What is JacketFlap

  • JacketFlap connects you to the work of more than 200,000 authors, illustrators, publishers and other creators of books for Children and Young Adults. The site is updated daily with information about every book, author, illustrator, and publisher in the children's / young adult book industry. Members include published authors and illustrators, librarians, agents, editors, publicists, booksellers, publishers and fans.
    Join now (it's free).

Sort Blog Posts

Sort Posts by:

  • in
    from   

Suggest a Blog

Enter a Blog's Feed URL below and click Submit:

Most Commented Posts

In the past 7 days

Recent Posts

(from Great Kid Books)

Recent Comments

MyJacketFlap Blogs

  • Login or Register for free to create your own customized page of blog posts from your favorite blogs. You can also add blogs by clicking the "Add to MyJacketFlap" links next to the blog name in each post.

Blog Posts by Tag

In the past 30 days

Blog Posts by Date

Click days in this calendar to see posts by day or month
new posts in all blogs
Viewing Blog: Great Kid Books, Most Recent at Top
Results 26 - 50 of 867
Visit This Blog | Login to Add to MyJacketFlap
Blog Banner
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.
Statistics for Great Kid Books

Number of Readers that added this blog to their MyJacketFlap: 8
26. Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It, by Gail Carson Levine: poetry with snarky humor perfect for tweens (ages 8 - 10)

It seems utterly perfect to start our celebration of National Poetry Month on April Fools Day with a collection of poems that will get kids laughing and sharing: Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It. It isn't politically correct. It isn't always nice. But it will get kids snickering and reading and wanting more. Share this snarky book with 4th and 5th graders, hand them a set of post-its, and ask them to mark their favorites.

Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It: False Apology Poemsby Gail Carson Levineillustrated by Matthew CordellHarperCollins, 2012
your local libraryAmazonages 8-10
This is just to say, open this book at your own risk. You'll find sarcastic takes on classic fairy tales. You'll find brothers being mean to sisters. You'll find authors sneering at their editors. But share it with the right kids, and you'll see them marking pages, showing friends and reading them again and again.

Each poem starts with a simple statement. There's no denying the wrong-doing.
I have eaten
your hot fudge
sundae
and the cherry on top
Then describe the effects. Show your point of view. Be blunt. But try to see what someone else's perspective might be.
which
I thoughtfully
replaced
with anchovies
End the last stanza with "Forgive me" but know that this is a false apology. You're really not sorry at all. And your reader knows it.
Forgive me
I gave three spoonfuls
of ice cream
to the cat
Add in Matthew Cordell's line drawings, and kids will be laughing and sharing.

I have to be honest. The first time I read this book, I didn't really get it. But when I shared it with kids, that's when I realized the true value of it. They had to read it with friends. They started debating which poem was best. They immediately got point of view, connected it to their experiences, and wanted more.
Snow White gets tired of the dwarves ("you snore/ pick your noses/ never take a bath") and runs off with the evil witch. Kids call up a genie and put parents behind bars ("Forgive me/ time-out and grounded / and other unpleasant phrases/ can no longer be uttered").

Pure magic, in my view. And especially best shared on April Fools Day. Don't you think? For other reviews, check out Franki's at A Year of Reading, Betsy's at Fuse #8.

Poetry ©2012 by Gail Carson Levine, illustrations ©2012 by Matthew Cordell; used with permission from the publisher. 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.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

0 Comments on Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It, by Gail Carson Levine: poetry with snarky humor perfect for tweens (ages 8 - 10) as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
27. Celebrating National Poetry Month 2016

This April marks the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month, and I am looking forward to celebrating it with friends near and far. It's been a difficult winter, and I've taken much needed time to focus on my family. Now that spring is bursting into bloom and we are on the mend, I'm happy to share books here once again.


How do you share poems with children? Do you have any advice to share? Here are my five top rules to go by:

1. Keep it short and share poetry often. Dip in and don't over-analyze. Enjoy what a poem has to offer and move on. Help kids see that there are all sorts of poems, and they get to choose the ones that they like. Maybe it's funny poems, maybe it's ones that twist a phrase unexpectedly, maybe it's poems with strong rhythm and rhyme that really sing to them.

2. Read poetry aloud. Share poetry by reading it aloud, for it was originally created as a spoken art. Encourage kids to read aloud poems they like. Read poems more than once -- showing kids that they might hear something new a second time around. If they complain, ask them if they listen to a favorite song only one time or over and over again.

3. Make it visual. I love poetry picture books for the way that illustrations add dimension to poetry. Take this idea and apply it to the way tweens and teens can appreciate poetry--sharing illustrated poems that speak to them. Some of the best projects I've seen are those where kids take or choose photographs to go with poetry. For a treasure-trove of examples, look at printable poems and poem pocket-cards from Pomelo Books.

4. Create connections. Poetry is both personal and communal. It can be a very private experience or a shared one. Help children make meaning to their own lives by sharing poetry that connects to their own life experiences.

5. Celebrate the power of poetry. Find a way to honor the power of poetry. Host a poetry slam. Encourage kids to create poetry movies or slideshows. Make a poetry wall with short quotes from favorite poems. Participate in Poem In Your Pocket Day. Re-read your favorite collection of poems or discover a new poet.

All month, I'll be sharing favorite poetry books and resources that inspire kids. It's good to be back. I look forward to connecting and sharing books for kids with this community of children's book lovers.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

0 Comments on Celebrating National Poetry Month 2016 as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
28. Newsela: Engaging news stories for kids, with adjustable reading levels (ages 8-14)

Splashy news headlines can grab our attention, but it's crucial that we engage kids with deeper thinking about current events. Whether it's prompting dinner-table discussions or classroom debates, current events provide so many avenues for kids to question, think and discover. One of my favorite sources is Newsela. Here are my top 5 reasons why I recommend Newsela for kids, teachers and families:

1. Engaging content, easy to search

Newsela consistently engages kids with its content. They have a terrific sense of what kids will be interested in and yet they never underestimate kids' ability to think about big issues. They balance fun articles (Jedi lightsaber exercise class) with hard-hitting news (Flint, Michigan water pollution crisis). And they use great photos to draw kids in.

It's easy to search for specific topics or browse general interest areas--and this encourages kids to figure out what interests them, to discover the news that matters. I also love that there's a dedicated site for elementary kids, recognizing that some articles are better for younger kids than others.
screenshot of "latest news" from Newsela 1.22.15
2. Adjustable reading levels for every article

Kids can select the right reading level for them, adjusting the article with an easy click. Nonfiction is harder for many kids to read, especially current events about topics that are new to them. Newsela lets kids read an article at an easier level, with simpler sentences and less complicated vocabulary. They can read, change the level and re-read the same article. Kids with different reading levels can read and discuss the same article but at a level just right for each kid.
Kids can easily adjust the reading level
3. Easy ways to personalize & save content

We all like personalizing our reading experience. Kids sign up for free Newsela accounts--at school, I recommend that they use their school Google account to automatically sign in.  Newsela lets readers mark which articles they like and recommends other articles on a similar subject.

Teachers love the annotation features. Kids can highlight and annotate articles, saving their thoughts for later. This makes it great for prompting deeper thinking, discussions and further writing about articles. This feature promotes active reading, helping kids focus on main ideas and engage with the material. It's so easy to use that I have found kids enjoy it.
annotations made with a 5th grade class
4. Quizzes help kids check understanding

While I am not a fan of multiple-choice quizzes, I actually think these quizzes help kids check their understanding of the article. They also let kids practice taking this type of quiz in a low-stress environment. This helps them practice just the sorts of questions that will be on state tests, but helps them keep a growth mindset--noticing how they get better as they practice more.

5. Text sets encourage kids to broaden thinking

I love the way that Newsela editors are creating text sets to encourage kids to read more broadly. Some recent examples include text sets on animal ethics, bullying, and pollution. Teachers will especially like the PRO/CON text set to support students' persuasive writing.

Newsela App

And now, it's even easier to use at home with your mobile device--Newsela has just released its app for iPads and iPhones. See this Newsela blog article for more information. I've only just started testing this, but I like it already. It's easy to check the most recent news, and it's also easy to search for specific topics. I love the way readers can easily change the reading level on the app -- very well designed.
If you're looking for a way to engage kids with the news, definitely check out Newsela. I'd recommend the Newsela Elementary site for grades 3-5, and the regular site for grades 6 and up. I have only used the free site, and I hope that it continues to provide robust access for general free users.

