A Celebration of Reading….

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It may be too early to think about holiday gifts, but if there’s a passionate young reader in your life, consider a set of three new picture books, all of which celebrate the joy of discovering the world through books.  Teachers – each of these books is an excellent jumping-off point for a conversation about the power of words, an especially important discussion in this environment of divisive rhetoric.


A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston

A young girl shows a new friend around her imaginative world made of stories.  “I can show you the way,” she tells him, before they travel “over a mountain of make-believe”…..and lose themselves “in forests of fairy tales.”  Their path is made up of words. Every element – the tree branches, the mountain, the monster – all of it words.  It is beautiful and inspiring.


One of my top five favorite picture books of all time is Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers.  I can barely read that one without crying – it is a perfect gem.  A Child of Books is more lyrical, but equally moving. Meeting Oliver Jeffers is on my “If I had three wishes list!”


I Am A Story by Dan Yaccarino

I always forget how much I love Dan Yaccarino’s work and then he releases a new book, and I enthusiastically discover him again!  Years ago, during a school book fair, I fell in love with Unlovable, Yaccarino’s picture book about an “unlovable” little pug.  And then I went through a thing with Every Friday, a picture book about a father and his son’s weekly walk to their favorite diner.  I need to pull that one back out!  Next, there was The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau which went right on to Inly’s summer reading list.


I Am a Story goes into the Dan Yaccarino Hall of Fame.   It’s the story of a story: “I am a story,” the book begins.  “I was told around a campfire…then painted on cave walls.”  The story continues its journey through the various ways it has been printed and acted out and ultimately, of course, how it can be read on a screen.  Most of all, Yaccarino’s book reminds us that stories are what connect us.  Without stories, who are we?


How This Book Was Made by Mac Barnett and Adam Rex

On a lighter note!  How This Book Was Made tells the story of how this book was made – the one you are reading.  It’s full of jokes, some of which kids won’t understand, but that doesn’t detract from the fun.  I read it with a group of students, and they enjoyed the “inside joke” vibe. From the opening page in which the author addresses the reader by saying:  “At first this book wasn’t a book. It was an idea,” the book takes the reader on a journey through drafts, illustrations, and printing, and waiting – until at last there is the book you are reading.  Good fodder for a conversation about how long it takes a book to go from idea to tangible object!

Happy Reading….



Beyond Mr. Lemoncello: Books About Books…



If Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein was available when I was ten, I may have slept with it under my pillow. It’s a book that understands what it’s like to love books so much that you feel “built” by them – and lots of kids welcomed Grabenstein’s character-filled novel into their hearts. In fact, the sequel, Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics was one of the most popular titles in our spring book fair.


As I talked with kids about Grabenstein’s novels, I started wondering what other “books about books” exist for young readers.  Immediately, I thought of the many picture books about books and libraries for young children, but what about middle grade readers? Lots of kids between the ages of 9 and 12 read voraciously and passionately. What books show them they are members of a special club – one with its own language and references and open to everyone who reads?

Here’s a list for your favorite young book lover….


The Island of Dr. Libris by Chris Grabenstein (A bookcase comes to life in this stand-alone novel by the creator of Mr. Lemoncello. Last week a student returned this one and said she “stayed up until 11:00 to finish it.”  She stayed awake later than I did!)

Unknown-3Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman (Similar to the Mr. Lemoncello series, Bertman’s novel is about two kids who have to solve a series of book-related clues in order to crack the code of a game.)


Story Thieves by James Riley (I haven’t read the Story Thieves series, but reading the reviews sparked my curiosity. So far there have been two books about a girl who is half-fictional. She travels in and out of books looking for her fictional father. Cool premise, right?)


The Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley (Sabrina and Daphne are descendants of the Grimm Brothers who go to live with their mysterious grandmother in a town filled with fairy tale characters.  The kids who read the first book always ask for the second!)


Matilda by Roald Dahl (Matilda’s love of books to change her life is well known. The perfect book for a young reader!)


Inkheart by Cornelia Funke (When twelve-year-old Meggie’s father reads aloud to her, characters literally come to life. Inkheart is the first in a trilogy of thick fantasy novels.)


Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little by Peggy Gifford (It’s the day before Moxy starts fourth grade and although she’s been carrying Stuart Little around all summer, she still hasn’t read it….)


Absolutely Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick (Truly, a young girl moves from Texas to New Hampshire where she helps out in her grandparents’ bookshop – but when a signed first edition of Charlotte’s Web goes missing, Truly and her new friends are determined to find the thief!)

And if you have a  young book lover in the house, my favorite picture books about books are —


A Library Book for Bear by Bonnie Becker


Lola at the Library by Anna McQuinn


Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen


Tomas and the Library Lady by Pat Mora


The Library by Sarah Stewart


A Basket of Books – About Books!

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Each fall I look forward to putting together a basket of children’s books on a different theme.  This “basket of books” is a contribution to a local charity, and befitting a school – Inly gives books.  Last year’s theme was the City of Boston and this year I thought it would be fun to collect ten books about reading.  This is what’s going in the basket:

Lola at the Library by Anna McQuinn

Spot the Plot: A Riddle Book of Book Riddles by J. Patrick Lewis

Quiet! There’s a Canary in the Library by Don Freeman

Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan by Jeanette Winter

Dog Loves Books by Louise Yates

Miss Brooks Loves Books by Barbara Bottner

How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills

It’s a Book by Lane Smith

The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq by Jeanette Winter

Alia’s Mission: Saving the Books of Iraq by Mark Alan Stamaty

I know there are two books about Alia Muhammad Baker, the librarian in Basra, but her story is so inspiring that I couldn’t choose between them.  Both Winter’s and Stamaty’s books tell the story of how Baker protected more than 30,000 books before bombs hit the library.  This story of bravery puts a human face on war and celebrates the importance of knowledge and reading.