A Visit From Lauren Wolk

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This past Thursday, Newbery Honor-winning author Lauren Wolk visited Inly to talk about her new book, My Own Lightning, the sequel to Wolf Hollow.

She offered insight into her process and talked about the initial sparks for each of her thoughtful novels. Wolk offered her “recipe” for writing a book, calling the main ingredient her truth. “My truth,” she told the Upper Elementary students, is a combination of my experiences, and that changes as I age.” She stressed the importance of her own investment in the story. “If I don’t care about what I write, you won’t care about reading it.”

The next ingredient, Wolk said, is what she imagines which is followed by research. Finally, the words come. “Putting words in the right order is my job” she said. As examples, she explained that Echo Mountain “started with a mountain.” And Wolf Hollow, which takes place in a small Pennsylvania town, began with stories from her own family, and the characters are based on real people.

During the question and answer period, a 5th grader asked the question I hoped someone to hear. “What,” the student asked, “are your favorite books?” Wolk responded by mentioning both A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. Speare’s 1959 Newbery winning novel is dated and does not circulate very much, but I was so happy to hear Wolk mention it. I remember the first time I read the story of Kit Tyler arriving in Puritan-era Connecticut and can still picture her getting off the boat in Wethersfield. Kit’s friendship with Hannah Tupper, the gentle Quaker woman who many in the small town consider to be a witch, struck me as so brave and rebellious when I was twelve. Lauren Wolk has inspired me to add Speare’s novel to my (very long) summer reading list.

I also appreciated Wolk’s honest talk about the writing process. She told the kids that she writes for hours each day and described it as “hard and important” work. Sometimes, it seems that authors are (understandably) anxious to please kids. Their PowerPoints are flashy and entertaining. That can be great. Reading is fun. But it was refreshing to hear a presentation that focused on words. Some of Wolk’s slides are just that: words. A good reminder of the most important ingredient of all.

Wolk’s visit was possible only because of Buttonwood Books and Toys which has signed copies of My Own Lightning in the store. They have lots of other good books too!

Unrelated side note. I love the cover of the British version of Echo Mountain. The U.S. edition is completely fine:

But compared to this one:

Our Upper Elementary students have been reading some good books – and we have some new art work in the Library:

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Happy Reading!

Book Reviews: Student Edition

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Two of Inly’s most voracious student readers have reviewed some of their favorite books in the school library. So…I’m turning it over to Chelsea Lonsdale and Atticus Nicholas.

Chelsea’s Picks:

The Fog Diver by Joel Ross (I love this book because it’s adventure packed. It’s a story about a boy with special abilities who is is trying to escape his creator while making friends. He’s also trying to cure his guardian. And that comes with risks.

Escape to Witch City by E. Latimer (This fantasy is a page turner. Emmaline Black is part of the royal family, but if there’s one thing nobody likes in this kingdom, it’s witches. When you come of age, everyone is tested for witch blood. If you have witch blood, you will die. When Emma is tested, she finds her magical ability and decides to find Witch City. She is followed by a murderous queen and a witch hunter and illusions lie everywhere. Will Emma make it to Witch City?)

Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell (Another adventure packed story, this one about a girl named Sophie who lost her mother in a sunken ship – or so she thinks. When the orphanage comes and tries to take Sophie away from her guardian, they flee to Paris. In Paris, she meets a gang of kids who live high up on top of buildings, and they agree to help Sophie look for her mother. In the end, she is able to find her one true love.)

Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk (This book is amazing because of its many plots and a lighthearted story about Ellie, a girl living during the Great Depression. Ellie’s family decides to move to the Maine woods, but soon after moving, Ellie’s father is injured. Ellie begins caring for her family and meets a woman referred to as “the hag” who helps her understand what happened to her father.)

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk (This is, by far, the best book I have ever read. It starts with Annabelle, a young farm girl who lives peacefully in her little town. There is a mysterious man in the woods and a new girl arrives, Betty, who is always looking for trouble. When Annabelle’s best friend is injured and has to leave, Betty becomes the main suspect, but Betty blames the incident on the man in the woods. Annabelle is stuck trying to solve the mystery and avoid trouble while hiding her own secrets.)

Bonus: Lauren Wolk is visiting Inly next week to talk about her new book, a sequel to Wolf Hollow, called My Own Lightning. Of course, Chelsea will introduce her!