We use both the free and PRO site in our school district. My daughter's 6th grade teacher uses the PRO subscription site and really likes the additional data he gathers. For families and many classrooms, the free site is a terrific resource. 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

0 Comments on Newsela: Engaging news stories for kids, with adjustable reading levels (ages 8-14) as of 1/25/2016 3:08:00 AM
Add a Comment
29. Honoring & celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in the library (ages 6-10)

We celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day on the 3rd Monday of January by honoring the life and legacy of the man who brought hope and healing to America. Here are some resources you may find helpful in talking about this great man’s life and contributions with young children.


I Have a Dream, by Martin Luther King, Jr. and illustrated by Kadir Nelson. This book is a powerful way to share Dr. King's famous speech at the March on Washington. Kadir Nelson's paintings are not only a moving tribute, they provide a way for children to reflect on the meaning of King's words. A CD is included with a recording of Dr. King's speech.


Martin’s Big Words, by Dorreen Rappaport, illustrated by Brian Collier. This picture book biography is an excellent way to introduce children to Dr. King's life and work. I love the way Rappaport weaves quotes from Dr. King throughout the story, giving readers a real sense of the power of his words.

Martin & Mahalia: His Words, Her Song, by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney. When Dr. King gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech at the March on Washington, he asked gospel singer Mahalia Jackson to sing for the crowd, to lift their spirits, to inspire them with her voice. This picture book tells the story of both Martin and Mahalia, as they each found their passions and their voices. Part picture book biography, part story of a historic moment--this is an evocative picture book.

We Shall Overcome: The Story of a Song, by Debbie Levy, illusrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. The song "We Shall Overcome" became an anthem of the Civil Rights Movement, but it has gone on to represent the fight for equality and freedom around the world. This picture book tells the history of the song, from its beginnings in America's harsh times of slavery through gospel songs of the early 20th century, to the protest movements of the 1960s.

Websites and online resources:
  • The King Center is both a traditional memorial and an active nonprofit committed to the causes for which Dr. King lived and died. Browse the digital archives; have students reflect on quotes.
  • I Have a Dream speech (audio only)
  • Time for Kids: One Dream -- 17 people remember the March on Washington. Time for Kids has an excellent mini-site dedicated to honoring Dr. King's work and legacy. I particularly like the One Dream video, with reflections of people including Representative John Lewis, Clarence Jones (speechwriter for Dr. King), Joan Baez and many others.
  • History.com: Martin Luther King, Jr. Leads the March on Washington This is a good, short video that explains the context of the March on Washington and its political message, but please preview because some of the scenes are intense.
As our communities struggle with the impact of racism near and far, it is important that we take time in our families and in our classrooms to reflect on Dr. King's message. I am inspired by the work of the artists and authors who share that message through their own work. And I am inspired by the thoughts my students have shared this week as they reflect on their hopes and dreams for a more just, more peaceful, more equitable society.

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.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

0 Comments on Honoring & celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in the library (ages 6-10) as of 1/15/2016 3:07:00 AM
Add a Comment
30. 2016 Mock Newbery, part 4: Mad Brownie + Pip Bartlett (ages 8-11)

Kids ask for funny books all the time, but the Newbery Committee does not often honor books that kids find as truly funny. I try to honor that in the books we consider for our Mock Newbery discussions. Many have speculated that this is because humor is so subjective, but I would argue that it is more because kids value humor so much more than adults. Many kids would prefer book with lots of humor and perhaps less weighty themes.

The Diary of a Mad Brownie
by Bruce Coville
Random House, 2015
Google Books preview
audiobook (Audible)
Your local library
Amazon
ages 8-11
A tiny magical creature known as a brownie, Angus Cairns is bound by a family curse to serve the youngest female in the McGonagall line. As the story opens, he must travel from Scotland to America to find Alex Carhart, the great-great-great-niece of his recent mistress. Brownies excel at putting things in order, and this could be a huge help to young Alex--except that she and Angus both have feisty tempers that often get in their way.

My students loved the humor in this story. They talked about the magical creatures with delight, saying they were well developed and came alive.
"It was so so funny." -- Kimani
"Super funny!!" -- Cavaeyah
I had so much fun listening to the audiobook for this story. Euon Morton especially brought Angus to life, with his terrific Scots accent. I would argue that Coville's use of language is outstanding, especially creating Angus' voice. Just look at how Angus describes Alex: She's a "disorderly, messy, negligent, slapdash, untidy, unfastidious, unsanitary creator of disorder," (as quoted in the PW Review).
Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures
by Jackson Pearce and Maggie Stiefvater
Scholastic, 2015
Google Books preview
Your local library
Amazon
ages 8-11
Magical animals also infuse Pip Bartlett's world, and she relishes her special ability to talk with them. She can't wait to spend the summer with her aunt, who's a vet for magical animals. But disaster seems to strike around every corner for Pip, whether it's the unicorns stampeding at a school fair, or Fuzzles catching fire as they hide in people's underwear drawers.
"I like this book because I really like the magical creatures and I want a unicorn now." -- Josselin
Students definitely liked this for the magical creatures, but they also recommended it to friends who like funny books. Pearce and Stiefvater create many laughs from both the situations Pip finds herself in, and from the outlandish behavior of some of the animals. As students talked about the story, they started to notice the growth in Pip's character.
"Pip really learns how to connect to the magical animals, and not just talk to them." -- McKenna
Both of these books are the beginnings of new series for established authors. My students are definitely looking forward to the next installments, both scheduled to be published in October.

The review copies were kindly sent by the publishers, Random House and Scholastic, but we have also purchased additional copies for 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.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

0 Comments on 2016 Mock Newbery, part 4: Mad Brownie + Pip Bartlett (ages 8-11) as of 1/8/2016 2:46:00 AM
Add a Comment
31. 2016 Mock Newbery, part 3: Enchanted Air & Fish in a Tree (ages 9-13)

We read to get to know other characters, but at the same time we read to get to know ourselves. Some of my students really want to get inside and feel what the characters in books are going through. Enchanted Air and Fish in a Tree appealed to readers who like heartfelt, emotional stories.

Enchanted Air
Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir
by Margarita Engle
Atheneum / Simon & Schuster, 2015
Google Books preview
Your local library
Amazon
ages 10-14
In this memoir in verse, poet and novelist Margarita Engle writes about her childhood growing up in Los Angeles and visiting her grandmother in Cuba. My students talked about how they felt that Engle almost had a twin living a whole life in each country, that she had twin homes--feeling at home both in Cuba and in the United States. Her heart was in both places.

Although this is a very touching story, some students felt that it was too slow. The plot didn't hook them, and so I think it was harder for them to connect to the character and her emotions. I wonder if this is a book better appreciated by a slightly older reader, or one that would benefit from more discussion with a group so students can unpack some of the ideas about immigration, identity and home.
Fish in a Tree
by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Nancy Paulsen / Penguin, 2015
Google Books preview
Your local library
Amazon
ages 9-12
Aly Nickerson has changed schools nearly every year: seven schools in the past seven years. With each new teacher, she acts out and dodges questions to cover up the fact that she cannot read. Letters and words dance on the page. Aly's confusion and anger touched my students, but it was really her journey that made them recommend this to friends with earnest enthusiasm.
"I thought that the characters were strong because I felt what they felt. The author could evoke their feelings." -- Rebecca
student responses (click to enlarge)
Students talked right away about how Lynda Mullaly Hunt helped them understand the range of Aly's complex emotions, feeling empathy but never pity. Aly's friends were all interesting, distinct characters. While adults might wonder why Aly's previous teachers never noticed her dyslexia, my students just loved her relationship with Mr. Daniels.
"I like how the book showed that just because you are different doesn't mean you can't shine." -- Norah
This is a book that will continue to touch students for years to come.

The review copies were kindly sent by the publishers, Simon & Schuster and Penguin, but we have also purchased additional copies for 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.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

0 Comments on 2016 Mock Newbery, part 3: Enchanted Air & Fish in a Tree (ages 9-13) as of 1/8/2016 2:46:00 AM
Add a Comment
32. 2016 Mock Newbery, part 2: Bayou Magic & Chasing Secrets (ages 8-12)

Kids who are excited by a book love telling their friends about it. And the honest truth is that they listen to their friends much more than they listen to adults. But often kids start rambling too much as they summarize the story.

Our Mock Newbery discussions have helped kids focus on what really makes a story good--what aspect of the story grabbed them. Today's books have definitely created "book buzz" at Emerson: Bayou Magic and Chasing Secrets.

