My Favorite New Picture Books…

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As sorry as I am to see summer end, the transition is made infinitely smoother by the arrival of so many new books. Fall is, in my view, when the best books – and movies – are released.  So while I wait to see Downton Abbey and The Goldfinch on the big screen, here are some of the picture books that stand out – and that may have shiny gold or silver Caldecott stickers on them in mid-January!

Saturday by Oge Mora

This book comes out on October 22, but I was able to see a copy at the Simmons Summer Institute where the illustrator was one of the speakers. Mora collage art is something special.  Her work is vibrant and colorful in a way that makes it stand out on a bookstore or library shelf. Saturday is Mora second picture book, and it more than fulfills the promise of the Caldecott Honor that welcomed Thank You, Omu to the picture book shelves.

Small In the City by Sydney Smith

I first heard about this book on Sydney Smith’s Instagram. He is one of my favorite illustrators, and I started watching for this one months ago. This is a quiet book about a boy who is “small in the city.” He is bundled up and small – compared to the skyscrapers and crosswalks and taxis. You can feel the snow and the “rawness” of the day as you move through this book to its beautiful – and warm – conclusion.

Daniel’s Good Day by Micha Archer

When Daniel Finds a Poem was published a couple of years ago, I fell in love with the young protagonist and his search to understand what poetry is.  Now the same cute little guy is trying to understand what it means when people tell him to “have a good day.”  What he learns, while walking around his diverse and colorful neighborhood, is that the answer depends on who you ask. Of course, the girl with the kite wants a “steady wind,” and the painter hopes for clear skies. On my favorite page, the man at the newsstand tells Daniel that a good day means “busy sidewalks and friendly faces.”  This is a happy book, a book that would contribute to a “good day!”

Bear Came Along by Richard T. Morris and Illustrated by LeUyen Pham

This one came out over the summer, but it’s new to the school year so I consider it a fall book! It’s the cover that pulls you toward this one. There are no names on the cover – only a startled looking Bear at the bottom of an oversized title. I know LeUyen Pham’s illustrations primarily from the Princess in Black series, but this is a whole different thing. Bear Came Along begins with a river and a curious bear which can only lead to….an adventure!  First, Bear meets a frog and then turtles and then a beaver, and as the log attracts more animals, they eventually come to a waterfall – and that’s a page you have to see for yourself!

River by Elisha Cooper

This is another book that isn’t on library shelves yet, but I was able to preview it earlier this summer.  Cooper is another illustrator on my list of automatic purchases for our school library. His many books include: the Caldecott Honor book, Big Cat, Little Cat, Magic Thinks Big, and Beach. River is something different. My first thought was that it will be the perfect gift for a thoughtful and outdoor loving child. I also thought of colleagues who are happiest in our outdoor classroom. At the book’s center is a woman traveling along the Hudson River on a canoe. She faces challenges in the form of weather and animals, but at the end arrives home safely and ready to share her story.

I don’t think any of these books will be in one of the Little Libraries sprouting up in neighborhoods across the country very soon, but you never know what treasure you’ll find in them.  One of Inly’s Upper Elementary teachers made a Little Library this summer, and she reports lots of foot traffic!



Summer Reading Season Begins….

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“The library was two miles away, and walking there with a lot of heavy, already-read books was dull, but coming home was splendid —walking slowly, stopping from time to time on different strange front steps, dipping into the different books.” Edward Eager, Half Magic

Memorial Day Weekend: the official beginning of the summer reading season!  I’ve got a very ambitious stack of books ready to go. Of course, I won’t get through all of them, but I appreciate how aspirational it is.

Inly’s summer reading list has been released, and I’m imagining our students scrolling through it this weekend.  I can’t copy the whole list here, but this week I’ll list ten new titles on the picture book list. New books on the upper elementary and middle school list will be on next week’s post.

Picture Books

Olive and Pekoe In Four Short Walks by Jacky Davis  (“Davis’s understated, just-the-facts text. . .is the perfect foil for Potter’s expressive art. The illustrations capture the ups-and-downs of canine life and friendship with understanding and humor—especially when it comes to Pekoe’s innocent naiveté. The book will touch the hearts and tickle the funny bones of dog-story readers and friendship-story readers alike. Horn Book, starred review)

The Cook and the King by Julia Donaldson  (The king is hungry and wants to hire a cook. Into his life walks Wobbly Bob who isn’t really up to the task. In fact, making fish and chips scares him!  Luckily, the king becomes Wobbly Bob’s collaborator.)

