Giving Thanks and A Night to Talk About Books…

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With Thanksgiving around the corner, here is a book lovers list of thanks…

  • Mary, my colleague who makes every day in Inly’s library a good one
  • independent bookstores, especially Buttonwood
  • end of year “best book” lists
  • the authors and illustrators who enrich the lives of children and educators
  • Inly students who love to read and talk about books
  • The New York Times Book Review and podcast
  • Bic “cristal” blue pens – the only kind I use. My husband makes fun of them, but I remind him that a blue Bic “cristal” is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York:
  • Starbucks!

One of my favorite events of the year is coming up….

This year’s event will be held at Buttonwood Books and Toys where there will be an opportunity to browse and shop as well as to hear about upcoming events at the James Library and Center for the Arts. I have a few book recommendations for adults too!

Here are two pics I took earlier this week that are kind of awesome.

First, I did not know that you could layer pages of two books together in such a way that makes them nearly impossible to pull apart. But this student did it – and she’s right. Of course, she explained the force of friction to a group of us so we integrated some science into library time. How did I miss this cool book trick!

This boy in the middle of the picture below is in the first grade. He came in to the library while two fourth graders were on the couch and jumped right onto the middle of them to check out what they were reading. I love that he did not hesitate – and felt completely free to join them!

Happy Reading!



Ruth Chan Visits Inly — and Looking “Under the Book Covers”…

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Ruth Chan, creator of the cutest cat in picture books, visited Inly last week, and I now have a beautiful picture of Georgie on my mantel!  On the right – you can see Toad driving his red motor car!

Georgie, the star of Georgie’s Best Bad Day and Where’s the Party, is a cartoon cat who looks, as Ruth describes him, a bit like Garfield. That was on purpose. Ruth said her artwork is inspired by Garfield and the characters from Richard Scarry’s Busy Town.

Unsurprisingly, the kids loved meeting Ruth. She asked them to help her create some new animal characters, including fish and spiders, and showed them pictures of the real animals that inspired her stories.


She also showed us something inThe Great Indoors, a picture book she illustrated for Julie Falatko.

The interior of the house, based on Ruth’s childhood home, includes lots of Asian elements that poke through. You could have a scavenger hunt while reading this very funny book. Find: a Chinese scroll, a rice cooker, egg rolls, a Chinese ornament (a lion?) at the door, and mochi.

During our conversation, Ruth told me about her new project, a graphic memoir about moving from Canada to China when she was 13-years-old. “A reverse migration” story she called it. We talked about the explosion of graphic novels, and I expressed my concern that some students will not read a book in “traditional” form anymore. There are kids to whom I suggest a novel, and they will ask: does it come in a graphic novel?  I love graphic novels and often seek them out for my own reading, but what were once part of a mixed diet for young readers, are increasingly becoming the only kind of books many kids will read. As Ruth pointed out, “this is just the beginning” so I guess we should clear more space in the library.

Every so often I will “close” the graphic novels section in our library and encourage kids to explore the rest of the collection. I tell them that “Raina needs a rest!” and some of them discover a new series in an overlooked part of the library.  This is not a statement against graphic novels. I am truly a fan, but when I watch kids in the library, it gives me pause.

One of the most powerful books I’ve read recently is a graphic novel:

It’s the true stories of six children who survived the Holocaust – clearly painful to read, but each chapter is about a person who survived. At the end of the book is a section called “What Happened Next” that includes current photographs of each child with a short passage about their lives after WWII ended.

One thing Mary and I enjoy is looking “under the covers” of new books where we often discover “Easter Eggs,” illustrations that are hidden from readers unless they look under the dust jacket.  Mary began finding them as she wrapped books and now we look for the bonus artwork.  Here are a few of our recent favorites:

Happy Reading!

Book Things On My Mind….

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Here are some things worth sharing this week….

  1. Congressman Elijah Cummings words about public libraries and librarians during an interview with 60 Minutes that was broadcast in January of this year (nine months before he died) are incredibly moving.

2. As regular readers know, I am not a fan of winter, but many of my favorite picture books are about “snowy days” (Ezra Jack Keats included!)  I added a new one to my collection this week: My Winter City by James Gladstone and illustrated by Gary Clements. It’s so beautiful that it almost makes me look forward to cold days with a cup of hot chocolate and a good book.

3. The New York Times has announced their list of the Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2019:

I was not at all surprised to see Sydney Smith’s extraordinary book, Small in the City (another winter story) on the list, but there were a few books that are new to me – several of which I ordered this morning.

The one I’m most excited to see is Monkey on the Run, mostly because of the awesome yellow banana motorcycle on the cover.

4. We are trying something new in our middle school literature classes: paired reading. We matched the students with a partner who we think would enjoy the same kind of book and formed 16 small book clubs. Here are the novels ready for distribution:

5. Last week’s Halloween festivities included the witch and the bog monster from Room on the Broom, Harry Potter characters, and a big Starbucks cup:

Finally, Happy 30th Anniversary to Buttonwood Books and Toys, our local independent bookstore and a place I spend lots of time and money. Buttonwood’s wonderful and knowledgeable staff are an important part of my life – as they are for many others.

