The Nonfiction Writer’s Toolbox: A Conference at the John F. Kennedy Library

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This past Wednesday, I participated in the John F. Kennedy Library’s annual conference for educators, one of my favorite professional events of the year. This year’s theme was the Nonfiction Writer’s Toolbox, and we had an opportunity to hear from four of today’s most respected writers of nonfiction for middle grade and young adult readers: Tonya Bolden, Steve Sheinkin, Tanya Lee Stone, and Melissa Sweet. One of the day’s highlights was a panel discussion with the four authors and a facilitator, Mary Ann Cappiello, during which the authors discussed their subjects and their writing process.

“I’m drawn to people who have been presented to us in a simplistic way,” Bolden said, “like Frederick Douglass.” Bolden’s most recent book, Facing Frederick: The Life of Frederick Douglass, A Monumental American Man, is a nuanced biography of the abolitionist, speaker, and writer. Bolden explained her process by saying that, in order to write a biography, the author needs to “become” another person and immerse themselves in the daily life of the era.

Sheinkin, the author of Bomb and Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War, among other award winning history books for young adult readers, echoed Bolden’s remarks. “I look for narrative and moral complexity,” he said. He talked enthusiastically about the role of libraries and actual books in his research process. “A good book with credible sources is better than Google, particularly at the beginning of the research.”  Sheinkin uses an admittedly low-tech strategy to organize his work. He takes notes on color coded index cards and puts them up on a wall, his way of “seeing the story.”  Melissa Sweet, the author of Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White, agreed with Scheinkin: “The computer is the last 5% of my work,” she said. “I find out everything I can about and subject and then reduce it,” Sweet said.

Like the others, Tanya Lee Stone is the author of numerous nonfiction books, among them: Who Says Women Can’t Be Computer Programmers? and Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream. She began her remarks by asking the participants to think about truth. “There is no absolute truth,” she said, before adding that her books are “as true as I can make it within my human ability.”

All of the authors agreed that the process of writing nonfiction is as creative as writing fiction. “The process of putting the puzzle together is creative,” said Sheinkin.

At the end of the panel discussion, each author gave us a preview of their new books:

Melissa Sweet is illustrating a poem by Kwame Alexander called How to Read a Book. She is also working on a project with Paul Fleischman, the author of Weslandia and Seedfolks.

Tanya Lee Stone’s new picture book about the history of Monopoly, Pass Go and Collect $200, will be published this July.

Steve Sheinkin is researching a book about the Women’s Air Derby, the first women-only air race which took place over nine days in 1929.

Tonya Bolden’s new picture book, No Small Potatoes, will be published in October. It is the story of a man born into slavery who ultimately became a potato farmer in Kansas.  She is also writing a sequel to her young adult novel, Crossing Ebenezer Creek.

I compiled this year’s conference bibliography, a resource for educators that highlights not only the participating authors’ books, but books to explore on similar topics and themes.

Selected Nonfiction for Young Readers An Annotated Bibliography

Compiled and Written by

Shelley Sommer
Inly School, Scituate, Massachusetts 

Prepared for

THE NONFICTION WRITER’S TOOLBOX For Exploring History and Other Subjects

A Conference for Teachers of Grades 3-8 and School Librarians John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
May 9, 2018

High quality nonfiction for young readers is more important than ever. With the increased attention on polarizing and alternative news, teaching students to be discerning about sources of information is vital to their civic education. The books below cover a range of subjects, from biographies of civil rights activists to the person who created the puppets for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. All of the authors used their own “toolbox” to shine a light on the struggles and accomplishments of people whose contributions and victories impact our lives today.

Below you will find a list of five books by each of the authors participating in today’s conference. Beyond that, we have highlighted themes drawn from two of each author’s books and provided recommendations of titles on similar topics by other authors to expand your lessons and suggest new avenues for your students to explore.

In the interest of space, I’m including only the list for Tonya Bolden in this post.

