Reading Around the World – and A Reader Writing His Own Story…

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We started our trip around the world in Canada this year – mostly because I was excited to share Carson Crosses Canada by Linda Bailey with our lower elementary students.

Inly has a three-year curriculum that includes the Ancient World, America, and the World. This is a “world year,” and my goal is to read stories from authors outside of the United States and follow our progress on a map. Exceptions to our international reading will be made for major holidays – my favorite part of Halloween is The Hallo-Wiener by Dav Pilkey!

We are not traveling efficiently, but rather on a whim. Since school started, we’ve read stories set in Canada, Japan, and India. In the interest of a broader selection, the rules are somewhat flexible. Preferably, the author or illustrator will live in the country we read about, but the setting works too.  For example, Adele and Simon in China by Barbara McClintock will be included because it’s a wonderful introduction to China.

With impeccable timing, four new books arrived last week that are perfect additions to our journey:

Tea With Oliver by Mika Song

I would read this book to my classes anyway, but the fact that Song grew up in the Philippines makes it even better. Oliver is a cat who “talks to himself a lot.” More than anything, Oliver wants to have tea with a friend.  The problem is that he literally doesn’t see Philbert, a mouse who lives under the couch and would love to join Oliver for tea.  Many potential tea friends show up for a party, but they are far too busy dancing to want tea. There’s a happy ending to a story as sweet as the cookies that appear on the last page!

Robinson by Peter Sis

Sis’s beautiful new book is based on a experience he had as a child in the Czech Republic. He went to a costume party dressed as one of his heroes, Robinson Crusoe, but the other children don’t appreciate his costume. Feeling embarrassed, the young boy goes home and crawls into his bed where, in a dream sequence that reminds me  of Max sailing off “through night and day….to where the wild things are” he arrives in a world of his own imagination.

On a Magical Do-Nothing Day by Beatrice Alemagna

One of the most beautiful books published in the last few years is A Lion in Paris which was also written and illustrated by Alemagna.  This one is equally special. Like Robinson by Peter Sis, it is a tribute to the imagination. A mom and a child arrive at a cabin on a rainy day, and the child immediately begins playing a hand-held video game. “Actually,” the text reads, “I was just pressing the same button over and over.”  When mom takes the game away and encourages her child to go outdoors, the child tucks the video game into the pocket of the bright orange rain slicker.  It’s not long, though, before the game falls into the pond.  The adventures, both literal and magical, begin after that.

Still Stuck by Shinsuke Yoshitake

Undoubtedly, there will be a week when everyone is feeling a little grumpy. Perhaps a grey day in January?  This book by the Japanese author and illustrator is laugh-out-loud funny and a sweet spot read-aloud for young children.  A little boy, determined to undress himself before his bath, gets stuck in his shirt. Naturally, he begins to wonder what life would be like if he stayed stuck in his shirt!

A Memorable Library Visit…..

Among the greatest pleasures of working in a school library are those unexpected moments when you can literally witness a child in the act of creation – not the kind of creating that happens with a 3D printer, but building with words. On Friday, while Mary and I were talking about the week ahead, a student came into the library. He explained that he was working on an identity project and wanted to make a list of the books he loves. With joy and determination, he stacked books all over the table, stories that together are a part of who he is. After watching him collecting and typing or a few minutes, Mary and I began to help. We shelved while he visited every shelf to make sure he hadn’t forgotten anything.

With his permission, here are some of the books on his list:

The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel

Books by Stuart Gibbs

books by Kelly Barnhill

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

Books by Chris Grabenstein

Books by Brian Selznick

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

And he didn’t forget picture books…

Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crocket Johnson

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst

Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina

Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion

There were many others, but he may still be adding titles…….

Happy Reading!

 

 

 

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A Book, A Baseball Player, and Virginia Lee Burton

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First, the book: Her Right Foot – written by Dave Eggers and illustrated by Shawn Harris.

I expect that in early 2018, the cover will be adorned with a shiny gold award sticker, but buy it now while the view of the State of Liberty’s right foot is fully visible – as she steps into the sea. This is a timely book, to put it mildly.  As the 24-hour news cycle causes stress and anxiety, Eggers’ book gave me a few minutes of pure joy. It is thought provoking and full of heart.

Beginning with the story of the Statue’s origins (“After all, the Statue of Library is an immigrant, too.”), it continues to explore – with good humor and funny asides – the significance of the Statue’s right foot which is clearly taking a step forward.  Truthfully, I had never noticed, but now I want to go back to Liberty Island and look again.