The Last Peach by Gus Gordon (Two bugs find the most perfect peach and have to decide what to do with it. A lovely fable about temptation and conflict resolution.)

The Good Egg by Jory John (a very funny story about the dangers of perfectionism – with lots of fun wordplay!)

Vroom! by Barbara McClintock (“Writing with cadences plucked straight out of Sendak’s playbook, McClintock never wastes a syllable . . . The book doesn’t just put readers in Annie’s shoes. It dares them to find shoes of their own and let their imaginations take the wheel. Max had his wolf suit and Llama Llama his red pajamas; Annie has her racing togs. She fits right in.” Kirkus, starred review)

Hey Water! by Antoinette Portis (a beautiful celebration of water and all of the roles in plays in our lives)

Good Boy by Sergio Ruzzier (“Now this is how to train a dog! . . . One or two words per page and help from the illustrations make this an accessible easy reader. What, at first, appears to be a customary story of a boy and his dog turns out to be so much more—and so much more fun.” Booklist, starred review)

Llama Destroys the World by Jonathan Stutzman (a totally silly book about a llama who eats a lot of cake!)

Ruby’s Birds by Mya Thompson (a little girl learns how to bird watch – and then teaches her family)

How to Give Your Cat a Bath by Nicola Winstanley (An “off-screen” narrator gives a little girl five steps to bathe her cat, Mr. Flea. To put it mildly, Mr. Flea has other ideas!)

Mary took the picture at the top of the post.  It is one of my favorite pictures of the year….

Happy Reading and Happy Summer!


Say Something!


Inly’s third graders have something to say….

Based on the author and illustrator Peter Reynolds’ new book, Say Something, the third grade students made posters delivering their messages to the world and shared them with the author during his visit last week.

In anticipation of his visit, they have been preparing since January: learning about picture book illustration, selecting their own Caldecott winners, and designing their posters. It all came together when Peter Reynolds walked in the door, and the kids were able to give him a tour of their artwork.

He also read The Dot, one of the books featured in our beautiful doorway…

During the questions, a student asked Peter how he thought of the name Vashti, the young artist’s name in The Dot.  I had wondered about that too.

Here’s the answer:  he was working on the book that would become The Dot in his bookstore in Dedham (The Blue Bunny), and a young girl asked him what he was doing. Peter told her he was drawing pictures for a book, and then he heard someone call to her – Vashti. It’s a Persian name, one I had not heard before reading The Dot.

Three more pictures from last week….

A few months ago, this third grade boy came into the Library and said he wanted to try reading The Lightning Thief, the first title in Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. Since then, it seems like he finishes a book every few days. He raced through the Percy Jackson series and rolled right into the Heroes of Olympus.  It’s been so fun to watch him come into the library and ask: “what’s next?”

This note made me laugh. He is so sincere in wanting to let us know that he took a book, but what book?

Finally, a parent sent me this picture of her twins who are at the end of their kindergarten year – and they have discovered chapter books!  When she went in to say goodnight, this is what she saw…

Happy reading!


Required Books, Toddler Books, and My Books


It’s summer reading list season! As always, I began by selecting the required books for each level. This is Inly’s “one book” program – a book to create a starting point when the kids return to school September. This year’s titles are:

Children’s House

The Kitten and the Night Watchman by John Sullivan (This gentle story of a watchman who finds a kitten on a construction site is a 2018 picture book standout. As the man continues his rounds, he keeps his eyes open for his new little friend, and of course, they are reunited. What struck me the first time I read Sullivan’s book is how rarely a picture book puts a man in the role of protector and caregiver – not to mention that man must be the only security guard who is at the center of a picture book. This book celebrates work, family, and caring.)

