Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban

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Snow Day!  The picture above was taken by one of Inly’s Middle School students who clearly has a good eye for capturing the magic of snow covered trees. I haven’t ventured outside yet, but I read something sad and beautiful this morning – Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban. If we can get back to school tomorrow, I will recommend Sepahban’s debut novel to the Library “regulars” who are always looking for new books to read.

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As Paper Wishes opens, ten-year-old Manami lives an idyllic life with her parents and grandfather on Bainbridge Island in Washington. But it’s 1942, and Manami and her family are Japanese. Three months before the book opens, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, and now they are being forced to leave their home and move to Manzanar, an internment camp in California.

Before leaving their home, an arrangement was made for a family friend to care for Yujiin, Manami’s beloved dog. Brokenhearted about leaving her dog behind, Manami impulsively hides Yujiin under her coat as the family leaves, but a soldier sees the little dog and forces the family to leave him in a crate.  Manami, overcome by sadness and guilt, stops speaking.

While her family struggles to make their new lives as comfortable as possible, Manami finds it impossible to speak – or to forget Yujiin. Her “paper wishes” are the drawings she throws into the wind – manifestations of her hope that somehow, Yujiin will find her.

Through the care and love of her grandfather and a teacher who, understanding Manami’s need to express her feelings, provides her young student with paper and pencils. Paper Wishes is a lovely and quiet book about a girl who feels pain, but ultimately finds her way through it and regains her voice.

 

 

Caldecotts and Covers….

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Inly’s third grade students are hard at work and having fun learning about the winners of the 2016 Caldecott Award, the award presented annually  “to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.” Our goal is for the kids to engage with the art, learn what criteria the committee uses to make their selection, and most of all to enjoy looking at the wide range of styles used by illustrators.

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We began by showing the students past Caldecott winners – all the way back to Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey (1942) and one of my favorites, The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton (1943).  The kids lined the books up in chronological order – they were especially delighted by the the flying flogs in David Wiesner’s illustrations for Tuesday (1992).

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After that, we displayed ten books that were realistic contenders (according to on-line predictions) for the 2016 award. The kids were not told which five made it to the medal stand, but we asked them to narrow the field. The big reveal came when the books were lined up on the table and, after enthusiastic votes on each book’s fate, we removed the books that didn’t make the cut.

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Their biggest disappointment – Float by Daniel Miyares. One student was prepared to call the committee and ask them to reconsider.

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At this point, the kids are choosing their favorite book from the five actual medal winners:

Last Stop on Market Street

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Trombone Shorty

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Waiting 

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Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement

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And….

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear

Working with our tech integrationist, the students are going to make short videos to convince their classmates that their book should be given the gold sticker! Along the way, they are learning to describe books using picture book vocabulary – words like gutter, endpapers, and typography.

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We haven’t told them that Finding Winnie is the actual winner and, of course, there’s a chance they will figure it out or look it up. But that’s okay. Until then, we just want them to make persuasive arguments for their selections.  One advantage we have is that all of the books were in the Library before winning the award – none of them were purchased after receiving their shiny new hardware!

Speaking of book art….

A recent trip to Barnes and Noble made it clear that there are some trends happening in the design of middle grade book covers.

These three books share a similar aesthetic……

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And check this out….

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If you see any of Inly’s third grade students, don’t tell them about Finding Winnie!

The Sunny Side of the Street….

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Two things happened last week in the Library that reminded me that children are acutely sensitive to adult anxieties and tensions. Of course, the over-the-top media attention paid to a presidential candidate that exploits our fears doesn’t help, but it’s nearly impossible to escape the dangerous rhetoric swirling around us.

The first reminder came from a teacher who told me about a young student who is fearful of ISIS. She asked for inspiring stories about people who make a difference by doing good things.  I suggested two picture books by Jeanette Winter: Wangari’s Trees of Peace and Biblioburro.

The teacher’s story was still on my mind when, a few days later, a fifth grade girl came in to check out a book. I suggested several novels to her, but after looking at them, she asked “is there anything that’s not a sad story? It seems like everyone has something wrong with them.”  When I looked at the “problem novels” I had chosen (all excellent and popular middle grade novels), I realized she was exactly right. It’s my fault for not offering her a wider range of choices, but she had a good point.

After that I started pulling books from our middle grade shelves, zeroing in on books that are warm and lighthearted – books guaranteed to make a child smile. Here are ten happy reading choices:

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Frindle by Andrew Clements (I’ve yet to meet a student who doesn’t enjoy Frindle. Even the most reluctant reader will admit that it’s a fun read.)

