Notes from the Library…

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Lots going on in the library at school – and in the “library” at home….

At school, the spring season is fully underway. With fingers crossed, we are planning outdoor events, including a book fair the week of May 10 and an 8th grade graduation ceremony.

To brighten things up a bit, we have asked the 1st through 6th grade students to write the title of their favorite book in the center of a paper flower, and we are hanging them around the library. Unsurprisingly, our “book garden” includes lots of Harry Potter and Dog Man flowers, but I was happy to see that a student chose The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. If I could vote for my five favorite books in the library, that would be one of them – along with Charlotte’s Web, Life on Mars by Jon Agee, Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena, and A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead.

I also had two reminders of how much kids, like many adults, enjoy an entertaining story. Sometimes, I try too hard to find the most creative and artistic picture book for story time, and it’s even better if the book contains an important message. These books are great, but so is a funny story that just makes kids laugh. In a rush to select a book for our lower elementary classes this week, I grabbed Floaty by John Himmelman off the shelf. I remembered it as a sweet book, but I had not looked at it in awhile. Floaty is the story of a dog who floats. You can’t put him down inside because he will rise to the ceiling – and, of course, outside would be a disaster! To feed Floaty, his new friend Mr. Raisin has to toss cornflakes into the air. After reading it to a class on Monday, I knew Floaty would be our read aloud all week. It was great to hear the kids laughing at the picture of Floaty drinking water from a spray hose pointed toward the ceiling.

While Mary and I were reading Floaty to our groups this week, the parent of an Upper Elementary student told me that her daughter mentioned that all of the books she read for school this year were sad. My heart sunk a bit. This is the challenge of middle grade “problem novels,” right? It used to be that stories about divorce and mental illness and sexual identity were primarily written for young adults. Today, with urgent conversations going on 24 hours a day, authors are responding with books that help kids navigate hard topics. That’s a good thing. Books can spark questions and give kids a safe place to explore issues – and they certainly provide a wider perspective.

But when I look at the library’s middle grade fiction shelves, I see far more issue novels than light and funny stories. Kids need those too – just like we do. I’m going to pay more attention to a balanced reading diet in both their classroom reading and in the books they check out.

At home, I’m reading a new book: Red Island House by Andrea Lee. Part of the appeal, beyond the glowing reviews, was the fact that the novel takes place in Madagascar, a place I knew two things about: vanilla and lemurs. But now, since I’m looking at pics on Google images and videos on YouTube after every chapter, I’ve got a much better sense of the island nation. The novel centers on Shay, an American professor who marries a wealthy Italian man who owns the Red House, a mansion on Madagascar’s coast. Shay becomes the “foreign mistress” of a house with a small army of housekeepers and groundskeepers, people who understand Madagascar’s history, hierarchy, and complex relationships far better than Shay does: “She is struggling,” Lee writes, “to negotiate the currents not just of Italian and Malagasy etiquette, but of a universal colonial tradition that once seemed to her extinct, but which she knows now is all too alive.”

Before reading Red Island House, I digressed from my official “to read list” and read Catherine Reef’s dual biography, Frida and Diego: Art, Love, Life. Reef is the award winning biographer of nearly 20 biographies for young adults. I’ve read many of her biographies when I want to learn more about someone’s life – but not enough to commit to 600 pages. Reef has written about the Bronte sisters, Florence Nightingale, Sarah Bernhardt, and Jane Austen, among many others. Although I had a Wiki entry “first paragraph” kind of sketch of both iconic Mexican artists, I did not know very much about their individual trajectories and tumultuous relationship. Their intertwined stories are fascinating, both tragic and romantic. Side note: I did not know that Kahlo had an affair with Leon Trotsky before reading Reef’s biography.

When Kahlo was eighteen-years-old, she was seriously injured when the bus she was on was hit by a streetcar. Reading that brought to mind two famous people who died in similar accidents. Pierre Curie, Marie’s husband, was walking across the street when he was killed by a horse-drawn cart. And the architect Gaudi was taking his daily walk when he was hit by a tram and died. A reminder to look both ways!

There are maybe 10 books that I plan to read next. Knowing that’s impossible, I will narrow it down over the next few days, but for now – a few more days in Madagascar.

Happy Reading.