Lower Elementary

Our grade 1-3 teachers are trying something new. I shared some ideas with them, and faced with so many good books, they selected three – and are asking their students to select one (or all three!) to read over the summer. The books are:

Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal (a 2019 Newbery Honor book)

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena and illustrated by Christian Robinson (the 2016 winner of the Newbery Medal and a Caldecott Honor book)

Night Job by Karen Hesse and illustrated by G. Brian Karas (the recipient of three starred reviews, this book is the story of a bond between a father and his son. The New York Times review read, in part: “Karas’s dusky paneled art gives a feel of enchantment and adventure as the boy sweeps floors, shoots hoops, reads and falls asleep while Dad finishes working. He’s added an extraordinary dignity and tenderness to this picture of working-parent reality and a loving, physically close father-son bond.”)

Upper Elementary

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (A classic – and Newbery winner – that we’ve selected as summer reading before, but the kids and the teachers love it. Applegate’s novel about the friendship between Ivan, a captive gorilla, and Ruby, a baby elephant, is a powerful story about friendship and courage.)

Middle School

New Kid by Jerry Craft (A new graphic novel about a black boy navigating life in two different worlds: an upscale private school where he is one of the few kids of color and his Washington Heights neighborhood)

And the Toddlers…

Our toddler program does not have one book, but rather they receive a list of new books for very young children. I wanted to look beyond the toddler classics like We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, as wonderful as they are, and suggest books that were published in the past couple of years.

B is for Baby by Atinuke

And Toddlers!  This story is more than a book about the Letter B.  Look at the illustrations closely to see what happens after the Baby falls into a Basket of Bananas.

And Then Comes Summer by Tom Brenner

A celebration of summer’s unique joys: lemonade, fireworks, parades!

Eric Carle’s Book of Many Things by Eric Carle

It’s all in here – food, feelings, things in the ocean and on the farm – with Carle’s signature tissue paper and watercolor art work.

Rhymoceros by Janik Coat

A funny book about a blue rhinoceros and rhyming words.

Snakes on a Train by Kathryn Dennis

This train’s passengers – and crew – are snakes.  Bright colors and wonderful word play.

Oink by David Elliot

A pig thinks he is going to have a quiet bath time, but a horse, a sheep, and a donkey have other ideas.

These Colors are Bananas by Jason Fulford

An innovative and interactive approach to colors that will expand your child’s view of the world around them.

Puppy Truck by Brian Pinkney

A little boy wants a puppy, but gets a truck.  That’s okay with Carter – he puts a leash on his truck and they head to the park!

One Is a Pinata by Roseanne Greenfield Thong

Count in English and Spanish while looking at colorful seasonal festivals.

How to Give Your Cat a Bath: In Five Easy Steps by Nicola Winstanley

An “off-screen” narrator gives a little girl five steps to bathe her cat, Mr. Flea.  To put it mildly, Mr. Flea has other ideas!

My Reading…

I finished three books this week:

The Omnivores Dilemma: Young Readers Edition by Michael Pollan (the book we are currently reading in middle school)

It’s Trevor Noah: Born a Crime (Adapted for Young Readers) by Trevor Noah (We are considering adding the young readers edition of Noah’s best selling memoir to the middle school curriculum so it moved to the top of my stack. I had been interested in reading Noah’s book for awhile so it was a happy assignment that did not disappoint. Noah’s story of growing up in South Africa with a black mother and white father is incredible.)

Green Almonds: Letters from Pakistan by Annaele and Delphine Hermans (Published in France in 2011, this graphic memoir/collaboration is a true story about two sisters: Annaele is in Palestine working for an aid organization while her sister, Delphine, remains at home in Belgium. Annaele’s experience traveling between Palestine and Israel helped me to understand what life is like for people living in occupied territories. It takes a complex situation and makes it real – and even more tragic.)

Currently reading:

The Great Paulie Fink by Ali Benjamin

And that picture at the top of the post…..sisters at their first Red Sox game. One of them brought two books along. Good idea – baseball games move slowly!

Ten Books to Calm a Child’s Worries…

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We’ve been having lots of conversations about helping children manage their anxiety and fears. One of the most effective ways to initiate those conversations is with a story. The right book can make a child feel less alone and give them a new way to think about their feelings.

The picture books listed below are recommended for children between the ages of 4 and 8:

Tiger Days by M.H. Clark

A book about a wide range of emotions that will give a child words to put with their feelings.

Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes

Wemberley worries about everything, especially starting school, until she meets a new friend. This book is a classic.

There Might Be Lobsters by Carolyn Crimi

Sukie is a dog who is afraid of the beach: balls, waves, and the possibility of lobsters!

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall

Jabari has finished his swimming lessons, but now it’s time to jump off the diving board!

All Birds Have Anxiety by Kathy Hoopmann

A look at emotions – with a lighthearted and positive touch

Ready for Anything! by Keiko Kasza

A happy Duck and his friend, a very worried Raccoon, plan a picnic. A sweet friendship story.

Breathe by Scott Magoon

A baby whale plays and explores his surroundings – but learns the importance of taking a breath.

Captain Starfish by Davina Bell

Alfie gets “that feeling” whenever he’s supposed to participate in a big event, but his mother understands her son’s anxiety – and finds the perfect solution.

The Don’t Worry Book by Todd Parr

A new (out on July 10) brightly colored and comforting Todd Parr book – this one about the many things that can worry kids.

Ruby Finds a Worry by Tom Percival

To be released on September 3, 2019, but worth watching out for!

Happy Reading….

Picture Book Fun….

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Inly’s third graders have begun taking their first “spring steps” toward Upper Elementary (4th-6th grade), and part of their journey includes an extra weekly library class where we have time to go beyond a story and checking out books. This year we are focusing on the Caldecott Award and picture book illustrations.

During the first week, we looked at Molly Bang’s classic Picture This: How Pictures Work. Published in 1991, Bang’s book shows how shape and color impact the way a story is told and how those components impact our emotions. This past Friday, the kids were faced with a big stack of Caldecott Medal and Honor Books – dating back to Madeline, which received a silver Honor Book sticker in 1940.  Post-it notes on the covers stated the year a book won, but they were all mixed up. The kids put them in order from oldest to newest around the circle in the library. After that, they chose their seat and began looking!

Next week we will look at the many books that were predicted to be contenders for the 2019 Medal. The award has already been announced, but we will start with a big pile of books and see if they agree with the committee’s decision. Ultimately, the kids will choose which illustration style they like the best and then we will move on to the creative phase.  More to come on that….

In other picture book news, you have to check out Greg Pizzoli’s new book, Book Hog. In fact, book lovers may want to add a copy to their personal library. Pizzoli’s sweet and brightly colored story is a celebration of books. The main character, a pig, loves books. His problem is: “He didn’t know how to read. He had never learned.” There are lots of charming touches here – a kind librarian, the way the book spines change as the Book Hog learns to read, and my favorite: Wilbur’s is the name of the local bookstore (check out the upstairs window)!

Finally, Mary took this picture of the light shining on the walls of the library this week (while we were setting up for a meeting). It’s the perfect picture to represent what a library does…


Best Children’s Books of 2018

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It was a pleasure to spend Sunday afternoon talking about the best children’s books of the year with Nancy Perry, the children’s librarian at the Norwell Public Library, during our annual program at the James Library. The rain made it a perfect day to be in a cozy room looking at books. Below is an abbreviated list of the books we talked about:

Picture Books

Hello Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall (hands down the most beautiful picture book of the year!)

Stories of the Night by Kitty Crowther

Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers and Genevieve Godbout (this would be a good gift to pair with movie tickets to see Mary Poppins Returns!)

The Elephant by Jenni Desmond

Night Job by Karen Hesse (my favorite picture book of the year – a warm and beautiful story about a father and son)

Kitten and the Night Watchman by John Sullivan

Middle Grade

Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo

Saving Winslow by Sharon Creech

The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon

Love to Everyone by Hilary McKay

Inkling by Kenneth Oppel

My Beijing: Four Stories of Everyday Wonder by Nie Jun (four sweet graphic adventures about a little girl and her grandfather)

Gift Books

Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid

Lovely Beasts by Kate Gardner

Everything & Everywhere by Marc Martin

A History of Pictures by David Hockney and Martin Gayford

Sing a Song of Seasons: A Nature Poem for Every Day of the Year edited by Fiona Waters

One book on our list came to life when Sophie Blackall, the author and illustrator of Hello Lighthouse, visited  Inly this past Friday!

And the best picture of the week…..a student waiting for her book to be signed!

Happy Reading!