker of Magic, by Natalie Lloyd -- Nominated for the 2015 Emerson Mock Newbery (ages 9-12)

Last week, two girls came bounding into our lunchtime book club bubbling over about how much they loved a new book they both just read: A Snicker of Magic. Their enthusiasm immediately spread to other friends. Hooray!! And so, here is our first book nominated to the 2015 Emerson Mock Newbery, followed by Thea and Fiona's review.
A Snicker of Magic
by Natalie Lloyd
Scholastic, 2014
preview on Google Books
*2015 Emerson Mock Newbery*
Your local library
Amazon
ages 9-12
A Snicker of Magic
Review by Thea and Fiona

A Snicker of Magic is a great book about a young girl, Felicity Pickle, who sees words around people and things .”Some words glow, and some words dance Some have wings , and some have zebra stripes.” After moving (again) to her mom’s childhood home, Midnight Gulch, (which is magic) she learns some important things about her family. But there’s still a gaping hole. Will she find it out in time or is she going to feel the hole forever?

Natalie Lloyd
We think that the moral of A Snicker of Magic is you can believe in anything you want to and always believe in yourself and your family. Our evidence of this is at first Felicity did not believe in magic until she started learning about her family. What we have in common with Felicity is that sometimes we don’t always believe in something until we have seen or witnessed it.

We recommend this book because this story has a really good plot that makes you want to never put it down once you started it. It has magic mixed with family drama , and amazing characters like Felicity and the Beedle, and lots of suspense.

WE RECOMMEND THIS BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thea enjoyed Natalie's recent post on the Nerdy Book Club, all about the magic of memories that are hidden away in the books we read. This is certainly part of the wonderful charm of A Snicker of Magic.
There's a Lion in My Closet, by Natalie Lloyd

My first novel, A Snicker of Magic, takes place in a quirky Tennessee mountain town called Midnight Gulch. The sugar-wind blows through Midnight Gulch thanks to a famous (er… infamous, rather) ice cream factory called Dr. Zook’s. While Zook’s boasts all sorts of strangely delicious concoctions, the most popular flavor is only sold locally. It’s called Blackberry Sunrise, and years ago, the first batch was made from a crop of wild berries, sugar, milk … and memories. That’s the problem with eating Blackberry Sunrise, as my hero, Felicity Pickle, soon discovers. That particular flavor always calls up a memory. And you never know if the memory will be sweet or sour unless you’re brave enough to take a bite.

Sadly, I don’t know how to hide memories in ice cream.

But I know how to hide memories in books.

For more, head to the Nerdy Book Club post.

Thea and Fiona are nominating A Snicker of Magic to our 2015 Emerson Mock Newbery. Our process is that a book must be nominated by two readers to be entered into our final reading list. Students commit to reading at least 5 books from our list to participate in our voting in January. Thank you, Thea and Fiona, for sharing about why you want all of us to read A Snicker of Magic!

The review copy was kindly sent to us by the publishers, Scholastic Press. 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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44. Dare the Wind: a tale of courage and calculations for Women's History Month (ages 6-10)

I've always been amazed at the journeys gold prospectors underwent to travel to California in the 1840s and 1850s. Can you imagine taking a covered wagon across the Rockies or a clipper ship around Cape Horn? If these voyages fascinate you, I highly recommend Tracy Fern's new picture book, a biography of Eleanor "Ellen" Prentiss, who navigated the fastest clipper ship to sail from New York to San Francisco.
Dare the Wind
by Tracy Fern
illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully
Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2014
Amazon
your local library
ages 6-10
*best new book*
Ellen Prentiss loved the sea her whole life, but she was no ordinary little girl. Her father taught her how to sail his trading schooner and use complicated navigating tools like a sextant, and soon she was sailing her own ship, racing the fishing fleet across Massachusetts Bay.

Ellen married Perkins Creesy, a ship's captain, and soon they were sailing together, with Ellen navigating their ship. When Perkins was given command of The Flying Cloud, a fast new clipper ship built to take passengers and cargo from New York to the California Gold Rush, Ellen knew it was up to her to help find the fastest winds and swiftest route.
"She plotted a course to catch the strongest wind and current she could."
Tracy Fern builds this dramatic story, carefully helping children understand the difficulties Ellen, Prentiss and the crew faced. My students gasped when The Flying Cloud's mast broke, and you could see the worry on their faces as Ellen faced stormy weather around Cape Horn.
"Now is the time for caution, she thought. I can still read the sea."
Share this terrific story with young readers who are fascinated by science, math and adventure. They'll love how Ellen not only used her daring courage, but also clear calculations to find the fastest routes. As her father told her,
"A true navigator must have the caution to read the sea, as well as the courage to dare the wind." 
There are many excellent resources for children who are interested in this story. Check out the new LiveBinder page put together by the Junior Library Guild: Booktalks To Go. I also love the way that Tracey Fern has included some of her favorite links on her website.