Dignity and Justice for All…

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Nearly one year to the day after last year’s JFK Library’s Educators’ Conference was cancelled, the show went on this week- with all of the speakers in a virtual setting. Admittedly, after participating in many online conferences and education programs, I doubted it would be as successful as the annual in-person gathering on Columbia Point. And while we certainly missed the spontaneous conversations at lunch and the autograph session with the authors, it was a day of learning and reflection. The speakers were thought provoking and inspiring, and the 200 participants were engaged. I’m hopeful that we are back together next spring, but this year’s conference, Dignity and Justice for All: Stories of Protest, Resistance, and Change was truly wonderful.

The day began with a panel discussion led by Vicky Smith, the Children’s Editor at Kirkus Reviews. The authors, Jabari Asim, Ann Bausum, and Doreen Rappaport, talked about their work and the challenges of writing about history and civic engagement during this politically divisive era. Smith (upper left on my screenshot) opened the panel by asking each of the well known writers, “what is your primary responsibility in writing for children?” “Honesty,” Bausum, the author of many award-winning books including Marching to the Mountaintop, said immediately, adding that she’s conscious of not letting the hard parts take away from the story. “I don’t want to take way the possibility of hope,” she said. Jabari Asim, the author of A Child’s Introduction to African American History and picture book biographies of John Lewis and Booker T. Washington, also addressed the challenges of keeping readers engaged while not shying away from the truth.

Smith led them through a variety of topics, including questions about how Asim, Bausum, and Rappaport conduct research and account for gaps in the historical record, the process of working with editors and experts, and how they scaffold information for young readers. Smith also asked the authors how the events of the past year, a year in which “many of our systems have failed,” primarily impacting children, people of color, and people with marginalized identities, has changed their approach. Rappaport, the author of the well known “Big Word” series of picture book biographies, asked “who is missing?” and “what is missing?” All of the authors addressed the walls that new BIPOC authors often confront when trying to get their first books published. Asim said that he is “not concerned with people outside of a group telling stories that need to be told, but let new voices in as well.” “It’s not either, it’s both,” he said.

The keynote speaker was Dr. Debbie Reese, scholar, critic, writer, and a member of the Nambe Pueblo. Her blog, American Indians in Children’s Literature provides critical analysis of Indigenous peoples in children’s and young adult books – and is a trusted resource for teachers and librarians. She is also the co-adapter of An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People which Kirkus, in its starred review, called “an important corrective to conventional narratives of our nation’s history.” Dr. Reese stressed the importance of using present tense verbs when talking with children about American Indians. She used a page from Danny and the Dinosaur to make her point. In this scene, Danny is visiting a museum:

I have not looked at Syd Hoff’s early reader book in a long time, but looking at it through Dr. Reese’s eyes, her point was clear. She also talked about the misrepresentations of Native life in many middle grade novels, including The Sign of the Beaver, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Julie of the Wolves, and Walk Two Moons. All of these popular novels, in Dr. Reese’s view miseducate students and deprive them of hearing authors from marginalized or under-represented groups writing about their own experiences – from their own perspective.

Dr. Reese stressed the importance of being tribally specific when talking about American Indians. “There were nations here before the U.S. was a nation,” she said while showing a flag of the Nambe Owingeh pueblo.

The books Dr. Reese encouraged educators to use include:

The Birchbark House series by the Chippewa writer, Louise Erdrich

Unstoppable: How Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team Defeated Army by Cherokee writer, Art Coulson

I Can Make This Promise and The Sea in Winter by Christine Day, an enrolled citizen of the Upper Skagit tribe

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, who is tribally enrolled with the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe. We Are Water Protectors won the 2021 Caldecott Medal.

The afternoon included breakout sessions with the three authors, Dr. Reese, Vicky Smith, and Generation Citizen, a Boston-based civics education organization. I couldn’t be at all of the sessions, but I did hear Doreen Rappaport tell a wonderful story about working on her new picture book biography, Ruth Objects: The Life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Rappaport told us that through one of her early “expert” readers, she was able to send a copy of the text to Justice Ginsburg – and she received handwritten edits from the distinguished jurist. As Rappaport pointed out, Ginsburg’s suggestion was good. The Nancy Drew books were not just “about” Nancy, but more actively, she was a character who solved mysteries!

The book was published near the end of Ginsburg’s life, and Rappaport sent her a copy. In return, she received this personal note – a treasured keepsake!

