Friday, August 2, 2013

My Great Aunt Arizona


Author: Gloria Houston
Illustrator:   Susan Condie Lamb
Publisher:  Harper Collins
Publication Year:   1992
Location: Personal Collection

Awards:   ALA Notable, IRA/CBC Childrens' & Teachers' Choice, NCSS notable, NCTE notable

Summary:  My favorite book to introduce text connections to my students, this is the autobiographical story of Houston's great aunt. Arizona grew up in the mountains and overcome odds to become a teacher in a one room school house. Although she dreamed of traveling, she never did but instead visiting those places in her mind and through the students whose lives she touched. The watercolors are perfect illustrations of a time unfamiliar to most modern students and invite them to pour over the details.

Classroom Ideas: A wonderful mentor text for describing someone in a student's life that inspired them and for making text connections. A good historical connection as well.


All the Places to Love

 ALL THE PLACES TO LOVE by Patricia MacLachlan

Author: Patricia MacLachlan
Illustrator:   Mike Wimmer
Publisher:  Harper Collins
Publication Year:   1994
Location: Personal Collection

Awards:   IRA/CBC Teachers' Choice, NCTE Notable, NCSS Notable Social Studies

Summary:  Beginning when his grandmother wraps him``in a blanket made from the wool of her sheep,'' Eli describes his grandparents' and parents' joy in him and his in their farm, where all their names are carved on a barn rafter. As he grows up, he tells about the farm and all the places that he grows to love. The book ends as he plans to share favorite places with a new baby sister.

Classroom Ideas: A mentor book that would encourage kids to think about the places in their lives and to include descriptive details.

Crow Call

CROW CALL by Lois Lowry

Author: Lois Lowry
Illustrator:   Bagram Ibatoulline
Publisher:  Scholastic
Publication Year:   2009
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Booklist starred review

Summary: (An autobiographical story)  Liz's father has just returned from war and he is a stranger to her. The two set off on a morning together, sharing breakfast of cherry pie at the diner and then heading out into the woods to hunt. They talk about the war and then Liz calls dozens of crows into the trees. Liz's joy in the crows is evident and her father decides not to hunt them that morning after all as the two head back down the hill hand in hand. A sweet book of the relationship between father and daughter.

Classroom Ideas: The description in this book is amazing: "Grass, frozen after its summer softness, crunches under our feet: the air is sharp and supremely clear, free from the floating pollens of summer; and our words seem etched and breakable on the brittle stillness." The setting is shown through the details in the illustrations- the signs in the diner, haircuts, and the car they drive; but the book would be relevant for any child whose parent has served in the military.

Extras: Author's note with a photograph of Lois Lowry from that time period.

You're All My Favorites


Author: Sam McBratney
Illustrator:   Anita Jeram
Publisher:  Candlewick Press
Publication Year:   2004
Location: Personal Collection of MAH

Awards:  Bank Street College Best Book, Oppenheim Platinum

Summary:  When three cubs want to know who is their parents' favorites, they are reassured that they are all the favorites in their own special way. The most perfect first, second, and third cubs respectively. A sweet story that addresses a common childhood anxiety. The illustrations are charming pencil and watercolor.

Classroom Ideas: This book would be perfect for storytime for younger students. The story is cumulative and the characters are sweet.

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge

 Author: Mem Fox
Illustrator: Julie Vivas
Publisher:  Kane/Miller
Publication Year:   1985
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Children's Book of the Year by the Child Study Association of America, ALA Notable, NYT 100 Best Children's Books 

Summary:  A boy named Wilfrid hears his parents talking about the memory loss of a ninety-six year old neighbor who lives next door in the old people's home. He tries to discover the meaning of "memory" by asking the other residents who tell him, respectively, it's something warm, something sad, something that makes you laugh, something precious as gold.He gathers his own "memories" to bring to Miss Nancy, his favorite neighbor because she, too, has four names. Each of his treasures, a freshly laid egg for warmth, a toy puppet for laughter, his grandfather's war medal for sorrow, and his precious football brings back memories for Miss Nancy Alison Delacourt Cooper and smiles for the two of them. Sweet watercolors illustrate the poignant story.

Classroom Ideas: This is a semi-autobiographical story which could lead children to their own stories of things that are precious to them and bring back memories. It could also be linked to Alzheimers and aging and used by a school counselor.