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Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins (The first in a trilogy of books about three friends: a stuffed buffalo named Lumphy, a stuffed stingray named StingRay, and….Plastic. A behind the scenes look at the adventures toys have when no one is looking.)

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Doll People by Ann Martin (The first in a set of four books about two sets of dolls, one contemporary and the other over one hundred years old)

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When Mischief Came to Town by Katrina Nannestad (A Danish and younger version of Anne of Green Gables about a spirited girl named Inge Maria who leaves Copenhagen to live with her grandmother.)

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The Secrets of Eastcliff-by-the-Sea by Eileen Beha (A sock monkey decides to reunite his far flung family. The first book I’ve read that includes a “Grand March” of sock monkeys!)

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The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo (A novel length fairy tale about a brave mouse who falls in love with Princess Pea – as magical as all of DiCamillo’s stories)

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Secrets at Sea by Richard Peck (Downton Abbey for the younger set – starring mice traveling by ship so that Olivia, an upper class mouse, can find a husband!)

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Remarkable by Elizabeth Foley (The town of Remarkable has lots of remarkable citizens, but Jane isn’t one of them! Foley’s novel was on my desk the other day and three kids walked by and said “I love that book!”)

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Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar (first in a trilogy of clever stories about a thirty-story school)

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Bliss by Kathryn Littlewood (Another trilogy – this one takes place in the Bliss Bakery that makes things from a magical cookbook called Bliss Cookery Booke.)

On a final whimsical note….a few students clearly thought the Library Teddy Bear wanted to jot down some notes about nut free recipes…

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HAPPY Reading!

 

The Conversation About Portrayals of Slavery in Children’s Books

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If you’ve been listening to NPR, reading the newspaper, or following books and culture websites, you know there is a lively and hard conversation happening right now about how slavery is portrayed in children’s books.

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This recent round of questions about talking with kids about our country’s complicated past began with the publication of A Fine Dessert by Emily Jenkins and illustrated by Sophie Blackall. In that story, a slave and her child are seen eating their blackberry cake in a closet – after they have served their owners.

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Last week, Scholastic pulled a new picture book, A Birthday Cake for George Washington by Ramin Ganeshram – a book about the slave who made a cake for Washington, “narrated” by his daughter, Delia.

The focus of both books is on the sweet desserts and both include notes that explain the context more fully. But most children won’t read those notes, and the books are problematic.

I read A Fine Dessert to a group of middle school students and several of the students asked about the mother and child eating in the closet. We had a good conversation about the power of images, but these students are 13-years-old and have some context for the picture.  A five-year-old does not.

Here are links to some of the best articles about both books:

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/features/smiling-slaves-post-fine-dessert-world/

http://readingwhilewhite.blogspot.com/2015/10/on-letting-go.html

http://oomscholasticblog.com/post/proud-slice-history

http://www.npr.org/2016/01/24/464180274/children-s-books-embedded-with-racism-as-a-teaching-opportunity

If you’re looking for books with more honest depictions of slave life, Huffington Post has published a good list:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/books-slavery-young-people_us_569e6009e4b04c81376177aa

Books, Of Course….

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I recently reviewed two new novels for School Library Journal: Just My Luck by Cammie McGovern and After the Ashes by Sara Joiner. 

Here are excerpts from my reviews….

Unknown-1Fourth grader Benny is not having any luck. His father had an accident for which Benny blames himself. His best friend moved to Florida. And his brother George, who is autistic, can do tricks on his bicycle while Benny is still having trouble starting and stopping. In her debut novel for middle grade readers, McGovern presents a heart-filled story of a likeable boy who doesn’t realize that his natural gifts are recognizable and valued by a supportive family and his teacher, Mr. Norris…..Recommend this sensitive novel to fans of Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff and Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea. (ages 9-12)

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Based on the catastrophic explosion of the volcano island, Krakota, in 1883, Joiner’s historical novel tells the story of thirteen-year-old Katrien, a Dutch girl who has spent her entire life in the Dutch East Indies. She feels most at home exploring the jungle with her best friend, Slamet, an indigenous boy, and collecting beetles to prove Darwin’s Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection. Katrien is also close to her father, who has encouraged her interest in the natural world, until recently when he seems to have joined forces with Tante Greet to teach Katrien to become “a productive member of society.” After a series of events, both in the natural world and in Katrien’s close-knit community, foreshadowing impending disaster, Krakota erupts leaving Katrien alone to navigate the destruction and chaos on her beloved island…. (ages 12-15)

I love the festive snowman art done by one of Inly’s Children’s House classrooms. Aerial views of a winter wonderland….