It was a wonderful day. As one of the conference coordinators, I was happy to read some glowing reviews from participants, and most importantly, the teachers and librarians “signed off” with new questions to ask and a deeper commitment to putting good books in kids’ hands.

To that end, there’s an exhibit at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art that is worth the trip to Amherst. Picture the Dream: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement through Children’s Books is on display between now and July 3 – and features more than 80 artworks related to the civil rights movement. The museum’s website includes a link to all of the books included in the exhibition, and Inly’s library has most of them. We are missing maybe 15 of them.

All of the books are important, and it’s an embarrassment of riches to have so many wonderful illustrations in one place, but the pictures I’m most looking forward to seeing are:

Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by Bryan Collier (because I just heard Doreen speak about this book during the conference and Collier’s illustrations are brilliant)

March by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell (because I love this graphic memoir account of John Lewis’s contributions to the struggle for civil rights)

and

What Do You Do with a Voice Like That?: The Story of Extraordinary
Congresswoman Barbara Jordan
by Chris Barton and illustrated by Ekua Holmes (a perfect combination of subject and illustrator)

Second vaccine right around the corner. Time to plan a road trip to Amherst!

Happy Reading!

Vaccines! Sunshine! New Books!

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Things are looking up. The windows are open in the Library. Teachers are scheduling vaccines. And the spring books are arriving. Flowers can’t be far behind….

Here are six new books that deserve a place on your springtime reading list:

Rectangle Time by Pamela Paul

A charming book about reading from a cat’s point of view, Pamela Paul’s book is a tribute to falling in love with books – with a pet on your lap. It’s also a book about the passage of time. The story opens with a father reading The Snowy Day to his young son during, as the cat calls it, “rectangle time.” As the pages progress, the boy grows up and his reading changes – from Go, Dog. Go! to Encyclopedia Brown and ultimately, The Hobbit. There are sweet and funny comments from the cat on every page, and I felt nostalgic remembering “rectangle time” with my son and our dog. I treasure the memory of our nightly readings of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, my son’s favorite childhood story. We read it hundreds of times before we left Peter, exhausted from his run-in with Mr. McGregor, safely at home drinking his camomile tea – and my son moved on to the Magic Tree House series. (the second picture above is the bonus illustration under the desk jacket)

The Boy Whose Head Was Filled With Stars by Isabelle Marinov

A picture book biography of the astronomer Edwin Hubble, this book celebrates curiosity. One of my favorite book of 2021 (so far), it does exactly what a good book for kids should do: inspire wonder, initiate questions, broaden perspectives. It is also beautiful. Some of the words literally sparkle on the page. “We do not know why we are born into the world,” Hubble said, “but we can try to find out what sort of world it is.”

All Along the River by Magnus Weightman

Many kids enjoy books with tiny little details in them. While looking for Waldo (or a similar character), they love poring over things and finding repeat characters and funny scenes. For these kids – and adults – there’s a new one and it’s spectacular. All Along the River by Magnus Weightman, is the story of a bunny who is “playing happily near the water” with her favorite toy, a duck wearing a red scarf, when she drops it and the river carries it away. She asks her two brothers to help catch Little Duck, and the adventure begins. Each page follows the bunnies – and many other characters – through forests, flower fields, and towns as they look for, and ultimately find, Little Duck. With a bit of effort, I found Little Duck on every page, but I found other delightful stories – and a twist at the end – to follow as well. All Along the River was published in the U.S. last year, but I ordered it recently so am including it in my 2021 list.

Sydney & Taylor: Explore the Whole Wild World by Jacqueline Davies

The “odd couple” story has been told many times before, but when done right, the story does not get old. The brightness of these pages, combined with fresh and funny leads, makes this early chapter book special. Sydney is a skunk who likes naps, sitting by the fireplace, and listening to the “strong, steady heartbeat of the earth.” Taylor, a hedgehog, appreciates those domestic pleasures, but he sometimes gets “Big Ideas!” Taylor’s big idea in this first installment of Jacqueline Davies’ new series, is that the two roommates should “go somewhere.” The two friends don’t travel too far, but they have an adventures, and yes – Sydney does use a skunk’s special talent to get them out of a tricky situation!