Extras: The story behind the story on Fox's web page:

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Phoebe and Digger

PHOEBE & DIGGER by Trisha Springstubb

Author: Tricia Springstubb
Illustrator:   Jeff Newman
Publisher:  Candlewick Press
Publication Year:   2013
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   featured in CCYAL Best of the Best 2013

Summary:  When Mama got a new baby, Phoebe got a new digger. At the park, Mama & the baby sit on a bench while Phoebe & Digger play in the dirt. A big mean girl comes and steals Digger even though Phoebe uses her words to ask for Digger back. Phoebe begins to feel a cry coming but Mama makes the mean girl give Digger back and Phoebe realizes Mama is still there for her too.

Classroom Ideas: A wonderful addition of a strong female character who wears red & green and plays with a digger. There is the idea of problem solving and the reassurance that mothers have enough love for all their children.

My Father's Arms are a Boat


Author: Stein Erik Lunde
Illustrator:   Oyvind Torseter
Publisher:  Enchanted Lion Books
Publication Year:   2013
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Norwegian Ministry’s Culture Prize for the Best Book and “Most Beautiful Book Award” for best picture book, Kirkus starred review

Summary:  A boy can't sleep and goes to sit on his father's lap. The two discussion the trees and birds in the forest and then that the boy's mommy will never wake up. The two go outside into the night for a while and then return inside where the man reassures the boy that "everything will be all right." "Are you sure?" "I'm sure." The subject is addressed in a straight forward way with no melodrama and shows the loneliness of both characters. The mixed-media illustrations are strange, but realistic. Kirkus describes them better than I can: "They seem grounded in reality, yet they are dreamlike, giving the impression one has been privileged to see someone else’s memory. A breathtaking masterpiece."

Classroom Ideas: Wow, the language in this book- "crackling of he fire" "tongues of fire like his face"  "the moon that looks like a boat" "eyes, black as night, are dark and deep in his face"
Although this is a picture book, both the words and the theme make it appropriate for older children.


RAIN! by Linda Ashman

Author: Linda Ashman
Illustrator:   Christian Robinson
Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin
Publication Year:   2013
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Kirkus starred review

Summary:  A grumpy man who's mad about the rain lives next door to a boy who's excited about it. The engaging paint and collage illustrations use a dark palette for the man contrasted with a bright one for boy. The man hates his galoshes and overcoat while the boy is excited to don his rain gear. The two characters move through their days, interacting with those around them and spreading their moods to everyone. When they meet at a cafe, the boy's acts of kindness infect the man and his spread suddenly becomes bright too.

Classroom Ideas: The theme of the power of attitude is told subtly but can be understood by even the youngest reader.

I'm Bored

I'M BORED by Michael Ian Black

Author: Michael Ian Black
Illustrator:   Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Publisher:  Simon & Schuster
Publication Year:   2012
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Publisher's Weekly starred review, NYT Notable

Summary:  A girl dramatically proclaims her boredom until a potato shows up. The potato is bored too. The girl tries all kind of scenarios to prove to the potato that she's fun, but the potato continues to claim boredom.The illustrations are fun drawings on a wide expanse of white background, and the playfulness of the font adds to the story. As the girl uses her imagination, the illustrations become more detailed until finally the girl loses her patience with the cranky potato.

Classroom Ideas: This is a great treatise on the power of imagination and would pair well with HELLO! hello!

Everyone can learn to ride a bicycle


Author & Illustrator:   Chris Raschka
Publisher:  Schwartz & Wade
Publication Year:   2013
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Booklist, Publisher's Weekly, Kirkus & School Library Journal starred reviews

Summary:  A girl in a big helmet chooses a bicycle and practices a lot. Her very patient father helps her take off the training wheels and try over and over again until she finally learns. The retro inspired illustrations are watercolors with blocks of color. There are very few words, but the true story is told in the pictures of the girl and her father. She falls again and again and continues to try. He hugs her and encourages her: "Don't give up. You'll get it. Find the courage to try again......until by luck, grace, and determination, you are riding..." Sure to bring a tear to every parent's eye.

Classroom Ideas:  A character study of the unnamed girl and her father with an extremely strong moral told with very few words. Beautifully touching.

Samantha on a Roll

SAMANTHA ON A ROLL by Linda Ashman

Author: Linda Ashman
 Illustrator:   Christine Davenier
Publisher:  Margaret Ferguson Books
Publication Year:   2011
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Charlotte Zolotow Award, Kirkus starred review

Summary:  In rhyming text, this is the story of the brash Samantha who wants to learn to skate. Even though her mother doesn't have time to teach her, she takes off to teach herself (without her mother's knowledge.) Despite not knowing how to brake, she heads up Hawthorne Hill and heads down, destroying everything in her path. When she sees a kite, she rides it home where her mother is now ready to teach her to skate! The colored pencil and watercolor illustrations perfectly capture Samantha's facial expressions and her body language.

