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1. Don’t stop the readin’…hold on to that read aloud feeling

Don’t stop the readin’…hold on to that read aloud feeling | Storytime Standouts

Don't Stop the Readin'  Hold on to that Feeling A Guest Post by @1PrncsSome days I’m more “quirky” than others. This is one of those days. Instead of just telling you that your middle grade children (grades 4, 5, 6, 7) are not too old for you to keep up that nightly ritual of reading, I’ve made some alterations to a classic Journey song. You can laugh or roll your eyes, but the message will be the same. They’re getting older, but it doesn’t lessen their enthusiasm for books. Nor does it mean they don’t need us there to help them navigate some of the issues that their favourite characters are facing. Bottom line? Take fifteen minutes at the end of the night, curl up on someone’s bed, and keep reading.









Don’t Stop the Readin’ (adapted from Journey’s Don’t stop believin’– hardcore Journey fans…I’m sorry :) (ps: it helps if you listen to the song in the background softly so you can read with the beat)

Just a grade five  girl
Readin’ bout’ a wizard  world
She read the whole series
Loved the characters
Just a grade six boy
Thinks he doesn’t like to read
He found The Outsiders
Thinks he’s Ponyboy






His father comes into the room
The moon is out the day is done
For a while they can read tonight
It goes on and on and on and on


Parents reading
Learnin’ bout the Hunger Games,
Heroes like Percy
Annabeth
Quests and danger
Find out what your kids are lovin’
Read with them every night





Workin’ hard to pay the bills
One on one time is such a thrill
Read a story, talk about your day
It’s worth the time
Picture Book
Non-Fiction
Doesn’t matter what you read
Graphic novels, Patterson
The list can go on and on and on







They aren’t too old
Even in the middle grades
Let them read to you
Read to them
Make it matter
A great way to stay connected
Just fifteen minutes a night





Don’t stop the readin’
Hold on to that feelin’
With your children
Don’t stop the readin’
Nielsen,
Sachar, Judy Blume
They keep you readin’
Keep on reading!






Don’t Stop Believin’ at Amazon.com

Don’t Stop Believin’: the Best of Journey at Amazon.ca

Storytime Standouts - Raising Children Who Love to Read

Storytime Standouts shares ten great reasons to read aloud to...
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    2. Firebird: A Guest Post by Sam Bloom

    firebird 300x273 Firebird: A Guest Post by Sam BloomIs it possible for a guy who has won three BGHB Honors, four Coretta Scott King Honors, and one Caldecott Honor (in 1998, for Harlem) to be underrated? Why yes, yes it is. Christopher Myers continues to fly under the radar every year when it comes to Caldecott buzz, but I’m guessing the real committee will take a good look at this one.

    Julie Danielson interviewed illustrator Myers and author/ballet dancer Misty Copeland at Kirkus a while back; it’s a great piece that is definitely worth a look. In it, Myers talks about how he decided on collage because it allowed him to “choreograph across the page,” using color and texture to reflect the juxtaposition of the “riotous energy” and “careful attention to detail” that constitutes the essence of dance. Keeping this in mind when reading Firebird, I would contend that Myers nailed the “appropriateness of style” criterion…but I would argue that he scores nearly as well with the other criteria, too.

    Myers’s illustrations are like intricate puzzles for the reader to take apart and put back together, over and over again. For instance, look at the first full-page spread: the young, unnamed dancer gazes up from the bottom left corner as adult ballerina Misty leaps across a night skyline. In the background, buildings twinkle above a frothy-looking river spanned by a bridge. Misty’s white outfit makes a striking contrast against the lovely midnight blues and deep purples of the sky and river. But don’t stop there: look closer. Note first the texture of the collage, the overlapping pieces of cut paper used to make the night sky, the white-washed blues and blacks of the river below. Now zero in on that skyline. The building above Misty’s outstretched right calf…is that a picture of someone’s hand resting on a gray table, cut into a building shape? And the building above her right knee looks to be a shadowed photo of a brick wall… or is that a fence? All of this is barely noticeable when viewing the spread as a whole, but the bizarre (yet lovely) details become apparent when you lean in for a better look.

    In Jules’s piece, Myers talks about how he focused mostly on color and texture to show emotion, and to my mind he succeeded completely. To give just one example, the endpapers are a fiery mix of reds, golds, and oranges, extending that Firebird motif from the front cover. This is some abstract stuff, but young readers will no doubt respond to the hot colors (forget that they are normally referred to as “warm”; these hues are habanero-smoking hot) and texture. To be sure, reading Firebird is an extremely tactile visual experience. Looking closer at the endpapers, I see feathers, the bumps of a diamond-studded (I think) strawberry, a fabric of some sort, and either a shag carpet close-up or a sea anemone. And here, as throughout the book, the reader can clearly see where each piece of cut paper ends and the next begins.

    I hate to bring up the typography because I find the book to be practically perfect in every way, but the two fonts are not perfectly chosen. The text is a dialogue between the two characters, with the young girl’s words appearing in a bold italic font and Misty’s words appearing in a bold Roman font. I wish there was more differentiation between the two type styles, because I had to look twice on many occasions to see who was talking. It’s a lovely text, though, and Myers does a fabulous job with his interpretation.

    Speaking of interpretation, my own interpretive skills aren’t terribly great, so I’m always curious to hear what others think. What do you all think is going on in some of those spreads? Especially intriguing to me is the final spread, where Misty and the young girl dance together wearing matching white tutus. Silhouetted dancers leap and twirl in front of multi-colored backgrounds, including what I believe is a male dancer to the extreme right. The spread itself is a stunner — it’s absolutely gorgeous — but I don’t completely understand it. Thoughts? And in more general terms, what does everyone think? Are you all high on Firebird, too?

    share save 171 16 Firebird: A Guest Post by Sam Bloom

    The post Firebird: A Guest Post by Sam Bloom appeared first on The Horn Book.

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    3. I don’t THINK anyone is trying to hunt me down

    heathers01 I dont THINK anyone is trying to hunt me downLast weekend my friend Lori was in town and we took the dogs for a walk in the schoolyard across the street. Three tween girls were hanging out on the jungle gym and as we passed they started whispering ostentatiously in our direction and laughing meanly. ‘Girls that age” said Lori, a middle-school math teacher in the Bronx, “are the worst.”

    That encounter stayed with me as I started exploring the saga of YA author Kathleen Hale and the Goodreads troll, which Hale described at great, great length in the Guardian. What did the editors think to let her go on for 5000 words? Perhaps they are part of the great catfishing* conspiracy erected to oppress Ms. Hale, because while you begin the essay thinking “poor her,” as Hale unravels you start to smile nervously and look for an exit. It’s far away.

    Then I went to a blog that Hale cited as an ally in her fight against the Dark, Stop the GR [Goodreads] Bullies, which I thought would be, I don’t know, some kind of manifesto about maintaining decency in book discussion. Instead I soon felt like Jennifer Connelly discovering Russell Crowe’s crazypants chalkboard diagrams as pages of scans and proofs and links and trolls and catfish whirled about each other with manic glee. Here, as in Hale’s confessional, I saw no victims, just bullies on all sides.