Outside, Inside by LeUyen Pham

In the years ahead, there will be whole sections of book stores dedicated to the events of 2020, and the children’s section will have its own accounts of the incomprehensible year. LeUyen Pham’s new picture book will help kids make sense of what their families have experienced – and maybe it will be the book they reach for years from now when their own children ask questions about Covid. The book celebrates essential workers, the healing powers of nature, and the days we shared inside cooking and playing board games. But it’s also honest about the loss and the challenges – and how we all changed. At the end, Pham reminds the reader, “we remembered that soon spring would come.” A timely message.

Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre by Carole Boston Weatherford

Like many people, I did not learn about the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 until the past few years, and of course, I was horrified by what happened and saddened that the story is not better known. That’s changing. Thanks to the Watchmen series, two documentaries in the works, and several new books, people have been learning about how the Greenwood District, once known as “Black Wall Street,” was destroyed by a white mob and hundreds of African Americans were killed. Like all of her books, Weatherford tells this painful, but urgent, story with sensitivity and an age-appropriate approach.

Final Notes:

This book was returned to the library this morning – after 373 days. Welcome Back Darth Vader!

And a book to look forward to this fall…

A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip Stead is one of my favorite picture books of the 21st century – so far. Winner of the Caldecott Medal, A Sick Day for Amos McGee is gentle story about friendship that is a masterpiece of children’s literature. Every so often, I’ll pull it off the shelf (at school or at home) and marvel again at how perfect it is.

So….I was happy to read that there will be a new book about Amos and his friends in November:

Happy Reading!

A Mini Student Showcase…

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This week, a chance to hear what our students are reading – in their voices:

One student, a 5th grade girl, has read nearly every book on our shelves. It’s awesome to watch her scanning the titles to see which ones she may have missed. So when she came to the desk last week, put a book down in front of me, and proclaimed it “the best book I’ve ever read,” she had my full attention. This is the book:

And here is her glowing review: “I loved this book so much. It was one of the best books I have ever read. I would totally recommend it for anyone, and if you read it, I hope you love it as much as me.” The Sea in Winter is about a young girl named Maisie who is both a dancer and a Native American. After an injury forces her to stop dancing, she has to find a way forward with the help of her supportive blended family.

Another voracious reader, a 6th grader, recently wrote reviews of several of her favorites.

THE WESTING GAME by Ellen RaskinThe Westing Game is a suspenseful mystery that is super hard to put down. A group of random people come together for the reading of Samuel W. Westing’s will, but soon find themselves in the middle of a plot-twisting mystery with blizzards, burglaries, and murderers. Any fan of Nancy Drew or just a general mystery lover will appreciate this book.

ENOLA HOLMES AND THE CASE OF THE MISSING MARQUESS by Nancy SpringerEnola Holmes and the Case of the Missing Marquess is the first of a six book series of mysteries set in the mid-1800’s London era. Enola Holmes is the sister of Sherlock Holmes, and sets off to solve a mystery herself when her mother goes missing. Enola is a character very easy to connect to, and it is easy to lose yourself in the investigations and clues of this story. Any fan of Nancy Drew or the Sherlock Holmes collection will enjoy this beautifully written mystery. There is also a Netflix movie called “Enola,” based on this novel.

THE WISHMAKERS by Tyler Whitesides The Wishmakers is a funny and fun to read adventure/fantasy story. A boy named Ace opens a peanut butter jar one day, and a genie comes out! Ace is given a quest and finds out that he has only a week to save the world. It is the first in a two-book series, the second being, The Wishbreaker. I would recommend this book to fans of the Percy Jackson series, or possibly The Candymakers books by Wendy Mass.

We’re fortunate to work with many enthusiastic young readers, and right now we have a dedicated group of Upper Elementary boys who are almost daily visitors. Here are some of the series they are racing through:

The Bodyguard series by Chris Bradford

The Last Kids on Earth series by Max Brallier

Percy Jackson – and all of the series by Rick Riordan

Books by Allan Gratz

The Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz

The Storm Runner series by J.C. Cervantes

and not surprisingly…..the Harry Potter series

The middle school students, to support their study of WWII, recently read Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli. Milkweed is the heartbreaking story of a young boy living in Warsaw during the Holocaust. As their culminating project, the students each created one page interpretations of the novel. Here are three of them:

I’ll leave you with a cloud – but not a dark one. This is the cover under the dust jacket of a new book about the water cycle called When Cloud Became a Cloud by Rob Hodgson.

I hope there are more sunny days ahead than cloudy ones – Happy Reading!

Slow Reading….

