The Best of 2016…..

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It seems like children’s books are more beautiful every year, or maybe this year I’m especially open to colorful and thoughtful portals to other places.  Perhaps I’m trying to escape the realities of the divisive language of 2016 and finding refuge in books. Recently I’ve found myself returning to books of paintings.  Not contemporary art, but paintings from the Dutch Golden Age that are rich and detailed and awe-inspiring to remind me how lucky we are to be surrounded by so much beauty.

Here are my favorite picture books of 2016….

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Leave Me Alone! by Vera Brosgol  (A folk-tale like picture book about a woman trying to knit, but can’t find a quiet space. A perfect read-aloud!)

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Motor Miles by John Burningham (A dog driving a car in a whimsical and joyful book.  Burningham is wonderful.  His books never rely on flashy elements or literary acrobatics, but what he does is far more skillful – his pictures and words integrate to tell a good story that kids love.)

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The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas (This is a quiet book, but it finds a place in your heart. A foggy and “watery” book about a lonely man who finds a message in a bottle – and new friends.)

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Penguin Problems by Jory John (This is the book I’m reading in the picture at the top of the post – and my first grade friend loved it. Life as a penguin in more challenging than we realized!)

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The Night Gardener by The Fan Brothers (A truly magical book about the power of community)

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The Darkest Dark by Chris Hadfield (The book to give a young child who is afraid of the dark. The astronaut, Chris Hadfield, tells a story about his own fears that changed the day he saw the Apollo 11 moon landing on television.)

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This is Not a Picture Book! by Sergio Ruzzier (I read this to a group of 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders last week and they loved it.  In fact, a student visited the Library this week and asked me to read it again.  A book about the joy of reading.)

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Best in Snow by April Pulley Sayre (A photo tribute to snow that is among the most beautiful winter books I’ve ever seen.  An inspiring book for nature lovers.)

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Before Morning by Joyce Sidman (Beth Krommes’ scratchboard illustrations are the stars here. They complement Sidman’s small gem of a poem about a child dreaming of a snow day.  I’m not sure if it should be shelved with picture books or art books – maybe both!)

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Henry and Leo by Pamela Zagarenski (A new book for your “Velveteen Rabbit shelf” of stories about toy animals becoming real. Leo, a stuffed lion, is Henry’s best friend, but during a walk in the woods, they are separated. Only Henry believes Leo is real and will come back…..)

Last week, I visited Rob Hakala and Lisa Azizian at WATD-FM.  Thanks to their generous invitation, I have shared book recommendations with WATD listeners several times over the past year…..

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Finally, here are the two paintings by the 17th century Dutch artist, Gerrit Dou, I’ve found myself looking at over the past few weeks. Since November 8 to be exact.

A Girl Chopping Onions

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The Grocer’s Shop

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Happy Book Shopping!

 

The Graphic Novels Take a Break…

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I love Babymouse and the Lunch Lady, and Raina Telgemeier’s Sisters and Ghosts, and the Dog Man.  But last week we did this:

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The graphic novels are behind the fancy paper tablecloth because, as we explained to the kids, that section of the library deserves a rest.  Yes, there were lots of sad faces – but only for a few minutes.  And then something miraculous happened.  The students realized there are 8,500 other books in the library! It may have been the first time that some of our 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders noticed all of the books about animals and outer space and robots.

The popularity of graphic novels for young readers is a good thing.  The kids are “reading” both text and illustration.  The sequencing encourages them to slow down, and of course, reluctant readers are often drawn to the format.  However, there are days I look at all of the other books in the school library and wonder if they feel neglected.

We helped them get over their disorientation by displaying some of the wonderful new books for emerging readers.  If you are looking to vary the diet of your young graphic novel fan, try one of these new books….

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James to the Rescue (The Masterpiece Adventures) by Elisa Broach (an illustrated companion series to the middle grade novel, Masterpiece.  The stars of the series are a boy named James and his best friend, Marvin who is….a beetle!)

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Sam the Man and the Chicken Plan by Frances O’Roark Dowell  (This is one of those practically perfect early chapter books. A seven-year-old boy gets into the business of caring for neighborhood chickens that results in a lovely intergenerational friendship.)

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Skunked! Calpurnia Tate, Girl Vet by Jacqueline Kelly  (Based on the middle grade novel, Calpurnia Tate, these illustrated books follow the adventures of young Calpurnia who lives in Texas in the early 1900s.)