Classroom Ideas: There is some great vocabulary (flustered, swerving, snags) and some onomatopoeia. Samantha is a captivating character as well.

The Girl with a Brave Heart: A Tale from Tehran


Author: Rita Jahanforuz
Illustrator:   Vali Mintzi
Publisher:  Barefoot Books
Publication Year:   2010
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Cool Mom picks, featured on Seven Impossible Things,
Summary:  An Iranian-born author (and pop star), used a traditional tale as a basis for this book. Shiraz, a Cinderella like character, goes to find a red wool ball that was left by her mother when he falls into her neighbor's courtyard. She meets an older lady who asks her to smash everything in her house, but Shiraz disobeys and cleans everything. The lady returns her wool and tells her to bathe in two pools in her backyard. She does and becomes incredibly beautiful. Her stepsisters tries to mimic her but turns ugly instead. The pools made them both become the way they feel on the inside.The illustrations are bold, guache paintings with scribble outlines.

Classroom Ideas: A classroom study of other cultures would be enhanced by this traditional tale and the realization that the same lessons are taught everywhere. Because the moral is clearly stated at the end, it would be a good introduction to theme/moral for younger students.

Rabbit's Snow Dance

RABBIT'S SNOW DANCE by James Bruchac

Author: James & Joseph Bruchac
Illustrator:   Jeff Newman
Publisher:  Dial
Publication Year: 2012  
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Elizabeth Burr/Wozalla Award honor,

Summary:  An Iroquois pourquoi tale that tells about Rabbit, who was short on patience, and couldn't wait for the snow to come. Even though it's summertime and the other animals are ready for cold weather, Rabbit does his dance ("I will make it snow, AZIKANAPO!"). The snow comes and Rabbit just keeps going until he has to take a nap. When he awakes, he has an accident that explains why Rabbit has a small tail today! The illustrations are amazing line drawings and the colors are beautiful.

Classroom Ideas: The retelling of a traditional story is ripe for a classroom/library study of pourquoi tales. Rabbit is a perfect character for studying the effects of his impatience and perhaps the lesson he learned (moral).

Henry and the Cannons: An Extraordinary True Story of the American Revolution


Author & Illustrator:   Don Brown
Publisher:  Roaring Brook Press
Publication Year:   2013
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   School Library Journal starred review

Summary:  In winter of 1775, a bookseller named Henry Knox drags 59 cannons from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston. This book describes that trip in detail with simple line drawings and subtle watercolors. The story is told in a straight forward way that easily explains the amazing feat.

Classroom Ideas: A classroom study of the American Revolution or a character study on Henry. Through his actions, he shows determination and bravery.

Extras: map of the journey, bibliography

Frog Song

FROG SONG by Brenda Z. Guiberson

Author: Brenda Z. Guiberson
Illustrator:   Gennady Spirin
Publisher:  Henry Holt
Publication Year:   2013
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   School Library Journal, Booklist, & Publisher's Weekly starred reviews,

Summary:  Eleven different kinds of frogs from around the world are examples of how frogs keep from drying out. The illustrations are magical- drawing the reader into the world of the frogs. They are extremely saturated, but somehow still contain amazingly realistic details. An absolutely gorgeous book!

Classroom Ideas: The text in this book is full of onomatopoeia, and the Science connection is strong. The frogs could be placed onto a world map and their habitats and biomes discussed.

Extras: Photographs and facts about each frog. Author's note about frogs in danger because of pollution. Bibliography and list of online sources.

One Fine Day

ONE FINE DAY by Nonny Hogrogian

Author & Illustrator:   Nonny Hogrogian
Publisher:  Simon & Schuster
Publication Year:   1971
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Caldecott

Summary:  A young fox who steals a drink of milk and a woman cuts off his tail because of it.  Through determination and a willingness to work with others, this fox finally rights the wrong he committed at the beginning of the story and gets his tail back. The illustrations are deceptively simple with bright colors, beautiful brushstrokes, and lots of contrast.