    I know it’s unlikely–or NOT, he adds, as the madness infects him–that any of the participants in this circus are twelve-year-old girls, but watching the accusations fly and the drama being whipped up reminded me of those kids at the school, a big helping of attention-seeking with a side of hostility. I’ve avoided Goodreads only because it was too much like work, but it always seemed like such a nice place. Now it looks to me like those spy novels I love, where the apparent placidity of daily life  and ordinary citizens is completely at the mercy of the puppet masters. If you want me, I’m in hiding.

    *as Liz Burns points out, that word does not mean what Hale thinks it does.

     

    share save 171 16 I dont THINK anyone is trying to hunt me down

    The post I don’t THINK anyone is trying to hunt me down appeared first on The Horn Book.

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    4. Windows and mirrors book discussion

    Lauren had her first adolescent lit class last night at HGSE (Harvard Graduate School of Education). For last night’s class we talked about How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff. I love this part of a course when the students go from names and faces on a roster to real people with opinions about books. Lauren gave an excellent overview of literature for adolescents: the history, the jargon, the genres.

    oct27readings Windows and mirrors book discussion

    For next Monday’s class the theme is Windows & Mirrors and they will all read Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. For their second book, they have a choice between Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park and Cynthia Kadohata’s The Thing About Luck. Tough choice!

    Please join us as we discuss these books before Monday evening’s class. Things tend to pick up steam later in the week, but we like to put up the posts early for those who are reading ahead.

    share save 171 16 Windows and mirrors book discussion

    The post Windows and mirrors book discussion appeared first on The Horn Book.

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    5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

    absolutely true diary The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time IndianIn The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie tells Junior’s story with a lot of humor, but pulls no punches in depicting the brutal truths of alcoholism, poverty, and bigotry both on and off the reservation. Does humor have a place in a realistic novel about tragic circumstances? If you’ve had classroom experience with this book, how have your students responded to Junior’s story?

    We are also reading Alexie’s Wall Street Journal article, “Why the Best Kid’s Books are Written In Blood.” Go ahead an comment on that article here, too.

    share save 171 16 The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian

    The post The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian appeared first on The Horn Book.

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    6. It’s not on any chart / You must find it with your heart

    345px PP MaryMartin Its not on any chart / You must find it with your heartPlease join me on Saturday the 25th at the Boston Book Festival for “Masters of Fantasy,” a panel discussion with Soman Chainani (A World Without Princes), Holly Black and Cassandra Clare (The Iron Trial), and Gregory Maguire (Egg & Spoon). We’ll be talking about–well, I guess I should get on that right quick, as I’m the moderator–but FANTASY. 1:00-2:00 PM, Emmanuel Church sanctuary, 15 Newbury Street, Boston. FREE.

    share save 171 16 Its not on any chart / You must find it with your heart

    The post It’s not on any chart / You must find it with your heart appeared first on The Horn Book.

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    7. The Code Busters Club Series, by Penny Warner | Book Series Giveaway

    Enter to win a set of The Code Busters Club series by Penny Warner! Giveaway begins October 19, 2014, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends November 18, 2014, at 11:59 P.M. PST.

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    8. A Look at the 2014 Theodor Seuss Geisel Medal Award Winner and Honor Books

    A Look at the 2014 Theodor Seuss Geisel Medal Award Winner and Honor Books | Storytime Standouts

    Storytime Standouts Shares Wonderful Choices for Beginning Readers












    The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli 2014  Theodor Seuss Geisel Medal Award WinnerThe Watermelon Seed written and illustrated by Greg Pizzoli
    Picture book for beginning readers published by Disney Hyperion Books, an imprint of Disney Book Group





    When a charming and exuberant crocodile explains that he loves watermelon, we are utterly convinced,

    Ever since I was a teeny, tiny baby cocodile, it’s been my favorite.
    CHOMP! SLURP! CHOMP!

    While enthusiastically devouring his favorite fruit, the crocodile accidentally ingests a seed, his imagination runs wild and he assumes a variety of terrible outcomes.

    Repetitive text, limited use of long vowel words and very good supporting illustrations make this a great choice for beginning readers.

    The Watermelon Seed at Amazon.com

    The Watermelon Seed at Amazon.ca



    Ball by Mary Sullivan a 2014 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award Honor BookBall written and illustrated by Mary Sullivan
    Picture book for beginning readers published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children





    There is little doubt that this dog loves his small, red ball. From the moment he wakes up, he is focused on only one thing: playing with the ball. He especially loves when the ball is thrown by a young girl but when she leaves for school there is no one available to throw it.

    This is a terrific picture book that relies heavily on the illustrations for the narrative. Apart from one repeated word (ball) it could be classified as a wordless picture book.

    It will be thoroughly enjoyed by dog lovers and young children – especially those who are eager for an opportunity to read independently.

    Ball at Amazon.com

    Ball at Amazon.ca



    A Big Guy Took My Ball by Mo Willems a 2014 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award Honor BookA Big Guy Took My Ball written and illustrated by Mo Willems
    Series for beginning readers published by Hyperion Books for Children





    This charming story will remind readers that appearances can be deceiving and perspective is everything! Gerald and Piggie’s friendship is solid and Gerald is more than willing to stand up for Piggie when her ball is taken by a big guy.

    Delightful illustrations will appeal to young readers as they effectively portray a range of emotions. The text is perfect for children who are beginning to read – lots of repetition and very few long vowel words.

    A Big Guy Took My Ball! (An Elephant and Piggie Book) at Amazon.com

    A Big Guy Took My Ball! at Amazon.ca



    Penny and Her Marble by Kevin Henkes a 2014 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award Honor BookPenny and Her Marble by Kevin Henkes
    Generously illustrated chapter book series for beginning readers published by Greenwillow Books An Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers





    It truly is a treat to read such a beautifully-written chapter book for beginning readers. Kevin Henkes has created a new character: Penny. She is a young mouse with a sense of right and wrong. In this book, she is out with her sister when she “finds” a beautiful blue marble. She excitedly puts it into her pocket and later wonders if she did the right thing.

    Lovely, full color illustrations and a thought-provoking dilemma make this a great choice for newly independent readers.

    Penny and Her Marble at Amazon.com

    Penny And Her Marble at Amazon.ca

    Storytime Standouts - Raising Children Who Love to Read

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    9. Best Young Adult Books with Joli Huynh, Actin’ Up With Books

    There are so many books published this season that quickly made it on my To-Be-Read list and I’ve had the opportunity to read a couple of them already. Most of the authors represented here have written books focused on relationships—friendships, romantic, and familial—and how they develop or change as the characters do.

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    10. Classic Picture Book: Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes

    Classic Picture Book: Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes | Storytime Standouts

    Storytime Standouts looks at Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes created and illustrated by James Dean, story by Eric LitwinPete the Cat I Love My White Shoes created and illustrated by James Dean, story by Eric Litwin
    Picture book published by Harper Collins Children’s Books









    Light, breezy, rhythmic and upbeat, Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes shares a message of resilience that will appeal to children and adults. Pete begins his day with bright, white new shoes. When he steps onto a pile of strawberries, his shoes turn red and, when he encounters blueberries, his shoes turn blue. Regardless of what poor Pete has to walk through, he maintains his happy outlook. Very popular with young children who enjoy learning and singing about colors, Pete also has a message for older children and adults:

    When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.” Helen Keller

    An excellent choice for young readers who will benefit from the repetitive and predictable text, Pete’s coolness is oh so groovy!

