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….

Books That Break the Fourth Wall…

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All books are interactive – there’s the author and the reader. But novels usually work like a theater performance with an imaginary “wall” between the action on the stage and the people in the audience.  For example, when a child reads Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey, they see Mrs. Mallard and Michael (the police officer) safely guide the eight ducks across the busy street. It’s wonderful, but the reader is not part of the action.

I’m not usually a fan of “novelty” books. Books are perfect just the way they are.  But the number of fun and interactive picture books is increasing, and kids love them. These are books that invite participation and make the reader part of the story.  An added bonus of interactive picture books is that they can draw reluctant listeners in. If you’re reading to an especially restless group of young children, try one of these interactive books, and then a few weeks later, they will be ready to hear if Jack, Kack, Lack, Mack, Nack, Ouack, Pack, and Quack make it to the other side.

Herve Tullet is the master of the interactive book, and his work has clearly inspired some of the books listed below.  His three magical books are Press Here, Mix It Up, and Let’s Play.  It’s nearly impossible to resist playing along with Tullet’s masterful books.  In Let’s Play, he asks the reader to follow a yellow dot.  On the opening pages, the dot is in the center of the page, and the text reads: “Press the top corner to get me started.”  Of course, I did- and on the next page, the dot had moved to the top right corner. Tullet’s books are better than an iPad!!

Bunny Slopes by Claudia Rueda (Bunny is ready to go, but needs help from the reader to get down the hill.  The best page is when you are asked to “tilt” the book so that Bunny can go down the bunny slope!)

Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson (Matheson’s book follows an apple tree through its seasonal changes.  I like the page where you “shake the tree” and then on the following page, the apples are on the ground.)

The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak (As the title announces, there are no illustrations in Novak’s book.  But the text explains exactly how books work.  When the page tells you to read the word “blork,” you do it of course because it’s the next word on the page.  Hard to explain, but brilliant!)

We Are In a Book! by Mo Willems  (“I think someone is looking at us,” Gerald says to Piggie in this episode of the popular duo’s adventures. Similar to Novak’s book, the power of this book comes from the realization that the reader has to say what’s on the page.  Really fun.)

Stretch, Wiggle, and Bounce by Doreen Cronin (Perfect for active toddlers, Cronin’s popular series gets kids to touch their toes, bounce, and “wake up with a wiggle.”)

Life on Mars by Jon Agee  (A new book by one of my favorite authors and illustrators. At first glance, this book does not seem to fit into this list of books that invite a child to participate, but the reader is absolutely essential to the clever premise of this story.  It only works with the barrier between author and reader broken. )

Some other interactive picture books to explore….

Warning: Do Not Open This Book! by Adam Lehraupt

Please, Open This Book! by Adam Lehraupt

Open Very Carefully: A Book with Bite by Nick Bromley

Don’t Touch This Book and Don’t Push the Button by Bill Cotter

We’re In the Wrong Book by Richard Byrne

This Book Just Ate My Dog by Richard Byrne

This Book Is Out of Control! by Richard Byrne

Can You Make a Scary Face? by Jan Thomas

Huff & Puff by Claudia Rueda

Plant the Tiny Seed by Christie Mathewson

Have Fun!

Three Books and Three Projects…

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I’m happily surrounded by stacks of new books – spring releases to read during Tuesday’s expected snow storm!  Here are three favorites…

Life on Mars by Jon Agee — I read this to a group of 7th and 8th graders last week and they loved it.  After our spring break, when I have a  chance to read it to younger kids, I anticipate the same enthusiastic response.  Agee’s picture books are witty and smart.  In this one, a young astronaut lands on Mars (carrying a chocolate cupcake) determined to find signs of life.  He walks all over the planet, but begins to think nothing could live in the cold and dark environment he encounters. Ultimately, he finds a flower growing among the rocks, but part of the fun here is that the reader sees more than the young astronaut!  The story is interactive in the best way.

For Mars-like vistas, check out Jason Chin’s new picture book, Grand Canyon, especially the spectacular double gatefold. Like this one, Chin’s previous books Redwoods and Island, blend breathtaking illustrations with enough facts for kids who enjoy knowing the numbers. Here’s an interesting one: the Grand Canyon is 277 miles long and more than a mile deep.  This book is both information rich and inspiring enough to make the reader want to plan a trip to Arizona!

A small book that could easily be lost on the shelf – Bertolt by Jacques Goldstyn – deserves to be on permanent display.  The story opens with a young boy looking for his lost mitten and who, it is clear, prefers the company of “his” oak tree, Bertolt, to being with other people.  The boy spends many happy hours with his tree, but one spring the tree does not grow any leaves, and he has to accept that Bertolt has died.  I’m not going to tell you what he does next.  It would not be fair to take the moment away from you. You have to see it yourself.