This summer is Maddy's turn to visit her grandmother; each summer, Grandmére sends for one of her grandchildren, asking that they spend the summer with her in the Louisiana bayou. Maddy's older sisters warn her that Grandmére is strange, a witch, and very strict, but Maddy develops a special relationship with her and realizes that she feels at home in the bayou. In fact, Maddy senses that she has a special power to feel things, to hear things like her grandmother does.
student responses (click to enlarge)
Students loved the way Jewell Parker Rhodes describes the setting--it brought them right into feeling like they were in the bayou. But I think it's more than that; Rhodes helps them see the bayou through Maddy's eyes. She's a newcomer, but one with an innate sense of the magic in the bayou. Several commented about how many sensory details they noticed in the book. You knew how Grandmére smelled, how the hot air felt on your skin, how the light sparkled through the trees.
"I love this book so much because it feels like I'm in the book." -- Meleia
Maddy becomes good friends with Bear, a young boy who lives near her grandmother. Rhodes skillfully develops the plot, as Bear helps Maddy search for the elusive mermaid she is sure she's seen, sticking by her when all logic would say she's imagining it. And this friendship helps her believe in herself and trust her intuition, her sense of family magic as an environmental disaster is about to strike.
Chasing Secrets
by Gennifer Choldenko
Wendy Lamb / Random House, 2015
Your local library
Amazon
ages 9-12
*best new book*
Choldenko weaves a plot with plenty of action and suspense, full of historical details but never weighed down with too many details. San Francisco in 1900 was a growing city full of wealth from railroads and the Gold Rush, but it was also a city marred by discrimination against the Chinese American community. In the midst of this, the city leaders try to cover up an outbreak of the plague, and then try to show they are handling it by quarantining Chinatown.
student responses (click to enlarge)
Lizzie can't stand all the expectations for her to act like a lady, prim and proper, when she really wants to become a doctor just like her father. Right away readers get a sense of just how different medical care was at the turn of the 20th century when Lizzie accompanies her father on a house call.
"I really admired how Lizzie wanted to be a doctor and how being a doctor was more of a man's job. She spent all of her free time reading about diseases and sicknesses, and cures. Eventurally, the plague comes and she uses everything she knows to help her family." -- Amelie
The plot is full of twists and turns, as Lizzie overhears her uncle's newspapermen colleagues talking about the plague. When Jing, the cook for Lizzie's family, fails to return home, she sets out to help him. Choldenko's steady pacing kept students interested in the mystery, as the story built to an exciting climax.
"I loved how the plot was very sophisticated, but in a way where there are a lot of little parts to find out what the end would be. In lots of other books, you can figure out the end." -- Talia
Both of these books create a specific setting and characters, so students could create a movie in their mind and imagine being right there alongside the main character. It's interesting that both of these stories are told from the first person perspective, and this helps many young readers step into the shoes of the main character. It will be interesting to see what kids think about the secondary characters in these stories, whether they feel fully developed as individual, distinct people.

The review copies were kindly sent by the publishers, Little, Brown and Random House, but we have also purchased additional copies for 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.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

0 Comments on 2016 Mock Newbery, part 2: Bayou Magic & Chasing Secrets (ages 8-12) as of 1/7/2016 3:48:00 AM
Add a Comment
33. 2016 Mock Newbery, part 1: All the Answers + Appleblossom the Possom (ages 8-12)

Our 4th and 5th grade Mock Newbery Book Club meets on Thursday for final discussions & voting. This week, I'll share my students' thoughts on each nominated titles (see this post for our full list). Special thanks goes to Armin Arethna, our fantastic Berkeley Public Library colleague who is a vital part of our book club--what a terrific school-public library collaboration and friendship!

As we discuss books, we start out by sharing what we like about them. We only have two or three copies of each title, so kids are reading different books all the time. We have lunch together and share about what we've been reading. If someone raves about a book, their friends start clamoring to check it out next. This "book buzz" is the best thing ever!

As more kids read a book, I start guiding the discussion a little deeper--prompting students to think about the criteria that the Newbery Committee examines, using this poster:

Students talk about these different aspects of a book in their classes, so they are able to apply them here when we start comparing books. Just like with the right committee, they end up with a few favorites and then have a terrible time deciding on which one to vote for!
All the Answers
by Kate Messner
Bloomsbury, 2015
Your local library
Amazon
ages 9-12
*best new book*
My students *loved* this novel: a realistic friendship story touched with just a bit of magic. Ava is a worrier; whether it's homework or a test or her family, she gets anxious. Math tests are the worst. One day when Ava finds a pencil at the back of her junk drawer, she starts doing her math homework just like normal--but it turns into anything but normal when the pencil starts talking to her, telling the answers to any question she writes down.

This book spread through our 4th and 5th graders, getting passed from one friend to the next. Our two copies were checked out over 30 times in just 3 months! In the poster below, you can see how many kids wanted to share their thoughts. Right away students talked about how much they would like a pencil that told them the answers to test questions. But soon, they started reflecting on the characters, plot and themes.
As Kalia wrote, "The characters were really good." Josselin added right away how she enjoyed the characters (the Pencil and Ava). As we started talking more, students noticed how much Ava changed during the course of the novel, growing stronger and more self-assured. They realized how much they related to Ava, her worries and her dilemmas.
"I admired how Ava only used the pencil for good, not evil." -- Amelie
"I felt sad when she was sad, and I felt happy when she was happy." -- Gwen
Talking about these books, digging into them together really deepens all of our appreciation for the author's craft. Just look at what Norah wrote on our poster -- and remember that this is after she's been talking about it with her friends and classmates for two months.
"I also really liked how the author created Ava. Ava worried a bit about everything. So when you first think about her, you think oh Ava is not that strong. She's just a scaredy-cat that needs all the answers. But when you think about her more deeply, you realize, wow, Ava was very strong.  Like if you had a pencil with all the answers, would you be able to get rid of it? Would you be able to realize sometimes it is better not knowing?" -- Norah
In contrast, while students reported liking Appleblossom the Possom, it wasn't a book that kids shared much about. Two students liked it enough to nominate it, but it never created that "book buzz".
Appleblossom the Possom
by Holly Goldberg Sloan
illustrated by Gary A. Rosen
Dial / Penguin, 2015
Your local library
Amazon
ages 8-12
Like for all young possums, there comes a day when Appleblossom has to venture out on her own and find her way in the world. In many ways, exploring the world is exciting for a curious youngster--but it quickly turned frightening for Appleblossom when she fell down a chimney and was trapped inside a human family's house.

Holly Goldberg Sloan creates an immediacy in the nighttime setting as seen from a possum's perspective, and she adds a humorous element by emphasizing the dramatic tendencies of possums as they learn how to "play dead". The story is full of adventure as Appleblossom's brothers work to rescue their sister.

I'm not quite sure why students didn't talk about this as much. Perhaps they found the dramatic asides to be overbearing, or perhaps Appleblossom didn't change enough to be satisfying for them. But it could also be that kids who like animal fantasies didn't come to our book club because they didn't find other animal fantasies to read. I was fascinated by the contrast between this book and Holly Goldberg Sloan's previous novel, Counting by 7s, which my students really responded to and nominated for our 2014 Mock Newbery.

Review copies were sent by the publishers, Bloomsbury and Penguin, and copies were also purchased for 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.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

0 Comments on 2016 Mock Newbery, part 1: All the Answers + Appleblossom the Possom (ages 8-12) as of 1/6/2016 1:58:00 AM
Add a Comment
34. Roller Girl, by Victoria Jamieson -- the bumpy road of adolescent friendships (ages 9-13)

It's no secret that my students love graphic novels, but many parents and teachers are still reluctant to see these as stories worth reading. Yet I would argue that Roller Girl presents a compelling story with interesting, well-developed characters who struggle with friendship issues -- and does so better than many of the more traditional novels I've read this year.

Astrid and her best friend Nicole have been best friends since 1st grade, but things begin to change as they head toward middle school. When Astrid's mom takes them to see a roller derby match, Astrid thinks it's the coolest thing ever--the players looked really tough, with weird hair, crazy names and creepy makeup. When she sees a flyer announcing a summer camp, Astrid knows she just has to go -- she is totally determined to become a roller girl.
Life isn't so neat and simple. Even though they've always done everything together, Nicole decides to go to ballet camp instead of roller derby camp. Astrid doesn't let this sway her, and heads off to roller derby camp on her own. The summer is full of ups and downs, twists and turns as Astrid navigates friendship issues and learns how to play roller derby.

