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1. Nominate a Colleague for the 2016 ALSC Ballot

Do you have a colleague who is a well-organized and knowledgeable manager, a skilled and articulate book evaluator, or an intelligent and creative leader in the field of youth services? Do you recognize one or more of these qualities in yourself? We are looking for ALSC members committed to our core values — Collaboration, Excellence, Inclusiveness, Innovation, Integrity and Respect, Leadership, and Responsiveness — to serve our association. The 2015 ALSC poll will open soon for voting, and it’s time to start thinking about next year’s slate of candidates.

The members of the 2016 ALSC Nominating Committee encourage you to make recommendations for the following positions for the spring 2016 ballot:

  • ALSC Vice-President/President-Elect
  • ALSC Board Director
  • New to ALSC Board Director
  • ALSC Fiscal Officer
  • ALSC 2018 Caldecott Award Committee Member
  • ALSC 2018 Newbery Award Committee Member
  • ALSC 2018 Sibert Award Committee Member
  • ALSC 2018 Wilder Award Committee Member

The deadline for member nominations for the 2016 slate is Tuesday, March 31, 2015. Simply fill out the online suggestion form at:

Suggestion Form for 2016 ALSC Ballot 

We appreciate your assistance, and look forward to hearing from you.

The post Nominate a Colleague for the 2016 ALSC Ballot appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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2. The Beekle Experience

beekleAs a member of the 2015 Caldecott committee, making “the call” to Dan Santat on the morning of February 2 was such a thrill. The good folks at ALA make it possible for you to experience it HERE. Once the announcements of the Caldecott awards were made public, the Internet buzzed. One of the first things I saw online after the announcements was this short video from Dan Santat. It melted my heart. I was running on adrenaline, very little sleep, and home-made ginger cookies at this point, and that little clip just really got me. Dan Santat’s first Tweet of that day was “I’m so bummed the Patriots won the #SuperBowl last night. My whole day is ruined.” I immediately thought, “The guy is funny!” You can follow him on Twitter @dsantat. When I got back to my hotel room, I saw this amazing craft from This Picture Book Life blog. It inspired me to create my own Snow Beekle once I got back home.

When I was home I really dug in to read the Caldecott news. There are several interviews that will give you more about Dan Santat, like this one from Publisher’s Weekly, this one from NPR, this one from Dan’s local station in Pasadena, and this one on the 7 Impossible Things blog. And there’s this fun podcast from Picturebooking.

So, there’s a lot of Beekle love out there, and it is well-deserved. This year’s Caldecott medal book is one that you can share at preschool storytime. There’s already a craft you can make (with preschoolers I’d use frosting scribblers instead of Sharpie marker to make the face because you know they are going to want to eat it). You can use The Adventures of Beekle, the Unimaginary Friend with older groups, too. It is a seemingly simple book, but so much is going on. Embedded in this story is the archetypal Hero’s Journey: Beekle leaves home on a quest, heeding his call to adventure. He leaves his normal world and ventures out into the unknown. He then experiences trials in that world: he is looking for something, and searches valiantly. Once Beekle finds what he is looking for, and has bonded with his new friend, he can return, and do the unimaginable. For more on the Hero’s Journey, and how Beekle relates, try this link.

Photo by Angela J. Reynolds

Photo by Angela J. Reynolds

Look closely at that art! Each section of the journey is denoted by color and slight style changes, and fits the pacing just right. Look for the color yellow to tell you that change or something significant has occurred. Look at the emotion on our hero’s face when he meets his friend. Explore those end pages. Take that dust jacket off and revel in the lovely board cover underneath. Find the joy in this book that so many young children do. And don’t forget to look for the Beekle Bum – that image gets noticed every time I share this book in storytime.
Have fun with this book, and if you have more ideas on how to use it in storytime or in the classroom, share in the comments!

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3. Post-Caldecott

The books! Photo by Angela J. Reynolds

The books! Photo by Angela J. Reynolds

Shovels in hand, 15 brave souls entered a room in a hotel in Chicago. We knew there was treasure to be found, we knew that we would have to dig deep into our year of looking at over 500 picture books in order to find the gems. We tried to find the right words (vocabulary, phrases, terms) to express how our favorite books met the criteria. We bravely donned our capes of red wool; we dreamed of art, and lost things, and finding friends. We picked up pebbles of wisdom, like stones at the beach that one summer. Our minds were filled with noisy colors. And together, we did the unimaginable.

It has been just two weeks since the 2015 Caldecott Awards were announced, and I still feel the warm glow of that experience. The seven books that our committee chose to receive those shiny stickers have me still reeling. I look at them and smile. Each one of them means something to me, and I have realized that our set of books is all about discovery. Just like Beekle on his heroic journey to friendship, our committee set out to find the most distinguished book published in 2014. There were many amazing books, and I know that each and every member of our committee has a few books that did not make our final list that they will always treasure. You just don’t spend that much time re-reading and looking closely without developing a relationship with the books. Together we found the books that we agreed met the criteria and rose to the top of the pile.

Caldesnacks! Photo by Angela J. Reynolds

Caldesnacks! Photo by Angela J. Reynolds

Being on the Caldecott Committee has been a longtime career goal. Now it is a career highlight, and I have found 14 new friends that shared an experience (and a lot of great snacks) that no-one can know about (actually, I can tell you all about the snacks if you want to know). The Adventures of Beekle, the Unimaginary Friend, by Dan Santat, was announced on Monday, February 2. Sitting in the convention center hall, my hands were shaking. Never had the announcement of the awards been so personal, so exciting, so nerve-wracking. I had to remind myself to breathe. Since we knew who the winner was on Saturday night, one of our committee members thought it would be fun for us to wear crowns like Beekle’s after the book was announced. She made them on Sunday and kept them secret until the book was named on Monday morning. Donning that yellow paper crown marked one of my happiest moments as a librarian. Our committee was so proud of those books.

The Caldecott Buzz was enormous. In years past, I have chatted with others about the awards. I engaged in the “why didn’t my favorite book win” banter with friends and colleagues. I read the blogs with fervor, and sometimes even joined in on the second-guessing that naturally goes on each year. “What were they thinking?” is often bandied about when the awards are announced, and I fully understand why. These book awards mean a lot to us. They recognize, very publicly, that children’s books matter. They celebrate art and literature and story and make us look closely at books, and at ourselves. This year the comments, both in person and online, were somehow louder. I love hearing people’s reactions, and I enjoy reading the critical analysis that has resulted. For those who are disgruntled, upset, or still wondering why our committee chose the books we chose, I say, read the Caldecott Manual, linked here. Read the criteria. And read them again. Read them a third time. Our committee heeded (observed, abided by, adhered to) that manual; we read it many times. My copy has margin notes, tabs, highlighter, tea stains. The manual was our guide, our touchstone, our handbook. And because the committee deliberations are confidential, you’ll never know exactly what happened in that room, other than the fact that we did what we were tasked to do, and we chose a winner and six honor books. Celebrate that with us. Find the joy in those books, like we did. Find the readers who will love those books, because they are out there. And like the Newbery committee’s t-shirts said, “Trust the Process”.

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4. Youth Media Awards and teachers

santat_adventures of beekleI’ve been somewhat preoccupied this week since the ALA Youth Media Award announcements Monday morning. Here at the Horn Book, we swing into action putting up web posts with our reviews of the winning books. Over at my other blog, Calling Caldecott, the award announcement signals the beginning of the end of our blog season. We’ve already had our own mock Caldecott vote and were waiting breathlessly to hear what the real Caldecott Committee chose.