Illustration copyright © 2013 by Emily Arnold McCully, shared by permission from the publisher. The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Margaret Ferguson Books, Farrar Straus Giroux, an imprint of Macmillan Books. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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45. Emerson's Museum of Amazing Women, Part 3

Women's History Month inspires kids in so many different ways. Here are two modern women that our kids look up to: author Jennifer Holm, and soccer star Alex Morgan. Each of these women gives the message to all our kids: you can follow your dreams and become whoever you want to be.

Emily had a lot of fun making an Animoto about her favorite author Jennifer Holm. Many of our students love Holm's Babymouse series (did you know Happy Birthday, Babymouse comes out in 3 weeks?!), but Emily also gives a shout-out for Turtle in Paradise, Holm's novel set in 1930s Key West.

Madeline honors Alex Morgan, an American soccer player and Olympic gold medalist. Madeline was so excited to try out using Animoto -- and I'm really excited to learn about a new sport hero our girls admire.
I just learned that Alex Morgan is writing a new series perfect for kids in 4th through 6th grade:
Booklist writes of the first Kicks installment, Saving the Team:
U.S. women’s soccer team player and Olympic medalist Morgan’s enthusiasm for the game is evident throughout this light and lively contemporary read. Though there are some predictable story elements, Devin is an appealing protagonist whose peppy first-person narrative incorporates abundant soccer details, along with familiar themes of making friends and the value of teamwork.
Stay tuned for my Animoto showing all the great posters that students have made. Thanks very much for celebrating Women's History Month with Emerson students!

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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46. Writing nonfiction that honors women in history: an interview with Tracey Fern

As I explore Women's History Month with students, I want to help them think about how they can honor women in history. We talk about honoring women in their lives, because for young students the immediate it so important. But I'm also fascinated by the way authors investigate women whose stories we might not have heard yet.

Today, I'm thrilled to share with you an interview with Tracey Fern about her journey to learn about the life of Eleanor Prentiss and then writing Dare the Wind. My questions are in red; Tracey's answers follow in black.

MS: How did you first learn about Eleanor? What drew you to her story?

TF: I first learned about Eleanor when I was browsing through my local bookstore and happened upon David Shaw's book, Flying Cloud. I'm always on the lookout for strong female characters, and so I knew instantly that I wanted to write about Eleanor. Eleanor's story also combined adventure and science, two elements that I'm also often drawn toward. Finally, I'm a Massachusetts gal who grew up with the ocean and the beach in my backyard, and I love that Eleanor grew up here, too!

MS: Did you travel at all to do your research? What was your research process like?

TF: I traveled to Marblehead, Massachusetts while writing Dare the Wind. Marblehead was Eleanor's home town, and parts of the town still look much the way I imagine they looked when Eleanor walked its cobbled streets. I also visited the Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut and toured the USS Constitution in Boston harbor to get myself in a seafaring state of mind! My research process for this book was different from my usual research, because there are relatively few primary sources available. As a result, I relied more heavily on secondary sources than I typically do.

MS: I was amazed at how well you conveyed being on a ship at sea in a storm. Have you sailed like this at all?

TF: Thank you! I've been sailing before but never under the challenging conditions that Eleanor faced. I'm so happy that I could convey the sensations of being on a ship at sea in a storm to readers.
MS: Did you provide any guidance to Emily McCully to help her make sure the illustrations were historically accurate? What details do you want children to notice in the illustrations?

TF: I adore Emily's illustrations! She did her own research to ensure that her illustrations were accurate. I did send Emily a very detailed description of the Flying Cloud that was published at the time of the ship's launch. Some of the details that I love in Emily's illustrations are the wonderful spread of the Flying Cloud at the pier in New York City, the view of Ellen (Eleanor) below deck working on her charts which beautifully captures the feeling of motion in the tilt of the lamp above her head, and the cover illustration which shows the figurehead of an angel on the prow of the ship, mirroring Ellen and her telescope on deck. I especially love the cover illustration because it seems to capture the forward movement of Ellen's amazing journey!
MS: What was the most surprising thing you learned about Eleanor doing your research?