Atticus’s Graphic Novel Picks:

Hooky by Miriam Bonastre Tur (Hooky does a great job at making you wonder what’s going to happen next, not to mention the amazing characters. A 10 out of 10!)

Five Worlds by Mark Siegel (Five Worlds makes almost enough sense to seem real, but not quite.The best part about it is the strong characters.)

Cleopatra in Space by Mike Maihack (This series is good at having things not make sense until the end of the books – and they did it six times!)

Lumberjanes by ND Stevenson, Shannon Waters and others (The Lumberjanes series has amazing characters and always an explanation for the crazy stuff that happens in the woods.)

City of Dragons by Jaimal Yogis and Vivian Truong (This is a new series, but omg it’s a good one. The characters and plot are awesome!)

I hope these recommendations from two enthusiastic readers will lead your student or child to discover a good book!

Library News…

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Last week’s book fair was a huge success. Mary and I are grateful for the support of our book fair volunteers, shoppers, and to Buttonwood Books and Toys for their outstanding selection. Our summer reading titles were, unsurprisingly, the biggest sellers – there will be lots of kids making Moon Pops this summer!

The highlight of the week came during our extended hours on Wednesday evening when, for the first time since Covid began, there was a crowded library of parents and kids looking at books. There have not been that many people gathered in the library for over two years, and it was wonderful.

Book banning and new obstacles for educators are spreading across the country, most recently Marla Frazee’s Everywhere Babies is being targeted by a school library in Florida. Frazee’s joyful book is one of my go-to gifts for new parents. I truly don’t get why it would be on a banned book list. Here’s a link to the Washington Post story:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/parenting/2022/04/22/banned-books-everywhere-babies/

On a more hopeful note, here are several recent articles about the joy and rewards of reading:

I had never heard of Uruena, Spain until this week, but now the very small town in northwestern Spain is on the travel list:

This article is by Margaret Renkl, a New York Times opinion columnist, whose pieces about nature and culture I am increasingly drawn to. Her recent book of essays, Graceland at Last: Notes on Hope and Heartache From the American South, is on my nightstand.

And this piece about libraries as public spaces:

It seems more urgent than ever to remember the value of physical libraries, places in which questions can be answered, imaginations nurtured, and critical thinking is encouraged.

Motivated by the horrific events in Ukraine, my own reading has digressed from the planned list. First, in order to understand more about Putin’s history, I read this graphic novel:

Right after that, I heard Bill Browder on NPR talking about his new book, Freezing Order: A True Story of Money Laundering, Murder, and Surviving Vladimir Putin’s Wrath.

It’s a thriller-style page turner, but learning the costs, both human and financial, of Putin’s corruption, made it a timely and frightening read.

Time for a change of topic! Happy Reading….

Inly’s Summer Reading….

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Inly’s first “real” book fair since the Covid lockdown will be held next week. Last spring, we had a small book fair outdoors which was actually kind of fun, but the selection was limited. In October, we took another step forward with a “regular” book fair, but there were strict limits on how many people could be in the library at one time. It was great, but we missed the buzz of a busy library. Next week promises to be a bit more festive.

As always, Inly students will receive a summer reading list from which they can choose their books. The list will guide their selections by introducing them to books and authors they may not know. Our highest priority is for kids to enjoy their summer reading – choosing funny stories, graphic novels, adventures, anything that captures their interests.

We also use summer reading as an on-ramp to a new school year. Each level has one required book, a book that provides students and teachers with a common reading experience. The books are selected to reflect Inly’s mission to “inspire our inclusive community of learners to explore and shape ourselves and the world with joyful curiosity, courage, and compassion.” Here are this summer’s selections:

Children’s House

The Camping Trip by Jennifer Mann (a delightful story about Ernestine, a little girl who lives in the city and is excited about her first camping trip. Ernestine faces some challenges: setting up a tent and fish in the pond, but there are also s’mores! Kids will especially enjoy the detailed packing list Ernestine’s aunt sends to her.)

Lower Elementary

Moon Pops by Heena Baek (I knew this book was “it” the second I finished reading it. Based on a Korean folklore, it’s the story of a hot night, a night so hot that the moon begins to melt. The grandmother begins catching the drops to turn them into Moon Pops, frozen treats that glow. Baek’s story captures the joy of summer. I read Moon Pops on a freezing cold day, and it whisked me – temporarily – away from mittens and boots.)