Jamieson creates characters who are likable but flawed in a way that rang true with me. Astrid is strong and determined, but she jumps to conclusions at times -- and ends up coming close to ruining friendships as a result. When she grows apart from Nicole, she assumes that mean-girl Rachel is going to take her place. I especially liked the way that Jamieson shows the complexities of friendship and avoids a sugar-sweet ending. 

Learning how to play roller derby takes grit and determination. Astrid falls down time and time again. But she's inspired by her hero Rainbow Bite, who encourages her to practice and practice if she wants to get playing time. Throughout, Jamieson weaves themes of determination, honesty and friendship without overpowering the plot or making it feel didactic.

Today we discussed Roller Girl and 8 other books in the Heavy Medal Mock Newbery discussion. The rules for the Newbery Award instruct committee members to focus on the words and not the pictures--and so for many years I had considered graphic novels difficult to consider in the same way as other books. But today I had the realization that I want to look at the whole book that the author has created. 

The Newbery rules (see the Newbery terms and criteria online) instruct committee members to consider the following criteria: theme, information, plot, characters, setting and style. And so I want to start encouraging my students to think about graphic novels in terms of these criteria as well. In my view, Roller Girl is distinguished in the way it presents themes for children as they transition from childhood to adolescence. The roller derby setting is exciting, thoroughly developed and compelling. The characters are fully developed in nuanced, authentic ways. I want to focus on the overall story, as I read and talk about books with children, instead of just trying to focus on the words.

As I reflect on this story, I am reminded of the power of talking about books. We grow through our chance to share and reflect together. I entered today's discussion liking Roller Girl, but unsure how to compare it to other books. Today's discussion helps me see why my students return again and again to books like Raina Telgemeier's Smile and Kazu Kibuishi's Amulet series. It isn't just their visual appeal, it's their overall literary appeal as stories that speak to children in powerful ways.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Dial / Penguin. 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

0 Comments on Roller Girl, by Victoria Jamieson -- the bumpy road of adolescent friendships (ages 9-13) as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
35. The Nutcracker: a holiday tradition (ages 4-10)

Going to see The Nutcracker ballet is a special holiday tradition for many families. These two picture books celebrate the classic story in different ways: a beautiful retelling and a look at how this ballet came to be a holiday tradition.

The Nutcracker
by Susan Jeffers
HarperCollins, 2007
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-8
Set in Victorian times, this large picture book version of the Nutcracker is a beautiful, lush introduction to the story and the ballet. Jeffer's illustrations bring alive a sense of wonder and enchantment, with their romantic, detail-rich scenes.
"'Come,' said the Prince. They walked through falling snowflakes to a waiting boat that flew them through the night."
Jeffers captures the story with just a few lines of text per page, allowing children to savor the illustrations as the ballet comes to life in their imaginations.

In The Nutcracker Comes to America, we learn that this holiday tradition actually started with the San Francisco Ballet after World War II.
The Nutcracker Comes to America
How Three Ballet Loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition
by Chris Barton
illustrated by Cathy Gendron
Millbrook, 2015
Your local library
Amazon
ages 6-10
When the three Christensen brothers learned ballet, they not only fell in love with dance, they also loved the show-stopping way it entranced audiences. Fast forward to 1940s when the brothers were in charge of the San Francisco Ballet, searching for a big production that would draw in crowds and they staged the first American full-length production of what was soon to become an American tradition.
"After the closing number 'Waltz of the Flowers,' two hundred or so dance students and young musicians got a standing ovation from the crowd. Willam would remember that response."
This well-researched history helps children see that what we love as classics today were actually the result of hard work and inspiration by real people.

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

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

0 Comments on The Nutcracker: a holiday tradition (ages 4-10) as of 12/28/2015 11:50:00 AM
Add a Comment
36. Around the world--sharing with children a sense of global community (ages 4-9)

As our news is filled with global and local conflict, I wonder about how to share a sense of our global community with our young children. Their experiences are rooted in their immediate surroundings. So how do we share a sense that things are similar for children in other parts of the world?


Two beautiful picture books help young children think about how our experiences are similar but different, without being didactic. Instead, they draw children into observing and reflecting other family's moments in the same day.
How the Sun Got to Coco's House
by Bob Graham
Candlewick, 2015
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-8
The moon peeks in through Coco's window as her parents tuck her into bed, but on the other side of the world the sun is rising over a polar bear family. The sun is busy already, lighting the way for a fishing boat, catching the eye of a great whale, "making shadows on the snow and in Jung Su's footsteps." 
"It balanced out on the wing--just for young Lovejoy, off to visit his grandma."

Readers follow the sun from one brief moment to another, watching the rising sun crest over a yurt and bounce off the tip of an airplane. As readers wonder what has happened to Coco, they turn the page and "the winter sun barged straight through Coco's window!" 
"It followed her down the hall,
made itself quite at home on her mom and dad's bed,
and joined them for breakfast."
Throughout, Bob Graham varies the perspective--taking readers close up to some children's lives and looking down from up high at others. The story ends by gradually pulling back on the view of Coco playing outside on a winter's day with her friends, helping readers see her small, immediate world in a larger context of her factory town.

French artist and author Clotilde Perrin follows one point in time across different time zones across the globe, in the striking picture book At the Same Moment, Around the World.
At the Same Moment, Around the World
by Clotilde Perrin
Chronicle, 2014
Your local library
Amazon
ages 5-9
This story begins in Dakar, Senegal at six o'clock in the morning, as Keita helps his father count the fish caught during night. Following eastward, Perrin moves around the globe. “At the same moment,” it is 7 a.m. in Paris and Benedict is drinking his hot chocolate before school--while it is 8 a.m. in Bulgaria and Mitko is chasing the school bus. Each spread shows two time zones, emphasizing the point that these are happening at the same moment.
"At the same moment, in Hanoi, Vietnam, it is one o'clock in the afternoon, and Khahn takes a nap despite the noise outside.
At the same moment, in Shanghai, China, it is two o'clock in the afternoon, and Chen practices for the Lunar New Year parade."
Perrin's artwork is full of small details and drama, including some darker moments--lending complexity to the simple prose. A foldout world map in the end helps readers locate each place and names all these children.

The review copies were kindly sent by the publishers, Candlewick and Chronicle. 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.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

0 Comments on Around the world--sharing with children a sense of global community (ages 4-9) as of 12/24/2015 4:33:00 PM
Add a Comment
37. So You Want to Be a Jedi? : an original retelling of Star Wars--the Empire Strikes Back, by Adam Gidwitz (ages 9-12)

Tonight we're having a family movie night, all going to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens and I've had a great few days anticipating this, reading So You Want to Be a Jedi?an original retelling of Star Wars: the Empire Strikes Back, by one of my favorite storytellers Adam Gidwitz (see here for our fantastic author visit). If your kids are excited by the new Star Wars movie and like books full of action, they'll have fun diving head first into this book.

So You Want to Be a Jedi?
an original retelling of Star Wars: the Empire Strikes Back
by Adam Gidwitz
Disney / LucasFilm Press, 2015
preview on Google Books
your local library
Amazon
ages 9-12
Kids will love this story's action and adventure, even if they already know how it's going to turn out in the end. Gidwitz brings readers right into the story by making the reader step into Luke's shoes--telling it through second-person narration. Here's a glimpse of the great battle on the planet Hoth:
"The rebel fire is doing nothing to slow the snow walkers, which are lumbering inexorably onward, laser blasts bouncing uselessly off their armor.
Your craft approaches the lead snow walker. Another speeder skims the snow just behind you.
Then it explodes. 'They got Rogue Seven!' Dak yells.
You grit your teeth. 'Stay with me, Dak. We're coming in.'" (chapter 9)
At school, we often talk with kids about the movie that runs in their mind as they're reading. We want them to visualize the setting, the action. We want them to connect with the character and feel what the character is feeling. Gidwitz's dramatic writing demonstrates this perfectly.

Gidwitz explains in his author's note that Star Wars can be seen as the reinvention of the classic hero's tale, as a fairy tale for modern times--much as Gidwitz tried to do with his Grimm trilogy. Much like Cinderella, Luke is a character who can be seen as a little bland, without distinguishing characteristics. But this is intentional, Gidwitz points out.
"They are avatars for the reader. They are empty so we can inhabit them, so we can do their deeds, live their lives, and learn their lessons." 
Will my 4th and 5th graders understand this? Perhaps not, but they will certainly think about Luke's heroic journey and what it takes to be a Jedi. And in the meantime, they will love the action and adventure along the way.