Every single year without fail, as soon as the awards are announced, the haters come out of the woodwork. Well, not exactly haters, but certainly people who are disappointed or think something went wrong with the committee because their favorite books aren’t on the list.

I became especially aware of them the year I was on the committee, but has this stopped me from joining in the after-the-fact whining? Not at all!

tamaki_this one summerThis year, the Caldecott Committee made a particularly bold choice in selecting a YA-level graphic novel as one of the honor books. While people normally think of the Caldecott as an award for elementary-aged books, if you read the award criteria you will find that they may select books suitable for children up to age 14.

I am especially intrigued by Robin Smith’s post this morning. She is one of the three bloggers on Calling Caldecott and this post reveals her reaction as a second grade teacher — and as a frequent book award committee member. Every year, her students look closely at a number of new picture books and hold their own mock Caldecott vote. Beekle, this year’s winner, is a really child-pleaser. There’s a truism that gets trotted out at this time of year: that these awards go to books loved by adults but that kids aren’t as likely to…shall we say, “get behind.”

If any of you teachers are familiar with the winning books, I’d love to hear what you have to say. In order to keep things a little less scattered, I’d recommend you respond right on Robin’s post this time.




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5. Caldecott-fandom crossovers, pt. 2

Well, I guess I’m flying my fangirl flag high on OOTB these days. After last week’s Sam & Dean post and Monday’s ALA Youth Media Awards announcements, I’m back with another “I can’t be the only one…” situation. Is it just me, or does unimaginary friend Beekle

santat_adventures of beekle

look a lot like the Adipose babies from Doctor Who‘s “Partners in Crime” episode?


Of course, Beekle is sporting that cute little crown — and now a shiny gold Caldecott medal sticker to match!

More Doctor Who silliness here.


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6. ALA Awards 2015: Horn Book reviews of the winners

santat_adventures of beekle  alexander_crossover
The most prestigious honors in children’s literature, the Newbery and Caldecott medals, were awarded to Kwame Alexander and Dan Santat on February 2, 2015, at the American Library Association’s midwinter meeting in Chicago. Also announced at the gathering were the winners of the Coretta Scott King, Pura Belpré, Michael L. Printz, Robert F. Sibert, and Mildred L. Batchelder awards and several other major honors. Follow the links below for more information about all the winning titles, including in many cases their reviews in The Horn Book Magazine or The Horn Book Guide.

Newbery Medal
Caldecott Medal
Belpré Award (Author and Illustrator)
Coretta Scott King Awards (Author and Illustrator)
Printz Award
Sibert Award
Batchelder Award

Additional ALA awards
Alex, Arbuthnot, Carnegie, Edwards, Geisel, Hamilton, Morris, Odyssey, Schneider, Steptoe, Stonewall, and YALSA Nonfiction awards

Best Fiction for Young Adults list


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7. Reviews of the 2015 Caldecott Award winners


santat_adventures of beekleThe Adventures of Beekle, the Unimaginary Friend
by Dan Santat; illus. by the author
Primary    Little, Brown    40 pp.
4/14     978-0-316-19998-8     $17.00

Imaginary friend Beekle waits and waits for a child to think him into existence. When it doesn’t happen, Beekle sails off to the real world–a city full of boring adults–to find her. Santat’s bright digital illustrations capture the vivid land of imagination, the drab adult world, and the giggle-inducing expressions on marshmallow-like Beekle’s pudgy white face. SHARA L. HARDESON

From the Fall 2014 issue of The Horn Book Guide.

Honor books:

nana in the cityNana in the City
by Lauren Castillo; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary   Clarion   40 pp.
9/14   978-0-544-10443-3   $16.99

Visiting Nana in her new apartment in the city, the unnamed child narrator is initially unreceptive to the city’s appeal. Upon first impression, “the city is busy. The city is loud. The city is filled with scary things.” However, Nana promises to show her young visitor all the ways that “the city is wonderful—bustling, booming, and extraordinary,” and their tour the following day does just that. Here is a vital, independent grandmother for the new millennium, one who is just as likely to clap for a street performer or bring a pretzel to a homeless man as she is to knit with her cat or serve milk and cookies in her cozy kitchen. The loving relationship between her and her grandchild is clearly conveyed by their easy interactions, in particular the red cape she bestows upon the child to encourage bravery in a new place. Castillo’s simple, meaningful text is well served by her richly detailed, brightly saturated watercolors, which convey a city bustling with crowds, construction, traffic, and events, juxtaposing colorful foregrounds against monochromatic backgrounds to suggest that even more activity lies beyond the book’s depicted scenes. The accessible story arc outlines worthwhile messages about openness to new experiences and changing one’s perspective, all couched in the security of spending time with a loved one. The young narrator concludes: “The city is…the absolute perfect place for a nana to live. And for me to visit!” Readers will feel the same. CLAIRE E. GROSS

From the November/December 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


rosenstock_noisy paint boxThe Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art
by Barb Rosenstock; illus. by Mary GrandPré
Primary   Knopf   40 pp.
2/14   978-0-307-97848-6   $17.99
Library ed. 978-0-307-97849-3   $20.99   g
e-book ed. 978-0-307-97850-9   $10.99

One of the pioneers of abstract art, Vasily Kandinsky experienced “colors as sounds, and sounds as colors,” a neurological condition called synesthesia. Concentrating primarily on the artist as a child and young adult, Rosenstock takes known events and embellishes them with dialogue and specific sounds for the colors (“He brushed a powerful navy rectangle that vibrated deeply like the lowest cello strings”). GrandPré does a fine job showing color and sound as abstractions while presenting the artist and his surroundings in a more realistic manner. At first we see young Vasya as a proper and obedient child, surrounded by squared-off edges and dark colors. But when he receives a paint box as a gift and begins to hear sounds as he mixes the colors, the page compositions open up. As angles give way to swirls, GrandPré provides a visualization of the freedom that results when an artist finds his voice. An author’s note provides more information about the artist and four reproductions of his later work. Sources and recommended websites are included. LOLLY ROBINSON

From the January/February 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


barnett_samanddavestar2Sam & Dave Dig a Hole
by Mac Barnett; illus. by Jon Klassen
Primary    Candlewick    40 pp.
10/14    978-0-7636-6229-5    $16.99

This adventure starts innocently enough: “On Monday Sam and Dave dug a hole.” The boys (indistinguishable save the color of their hats and Sam’s ever-present backpack) are fueled by chocolate milk, animal cookies, and a desire to find “something spectacular.” Alas, Sam and Dave unearth nothing, coming close to — but just missing — the precious gems that dot the subterranean landscape, and oblivious all the while. Eventually the chums stop for a rest, whereupon their canine companion, digging for a bone, inadvertently causes a rupture in the dirt floor underground that leaves the explorers falling “down, down, down,” only to land in what appears to be their own yard. But upon closer inspection, this house isn’t quite the same as before; a number of subtle differences go undetected by the hapless duo, but observant viewers will certainly take note. Barnett’s well-chosen words (“Sam and Dave ran out of chocolate milk. / But they kept digging. / They shared the last animal cookie. / But they kept digging”) and plentiful white space support readers. Klassen’s cross-section illustrations provide a mole’s-eye view of the underground proceedings, extending the spare text with visual humor. As in his previous books, Klassen shows an uncanny knack for conveying meaning with the subtlest of eye movements. How fitting that the wordless final spread features a knowing look between the dog and a cat familiar to Klassen fans; all that’s missing from the trippy conclusion is the theme music from The Twilight Zone. Mind-blowing in the best possible way. SAM BLOOM