TF: The most surprising thing about Eleanor was just how ahead of her time she was. Not only did she assumed the role of navigator at a time when that was absolutely atypical for a woman, she also embraced the new navigational theories of Matthew Fontaine Maury, which went against the prevailing wisdom of the time. Eleanor was clearly a force to be reckoned with!

MS: Did you have to leave anything out that you really wanted to include?

TF: There's always so much more I'd love to include in all of my books! Believe it or not, Eleanor's journey was filled with even more exciting incidents, including a threatened mutiny that I simply couldn't include. I would have also loved to have included more details about Donald McKay, the builder of the Flying Cloud, and the ship-building process, but perhaps that's material for another book!

Thanks so much for your interest in Dare the Wind!

Thank you, Tracey! I loved sharing this story with students, and hearing their reactions. Eleanor was definitely a force to be reckoned with!

For more information, definitely check out Tracey's website. Illustration copyright © 2013 by Emily Arnold McCully, shared by permission from the publisher. The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Margaret Ferguson Books, Farrar Straus Giroux, an imprint of Macmillan Books. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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47. Peanut Butter and Jellyfish, by Jarrett J. Krosoczka (ages 3-6)

Sometimes my kids ask for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich because they are just craving comfort food. Jarrett Krosoczka's newest picture book, Peanut Butter and Jellyfish, is exactly like that -- comforting, a little gooey and certainly sweet. Reach for it if you're in the mood for something that will make you smile.

Peanut Butter and Jellyfish
by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2014
your local library
Amazon
ages 3-6
Best friends Peanut Butter and Jellyfish love to swim up, down and around--all over their ocean home. But every time they swim past Crabby, he shouts out something mean to them, like: “What a bunch of bubbleheads!” or “You guys smell like rotten barnacles!” What is it with that guy? More importantly, what should these two happy friends do about it?
Best of friends who spent their days exploring...
When Crabby gets caught in a lobster trap, Peanut Butter and Jellyfish have to decide whether they're going to reach out to help him. Krosoczka's story touches just the right notes, creating empathy and suspense along the way. His artwork is bright and cheerful, with lots of kid appeal.

I know many families will enjoy this as they snuggle up for a story at the end of the day. Lovely comfort food, and without the sticky mess! Enjoy this delightful trailer:



Illustration copyright ©2014 by Jarrett J. Krosoczka. The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Knopf Books for Young Readers / Random House. 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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48. The Unwanteds, by Lisa McMann -- student review (ages 9-12)

CYRM Awards
Our book club has been reading the books nominated as part of the California Young Reader Medal awards. Each year, students across California vote on their favorite of thee nominated books.

Our book club tries to take this beyond a popularity contest and practice evaluating the books we read thoughtfully. We talk about how well each book develops characters, plot, setting, and theme. We talk about the language, the pacing and the emotions in each book.

Here's a review by one member, Emily S. I'm hoping we have more reviews to come!

The Unwanteds, by Lisa McMann
review by Emily S.

Recently I’ve been reading the California Young Reader Medal books that have been nominated this year. Recently I’ve finished The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann. This book is filled with excitement, adventure, twists, magic, and surprises.

The book is about a thirteen year old boy named Alex Stowe. Alex is creative he is good at drawing usually that is a good thing, but in Quill the town Alex lives in creativity is a way to get sent to your grave. Alex gets sent to his grave awaiting his death. But to his surprise a eccentric magician named Mr. Today saves Alex and the other Unwanteds.

I like this book because it is filled with fantasy creatures, surprises, twists, excitement, magic, and adventure. Something that I think could improve is the beginning. A few people say that the beginning is boring or dull, because it doesn’t have much excitement in the beginning. In fact it made me a tiny bit impatient because many people told me it was exciting. If you read the beginning and think that it is boring or dull try reading to page 25 and then see how you like the book.

In conclusion this book is a great book especially if you like the Hunger Games, Harry Potter or other fantasy books about magic.

I like this book trailer made by Mrs. Bunda's class:



Thanks, Emily! It was really interesting to hear your opinion about this book. The pacing in a book is so important. It isn't easy to establish strong characters, but also hook readers right from the beginning. Thank you for your thoughtful review.