Happy Reading!

Instagram, New Books, and Pumpkins…

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I follow too many Instagram accounts – more than 1,000 of them! Of course, I don’t see everything that’s posted, but my favorites rise to the top so it works. I love Instagram because I get to see pictures of family and friends, but it’s also become a part of doing my job. I follow hundreds of book related sites: libraries, bookstores, authors and illustrators, and avid readers. Most importantly, I follow publishers. It’s on their social media accounts where pub dates for new books are announced. I’ve come to rely on it as a tool – just like my laptop.  Instagram is increasingly becoming an educational portal as well.  I follow many museums that feature a different painting every day – and this escape into a “30-second class” is one of the best parts of my day. Clearly, Instagram is not a place for deep learning, but many of these museums have extended videos about their collections that have led me to further reading.

It was through Instagram that I learned this exciting news: a sequel to The One and Only Ivan. The publication date is May 5, 2020 – just in time for summer reading!

The illustration at the top of this post is by Christophe Jacques, a Belgian illustrator who I discovered on Instagram and really enjoy. His pictures make me smile – and are a welcome respite from the daily news. He gave me permission to share this sweet illustration with you.

Two eagerly anticipated books came out this week – two that I probably first saw on Instagram! Expect to see both of them on many end-of-year best lists and soon having shiny award stickers on them….

Saturday by Oge Mora

Mora’s first picture book, Thank You, Omu!, was wonderful, but this one is even better. I love the colors she uses in this story of a young girl and her mother who spend their Saturdays together.

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Mallaird

Fry Bread is also a book about family breads – this time a modern Native American family making bread together. In this story, bread is a symbol of tradition and memories.

On a Halloween note, pumpkins from Starbucks crew…

As many readers know, I am a daily Starbucks customer so I’ve gotten to know the morning baristas pretty well. They all decorated pumpkins, and there’s a contest for the best one. I love them all, but voted for the Tin Man!

Happy Halloween and Happy Reading!

Book Shopping in New York – and at the Book Fair


I was in New York this past weekend and saw the best sign ever at the Strand Book Store:

That was it. I had official permission to buy more books. We went to two favorite NYC stores, the Strand and McNally Jackson, and to be fair – I bought two from each store. Two titles were on my list and two were impulse purchases. The four books I bought are:

Five Days Gone: The Mystery of My Mother’s Disappearance as a Child by Laura Cumming (Cumming is the art critic for the Observer in London and the author of several other books. This book came to my attention after reading Nick Hornby’s glowing words about it in his Believer magazine column. This is an incredible, and incredibly unusual, book about family, secrets,” Hornby writes…the ruinous sexual shame and hypocrisy of the first half of the English twentieth century. It’s one of the best memoirs I have ever read… There is so much about it that moves; there is so much about it that educates. It is, and will remain a favorite, to be re-read one day, to be recommended to anyone who will listen.”  With a review like that, Five Days Gone moves higher up in the “to read” pile.)

Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church by Megan Phelps-Roper (The starred Publishers Weekly review reads, in part, “Phelps-Roper’s intelligence and compassion shine throughout with electric prose … She admirably explicates the worldview of the Westboro Baptist Church while humanizing its members, and recounts a classic coming-of-age story without resorting to cliché or condescending to her former self.”  I also heard part of a Fresh Air interview with Phelps-Roper and wanted to learn more about her journey.)

Stranger by Jorge Ramos (One of my impulse buys, I thought it would be worthwhile to hear what Ramos, a Mexican American journalist, has observed since the 2016 election. I read Stranger on the train back to Boston and was grateful to Ramos for sharing his story and the real data about the contributions immigrants make to our country. It was especially interesting to read about the day Donald Trump had Ramos removed from a press conference in Iowa in 2015.)

The Pursuit of Art: Travels, Encounters, and Revelations by Martin Gayford (I was excited to find this book at McNally Jackson. I had read Rendez-Vous with Art by the same author a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it. This one is about the author’s journey to see art – and meet artists.)

One of the many joys of spending time in the Strand are the awesome signs:

I also enjoyed Jacqueline Woodson’s recommendations:

McNally Jackson has a display of books representing each state. Of course, I looked at the books representing Ohio and was not surprised to see a Toni Morrison title. The other “Ohio book” is They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraquib, a book of essays about music and culture.

McNally Jackson also has a wall featuring their bestselling titles since they opened in 2004:

We also walked by a bookstore that was new to us – 192 Books on Tenth Avenue at 21st Street.  A small store, but a nicely curated selection. The joy of this one was in the discovery. I rarely find bookstores that I didn’t know about so it was an especially nice moment.

It was a “fair-like” book weekend in NYC and I returned to school for book fair week!