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Book Uncle and Me by Uma Krishnaswami  (I love this book so much.  It’s charming and inspiring, but….it’s a stand-alone early chapter book. Books that are not part of a series can struggle to find their readers.  Books like Krishnaswami’s one need to be put in a young reader’s hands.  It’s also timely. The book’s Indian protagonist, Yasmin, borrows a book from her uncle’s street corner lending library every day, but when the Mayor threatens to close her uncle’s bookstand, Yasmin becomes a community organizer.)

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The Infamous Ratsos by Kara LaReau (lots of action and warmhearted humor – give this one to a reluctant reader and watch them fly through the pages!)

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Juana and Lucas by Juana Medina (Juana, a middle class girl growing up in Bogota, Columbia, loves to draw and is learning English in school. Each chapter of Medina’s book focuses on Juana’s adventures – with her dog, Lucas.  There are very few stories for young readers told from the point of view of a child living in South America.  This one is absolutely essential – especially now.)

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The Cookie Fiasco by Dan Santat (for kids who are just entering the world of chapter books comes a new series created by Mo Willems.  The characters in The Cookie Fiasco have a problem: A hippo, a crocodile, a squirrel with pigtails, and a squirrel wearing glasses all want a cookie.  There are three cookies and four friends.  There must be a solution…)

The experiment will continue.  Tomorrow, in fact, books by Mo Willems will be taking a mental health day.  We love them so much!  I may even take a peek under the cover to get a glimpse of Elephant and Piggie, but it’s time for Strega Nona and the Wild Things and Amos McGee to shine!

If you live nearby, join us to see all of the best children’s books of 2016….

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One of the most colorful surprises of Inly’s new library is the way the afternoon sun bounces off of the stained glass leaves and “dances” on the walls. Last week, the light was shining on Frederick Douglas’s quote: Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”

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A Weekend to Recharge and Reflect…

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It’s been a weekend of trying to hit the reset button. Fortunately, the weather cooperated. Sunny and warm, I walked with a friend, treated myself to some brightly colored flowers, and contributed to the National Resources Defense Council (https://www.nrdc.org). After spending three days feeling heartbroken about President Trump’s plan to unravel President Obama’s progress on mitigating the effects of climate change, I did the only thing I could think of – begin learning about organizations that help protect our planet.

Because I’ve had trouble reading anything but news, today’s post includes lots of pictures…

A few days ago, I went to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum to see “Beyond Words: Italian Renaissance Books.”  The exhibit is on view until January 16, and is a must-see for book lovers.  The focus of the small show are the Italian humanists and their glowing illuminated manuscripts.

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I was recently in Barnes and Noble thinking that it has almost completely transformed into a coloring book and toy store.  Of course, books are available, but there seem to be fewer every time I go in.  Thanks to a friend, though, who shared something she found at her father’s house, we have evidence that Barnes and Noble used to exclusively sell books – a catalog from 1963…..

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You may not be able to see the prices very well, but in the picture above, The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone is 95 cents!

It’s nice to see there are books “for the ladies” about curtains and patchwork patterns….

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And apparently, you could travel around Europe for $5.00 a day….

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Moments from last week in the library….

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The first two pictures below are groups of kids looking at wordless picture books by Jeannie Baker, an artist and illustrator dedicated to preserving the environment.  First, I read The Little House, the classic picture book by Virginia Lee Burton, to a group of 4th and 5th grade students. Next, they looked at Baker’s books, Window and Home, and I asked them to make connections between books that were written nearly 70 years apart.

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This picture shows why we order two copies of some books….

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Finally, a picture of a book cover – just to close the post with something beautiful…

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And the Winner Is…..

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Squid!  By 10 votes, President Squid carried the day over Duck.  Squid’s big personality and bright pink color motivated the voters – that and the fact that Duck was perhaps a tad too eager to be President without serving very long as Governor.  (It’s complicated.)

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The most fascinating thing was observing our voters. Clearly, they don’t yet understand voter privacy.  Look at this student boldly checking out his friend’s ballot:

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Pivoting to a new topic….

I recently compiled a list of picture books that spark creativity.  Although you could make a case that all books are creative – writers imagined Duck and Squid before they were “created” – the stories listed below nurture the creative spirit….