The Unwanteds
by Lisa McMann
Aladdin / Simon & Schuster, 2011
Amazon
your local library
ages 9-12

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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49. Firefly July: A year of very short poems, selected by Paul B. Janeczko (ages 5-10)

I adore poetry--hooray for National Poetry Month! I love the amazing tumbling, turning and twisting that poets do with words. I marvel at the layered meanings in poems, and I have so much fun with the silliness of other poems. The only the I have such trouble with is memorizing poems. So imagine my delight when I read a whole book of poems just right for me to try to remember!
Firefly July
A year of very short poems
selected by Paul B. Janeczko
illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Candlewick, 2014
*best new book*
your local library
Amazon
ages 5-10
This picture book balances poetry and illustrations in a lovely way, so that children from preschool through upper elementary can linger over each page. Paul Janeczko has selected 36 poems to reflect our four seasons, and Melissa Sweet illustrates each poem, balancing literal and figurative meanings in ways that help children understand the poems fully. Take this lovely poem
"The Island", by Lillian Morrison
At first glance, this is just a peaceful picture of an island on a summer's day. But Sweet's illustration helps young children understand how "wrinkled stone" might indeed look "like an elephant's skin." As the Horn Book says, "Sweet's expansive mixed-media illustrations -- loosely rendered, collage-like assemblages in seasonal palettes -- are just detailed enough to clarify meaning without intruding on young imaginations."

Sweet includes children in so many of her illustrations. Do you see the young child looking out at the island? It's a small detail, but just enough for a young child to put themselves in the scene, to imagine being their on a summer's day. Take a look at the picture below, and notice how Sweet includes children just as silhouettes -- letting the fireflies take center stage, but inviting children to be part of the poem as well.
"Firefly July" by J. Patrick Lewis
I absolutely agree with five starred reviews Firefly July has received! This is a delightful collection that children will enjoy returning to time and again. My sense is that this collection will captivate children from kindergarten through fourth grade, precisely because poetry can be read on so many different levels. For other reviews, check out Betsy Bird's review on SLJ's Fuse #8, and Anita Silvey's post on The Children's Book-a-Day Almanac.

Illustration copyright ©2014 by Melissa Sweet. The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Candlewick Press. 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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50. Words with Wings, by Nikki Grimes -- powerful novel in verse (ages 9-12)

Kaiyah C., a fourth grader at Emerson, came to me last week asking to write a review of Nikki Grimes' Words With Wings. You have to know that it takes something special for a kid to ASK to write a review. This book is truly special, and it has found a home in Kaiyah's heart.
Words with Wings
by Nikki Grimes
WordSong, 2013
2014 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award
your local library
Amazon
ages 9-12
Review of Word with Wings
by: Kaiyah C.

I just read Words with Wings by Nikki Grimes and I really liked this book because I related to Gabby (Gabriella). We both daydream to keep our lives/minds magical so we can throw all our ideas out and put it on paper.

Gabby especially daydreams when her parents are fighting. This helps her forget. Gabby and her mom are very different. Gabby’s favorite word is pretend and her mom’s is practical . Gabby is just like her dad. Sometimes Gabby’s mom stops her from daydreaming because she does not want her to be just like her dad. In the end Gabby becomes an author and her mom starts daydreaming too.

I enjoyed reading this book because of the way it was written in poetry. I think you would especially like it if you daydream. It would be awesome if we could have 15 minutes of daydreaming, just like Gabby’s teacher told her to do. But I don’t think that will really happen for us. This was a really heartwarming book.

This was the best book I’ve ever read.
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I think Kaiyah will be interested in reading Ms. Grimes' reflections on her own childhood and the importance of daydreaming to her personally, over at the Teaching Books blog. Ms. Grimes writes:
Daydreaming becomes a strong muscle if you exercise it often enough. By the time I was ten, I could lasso a daydream and ride the wind. Who wouldn’t want to do that?
There were no lassos where I grew up in the inner city, of course, but there were daydreams to be had, if you knew where to look. That’s the secret I shared with Gabriella, the main character in Words with Wings (Wordsong, 2013). Like Gabby, I was a girl who lived inside her head.
- See more at: Teaching Books blog
Thank you, Nikki Grimes, for writing such wonderfully powerful stories that speak to my students. Thank you, Kaiyah, for such a heartfelt response to Words With Wings.

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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