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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Thoughts on Books, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Reading Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena with illustrations by Christian Robinson, Out Loud


More than a review, what follows are my thoughts on a picture book winning the Newbery, my experience reading Last Stop on Market Street to my students, and how this changed and shaped my understanding of and experience with this book.

A week ago, Last Stop on Market Street, a picture book by YA author Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson won the Newbery award. Traditionally, this award is given to novels, although this is not specified in the criteria, which is that the award be given to the "most distinguished contribution to American literature for children." Last Stop on Market Street also, very deservedly, won a Caldecott honor, an award given to the "most distinguished picture book for children." I received a review copy of this book when it came out and, as sadly sometimes happens with great books, I read it but didn't get around to reviewing it. When I heard that Last Stop on Market Street won the Newbery, I did a double take, rereading the announcement on the American Library Association's website. I was surprised and a little angry, thinking about the amazing novels that had come out in 2015, and began writing, in my head, a heated response to the librarians on the committee that made this out-of-the-box choice. Then, I decided to take the book to school and read it to as many kids as possible over the course of the week.



Last Stop on Market Street tells the story of CJ and Nana as they leave church and head, by bus, to a soup kitchen where they volunteer every Sunday. Over the course of the trip, CJ asks Nana all kinds of questions, the way kids do. He wants to know why they don't have a car, why he can't have an iPod, why can't the man with the cane and dog see, why it's so dirty in the neighborhood near the soup kitchen. Nana answers CJ's questions, not always directly, but with wisdom, creativity and sensitivity. And, although he didn't want to go there at first, CJ finds he is happy to be at the soup kitchen with Nana. As de la Peña says in an essay titled, "How We Talk (Or Don't Talk) About Diversity When We Read with Our Kids," his book is, among other things, about, "seeing the beautiful in the world and the power of service." 



The student body at the school where I am the librarian is almost 90% Hispanic, with African Americans, Asians and whites making up the other 10%. Almost 90% of the student body at my school qualifies for free lunch and many of them live in a home with multiple families, are foster children or do not live with both parents. The majority of my students speak English as a second language and struggle to read at grade level. Last Stop on Market Street is a book that, unlike most, shows them people of all colors (and their colors) as well as people who share their socioeconomic status. In his essay, de la Peña says that he strives to "write books about diverse characters, but now I try to place them in stories that have nothing to do with diversity, not overtly anyway." And, as I read this book over and over to my first through fifth graders, I came to share the belief of the ALA that Last Stop on Market Street is indeed worthy of the Newbery Medal, in large part because it is accessible for my students, many of whom cannot read Newbery winners because the reading level is too high for them, but also because it is intimately, immediately relatable. Also, it is very cool to be able to tell my students that, not only is Matt de la Peña, who is half Mexican and half white, grew up in National City, which is in San Diego county, where our school is, Matt is also the first Latino author to win the Newbery Medal. And then I get to give a shout-out to another San Diego county writer and winner of the Newbery Honor medal this year for her book Echo, Pam Muñoz Ryan, who is also half Mexican.


Besides being accessible because of the reading level, I love Last Stop on Market Street because reading it has opened doors to so many amazing conversations with my students. With the younger students, I didn't talk about the diversity of the characters, but we did talk about volunteering time and what a soup kitchen is. We talked about who has ridden the bus and who has seen a street performer. With my older students, we were able to have a discussion about diversity in the books they read, why there isn't a Latina Junie B. Jones and how maybe some of them will grow up to write kid's books with diverse characters. We even touched on socioeconomic diversity, which I also am grateful to be able to talk about when I read Eve Bunting and Lauren Castillo's amazing book Yard Sale to students. Yard Sale is about a family who, after losing their house, is having a yard sale before moving into a small apartment. Having an opening to talk about diversity in kid's books with the fifth graders also allowed me gently, hesitantly bring up gender diversity. Last summer I read and reviewed George, by Alex Gino, which just won the Stonewall Award, which is given to "works of exceptional merit for children and teens relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience." I decided not to put Gino's book on the shelf in the library, not because of the content, but because I was not sure if my students would understand it. However, once I mentioned gender diversity, right away, one of my students asked, "Like transgender?" and a brief conversation followed where I was able to talk about the book George. More than a few students expressed interest in reading it and it was on the shelf and checked out the very next day.

While I wish I had reviewed and taken Last Stop on Market Street to school to read to students right when I received it, and also that I had not had an initially negative reaction to hearing that it won the Newbery (and not the Caldecott) I am deeply grateful that this series of events brought me to the experience I had with my students last week after it won the Newbery and deeply grateful that Matt de la Peña and Christian Robinson created this uncommon book, one that I hope opens the doors to many, many more like it.


Source: Review Copy




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2. books4yourkids.com is now on Instagram!



I'm trying something new this year - Instagram. I've only had a smartphone for a year now and it has taken me that long to get a feel for Instagram and decide why it is a platform of social media that I should even bother with. When the app that I had been using to record things that I am grateful for everyday crashed, I decided that this was a good time to start expressing my gratitude to the people and world around me actively, rather than tallying it on my phone. 