So You Want to Be a Jedi? is part of a trilogy of original retellings of the first three Star Wars movies. If your kids like this, you'll also want to seek out The Princess, the Scoundrel and the Farm Boy (a retelling of Star Wars: The New Hope, by Alexandra Bracken), and Beware the Power of the Dark Side! (a retelling of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, by Tom Angleberger).

The review copies were kindly sent by the publishers, Disney / LucasFilm Press, and we have also purchased additional copies for 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.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

0 Comments on So You Want to Be a Jedi? : an original retelling of Star Wars--the Empire Strikes Back, by Adam Gidwitz (ages 9-12) as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
38. Peaking into students' Mock Newbery conversations (ages 9-12)

Our Mock Newbery Book Club discussions have been so thoughtful and interesting that I just have to share them. This year, we've been focusing on the qualities that the Newbery Committee manual instructs members to consider: character, plot, setting, theme and language. We keep a reminder of these qualities up to help guide our conversations. It helps us be more analytical as we talk about what we love about stories. It also helps us compare very different books, thinking about different strengths that each might have.

Last week, Talia and Alessandra (both 5th graders) were talking about Chasing Secrets, by Gennifer Choldenko, and Echo, by Pam Muñoz Ryan.  My full reviews are here if you'd like to learn more about these terrific novels: Chasing Secrets & Echo.

Talia gushed that Chasing Secrets is The.Best.Book.Ever. I just wish I could have captured the sparkle in her eye when she talked. But then she went on to share why she thought it was so good: the plot kept her interested, full of twists and turns, with lots of unexpected pieces. It was complicated, but it also stayed woven together tightly.

Talia compared this to Echo, which she found too long. She liked Echo, but found it didn't hold her interest as much. I'm not sure if she found it went off on too many tangents, or if she didn't lost the feeling of one set of characters as she got involved in another character's story.

At this point, Alessandra spoke up saying how much she liked Echo. As I asked her why she thought it was so good, she said that it was the same thing that Talia said about Chasing Secrets -- in Alessandra's view, the different pieces of Echo wove together in a very interesting way. She loved how each character reacted in his or her own way to the harmonica, how music gave each of the character's courage and strength, and how much family meant to each of the characters.

Echo isn't part of our formal Mock Newbery selection, in part because it is very long. But my guess is that the Newbery Committee will be talking about it in January -- much in the same manner that our students have been talking about it.

There is a special bond that comes when you've read the same books as your friends and can have these thoughtful discussions. We don't read the same books at the same time. Partly this is because we only have 2 to 4 copies of each book.

I want students' reading to be more organic. I want them to choose what they want to read. Most of all, I want them to share the books they love with their friends, persuading others to read them too. This is what Lucy Caulkins calls spreading "book buzz" and it makes the process much more exciting for kids.

The review copies were kindly sent by the publishers, Scholastic and Random House, but we have also purchased additional copies for 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.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

0 Comments on Peaking into students' Mock Newbery conversations (ages 9-12) as of 12/7/2015 2:51:00 AM
Add a Comment
39. The Plan, by Alison Paul & Barbara Lehman -- story taking flight with just a few words (ages 3-8)

New readers and pre-readers are so often frustrated that their imaginations take flight far ahead of their reading skills. They want complex, interesting stories -- and they'll be delighted with The Plan. With just one or two words on each page, Alison Paul & Barbara Lehman tell a story full of imagination through the interplay between pictures, characters and words.

The Plan
by Alison Paul
illustrated by Barbara Lehman
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016
Google Books preview
Your local library
Amazon
ages 3-8
*best new book*
A young child dreams of flying to Saturn, and so it all begins with a plan. A plane, a map of the solar system, her trusty dog. Soaring up to the planets. By the third page in (maybe I'm slower than your typical kid?), I realized that each word just changes by one letter: plan becomes plane, then plane becomes planet. Here are the first two spreads:
It all begins with a "plan"
Look outside to see the "plane"
You can't read the story without spending time investigating the pictures. What is happening? What is the girl thinking about? Whose plane is outside? Why is a plane sitting outside at a farm? But the words help move the story along, too. The word game adds intrigue and humor, as readers try to figure out the rules of the game.

What's magical is how the story has depth and feeling far beyond the words. As the young girl discovers a key to a photo album, we realize that her mother used to fly the plane but that she is no longer here. As the story unfolds, the father and daughter together plan to launch the plane--honoring the girl's mother.

I've been wondering about the age range for this book. While I think it sings particularly well for new readers in kindergarten or 1st grade, I think the story will resonate with older and younger children. Pre-readers will love being able to read the story developing through the pictures. And the story will resonate with older children who will understand the emotional depth, as well as have fun with the very clever word play. In my ideal world, I'd love to have 2nd and 3rd graders create new stories that change word by word, one letter at a time--and see where it takes them!

Illustrations ©2015 Barbara Lehman, used with permission of the publisher. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 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.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

0 Comments on The Plan, by Alison Paul & Barbara Lehman -- story taking flight with just a few words (ages 3-8) as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
40. Basketball books for young fans: Stephen Curry and beyond (ages 6-12)

It's an exciting start to the basketball season for Warriors fans here in the Bay Area, and I love helping students find great books to fuel their love of the game. Below are some new basketball books geared for 2nd through 5th grade reading. But really, I've found that they all appeal to a wide range of ages.

Full disclosure--I am not a huge sports fan. While I can look at these books in terms of their readability and design, only a real fan will be able to tell you if they are accurate and interesting.

All About Basketball
by Matt Doeden
Capstone, 2015
Google Books preview
Your local library
Amazon
ages 6-9
Doeden is one of my favorite sports writers for young readers. Here he introduces the sport of basketball using short sentences, dynamic photographs and clear diagrams. "Defenders try to stop the other team from scoring. They knock the ball away. They steal passes." Throughout, Doeden uses nonfiction features like headings, captions and vocabulary to direct kids' reading. I especially noticed how diverse the photographs are, with plenty of examples of women players as well as kid and amateur players too. A terrific book for new readers who are interested in learning more about the game.
Stephen Curry
Amazing Athletes series
by Jon M. Fishman
Lerner, 2016
Google Books preview
Your local library
Amazon
ages 7-10
The Amazing Athletes series is one of our favorite new series for sports biographies. Geared for third grade readers, this series balances straightforward, simple writing with interesting details. As any of our basketball fans can tell you, Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry has racked up impressive stats, winning 2014-15 Most Valuable Player for the NBA. With this biography, readers will learn about his family life, high school and college years, and then look at his first few years playing for the Warriors. While there is not any mention of winning the 2015 NBA championship, most of my students will know all about that already.
Basketball Legends in the Making
by Matt Doeden
Sports Illustrated Kids / Capstone, 2014
Google Books preview
Your local library
Amazon
ages 8-12
Instead of focusing on the classic players you may remember, this book looks at the new stars--wondering who will be the superstars of tomorrow. Young fans will like the trading card like layout which features one large action photo, a short description of the player's playing history and achievements, and a quick "Did You Know?" fact in bold print. Pair this with Side by Side Basketball Stars, also from Sports Illustrated Kids but with more challenging text, and encourage students to debate which stars are the greatest players--backing up their arguments with facts and reasons. On the easier side, I've just ordered Basketball's Greatest Stars, by S.A. Kramer, which is a new book in the Step Into Reading series.

The review copies came from our school and public libraries. 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.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

0 Comments on Basketball books for young fans: Stephen Curry and beyond (ages 6-12) as of 11/30/2015 4:23:00 PM
Add a Comment
41. Hiawatha and the Peacemaker, by Robbie Robertson and David Shannon -- a stirring, heroic tale of peace (ages 9-12)

With the news so full of violence and conflicts, I yearn to share with my students stories that show us how to resolve their disputes large and small. Hiawatha and the Peacemaker, by legendary musician and songwriter Robbie Robertson, is a powerful, stirring tale of the brave Mohawk warrior who wants revenge but ends up leading six Iroquois tribes to peace, following the guidance of the Peacemaker.