Classroom Ideas: This would be a great cause and effect lesson. It has a cumulative plot with a very satisfying ending.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Super Hair-O and the Barber of Doom


Author & Illustrator:   John Rocco
Publisher:  Hyperion
Publication Year:   2013
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   featured at the CCYAL Best Books of 2013 Workshop

Summary:  Rocco has an afro of brown curls and the "more [his] hair grew, the more awesome [his] superpowers became...." He was unstoppable until he was captured (by his mother) and taken to the villain's lair (barber shop)! When his hair is cut, his superpowers are gone and he worries what his superfriends will think. When he gets back to headquarters (the playground), he discovers that the same fate has befallen all of his friends. They try everything to get their powers back until they discover that a small hero (doll) is in trouble and they save her from a horrible fall. Then they realize that they are still super and their powers didn't come from their hair after all. Illustrated in classic comic book style with some spreads of black and white, this book is a tribute to the power of imagination.

Classroom Ideas: This book would be a great mentor book for kids to write their own stories with themselves as superheros. They would have such fun imagining what their very own super power would be.

We March

Cover art for WE MARCH

Author & Illustrator:   Shane W. Evans
Publisher:  Roaring Brook Press
Publication Year:   2012
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year, Charlotte Zolotow Award / Highly Commended, Jane Addams Award, Kirkus Reviews Best Books, Capitol Choices Noteworthy Titles for Children and Teens

Summary:  In August 1963, an African American family wakes up early to get ready to march. They pray for strength, make signs, and board buses heading for Washington DC. They walk with people of all kinds and sing. They are filled with hope and lean on each other. They march for justice and freedom. Evan's full-page paintings are beautiful and match the simple text perfectly.

Classroom Ideas: A classroom study of the Civil Rights movement and the life of Martin Luther King Jr.

Extras: author's note talking about the march where MLKJr. made his most historic speech

It Jes' happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw

Cover art for IT JES' HAPPENED

Author: Don Tate
Illustrator:   R. Gregory Christie
Publication Year:  
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Lee & Low New Voice Award, Booklist Top Biographies, Ezra Jack Keats New Writer honor, Kirkus Best Book, Booklist Best Book, Bank Street College Best Books

Summary:  Bill Traylor grew up as a slave in the cotton fields in Alabama. His family worked as sharecroppers after the Civil War was over, and Bill saved the memories of that lifetime as he grew older. After his wife died, he became a homeless resident of Birmingham living off the kindness of others. Finally, in 1939 at the age of 85, he began to draw with pencils on scrap papers. Passersby admired his work until a young artist named Charles Shannon began visiting him regularly. He brought Bill art supplies- colored pencils, paints, paintbrushes, and papers. In 1940, Mr. Shannon arranged an exhibition of Bill's paintings in a local gallery, and many people came to appreciate Bill's memories of his life.

Classroom Ideas: Fascinating story of a life lived in slavery and after the Civil War. A theme that involves success being possible at every age.

Extras: Author's note & source listing, Afterward telling the continued story of Bill Traylor's life and the renown that came to him posthumously

A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin

Cover art for A SPLASH OF RED

Author: Jen Bryant
Illustrator:  Melissa Sweet
Publisher:  Alfred A. Knopf
Publication Year: 2013
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Parents' Choice gold award, Junior Library guild selection, Booklist, Kirkus, Publisher's Weekly & School Library Journal starred reviews

Summary:  The story of African-American artist Horace Pippin (1888-1946). Pippin loved to draw for everyone. When he won an art prize of a box of paints, he began to paint for everyone. When he was in eighth grade, he had to quit school to support his family, but he still loved drawing for people. Even when he joined the army during World War I, he continued drawing pictures for his soldier friends. After he is injured, he returns home and marries but his injury keeps him from working or drawing. Finally, he forced himself to move his injured arm and started painting again. Soon, Horace's paintings became famous and he continued to paint holding his weak arm up with his strong one. The mixed-media collages by Melissa Sweet incorporate many of Horace Pippin's sayings and actual artwork, and the story is incredibly inspiring.

Classroom Ideas: This book is about the World War I era, and the artist was a true hero. The theme of the story is one of perseverance and believing in yourself.

Extras: Historical note that with a biography, author's note, illustrator's note, list of further resources, quotations sources. The endpapers have a map of the museums where Pippin's art can be found in American museums.