Eggers’ book is full of fun facts about the iconic Statue. For example, did you know that the parts to construct the Statue of Liberty were put into 214 crates for its trip across the Atlantic Ocean?  And I learned that what is now Liberty Island was once called Bedloe’s Island.  Beyond the trivia, though, what stands out are the book’s final pages which I won’t spoil here.  I’ll just say that reading them brings clarity to the conversation about immigration.

Like the Statue of Liberty, baseball has a special place in the American story.  This morning, in honor of the Jewish holidays, NPR’s Only A Game had a story on Hank Greenberg’s 1934 decision to be on the field on Rosh Hashanah – a game the Detroit Tigers won with Greenberg’s walk-off home run. Nine days later, on Yom Kippur, Greenberg sat out, and the Tigers lost. Listening to the segment about those eventful days in Detroit, brought back memories of writing my book, Hammerin Hank Greenberg: Baseball Pioneer, which was published in 2011. Greenberg’s decision was literally front-page news in Detroit, a city which was also the base for Father Charles Coughlin’s popular radio show which included anti-semitic rhetoric.  It’s an amazing story, and one worth hearing if you don’t know it.

Here’s a link to Only A Game’s segment:

http://www.wbur.org/onlyagame/2017/09/22/hank-greenberg-rosh-hashana-tigers

Author visits are one of the highlights of working in a school library, and we were lucky to welcome the author and illustrator of a wonderful new book to Inly last week.  Sherri Rinker and John Rocco, the author and illustrator of Big Machines: The Story of Virginia Lee Burton, told our 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders about the author behind the classic picture books, The Little House and Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel.  The Little House is one of my favorite picture books so it is a special treat to have a tribute to “the little house” in our new library.

Happy Reading!

 

 

 

 

 

Inspiring Children’s Books About Immigrants and Refugees…

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With immigration and the status of refugees on the nation’s front burner, kids are going to have questions. There are many good children’s books that will encourage kids to wonder about what it’s like to move to a new country.  Here are five picture books that are gateways to deeper questions:

Welcome by Barroux (I love this sweet and engaging book about three polar bears looking for a new home.  They keep meeting animals who have “reasons” the bears can’t move to a new land.  Reasons like there’s “not enough room” or, like the giraffes, pretend not to hear the polar bears at all.  What is especially appealing about this book is that it can be read to young children as a story about welcoming new children to their classroom or after school activity.  The book’s message is just what the title says!)

I’m New Here by Anne Sibley O’Brien (This is a really sweet book, and like Welcome, it’s perfect for very young children) O’Brien’s tells the story of three immigrant children at a new school.  The kids are from Guatemala, Korea, and Somalia, and they are struggling to learn a new language, fit in with new classmates, and hold on to their traditions.  Parents and teachers sometime ask me to suggest books that teach empathy. This is the book.)

The Journey by Francesca Sanna (Inspired by the author’s visit to a refugee camp in Italy, Sanna describes her book as “a collage of all those personal stories and the incredible strength of the people within them.”)

Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey by Margriet Ruurs and Nizar Ali Badr (This is a truly unforgettable book. Badr is a stone artist, and he uses stones and pebbles to illustrate a Syrian family’s experiences as refugees.  The story is told in dual language text: English and Arabic.  A masterpiece.)

Teacup by Rebecca Young (The story of a young boy looking for a new place to live.  He travels on a boat carrying “a book, a bottle, and a blanket. In his teacup he held some earth from where he used to play.”  The oil paintings of the boy alone on the sea are incredibly powerful.)

On the topic of immigration and mixing cultures….

Every year I can count on a number of parents who will stop by the Inly Library to talk about the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  The books are thrilling and beautiful – and problematic.  As a childhood (and adult) fan of the Little House books, I understand the questions parents have about how to navigate a series that includes passages like: “White people are going to settle all this country, and we get the best land because we get here first and take our pick. Now do you understand?” Understand?  Not really. But reading the books to an older child, a child able to engage in conversation, presents an opportunity to talk about stereotypes, racism, and our country’s complicated history.

In honor of the 150th anniversary of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s birth, there was a good story about the series.  Here’s a link:

http://www.npr.org/2017/09/17/551604403/-little-house-on-the-prairie-author-is-150

The sweet illustration at the top of the post is by Penelope Dullaghan.  She is the artist responsible for the beautiful cover of Lucky Broken Girl:

I follow Dullaghan on Instagram which is where I saw the banner picture – and a note reading “feel free to share.”

http://www.penelopedullaghan.com

Finally…here’s a cute picture Mary took in the library this week:

Happy Reading!