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Like many people during this Covid winter, I am easily distracted. The endless stream of information about the vaccines, the variants, and the impeachment trial (Take 2) make it challenging to focus on one thing for very long. I keep anticipating a text telling me it’s time for a vaccine! Of course, I’m reading good books, but in the back of my mind, I knew it was time to read something that would require deeper concentration. A book that would force me to look words up and most of all, slow down! I can read contemporary novels pretty quickly, but I wanted something else. Last year, I listened to David Blight’s Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Frederick Douglass, but that was listening which could be done during walks on the beach.

There were obviously many candidates for long novels that require careful reading, and I was not far along in my planning when I saw this in the New York Times:

Years ago, I read both The House of Mirth and The Age of Innocence, but I had never read The Custom of the Country, which as a side note, Sofia Coppola is adapting for a limited series on Apple TV. I took the book off the shelf that day, knowing I would never be finished by the date of the NYT event, but far enough along to listen in. That was two weeks ago, and I’m still reading. Almost there, but not quite. Of course, I would have been done sooner if I was not working – and if I “skimmed” a bit. But for some reason, perhaps to prove I can still concentrate, I’m reading it like there’s going to be an exam. I look up words. I begin paragraphs again if I missed something. I’m an expert on Undine Spragg’s reckless behavior.

I thought I might begin resenting the book sitting on my side table – day after day. But it’s actually the opposite. The story is more timely than I expected, and my immersion in the social life of early 20th century New York City has become an escape from social distancing. Another bonus is that I haven’t faced my “to read” pile in a few weeks which is its own kind of stress reliever. I will leave Wharton’s world in a few days, but I plan to start another long novel soon.

My day time life in the library continues. Here are some pics from the past week.

There are steps right outside the Library door, and Mary and I get to see scenes like this every day:

The Lower Elementary students learned about peaceful demonstrations, reading among other things, this timely new book by Tessa Allen:

and then shared their signs during a reverse parade:

The third grade book club read Toys Go Out by Emily Jenkins – and then made bookmarks featuring the characters: Lumphy, Stingray, and Plastic.

Long weekend ahead – Happy Reading!

A Winter Scrapbook

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These winter days have a Groundhog Day feeling to them – every day, at school and at home, feels the same. Covid has definitely made me more appreciative of all the touchstones in a school year. I miss gathering in the barn, seeing parents in the meeting room, and the plays and ceremonies. All things to look forward to, but in the meantime, there are some magical days here in our insulated Covid clubhouse. Here are some pictures from this pre-vaccine winter:

Some of the middle school students made a table top snowman! A cute – but cold – little friend.

And, inside the middle school, this seasonal picture caught my eye. The words say: “Where’s your mask?”

Our Lower Elementary students always create wonderful book projects, but I put this one on display in the library for a little while. A delightful picture book, Carson Crosses Canada is the story of a woman, her dog Carson, and Carson’s Squeaky Chicken taking a road trip across Canada. This student – along with some help from her mother – captured the joy of summer days perfectly. I’m also feeling a bit nostalgic for long car rides and picnics right now so seeing this across the room brightens my day.

Sometimes, in an effort to encourage kids to look beyond the graphic novel shelves, I display books around the circle – forcing them to “step over” something new to get to what is familiar. In this case, we put out all (approximately 100) of the Who Was/Is books and, just as I hoped, lots of them were checked out. According to the “Who Was” website, there are now over 250 books in the “Who Was?, What Was?, Where Is?, and What Is the Story Of?” series. It’s the trademark “big head” cover illustrations that interest them, but then someone will catch their attention. Of course, the books are introductory – an overview at best. What I like about them, though, is that the increase the student’s cultural literacy, and in the best case, inspire a reader to learn more.

Our other current display is dedicated to Black History Month:

We have many books that celebrate the history and achievements of African Americans, but February is an opportunity for these books to be displayed together so that students see the wide range of contributions Black Americans have made to the United States. If I could recommend one of the books to a student, it would be: What Do You Do With a Voice Like That? The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan by Chris Barton and Ekua Holmes. Jordan’s story of growing up in Houston, becoming a lawyer, and learning to use her “big, bold, booming, crisp, clear, confident voice” as a member of Congress is inspiring and timely.

There have also been some cozy reading moments in the Library:

As many of you know, Mary and I enjoy looking under the picture book jackets to see the design surprises that are often there. This one is excellent. A book called Blanket that looks so textured that I actually touched it expecting it to feel like a blanket.