Upper Elementary

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (Applegate’s modern classic has been our UE summer read before, but it is Newbery-winning perfection. I’ve yet to meet a student who did not love Ivan, the gorilla stuck behind glass in a shopping mall. Like Charlotte’s Web, The One and Only Ivan is a celebration of friendship.)

Middle School

The Legend of Auntie Po by Shing Yin Khor (This graphic novel is hard to describe – and wonderful in every way. It is part historical fiction, part coming of age story, part folktale, and part tribute to the power of stories. Set in the mid-1800s in a Sierra Nevada logging camp, the main character is a 13-year-old Chinese-American girl who helps her father serve meals to the loggers. At the end of the day, she tells Paul Bunyan-style stories about a woman named Auntie Po who has a blue water buffalo. Mei and her father are also navigating the challenges of anti-Chinese sentiments, and Mei is trying to understand her new feelings for her friend, Bee. There’s a lot going on, but it works.)

Two last things:

Two students were intrigued by these very similar covers:

I love things like this. Book covers seem to follow trends:

Finally, the illustration at the top of the post is The Sand Pile, 1920s by Ida Marie Perrault. I saw it at the Museum of Arts and Crafts Movement.

Happy Reading! See you at the Book Fair…

A Week in the Sunshine

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We just returned from a week in sunny Florida. Seven days wearing t-shirts, drinking iced mochas, and being outdoors makes it hard to readjust to the low 40s, but spring is coming, and (fingers crossed) warmer days are around the corner. One of the best parts of our trip, as always, was visiting different bookstores, and we went to a few good ones.

Tombolo Books in St. Petersburg was originally a pop-up store in Tampa and opened as a brick and mortar store in late 2019. It’s a beautiful, well-curated shop which is made more special by its location next to the Black Crow Coffee Shop. We bought a couple of books at Tombolo, and then sat outside with cold drinks.

Tombolo’s Women’s History Month display caught my eye – the new biography of Maria Montessori was right up front:

Sitting nearby were a group of five middle school girls planning a summer book club. They were trying to decide what to read, and the conversation centered on Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, and Alice in Wonderland. I had to sit on my hands to resist jumping into the conversation. It was wonderful to listen to these enthusiastic young readers debate which classic to read next, and I wanted to tell them how much I enjoyed their debate – and to encourage them to read Little Women!

My Tombolo purchase: Ocean Drive by Stewart O’Nan. One of my favorite novels is O’Nan’s Last Night at the Lobster, a book I’ve read twice for its beautiful and tragic portrayal of working class life. It takes place on the closing night of a Red Lobster restaurant near a New England shopping mall. There are hungry clients, an approaching blizzard, and a dedicated restaurant manager. O’Nan’s new novel, Ocean Drive, which grapples with similar themes, was positively reviewed in the New York Times.

We also went to three locations of Books & Books, Miami’s well-known independent bookstore. First, we went to the flagship store in Coral Gables. I love its airy spaciousness – it’s exactly what I imagined Florida bookstores to be like. The 1927 building has a courtyard cafe which is surrounded by the three “wings” of the store. It’s a perfect browsing space. We also visited the store in Coconut Grove, and best of all, we went to the Key West store, which was co-founded by Judy Blume. I went in the hopes of seeing Blume, the author who (as she did for millions of young girls) helped me grow up. She was not working the day we visited, but there were signs of her presence all over the shop.

First, we read this letter at the desk:

There are also staff recommendations signed by Judy B. in front of various books. I was intrigued by Blume’s review of Blue Marlin by Lee Smith:

I counted on Judy Blume when I was thirteen, and she still led me in the right direction. I read it on the flight home and it’s a wonderful short novel:

And, of course, there is this shelf:

I also bought a new novel, Mecca by Susan Straight, based on several glowing reviews:

While in Key West, we also visited the Hemingway House, the home in which Hemingway wrote, among other works, A Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls. The house is beautiful and the famous cats are everywhere, but I admit feeling somewhat disappointed in the tour. Perhaps because of the house’s location in a city where many sun-seeking tourists aren’t looking for a “serious” literary tour, the focus is far more on Hemingway’s cats and his remarkable life than his stories and novels. In fact, there is no mention of his Nobel Prize and the writing studio is an optional visit.

Hemingway’s writing studio (we took the optional visit!)

The more rewarding tour was at Truman’s Little White House at the Naval Station in Key West. Truman visited the house eleven times, spending a total of 175 days in Key West. Here is the desk where Truman worked – I love the donkeys!