    Harper Collins Publishers’ Pete the Cat downloads (including songs)

    I Can Read Pete the Cat (free downloads)

    School Library Journal’s Top 100 Picture Books
    2013 Morning Calm Award Medal, International Schools of South Korea
    2013 Best Picture Book, Colorado Children’s Book Award
    2013 Best Picture Book, North Carolina Children’s Book Award
    2012 Center for the Book at the New Hampshire State Library – Ladybug Picture Book Award
    2011 ReadKiddoRead award for Best Illustrated Books
    2011 Missouri Building Block Picture Book Award
    2010 25 Books All Young Georgians Should Read






    Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes at Amazon.com

    Pete The Cat: I Love My White Shoes at Amazon.ca

    Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes on YouTube

    Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes Pinterest Board

    Follow Storytime Standouts’s board Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes created and illustrated by James Dean, story by Eric Litwin on Pinterest.



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    11. A Middle Grade Teacher’s To Be Read List

    A Middle Grade Teacher’s To Be Read List | Storytime Standouts

    A Middle Grade Teacher's To Be Read List by a Guest Post by @1prncsIt’s been a while since I did a top ten list of….well, anything. So, here’s what is on my To be Read list this year. Mostly for school, but I love reading middle grade and young adult fiction even if it’s just for me. So here it goes:












    A Middle Grade Teacher's To Be Read List Hook's Revenge by Heidi SchulzHook’s Revenge by Heidi Schulz
    Middle grade fiction published by Disney-Hyperion

    I’ve already started this funny tale about the Captain Hook’s thirteen year old daughter, Jocelyn. She’s sent away to boarding school by her grandfather so she can learn to be a lady. All she really wants is to be a swash-buckling, sword-wielding pirate. When she learns of her father’s death, she sets off on a quest to avenge it.

    I have started this book in my classroom and I love it. The kids laugh out loud and so do I. Jocelyn is a great character, as is her ally, Roger. It’s a pleasure to read a book with a girl main character that the boys enjoy as well. It’s got great pirate speak, a longing for adventure that kids will connect with, and memorable characters.

    Hook’s Revenge, Book 1 Hook’s Revenge at Amazon.com

    Hook’s Revenge, Book 1 Hook’s Revenge at Amazon.ca

    A Middle Grade Teacher's To Be Read List Swindle by Gordon KormanSwindle by Gordon Korman
    Middle grade fiction published by Scholastic Press

    Korman is always on my recommendation list during our library visits. When my eight year old brought Swindle home, I told her that I’d like to read it with her because I know a lot of kids who enjoyed it. During a sick day last week, she found the movie on Netflix. First, I didn’t know there was a movie. Second, normally we would read the book first. But, we were feeling lazy so we decided to watch. The movie was very well done– it made my daughter laugh and it made me want to read the book even more.

    When the character finds a vintage baseball card, he doesn’t know the value and gets swindled by a pawn shop owner. The quest to get his card back is entertaining and funny. This book is on my list as a possible read aloud.

    Swindle at Amazon.com

    Swindle at Amazon.ca

    A Middle Grade Teacher's To Be Read List Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly HuntFish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
    Middle grade fiction published by Nancy Paulsen Books

    There are several things that make me want to read this book. The author wrote one of my favourite books that I read last year: One for the Murphys. That alone makes me want to read more by her. When checking out the title on Goodreads, one of my favourite quotes was included in the write up: “Everybody is smart in different ways. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its life believing it is stupid.”

    Then, when I read the summary, I thought: YES. Great topic. Ally has hidden the fact that she can’t read from the people in her life and has successfully moved from one school to the next without anyone knowing. But when her newest teacher looks closer, past the trouble making side she presents, he finds her secret and helps her. We all learn in different ways and it’s essential that we have books that show kids that it is okay to be different. It’s okay to need help and not everyone learns in the same fashion. It’s up to us, as the adults in their lives, to help them find their own road to success. I can’t wait to read this one.

    Fish in a Tree at Amazon.com

    Fish In A Tree at Amazon.ca

    A Middle Grade Teacher's To Be Read List Smile by Raina TelgemeierSmile and Sisters by Raina Telgemeier
    Middle grade fiction published by Graphix

    I can’t read every single book I see my students or daughters enjoy, though I try to read a good portion of them. I’ve seen enough students go through Smile to know that it hooks readers. When one student saw Sisters in my TBR pile, she was thrilled because she was re-reading Smile for the third time. I told her she could read Sisters and she said, “Just let me finish re-reading Smile first.” She started Sisters later that day and finished it the next. That’s enough of a recommendation for me.

    Smile‘s main character (Raina) wants to fit in, like any other grade six girl. An accident that leads to fake teeth makes that harder than she thought. A variety of other game changing issues present themselves while she’s dealing with full headgear. It sounds like exactly the kind of book that pre-teens would connect with.

    Sisters offers another connectable theme for kids: sibling rivalry and confrontation. Raina isn’t close to her sister Amara, even though she wanted to be, but when family strife and a new baby brother enter the picture, they have to learn how to depend on each other.

    I often recommend Telgemeier to students who are unsure about what to read. She offers real issues that kids can relate to and the graphic novel aspect takes away some of the fear or uncertainty for reluctant readers. She also does the Baby Sitters Club graphics, which students love.

    Smile at Amazon.com

    Smile at Amazon.ca

    A Middle Grade Teacher's To Be Read List Escape from Mr. Lemoncellos's Library by Chris GrabensteinEscape from Mr. Lemoncellos’s Library by Chris Grabenstein
    Middle grade fiction published by Yearling

    This book has been on my list for a while and I already started it twice. It’s like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets Night at the Museum. The first time I started it was in class but there was a hold on the book and it didn’t seem fair to hang onto it when a kid was waiting for it (I’m exceptionally fair like that). The second time was the same thing, only at home with my own kids. I loved the beginning both times but often start too many books at once and am forced to choose. Since last year was the year of Jaron and Sage because I was addicted to the Jennifer Nielsen’s trilogy, I had to put this one aside. But it’s remained on my list because I know it is going to be fantastic.

    Kyle, surprisingly, wins a chance to spend the night in a brand new library, unlike any library ever known. Mr. Lemoncello is a game maker who develops a number of twists and turns in a real life game that Kyle must find a way to escape.

    Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library at Amazon.com

    Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library at Amazon.ca

    A Middle Grade Teacher's To Be Read List The Invisible Boy by Trudy LudwigThe Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig
    Middle grade fiction published by Knopf Books for Young Readers

    If Adrienne Gear recommends it, I’m likely going to read it at some point. I warn my students every year that you are never too old for picture books. They offer some of the best morals and insights we can find. Picture books also offer students a chance to really utilize the strategies we teach them such as connecting, making pictures in their head, and predicting. The fact that it is a picture book sometimes lessens the anxiety during reading lessons, allowing them to learn and connect in greater ways.