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Author: Tonya Bolden

 

Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln and the Dawn of Liberty

New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2013. 128 pages
A combination of narrative and visual storytelling, Emancipation Proclamation is an account of the landmark document told through quotations from central participants, archival photos, engravings, letters, posters, maps, and newspaper articles. Grades 6-9

Capital Days: Michael Shiner’s Journal and the Growth of Our Nation’s Capital

New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2015. 96 pages
Michael Shiner was born into slavery in Maryland and spent most of his life in Washington D.C., where he was a laborer at the Washington Navy Yard for over 50 years, learned to read and write, and gained his freedom two decades before the Emancipation Proclamation. Shiner’s journal offers a fascinating look at the everyday experience of an African-American working man who was an eyewitness to historic events from the War of 1812 through the Civil War and into the 1870s. Grades 4-6

How to Build a Museum: Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture
New York: Penguin Young Readers Group, 2016. 64 pages
The plans to build a museum honoring African Americans’ contribution to our country can be traced back to 1915, but the Smithsonian’s 19th museum opened over one hundred years later in 2016. Bolden’s book details the story of its creation, including the nation-wide effort to gather artifacts, pictures and documents for the NMAAHC’s collections. Grades 5-8

Pathfinders: The Journeys of 16 Extraordinary Black Souls

New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2017. 128 pages
This book presents brief biographies of a diverse group of African Americans, from the 1700s to the present day, and their impact on American history. They include magicians, a race car driver, and a female Civil War spy. One of Bolden’s profiles is of Katherine Johnson, a mathematician whose calculations were integral to the success of many NASA space missions. Generously illustrated with period photographs, prints, posters and cartoons. Grades 5-8

Facing Frederick: The Life of Frederick Douglass, A Monumental American Man

New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2018. 208 pages
A middle school biography of the escaped slave who became a well-known abolitionist. But here Bolden tells a richer story about a man whose image is more familiar than his accomplishments. (He was in fact the most photographed American of the 19th century.) Opening with the story of Douglass starting his own newspaper, The North Star, Bolden follows his trajectory as a supporter of women’s suffrage, a diplomat, bank president, public servant, and world traveler. Grades 6-8

For Further Exploration

African-American Biographies

Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America by Andrea Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney
New York: Hyperion Books, 2012. 243 pages
The ten historical figures in this collective biography lived in different eras and each had an impact on American society. Although many of the subjects’ names may be familiar to students, Pinkney extends her portraits to include details on each man’s childhood before highlighting his achievements.

For Younger Readers:
Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books, 2009. 40 pages
Bass Reeves was born into slavery in Arkansas, but escaped into Indian Territory where he lived until slavery was abolished in 1865. Reeves ultimately became the first African-American deputy U.S. Marshal. He made over 3,000 arrests and was respected for his excellent marksmanship.

Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Jamey Christoph
Park Ridge, Illinois: Albert Whitman & Company, 2015. 32 pages
Born in Kansas in 1912, Gordon Parks was the youngest of 15 children. Inspired by a magazine he saw while working as a waiter on a railroad dining car, he bought a camera for $7.50 and became a prominent chronicler of the everyday lives of African Americans. In 1948, he become the first African-American photographer to be hired by LIFE magazine.

When Marian Sang by Pam Munoz Ryan and illustrated by Brian Selznick
New York: Scholastic, 2002. 40 pages
After being denied the use of Constitution Hall because of her race, singer Marian Anderson performed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial before 75,000 people on Easter Sunday, 1939. It was one of the defining cultural events of the 20th century and a milestone in civil rights history. She later became the first African-American soloist at the Metropolitan Opera.

Frederick Douglass/Freedom and Social Justice

Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass: The Story Behind an American Friendship by Russell Freedman
New York: Clarion Books, 2012. 128 pages
Both Lincoln and Douglass rose to prominence against enormous odds and they were equally committed to education as a path toward success. Freedman’s dual biography traces how the ideals of both men impacted the nation.

Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History by Walter Dean Myers and illustrated by Floyd Cooper
New York: Harper Collins, 2017. 40 pages
A solid and moving introduction to the well-known abolitionist and writer. Born into slavery in 1818, Douglass learned to read and used his education to build a new life for himself. “Once you learn to read,” he said, “you will be forever free.”

We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March by Cynthia Levinson
Atlanta: Peachtree Publishers, 2012. 176 pages
An account of the nearly 4,000 young people who marched in Birmingham to protest segregation. The youngest marcher was Audrey Hendricks, the subject of a picture book for younger students.

For Younger Readers:
Frederick’s Journey: The Life of Frederick Douglass by Doreen Rappaport and illustrated by London Ladd
New York: Disney Publishing: Jump at the Sun, 2015. 48 pages
The life—and voice—of Frederick Douglass in Rappaport’s signature “Big Words” style.

The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
New York: Atheneum Books, 2017. 40 pages
After participating in a 1963 march in Birmingham, nine-year-old Audrey Hendricks spent seven days in jail with other student activists. This book provides an accessible way for even the youngest reader or listener to understand the importance of young people in the Civil Rights Movement.

If you would like a copy of the entire list, please leave a comment and I would be happy to email it to you.  Happy Reading!

 

 

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Ten: Books, Articles, and Pictures Worth Sharing….

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At last….spring!  My husband opened a box of seeds yesterday, and the incredibly tiny little beginnings hold the promise of flowers blooming over the months ahead. When he begins planning his garden, I know we are turning the corner.

Here are ten things that I thought were worth sharing this week….

  • Russell Freedman died on March 16. The author of many award-winning biographies for young readers, Freedman wrote 47 books, but the best known is his 1988 Newbery-winning book, Lincoln: A Photobiography.  I had the opportunity to meet Freedman when I was in graduate school and fondly remember his encouraging words when I was considering writing about Hank Greenberg. Here is a link to his New York Times obituary:
  • If you regularly read aloud to young children – your own or in your classroom – you need a copy of A Couch for Llama by Leah Gilbert on your bookcase. Mary and I read it to nearly ten groups of young children this past week, and it was a hit every time. The premise of the silly story is that the Lago family needs a new couch so they pile into the car and head to the furniture store where, in a scene straight out of Goldilocks, they look for a “just right” new couch for their family. They find a new couch, but on the way home, it falls off the top of their car and into a field where it is found by a llama. This is a sweet story that you won’t mind reading multiple times.

  • Friday’s New York Times had a wonderful story about George and Martha, the hippopotamus friends who are the stars of James Marshall’s picture books. It reminded me that George and Martha have been “on the shelf” for too long – it’s time to introduce a new generation of kids to these sweet stories.  Here’s the link:
  • Jillian Tamaki’s new picture book, They Say Blue, is a book about colors and changing seasons, but also about slowing down and paying attention. This is a book to share with classroom and art teachers.

  • I just read Tara Westover’s bestselling memoir, Educated, the story of a young woman who grew up in a remote part of Idaho in a strict Mormon, survivalist family.  As a child, Westover did not have a birth certificate, did not attend school, and never saw a doctor. Incredibly, she finds her way to Brigham Young University and then to Cambridge University. Her memoir focuses not only on her truly unbelievable journey, but on her quest to understand her family and the meaning of “home.”

  • The popularity of Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie series continues. We looked at what books have been checked out of the library most often over the past few months, and Gerald and Piggie rule the list. One of our students had them lined up and ready to read!

  • One of the books I read in Italy was Muriel Sparks novel, The Finishing School. It has been on my bookshelf for a long time, and sometimes, walking by our bookshelves, a title will catch my eye – a book I bought, but haven’t read. I read Sparks’ best known novel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, years ago, but had not read anything else by the British writer. This one was interesting – a study of jealousy. Roland is a teacher who, along with his wife, runs a small European boarding school. One of the reasons they have chosen this career path is to give time for Rowland to devote to writing his novel. But, as it turns out, one of his students is also writing a novel, and Rowland becomes consumed by jealousy, both professionally and personally. Sparks is an unsentimental writer. You can almost imagine her plotting this novel out by just taking everything to its most extreme and seeing how it all plays out. Funny. A bit dark. A biting satire.