While in St. Petersburg, we went to the Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement, which opened four months ago. If you visit the Tampa Bay area, I can’t recommend a visit enough. The five-story building is stunning, and the collection is beautiful. Honestly, we weren’t sure about a five story museum dedicated to the arts and crafts movement, but we were curious. I’m so glad we decided to go. Each floor is dedicated to a different aspect of the arts and crafts movement: furniture, tiles and pottery, period room installations, and lighting.

The tiles and decorative objects were our favorite exhibits. Designers were exploring ways to add color, “the endless possibilities for adding to the decorative beauty of rooms with the matte glazes and rich, earthy colors of handcrafted tiles,” according to an architect working in the late 1800s. As we looked at the tiles, my husband noticed these – with a Scituate connection:

The tiles, according to the panel, were originally placed around a bedroom fireplace “at Dreamwold, the Massachusetts estate of businessman Thomas W. Lawson.” Dreamwold, as many blog readers will know, is now a condominium complex, but in the early 20th century was the farm of the wealthy financier Thomas Lawson. I did not expect to see pieces of Dreamwold in St. Petersburg!

One of the most beautiful pieces in the museum is this Cinderella-themed tile set designed by the British designer and artist, Edward Burne-Jones. According to the panel, Burne-Jones also designed series centered on Beauty and the Beast and Sleeping Beauty.

One last book note – unrelated to Florida:

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk continues to be one of the most popular middle grade novels in our collection. The Newbery Honor book deserves its circulation numbers. It’s a powerful and beautiful novel. Today I heard that on May 3, the sequel will be released:

Happy Reading!

Invaded by Unicorns!

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It’s been two long years since Inly has welcomed an author or illustrator to talk to our students. But welcoming David Biedrzycki, who is both an author and illustrator, made the Covid-delay worthwhile. The author of The Invasion of the Unicorns and SumoKitty shared his love of digital art – and unicorns – with our Lower Elementary students and later met with Upper Elementary to talk about animation.

The kids responded to Dave’s enthusiastic presentation and took great delight in his skill with Procreate, the digital illustration app. His reading of The Invasion of the Unicorns was enhanced with “spy music,” which added to the fun.

It was a special treat to see the cover of his next picture book, SumoPuppy, which will be out in October.

And his next project – about a robot who wants to be an artist – is underway. Here’s a sneak peek of the robot being inspired by Bob Ross:

Seeing an author sign books in the library, hearing the kids laugh, and making all of the author visit arrangements was a reminder that brighter days are ahead. It was a bit of “normal” during a time when things are anything but normal.

The middle school students just finished reading Jacqueline Woodson’s celebrated memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming.

Their final assignment was to create an artistic response (in both image and words) to one of the book’s themes. Here are a few of them:

The four 6th grade students reading Little Women have finished, and I’m so proud of them. It’s a real accomplishment to sustain a three-month commitment to a book written in the 1860s about a very different time. We had some lively discussions about family, especially how the role of women has changed over the past 160 years. I enjoyed re-reading the book as an adult and hearing the sharp observations of four young readers who are about the same ages as the March sisters in the opening pages of the novel. Here are their final projects:

And new bookmarks to celebrate their accomplishment!

Last Saturday, my husband and I drove to Plymouth for dinner and while walking down Water Street (which faces the waterfront) we stumbled on a new independent bookstore, Books & Sundry. According to the bookseller we talked to, the store has been open since this past August so they have yet to be there for a (hopefully) non-Covid spring and summer. It’s a really nice space, perfect for browsing. I hope they “punch up” their local interest section because, like all tourist locations, people tend to be most interested in a place when they are right there. It’s the perfect spot to explore more about the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag, the tribe that the pilgrims first encountered. We definitely plan to go back on a warm day, have a lobster roll, and visit Books & Sundry.

Regular readers “met” Bert, our library friend, in the last post. Earlier this week, during study hall, I noticed that two girls had given Bert a seat at their table. They said they gave him a boost so he would “not feel left out.” Very thoughtful of them.

One more thing! We are about to take a two-week spring break. Lots of books being checked out. Here’s one student’s spring break goal:

Happy Reading!