 

New School Year = New Books

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As the books come out of the boxes and join Inly’s Library, I begin making a mental list matching books to potential readers.  The kids return to school on Wednesday, and there will be immediate waiting lists for: the third book in Dav Pilkey’s Dog Man series, Babymouse: Tales From the Locker, and The Force Oversleeps, the fifth installment in Jarrett Krosoczka’s Star Wars series.

But the best part of unpacking is finding new favorites, gems that will be perfect read-alouds or conversation sparks.  If you are looking for books to add to a classroom or home library, here are five picture book standouts from the boxes…

Big Machines: The Story of Virginia Lee Burton by Sherri Duskey Rinker and John Rocco

This picture book biography of the author of Mike Mulligan and The Little House, is one of the most beautiful books of the season.  Echoing Burton’s style in her timeless classics, Big Machines tells the story of Burton’s life and her creative process.  There are countless possibilities for using this book in the classroom and the art room. I’m interested in using this book to talk about Burton’s focus on how time (and people) impact their environments.

How To Be An Elephant by Katherine Roy

The artwork is the star here.  Roy follows the life of a newborn elephant and provides information about every aspect of life as an African elephant – if you can take your eyes off the illustrations!

Come With Me by Holly McGhee

Teachers and parents want to teach children to be empathetic, and for obvious reasons, the volume of that conversation has risen over the past six months.  The hard thing is that empathy can’t really be taught in the way math or grammar are. It has to be witnessed every day – in the words we use and read and hear.  McGhee’s book is a book about small actions that make the world a better place.

Why Am I Me? by Paige Britt

When my son was young, maybe three, we were in the grocery store one day.  As I pushed the basket, he suddenly asked: “why are we here?” I launched into an explanation of how we buy food each week and how the grocery store works, when he stopped my over-long response.  “No,” he said.  “Why are we here?  On this planet?  At this time?”  That’s a whole different question that I don’t remember how I answered, but it would have been easier if I had this book. Such a natural question, right?  Of course, kids wonder: why am I me – and not someone else? There are no simple answers, of course, but Britt’s book provides kids a way to express their wonder at being alive.

Creepy Pair of Underwear! by Aaron Reynolds

Time for a break! After all of that thinking about “big questions,” we all need something more lighthearted, and this is just the book.  Jasper Rabbit (the star of Creepy Carrots!) is back – and he’s older and braver – until the lights go out and his new underwear begin to glow….

I hope you had a wonderful and restful summer.  A new year of stories from the school library begins tomorrow!

 

Summer Reading: Part One

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On this rainy and chilly day, it’s a bit challenging to put myself in the summer reading state of mind, but the calendar says it is Memorial Day Weekend so it’s time for a list of books to look out for this summer…

First, check out this student’s fabulous dress –

An on-line search revealed the source of Leo Lionni-themed clothing – Uniqlo, but it doesn’t look like they are available anymore.

Today’s list is for young children, between the ages of 3 and 7.  These are the books to reach for when you’re looking for a fun read-aloud or new books to freshen up your picture book collection.  Inly’s summer reading list includes both classics like Where the Wild Things Are and Blueberries for Sal along with recently published books.  Below are the new books  – listed (approximately) from books for the youngest listeners to those a bit older…

Rescue Squad No. 9 by Mike Austin (a high-energy and colorful book for young fans of things that go!)

Places To Be by Mac Barnett (a warm and cozy book)

Round by Joyce Sidman (a magical celebration of round things)

Egg by Kevin Henkes (another Henkes masterpiece)

A Good Day for a Hat by T. Nat Fuller  (a crowd-pleaser – really funny!)

Motor Miles by John Burningham (Burningham is a picture book master who is sometimes overlooked)

Rain by Sam Usher (a story about a boy and his grandfather that turns a rainy day into magic)

The Way Home in the Night by Akiko Miyakoshi (the perfect way to end the day)

Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima (basically, this is a really cute book – nothing wrong with that!)

Escargot by Dashka Slater (best read in a French accent!)

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall (an inspiring story of courage)

Mother Bruce and Hotel Bruce by Ryan (truly hilarious and witty books)

A Cat Named Swan by Hollie Hobbie (an abandoned kitten finds a home.  A familiar story, beautifully done.)

Priscilla Gorilla by Barbara Bottner (girl obsessed with gorillas. A must-read)

And in election news:

Inly’s lower elementary levels voted on their favorite series of the year.  The finalists, based on circulation, were: Hilo by Judd Winnick, The Adventures of Sophie Mouse by Poppy Green, The Treehouse Books by Andy Griffith, and The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer.

The winner was…..