From the November/December 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Viva Fridastar2 Viva Frida
by Yuyi Morales; illus. by the author with photos by Tim O’Meara
Primary, Intermediate   Porter/Roaring Brook   40 pp.
9/14   978-1-59643-603-9   $17.99   g

There have been several books for young readers about Frida Kahlo, but none has come close to the emotional aesthetic Morales brings to her subject, as a Mexican artist herself who understands the particular landscape of Kahlo’s imagination. By selecting several of Kahlo’s recurring symbols — monkey, dog, parrot, deer, hummingbird — she achieves artistic depth and lends child appeal to a very spare, ethereal text. Morales also incorporates Señor Calavera (a figure who recurs throughout Morales’s own work), representing the dance with death Kahlo engaged in all her life. Morales initially shows Kahlo as a puppet: made from steel, polymer clay, and wool, the three-dimensional figures (photographed and digitally manipulated inside double-page-spread collages) are works of art in themselves. The illustrations are accompanied by just a few words of text in both Spanish and English (“busco / I search // Veo / I see… // Juego / I play”) that leave readers with a dreamlike impression. As we enter Kahlo’s mind, the medium and style change, and the pages are illustrated with lush acrylics, showing her winged feet carrying her across the spreads, arrows whizzing past; one eventually hits her pet deer in the foreleg. This allusion to Kahlo’s famous painting The Little Deer may be lost on most young readers, but the accompanying text (“siento / I feel”) will get the basic meaning across. Morales (Niño Wrestles the World, rev. 7/13) once again impresses us with her artistry in an ingenious tour de force. KATHLEEN T. HORNING

From the September/October 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


bryant_right-word_170x231star2The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus
by Jen Bryant; illus. by Melissa Sweet
Primary    Eerdmans    48 pp.
9/14    978-0-8028-5385-1    $17.50

Apt language and ingenious imagery combine to tell the life story of Peter Mark Roget, creator of the thesaurus. A solitary, though not unhappy, child, Roget spends his time keeping lists and ordering the natural and cultural wonders he finds in abundance. He studies to become a doctor, teaches, joins academic societies, raises a family, and continues to capture and classify the universe, eventually publishing his Thesaurus, a catalog of concepts ordered by ideas, in 1852. Bryant’s linear telling follows Peter closely, expressing his curiosity, sensitivity, and populist spirit in language that is both decorous and warm. Clever book design and visionary illustration add layers of meaning, as images come together in careful sequence. On the cover a cacophony of iconographic ideas explodes from the pages of a book. The opening endpapers arrange these same concepts in a vertical collage that recalls spines on a bookshelf. The title spread features the letters of the alphabet as stacked blocks, as a child manages them, and from there the pages grow in complexity, as Roget himself grows up. Sweet embellishes her own gentle watercolors with all manner of clippings and realia, corralling the pictures into order according to concept, number, or color. A timeline and detailed author and illustrator notes follow the narrative, with suggested additional resources and a facsimile page of Roget’s first, handwritten book of lists. And the closing endpapers, with the comprehensive classification scheme of the first thesaurus, fully realize the opening organizational promise. THOM BARTHELMESS

From the November/December 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


tamaki_this-one-summer_170x241star2This One Summer
by Mariko Tamaki; illus. by Jillian Tamaki
Middle School    First Second/Roaring Brook    320 pp.
5/14    978-1-59643-774-6    $17.99

Rose Wallace and her parents go to Awago Beach every summer. Rose collects rocks on the beach, swims in the lake, and goes on bike rides with her younger “summer cottage friend,” Windy. But this year she is feeling too old for some of the activities she used to love — and even, at times, for the more-childish (yet self-assured) Windy. Rose would rather do adult things: watch horror movies and talk with Windy about boobs, boys, and sex. In their second graphic novel — another impressive collaboration — the Tamaki cousins (Skim, rev. 7/08) examine the mix of uncertainty and hope a girl experiences on the verge of adolescence. The episodic plot and varied page layout set a leisurely pace evocative of summer. Rose’s contemplative observations and flashbacks, along with the book’s realistic dialogue, offer insight into her evolving personality, while the dramatic changes in perspective and purply-blue ink illustrations capture the narrative’s raw emotional core. Secondary storylines also accentuate Rose’s transition from childhood to young adulthood: she’s caught in the middle of the tension between her parents (due to her mom’s recent abrasive moodiness and the painful secret behind it) and fascinated by the local teens’ behavior (swearing, drinking, smoking, fighting, and even a pregnancy; the adult situations — and frank language — she encounters may be eye-opening reading for pre-adolescents like Rose). This is a poignant drama worth sharing with middle-schoolers, and one that teen readers will also appreciate for its look back at the beginnings of the end of childhood. CYNTHIA K. RITTER

From the July/August 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


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8. Caldecott Award live

logo_YMAThe ALA Youth Media Awards will be announced tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. CT in Chicago (that’s 9 a.m. for Martha and me). Here is a link to the live webcast.

Watching online is not quite the same as being in that huge ballroom full of book-loving early risers, fizzing with anticipation and hoping their favorite new books are about to be named. With luck, the microphone will pick up some of the reactions in the audience.

Robin will be right there in the room for the announcements. Martha and I will be in our own homes surrounded by the March book review section because we’re expecting ANOTHER foot or more of snow tonight and tomorrow.

Wherever you are, we will post the winners on this blog ASAP so we can all react to the announcements together.


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9. Kids’ Favorite Books: Top 100 Lists

2013 GradeReading.NET Summer Reading Lists

Keep your students reading all summer! The lists for 2nd, 3rd and 4th, include 10 recommended fiction titles and 10 recommended nonfiction titles. Printed double-sided, these one-page flyers are perfect to hand out to students, teachers, or parents. Great for PTA meetings, have on hand in the library, or to send home with students for the summer. FREE Pdf or infographic jpeg. See the Summer Lists Now!

What are kids–your audience–reading today?
“The Accelerated Reader Real Time database includes book-reading records for more than 8.6 million students from 27,240 schools nationwide who read more than 283 million books during the 2011-2012 school year.”

Renaissance Learning, the folks who do the Accelerated Reader program and testing, has just issued the 2013 report, “What Kids are Reading: The Book-Reading Habits of Students in American Schools.” It uses the data collected from millions of AR-reading tests to report on what kids have actually read this past year. Of course, the caveat is that these are also books they tested on, and therefore may not give the clearest picture of leisure reading. An AR-test must exist and a school must have it available for a student to test on the book; students often read books that they don’t test on.

Classics. Overwhelmingly, classics rule (think Dr. Seuss), followed by high-profile books, such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid. One interesting dataset lists the Caldecott and Newberry winners and shows their ranking among 1-5 graders. The Caldecott winners languish, with only three titles breaking into the top 100: Officer Buckle and Gloria at #17; Where the Wild Things Are at #20; The Polar Express at #50; and, The Snowy Day at #62.