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Two Friends by Dean Robbins

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A few years ago, while my son was attending summer camp at the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music, we visited the Susan B. Anthony House. It was the number one attraction on my “things to see in Rochester” list, and thanks to our knowledgeable tour guide, it was the high point of our visit.  Among the many things I learned about Anthony during our tour was her friendship with Frederick Douglas. It made sense, of course, that the two champions of equal rights would be friends and drink tea together; they didn’t have the option of going to Starbucks!

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Now there is an inspiring new picture book celebrating their friendship and their shared commitments to rights for women and rights for African Americans.  Dean Robbins’s picture book, Two Friends, is the perfect book for teachers to read to a classroom of students between first and fourth grade to spark a discussion about commitment and dedication to a cause. The illustrations of the two leaders convey their passion and their willingness to do whatever it took to change minds.

Look at this picture with the words coming out of Douglas’s tea. I love how the characters are connected by a shared belief in the power of words:

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Two new books to look forward to…..

Ghosts, Raina Telgemeier’s new graphic novel will be published in September, but after showing this picture to a few of Raina’s devoted fans, it’s clear I need to order two copies for the school library.

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And another picture book from the team that brought two favorites, Iggy Peck, Architect and Rosie Revere, Engineer.….Ada Twist, Scientist.

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On my own nightstand is Elizabeth Strout’s new novel, My Name is Lucy Barton. I love the cover so much that sometimes I leave it out on the kitchen table so I can see it more often.

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On the first page (no spoilers here!), the narrator talks about the view from her hospital bed in New York City:

“….and at night a view of the Chrysler Building, with its geometric brilliance of lights, was directly visible from my bed. During the day, the building’s beauty receded, and gradually it became simply one more large structure against a blue sky, and all the city’s buildings seemed remote, silent, far away.”

I feel like the white square on the cover is a hospital blind and the narrator has a clouded and obstructed view.  Everything feels far away when you’re in a hospital room.

So far, Strout’s book is as beautiful as the cover. A story that reads like poetry….

 

 

 

And the Winners Are….

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The winners of the American Library Association’s annual youth media awards were announced yesterday. Here they are….

John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature:

Last Stop on Market Street, written by Matt de la Peña, is the 2016 Newbery Medal winner. The book is illustrated by Christian Robinson.

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Note: This is the first time a picture book has been the Newbery award winner since 1982 when Nancy Willard’s book, A Visit to William Blake’s Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers, won the prize for “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.”

Three Newbery Honor Books also were named: The War that Saved My Life, written by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley; Roller Girl, written and illustrated by Victoria Jamieson; and Echo, written by Pam Muñoz Ryan.

Randolph Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children:

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Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear, illustrated by Sophie Blackall, is the 2016 Caldecott Medal winner. The book was written by Lindsay Mattick.

Four Caldecott Honor Books also were named: Trombone Shorty, illustrated by Bryan Collier, written by Troy Andrews; Waiting, illustrated and written by Kevin Henkes; Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement, illustrated by Ekua Holmes, written by Carole Boston Weatherford; and Last Stop on Market Street, illustrated by Christian Robinson and written by Matt de le Peña.

Coretta Scott King (Author) Book Award, recognizing an African American author and illustrator of outstanding books for children and young adults:

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Gone Crazy in Alabama, written by Rita Williams-Garcia, is the King Author Book winner.

Three King Author Honor Books were selected: All American Boys, by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely; The Boy in the Black Suit, by Jason Reynolds; and X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz with Kekla Magoon.

Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award:

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Trombone Shorty, illustrated by Bryan Collier, is the King Illustrator Book winner. The book was written by Troy Andrews and Bill Taylor.

Two King Illustrator Honor Books were selected: The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth & Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, written by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and Last Stop on Market Street illustrated by Christian Robinson and written by Matt de la Peña.

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Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults:

Bone Gap, written by Laura Ruby, is the 2016 Printz Award winner.

Here’s a link to Monday’s NPR/All Things Considered story about the winners:

http://www.npr.org/2016/01/11/462698206/last-stop-on-market-street-finding-winnie-win-u-s-childrens-book-prizes