Hiawatha and the Peacemaker
by Robbie Robertson
illustrated by David Shannon
Abrams, 2015
Your local library
Amazon
ages 9-12
*best new book*
The path to peace is never easy--it's full of anger, turmoil and resistance. Hiawatha starts telling his tell by recounting how his family was killed in battle. Afterward, he could only think of taking revenge. But one morning, a man paddled across the water in a white stone canoe. The Peacemaker said to Hiawatha, in a halting voice,
"I-I-I know of your pain. I know of your loss. I carry a message of healing. I h-h-have come to tell you of the Great Law: Fighting among our people must stop. We must come together as one body, one mind, and one heart. Peace, power and righteousness shall be the new way."
"a man paddled gently toward me... (in) his hand-carved white stone canoe"
Robbie Robertson, who is of Mohawk and Cayuga heritage, first heard this story as a young boy visiting his relatives at Six Nations of the Grand River in southern Ontario, Canada. In his author's note, he recounts the day they journeyed through "the bush" to a longhouse and heard a respected Elder tell the story of the Great Peacemaker and his disciple, Hiawatha. Now Robertson, with the aid of his son, comes full circle to becomes the storyteller.

Young readers, especially in 4th through 7th grades, will grasp the difficulties Hiawatha faced, first battling his own rage and anger at his enemies, and later as he brought the Peacemaker's message to warring tribes. Healing can only be achieved by forgiveness and trust. Hiawatha was passionate and convincing delivering his message to the Seneca and others:
"We will all perish if we continue this violence. A change must come, and the time is now. Alone, we will be broken," I said, "but together we are more powerful than the greatest warrior."
Students will be able to see how this transformed the Iroquois nations to form the united league that eventually became the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy. I think it would be fascinating for students to also apply these themes to conflicts we face today, whether in our local communities or in world politics.

David Shannon's illustrations are powerful, evocative and stunning. Although you may know him for his humorous No, David!, his picture book The Rough-Face Girl (with Rafe Martin) remains one of my all-time favorite folktales. In Hiawatha and the Peacemaker, he conveys both the heroic and mythological nature of the two main figures--but he also lets readers feel the anguish that results from the conflict and the power struggles. I found this interview with David Shannon at TeachingBooks very interesting.



Illustrations ©2015 David Shannon. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, 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.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

0 Comments on Hiawatha and the Peacemaker, by Robbie Robertson and David Shannon -- a stirring, heroic tale of peace (ages 9-12) as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
42. Diverse Stories, Diverse Lives: Reflections on Sonia Manzano’s talk at the #AASL15 Author Banquet

Reading IS thinking. As we share books with our students, we talk with them and show them through these small (or grand) conversations that books and stories help us make sense of a very confusing world. We have a responsibility to find and promote books that speak to all of our students—not just the majority—and that help connect all of us as readers.

Sonia Manzano, Rita Williams-Garcia & Matt de la Peña at the 2015 AASL Authors Banquet
This weekend, I had the honor and responsibility of organizing the author events at the American Association of School Librarians National Conference (#aasl15). Matt de la Peña, Rita Williams-Garcia and Sonia Manzano spoke to a full banquet of librarians about their experiences growing up as young readers, and the impact they seek to make through their writing.

Sonia Manzano played Maria on Sesame Street for forty-four years, teaching us how to count in English and Spanish, how to say our ABCs, how to laugh with (and gently tease) our friends like Oscar the Grouch. Named as one of the “25 Greatest Latino Role Models Ever”, Sonia has retired from her television role and is devoting more time to her writing. Her memoir, Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx, reveals life-changing moments in her early life that led to her later success.

As a young person, Sonia never felt represented in the media she watched or the books she read. She told us:
“In all my viewing I never saw anybody who looked like me or lived in a neighborhood like the one I lived in. Not being represented in the media made me feel invisible.”
The books that teachers shared were no better--Dick and Jane’s family was nothing like her own. Reading and writing were not things that happened at home growing up—curling up with a book was seen as lazy. But Sonia has always been drawn to the stories of others.

Books connect us as people because we see pieces of ourselves in the stories we read. Manzano shared with us teacher Monica Ediger’s thought that the only way to help young people do better than previous generations is to share “sensitive mirrors of others into distant tragedies.” Books can help young readers understand the plight of the less fortunate, help them think about the confusing world around them.

As we read and share stories, however, we must make sure our diverse students are represented in these stories, not just inviting them to think about someone else’s experience. Sonia told us:
“There is something so important about seeing yourself and your own experiences reflected in media. As much as I saw pieces of myself in these other characters, it wasn’t until I was taken to see West Side Story that I realized that the world of creating art was accessible to me and that I could actually be represented on stage and in books the way I was, not just as part of someone else’s experience.”
Whenever we choose a book to recommend, whether we are a parent, teacher or librarian, we are making a statement about what stories we value. We must continue to be inclusive, to challenge ourselves to think beyond stereotypes. In our own reading, we must strive to find stories in which we see our children’s lives and experiences validated. Sonia concluded her speech by reminding us of this:
“When you make decisions on what books to share, think of the child who doesn’t see himself reflected in society, books that will be the beginning of an experience and not the end, and books that are full of emotion.”
Create a conversation about the stories you read, around the dinner table, around the classroom rug, at the circulation desk. Reading IS thinking, and our students will surprise us every day with the power and depth of their ideas.

Last week I shared about the amazing impact that Matt de la Peña and Rita Williams-Garcia had on our audience at #AASL15. Thank you so much to Scholastic for sponsoring Sonia Manzano this weekend. It was a truly pleasure having him as our guest.

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.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

0 Comments on Diverse Stories, Diverse Lives: Reflections on Sonia Manzano’s talk at the #AASL15 Author Banquet as of 11/17/2015 8:57:00 AM
Add a Comment
43. Sharing family time this Thanksgiving: four picture books to share (ages 3-8)

As the world is rocked again by horrific events, Americans are getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving--a holiday marked in my mind by spending time together as a family in the kitchen. Here are four picture books to share that celebrate cooking together. My goal in pulling together this set is to share books that show different perspectives from different ages. Snuggle up and enjoy!

Sharing the Bread:
An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Story
by Pat Zietlow Miller
illustrated by Jill McElmurry
Schwartz & Wade / Penguin Random House, 2015
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-8
With gentle rhymes and old-fashioned pictures, this book celebrates a family coming together to prepare a Thanksgiving meal. "Sister, knead the rising dough. / Punch it down, then watch it grow. / Line your loaves up in a row. / Sister, knead the dough." I love how each family member contributes and kids will like all the ways they're involved. As the kitchen fills with family members sharing the cooking tasks and anticipating the feast, readers see the dinner coming together—and may be surprised at how familiar it feels. The old-fashioned illustrations don't appeal to me as much as they might to others, but I suspect that's because I don't connect to the Victoriana setting.
Too Many Tamales
by Gary Soto
illustrated by Ed Martinez
Puffin / Putnam, 1996
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-8
Maria is so excited to help her mother make tamales for their family Christmas celebration. Maria feels so grown-up helping. When she sees her mother's diamond ring sparkling on the counter, she just has to try it on. A few hours later, when she realizes that the ring is no longer on her finger, Maria panics--convinced that the diamond got lost in the tamales. So she does what any worried kid would do: persuade her cousins that they have to eat ALL the tamales, looking carefully for the ring.

My students love this holiday story. They can relate to how Maria's anxious worry and laugh at the thought of eating all those tamales. I love the family warmth and love that shines through each page.
A Fine Dessert
Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat
by Emily Jenkins
illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Schwartz & Wade / Penguin Random House, 2015
Your local library
Amazon
ages 5-8
This is a warm and sweet book about how parents and children have made blackberry fool together throughout the ages. Jenkins and Blackall take readers to 1710 Lyme, England, as a mother and daughter pick wild blackberries; 1810 Charleston, South Carolina, where an enslaved mother and daughter gather them from the plantation garden; 1910 Boston, where a mother and daughter go to the market and then prepare a Sunday dinner; and finally 2010 San Diego, where a boy and his father use store-bought berries to make a feast for family and friends.

Probe a little deeper, and it's a book that can lead to many conversations with children. Some families will want to talk about who is making the food and serving it--the role of women and slaves. Others will notice the way preparing and storing food has changed. There has been much debate about the depiction of the 19th century slave family this book (see this NY Times article), but each reader will need to judge for herself. As Emily Jenkins wrote in her author's note,
"The story includes characters who are slaves, even though there is by no means space to explore the topic of slavery fully. I wanted to represent American life in 1810 without ignoring that part of our history. I wrote about people finding joy in craftsmanship and dessert within lives of great hardship and injustice--because finding that joy shows something powerful about the human spirit."
As we come together as families, I believe we must find ways to talk about the hard subjects while still acknowledging our community and support for one another. I accept Jenkin's decision, especially since she and Blackall explain their thinking in endnotes, although my strongest belief is that we must share a wide range of views of the past with children. No one book can present all views.
Feast for 10
by Cathryn Falwell
Clarion / Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1993
Your local library
Amazon
ages 3-6
This counting book follows an African-American family going to the grocery story and then home to make dinner together. Simple rhymes are easy to read aloud: "Two pumpkins for pie / Three chickens to fry." The illustrations celebrate the children's role throughout and are full of warm family love. A delightful, modern story that rounds out this set nicely.