  • One of the best parts of visiting Italy was being surrounded by Renaissance art – Lippi, Bellini, Raphael, Botticelli, Fra Angelico, Donatello, Ghirlandaio, and others. If I had not gone down the book path, I would have studied art history, and as I get older, I’m devoting more time reading about and looking at paintings. Over the past five or so years, I’ve taken a deep dive into two periods that interest me: the Dutch Golden Age and the Renaissance. Like my other reading, it’s an endless well. So many paintings – and so many books.  As we visited churches and museums in Florence, I chose to focus on one specific story and thought about how it is interpreted by different artists. I focused on the Annunciation, a moment we must have seen represented 100 times during the week. Like a story that’s illustrated by many illustrators (think of Alice in Wonderland or Cinderella), the story of Mary hearing the “news” is represented in many ways. Here are a few that stood out for me. In the first, Mary seems unsure about what the angel has to tell her. The fourth image is part of a wall-size fresco that is absolutely stunning. 

  • It is April 1 – the first day of National Poetry Month. A chance to read poetry and awaken some part of you that may have been dormant over the winter. Here is one of my favorites:

Today
Billy Collins
If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze

that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house

and unlatch the door to the canary’s cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,

a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden bursting with peonies

seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking

a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table,

releasing the inhabitants
from their snow-covered cottage

so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting

into this larger dome of blue and white,
well, today is just that kind of day.

  • A final picture to make it 10!  Happy Reading….

Reading (and Looking) to Beat the Cold Weather Blues….

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It’s been really cold. On the way to the grocery this morning, the car thermometer could not decide if it wanted to read 0 or 1 below. The numbers seemed to shiver as they toggled between the two readings. Alarming either way.  The only “sunny” side to the last five or six days of record-breaking cold has been the opportunity to drink hot chocolate and read.

My reading has focused on art which has allowed me to immerse myself in good words and beautiful pictures: a short biography of John Singer Sargent. Letters between Henry James and Isabella Stewart Gardner. Essays from the catalogue that accompanies the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Michelangelo exhibition, and two illustrated books:

Coco Chanel: The Illustrated World of a Fashion Icon by Megan Hess

The book about Chanel was a gift, and probably not something I would ordinarily be drawn to, but this illustrated story of the influential designer’s life is fascinating.  She was twelve-years-old when her mother died and her father left her in an orphanage. When her “sartorial abilities” were recognized, Chanel became a milliner which ultimately led to ballet flats, tweed jackets, and, of course, Chanel No.5.  It was actually the best kind of reading: engaging, informative, and a book that left me wanting to know more.

Bolivar by Sean Rubin

Bolivar is a mashup: a book for kids that adults will love, a graphic novel, a picture book, an oversize illustrated novel.  I’m not sure where it would be shelved in a bookstore or library, but none of that matters. This is an amazing book and my first personal starred review of 2018. Bolivar is a dinosaur who lives in present day New York City. He’s quiet and keeps to himself – he even reads The New Yorker! But Sybil, the girl who lives in the apartment next door, knows her neighbor is a dinosaur, and she’s determined to take a picture of Bolivar to prove that to her disbelieving mother.

A number of unbelievable events lead Bolivar and the camera-carrying Sybil into a wild chase around recognizable New York City landmarks, but it’s that trip through New York that is most compelling. Every page is a tribute to New York: the produce stacked up outside of small markets, the subway, Chinatown, Central Park, and tourists. There are also fun visual jokes to catch, a wonderful picture of a paleontologist’s desk, and lots of water towers.