    Brian is a boy that no one notices. He never gets included in games, birthday invites, or activities. When Justin comes to his school, Brian is noticed for the first time. Even if the story didn’t sound so wonderful and so connectable, the beautiful pictures would pull me in.

    The Invisible Boy at Amazon.com

    The Invisible Boy at Amazon.ca

    A Middle Grade Teacher's To Be Read List Grimmtastic Girls by Joan Holub and Suzanne WilliamsGrimmtastic Girls by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams
    Middle grade fiction published by Scholastic

    Two more authors that I love (the write the Goddess Girl Series and Heroes in Training) have another series, The Grimmtastic Girls. I might be bias because my eleven year old loves these two authors so much and the Goddess Girl series is one of her (and my) absolute favourites. They have a great writing style and their characters are loveable, even when flawed. Obviously, I’m a little behind because when I saw one in Scholastic, I found out there are four so far.

    Grimmtastic Girls #1: Cinderella Stays Late at Amazon.com

    Grimmtastic Girls #1: Cinderella Stays Late at Amazon.ca

    A Middle Grade Teacher's To Be Read List Treasure Hunters by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein
    Middle grade fiction published by Little, Brown and Company

    A few things make me want to read this one: James Patterson. Chris Grabenstein. And my enjoyment of Hook. Patterson has several books for kids that I see being enjoyed in the classroom. His middle school series is entertaining and my recent venture into the world of swaggering pirates makes me want to take a look at this book.

    Diving is part of the Kidd siblings lives. But when their parents going missing, they face the biggest treasure hunt ever: finding them.

    Treasure Hunters at Amazon.com

    Treasure Hunters at Amazon.ca

    A Middle Grade Teacher's To Be Read List Stranded by Jeff ProbstStranded by Jeff Probst
    Middle grade fiction published by Puffin

    Another one that I ordered long ago, I need to finally read this one. I try to find books for the classroom that both the boys and girls will be drawn toward. I want them to see the fun in reading, to see that it just takes one book, the right book, to pull you in and make you a reader. The fact that students know who Jeff Probst is and watch Survivor, intrigues them. We need to find ways to invest them in reading and all it has to offer.

    When four new siblings (blended family) get stranded on an island, they must get to know each other, and trust each other, fast. If they want to get home, they need to find a way to work together.

    Stranded at Amazon.com

    So there you have my TBR pile for the 2014-2015 school year. I should probably get off of the computer and get started. I’m certain I will get distracted by other books that peak my interest, but my goal is to get all of these done by June. What is on your to be read list this year?

    Storytime Standouts - Raising Children Who Love to Read

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    12. Tristan Hunt Series Brings Ocean Science to Young Fiction Audience

    Ellen Prager, PhD, ocean scientist and author, brings ocean science to the young fiction audience with her Tristan Hunt and the Sea guardian series.

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    13. Josephine

    josephine1 240x300 JosephineThe subtitle of Patricia Hruby Powell (author) and Christian Robinson (illustrator)’s fabulous picture-book biography of the early-twentieth-century African American dancer and iconoclast is “The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker” — and the book is truly as dazzling as its subject. So we can get that major, crucial criterion “appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept” out of the way right off the bat; this book will be hard to beat in that category. Every adjective I can think of for the book’s art — vivid, bold, electric; essential; full of verve and pizzazz and razzmatazz — applies to the book’s subject as well. The saturated colors (a rainbow of them — and again, how appropriate); the visible brushstrokes — also brilliantly appropriate for a book about such an outsized and charismatic personality.

    I used the word essential up above. I’m not exactly sure I’m using it correctly, but here is what I mean. On the spread where Josephine finally gets to join the chorus with the Dixie Steppers and immediately stands out from the crowd, all we see is four figures forefronted on a page of a rather neutral color — no background at all. The four figures — dancers in the chorus — are delineated about as simply as cartoons: circles for eyes, circles and lines for mouths and noses. Nobody has the correct number of fingers. This is pared-down, impressionistic painting — except that somehow artist Robinson makes Josephine Baker stand out so starkly from the others that you barely need to read the text  (“The chorus kicked forward, / she kicked backward… / They strutted, / Josephine shimmied instead”). Where the other figures are basically vertical, Josephine is all curved kinetic motion — hips swinging to the side, arms outstretched. And with just a white crescent for her smile and a few lines for her rapturously closed eyes, Robinson captures her ecstatic joy in dancing.

    More “appropriateness”: the book uses the framing device of a stage to tell the story of Josephine’s life. It opens with a double-page spread of a stage, red theatrical stage curtains pulled closed: the performance is about to begin. From then on each section (“The Beginning”; “Leavin’ with the Show”; “My Face Isn’t Made for Sleeping”; etc.) opens with a spread of that stage with curtains pulled to the side, a few props or pieces of scenery in place, ready for the action to begin. (I particularly appreciate “The Beginning” ‘s center-stage spotlight; we are clearly expecting a star to enter.) This framing device is a brilliant choice for a woman who made such an impact on performance art and who felt most alive when dancing onstage. And notice that the book’s final double-page spread, after all the text has been presented, including the account of Baker’s death, is an echo of the first closed-curtain one, this time with flowers strewn all over the stage floor in tribute. It’s a poignant and appropriately dramatic end to a dramatic story.

    There is so much more to talk about in Josephine, and I hope you’ll join in the conversation about this exceptional book. I’d like to hear all the ways YOU think it’s excellent in terms of the ”execution in the artistic technique employed;
    • Excellence of pictorial interpretation of story, theme, or concept;
    • Appropriateness of style of illustration to the story, theme or concept;
    • Delineation of plot, theme, characters, setting, mood or information through the pictures;
    • Excellence of presentation in recognition of a child audience.”

    P.S. Josephine, which was published in February, is the winner of a 2014 Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor Award for Nonfiction, and the awards ceremony is tomorrow night at Simmons College, with a colloquium the next day. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but I will say that Josephine fans who attend the colloquium will be very happy with one of the treats in their goody bags.

    P.P.S. I am sure I will be much more informed after listening to the illustrator and author of Josephine this weekend, and I will be sure to share all insights gleaned in the comments below.

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    14. Halloween Books: New Fall and Spook-Worthy Books for Kids

    It's time to do the Halloween hustle and get books for Halloween into the hands of your ghouls and boys. Don't get spooked, all of these books are treats and not tricks!

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    15. Children’s Book Trends on The Children’s Book Review | October 2014

    This month's little peek at the current children's book trends on The Children's Book Review showcases Christmas books for kids, books on mindfulness and some best selling young adult books, as well as a wonderful literacy resource on where to find free ebooks for children.