For the Newbery Award winners, nothing before 1960 made it into the top 100 list for 6th-8th graders. However, they fared better, with twelve Newbery titles on the list: The Giver at #11; Number the Stars at #14; Holes at #17; Maniac Magee at #41; Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry at #40; Bud, Not Buddy at #43; Bridge to Terabithia at #47; Island of Blue Dolphins at #63; The Westing Game at #65; Walk Two Moons at #72; Out of the Dust at #95; and, A Wrinkle in Time at #96.

whatkidsarereading_cover_13_175Overall, books that receive national exposure by being made into a movie were hits: The Lorax by Dr. Seuss, rising from #210th most popular to #28 this year for third graders; The Help by Kathryn Stockett, from #1273 last year to #24 among high schoolers; and, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, which had done well in high school and middle school in previous years, but this year jumped from #1478 to #24 in fourth grade and from #92 to #4 in fifth grade.

Text complexity in early 20th century for required reading in high school was about 9.0 ATOS, but has dropped to about 6.0 ATOS.

CCSS Exemplar texts were popular. The report states “. . .examining the popularity of the CCSS exemplars revealed that, although not intended to be used as a curriculum, almost all of the Informational Texts and Stories Exemplars were read by a slightly greater proportion of students in 2011-12 than the prior school year, suggesting the new standards may be influencing both curricular choices and less formal recommendations.”

These are fascinating pieces of data. The information is broken into favorites by grade and gender. You can also download these reports:

Here’s an infographic from RenLearing.
Click to see full size. R-Click to save. Click to see full size. R-Click to save.

It would also be an interesting project to cross-reference this material with Scholastic’s 2013 Kids and Family Reading Report, which analyzes data from a survey of families about what kids are reading.

How Does the Top 100 List Affect Your Writing?

Backlist is your real competition. First, realize that your real competition for kids’ attention isn’t today’s books, but the backlist. In schools, it takes time for teachers to fall in love with your book, develop lesson plans and incorporate it into the culture. If you can write a book that passes that gauntlet, you’re likely to have real staying power. Winning a major award might help, but the majority of award winners, have fallen off the charts.

Humor rules. Really. If you read over the list of top 100 books for the younger grades, it’s humor all the way. From Dr. Seuss to Laura Numeroff, kids like funny books. Jeff Kinney and Dav Pilkey combined capture ten of the top 20 for fourth grade. You may not win the Newbery for a funny book, but you might find your place in the classroom.

Trade Books rule. And lest you think that means you should look to educational publishers, look again. Most of these titles are from trade publishers.

Teen Books. Write on a teen level. In 8th grade, The Outsiders still ranks #3. Maybe that’s because it gets assigned by teachers, but it’s still popular with kids.

Nonfiction Popular Books

Also available is the Top 100 list of nonfiction titles. Accelerated Reader’s strength isn’t nonfiction, but it’s still interesting to see what titles turned up.

Grades 1-3. Nature/animal books, biographies and titles related to English Language Arts (such as #12, Hairy, Scary, Ordinary: What is an Adjective? by Brian P. Cleary) were most popular. For example, Penguin Chick was #1, The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle was #2, How Much is a Million? by David M. Schwartz was #3, and Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr by Doreen Rappaport was #4.

Grades 4-5. Biography and history edges out nature/animal books. For example, Finding the Titanic by Robert D. Ballard is #4, and Nights of the Pufflingsby Bruce McMillan is #9.

Grades 6-9. Biographies (including tales of faith)and history compete well at this level. Nature/animals lose traction, except for a few true tales or a few books on predators. Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back by Todd Burpo is at #2 and Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family and Fighting to Get back on the Board by Bethany Hamilton is #3. Seymour Simon’s book, Sharks is #18.

Grades 9-12. History dominates the top 100 list here. It’s true that Snakes by Kelly L. Barth is #2, but it’s the only nature/animal book listed until Snake by Chris Mattison at #86. At #3 is An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 by Jim Murphy, followed by the #4 title, 10,000 Days of Thunder: A History of the Vietnam War, by Phillip Caputo.

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10. ALA - Let's Get Together Yeah Yeah Yeah

With ALA slamming up at breakneck speed, I feel the need to make sure I connect to each and every one of you who come to Chicago.  Logistics tell me I'm nuts. But then again, it's worth the try.

Although there are some great social events in the offing, I think another youth services blogger and readers of blogs and twitter -peeps gathering would be fun to do especially if you're thinking of being at the Newbery/Caldecott awards banquet on Sunday June 30 at the Sheraton or the speeches after! It struck me that lots of us would be hanging around this premier youth services celebration, so...

....if you plan attend the banquet or just drop by the speeches after the dinner (there are chairs set up and you can listen to the speeches free and gaze upon the glitterati in the audience!), we can do a meet-up!

Traditionally, at the conclusion of the banquet, a receiving line with the honorees takes place right after the speeches outside the hall. There is always a cash bar. It's a great spot to gather and chat late night (caffeinate early to be up late!).

So consider this for your schedule and say hi!

Post N/C Youth Blogger/Blog Reader/Tweep Meet-up
Sunday June 30
Sheraton Chicago banquet area
10:30-11pm-ish start (or whenever N/C speeches end)

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11. Caldecott's 75th Anniversary! Poetry Friday! And Zounds--Sounds!

Howdy, Campers!

First of all, I'd like to apologize for pushing the "publish" button instead of the "save" button when I was composing this post yesterday.  As a result, my weird and clearly unfinished post went out to our subscribers above Carmela's wonderful Wednesday Writing Workout (which I highly recommend reading.)  Oy!

Onward...to Poetry Friday!

Thank you, Amy of The Poem Farm for hosting today!
My poem is below.  :-)

Breaking News: the American Library Association is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Caldecott Award at its annual conference!  Right now--right this very minute!

Here's one fascinating fact from the ALA's beautifully put together scrapbook of all things Caldecott:

Until 1958, an artist could not be awarded more than one Caldecott Medal unless the committee's vote was unanimous. In his letter responding to the news, Robert McCloskey expresses his surprise at winning the award a second time.
Except for his first picture book and his last one, Robert McCloskey won either a Caldecott Medal or a Caldecott Honor for every picture book he published. 

And check-out Brian Selznick's design of the 75th anniversary logo.

Here's a 1:03 minute video of last year's Caldecott honor winner, John Rocco, talking about The Phone Call...the moment he learned he'd won the Caldecott honor for his book, Blackout:

and here's a funny-weird 1:49 minute video about getting ready for
this year's Newbery/Caldecott banquet...

And, yes, it's Poetry Friday!  My poem was inspired by Carmela's Wednesday Writing Workout, in which author Melanie Crowder suggests that sounds can spark writing ideas.

But where to start--what sound?  How about applause--applause for all Caldecott winners (and those hard-working Caldecott committee members)? There are so many different kinds of applause, including this and this--which is the applause before a concert begins.  That's the sound that stuck with me.  Here's my rough draft:

by April Halprin Wayland

On stage:
tune strings,
star in the wings.

In your seat:
fleet squeaks,
copious creaks.

Toe-tapping beat,
Impatient feet!

Rise in your seat,
stomp on the floor,
awaken your core!

And even before his wild art starts,
for more!
poem © 2013 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved

TeachingAuthors will be taking a vacation from July 1-July 12, 2013.  Ta-ta!  Bye-bye!  Take time to write! See you soon, Raccoons! 

By April Halprin Wayland, who thanks you from the bottom of her little heart for reading all the way to the end. 

16 Comments on Caldecott's 75th Anniversary! Poetry Friday! And Zounds--Sounds!, last added: 7/4/2013
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12. Bologna Children's Book Fair

This week over on Turbo Monkey Tales I'm talking about my visit to Bologna in March. 
Follow this LINK to read all about it.