Little Dog Lost

Cover art for LITTLE DOG LOST

Author & Illustrator:   Monica Carnesi
Publisher:  Nancy Paulsen Books
Publication Year:   2012
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Horn Book Fanfare, CCBC Choices, Eric Carle Museum Picture Book of Distinction, Gryphon Award Honor Book, Bank Street Best, featured on Calling Caldecott blog

Summary:  This book tells the true story of a dog found floating on sheets on ice on the Vistula river in Baltic Sea near Poland in 2010.  No one knew where came from or how he got stuck on the ice. A ship named the Baltica spots him and the crew rescues him by paddling out and retrieving him from the ice sheet. The dog is named Baltic and becomes a new member of the crew of the Baltica. The story is told in very simple child-friendly words and the accompanying watercolors are beautiful. 

Classroom Ideas: The story is inspirational and would introduce students to a "hero" story that is unfamiliar to them.

Extras: An author's note with actual photographs of Baltic and his rescuer.

The Great Migration: Journey to the North

Author: Eloise Greenfield
Illustrator: Jan Spivey Gilchrist 
Publisher:  Amistad
Publication Year:   2011
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Coretta Scott King Award honor, Booklist Editor's Choice, ALSC Notable

Summary:  These poems are a person account of Eloise Greenfield's family as they migrated north from North Carolina to Washington DC in the early 1900s. The poems are poignant, telling the story of saying goodbye to everything they knew and then trying to have a fresh start in a new place.  The illustrations are a beautiful collage of oil paintings and actual photographs.

Classroom Ideas: A welcome addition to any classroom study of Jim Crow laws and the civil rights movement.

Extras: An author's introduction that explains her family's story and a collected bibliography of other resources on the time period.

Ocean Sunlight

bang oceansunlight 249x300 Ocean Sunlight

Author & Illustrator:   Molly Bang & Penny Chisholm
Publisher:  The Blue Sky Press
Publication Year:   2012
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards: Kirkus Best Books,Publisher's Weekly & Booklist starred review, featured on Calling Caldecott  blog

Summary: This book explains how light affects everything in the ocean. It begins with photosynthesis and food chains, and then it follows sunlight into food chains in the ocean. From phytoplankton to zooplankton to all other ocean animals, the book explains how light affects the animals in the ocean. The pictures in this book are beautiful and details. In the Calling Caldecott blog, Lolly Robinson explains the way that Molly Bang planned the the art: "The art is beautiful in its own right, and it is doing double duty. The pictures aren’t just here to remind us how beautiful the ocean is and give us a break from all the science in the text. Instead, they help explain everything in the text. Bang creates a visual shorthand (explained in the detailed notes at the end of the book) to visually represent certain scientific elements. Yellow dots indicate light in both particle and wave form. A yellow outline is used around any plant or animal that has absorbed light’s energy, whether directly or indirectly. Other colored dots denote molecules — white for oxygen, blue for hydrogen, black for carbon — allowing depictions of compounds like water and carbon dioxide."

Classroom Ideas: The Scientific ideas here are explained in ways that are accessible to younger readers. It would be an excellent addition to any Science classroom.

Extras: Extensive author notes explain each main Scientific idea in more detail

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Over and Under the Snow


Author: Kate Messner
Illustrator:   Christopher Silas Neal
Publisher:  Chronicle Books
Publication Year:   2011
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   NYT Notable, Horn Books & Publisher's Weekly starred reviews

Summary:  On top of the snow, things are white and quiet, but under the snow the animals are burrowed. The illustrations are simple in line and palette, but they perfectly depict the movement underneath the snow. They follow the tracks as they imagine voles, hares, bullfrogs, and beavers under the snow. As they stand quietly, they see a red fox leap onto the snow and scratch after a mouse. As a black bear snores under the snow, the girl and her father head home to dream of the animals.

Classroom Ideas: A classroom study of hibernating animals or the seasons.

Extras: Author's note about predators and a paragraph about each animal that's mentioned in the book. A bibliography where a reader can get more information about animals in winter.

The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher

Author & Illustrator:   Molly Bang
Publisher:  Simon & Schuster
Publication Year:   1980
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Caldecott Honor, Boston Globe-Horn Book honor,  Children's Reviewer's Choice, ALA Booklist award

Summary:  A wordless book. An older lady goes to the market and buys some strawberries. As she returns home, she is followed by a small blue person who tries to steal them. While she is running from him, she runs into a lady holding a bucket of snakes. She goes onto a bus and he chases after her on a skateboard and then the chase goes into a pointed wood. Eventually she leads him into a blackberry thicket where he starts eating them and the Grey Lady heads home to share the strawberries with her family. The art is surreal and pulls you into another world.