Bolivar is a sweet story about people who are too busy to see what’s right in front of them and a girl who is trying to get people to see the obvious. It is a memorable and wonderful book.

In today’s New York Times Book Review, there is an article called “For the Love of Malt Shop Novels” by Joanne Kaufman. In her piece, she talks about teenage books (mostly romances) as an “endless source of reassurance and hope.”  I did not know they were called “malt shop novels,” but I read them as a teenager too and got the same reassurance. As Kaufman writes, “You could be self-doubting like Jane Purdy, the protagonist of Fifteen and, nevertheless, end up wearing the ID bracelet of cute green-eyed Stan.”  Most of the books were win the 1940s and 50s – before my teenage years. But these were the books that I read voraciously as a middle school student.

Among other authors of this genre, Kaufman talks about Betty Cavanna. Cavanna’s name flooded me with memories of seventh grade when I read Stars In Her Eyes. I don’t remember much about the story except that I loved it. The books written for middle school kids today are far more realistic, and there are so many more choices of what to read. But I do remember Cavanna’s books serving the same function as many of the books I recommend to my students. They made me feel less alone.

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all of the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”

James Baldwin

Stay warm out there!

As 2017 Comes to a Close…

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As the year comes to a close, I am starting to see lists of books to watch out for in 2018, but it’s still too early to leave 2017 so maybe a look back….

Here are five books that defined my year:

Dog Man by Dav Pilkey

Pilkey’s crime-fighting dog is the star of the most popular series in the Inly Library. The fourth installment will be released while we are on our holiday break, but I’m sure there will be kids waiting to check it out on January 2!

On a Magical Do-Nothing Day by Beatrice Alemagna

This is my favorite picture book of the year. I love it more with every reading. The bright pop of orange on the child’s jacket. The reminder to put down our devices and explore the world. The way some of the illustrations seem to glow.

Patina by Jason Reynolds

The best book I reviewed for School Library Journal this year. Reynolds understands the difficulties and challenges faced by young people today and writes about their lives in a way they recognize, with integrity and respect.

Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson

My surprise read of the year. I bought this book because I needed something for a train ride and ended up wanting to skip my stop. Three characters whose lives intersect: Adri lives in Kansas in 2065. Catherine’s family is trying to survive during the Dust Bowl in 1934. Lenore’s brother has died in WWI, and she wants to travel to America. A quiet, mysterious, and beautiful novel.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

A ghost story that is truly unforgettable. Both sad and funny, it is the story of Abraham Lincoln’s grief after the death of his young son, Willy, that includes the voices of both historical and made-up characters. Winner of the Man Booker Prize. One of the New York Times 100 Notable Books. I read it earlier in the year. I’m listening to it now.

I’m hoping the last few weeks of the year are filled with reading. My book stack is so tall it wobbles. Last night I finished Autumn by Ali Smith. I’m now reading a book for School Library Journal, and after that Radio Free Vermont by Bill McKibben. There are 15 days left….

Happy Reading!

Time to Make Your Book Shopping List…

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It’s list season!  There’s a new “best books of 2017” list in my email every day, and although there are many books that appear on every list (Lincoln in the Bardo), there are surprises too. For example, the Washington Post’s 10 Best list includes Saints for All Occasions by  J. Courtney Sullivan, a novel published in May, but I may need to loop back to that one…

Along with Nancy Perry, my friend and colleague from the Norwell Public Library, I am making my own list of the best children’s books of 2017.  It’s fun for us to compare notes. Although we generally agree on the books to be presented at our annual James Library event, there are several that one of us is more passionate about than the other.  In the middle grade fiction category, Nancy is more enthusiastic than I am about Swing It, Sunny by Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm. I like it, but it did not reach Sunny Side Up heights for me.

We are in complete agreement that A Good Day for a Hat by T. Nat Fuller is one of the best picture books (for young children) of 2017.  It is a brightly colored and fun book that is a guaranteed hit for story time.