Inspiring Books for Women’s History Month…

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March is Women’s History Month, and there are lots of new books celebrating the achievements of notable women. Some are about well-known women and others focus on less familiar, but equally accomplished, women. Here are a few titles that will be on display in the Library – and would be wonderful additions to a home library:

Alice Waters Cooks Up a Food Revolution by Diane Stanley (Our interest in eating fresh food – and less highly processed food – had strong roots in Alice Waters’s Berkeley restaurant, Chez Panisse. Waters has been an advocate for healthy eating and the farm-to-table movement. This one will inspire your budding chef or food critic.)

Ablaze With Color: A Story of Painter Alma Thomas by Jeanne Walker Harvey (I first heard about Alma Thomas when the Obama’s added one of her paintings to the White House collection. “Resurrection” made Thomas the first African-American woman to have a painting on display in the White House. After reading about that, I learned more about the teacher who became a professional artist when she retired in 1960. In 2016, I bought a beautiful monograph of her work for $36.00 – which I only point out because I just looked the book up on Amazon and it is selling for $330.00!

The new children’s book looks wonderful and you can buy it at your local independent bookstore for $18.99.)

Sweet Justice: Georgia Gilmore and the Montgomery Bus Boycott by Mara Rockliff (I love this book which offers a totally new perspective on the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The story centers on a woman who uses her talent as a cook to feed the marchers. “Georgia was cooking when she heard the news,” the story begins. The “news” was that Rosa Parks had been arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a White man on a bus.)

Away With Words: The Daring Story of Isabella Bird by Lori Mortensen (For kids who enjoy reading about adventurers, Isabella Bird is their person. A nineteenth-century British female explorer, Bird traveled to America, Canada, Asia, Australia, and Africa. The opening line is great: “Isabella Bird was like a wild vine stuck in a too-small pot.”)

Ida B. Wells, Voice of Truth by Michelle Duster (A picture book biography of Wells, a courageous journalist and civil rights activist who, among other things, was one of the founders of the NAACP. Voice of Truth was written by the great granddaughter of the social justice pioneer.)

Stacey’s Extraordinary Words by Stacey Abrams (The voting rights advocate tells her story of her childhood love of words and a spelling bee that taught her more than spelling lessons when she was in 2nd grade. An inspiring story about perseverance and the power of words to change the world.)

Who Is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? by Kirsten Anderson (For early chapter book readers who want to read about a woman who is on the front line of conversations about the environment and healthcare, this might be a good gateway.)

And three favorites from past years:

The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks by Cynthia Levinson (a picture book biography of Audrey Faye Hendricks, the youngest known child to be arrested for a civil rights protest in Birmingham Alabama in 1963. A good book for young activists!)

The World Is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect of Zaha Hadid by Jeanette Winter (the last two books on this list are by the same author, but Jeanette Winter’s art complements her subjects beautifully. Hadid grew up in Baghdad in the 1950s and 60s. As a child, she loved math and patterns which of course led to architecture. As her style developed, she incorporated nature into her designs and created innovative and spectacular buildings around the world.)

The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life With the Chimps by Jeanette Winter (Every time I see this book in the Library, I’m reminded of its perfection: art, story, and message. The Watcher was named a Best Book of the Year by the Boston Globe in 2011, and it has lost none of its relevance in the last eleven years ago. A celebration of Jane Goodall’s life and a reminder to cherish – and protect – the earth.)

From the Department of Library Friends…

Among other little plush friends that live in the Library, is Bert the Penguin. He’s become a special favorite of the 6th grade students who are now embarking on their Capstone projects. In the midst of lessons about note taking and making a source list, Bert can be seen “crowd surfing” between students. And now, he’s the stern looking mascot reminding kids to cite their sources:

Happy Reading!

Busy Winter Days….

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The Library has been humming with activity. Winter is typically a busy season, but Mary and I have been happily overwhelmed by the steady pace of the past few weeks. The book return bin seems to magically fill up every time it’s emptied, students in and out all day, lots of teacher requests, 6th grade Capstone researchers, and the best part: kids coming in looking for a “good book” to read. We have 10,000 to choose from so that’s a fun assignment! Here are some noteworthy projects:

Little Women

I am reading Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel, Little Women, with a group of four 6th grade girls. As you might expect, because there are four of them, there’s lots of discussion about “who is who” among their group! It’s a wonderful experience, certainly for me and hopefully for them. I’m impressed with their willingness to stick with a book that’s not only long, but written in a style that is not the way they speak (to put it mildly). It takes stamina for a young person to read a novel about young women living in the Civil War-era when many of today’s questions are immediately answered.