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    16. B. J. Novak is not a celebrity author. (Oh, really?): An interview

    novak photo B. J. Novak is not a celebrity author. (Oh, really?): An interview On October 2, the Harvard Book Store hosted B. J. Novak (from TV’s The Office, Saving Mr. Banks, and many others; also a Harvard University grad, thank you very much) reading his new picture book — The Book with No Pictures — at the Brattle Theatre. He invited kids on to the stage for a rollicking reading of his hilarious book. At least I thought that was rollicking, until I saw him read again the next day in front of about two hundred first-through-third-graders at a nearby elementary school. Pure kid bliss, complete with Q&A at the end (Kid: “Did you write books when you were little?” BJN: “Yes! Spooky books for Halloween, stories about the beach when it was summertime…”) and an invitation to send him story ideas (um… Uncle Shelby, anyone?! If you don’t get that reference, read on). We spoke afterward about standup comedy, childhood rebellion, and metafiction.

    (BTW, as @RogerReads asked: “Is @bjnovak ‘s THE BOOK WITH NO PICTURES still technically a picture book? I hope it makes the Caldecott committee squirm.”)

    novak bookwithnopix B. J. Novak is not a celebrity author. (Oh, really?): An interview EG: How involved were you in designing The Book with No Pictures?

    BJN: I was extremely hands on — I think I drove everyone crazy.

    EG: Who were the editor and designer on this project?

    BJN: I worked with two designers: Lily Malcom at Penguin and Kate Harmer, an independent designer I’ve worked with before, with Hum Creative in Seattle. The editor was Lauri Hornik. My approach is always to ask a million people for advice.

    talking B. J. Novak is not a celebrity author. (Oh, really?): An interview

    B.J. Novak at the Brattle Theatre.

    EG: Were kids involved in that part?

    BJN: Not knowingly, not wittingly. I would observe kids as they were read to, not just by me. I would ask parents to read so I could watch what they would naturally do. My original draft of what we call the “mayhem spread,” with all those crazy syllables, was very intimidating for a parent to read, I found. I mean, kids loved it. I showed my original black-and-white version to a two-year-old, and he started cracking up as soon as he saw the page. It had a lot of Hs in it, a lot of silent letters — I wanted it to look complicated. And while kids were delighted, I thought a parent would give up. So I simplified a lot of those syllables. That was a combined design/editorial decision.

    EG: Who reined this book in? Because for all of its wackiness, it is very controlled and subtle. It could have gone crazy…

     B. J. Novak is not a celebrity author. (Oh, really?): An interview

    His head is made of blueberry pizza.

    BJN: Yeah, controlled rebellion. That was my approach. I looked at the original copy I made — I bought an 8 ½ x 12 moleskin journal and printed out pages and paper-clipped them in, with the font the size that I pictured and typewriter font. I glue-sticked a cover onto the journal so that a little kid would think it was a real book, so I could get a real reaction. It took like fifteen minutes per book, so you can’t just give them away, but I would carry them around places. And when I looked at that original paper-clipped version recently, it is almost identical to the finished book. So when I first had the idea, the tone of it was part of the idea. It was something that’s very rebellious for a three-year-old but actually not that edgy. “I am a monkey who taught myself to read” is very unedgy. “BooBoo Butt” is about as borderline as we get. A kindergartner once asked if he could whisper something in my ear so the grownups couldn’t hear, and he whispered, “I liked when you said BooBoo Butt.” He thought it was extremely rebellious and transgressive that I had said that. Controlled rebellion is the key to enjoyment because it makes a kid feel safe. And I’ve noticed that since I was a kid, trying to make other kids laugh, which I did, that younger kids — and especially, I’ve found, younger girls — can be scared of a book that is too wild. And a way to combat that is to keep assuring a kid that this is silly. This is ridiculous, what’s going on here. So the book repeats many times, “This is so silly,” which is partly to make a kid feel safe. Nothing too crazy is going to happen.

    EG: It’s not Sendak.

     B. J. Novak is not a celebrity author. (Oh, really?): An interview

    The mayhem spread, mid badoongy-face.

    BJN: Yeah, who I loved, but whose work can be a little scary — you don’t know where it’s going. So with this book I wanted kids to feel safe in this rebelliously experimental environment.

    EG: Was “preposterous” in your original draft?

    BJN: No, “preposterous” I added later because I had said “silly” and “ridiculous” too many times. I was working on the movie Saving Mr. Banks, which was about the making of Mary Poppins, and I was enamored of the way kids learned certain words aspirationally. And I thought it’d be nice to have one word in this book that kids don’t recognize, that sounds funny, and it would be nice if they went around saying “preposterous” because they knew it from the book. So that was the one word I added to give a little… aspirational vocabulary.

    EG: The Horn Book’s winter company outing last year was to see Saving Mr. Banks.

    BJN: Well, I definitely identified with P. L. Travers, because I had written this book that I had intended to cause nothing but easy joy, and here I was being pretty much a monster the way P. L. Travers was. “No, no, that color is all wrong. This font is ridiculous. You can’t have pictures in the book.” I said no picture of me on the flap jacket. I even asked, at one point, if we could take off the little penguin logo on the spine of the book.

    EG: They said no?

    BJN: Well, I actually changed my mind on that. I think the brand is so wonderful and inviting that I decided technically the jacket isn’t the book, the jacket is the cover. But I was really a monster in the P. L. Travers mold.

    EG: Had you read Mary Poppins?

    BJN: I hadn’t, but then I read it when we started making the movie. What I was struck by is that the book is so sweet and clever, that I can only imagine how stunned the Sherman brothers must’ve been to meet this sour, negative person. You’d expect it to be a breeze. It’s not like she wrote The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

    EG: Or Where the Wild Things Are. Were you a reader as a kid?

    BJN: Yes. My very favorite was Matt Christopher who wrote sort of wish-fulfillment sports books. The Kid Who Only Hit Homers I loved. Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen.

    EG: Do you know the story about how librarians used to pencil in little diapers on the kid?

    BJN: I think they had a point! Reading it again recently I thought, “This is insane.” But at the time I thought it was spooky and exciting. I loved Amelia Bedelia, Harriet the Spy. I was caught under my covers reading Harriet the Spy with a flashlight. My mom was very angry because I had promised I’d go to bed. Danny, the Champion of the World. Roald Dahl in general but especially that. And Shel Silverstein I really liked. As I write both for kids and adults, he’s someone who comes up, for me, as a role model. Even the way he maintained his aesthetic, so deliberately, with black and white and a certain font.

    EG: Do you read those books differently now than when you were a kid?

    BJN: Actually, I probably read them the same. I flip through the Silverstein poems, I never read them in order. My book for adults, One More Thing, is influenced by that, too, the different lengths and playfulness, the black-and-white cover.

    EG: The slightly transgressive nature… or more than slightly.

    BJN: The important thing for me about The Book with No Pictures, and Shel Silverstein embodied it well, and Dr. Seuss embodied it extremely well too, is that it does encourage kids who will inevitably be rebellious to think of books as their allies. I was very lucky to grow up thinking that every time I was sort of angry and ambitious and didn’t fit in and wanted to do something cooler, I thought of books as the place where you’d find that. As a teenager it would be Jack Kerouac and Bukowski. And as a little kid it might be Dr. Seuss. Dr. Seuss was never on the side of your parent or the authority. He seemed completely anti-authority. And even though he’s so rightly accoladed for his educational books now, when you’re a kid you think: this is the opposite of learning. You think: this is freedom. And that, to me, is an extremely important decision that gets made in a kid’s mind, whether books are the ally or the enemy when they are feeling certain feelings. And I think that what excites me about something like The Book with No Pictures is making kids feel words are on their side, not their parents’ side. Words are this incredible code that can make people do things that they want them to do.

