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
- See more at:

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.

Song and Danceman

Cover art for SONG AND DANCE MAN

Author: Karen Ackerman
Illustrator:   Stephen Gammell
Publisher:  Dragonfly Books
Publication Year:   1988
Location: Knox County Public Library- Powell

Awards:   Caldecott Medal, Horn Book Fanfare, Booklist Choice,

Summary:  Grandpa danced on the vaudeville stage and he shows the kids his memorabilia from the ear. He puts on his old costume and performs for the kids in the attic. His show is "better than any show on TV." The enjoy the show, but Grandpa knows he wouldn't trade anything for the time he gets to spend with his grandkids. The illustrations are beautiful with lovely rainbow backgrounds that glow with the good feelings that Grandpa has with his memories and with his life.

Classroom Ideas: The word choices here are wonderful (lots of similes like "shoes make soft, slippery sounds like rain on a tin roof") Although Grandpa doesn't talk too much, he's a strong character.

Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku

Won Ton Haiku

Author: Lee Wardlaw
Illustrator:   Eugene Yelchin
Publisher:  Henry Holt
Publication Year:   2011
Location: Knox County Public Library- Powell

Awards:   NCTE Notable, Myra Cohn Livingston Poetry Award, Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, CCBC Best Book, ALSC Notable, School Library Journal Best Book,

Summary:  This is the story of a cat rescued from a shelter, told entirely in haiku. The people name him Won Ton and then he gradually becomes part of the family. He claims the house and explores the yard and ultimately claims the boy as his own. At the end, he announces that his real name is Haiku. The illustrations perfectly capture the realities of being a cat.

Classroom Ideas: Great example of senryu (like haiku only not about nature) that never panders. The story is perfectly told.

Sam, Bangs, & Moonshine

Evaline Ness; Illustrated by the Author Sam, Bangs & Moonshine

Author & Illustrator:   Evaline Ness
Publisher:  Henry Holt
Publication Year:   1966
Location: Knox County Public Library- Powell

Awards:   ALA Notable, Caldecott Medal

Summary:  Sam was a fisherman's daughter who lied all the time. Her father warned her to talk REAL and not MOONSHINE, but she continued to send her neighbor Thomas on wild searches for her pet kangaroo. Unfortunately, one day a search gets Thomas and Sam's cat Bangs stuck on a rock in the middle of high tide. Bangs gets washed into the sea, but he shows back up that night. Sam apologizes to Thomas and gives him a baby gerbil that her father has given her (that looks like a kangaroo!) The illustrations perfectly show the fantasy of Sam's dreams against the reality of the story.

Classroom Ideas: Sam learns the importance of telling the truth and the difference between reality and fantasy. 

Always Room for One More

Sorche Nic Leodhas; Illustrated by Nonny Hogrogian Always Room for One More

Author: Sorche Nic Leodhas
Illustrator:   Nonny Hogrogian
Publisher:  Henry Holt
Publication Year:   1965
Location: Knox County Public Library- Powell

Awards:   Caldecott, ALA Notable

Summary:  Lachie MacLachlan and his wife & his ten "bairns" lived in a "wee house in the heather." He invited every traveler who came by to come and stay with them and promised there was always one room for one more. There is a big party and soon the house is so full that they all tumble out. Then they all work together to build a new house. There is a glossary of Socttish dialect in the back to help readers understand the story. The illustrations are striking-- the backgrounds are beautiful watercolors that use only two colors, a dark green and a beautiful pinkish purple while the figures are made with only back hatched lines.

Classroom Ideas: The theme of the book is about hospitality and being welcome to all. It is a wonderful example of dialect and, of course, of artistic style.

The Treasure

Cover art for THE TREASURE

Author & Illustrator:   Uri Shulevitz
Publisher:  Farrar, Straus, & Giroux
Publication Year:   1978
Location: Knox County Public Library- Powell

Awards:   Caldecott honor, ALA Notable, NYT Best Illustratred

Summary:  A retelling of a well-known folk tale with a surprising ending. Three times, Isaac has dreams that instruct him to go to the capital and look for treasure under a bridge by the Royal Palace. He walked a long way until he finally reached the bridge but it was always guarded. The captain of the guard laughs when he hears Isaac's story and tells him that he has had the same dream about treasure under the stove of a man named Isaac. When he gets home, he finds the treasure buried under his stove. "Sometimes must travel far to discover what is near."

Classroom Ideas: Asking children to explain this theme would make for an interesting writing exercise. The idea is very abstract, so it would be difficult to put into words. As characters, comparing the Guard Captain to Isaac would be interesting, too.

In the Night Kitchen


Author & Illustrator:   Maurice Sendak
Publisher:  Harper & Row
Publication Year:   1970
Location: Knox County Public Library- Powell

Awards:   Caldecott Honor,  ALA Notable, School Library Journal Best Book, NYT Best Book

Summary:  Mickey wakes in the middle of the night and falls into the surreal atmosphere of the night kitchen. The strange bakers try to bake him into a cake until Mickey jumps out exclaiming "I'm not the milk and the milk's not me." Mickey flies into the milk jug, fetches the milk, and pours it into the batter. Once the cake is baked, Mickey slides down the milk jug and back into his bed. Because of Mickey, there's cake every morning. Sendak's illustrations are masterful.

Classroom Ideas: While the book is charming and a bit surreal, the nudity in it has gotten it challenged by book banners. I wouldn't bring it into a public school classroom, but it's one that I would always have in a personal and public library collection.

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers


Author & Illustrator:   Mordicai Gerstein
Publisher: Roaring Brook
Publication Year:  2003
Location: Knox County Public Library- Powell

Awards:  Caldecott Medal, Horn Book award, Carnegie Medal

Summary: The story of Philippe Petit's 1974 walk between the World Trade Center's twin towers.  Petit secretly snuck up to the roof and at midnight he put a cable between the towers. It was after dawn when he walked between the hours on a wire (shown on two beautiful three page pull-out spreads, one of them vertical). He was arrested and sentenced to perform for the children of the city in the park. At the end, there is touching page with only the words "Now the towers are gone." 

Classroom Ideas: This book could be used in a study of 911, of course. Petit is also a very interesting character who could be discussed- Was it worth the punishment to take the chance? Is it ever okay to break the law? What about the danger?

All the water in the world

Author: George Ella Lyon
Illustrator:   Katherine Tillotson
Publisher:  Atheneum
Publication Year:   2012
Location: Knox County Public Library- Powell

Awards:   School Library Journal & Booklist starred reviews, CBCC Choices, ALA Notable

Summary:  The text is a poem all about water, where it comes from and why it is important. The words are very kid friendly and the water cycle is explained in a friendly way (along with a great vertical spread!) The illustrations are based on collages made from gorgeous hand-made papers. The colors are vivid and the spreads are beautiful.

Classroom Ideas: There are wonderful words here, including onomatopoeia (wobble), personification (Thirsty air licks...sips...guzzles)  and alliteration (cascaded from clouds, meandered down mountains, wavered over waterfalls).  This can also be included in a Science study of water and the water cycle.