The best sellers are – not surprisingly – graphic novels and activity books with burning questions like “would you rather eat rotting vegetables or a big cup of dry dirt?”

Last night we had an evening shopping event. It’s the best book fair hour. Lot of families together looking at – and talking about – books.

And happy customers…

A note about the picture at the top of the post. One of our Lower Elementary teachers takes little pumpkins and turns them into seasonal magic!

New Books, a Bookstore, and Book Projects….

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The more discouraging the news gets, the more I find myself seeking books that are an antidote to the headlines. I’m drawn to books with bright colors that promote cooperation and compassion. I want to read about people from other parts of the world, who speak different languages, and whose struggles remind me of what’s truly important. Children’s book authors are doing their part to inform and inspire a new generation. There are new books about caring for the environment, protecting animals, and respecting each other.  Here are five new children’s books that I’m drawn to now:

Home is a Window by Stephanie Ledyard (This is a story about transitions. In this case, it’s about a family leaving one home and starting another – learning that they are “packing” the most important thing – each other.)

The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad (The author is the fencer – the first Muslim American woman in hijab to compete for the United States in the Olympics. In an author’s note at the back of the book she writes: “I wanted to tell this story so that children who look like me could see themselves in a picture book – a story of family, love, and faith.”)

What Is a Refugee? by Elise Gravel (This is a short and accessible introduction to a complex topic. I like it because it answers real questions kids have: What is a refugee? Why do they leave their country?”)

The President Sang Amazing Grace by Zoe Mulford (This is a good book to use as a conversation starter after tragic events. As I wrote that sentence, I felt another wave of: how did we get here? But kids have questions and they need to hear uplifting stories of rising above hate.)

Child of the Dream: A Memoir of 1963 by Sharon Robinson (Robinson’s memoir of growing up as Jackie Robinson’s daughter, is for older readers – I would recommend it to 5th-8th grade students. Robinson talked about her book on NPR.)  Here’s a link:

In my own reading (and buying), I am trying to reach as far as I can to get away from what’s familiar. I recently bought two books precisely because I know very little about the world in which they take place: 10 Minutes, 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak, a Turkish novelist, and The Penguin Book of Italian Short Stories – for when I need a quick escape from the national headlines.

I was inspired to buy these books because I was in a bookstore in Norwich, Vermont – one that I had not been to before.  It’s one of those bookstores that makes me tempted to begin looking at real estate, even though I don’t like snow and Vermont gets lots of it!

We were there on a beautiful Saturday morning, and the store was busy with customers looking at books, talking about them, and reading with their children. I’m aware of how much the environment impacts my book shopping. In a store like the Norwich Bookstore, you are in a community of readers and it’s nearly impossible (at least for me) to leave empty handed.

At school, our middle school students just finished reading The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. Part of their work was to make a mask representing their “outside” and “inside.”  It’s one of my favorite projects. The task is for the outside of the mask to represent “the way people see you,” while the inside of the masks asks a more challenging question: “how do you see yourself?’ Many of them cover the outside of their masks with signs of their interests, hobbies, and personalities. But they also have more abstract representations of their feelings.

I love them all, but this one with words from books on it, may be on display in the library someday!

Happy Reading!

New Books and Lots of Readers…

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The school year is in full swing!  Books are coming in and going out…..

Kids are reading with teachers – and robots….

and with the sun shining on them….


and outdoors….

Our Lower Elementary students used Hey, Wall by Susan Verde to inspire a project to brighten the corridor. They began with Inly in the center of their “wall on paper” and brainstormed words to describe their classroom and school communities.

One of our eagle eyed students discovered a problem in our Crayon box. I read The Crayon Man, a story about the origins of Crayola, to a group of kids:

When I invited them to take a few crayons from the extra large Crayola box, this student discovered an almond crayon – and we are a nut-free school!

We also decided that whoever suggested a “macaroni and cheese” colored crayon was clearly a genius!

Outside of school, I had the opportunity to visit the Museum of Fine Arts exhibition, Kay Nielsen’s Enchanted Vision, which is on display until January 20.  Nielsen’s illustrations of classic fairy tales are instantly recognizable.  They look like exaggerated dreams – like sets for a high fantasy novel. When I read that Nielsen (1886-1957) was the son of a theater director and an actress, it made perfect sense.  The Danish artist is best known for his illustrations in East of the Sun, West of the Moon which was published in 1914.

Here are my two favorite illustrations from the MFA exhibit.

This one is from The Jupiter Tree:

And, of course, this is from Hansel and Gretel:

I love how the trees frame the house – and the figures at the bottom are so small compared to what’s in front of them, literally and figuratively!

My reading has included lots of genres. I’m reading The Outsiders with our middle school students. Last week I finished reading Sempre Susan, a short memoir by Sigrid Nunez about her friendship with Susan Sontag, and the novel, Fleishman Is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner. I’m also reading a new middle grade novel by Jenn Bishop. So much to read, so little time….

Happy Reading!