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

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

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

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

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

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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

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


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


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

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


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

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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4. Sharing books with friends + summer magic

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

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

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

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

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

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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

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


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

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

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

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

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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

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


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

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


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


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

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

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

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

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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8. Summer reading favorites: 3rd grade suggestions

School is out for us--hooray! Our first outing was to get ice cream and visit the local branch of our public library. Do your kids wander about needing suggestions about what to read? Here are some of my favorite books to recommend for kids who have just finished 3rd grade.

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


Having Fun with Chapter Books (level N-O-P)
Graphic Novels We Love
Funny Stories (level Q-R-S)
Stories that Touch Your Heart (level Q-R-S)
Exciting Adventure and Fantasy (level Q-R-S)
Fascinating Nonfiction
Do you like these? Print out the whole list to take to the library or bookstore! Share it with friends!


Check out all of the 2014 summer reading lists I developed for grades K through 5 through SlideShare or this page.

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

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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9. Summer Reading Favorites: 4th grade suggestions

School is out for us--hooray! Our first outing was to get ice cream and visit the local branch of our public library. Do your kids wander about needing suggestions about what to read? Here are some of my favorite books to recommend for kids who have just finished 3rd grade.

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


Having Fun with Chapter Books (level O-P-Q)
  • The Gumazing Gum Girl!: Chews Your Destiny, by Rhode Montijo (library - Amazon)
  • Bowling Alley Bandit, by Laurie Keller (library - Amazon)
  • Dragonbreath, by Ursula Vernon (library - Amazon)
  • Ferno the Fire Dragon (Beast Quest series), by Adam Blade (library - Amazon)
Adventure & Historical Fiction (level Q-R-S-T)
  • Al Capone Does My Shirts, by Gennifer Choldenko (library - Amazon)
  • The Shark Attacks of 1916 (I Survived series), by Lauren Tarshis (library - Amazon)
  • Turtle in Paradise, by Jennifer L. Holm (library - Amazon)
  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick (library - Amazon)
Exciting Fantasy (level Q-R-S)
Funny Stories (level R-S-T)
  • Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Summer Vacation, by Tommy Greenwald DiTerlizzi (library - Amazon)
  • Flora and Ulysses, by Kate DiCamillo (library - Amazon)
  • The Templeton Twins Have an Idea, by Ellis Weiner (library - Amazon)
  • Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made, by Stephan Pastis (library - Amazon)
Stories that Touch Your Heart (level R-S-T)
New Graphic Novels!
Fascinating Nonfiction
  • Barbed Wire Baseball, by Marissa Moss (library - Amazon)
  • Baseball Legends in the Making, by Marty Gitlin (library - Amazon)
  • Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker, by Patricia Hruby Powell (library - Amazon)
  • Separate Is Never Equal, by Duncan Tonatiuh  (library - Amazon)
Do you like these? Print out the whole list to take to the library or bookstore! Share it with friends!


Check out all of the 2014 summer reading lists I developed for grades K through 5 through SlideShare or this page.

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

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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10. Summer Reading Favorites: 5th grade suggestions

Summer is definitely in full swing for us, with plenty of time to play with friends, hang out with siblings and explore new places. I keep encouraging my kids to find a little quiet time to get lost in a book. Whether it's escaping into your imagination or just having time away from the frenzy, it's important to keep reading in the summer. Here are some of my favorite books to recommend for kids who have just finished 5th grade.

Exciting Adventure and Fantasy
Fascinating Nonfiction
Stories that Touch Your Heart
Funny Stories
  • The 26-Story Treehouse, by Andy Griffiths (library - Amazon)
  • The Adventures of Nanny Piggins, by R.A. Spratt (library - Amazon)
  • My Life as a Book, by Janet Tashjian (library - Amazon)
  • Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made, by Stephan Pastis (library - Amazon)
Graphic Novels We Love!
Do you like these? Print out the whole list to take to the library or bookstore! Share it with friends!


Check out all of the 2014 summer reading lists I developed for grades K through 5 through SlideShare or this page.

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

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

Special thanks go to my remarkable colleagues and collaborators:


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

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

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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

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

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

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


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

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

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



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

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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

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

These environmental issues are complex and still hotly debated. Just last month, the New York Times ran a passionate, thoughtful piece in the op-ed section called "Is the Wolf a Real American Hero?" I would point interested students to a range of resources on the subject, so they can see the complexities and the biases involved. In particular, I found these interesting:
Text to Text: 
Is the Wolf a Real American Hero?
and
Hunting Habits of Wolves Change Ecological Balance in Yellowstone
New York Times: The Learning Network
Wolves at the Door
Audio & reporting by Nathan Rott
Photography by David Gilkey
National Public Radio
After Major Comeback, Is the Gray Wolf Still Endangered?
by Elizabeth Shogren
National Public Radio
Wolf Restoration
Yellowstone National Park
National Park Services
The review copies came from our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Margaret K. McElderry/Simon & Schuster. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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18. Andy Griffiths brings laughter & giggles to Emerson kids (ages 7-10)


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

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

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

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



Thanks so much to Andy for his time and laughter, and to Macmillan Kids for sponsoring such a great visit! The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, but many more were purchased for our school library and classrooms! If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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

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

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


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

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


We hope to see you in the stacks -- or was that in the stands? Bring your bat, glove and favorite baseball fan and join us! The review copies came from our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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

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

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

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

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



Huge thanks to my fellow Common Core IRL colleagues. Again, here's the full batting line-up of our posts on baseball for Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries. Here's our line-up this week:
We hope to see you in the stacks -- or was that in the stands? Bring your bat, glove and favorite baseball fan and join us! The review copies came from our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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

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

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

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

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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23. The Night Gardener, by Jonathan Auxier -- deliciously creepy, certainly frightening! (ages 10-14)


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

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

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

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

The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Abrams Books, but I've already purchased the first of many additional copies! If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am excited to read about other resources my colleagues have found in their search: Common Core IRL -- In Real Libraries. This week, we are excited to share:
  • Great Kid Books - Life in Colonial America (grades 3-5)
  • Kid Lit Frenzy - Primary sources (grades 4-6)
  • The Show Me Librarian - Historical fiction (grades 4-6)
  • The Nonfiction Detectives - Comparing perspectives (grades 4-6)
  • Great Kid Book: Digital resources (grades 4-6)
The review copies came from our district library collection. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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