    EG: It’s really a performance, reading this book, in a way that some picture books are not. You really have to, as a grownup, embody all of it.

    BJN: On the one hand you do, on the other hand you don’t. Performers really take to this book, and I’ve especially found it to be good as a dad book. Dads often want to be a little more wild and rowdy with sons, and a lot of picture books are very gentle, so this is a rowdy book. But I’ve also found people who are not performers, who are shy about picking it up, get wonderful reactions, too. A shy or more quiet parent saying these things, even in a flat, straightforward voice, can be especially funny to a kid, because they’re not the type of parent who would normally say, “My only friend in the whole wide world is a hippo named BooBoo Butt.”

    EG: Is the experience different reading to groups rather than one on one?

    BJN: Well, I love groups because of all the years I spent as a standup comedian. You just want an audience. It’s a universal truth that comedy’s better with an audience. When I was growing up watching Seinfeld with my family we would all laugh, and now when people tell me they watch The Office on their laptop or on Netflix it’s a little sad. I think that’s why there’s so much activity on Twitter and Facebook about TV shows because you want to be watching this with everybody.

    EG: You’ve really thought about all this.

    BJN: Yes.

    EG: It seems like many projects you’re involved in have this sort of meta quality to them.

    BJN: Yes! Nice observation. What else?

    EG: Well, even Punk’d is kind of meta. The Office goes without saying. Saving Mr. Banks — a movie about a book about the making of a movie. It’s just that you’re really smart, right?

    BJN: I think it’s taste. My friend Mindy Kaling, equally smart, has no patience for meta.

    EG: Some of it is really poorly done.

    BJN: There seems to be a really sort of clever-teenage-boy drive toward the meta. I loved Mr. Show because it was meta. I loved early Simpsons. And when I was a teenager I loved Borges for being meta. So, yes, that’s always been my taste. The Book with No Pictures — even that title is meta. It’s commenting on itself, its own existence as a funny idea. So I’m always drawn to that. The conceptual, the meta.

    EG: Could you write an article for us on gender and meta?

    BJN: Interesting. Well, it’s a very small sample set, but I’ve tended to find that equally smart, equally literate people of opposite genders — meta is a dividing line, often. That and Bob Dylan.

    EG: You are not a typical celebrity author.

    BJN: I think the crazy thing is that I’m a celebrity, not that I’m an author. I’m an author by nature. My father is an author. I went to Harvard and studied literature. I was an ambitious and successful television writer. And then I started doing stand-up and acting, and for years I think the quiet nudge from my friends was, “Are you sure about this acting thing? You’re so clearly meant to be a writer.” And so now I actually take it as a compliment when people are skeptical about celebrity books. I’m like, “Really? You think I’m a celebrity? Wow! No one ever thought I could do it.” No one ever doubted I could be an author growing up, they doubted that I could be a celebrity.

    EG: Do you have both these introvert and extrovert sides to you?

    BJN: I’m very much both, in the way that very many comedy performers are, famously. And really this is my  ideal career. Most of the time I love being alone, writing, in my own mind, no one bothering me, dreaming up things, like a teenage boy in his basement laboratory. Plotting about how the world is going to crazy with excitement about what he’s writing.

    EG: Sounds like your next middle-grade novel.

    BJN: And then I want to go out and show it to the world and see people’s faces. So I really feel that what my real goal is, and always has been, is to be a public author. There was an era in which Mark Twain was America’s author. Everyone knew he was a writer. Dickens, too, performed live. All these guys performed their writing live and were public personas as writers. And in Europe there’s still something of a public persona as a writer. But it’s not really the case in America. You’re an author or a celebrity.

    EG: Although now with Twitter, John Green and people like that…

    BJN: Yes! I think it’s changing somewhat. And I would like to be that. What John Green is for his audience and his genre, I would like to be for mine. Which is meta comedy, I suppose. I would like to be the representative of it. Someone who is a hero of mine that I also want to be like is Rod Serling. He presented his writing, looked like his writing, embodied his writing. He wasn’t an actor, he was a public writer. So that’s what I want to be.

    EG: So, picture book is your niche? Or are you going to come out with a YA — what was that toilet zombie book the kid suggested during the Q&A?

    BJN: My first book, the short story book, is very personal expression. And this book is an expression of what I want to write for kids. Yeah, I would like to write YA as well, and middle-grade…

    EG: See, you know what the words “middle-grade” mean. That’s great.

    BJN: Well, again, I’m not a celebrity. That’s our secret.

    Liz (the school’s hip librarian; cameo appearance): HA!

    EG: He knows “middle-grade.” He used it in conversation! Oh, Shel Silverstein… Liz sending you all the kids’ story ideas… it makes me think of Silverstein’s ABZ book.

    BJN: Yes! I loved it as a kid.

    EG: As a kid you read it?

    BJN: My father gently introduced me to it with the explanation that this is a fake kids’ book. I got the joke, I loved it…

    EG: “L is for lye…”

    BJN: I remember: “Steal your parents’ money and mail it to Uncle Shelby.”

    EG: So there weren’t any books that you weren’t allowed to read as a kid? Was everything up for grabs?

    BJN: Everything was up for grabs, in fact probably more than for most kids because my father had a library at home of all the books he would do for research. He had written a book on marijuana use. There were books on heroine in our house. There were books on Iran-Contra. Books on all kinds of things. And he never stopped me from reading any of that. I think he was secretly quite happy. Again, if your rebellion comes… look, rebellion’s going to come, for every kid. And if it comes in the form of literature, you’re much better off than if it comes in opposition to it.

    share save 171 16 B. J. Novak is not a celebrity author. (Oh, really?): An interview

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    17. Sequels, schmequels

    So, as I cast my eyes across my shelf,  I wonder: what in the world is the committee going to do with all the picture-book sequels that have been pouring in?! Now, picture books usually do not have sequels, and some of these are not officially sequels but are simply very similar in style or tone to earlier books…but they feel like sequels. I had to search through the Caldecott Manual to find the part that deals with this situation, at least a little bit.

    The term, “only the books eligible for the award,” specifies that the committee is not to consider the entire body of the work by an artist or whether the artist has previously won the award. The committee’s decision is to be made following deliberation about books of the specified calendar year.

    This is the sentence that many people think the committee skips over. I mean, it seems impossible — how do the very knowledgeable members of the committee manage to NOT talk about books that were honor winners just last year? And yet they do NOT talk about older books or who won or did not win in the past. They discuss JUST the books published during the current year. That’s why I get cranky when people talk about an illustrator being “due” or “it’s about time for so-and-so.” In the actual committee, it’s just the books on the table.

    Another phrase from the criteria is “individually distinct.” How does that come into play when a book might look and read so much like its predecessor?