Classroom Ideas: An art teacher could use this book to show the effects of pattern. Children could also write a story in words to go along with the wordless story.


Cover art for HOMER

Author & Illustrator:   Elisha Cooper
Publisher:  Greenwillow
Publication Year:   2012
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Kirkus Best Book, Booklist & Publisher's Weekly starred reviews

Summary:  The old dog Homer sits on the porch thinking about how he wants to spend his day. He doesn't want to run around the yard with the young dogs, explore the field, walk to the beach, swim, or run. He looks out out a beautiful landscape of ocean and yard, and soon everyone comes and joins him on the porch. As the sun sets, he heads into the house to relax with his family all around. The watercolors are beautiful and absolutely draw the reader into the mood of a dog who's content with his life.

Classroom Ideas: The theme here is one of contentment and old age. The book perfectly captures the mood of the old dog.

Day by Day

Cover art for DAY BY DAY

Author & Illustrator:   Susan Gal
Publisher:  Alfred A. Knopf
Publication Year:   2012
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Kirkus Best Book

Summary:  The pigs head out west and build a house. They invite in all their neighbors and begin to build new friendships. Working together, the families build a community, plant crops, and harvest. They swim (in the mud), give thanks, and dance. The textured patterned collages fill the pages with rich colors.

Classroom Ideas: The idea of working together to build a community- told in simple words with beautiful art.

When Randolph Turned Rotten


Author & Illustrator:   Charise Mericle Harper
Publisher:  Alfred A. Knopf
Publication Year:   2007
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Publisher's Weekly starred review, Junior Library Guild selection

Summary:  Two friends Randolph and Ivy are roommates. Ivy gets invited to a sleepover birthday party, but Randolph feels left out that he didn't get invited. Randolph gets mad and starts to hope that Ivy has a horrible time. His insides turn horrible, rotten, awful, and icky; and he does mean things to ruin Ivy's party. Then he starts to feel guilty. Meanwhile, Ivy accidentally locks the party-goers out of the house, but Randolph's "mean" additions to her bag end up saving the day. When Ivy gets home, Randolph apologizes and Ivy shares her stories of the beach party. The comic strip type illustrations are wonderful with details that kids will want to pour over.

Classroom Ideas: This book can be used to show how feelings become actions- it would be a great book for a guidance counselor or a teacher to use when talking about bullying.  Randolph is an excellent character to talk about.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore


Author & Illustrator:   William Joyce
Publisher:  Antheneum
Publication Year:   2012
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Kirkus starred review, inspired the Academy Award winning short film

Summary:  Morris Lessmore loves books and then a storm comes and destroys his house and the book that he was writing. (And the illustrations go from color to sepia) He looks up and sees a lovely lady being pulled by flying books (Back to full color now) and she sends him his own flying book. The book takes him to an amazing library where the books are all alive. Morris starts to take care of the library and share the books with everyone. He starts to write his own book again. The years pass until Morris has written the last page of his book. He flies away and a little girl comes and begins to read his finished book.

Classroom Ideas: The book opens with a beautiful metaphor: "His life was a book of his own writing..."  There's also a great deal of alliteration: "happy bit of happenstance" "lovely lady" "festive squadron of flying book"  The whole story is based on personification as the books in the library are alive.

Extras: there is an ipad app as well as a short film based on this book

Switch on the Night

Author: Ray Bradbury
Illustrator:   Leo and Diane Dillon
Publisher:  Alfred A. Knopf
Publication Year:   1993
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   featured on NYT Book page

Summary:  A lonely little boy hides in his bed because he does not like the night. One night he's alone in his house with all the lights on, when there's a knock at the window. A little girl named Dark shows up and tell him that when he switches off the light, he's switching ON the night. You switch on the crickets, the frogs, the stars, and the "white ice-cream moon." The imagery is lovely. Leo and Diane Dillon illustrated this book with gorgeous mysterious, surrealistic paintings that more than nod to the work of M.C. Escher.

Classroom Ideas: There is lovely descriptive language here along with alliterative elements ("parlors and pantries and cellars and cupboards and attics and alcoves and hollering in the halls"). The illustrations are just amazing.