Pearl is coming soon! Next time, what I got up to at ALA Chicago, 2013.

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13. Taking Caldecott to High School

 In preparation for my year on the Caldecott Committee, I am immersing myself in picture books.  One thing I really wanted to do this year was hold a Mock Caldecott with youth. I just needed a willing teacher and a classroom to play with.  I happen to know the English teacher at the local high school, and one of the curriculum outcomes is “able to respond with critical awareness to various forms of the arts and be able to express themselves through the arts.  Perfect fit.  All grade nines have English with this teacher, back-to-back classes, so I go over for a couple of hours. I’ll be going once a month through January, when we will do our Mock Caldecott before I head off to Philadelphia to see which book this year’s Caldecott Committee chooses.

  My first class was an introduction to the award, which some knew about, but most did pic books screennot. They had heard of Newbery, but not Caldecott. (Remember, I am in Canada. Not every teacher stresses the importance of these books.) So we talked about the award a bit, then I shared some information about style and media from my go-to website, Picturing Books. If you are not familiar with this website, block out some off-desk time and get yourself over there ASAP.  After we looked at the slides about media and style, I gave them a homework assignment. I left 33 books in the classroom, Caldecott winners and honors from a wide range of years. I created a chart for them to fill out for at least 5 of the books:  Is the medium appropriate? Is the style appropriate? Do the pictures enhance the story? Page turns- what do you notice? Overall design? Line: what do you notice?  Since I can’t make it to their class in October, they have over a month to delve into these books, and the teacher is allowing them to read these books during Silent Reading Time in class (that got some whoops from the boys in the class). They will even be graded on their picture book charts.

When I go back in November, I’ll do a Visual Literacy exercise with them—we’ll look closely at a painting or two, and really start discussing art (picked up a few tips in Chicago on how to do this!). I will also take a stack of 2014 Caldecott “possibles” and we will take some time to really look closely at them we will do the same in December, and then in January, we’ll hold a Mock Caldecott.

I’m pretty excited about this little experiment, and I think the class is, too. When I got back to my office, I had an email from the teacher saying they were digging in to the box of books I left there, and that some of them had already started filling in the charts. Most of these students are 13 and 14 years old, so they ARE still officially within the Caldecott age range. How fun that I get to hear what they think about and see in the books!

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14. Gender and the ALA Awards

  1. How many pages are in a typical children’s picture book?
  2. Who is the audience of a children’s picture book? Hint: It's not just kids.
  3. Are there restrictions on the vocabulary you use in a picture book?
  4. Do I have to write in rhyme? Do manuscripts written in rhyme sell better?
  5. Do EPUB books have to the same length as printed books?
Don't start writing that picture book until you know these crucial concepts. GET THE ANSWERS HERE.

The Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, Siebert and other awards for the best books of children’s/teen literature were announced recently. And every year the question of gender bias is raised. Overwhelmingly, the industry is dominated by female authors/illustrators, yet the awards go to male authors/illustrators.

This year the Caldecott went to 75% male illustrators, with the winner a male.
The Siebert is 20% male, with the winner a female.
The Newbery is 40% male, with the winner a female.
The Siebert is 20% male, with the winner a male.

Except for the Caldecott, it seems the awards are spread out.

Considering the possibility of gender bias–which is generally skewed toward male authors/illustrators, it’s interesting to read this article by Lilit Marcus, who spent 2013 only reading female authors. She was accused of being sexist, reverse sexist, and misandrist. “One Flavorwire commenter dismissed the significance of focusing on female authors and announced that he would only be reading books by authors who were tall.”

And yet, many readers are now contacting Lilit and asking for recommendations for women authors.

I wonder what it would look like to only read women’s fiction and nonfiction for a year. What picture books would emerge as winners? What middle grade novels would you champion? What YA novels would rise to the top? What if you spent the next year only reading men’s fiction and nonfiction? What would you learn from each year’s experiences?

Do you feel that the world of children and teen publishing carries gender biases? Where do you see it most?

Winner of the 2014 Newbery Medal for Distinguished Contribution to Children's Literature.

Winner of the 2014 Newbery Medal for Distinguished Contribution to Children’s Literature.

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15. Friday Studio Links Featuring...

The Studio of Molly Idle

It's a privilege for me to take you on a tour today of the studio of Caldecott Honor winning author/illustrator Molly Idle. (Yes! I said Caldecott Honor!) Molly has illustrated over 16 picture books, and has created (written and illustrated) two characters destined to become classics - Rex (from Tea Rex and Camp Rex) and Flora (from Flora and the Flamingo and the soon to be released Flora and the Penguin.) 


Hot Off the Press


 2014 Caldecott Honor Book

I've had the pleasure of knowing Molly for more than eight years. We have a bit in common. We both live in Arizona. We both work in Color Pencil. And her backyard is home to her very own studio too!

Molly is just as fun and down to earth as her books are. Plus, she likes to share! Back in 2007 she offered her studio up for a workshop with art director Tim Gillner and more than a dozen other illustrators. Yes, her studio is big enough to host workshops!


Before heading over to her studio for a close-up tour, how about a few questions for Molly?

Whats your favorite color? (It’s okay, if you don't say pink!)
My favorite color changes all the time, depending on what I’m working on. Right now I’m deeply enamored of a lovely retro shade of sea-foam green. 

How many pencils did it take to complete Camp Rex? (It’s okay if you guess!) 
No comment. (I’ll be hosting a book giveaway soon that will address this very question…)

More numbers. 
I notice you have quite a collection of picture books! 
How many do you own? 
(You don't really have to count. An estimate will do.)
Judging by shelf space: Far too many.
Judging by how many wonderful books there are out in the world: Not nearly enough! 

If you had to use something other than color pencil, what medium would you choose?

What’s the favorite thing about your studio?
The people I share it with.

My whole family utilizes the workshop: My Dad, an inventor, can be found building prototypes here. My Mom, an actress,  holds improv workshops here. My husband, Steve, builds ship models here. And our boys come here to do their homework and help me make messes. It’s very much a family affair in the Idle workshop! But for now, I’ll just show you my part…
My prized rubber chicken.

A few books, books, books…

 You can see, I like to keep up to date- 
using the very latest in technology…

 A few things you can never have enough of: 
celebratory drinks, printer ink, and storage space.

Can you ever have too many pencils? I submit that you cannot.


  My desk...

Thank you Molly for being so good at sharing!

Want to learn more about Molly?
You'll find some more fun interviews at the following links.
Teen Penguin
Nerdy Book Club

You can see a great trailer for Camp Rex at this link.
Watch. Connect. Read.

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16. 2014 ALSC Election Results

Many thanks to all of the candidates who ran for division office this year. These folks put their time and talents up for the division and we thank them. Here are the results from the 2014 ALSC Elections:

Vice President/President-elect

Andrew Medlar

Board of Director

Doris Gebel
Julie Roach
Kay Weisman

2016 Caldecott Committee

Lauren, Anduri
Alan Bailey
Brian Fahey
Jill Bellomy
Karen MacPherson
Sarah Bean Thompson
Tess Prendergast
Tessa Michaelson-Schmidt

2016 Newbery Committee

Allie Jane Bruce
Cheryl Lee
Christine Scheper
Destinee Sutton
Eric Barbus
Joanna Ward
Shawn Brommer
Ty Burns

2016 Sibert Committee

Alan Bern
Eric Gomez
Grace Ruth
Nick Glass
Susan Lempke

2017 Wilder Committee

Maria Gentle
Carolyn Phelan
Kathleen Isaacs

To learn more about ALA’s election results, please visit the ALA Election Information page.