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Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty

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Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty

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Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty

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Maybe Something Beautiful by F. Isabel Campy

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The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt

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Scraps: Notes From a Colorful Life by Lois Ehlert

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Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall

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The Branch by Mireille Messier

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Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois by Amy Novesky

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Beautiful Hands by Kathryn Otoshi

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Not a Box by Antoinette Portis

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Not a Stick by Antoinette Portis

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The Dot by Peter Reynolds

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Going Places by Peter and Paul Reynolds

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Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg

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The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

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Press Here by Herve Tullet

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What Do You Do With an Idea? by Kobi Yamada

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What Do You Do With a Problem? By Kobi Yamada

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What To Do With a Box by Jane Yolen

The polls are closed.  If you were a Duck supporter, maybe he will run again in four years…

 

Natalie Babbitt

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When I heard that Natalie Babbitt died yesterday, my thoughts jumped back to a summer day in 2001. As a graduate student participant in the Simmons Summer Institute for Children’s Literature, I was invited to introduce one of the speakers, and I desperately hoped to introduce the author of Tuck Everlasting.

Of course, I love her celebrated novel, but the reason I wanted to introduce her is that Natalie was, like me, born in Dayton, Ohio.  Intellectually, I understood that Dayton was not the “secret spring” that sparked her singular gift, but my heart chose to believe otherwise. To me, Winnie Foster’s sensibilities were shaped by her creator’s birthplace.

I did introduce Natalie Babbitt during the Summer Institute, and she generously humored my enthusiasm for our shared hometown.

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She was 84-years-old when she died at home in Connecticut, but she left us with a gift — not the secret of eternal life, but a timeless book that reminds us to “be afraid of an unlived life. You don’t have to live forever, you just have to live.”

Decision 2016: Duck or Squid

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The campaign season is short at Inly – one week to be exact.  Today the kids met the candidates:

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We started by learning about Duck who, tired of taking orders from Farmer Brown, wins a hastily called election and puts Farmer Brown out of a job.  After that, there’s no stopping the ambitious waterfowl.  He makes a quick stop as governor before being elected president.  As one of our students observed, “he gives up too easily.”  Not sure that bodes well for Duck’s chances.  Maybe a new campaign manager would help.

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In a few days, the kids will meet the bossy, boastful and hot pink Squid!  At least his color is bright and cheery, but he reminds me of a certain real-life candidate.  We’ll see what a group of 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders think…

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We also celebrated Halloween and, as always, there were a few book-related costumes.

Two teachers dressed as the main characters from Peter Brown’s novel, The Wild Robot.

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Another teacher was inspired by the popularity of the I Spy series…

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But my favorite costumes had nothing to do with books…..

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I’ll let you know the result of the election!

A Celebration of Reading….

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It may be too early to think about holiday gifts, but if there’s a passionate young reader in your life, consider a set of three new picture books, all of which celebrate the joy of discovering the world through books.  Teachers – each of these books is an excellent jumping-off point for a conversation about the power of words, an especially important discussion in this environment of divisive rhetoric.

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A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston

A young girl shows a new friend around her imaginative world made of stories.  “I can show you the way,” she tells him, before they travel “over a mountain of make-believe”…..and lose themselves “in forests of fairy tales.”  Their path is made up of words. Every element – the tree branches, the mountain, the monster – all of it words.  It is beautiful and inspiring.

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One of my top five favorite picture books of all time is Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers.  I can barely read that one without crying – it is a perfect gem.  A Child of Books is more lyrical, but equally moving. Meeting Oliver Jeffers is on my “If I had three wishes list!”

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I Am A Story by Dan Yaccarino

I always forget how much I love Dan Yaccarino’s work and then he releases a new book, and I enthusiastically discover him again!  Years ago, during a school book fair, I fell in love with Unlovable, Yaccarino’s picture book about an “unlovable” little pug.  And then I went through a thing with Every Friday, a picture book about a father and his son’s weekly walk to their favorite diner.  I need to pull that one back out!  Next, there was The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau which went right on to Inly’s summer reading list.

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I Am a Story goes into the Dan Yaccarino Hall of Fame.   It’s the story of a story: “I am a story,” the book begins.  “I was told around a campfire…then painted on cave walls.”  The story continues its journey through the various ways it has been printed and acted out and ultimately, of course, how it can be read on a screen.  Most of all, Yaccarino’s book reminds us that stories are what connect us.  Without stories, who are we?

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How This Book Was Made by Mac Barnett and Adam Rex

On a lighter note!  How This Book Was Made tells the story of how this book was made – the one you are reading.  It’s full of jokes, some of which kids won’t understand, but that doesn’t detract from the fun.  I read it with a group of students, and they enjoyed the “inside joke” vibe. From the opening page in which the author addresses the reader by saying:  “At first this book wasn’t a book. It was an idea,” the book takes the reader on a journey through drafts, illustrations, and printing, and waiting – until at last there is the book you are reading.  Good fodder for a conversation about how long it takes a book to go from idea to tangible object!

Happy Reading….