Our fourth, fifth, and sixth grade students recently completed their book projects – each of them read a book that is a “window” to a life different than their own. After reading the book, they were assigned a project with very few parameters other than it had to be hand-made, no 3D printing this time around.

The projects were all wonderful, but I’ll share three of them….

The picture below is a project based on the novel George by Alex Gino.  George is about a boy who knows she is meant to be a girl.  When George’s class presents Charlotte’s Web, George hopes for the role of Charlotte so that everyone, especially her mom, will see her as a girl.  The Inly student who read this book decided to represent the process of transformation. It’s a lovely and thoughtful project.

The banner picture at the top of the post was taken during a middle school class last week. I gave the kids time to select books for their March break reading.  We had stacks of books all over the floor, and they recommended them to friends, selected their own reading, and talked about their favorite books. It was a happy hour!

 

Three Must-Have New Books….

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If you are a school librarian or parent wondering which of the new books to borrow or buy, here are three that stand out from a recent delivery of spring titles.

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Pax and Blue by Lori Richmond (ages 3-6)

The story has been told before, but Richmond does it simply and sweetly.  Pax, a young boy who lives in the city, is friends with a pigeon he names Blue. Every morning, Pax brings a “bit of toast and shares it with Blue.”  But one morning, as Pax’s mom races to work, Blue follows them onto a packed subway car where, of course, a little pigeon can get lost and cause panic on the train!  There is a happy ending of course, but there is something about the cartoon-like drawings and muted colors that makes this a special book. This would be fun to read with Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers, another heartwarming story about friends who are temporarily separated.

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Not Quite Narshal by Jessie Sima (ages 4-7)

A new story about being true to yourself, but there can’t be too many of those!  Kelp seems to hatch from a clam – and knows “early on that he was different from the other narwhals.”  Kelp plays joyfully with his accepting narwhal friends, but when he sees an adult unicorn standing on a cliff, he knows the truth.  Kelp is happy to meet other unicorns, but he loves his ocean friends too.  Luckily, he discovers that he can live in both worlds.  Excellent storytime possibilities: either pair it with other stories of belonging: The Ugly Ducking or Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio.  Or plan a unicorn gathering and include A Unicorn Named Sparkle by Amy Young and Uni the Unicorn by Amy Krouse Rosenthal.

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Wolfie & Fly by Cary Fagan (ages 6-9)

With the growing focus on maker spaces and maker culture in schools, this is the perfect early chapter to support tinkering.  Renata is a young girl who prefers reading about undersea life to being with other children – until she meets her neighbor Fly, a boy who enjoys making up songs and playing them on his plastic guitar.  When Renata starts building a submarine from a large cardboard box, a friendship is born.  I hope to see lots more projects from these two imaginative kids!

News From the Book World…..

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Dick Bruna, the Dutch creator of Miffy, the white rabbit, died at the age of 89.  Over twenty years ago, during my first trip to Holland, I fell in love with the simplicity and sweetness of Miffy and came home with books, dish towels, and a refrigerator magnet – pictured above.

Link to the New York Times obituary:

Philip Pullman, at the author of His Dark Materials, announced that he will release the first book in a new trilogy on October 19.  The Book of Dust, Pullman said, “is the struggle between a despotic and totalitarian organization, which wants to stifle speculation and inquiry, and those who believe thought and speech should be free.”  A timely read, and the best part — Lyra Belacqua, the heroine of His Dark Materials, returns in this new trilogy!

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Happy Reading!

Perhaps a Book a Day?

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“We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”  (John F. Kennedy)

Perhaps a way to see a way through some of the troubling discourse is to counteract negative words with those that appeal to our better nature.  When I worked at the John F. Kennedy Library, one of the things I grew to admire most about President Kennedy was the way he consistently encouraged people to be their best selves rather than giving in to their fears.  That is sorely missing now.

Like many people, I am trying to identify constructive ways to participate in the debate, but there are times when I find myself reeling from the divisive and hateful language.  Earlier today, reading School Library Journal, I found this poster:

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It will be displayed in the school library next week.  But it reminds me that I need to balance the angry rhetoric with words that are elevating.  I’m going to take 5 minutes every day to read a picture book that puts good words in my head.

Here are ideas for the first ten days, all of them books that emphasize kindness, empathy and the importance of understanding each other:

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How to Heal a Broken Wing by Bob Graham

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Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena

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Zen Shorts by Jon Muth

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Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey

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Teacup by Rebecca Young

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The Arrival by Shaun Tan

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Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis

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A Sick Day for Amos McGee

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Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

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The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas

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Today, a snow day, is the perfect time to read one of my favorite poems by Naomi Shihab Nye.

Kindness

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.

One last note: the photo at the top was taken by Will Maxwell, an 8th grade student and talented photographer.

Happy Reading…