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17. Weekend Links: Tons of Wonderful Children’s Reading Links!

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weekend links

Oh my! What a fun Weekend Links this will be! I don’t know if it’s because Spring is in the air and the flowers are a bloomin’ here in TN, but this week has been chocked full of amazing information concerning summer reading, multicultural books and great reading lists for kids. So exciting!

As always, I’ve combed through the hundreds of amazing articles out there and brought you the best of the best (in my opinion). So grab a cup of coffee and settle in for some great kidlit-inspired reading ideas for kids!


The Multiracial Population Is Growing, But Kid Lit Isn’t Keeping Up: School Library Journal

2014 Books from Caldecott Winners: 100ScopeNotes


9780763658069 787a4 454x500 2014 Books from Caldecott Winners


Middle Reader Summer Reading List from PrettyOpinionated

Middle grade summer reading

22 Awesome Submissions From The #WeNeedDiverseBooks Campaign



@KCEdventures 15 Amazing Vintage Summer Reads for Kids -Encourage Learning with Kids

15 Vintage Summer Books for Kids

From My Backyard Summer Reading List: Reading Rockets

Quotable Quotes: The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you'll go. -- Dr. Seuss


Needs some summer reading ideas?  10 to Note: Summer Preview 2014 from 100 ScopeNotes

image 500x375 10 to Note: Summer Preview 2014

What great kid-reading inspired links did YOU find this week?

**Don’t Forget! Children’s Book Week starts May 12th!


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Is Paul Goble's The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses one of your favorite books? It won the Caldecott Medal thirty-five years ago. Let's take a look at it.

Here's the first paragraph in the story:
The people were always moving from place to place following the herds of buffalo. They had many horses to carry the tipis and all their belongings. They trained their fastest horses to hunt the buffalo.
With the word 'tipis' in that paragraph Goble suggests that these are Plains people. The buffalo are another clue that suggests the story is one belonging to the Plains tribes.

As the story begins, we learn of "a girl" (we are never given her name) who loved horses. People in the village see that she has a way with them. One day when she is out with the herd of horses, a huge storm erupts. She leaps onto one as the herd races in fear. When the horses stop that night, the girl looks around and realizes that they are lost. The next morning she wakes to the neighing of a handsome stallion who tells her he is the leader of the wild horses that roam the hills. He welcomes her to live with them. She and her herd are happy.

Meanwhile, her people spend the next year looking for her. One day, two hunters see the stallion and the girl, too. She's on a horse, leading a colt. They call and wave at her. She waved back, but the stallion drove her and the herd away from the hunters. Other men join them in an attempt to reach the girl, but the stallion keeps them away from the girl and the colt. But, the girl's horse stumbles, and she falls. The hunters take her back to the village. She was happy to see her parents but she is sad. She misses the colt and the wild horses. At night, the stallion calls to her. The girl is lonely and gets sick. Doctors ask what would make her happy again, and she says she wants to return to the wild horses.

The stallion and wild horses come to the village. The people give the horses blankets and saddles and they give the girl a beautiful dress and the best horse in the village. The girl gives her parents a colt, and she rides away, beside the stallion, reunited with the herd. Each year, she brings her parents another colt. But one year, she doesn't return at all.

Then, the hunters see the stallion again. Beside him is "a beautiful mare with a mane and tail floating with wispy clouds about her." They believe the girl is that mare, that she has become a wild horse, too. The story ends with:
Today we are still glad to remember that we have relatives among the Horse People. And it gives us joy to see the wild horses running free. Our thoughts fly with them.
Nowhere in The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses do we have any sources for that story. As noted earlier, Goble's use of 'tipis' suggests a Plains tribe. What we know as the Great Plains is a vast area. Here's a map from the Smithsonian:

See how that area stretches from the north to south, spanning at least 1500 miles? See the 20 or so tribes listed in that area? There's a lot more than just those 20. They don't speak the same language and they don't tell the same stories.

The question is, who does this story about a girl who became a wild horse belong to? It'd be good to know. If it is a story Goble came up with, then it isn't a Native story, is it?

Though it won the Caldecott, and though a lot of people love Goble's art, I think it is (past) time to set aside The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses. What do you think?

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19. Way Back Wednesday Essential Classic: Bambino the Clown

Bambino the Clown

by George Schreiber


There is a very fine dividing line that I have discovered on opinions surrounding the subject of CLOWNS. And the line is crystal clear, as it seems there IS no middle ground. You either love them or fear them. So imagine my surprise when I found a Caldecott Honor book from 1948 that will let YOU make up your mind from a SAFE distance. I must recuse myself from this debate as I fell in love with Bambino! And whether after reading it, you too fall in love, in LIKE or still run screaming into the night, you will have shared with your young reader a beautiful narrative on what it takes to be understood in this world – a listening ear, time and compassion. Bambino has all three virtues in equal amounts. And it does help if you also have as a pet a black Sea Lion called Flapper and a sense of humor!

When I read these wonderful vintage Caldecott classics, I often wonder to myself, “Where are these authors now?” “Are they still living?” Do they realize the effect their picture book are STILL having on readers, as in the case of Bambino, some 66 years after its printing? Sometimes I DO look them up online to see where they are and the specifics of their careers as writers. And in the case of George Schreiber, it started me down an offshoot of my original intent on a review of his book.

What sidetracked me was the discovery of something George Schreiber and many other artists were part of in the years of the Great Depression and even into World War II. Have you ever heard of the Federal Arts Project? Well, neither had I. It was an arm of the WPA or Works Progress Administration, begun by Franklin Roosevelt in his New Deal effort to get the country moving again economically. Started in 1935 and ending in 1943, it gave artists such as Jackson Pollock, Thomas Hart Benton, George Schreiber and hundreds of other artists an opportunity to do posters, murals and paintings that wound up hanging in schools, hospitals and libraries. The Federal Arts Project provided artists with income and an opportunity to display their work. And the public had a chance to see great art at a time when the soul-feeding jolt that the arts provide was sorely needed. George Schreiber enrolled in the WPA Arts Project in 1936 and over the next three years he traveled all 48 states (yes, only 48 at that time!), creating lithographs of American Regionalist imagery. A link to a sample of that imagery is provided below.

Museum collections representing Mr. Schreiber’s work include The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Brooklyn Museum, The Whitney Museum of American Art and The Museum of the City of New York. I always am excited to see young picture book readers experience great art ALONG with a great story. It lets them see and remember at a young age what “great” is, as opposed to “mediocre!”

At his death in 1977, George Schreiber who was not ONLY an artist but also a war correspondent in World War II AND poster designer was part of a NYC WPA Artists exhibit at Parsons School of Design. He was also a noted lithographer, teacher and writer. And so, we come full circle back to his book on the little clown, Bambino.

Take a look with your young reader at some great art by George Schreiber and the charming story of his invention, Bambino the Clown, a Caldecott Honor book of 1948. This clown and the art that brings him alive is a story in itself that shows young readers what “good” art really looks like! Thank you Mr. Schreiber!! You made me smile! For as Bambino reminds his young friend, Peter, as he confides to him what it means to be a clown, “Now you know how to be a clown; you must remember it means just one thing: “To laugh and make everybody happy!”