The girls were inspired by a set of old gloves that Colleen had from a theater production to “dress up” for class one day. One of them (assuming Jo would have worn pants if given the option) as Jo, one as Meg, and the other as Aunt March. The fourth member of the group had a basketball game so her “costume” did not really fit into 1860s Concord!

Maus

As you may have heard, there is been a dramatic (and justified) reaction to the banning of Maus by Art Spiegelman in a Tennessee school district. Here’s a short summary posted in The Tennesseean:

“A Tennessee school board’s decision to remove Pulitzer Prize-winning book Maus from its curriculum has drawn international attention, including coverage from CNN, BBC and Times of Israel. The McMinn County School Board voted 10-0 to ban the book in a Jan. 10 meeting, citing concerns over “rough” language and a nude drawing of a woman, according to meeting minutes posted to the district website. The book was part of its eighth-grade English language arts curriculum.”

As part of their study of the Holocaust, Inly’s middle school students read Maus. Over the many years I’ve led discussions about Maus, I‘ve been impressed by the seriousness our students bring to reading Spiegelman’s graphic novel. Appropriately, they are struck by the horrors of the treatments of Jews in Nazi Germany. As oppressive as the story is, what shines through are the characters’ relationships and their extraordinary will to survive. Students, led by thoughtful adults, have to understand the darkest periods of history so they can better recognize institutionalized hatred and racism. Spiegelman, of course, said it best:

“It’s a book that breaks through in a way that others can’t,” he said. “It allows an entry point for people. I just don’t want it to be boxed in as only about the Holocaust or only about the Jews.”

Weekly Wonder

Upper Elementary students attend library class each week, and each year we have a uniting “theme.” This year it’s a Weekly Wonder. We start each class by exploring a place, person, or icon that is important in the world – a cultural literacy lesson. So far, we’ve looked at: the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, the Beatles, the mathematician Katherine Johnson, the Egyptian pyramids, Christo’s L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped, American Gothic by Grant Wood – and many other significant landmarks. A typical class starts with watching a short video about that week’s Wonder, followed by a discussion, and then the kids are free to read and check books out. We could present three years of Weekly Wonders. There are so many wonderful things in the world and a limited number of weeks.

Black History Month

The Library is celebrating Black History Month with books for kids from Children’s House to Middle School. Here are some of the books available in the library – and not only in February:

Shark Week

A final note about sharks. It’s been a long winter – and it’s only early February. Mary proposed the perfect tonic to brighten these cold and grey days: Shark Week. Plans are underway for Inly’s version of Shark Week which will take place in early March. Watch this space for pictures of cute sharks (and maybe a few scary ones).

Happy Reading!

Caldecott Fun!

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It’s that time of the year – children’s book awards season! The best Monday of the whole year, and it comes in January which makes this cold month a bit more tolerable. Yesterday, the most prestigious awards in children’s literature were announced. The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera won the 2022 Newbery Medal for the best book published for young readers.

The story centers on a Mexican American girl sent to a dystopian planet where she’s sustained by memories of the folktales her grandmother told her back on Earth. An embarrassing admission: until yesterday, I had not heard of Higuera’s book. The Kirkus review tags it as science fiction novel for ages 10 to 14. Of course, I will order it and include it on our middle school summer reading list. I appreciate this discovery component of the Newbery awards. Sometimes they pull a book that was a bit under the radar out of the giant stack of new releases and put it in front of us. It can be hard to keep up!

The Caldecott was no surprise. Most of the predictions named Watercress by Andrea Wang and illustrated by Jason Chin as the probable winner. The story of a young girl’s embarrassment when her immigrant parents spot the plant on the side of the road and stop to gather it for dinner, Watercress is full of beautifully detailed watercolors of….Ohio! The book’s first page reads: “We are in the old Pontiac, the red paint faded by years of glinting Ohio sun, pelting rain, and biting snow.”

Each year, Inly’s 3rd grade students learn about the Caldecott Medal. Not only that year’s winner, but many of the books that came before, are looked at, read, and “judged” by our resident experts who, at this point, have had hundreds of picture books read to them. Part of their process is to look at how illustrations have changed over the years and the many ways a book can be considered “the best.” The kids especially enjoy lining the books up, from the earliest Caldecott-winning books in our collection, to the most recent.

Many other books got shiny new stickers after Monday’s ceremony, including the Caldecott Honor books: Have You Ever Seen A Flower; Mel Fell; Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre; and Wonder Walkers.