The review copies came from our school library, as well as from the publishers. 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.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

0 Comments on Sharing family time this Thanksgiving: four picture books to share (ages 3-8) as of 11/15/2015 11:52:00 PM
Add a Comment
44. The Story of Diva and Flea, by Mo Willems and Tony DiTerlizzi -- a winning combination (ages 5-8)

Friends not only figure out how to work out conflicts, they also encourage each other and grow together. The Story of Diva and Flea is a delightful new chapter book that is going to have huge appeal, and at its heart it's a wonderful story of friendship.

The Story of Diva and Flea
by Mo Willems
illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi
Disney Hyperion, 2015
Your local library
Amazon
ages 5-8
*best new book*
Diva has lived at the same building in Paris for as long as she can remember, loyally guarding the front courtyard. "She took her job very seriously," making sure that everything is safe. But she is a very small dog, and just a little nervous.
"If anything ever happened, no matter how big or small, Diva would yelp and run away."
When alley-cat Flea wanders past Diva's building, flaneur-ing as he does through the streets of Paris, Flea is fascinated by the little dog. Unfortunately, Flea also finds it very funny when Diva yelps and runs away. This happens day after day, until Diva has had enough:
"Then one day Diva didn't yelp or run away. Instead, she looked right at Flea's big face and asked, 'Are you trying to hurt my feelings?' Flea had never thought about it like that."
Right from the beginning, readers know that Diva and Flea are completely different: one lives in the world of humans, the other explores the streets of Paris on his own. But it's this moment--when Flea realizes that he's hurt Diva's feelings--that the story crystalizes and captures readers' interest. Flea apologizes, and their friendship develops from there as the two learn from each other.
sketches of Diva and Flea, by Tony DiTerlizzi
With Flea's encouragement, Diva ventures out beyond the gates of her courtyard. It is scary for nervous little Diva, but she learns to trust Flea and be brave. I'd love to talk with kids about what helps Diva take these steps. How do friends support one another? How have they encouraged a friend?

I loved learning about the friendship behind this creation, how Mo Willems started with the idea of a story but then reached out to Tony DiTerlizzi. Enjoy watching this video where they share the story behind the story:

Please complete the rafflecopter below to enter for a chance at winning one copy of The Story of Diva and Flea and a DIY friendship bracelet kit. The giveaway will run from Tuesday, October 6th until Wednesday, October 14th.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Illustrations ©2015 Tony DiTerlizzi. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Disney Hyperion. Giveaway open to US addresses only. Prizing is provided by Disney 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.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

0 Comments on The Story of Diva and Flea, by Mo Willems and Tony DiTerlizzi -- a winning combination (ages 5-8) as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
45. Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret, by Bob Shea -- a favorite new friend for beginning readers (ages 4-8)

If you have kids who love Elephant and Piggie or Frog and Toad, laughing at the way these friends play together, bicker and work through their conflicts, then you're going to love Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret. It sparkles with humor, but underlying it is a real understanding of friendship.

Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret
by Bob Shea
Disney Hyperion, 2015
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-8
*best new book*
Ballet Cat’s best friend Sparkle Pony is getting a bit tired of always playing ballet -- but what’s a BFF supposed to do? Sparkle Pony tries to suggest other things. He tries to go along and dance. But then he realizes that he's holding onto a big secret.
"I will always be your friend, Sparkle Pony! No secret can ever change that."
"Sometimes..."
"Yes, I'm listening."
New readers (and little siblings) will delight in how Bob Shea builds this story, with expressive illustrations and large speech bubbles. They can laugh at the exaggeration, but also relate to how Sparkle Pony feels. I love this climax:
"SOMETIMES I DON'T WANT TO PLAY BALLET!"
This would make a great book to act out as readers' theater, but it would also make a great one to talk about at home. I can even see bringing it up in the car the next day:
"You know, I was thinking about Ballet Cat and her friend. I wonder why it was hard for Sparkle Pony to tell her that he didn't like ballet?"
Friends need to accept differences--adults know that, but often it's hard to put into practice. This is a great story about just that: loving each other even more than we love our individual interests.

Illustrations ©2015 Bob Shea. 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.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

0 Comments on Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret, by Bob Shea -- a favorite new friend for beginning readers (ages 4-8) as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment
46. Halloween picture books: 5 new favorites (ages 4-9)

Do your little ones love scary stories, or are you looking for gentle tales with silly ghosts? Here are five new favorite picture books with plenty of ghosts, mummies and monsters to satisfy all sorts of little beasts.

Mummy Cat
by Marcus Ewert
illustrated by Lisa Brown
Clarion, 2015
Your local library
Amazon
ages 5-9
As the graceful mummy cat emerges from his tomb, he searches for “his loving friend,” the girl-queen Hat-shup-set. Bay Area team Ewert and Brown create a tender friendship story, deftly weaving together a creepy murder-mystery, hieroglyph clues, and Ancient Egyptian practices. My students are loving this story, especially the detailed illustrations and the hidden clues. Enchanting.
Fright Club
by Ethan Long
Bloomsbury, 2015
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-8
Only the truly scary can be members of the Fright Club. But when a cute little bunny tries to join their fun, he's outraged when they tell him he can't join. Returning with his lawyer and friends, he launches a protest: “HISS, MOAN, BOO! WE CAN SCARE TOO!” chant a butterfly, ladybug, turtle, and squirrel. I love the way Ethan Long turns kids' (and monsters') expectations upside down, showing how things are not always the way you assume they'll be. Plus, this story is a lot of fun to read aloud, and isn't actually too scary for new readers.
The Fun Book of Scary Stuff
by Emily Jenkins
illustrated by Hyewon Yum
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-8
A young boy makes a list of all the things that scare him. Monsters top his list (“Mom says they eat anyone who doesn’t stay in his own bed”) but his dog calmly refuses to admit that he’s afraid of anything. The pair’s hilarious back-and-forth dialog continues, until the tables turn. Jenkins and Yum perfectly capture the pair’s worry and false bravado.
Leo: A Ghost Story
by Mac Barnett
illustrated by Christian Robinson
Chronicle, 2015
Your local library
Amazon
ages 3-7
*best new book*
Leo has a hard time making friends: no one can see him. But when he meet Jane, she invites him to play, thinking he’s one of her imaginary friends. Leo is delighted but nervous that she will be scared when she finds out he’s a ghost. I love how accepting Jane is, how open she is not only to Leo but also to her own imagination. This gentle ghost story is more about finding friendship and acceptance than a Halloween story, but it’s utterly delightful. For more, see my full review here.
The Little Shop of Monsters
by R.L. Stine
illustrated by Marc Brown
Little, Brown, 2015
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-8
Blending creepy descriptions with goofy illustrations, this picture book strikes just the right balance for a mock-horror picture book. “Pssssst…HEY, YOU! Are you afraid of MONSTERS? Do they make you SHIVER and SHAKE?” As the text amps up the fright, the illustrations put the emphasis on the laughs, making this right for those who like to giggle and squirm at the same time.

You might also enjoy seeing these other Halloween recommendations:
The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers: Chronicle Books, Macmillan, Houghton Mifflin, Bloomsbury 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.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

0 Comments on Halloween picture books: 5 new favorites (ages 4-9) as of 10/26/2015 12:57:00 AM
Add a Comment
47. Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras, by Duncan Tonatiuh (ages 9-12)

Our students look forward each year to the celebration of Día de los Muertos at Emerson. Parents create an ofrenda in the library, our 5th graders decorate sugar skulls, and everyone gets to taste pan de muerto. I can't wait to share Duncan Tonatiuh's outstanding new picture book biography Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras.

Funny Bones:
Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras
by Duncan Tonatiuh
Abrams, 2015
Your local library
Amazon
ages 9-12
*best new book*
Tonatiuh blends his signature style artwork with Posada's calaveras to help young readers understand both Posada's printmaking process and also his political messages in behind these iconic images.