And finally, a touch of summer to brighten these gray days. We recently visited the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem – socially distanced and masked, of course. My husband and I both stared at this small painting, Portsmouth Doorway 1910 by Abbott Fuller Graves, for a while trying to absorb its brilliant sunshine.

Happy Reading!

Hope

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I’m feeling hopeful today. The powerful images of President Biden, Vice President Harris, and the twenty-two-year-old poet, Amanda Gorman, made me breathe a sigh of relief – and listening to the speakers was a reminder of the power of words to unite and heal. The lines that stood out to me from “The Hill We Climb” were these:

And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it.

Somehow, we do it.

Somehow, we’ve weathered and witnessed

A nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.

“Simply unfinished.” That’s a good perspective to hold on to during these rocky days.

Coincidentally, this book was delivered during the Inauguration:

Naomi Shihab Nye is one of my favorite poets. A few years ago I was at a conference where she was speaking, and we happened to sit at the same table for lunch. She may have been anxious to get away after a few minutes of me being a total fangirl, but of course, she was gracious and we had a lovely conversation about her work and her beloved San Antonio. Everything Comes Next is a timely collection of new and classic poems. Nye’s poetry focuses on connection and peace between people. She writes about her Palestinian heritage, childhood, food, and kindness. I love many of her poems, but this is one of my favorites:

Burlington, Vermont

In the lovely free public library
only library I ever met
that loans out garden tools
as well as books
rakes & long-handled clippers
from large buckets by the counter
I sat in a peaceful room
with citizens I will never know
reading about far-away war
war I am paying for
war I don’t want & never wanted
& put my head down
on the smooth wooden table
wishing to weep loudly or quietly
it did not matter
in the purifying presence of
women & men
shovels & hoes
devoted to growing

The books on display in the library this week reflect the momentous events taking place.

We also have this interesting new book:

I would have loved this as a kid – and can’t wait to share it with kids who love details about life “behind the scenes.” It’s full of fun facts, like this one:

“The White House jobs change over time. At one point there was a live-in fireman whose job was to stoke the White House furnace.”

The book’s author, Kate Anderson Brower, also reports that there are “132 rooms, 147 windows, 35 bathrooms, 28 fireplaces, 8 staircases, and 3 elevators!” That gives President and Mrs. Biden lots of explore over the next four years.

Happy Reading!

The 2021 Books Begin to Arrive…

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These short and cold winter days can feel like a slog. Covid seems to have settled in for the winter. The foundations of our democracy have been threatened. There’s an erosion of trust in facts. And, at least until vaccines are more widely distributed, there are no trips to plan. Still, there are still bright spots, including the arrival of the first books of 2021. I plan to spend this winter counting the days until vaccines are available, reading a stack of new books, and looking forward to warmer brighter days.

Here are a few new children’s books that are especially wonderful:

Sometimes People March by Tessa Allen (Good timing, right? This is a perfect introduction to the many reasons people gather together to speak with one voice and a good way to start conversation with younger children about current events. “It isn’t always easy,” the text reads. “Feet get tired, hearts and hopes get tired. Sometimes problems seem too big or complex. But we do not march alone.”)

I Want to Ride the Tap Tap by Danielle Joseph (This brightly colored story about Claude, a Haitian boy’s, adventure riding a tap tap, the distinctive trucks that his father takes to work. Every day, Claude and his mother walk his father to the tap tap where Claude meets the other passengers. Then, on Sunday, he gets to ride the tap tap himself when he family visits the beach. On the beach, he meets the artists and musicians he met during the week. It’s a jubilant story – you can almost feel the tropical breeze which is a welcome escape right now.)

Ten Little Dumplings by Larissa Fan (As much as I like the five books on this list, Ten Little Dumplings is my favorite – I know it will be included on my favorite books of 2021. It’s early for that judgement, but I feel confident. The story of a Taiwanese family with ten sons, “great luck indeed” the boys do everything together: get ready for school, eat rice, and play by the pond. Ultimately, they grow into “ten fine men.” But then, another voice enters the story, a sister who, admittedly, I did not see hiding among the illustrations of the ten little dumplings. But she’s there, and I went right back to the beginning of the story and read it entirely differently. Clever and smart, this is one to add to your library.)