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20. B: A Profile of Brian Floca

locomotive B: A Profile of Brian FlocaAn editor’s dream — smart authors, smart artists. They save so much time. That is, they’re up to speed without undue heaving or the need for sand on the tracks (see Locomotive for more on the subject). My subject in this tribute is someone who is all three: author, artist, smart.

Given a pencil, Brian Floca doodled young and was still happily at it when, in the spring of 1991, we met in Providence, Rhode Island, in (unaccountably) an empty office in the Department of Egyptology at Brown University. Doodles, by then, had become a comic strip in the campus newspaper. As a junior at Brown, Brian was also studying with David Macaulay at nearby Rhode Island School of Design (what a treat, then, to read in The Horn Book’s review of Locomotive that the back endpaper cutaway illustration of Central Pacific engine Jupiter surely “would make David Macaulay proud”).

It was Avi who arranged our meeting. He was seeking an illustrator for a 400-page gleam in his eye that became City of Light, City of Dark (1993), an early entrant in the recent resurgence of graphic novels. Brian had been recommended. He did some sample pen-and-inks: lots of energy; inventive perspectives; a touch of the sinister, which Avi’s tale required.

Before that first project was published, Avi had dreamt up a second — a fantasy called Poppy (winner of a 1996 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award). The three-inch mouse heroine emerged first in what the illustrator describes as “cartoony pen-and-ink” but then matured magically in velvety pencil. From gargantuan cityscape to atmospheric woodland, this young man could draw anything.

I hadn’t yet read any of Brian’s own story ideas. Turned out he was not only a skilled draftsman, but also a witty writer, sometimes wacky, sometimes tender. The first text Brian brought me was a goofball romp about a boy in a natural history museum, The Frightful Story of Harry Walfish (1997), though not till he’d finished, for Orchard, Helen Ketteman’s Luck with Potatoes (1995). Years later, I mean years, he admitted that before Helen’s book he’d never done any watercolor illustrations requiring book-length focus. But focus he did…on a departure, and also in watercolor: Five Trucks (1999), which Booklist starred and which prompted the reviewer to ask: “If picture books about trucks are so easy to do, why do we see so many poor ones and so few as good as this?”

A stylistic throwback followed, Dinosaurs at the Ends of the Earth (2000) about explorer/naturalist Roy Chapman Andrews. Not quite nonfiction (Brian imagines some dialogue), the book spreads as wide as the Gobi Desert; the text, mostly arrayed horizontally, is lengthy and looks it. Great rectangles of words. But the writing is alive, a throwback only in its long-lined form.

As a kid I loved poring over Holling C. Holling (but oh, those long texts) and the informational books by Edwin Tunis (dry as tinder, yet the drawings captivated). Fifty years later, here was Brian Floca of Temple, Texas, an artist who could bring to life gizmos, vehicles, feats, and all manner of things that go and do and make noises. And not go on and on for paragraphs. Here was an artist to channel that one-time kid who liked “process” and long-looking. I hope it’s clear that we’d hit it off as friends from the beginning, but now the making of books about the workings of things had become a connecting passion.

The Racecar Alphabet (2003) was the first brainchild: rambunctious, even raucous, with an alliterative text only 205 words long. One NASCAR driver we heard from via e-mail reads the book to his son regularly and praised Brian for the accuracy of art, car info — and sound effects. For a further example of those, see Lightship (2007).

“A committee member” asked for a lunch-break look at our copy of Lightship in the Atheneum ALA booth.
She’d heard that the text was “strong.” It was Lightship that alerted the world that this young man could not only illustrate and pace a book beautifully, he could also write. Brian’s texts thereafter arrayed themselves vertically; visually spare, like ribbons floating to allow room for art, they often read like poetry (think of the glorious Moonshot in 2009, and now Locomotive). The words brim with emotion even when it is facts he’s presenting.

Since his beginnings, Brian has been a working illustrator. His website makes clear that his range is impressive —
animal, vegetable, mechanical. I have a most personal collection of hand-drawn postcards and notes the Society of Illustrators could make a show of; a recent highlight is a pen-and-ink Jupiter, puffing a great blast of thank-you flowers.

Locomotive began life in 2008 as an homage to a wondrous big chugger such as Jupiter, when Brian’s flight of Apollo 11 was still on the drawing board. It soon became clear that locomotives, especially those engines destined for transcontinental travel, bore on their wheels the great weight of nineteenth-century America. Homage
became paean. Had to. Thirty-two pages became, progressively, 40, 48, 56, 64. Research led him this way and that — into many an account of the heroism, ingenuity, venality, and even crime behind the country’s westward expansion. These elements, outside the immediate focus of Locomotive, make appearances in the narrative in supporting roles, which, it is hoped, will lead readers to other books, other stories. But the stars of Locomotive had to remain the locomotives themselves (several were required to make the Omaha-to-Sacramento trek); sometimes even pieces of their stories fell to the cutting room floor.

Nearly a victim of the streamlining ax was the KA-BOOM! explosion picture. (Brian said: “Boys will like it; I hate to lose it, but…”) Lots of the book hit the floor at one time or another, great puddles of remarkable art, often without room for itself in the narrative, offshoots of story for which there was no space or time. The nights of the journey had to be documented with rhythmically placed dark pages; lighting for existing scenes had to be changed from midnight to sunlight — perspectives had to be juxtaposed. Locomotive was pulled apart and reassembled many a time. Like a machine itself, this book was built.

And as with the pictures, the text too was an assemblage. I must have read it a hundred times and yet I am always impressed with how the skein of language supports the visual story. For by now, after a long, evolutionary, and iterative process, a story had emerged — of one family traveling westward, propelled by a sequence of Union Pacific and Central Pacific locomotives. Listen to the book read aloud. Through its words, it presents the experiences of one boy (a stand-in, surely, for the artist himself) lucky enough to see and see more and hear and hear more — a whole world opening up to him.

At the touching end, the simplicity of the family’s reunion seems to me just right — no bustling background, just feeling. Full but spare, the text here through the arrival in San Francisco was sifted and shifted well into final proofing stage. The book ends with the art/text version of a hug. And extends to the back of the jacket, which shows six grown boys loving a machine — just as three grown boys, Brian principally, but also the designer, Michael McCartney, and I, have loved the tinkering, the polishing, the priming of this book for its journey from the nineteenth century to the twenty-first.

Brian Floca has opened a world to me.

And now, what’s next? Back to the man who put this crew together: Avi and his Old Wolf. Brian has illustrated in rich pencil the fable-like tale of an aged wolf-pack leader determined to feed his hungry pups (does he or doesn’t he have one more kill in him?), a boy with a birthday bow-and-arrows who knows about killing only from video games, and a raven who knows about everything.

After that, there’s a picture book starring a cat behind the wheel—a vehicle-sized cat or a cat-sized vehicle? Only the artist knows for sure…

I am grateful that there’s to be a future for us. Thank you, young sir, for the ride so far. I have learned much.

Your pal, D

Brian Floca is the 2014 Caldecott Medal winner for Locomotive. From the July/August 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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21. Experience the Book & Media Award Acceptance Speeches

ALSC Award Acceptance Speeches

ALSC Award Acceptance Speeches (image courtesy ALSC)

The 2014 ALSC book and media award acceptance speeches evoked plenty of emotion. Some were funny and warm. Some were emotional and informative. You can read them yourself on the ALSC website! Download a copy of the PDF of each of the speeches:

You can also watch reaction videos from the 2014 ALA Youth Media Award winnersVideos of the award speech presentations and inspiration videos that concluded the banquet will be posted soon.

