Friends, Ducklings, and Jabari Jumps!

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You can feel the difference at school.  On some days, the hallways feel unusually quiet because the kids are on a field trip.  I’m starting to see kids taking projects home that have been on display for months, and most tellingly, the library return box is overflowing.  One morning this week, Mary was checking books in and announced: “this one was out for 120 days!”  We are always happy to welcome them back…

The highlight of last week’s book delivery was this one:

It’s wonderful, and perfect for fans of Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson and graphic novels by Raina Telgemeier.  Real Friends is Shannon Hale’s own story of growing up. Collaborating with the illustrator of Hale’s Princess in Black series of beginning chapter books, this graphic novel is for older readers, between the ages of 9 and 80. It’s a recognizable tale for most of us – trying to fit in.  Young Shannon desperately wants close friendships, but goes about it in the wrong ways.  There are moments of brutal honesty. Hale’s graphic memoir reminded me of going to middle school and trying to “be” someone else.  Today, I would think as I walked to school, I will be just like (fill in name of popular girl here).  In retrospect, it’s easy to see what I was doing.  I didn’t know who I was so trying on someone else’s made sense. Reading Hale’s book is funny but kind of painful.

But here’s what I found interesting. When Mary read it, she said that it would be a good reading club selection.  She’s right.  It would be interesting to hear stories of other people’s journeys through those awkward ages and express some compassion for the misfires we all experienced.  Later, talking with a 5th grade student about Real Friends, I heard a different response.  She enjoyed it. I pushed for more.  “Wasn’t it sad when Jenny wouldn’t talk with Shannon?”  The student agreed.  She liked the book and recalled funny episodes, but that was it.  It made me wonder if some distance from those years enhances the appreciation of Hale’s book.  The 5th grade girl is “in it.”  It’s impossible for her to pull the lens back.  I was tempted to recommend that she read it again in ten years!

On Friday, I went on a field trip with Inly’s third grade class.  Our destination: The Robert McCloskey exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts.  The kids have been studying the Caldecott Award and writing and illustrating their own picture books for the past four months, and this was the culmination of their adventure through the land of typeface and medium and gutters and lots of other new terms.  Here are a few pictures….

One of the best new picture books this spring is Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall:

It’s the story of a young boy named Jabari who decides it’s time to jump off the diving board, but when he gets up there and looks down, it’s a different story.  He begins stalling – saying he forgot to stretch and planning a “special jump.” With his father’s encouragement, Jabari is determined to do it and he finally overcomes his fear with a big jump!

Inly’s coach and sports instructor happens to be named Jabari so he kindly agreed to be a guest reader this week.  The kids were psyched to walk in and see Jabari there ready to read!

Teachers: Pair Jabari Jumps with William Steig’s Brave Irene to spark a good conversation about determination and courage.

Two more things…..

  • If you are looking for a fun book to bring along to the lake, the cabin, the beach house, or the front porch, consider this one:

I bought a copy for our school library’s browsing area, and it’s a hit – for kids and teachers!  It’s a “seek-and-find” book, but different than I Spy or Where’s Waldo.  First, it’s just something new.  It’s also extraordinarily clever, kind of eccentric, and beautiful to look at.  It might help a rainy summer day!

  • And, finally, a book project to share.  Some of our students made new covers for classic middle grade novels.  Among the gems was this one:

It’s Saturday and I’m looking forward to attending a conference at Simmons on school libraries and maker spaces today.  Among the workshops is one on diversifying a school library collection.  It should be a  good day!

Happy Reading…


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