What Little Boys are Made of


Author & Illustrator:   Robert Neubecker
Publisher:  Balzer + Bray
Publication Year:   2012
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Bank Street College Best Children's Books, Kirkus Best Books,

Summary:  Neubecker builds on the traditional phrases in the classic nursery rhyme. Neubeker's ideas: moons and stars and rockets to Mars (I want that rainbow patchwork rocket!), snakes and rats and big jungle cats, vines and rocks and razor-tooth crocs, sticks and stones and skulls and bones, Ships and sails and oceans and whales....and the surprises keep on coming! Spreads of  sweet small images with lots of white spaces are alternated with gorgeous, vivid, two-page spreads that almost jump off the page! My son would have adored the dragon spread when he was younger! A must for anyone who loves a boy, is having a boy, or was a boy!

Classroom Ideas: The rhymes are perfect and the build-up on the well-known song will appeal to all young readers.

Magritte's Marvelous Hat


Author & Illustrator:   D.B. Johnson
Publisher:  Houghton Mifflin
Publication Year:   2012
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   ALSC Notable, School Library Journal & Publisher's Weekly starred reviews

Summary:  The surrealist painter Rene Magritte is pictured here as a suit-clad hound who sees a perfect hat in a store window. Suddenly, the hat floats onto Magritte's head. When he takes it home, his painting comes more easily than it ever has. The hat keeps pretending to blow away and wants to play, but when Magritte ignores it to continue painting. The hat flies away and Magritte realizes he can't paint without it. When the painter quits chasing it and instead plays a hide-and-go-seek game, the hat finds him and Magritte can paint again.With clear overlay pages, pipes & smoke rings for a front porch and many more strange details, this is the perfect depiction of a surrealistic world. Kids will love pouring over the details in these illustrations.

Classroom Ideas: This would be a great introduction to surrealism for an art teacher. It would also be a good example of fantasy, as well as a story of friendship, in a way.

Extras: Author's note at the end that discusses Rene Magritte's and the surrealist painters of his time. It also explains what surrealism is.

Rocket Writes a Story


Author & Illustrator:   Tad Hills
Publisher:  Schwartz & Wade
Publication Year:   2012
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   School Library Journal best book; Kirkus, Publisher's Weekly, & School Library Journal starred reviews

Summary:  For Rocket, a book is "a place he'd never been, like a friend he'd never met." He loves books and words and decides he will write his own story. Unfortunately, a blank page is scary! His teacher and the bird try to help him with ideas, and he decides to write a story about an owl he sees living in a pine tree. As he visits Owl and learns more about her, he finishes her story and shares it with his new friend Owl.

Classroom Ideas: Obviously, this book is perfect for beginning writers- the intimidation of the empty page, the coming up with inspiration, the choosing good words, the writing of an ending. There is also lovely language here and some figurative language as well. (I love how Rocket goes to sniff out new words! What fun that would be to create a bulletin board around...)

Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-brother Baseball Team

Cover art for BROTHERS AT BAT

Author: Audrey Vernick
Illustrator:   Steven Salerno
Publisher:  Clarion
Publication Year:   2012
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   NYT Notable, Booklist Editor's Choice
A NewYork Times Notable Book for 2012
A 2012 Booklist Editor's Choice
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Summary:  "It sounds like a fairy tale: twelve baseball-playing brothers." But the Acerro family was real and they had 16 children- 12 boys who formed their own semi-pro team in 1938. In the 1940s, six of the brothers joined the armed forces during World War II. After the war, they continued playing together even while starting careers and families of their own. In 1997, the family was put into the Baseball Hall of Fame and the seven brothers still living made the trip to the ceremony. Beautiful colorful, realistic drawings fill the spreads with details of the times in which the Acerro brothers lived.

Classroom Ideas: Classroom studies of the 1940s/1950s, with a mention of World War II. I can see boys in particular being very interested in this story, and there is a lovely lesson here about love of activity and family.

Extras: Author's note with a photograph of the family. Artist's note about his own family story.

White Socks Only

White Socks Only

Author: Evelyn Coleman
Illustrator:   Tyrone Geter
Publisher:  Albert Whitman & Co.
Publication Year:   1996
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   1996 Notable Book for Children, Smithsonian Magazine; Pick of the Lists, American Bookseller

Summary:  A story told by an African American woman in a form of dialect. A girl sneaks off to town by herself wearing her finest Sunday outfit, including white socks. She wants to find some cement so she can test out the saying "It could get so hot you could fry an egg on the sidewalk." As she's walking, she says a water fountain with a sign that says "Whites Only." She takes off her good black shoes and hops up to the fountain wearing only her clean white socks. Of course she get caught and gets yelled at, but other people from the town start to join her and it becomes an act of civil disobedience. Although she gets whipped by a man, the mysterious "Chicken Man" rescues her and sends her home where she's praised for "doing some good."