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22. Way Back Wednesday Essential Classic: Goldilocks and the Three Bears by James Marshall

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23. Aaron Becker: Some Adjustments Were Made Along the Way: One Artist's Journey

Author/illustrator Aaron Becker has the whole audience standing up and singing a variety of refrains. They are NOT from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but I AM having an out of body experience. . . .


OOOOOOH HOLY HELL, we all just sang JOURNEY!

Aaron shares this video of the Journey trailer:

As a kid, Aaron was always drawing, he shows us some of his drawings from 1978 of a few X-Wing fighters. AND he was always making books! He made his own Ed Emberley-ish how-to-draw books complete with bio photos and flap copy, but at the time, he thought this was just fun play and when he became an adult he'd have to give it all up, no more making books with pictures.

But in high school, though he never took an art class, he got an internship with a local commercial illustrator and realized you could get paid to make art. In college Aaron finally got into some art classes and Post-College Aaron started working in the fields of graphic design, and though he was getting paid to draw, it wasn't quite what he thought it would be. At an elderly 23,  he felt like his days were slipping away, being filled with unfulfilling work and that maybe he did not need the security of his day job if it meant his life wasn't really worth living.

And so he did a web search and found:

Except it wasn't until eight years later, after initial children's book publisher rejections at some SCBWI events, time in art school studying illustration, working for various film and animation companies, and finally being laid off by an animation company, that Aaron found himself at a critical juncture. Now, with a new baby and no job, Aaron turned down a film industry job offer and followed his dream of making books with pictures and this is where Journey's journey begins:

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24. YMA Favorites

When you’re reading this, a lot of us will be heading or preparing to head to Chicago for ALA Midwinter. There are many things to be excited about during Midwinter–meetings, exhibits, seeing friends.

But not a lot actually meets the level of excitement, that the Youth Media Awards. This will be my first YMAs in person! I’m so jazzed. So I thought I’d take a moment and reflect on my favorite winners of past YMAs. Honestly, I could go on for pages and pages about this, but I’ll just do a quick overview because y’all are packing or flying.  My very favorites of the Caldecott Medal, Newbery Medal, and Printz Award Winners:

I know this is everyone’s favorite, but it’s totally mine. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. It won the 1963 Caldecott award. This book was written over 20 years before I was born, but I adored it as a child. I remember asking my mom to read it to me over and over and over again. And it holds up. I use this one in storytimes often, and I’m lucky enough to live near the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi and have seen some of the original art. It’s as gorgeous as you think it is.

The View From Saturday by E.L. Konisburg won the Newbery Medal in 1997. This is one that I was wild about as a child. I was 9 years old when this book came out, and I was part of a program in my school that was similar to the Academic Bowl Team. Well, not entirely similar. But it felt similar. My fourth-grade self resonated with this one DEEPLY. I actually have not read this one as an adult. A part of me is terrified that it won’t hold up. But it will, right? Because Konigsburg? This is the first time in my life I remember being aware that the Newbery medal is something that was actually awarded, and that the seal didn’t just magically appear on books in my school library. I remember my school librarian telling us that this book had won and being very excited because I had read it and loved it so much. Maybe it’s time for a reread?


The Printz Award is a little different. It’s a much newer award. The first Printz was awarded in 2000. I wasn’t really aware of the existence of the Printz until college library school, but I quickly became obsessed. I actually wrote my master’s project on the Printz. In doing so, I read many Printz and Printz Honor titles. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, the 2009 winner, is my favorite, and continues to be my favorite Young Adult title of all time. I understand that my approach to this book was different. I was an adult the first time I read it, upon the recommendation of a colleague at my library, unlike the other two titles, which I came to as a child. But this book, like the other two, changed me and stayed with me. Marchetta is now one of my favorite authors. I’m fond of telling friends that if she wrote ingredients lists on the side of cereal boxes, I’d have them shipped over from Australia to read.

That’s the thing I love about award winners, and all books. Remember this when you’re putting award seals on books next week and when you’re teaching classes about the Caldecott and Newbery and when you’re excitedly handing your tweens and teens the Printz Honor book you’ll know they love: these are the books that will stay with them forever. And we get to be a tiny part of that.

Our cross-poster from YALSA today is Ally Watkins (@aswatki1). Ally is a youth services librarian in Mississippi, and has worked with kids ages birth-18 for the last 5 years.

The post YMA Favorites appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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25. THIS IS NOT MY HAT by Jon Klassen

This is Not My Hat 
by Jon Klassen

Reading level: 3 and up
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Candlewick Press (October 9, 2012)
ISBN-13: 978-0763655990

I first encountered this book while doing some browsing at shop at The Eric Carle Picture Book Museum this past fall, and was instantly charmed by the ingenuity of its design and storytelling smartness. Though Jon Klassen's preceding book, I Want My Hat Back, is also funny/smart in a strikingly similar fashion, This is Not My Hat far outshines its predecessor in design, concept, and attitude. It's Jon Klassen 2.0. Here's why:

In I Want My Hat Back, the hat thief is a mystery for most of the story and the hat-hunting Bear the innocent victim. But This is Not My Hat is told from the point of view of the hat thief himself---a little fish with a BIG attitude. Self-assured and cocky, Little Fish justifies his immoral swiping of Big Fish's hat for the logical reason that it's far too small for the big fish anyway. He's certain that he's committed the perfect crime and will never be found out... 

Each sentence (few as there are) does exactly what it needs to do in pushing the story along. But where the simplistic and restrained writing truly soars is that he is able to give Little Fish such a snarky voice in so few words. The beauty of the writing is that Klassen says what should be said, and shows what should be shown. It results in one of the best rhythmically syncopated picture books to emerge in recent memory. It's picture book mastery at its best.

Stylistically the images are a bit dark for my personal taste--I'm not a huge fan of the muted color palette or flat back background. The flat black basically says "death" from page one and I just don't know if this was the only solution that could have worked. However I do love the texture and traditional collage-like feel achieved with digital media. Regardless of how I feel about this look, I give Klassen credit for being daring and for appropriately setting the tone of this darkly comic caper. It would not have worked as well if it were set in a typically colored ocean scene. The dark, muted colors definitely enhance the ominous atmosphere.

I love the flat matte paper Candlewick has chosen as well as the long shape of the pages. Klassen uses the page turn like a slow motion flip book where at times nothing differs from one image to the next besides the reactive eye of the big fish and an occasional gesture of secondary character. This makes it feel especially animated and demonstrates an enviable efficiency that many illustrators could learn from. It's super smart.

I reiterate that what Jon Klassen has done with the storytelling here is admirable. He's created the perfect marriage of text and image where both serve the story in the best possible combination.

Winning the Caldecott Medal proves many people acknowledge its merit as a significant contribution to children's literature. But I'm surprised by those who who jump to give it a poor review simply because its main character is an unapologetic criminal. They've missed their chance to read between the lines (kids are often better at that than adults). At its heart, this IS a morality tale. It doesn't encourage stealing, it supports the idea that doing the wrong thing just because you can is still wrong---and there will be inescapable consequences. Little Fish is not a bully, he just takes what he wants because he thinks it won't be missed. To me, it reminds me of the very same little-kid logic I myself once had--even if I ultimately never indulged myself into thieving anything... In a humorous, smart, and engaging way this book speaks to kids because it relates to the way they think. The harsh reminder about consequences of immoral actions is also a good one, for kids and adults alike.

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