Two New Books About New York City…

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I bought a book based on its cover, and as it turns out, it’s kind of magic.  I had actually read a starred Kirkus review of The Goat by Anne Fleming before ordering it for school, but truthfully, it was the cover that moved it to the purchase column.

I spent two hours reading it yesterday and then bought my own copy last night to keep on my nightstand. It seems to have cast a spell over me – one that has sent me to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s website to learn about the Tomb of Perneb. If you decide to do some research before reading it, here’s the website:

http://www.metmuseum.org/metmedia/interactives/art-trek/the-tomb-of-perneb

The book is about a girl named Kid (kind of funny given the book’s title!) who travels to New York City with her parents while her mother’s off-Broadway play is in production. They are also dog sitting for Kid’s uncle who is traveling in Europe.  As soon as she arrives, Kid hears a rumor about a goat that lives on the top of their apartment building.  The goat is what grounds the story, but it’s Kid’s neighbors who make this a special book.  There is a boy named Will whose parents died in the Twin Towers, an older man suffering the effects of a stroke, and a blind writer who skateboards down the streets of Midtown Manhattan.

This is not a book for every child.  It is complicated to follow – quiet and mature.  The novels by E.L. Konigsburg were on my mind, especially From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.  In fact, I kept thinking of the book club possibilities of reading The Goat, From the Mixed-Up Files, and When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.

The other new book I brought home to read this weekend is a new picture book, When Jackie Saved Grand Central: The True Story of Jacqueline Kennedy’s Fight for an American Icon by Natasha Wing.  This book was on my “watch list” before it was published. When I worked at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum, I often walked by a screen playing excerpts from Mrs. Kennedy’s 1962 televised tour of the White House and understood her deep commitment to art and history.  I also knew bits and pieces about her integral role in saving Grand Central Station, which there were plans to demolish in the mid-1970s.  Wing’s book is important, the story of a successful campaign to save a national landmark.  When Jackie Saved Grand Central would be a good book for young fans of New York City and future community organizers!

Last Week in Pictures….

Two candid pictures of kids reading in the library.  I love how the boys are sitting!

As part of their studies of WWI, a group of middle school students recently read War Horse by Michael Morpurgo.  Here’s one student’s artistic interpretation of the story’s main characters.  Horses are hard to draw – she’s good!

My sister was in Asheville, North Carolina last weekend and sent this image from Malaprop’s Bookstore.  The same image could be used for school librarians with some minor tweaks!

And finally, a touch of spring….

A Hat, A Crocodile, Pictures, and a Big Number

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If you walked into the school library before school starts in the morning, you might find Mary and I choosing a book to read to our Children’s House students.  It’s not as simple as it seems.  There are many wonderful books for young readers, but reading to a group of three and four-year-old kids requires a special kind of book.  It can’t be too long.  It can’t be a story that is better shared one-on-one.  Also, the story can’t be too complicated or rely on looking closely at the illustrations because of the group setting. And most importantly, the perfect book makes kids laugh.

A Good Day For a Hat by T. Nat Fuller checks every box.  It’s bright and funny, and I can’t think of a young child who won’t love it.  “Today is a good day for a hat,” says Mr. Brown the bear on the first page.  But when he opens the front door and sees rain, he goes back inside to get his rain hat.  The craziness continues when the rain turns to snow, a parade goes by, and a rodeo comes to town. Luckily, Mr Brown is prepared for every occasion!

After reading A Good Day For a Hat, I didn’t expect to be equally enthusiastic about the next new book on my list, but with Laura Amy Schlitz and Brian Floca’s names on the book cover, I felt anticipatory happiness.  Schlitz can apparently write for every age with equal sparkle.  She is the author of the beautiful young adult novel, The Hired Girl and the Newbery-winning Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!  Her new early chapter book, Princess Cora and the Crocodile is witty and charming and a perfect read aloud.  Young listeners, especially those with crowded after-school schedules, will love it because it’s not only funny, but it puts kids in charge of teaching the adults a lesson about the importance of free time.

Pictures from last week….

A 4th grade student trying to select a book.  The assignment is to read a “classic” children’s novel. She is understandably torn, but I tried to explain that the books aren’t going anywhere!  She can read one now and then come back for another one later.  The books are: Sarah Plain and Tall, Holes, Dear Mr. Henshaw, The Secret Garden, and The Witch of Blackbird Pond.  She really can’t go wrong…..

It’s always fun to see the book projects our 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders make, but this one caught my attention from across the room.  A salute to Dayton’s most well-known inventors.

And a look ahead to Kate DiCamillo’s next book.  La La La: A Story of Hope will be released on October 3.

Lastly, the big number.  Drumroll please…..

This is my 900th post!   Happy Reading….