But, I found I missed the daily diary routine of the gratitude app and decided to try using Instagram as a daily diary featuring a book I was reading. Here is where you will find glimpses of - and often brief thoughts on - one of the many books that I have my hands on every day. These will not always be books that I review on my blog, or these might be books that I will be reviewing down the road, so I hope that you will visit for something a little bit new and different! Also, I am trying to flex my artistic muscle and I hope to post a drawing every Saturday. . .

You can find me by clicking the link above, clicking the Instagram badge on my blog (scroll to the bottom of the page) or by looking for me @books4yourkids.

And, as always, thanks for reading 
on any platform!

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3. A Quote Worth Sharing About the Value of Reading to Your Children (not that you need it...)

  "Your instincts as parents are correct: a minute spent reading to your kids now will repay itself a million-fold later, not only because they love you for reading to them, but also because, years later, when they’re miles away, those quiet evenings, when you were tucked in with them, everything quiet but the sound of the page-turns, will, seem to you, I promise, sacred."  - George

2 Comments on A Quote Worth Sharing About the Value of Reading to Your Children (not that you need it...), last added: 3/24/2013
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4. Bedtime with Puritans and Wild Things: An Exhibition Review of the New York Public Library's show THE ABC OF IT: WHY CHILDREN'S BOOKS MATTER by Edward Rothstein

All photo credits Credit: Suzanne DeChillo/The New York Times  Bedtime with Puritans and Wild Things, an exhibition review written by Edward Rothstein, ran in the New York Times yesterday. The exhibition, The ABC of It: Why Children's Books Matter, opens at the New York Public Library next week and I would give anything to be able to see it since it seems like the closest you can get to

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5. THE DIVERSITY GAP IN CHILDREN'S BOOKS : An infographic from Lee & Low Books

This infographic from publisher Lee & Low Books, an independent book publisher focusing on diversity, has been making its way around the kidlit blogs and I felt the need to share it here, mostly because it, and a story that recently aired on NPR, has made me think about what I choose to read and what I see on the shelves. Elizabeth Blair's story, As Demographics Shift, Kid's Books

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6. A Rough Year for Reading in 2014, Reading Goals for 2015 & THANKS FOR READING MY BLOG!

While compiling my Best of 2014 lists for last year, I was disappointed by what I had read and reviewed, overall. Granted, it was a very tough year. I was helping my partially-healed daughter return to college after a serious injury. I was grieving the loss of my dream job with a literary agent while doing the hard work of taking library technology classes and working as a library substitute

0 Comments on A Rough Year for Reading in 2014, Reading Goals for 2015 & THANKS FOR READING MY BLOG! as of 1/8/2015 2:53:00 AM
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7. Interview with Burgin Streetman, author of the blog VINTAGE KIDS' BOOKS MY KID LOVES

As I was preparing to write my review of Mud Pies and Other Recipes by Marjorie Winslow, I stumbled across the most amazing kid's book blog I have discovered to date - Vintage Kids' Books My Kid Loves, created by Burgin Streetman, also the author of the blog, Scribbling in San Antonio where she writes about life as a mother and wife.  Check this blog out for photos of the coolest Halloween

5 Comments on Interview with Burgin Streetman, author of the blog VINTAGE KIDS' BOOKS MY KID LOVES, last added: 11/19/2010
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8. A Discussion of Shel Silverstein's THE GIVING TREE

I feel certain that most of you reading this right now own a copy of Shel Silverstein's 1964 book, The Giving Tree.  If you don't own it, I know you have read it or had it read to you at some point in your existence.  I still  have the copy that was given to me by my brother on my 11th birthday in 1979 and I have memories of reading it as a kid and watching the animated version made in 1973 and

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9. A Goal for books4yourkids.com

Books to the ceiling, Books to the sky, My pile of books is a mile high!How I love them! How I need them!I'll have a long beard by the time I read them. Arnold Lobel from Whiskers & Rhymes Since I have been working with, reading and loving kid's books for much longer than I have been writing about them, my hope when I started this blog was to introduce readers to older books that might not be

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10. A New Label for Sensitive Readers @ book4yourkids.com

Increasingly, I find I am helping parents find good books for sensitive kids. The popularity of Harry Potter and Diary of a Wimpy Kid introduced two different but influential themes of darkness, for lack of a better word, into the realm of children's books. More and more, a work of fantasy will present themes of darkness and suspense with antagonists who are much more malevolent, sometimes

7 Comments on A New Label for Sensitive Readers @ book4yourkids.com, last added: 5/10/2012
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11. Him, Her, Hen? Gender Equality in Children's Books

Image by Elias Ericson The other night I was listening to Q with Jian Ghomeshi during which guests discussed the topic Does English Need a Gender Neutral Pronoun? Sweden has recently included the word "hen," a middle ground between the Swedish words "han" and "hon" ("he" and "she" in English) in its National Encyclopedia as an alternative to the gender specific pronouns. I went to a small

7 Comments on Him, Her, Hen? Gender Equality in Children's Books, last added: 5/16/2012
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12. The Importance of Fairy Tales