Jabari Tries by Gaia Cornwall (One of our favorite picture books is Jabari Jumps, the story of a boy who is understandably nervous about jumping off a diving board. Now, Jabari is back and this time he’s determined to make a flying machine. Initially, Jabari’s plans don’t go the way he hopes, and he feels frustrated. Luckily, he has a dad who encourages Jabari to keep trying – and a sister with fairy wings who wants to help.)

A Long Road on a Short Day by Gary Schmidt and Elizabeth Stickney (A cozy read aloud for a short winter day, this early chapter book centers on Samuel and his father’s journey to find a “brown-eyed cow” so that the family can have milk for the baby – and for tea. Samuel and his dad venture out into a cold and grey day to find milk, but getting the milk involves a series of trades with their neighbors. First, the dad trades his “shiny Barlow knife” for two tin lanterns – and the uptrading continues from there, resulting in, of course, a cow. It’s a gentle story, at a time when we are facing so much harshness.)

Happy Reading.

New Year, New Books to Read

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We are back in school and have welcomed our Lower Elementary students back to the library with a display of new books and the first books in many popular series. The downside (to the kids) is that, for this week, the graphic novel section is closed. We love graphic novels here. We love them so much that the other books in the library start to collect dust. Every so often, as a way to encourage the kids to read something new, the graphic novels are given a little break.

After the expected objection to a whole week without graphic novels, things begin to turn around. The kids begin exploring the displays of new books and just like we planned, they find books they are excited about. It’s fun to see them at the checkout desk holding a book that may start them on a new series.

There are so many good series for new readers. Here are some of our favorites:

The Miniature World of Marvin and James by Elise Broach

Lola Levine Is Not Mean! by Monica Brown

Zoey and Sassafras: Dragons and Marshmallows by Asia Citro

Mercy Watson to the Rescue by Kate DiCamillo

Dragons in a Bag by Zetta Elliott

Meet Yasmin by Saadia Faruqi

The Unicorn Rescue Society by Adam Gidwitz

Dyamonde Daniel by Nikki Grimes

Bears of the Ice by Kathryn Lasky

Juana and Lucas by Juana Medina

Ranger in Time: Rescue on the Oregon Trail by Kate Messner

Knights vs. Dinosaurs by Matt Phelan

Big Foot and Little Foot by Ellen Potter

Mindy Kim and the Yummy Seaweed Business by Lyla Lee

Charlie and Mouse by Laurel Snyder

Dragonmasters by Tracey West

There are so many more, but this is a sampling of our “New Year, New Series” campaign. I hope we are checking out lots of #2s next week! If you have an emerging reader in your classroom or house, consider one of these books to expand their reading world.

Happy New Year!

Five Things Worth Sharing….

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In this last post of this “Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad” year of 2020 (to use Judith Viorst’s picture book title), here are a few bright spots:

  1. A colleague and her son made this Covid Snowman last week:

2. During the last few days of school, our students and families enjoyed a colorful and happy walk through a Winter Wonderland. It was the bright spot in a week without our traditional holiday festivities:

3. To support their study of WWI, our middle school students read Michael Morpurgo’s novel War Horse. The novel, on which the Steven Spielberg movie is based, tells the story of Joey, a British horse, who is bought by the British Army and goes through a series of owners around Europe against the backdrop of WWI. As their final projects, the students designed their own tributes to Joey:

4. Since reading Jonathan Coe’s 2018 novel Middle England, I had been anticipating his new book: Mr. Wilder and Me. It’s not yet published in the U.S., but being impatient about books I’m looking forward to, I pushed the “buy” button on Amazon U.K. It was worth it. This novel is less sweeping than Middle England’s focus on Brexit-era Britain, but it’s equally thoughtful. An account of one of the film director Billy Wilder’s last films (Fedora) through the eyes of a young assistant on the crew, it’s a compassionate look at aging, the impacts of WWII on Europeans, and the changing film industry.

5. Finally, a sweet note I found on my desk on the last day of school before break:

I don’t typically make it to midnight on New Year’s Eve, but this year may be an exception. Mary told me about an Irish custom of leaving the back door of their houses open to let the old year out – and opening the front door to let the new year in. That sounds just about right for this year.

The calendar is marked for January 20 – when hopefully the White House back door will open and a burst of fresh air will blow in. Until then, I wish you a vaccine, good books, and good health.