    We may talk more in depth here about some of these books in the coming weeks and months, but I wanted to bring a few titles to your attention. Surely this has to be a particularly high number of books that will remind readers and committee members of other books that have either won stickers recently … or garnered a great deal of attention when they did not.

    What do YOU think the committee will do? Which of these are strong enough to stand on their own? Are any stronger than its predecessor? Any remarkably weaker?

    (To remind you: Quest/Journey…Blizzard/Blackout…Flashlight/Inside Outside…Flora and the Penguin/Flora and the Flamingo…Circle Square Moose/Z Is for Moose)

    journey Sequels, schmequels    becker quest Sequels, schmequels

    blackout Sequels, schmequels    61pgUD6uNBL. SX258 BO1204203200  254x300 Sequels, schmequels

    inside outside Sequels, schmequels     Sequels, schmequels

    idle floraflamingo 228x300 Sequels, schmequels    flora thepenguin 9781452128917 350 244x300 Sequels, schmequels

    bingham zisformoose 355x300 Sequels, schmequels    bingham circle square moose Sequels, schmequels

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    18. I wish I wrote that

    sharkvstrain I wish I wrote thatEvery teacher I know is writing a book.

    Okay, that is probably an exaggeration, but I would venture that there is a sizable percentage of teachers ranging from kindergarten teachers working on picture books to high school English teachers working on YA novels. Some may be writing as a hobby while others might already have a literary agent and publishing deal.

    The reasons a teacher might choose to write a book vary as well. Those of us in the teaching profession most likely have a love of the written word and want to try our hands at contributing something meaningful. Of course, there is also the allure of money. It is hard to ignore the fact that it seems like every successful picture book or YA novel is being turned into a big budget movie. Writing the next Hunger Games could mean spending your vacation charting a yacht with Jay-Z and Beyoncé on the Mediterranean Sea as opposed to taking the Blue Line train to Revere Beach. This leads us to the meat of this post: sometimes you encounter a new book and think to yourself, “Darn, I wish I wrote that.”

    I remember a few years back first coming across the picture book Shark vs. Train by Chris Barton while looking through the stacks at my local library. In this book, a shark and a train battle it out for supremacy in a variety of tasks in different settings such as burping, basketball, playing video games, and skydiving.

    When reading the book, two thoughts popped into my mind. First, that the children in my Pre-K class would love this. I was soon proven correct when the book became a favorite and resulted in often-intense debate between the children who rooted for the train and the children who rooted for the shark. My second thought was, “damn it, I should have come up with this.” As a Pre-K teacher, I knew that many children love sharks and trains. Why didn’t I think of combining the two into a funny story? I even had the nefarious thought of ripping off Barton and writing a book called Dinosaur vs. Spaceship or something like that.

    The truth is, there is a reason that I did not come up with Shark vs. Train first. Writing a good and/or popular book is ridiculously hard, and getting it published takes tenacity and luck. But I think I will keep trying because it’s fun to write and the miniscule chance of hitting it big and having Jennifer Lawrence star in the movie adaptation of something I wrote is always a motivator.

    I end with a question to the readers of Lolly’s Classroom. What books have you read that you wished you had written?

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    19. The buck stops over there

    grifters The buck stops over thereAfter seeing some alarming comments on Read Roger and Facebook I feel the need to point out something I thought everybody knew: the Horn Book, like our sisters at SLJ, Booklist, and BCCB, does not charge authors or publishers for book reviews. Publishers Weekly and Kirkus do offer fee-based reviewing services but these are in addition to (and  labelled as such) their regular reviews, which are free. Personally, I think reviews you have to pay for are a waste of money and a source of the worst kind of mischief.

    People have also questioned the relationship of advertising pages and review coverage, and this is totally fair game for examination: do advertising dollars buy reviews in a quid pro quo arrangement? Absent the presence of damning emails or something, I think it would be hard to prove either way, because advertisers tend to spend their money in places that are saying nice things about their products. This is not absolute, though: I once heard our wonderful ad director Al tell a marketing director at a Big Five publisher that they should be buying more ad space because we were giving them so many good reviews. Her response? “Sure, but how many of those are starred reviews?” It’s never enough. But, no, at the Horn Book we don’t review (or star) books on the basis of who is buying advertising pages. (We do offer products such as Talks With Roger that are paid for by publishers but are clearly labelled as “sponsored content” and are separate from our review coverage.)

    Something I have intuited (or outright heard) from some publishers, large and small, is that they think of reviews as part of their promotion efforts. This makes sense from their point of view, in that they use reviews for marketing purposes. But we don’t work for the publishers, we work for our readers. Smart publishers know that this is in their best interest.

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    20. Anywhere but Here – written by Tanya Lloyd Kyi

    Anywhere but Here – written by Tanya Lloyd Kyi | Storytime Standouts

    Storytime Standouts writes about #YAlit Anywhere But Here by Tanya Lloyd KyiAnywhere But Here written by Tanya Lloyd Kyi
    Young Adult Fiction published by Simon and Schuster









    I feel compelled to share some aspects of my personal life before I write about Anywhere but Here. I was attending university and living with my folks when my mom died four days prior to surgery that had been scheduled to repair a heart valve. It was shocking and devastating and, without a doubt, the most difficult experience of my life.

    Weeks later, my dad began dating. When I say ‘weeks,’ I mean less than three months later. While still grieving the sudden loss of my mom and feeling as though my life had been turned upside down, I was watching as my dad began a relationship with a woman he would eventually marry. Dad’s second marriage was an enduring one. To be honest, I am not sure which of his marriages was longer: he celebrated twenty-fifth wedding anniversaries twice.

    Anywhere but Here is the story of a young man, still in high school, who is coping with the loss of his mom. Cole finds life in a small town stifling. He is eager to finish high school and make a break from his acquaintances, friends and family. He has ended a two year relationship with a girlfriend and finds her behavior and that of some classmates confusing. His family life is in ruins. Cole’s dad drinks heavily and meets an exotic dancer. Before long, she is pregnant and Cole’s dad explains that she will be moving into the family home along with her young daughter.

    With the encouragement of a school guidance counselor, Cole considers enrolling in a post secondary cinematography program. As part of his application, his must create a short film. It is while filming that Cole examines his community and gains perspective.

    Beautifully written, Anywhere but Here accurately depicts the turmoil and confusion that occur when one parent dies and the surviving parent enters into a new relationship – especially when the surviving child(ren) are young adults. I especially liked the authenticity of Cole’s voice and the relationships between Cole and his guidance counselor, his mom’s former nurse and his classmates. This is a novel that begs for a sequel and I very much look forward to reading it.

    Anywhere But Here at Amazon.com

    Anywhere But Here at Amazon.ca

    Storytime Standouts - Raising Children Who Love to Read

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    21. My Bus

    barton my bus My BusIn my opinion, My Bus (a companion book to Byron Barton’s My Car) is a perfect preschool book. But is it too simple to get a Caldecott award?