My students will certainly recognize La Catrina, but few will be know about Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada (called Don Lupe Posada), who created this and many other calaveras, skeletons prominent in Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations. As a young man, Posada learned the printmaking techniques of lithography, engraving and etching. Students will be very interested to learn about these processes and see how he used them to create his images.
"Whether he made an etching, a lithograph, or an engraving, he had to draw the image in reverse--the opposite of the way he wanted the finished image to appear."
Tonatiuh also helps students think about the Don Lupe's ideas, the things he might have wanted his audience to think about when they saw his drawings. At school, we have talked about an author's message but we talk less often about an artist's message. Tonatiuh introduces this in a thoughtful way that invites students into thinking this way--without being heavy-handed.

For several spreads, Tonatiuh reproduces some of Posada's classic images, making them look like they are old-fashioned broadsides. Tonaituh invites students' own questioning by sharing his own questions.
"Was Don Lupe saying that ... no matter how fancy your clothes are on the outside, on the inside we are all the same? That we are all calaveras?"
Tonatiuh's illustrations are influenced by pre-Columbian Mixtec figures, especially those from codices. I think it's fascinating how he's combining powerful visual images from two different Mexican traditions. This is a must-have book for all school libraries, one that 3rd through 5th graders will especially like reading and discussing.

You might also be interested in:
Please find other terrific nonfiction picture books to share at the weekly Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday round-up hosted by KidLitFrenzy.

Illustrations ©2015 Duncan Tonatiuh. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, 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.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

0 Comments on Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras, by Duncan Tonatiuh (ages 9-12) as of 10/28/2015 8:51:00 AM
Add a Comment
48. Emerson School's 2016 Mock Newbery Nominations (ages 9-12)

Our 4th and 5th graders have been reading new books, thinking hard about which ones they'd like to nominate for our Mock Newbery Book Club. This is our third year and we are having so much fun reading and sharing new books.

Emerson School's 2016 Mock Newbery Nominations
We are spending a lot of our time talking about the criteria that the Newbery Committee considers when evaluating books. Our students talk about whether they find the characters distinguished, or perhaps it's the plot that really stands out for them. I love the "book buzz" that this creates among all the students.

You may notice that some books that the Newbery Committee is surely considering are not on here. My students liked Pam Munoz Ryan's Echo, but many found it too long. The Newbery Committee considers books written for children up to age 14, while my group is made of young tweens (9, 10, 11 years old).

Remember that the actual Newbery Committee considers any book written by an American citizen or American resident that was published in the United States during 2015. There is no public nomination list, but the committee members work together to put forward books they want to be considered.

You might find these other Mock Newbery lists interesting, as you consider what you and your children think are the best books of 2015:
Which books are you and your children loving this year? Do any favorites stand out for you?

Many thanks to all of the publishers for their support of our book club. Review copies have been kindly sent by Bloomsbury, Random House, Little Brown, Penguin, Simon & Schuster and Scholastic. 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.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

0 Comments on Emerson School's 2016 Mock Newbery Nominations (ages 9-12) as of 11/3/2015 12:43:00 AM
Add a Comment
49. Inviting all our readers into stories: Reflections on Matt de la Peña’s talk at the #AASL15 Author Banquet

As school librarians, we have the honor and responsibility of knowing all of the students in our school. We watch them grow as young readers, we share their excitement finding books that speak to them and light a spark in their eyes. But we also have a responsibility of finding and promoting books that speak to all of our students—not just the majority of our students.

This weekend, I had the honor and responsibility of organizing the author events at the American Association of School Librarians National Conference (#aasl15). Matt de la Peña, Rita Williams-Garcia and Sonia Manzano spoke to a full banquet of librarians about their experiences growing up as young readers, and the impact they seek to make through their writing.

Matt de la Peña has received much praise and recognition for his realistic fiction for young adults, including his standout Mexican WhiteBoy. I have been thrilled that he has begun writing more for younger children, and have absolutely loved this year’s stellar picture book Last Stop on Market Street.

When Matt was growing up, he didn’t find many stories that spoke to him, didn’t like reading or writing—until he read A House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros. This slim, powerful collection of stories spoke to him so deeply that he read it over and over again, nearly memorizing it. The story “Darius and the Clouds” particularly stayed with him, inviting him into the world of poetry, giving him permission to see poetry as something he could try.

Was it that Cisneros provided a mirror for Matt, or that she understood Matt’s heartbeat? She spoke in a language that he understood, filled with metaphors and imagery that connected to his experiences as a young Latino growing up in the United States.

And now when he writes, Matt wants to create stories that have diverse characters, yes, but really with characters full of heart, full of complex emotions, full of language and experiences from a wide range of backgrounds. Diversity is not the issue these characters wrestle with, but rather part of the fabric of their lives.

As we select stories to share with our students, we need to provide a number of ways in for our students, not just thinking about their race, but also thinking about what might create a spark for them, what helps them feel a character’s heartbeat, what helps them hear the language of their soul. It is essential that our stories have diverse characters, that we acknowledge and affirm our children’s lives and experiences, and that we say again and again that stories are for all of us.

Later this week I will share about the amazing impact that Rita Williams-Garcia and Sonia Manzano had on our audience at #AASL15. Thank you so much to Penguin Random House for sponsoring Matt de la Pena this weekend. It was a truly pleasure having him as our guest.

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.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

0 Comments on Inviting all our readers into stories: Reflections on Matt de la Peña’s talk at the #AASL15 Author Banquet as of 11/8/2015 9:00:00 PM
Add a Comment
50. Caretakers of our readers: Reflections on Rita Williams-Garcia’s talk at the #AASL15 Author Banquet

Day in and day out, school librarians help children find books that speak to them. We help our students grow as young readers, but even more than that we create memories each and every day. In doing this, we have a responsibility as caretaker of our children, finding and promoting books that speak to all of our students—not just the majority of our students.

This weekend, I had the honor and responsibility of organizing the author events at the American Association of School Librarians National Conference (#aasl15). Matt de la Peña, Rita Williams-Garcia and Sonia Manzano spoke to a full banquet of librarians about their experiences growing up as young readers, and the impact they seek to make through their writing.

Matt de la Peña, Rita Williams-Garcia & Sonia Manzano at AASL banquet 

Rita Williams-Garcia sparkles with energy, laughter and heart every time I meet her or read her stories. Rita received the Newbery Honor and the Coretta Scott King Award for the outstanding novel One Crazy Summer, and was a National Book Award finalist. Delphine, Vonetta and Fern’s story continues in P.S. Be Eleven, and now their story comes to a close with this year’s Gone Crazy in Alabama.

Rita began by sharing her early memories, growing up in the cocoon of her family’s love. At the age of 2, her family moved from New York to Arizona, traveling that long way by car. Rita described traveling through the South as the first time she saw her mother frightened: crying and fearful when the police stopped them. They didn’t stay in hotels, but were welcomed into other black families’ homes along the way—something that Rita didn’t think about at the time. As she said, when you are a child, your eyes are open and your memories stay with you.

As young children, we only know our direct experiences. Our children notice race, but might not know how to process their thoughts. In first grade, Rita’s teacher read wonderful stories—but when she read the stories of Little Black Sambo, Rita clearly remembers feeling that her classmates were laughing at Little Black Sambo, feeling different from her classmates because she was one of the only black children in her class.

When we share stories with our students, we must think about the memories we are creating. How are we validating their experiences? How are we inviting them into the conversation of stories?

Librarians and teachers are the caretakers of our children’s reading lives, as teacher and friend Donalyn Miller so wonderfully said on the NerdyBookClub. Every time we recommend books to children, we are inviting them to see themselves in stories. The stories we buy and collect must have many entry points, must have many different types of characters, must reflect the diversity of broader world around us.

We do this, as Rita reminded us, by being honest with our young people about the world around us, being authentic, and engaging in the hard conversations of our times. I love this tweet from Rita. These are turbulent times, full of strong emotions. When we have honest, caring discussions together, we can all move forward.
All week I am sharing about the amazing impact that Matt de la Peña, Rita Williams-Garcia and Sonia Manzano had on our audience at #AASL15. Thank you so much to HarperCollins for sponsoring Rita Williams-Garcia this weekend. It was a truly pleasure having her as our guest.
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.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

0 Comments on Caretakers of our readers: Reflections on Rita Williams-Garcia’s talk at the #AASL15 Author Banquet as of 1/1/1900
Add a Comment

View Next 25 Posts