Classroom Ideas: Such a great example of dialect. ("And child, was it hot! On that kind of day a firecracker might light up by itself.")
Also, the figurative language here is amazing, and the descriptions are wonderful. If I was reading this with kids, I'd read the narrator's description of herself without letting them see the illustration and then have them draw her.
Obviously, the content fits perfectly with a discussion about segregation and Jim Crow laws. It is especially interesting to think about the awakening of children to the prejudice that was all around them and would be a great companion to the book Goin' Someplace Special.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Cazuela that the Farm Maiden Stirred


Author: Samantha R. Vamos
Illustrator:   Rafael Lopez
Publisher:  Charlesbridge
Publication Year:   2011
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Pura Belpre Illustrator Honor, ALA Notable, NCTE Notable, Kirkus starred review

Summary:  A young girl on a farm begins to cook with the help of some animal friends. In each phrase of this cumulative story, an English word is replaced with correct Spanish translation. The animals and ingredients are all named and a great party comes along as when the recipe is complete! All return to celebrate their common accomplishment! The graphic illustrations fill the pages with vibrant desert-like colors that perfectly compliment the text.

Classroom Ideas: With the huge influx of ESL students in our public schools, this book would be perfectly placed in our younger grades. I know many of our K classes cook and this recipe would be perfect to share.

Extras: recipe for Arroz con leche (rice pudding), glossary

Black Dog

Cover art for BLACK DOG

Author & Illustrator:   Levi Pinfold
Publisher:  Candlewick
Publication Year:   2012
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Kate Greenway Medal,ALSC Notable, NYT Notable, CYBIL Award finalist

Summary:  A black dog appears outside the Hope family's house, and as each family member encounters it, the dog seems to get larger and larger. Then the smallest Hope (nicknamed Small) laughs at her frightened family and goes outside to meet the dog. She calls the huge beast "guffin" and it "snuffs" at her. The big dog chases her around the town until it shrinks and follows her in through the cat flap. The family realizes that Small has been quite brave and they welcome Black Dog into the family. The paintings in this book are rich in both color and detail, and the text is accompanied by gorgeous sepia thumbnails that perfectly imitate the old-fashioned feel of the story.

Classroom Connections: Despite the realistic characters and setting, this story is a fantasy and would do well in a classroom discussion of what makes fantasy. The characters show their personalities through their actions as well. 


Cover art for ME...JANE

Author & Illustrator:   Patrick McDonnell
Publisher:  Little, Brown, and Company
Publication Year:   2011
Location: Knox County Public Library- Lawson McGhee

Awards:   Caldecott Honor Book, Charlotte Zolotow Award Winner,  Horn Book Fanfare Book, NYT Best Illustrated, NYT Notable A New York Times Notable Children's Book,  Kirkus Reviews Best Book, CCBC 2012 Children's Choices Book, Parents' Choice Silver Honor Book

Summary:  Jane Goodall wanders around outside with her stuffed chimpanzee Jubilee. She loved to be outside being part of the natural world. She especially loved the story of Tarzan and Jane and dreamed of Africa. When she grew up, her dream came true. The illustrations in this book are magical and include childhood drawings, diagrams, and photographs of Jane Goodall.  The focus on Jane's childhood welcomes children to imagine that they, too, could make their dreams come true.

Classroom Ideas: A study of Africa, chimpanzees, or of course biography.

Extras: a biography, letter from Jane Goodall, and one of her original drawings

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons


Author: Eric Litwin
Illustrator:   James Dean
Publisher:  Harper
Publication Year:   2012
Location: Knox County Public Library- Powell

Awards:   Dubuque Picture Book Award, Theodore Seuss Geisel Honor Award, ALSC Notable,

Summary:  Pete the cat loves his favorite shirt with its groovy buttons so much that he made up a song about them. As buttons pop off of his shirt, Pete writes a subtraction sentence about it and then modifies his song. When each of the four buttons pops off, Pete notices his belly button and keeps on singing. "I guess it simply goes to show that stuff will come and stuff will go. But do we cry? Goodness, NO! We keep on singing." The brightly colored paintings are childlike and perfectly suited to the book.

Classroom Ideas: This book would be an excellent introduction to subtraction for the youngest readers, and Pete's philosophy teach an excellent message.