    First we meet Joe, the bus driver. “I am Joe. This is my car. This is my bus.” As he drives his bus into town, five dogs and five cats board the bus one, two, three, and four at a time. Then they get off in threes (one dog and two cats, two dogs and one cat) to board other vehicles until just one dog is left. “I drive one dog home. My dog! Bow wow.” The solidly built characters and settings invite pointing and participating. Each animal is a different color for easy identification, and each is visible enough to count, whether on or off the bus. There’s no need to even mention the words “addition” and “subtraction.” The only lesson here is to understand what happens when something is taken away from a group.

    Now about the art.

    When My Car came out back in 2001, I was dismayed at first to see visible pixels around the edges of some of the computer-drawn shapes. Later, I decided that I was being a digital artist snob. We all think visible brushstrokes add character in analog art, so why smooth out the digital medium with super-high resolutions and pretend it’s something else?

    Medium aside, there’s plenty more to look at in this art. Barton could have given his characters smiling faces, but he smartly chose not to. The bus driver and each animal looks serious, and the cats look just a little scared — as well they might riding around with all those dogs. And anyway, who smiles while riding a bus? No one outside of ads and children’s illustrations. These animals are all busy going about their days, just as the child being read to is busy counting and naming animals and vehicles.

    Barton has such a fine-tuned feel for his audience. He knows how much detail is enough to keep interest and how much might be too much. This kind of book is all about composition and color choices. The bus, however simply drawn, works. It sits on its wheels in just the right way to give it real mass, and the perspective changes accurately in each scene. The colors are bright and cheerful without crossing the line into garish. This is so difficult to accomplish. Give it a try and you’ll see.

    So. Do I think this has a chance at the Caldecott Medal? Not really, but I would stand up and applaud the committee if they gave it an honor. It begs the question: can a book’s art be too simple to win the award? The year I served on the committee we gave the medal to Kitten’s First Full Moon, Kevin Henkes’s first foray into preschool books. In some ways, that book was simpler than this one, but it also had a bit more going on, including some thematic nods to a more mature audience, such as a recurring circle motif.

    I fear My Bus will appear too simple for the Caldecott, but I think it has a strong chance at a Geisel. What do you think?

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    22. Best Selling Kids Series | October 2014

    The Lets-Read-and-Find-Out Science series is our best selling kids series this month and offers wonderful selections for seasonal science and beyond.

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    23. Please, God, let him telephone me now

    waiting by the phone Please, God, let him telephone me now“I must stop this. I mustn’t be this way. Look. Suppose a young man says he’ll call a girl up, and then something happens, and he doesn’t. That isn’t so terrible, is it? Why, it’s gong on all over the world, right this minute. Oh, what do I care what’s going on all over the world? Why can’t that telephone ring? Why can’t it, why can’t it? Couldn’t you ring? Ah, please, couldn’t you? You damned, ugly, shiny thing. It would hurt you to ring, wouldn’t it? Oh, that would hurt you. Damn you, I’ll pull your filthy roots out of the wall, I’ll smash your smug black face in little bits. Damn you to hell.” (Dorothy Parker, “A Telephone Call.”)

    Writer, is this you? Elizabeth Law has some tips on The Art of Following Up.

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    24. Five questions for Julie Berry

    JulieBerry 500pxTall 242x300 by Bruce Lucier Five questions for Julie Berry

    Photo: Bruce Lucier

    Julie Berry’s 2013 book All the Truth That’s In Me (Viking, 14 years and up) is a dark, claustrophobic — and beautiful — novel set seemingly out of time and narrated (in her own head) by a young woman whose tongue was cut out by a captor she escaped. The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place (Roaring Brook, 11–14 years) could not be more different in tone or content. A Victorian-set, girls’-school, murder-mystery farce with seven distinct young-lady main characters (with names such as Dour Elinor, Stout Alice, and Smooth Kitty), the book is light as air (well, except for all that murder).

    1. This book is so different from All the Truth That’s In Me. Where did it come from?

    JB: In some sense, from a lifelong love of Agatha Christie mysteries and a deep infatuation with farcical plays and films such as The Importance of Being Earnest and Arsenic and Old Lace. The real catalyst, though, was an audio lecture by Professor John Sutherland, who contrasted the regiments of soldiers in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with the large number of unmarried young ladies in the novel. He called them a “regiment of maidens.” It was a light-bulb moment for me. I knew I needed to write about a regiment of innocent maidens who were, perhaps, not so innocent. The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place was the almost immediate result.

    2. How did you keep all the voices straight? Did the girls “talk” to you as you were writing?

    JB: It is a handful of voices to keep track of, to be sure, but they were very distinct in my mind. I grew up in a family of seven children so, to borrow from the title of Holly Goldberg Sloan’s beautiful book, I was well accustomed to “counting by sevens.” My five sisters and one brother and I are very different people, with lots of practice living, teasing, eating, working, squabbling, and angling for the last molasses cookie, all in one space. It felt natural to me to let my seven pupils talk to one another, and to me. Their conversations took more playful, naughty, and intriguing directions than I could have planned for them if I were in charge.

    berry scandalous sisterhood of prickwillow place Five questions for Julie Berry3. Which came first: the characters’ names or their descriptors? (My favorite is “Disgraceful Mary Jane.”)

    JB: Me too! She is always stealing the scene. She was tons of fun to write.

    Both the girls’ names and their monikers appeared hand in hand from the very first page of writing. That same day when I had my “regiment of maidens” light-bulb moment, I sat down and wrote the first scene. When Disgraceful Mary Jane first appeared, she was just that: Disgraceful Mary Jane. It was not a device I had ever used before, but it felt right, so I ran with it. As I explored it more, it felt Victorian to me, and fitting for my little farce, since farces are all about exaggerating, and thus challenging, stereotypes.

    4. Did you do a lot of research about the time period?

    JB: Oh, for a Tardis! What I could do with a time machine.

    I did a great deal of research into the Victorian era, and this was one of the chief pleasures of the project. Fortunately, the Victorian era is extremely well documented. We have access to volumes upon volumes of books, journals, magazines, fiction, art, photographs, and moving pictures of this vibrant window of history. The project offered me a delicious cocktail of inquiries: fashion, cosmetics, manners, teacakes, candies, and girls’ schools, alongside poison, murder, police procedure, burial, and grave-robbing. Fun stuff.

    Part of my research included a visit to Ely, Cambridgeshire, the setting of the novel. Incidentally, Prickwillow Road is a real place. I did not make it up. I spent a week in the UK, both in Ely, touring the small city and its rambling country roads, and in visits to several marvelous London museums to learn more about travel, banking, schooling, dress, food, crime, and home life during the late nineteenth century. It was great fun, and I can’t wait to go back and do it again.

    5. Is a strawberry social a real thing?

    JB: Indeed it is. In Jane Austen’s Emma, most of the characters gather on a sunny day to enjoy an outdoor strawberry-picking party and picnic. Closer to home, in my childhood haunts in upstate New York, a church strawberry social is a regular fixture of small-town life. Mounds of biscuits, great tubs of berries, troughs of whipped cream, and plenty of neighborly gossip — I highly recommend them.

    From the October 2014 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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    25. Houdini’s Tricks and How He Might Have Learnt Them

    Simon Nicholson, author of YOUNG HOUDINI: THE MAGICIAN'S FIRE, discusses how he came up with the idea for his thrilling new series.

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