Outside of our list, which I will post after the event, we decided to include ideas for book themed gifts. It occurred to me that between libraries, Kindles, and random book purchases, some kids have already read the most popular books. Along with that, the holidays are an opportunity for parents, grandparents, and friends to indulge a child’s special interest.  And so for you early shoppers, here are books to expand a child’s horizon or support a new hobby…

Dreamers, Designers, Builders

Out of the Box: 25 Cardboard Engineering Projects for Makers, by Jemma Westing

When Jackie Saved Grand Central: The True Story of Jacqueline Kennedy’s Fight for an American Icon, by Natasha Wing

Fallingwater by Marc Harshman

The World Is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid by Jeanette Winter

Engineered! Engineering Design at Work by Shannon Hunt

 

To Infinity and Beyond…

My Journey to the Stars by Scott Kelly

Margaret and the Moon: How Margaret Hamilton Saved the First Lunar Landing by Dean Robbins

Sally Ride: A Photobiography of America’s Pioneering Woman in Space by Tam O’Shaughnessy

 

Kind Words 

Why Am I Me? by Paige Britt

Come with Me by Holly M. McGhee

Most People by Michael Leannah

Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers

A Different Pond by Bao Phi

Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey by Margriet Ruurs

 

Inspirational Women

The Youngest Marcher by Cynthia Levinson

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Case of R.B.G. vs. Inequality by Jonah Winter

Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai

The World Is Not a Rectangle by Jeanette Winter

She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World by Chelsea Clinton

There are other categories, but I wanted to save room for these pictures –

There was no posing involved in this picture!  Just a wonderful moment for a teacher and student in the library this week:

And a new mural at the very popular Four Square Court, designed and painted by our middle school students with the help of Marshfield artist Sally Dean:

Happy Book Shopping!

 

Notes From My Deck….

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I’m taking advantage of this bright and sunny Sunday by spending every possible minute on our deck.  I’ve gathered the food and books I’ll need and have set up camp – Frederick-style!  Just as Frederick collects colors for the grey months ahead, I’m holding on to the warm sun and the full green trees to call up a few months from now – when our deck is shut tight against the cold.  I’m also mindful of how this brilliant day is at odds with what is happening in Florida right now, and I’m keeping a “weather ear” on NPR for updates.  Like so much of the news today, it feels a bit overwhelming.

A few scattered book notes to share today….

Last week I finished reading No One Is Coming To Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts, and although I read many good books this summer, this is the one that stands out.  Watts’ book has received glowing reviews, and it’s the inaugural selection of Book Club Central, an American Library Association program. No One Is Coming To Save Us is loosely based on The Great Gatsby, but takes place in an African American community in present day North Carolina where the furniture factories have been boarded up leaving many people feeling anxious and depressed. The story’s central characters, Sylvia, her daughter Ava, and JJ (the Gatsby character) are all searching for something and wondering how they arrived at this point in their lives.  Ava is in a bad marriage and desperately wants a baby. JJ builds a mountain top house and dreams of Ava returning to him. And Sylvia, the novel’s most memorable character, is mourning her dead son and trying to understand that the life she made for herself is not the one she expected.  The writing is beautiful, poignant and moving:

“The sting of not having or not having enough bores a pain black hole that sucks all the other of life’s injuries into one sharp stinging gap that you don’t need a scientist to remind you may be bottomless…..That beautiful house is just a street away, but as out of reach as the moon. But that house-pain is just one lack, and everybody knows one pain is far better than a hundred. That is the mercy. That is the relief – the ache of one singular pain.”