Next week, the 3rd graders will learn more about what makes pictures work – or not. They will add some words to their vocabulary: spine (not the kind on our bodies), medium (not the kind in the middle), gutters (not the ones in the street), and bleeding (not the kind you do when you cut yourself)! And then we will introduce this year’s project which will be based on graphic novels. The 3rd grade library and tech class is their first step towards the transition to Upper Elementary. They begin working with kids in other classrooms and they stretch their creative muscles in the DaVinci Studio. It’s always a sign that spring is not far away when the 3rd graders take these first steps.

Happy Reading!

New Books!

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The best part of the new year is all of the new books. We received an order of late 2021 books and a few early 2022 books. Here are my favorites of the bunch:

Moose’s Book Bus by Inga Moore

I bought this one based solely on Moore’s name. Her illustrations for The Wind in the Willows are beautiful, and her charming picture book about a hungry neighborhood cat, Six-Dinner Sid, is one of our most reliable Children’s House read alouds. Moose’s Book Bus is a companion to A House in the Woods, an earlier picture book that introduced a group of four animal characters that share a cozy house in the woods. In this new adventure, the animals learn the power of books and libraries. Each night, Moose gathers his animal friends to hear a story, but when he runs out of stories to tell, he goes to the library and gets an armful of fairy tales. As the animals begin inviting other friends to listen in, the house gets a bit crowded which, of course, leads to the Book Bus!

When I Wake Up by Seth Fishman and Jessixa Bagley

A little boy wakes up and realizes he’s the first one to be awake in his house. “My mom says the sun is always shining somewhere. My dad says I should stay in my bed until the clock shows 7:00 a.m.” What follows is the little guy imagining all of the things he could do rather than staying in bed. Color coded panels convey his many versions of what’s next: riding his bike, eating marshmallows for breakfast, drawing pictures of dragons and horses. What he actually decides to is on the last page of the book. I’m not giving it away.

Ship in a Bottle by Andrew Prahin

The cover of this pastel colored book kind of begs you to pick it up. You wonder what the mouse is looking at, right? The mouse’s challenge is clear from the start: “Mouse and Cat lived together. But there were problems. Mouse wanted to eat gingersnaps. Cat wanted to eat Mouse.” Luckily, the mouse has a ship in a bottle, and that’s her ticket out. As she embarks on an adventurous journey, Mouse faces rough seas and animals who want to eat her gingersnaps. Mouse perseveres, finds new friendships, and discovers french fries. This is a sweet story about finding safety in a storm- tossed world. A comforting read for all.

Cornbread and Poppy by Matthew Cordell

Is is too early to declare Cornbread and Poppy one of the best books of 2022? Following the winning formula of early chapter books like Frog and Toad and Bink and Gollie, this one features two very different mice. It also brought to mind the picture book series, Toot and Puddle in which, like Cordell’s book, one of the two friends is more carefree than the other. What makes Cordell’s new book stand out are the ink and watercolor illustrations. This first installment is about gathering food for winter. Cornbread loves to plan and is ready for the cold months. Poppy, however, has been busy riding her bike, hiking, and swinging on her swing set. Of course, the friends work together and there is enough food for all. The second installment, Cornbread and Poppy at the Carnival, will be out this summer.

Atlas of Amazing Architecture by Peter Allen

This is a book that belongs in every Upper Elementary classroom and in the collections of future engineers and architects. Not another look at the familiar landmarks around the world, instead this Atlas introduces the reader to over 40 sites around the world that are less famous. The two-page spreads are chronological, opening with Neolithic Monuments and Ziggurat of Ur and ending with the Society of Authors and Publishers headquarters which opened in 2008 and features a wall made of CDs that “reflects the broken light that comes through the jagged stone wall.” Every page is fascinating. Where else is a kid going to read about the Borgund Stave Church in Norway and the Casbah of Algiers. This one is a treasure.

One More Recommendation:

A Lower Elementary teacher – and mother of two young children – recommends Hunt, Gather, Parent: What Ancient Cultures Can Teach Us About the Lost Art of Raising Happy, Helpful Little Humans by Michaeleen Doucleff, PhD. Amanda likes that the book feels aligned with Montessori teachings, especially “its emphasis on the innate goodness and helpfulness of children (even toddlers!) rather than children being mischievous little beings in need of adult control.”

Happy Reading!