Why are fairy tales, in their unadulterated form, important? Or, to make this a universal discussion, why is (good) literature important? If you are so inclined, I highly recommend you read the introduction to Bruno Bettelheim's The Uses of Enchantment, for a few good reasons why. If not, allow me to summarize it for you here. Bettelheim was a Jewish Austrian who escaped to the United

6 Comments on The Importance of Fairy Tales, last added: 6/3/2012
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13. Reading Starts Here with Candlewick Press's New Website Dedicated to the Love of Picture Books

Almost two years ago, Julie Bosman wrote an article that appeared on the front page of the New York Times titled Picture Books No Longer a Staple for Children. I took issue with her reporting and interpretation of statistics and wrote this piece Picture Books: A Dying Breed or Just Misunderstood? in which I shared my picture book experiences as a bookseller and mother and asked my

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14. TAKE YOUR CHILD TO A BOOKSTORE DAY is DECEMBER 1st THIS YEAR!!

I can't believe that I didn't know that  Take Your Child to a Bookstore was a thing! It is! And, it's very well organized! There are over 400 bookstores participating this year with special story times and other events worth checking out. Click HERE to see a fantastic map of the US locating all the bookstores who will have fun things going on this Saturday. Click on the book on the map for

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15. Joan Aiken: One of the most prolific, amazing authors you may have never heard of

As the one year anniversary of books4yourkids.com approached, I decided to take a week or two to re-write and re-post some of the first reviews I wrote in August of 2008. I was surprised to find that I had reviewed no less than four of Joan Aiken's books in those first few frenzied weeks. As I sat down to add a bit of polish to the reviews I was THRILLED to find a website devoted to the life

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16. Terrible Yellow Eyes: Artists' Appreciations of Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are

I discovered the superb, sometimes startling, always imaginative paintings of Bill Carman when writing my review for Kate Saunders' magnificent fairy tale, The Little Secret.  Bill did the cover art for the book and I was thrilled get the chance to view unused artwork for the book when I subscribed to Bill's blog.  Bill's most recent post features a second painting (left) that he contributed to

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17. READING LEVELS

How I assign reading levels to books, how the publishers do it, how schools do it and how you can help your reader find the right book at the right timeAfter recent emails and years of observing parents in the bookstore checking the back cover of books and trying to figure out the reading level (what does ages 8 - 11 or RL 2.4 really mean??) I have decided to try to write a post explaining what I

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18. Katherine Paterson, new National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, shares her thoughts on Books and Reading

Our newest National Ambassador for young People's Literature, Katherine Paterson, begins her tenure with a provocative op-ed for the New York Daily News. Prompted by the unveiling of the iPad, Paterson shares her thoughts on the art of listening and value and beauty to be found in the way that children read.Apple's iPad is no book-killer: Author says technology is a threat to reading we can

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19. A Father-Daughter Bond, Page by Page AND readeo - connecting page by pageA

A few weeks ago I came across an article in the New York Times by journalist Michael Winerip, also author of the middle grade mysteries starring the young reporter Adam Canfield.  A Father-Daughter Bond, Page by Page tells the story of Jim Brozina, an elementary school librarian, and his quest to stay connected to his youngest daughter, Kristen.  His older daughter Kathy let Jim know she was

2 Comments on A Father-Daughter Bond, Page by Page AND readeo - connecting page by pageA, last added: 5/4/2010
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20. Happy Birthday? Anniversary?

Happy Birthday? Happy Anniversary?BOTH!My blog turns 2 years old tomorrow, but I think that is really more of an anniversary than a birthday. However, my birthday is right around the corner and that (and the arrival of Helen Oxenbury's new book, It's My Birthday!) got me thinking. As a bookseller, I am frequently asked for kid's books that feature birthdays. Believe it or not, there are very

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21. PIcture Books: A Dying Breed or Just Misunderstood?

Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington DC.  Photo by Drew Angerer/The New York Times On Friday, October 8th an article by Julie Bosman appeared on the front page of the New York Times, under the fold.  Titled, Picture Books, Long a Staple, Lose Out in the Rush to Read, the article surmises that, in addition to the effects of the economic downturn, picture book sales are falling due to

7 Comments on PIcture Books: A Dying Breed or Just Misunderstood?, last added: 10/12/2010
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22. Just Had to Share This...

Thanks to Travis over at 100 Scope Notes for sharing this amazing site on his blog  - along with the possibility of a real version of Willy Wonka's "Three Course Meal Gum".  Featured on FastCoDesign, the D'Espresso coffee shop in NYC, located a block from the public library and designed by Anurag Nema and his team at nemaworkshop is an incredible, mind bending homage to its neighbor. The

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23. New York Times Children's Books Feature

I know that the gift giving season has officially begun when The New York Times devotes almost half of the Sunday Book Review to Children's Books, including their annual list of the Best Illustrated Children's Books.  This year the section is chock full of great books.  Here are a few nifty titles from the review I want to share with you in case my links to the NYTimes don't work - sometimes you

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