I recently reviewed Patina by Jason Reynolds for School Library Journal. Here is an excerpt from my starred review:

“Twelve-year-old Patina Jones not only loves to run, she needs to run—and win. She’s a gifted athlete, and since the death of her father and her mother’s life-altering health problems, Patty’s track club has become the focal point of her life. Running helps her to navigate the changes she and her younger sister, Maddy, are experiencing. They have left their urban neighborhood to live in a different part of the city with their uncle Tony (who is black like Patty and Maddy) and their aunt Emily (who is white) and attend a new school, Chester Academy. In this follow-up to Ghost, the award-winning author continues to display his mastery of voice…….Patty’s story is an invitation to grapple with the need to belong, socioeconomic status, and the dangers of jumping to conclusions. This “second leg” of Reynolds’s series is as satisfying as its predecessor and a winning story on its own.”

As you may have read, the farm where E.B. White lived and wrote Charlotte’s Web is for sale. At $3.7 million, it’s a bit out of my price range, but I’m hopeful the new owners will turn it into a place where the public can visit to channel Charlotte, Wilbur, and Fern. Friday’s New York Times featured an article by someone who visited the house:

While I was in Boston yesterday, I visited Goosefish Press, a stationary store I’d been curious about.

For a paper lover like me, it was a magical store. Here’s the awesome treat I bought….

Another week begins….Happy Reading!

Summer Reading: Part Four

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My final summer reading list is for middle school readers, the kids “in between” middle grade and young adult books. The eight books listed below include characters and dialogue unique to the experience of kids ages 12 to 14.

The Green Bicycle by Haifaa Al-Mansour  (A repeat from last year’s list, but one students always enjoy.  A timely and inspiring novel – based on an excellent movie called Wadjda.  The story of a young girl who wants a bicycle.  Simple enough, right? But she lives in Saudi Arabia where it’s considered improper for a girl to ride a bike.  It would be fun to read the book and then have a movie night!)

See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng (I included this book on my last post. It’s on my list of books for middle grade readers, and I would recommend it to adults as well. This is a story about family and friends. A common theme in an uncommonly memorable book.)

Posted by John David Anderson (The perfect book for social media enthusiasts.  After cell phones are banned at school, kids begin leaving messages on Post-it notes which, because they are displayed for all to see, are often more hurtful.)

The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall (Pearsall’s novel was published in 2015, and it’s become one of the books I hand to middle school students who are struggling to find a good book – one they will want to keep reading.  Pearsall’s novel hasn’t failed me yet!  Set in 1963, The Seventh Most Important Thing is the story of Arthur, a 13-year-old boy, who learns seven important lessons while helping a local “junk man” with his artistic masterpiece.)

York: The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby  (The first installment of a new series, set in an alternative New York City)

A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge (500 pages of high fantasy and imaginative word play.  Link to the Guardian’s glowing review:

https://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2016/jul/07/a-face-like-glass-frances-hardinge-review

Refugee by Alan Gratz (This book will be published on July 25, but I recommended it to several of our students as an August read. Three young refugees from three different times and places: Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo. It’s on my August list!)

Literally by Lucy Keating (Maybe an unexpected choice for this list.  Literally is a smart beach book that plays with the conventions of the young adult romance.)

To prepare Inly’s summer reading list, I read lots of novels and early chapter books.  After the list was distributed, what I most craved was ….a picture book!  I looked for something new and beautiful, a book that stands out on the shelf, and here it is:

The Secret of Black Rock by Joe Todd-Stanton is magical from the end pages to the final scene. Erin, the little girl at the center of the story, lives in an idyllic seaside town with her “mum” and her dog, Archie. Erin desperately wants to “go out to sea,” but she can’t because of a scary black rock.  Everyone in town warns her to stay away from the rock which, naturally, makes Erin even more curious.  Ultimately, she finds a way to learn the truth, and it turns out to be quite lovely. School ended a few days ago, and I’m already planning to make The Secret of Black Rock our first read aloud in September!

During the last couple weeks of school, there are lots of events involving singing and speeches and ceremonies.  But the nicest hour, in my opinion, is the quiet that comes over the campus during Drop Everything and Read.  While everyone was reading, I walked around the silent campus and found readers on couches, under counters, and many other creative spaces…

Happy Reading!

Happy Summer!