Author Archives: ajdickens

About ajdickens

In five words: Mom. Wife. Librarian. Reader. Teacher. Teaching elementary library and living in the suburbs of Seattle.

Charlie and Mouse by Laurel Snyder

Does anyone else start reading a book by flipping to the author info page at the back to learn about a new writer?  Because I do.  Finding a way to connect with the author – from things we like to do to places we live – is part of my reader identity. This may be why I struggle to engage in ebooks…but that’s another post.

Charlie & Mouse by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Emily Hughes

In Charlie & Mouse, the author page didn’t disappoint. Laurel Snyder lives in my childhood hometown of Atlanta, GA (though I’d love to ask her, “where in Atlanta?”, as GA folk usually live in a suburb – for me, Marietta). Even better, Emily Hughes is down the road from my new home in London on the shores of Brighton. These blurbs hooked me. Even better was the story they created together.

Siblings Charlie and Mouse star in four short, illustrated chapters showcasing an ideal life as a kid.  From waking up Mom in the early morning to conjuring up a plan to earn money to interacting with neighbors, these brothers are exactly what young readers need: a breath of reality in an overstimulating world. Snyder makes some lovely, forward-thinking choices in characterization: Mouse chooses to wear a pink tutu, their couple next door are Mr. Eric & Mr. Michael, and the boys themselves are mixed-race. These choices, though, are noticed almost as an afterthought, as the story’s engaging plot line and characterization are strong.  Add in the full-color illustrations from Emily Hughes and this story is a winner for sharing as a read-aloud or independent reading. The boys truly shine with the addition of their grandfather in the sequel, Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy. Two worthy additions to the newly-expanding transitional reader market, this is a must-purchase for all libraries.  Share with ages 4-10.

Charlie & Mouse releases April 11, 2017.  Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy releases October 3, 2017.

Two of the previewed titles at 2017 London Book Fair at the Chronicle/Abrams booth.

Cheers, y’all! 🙂 arika

2017 London Book Fair: a librarian’s recap

Last week was the 2017 London Book Fair.  The conference center where it was held was a mere 20 minute walk from my temp flat AND the cost was only £20 for three days. Having read their website, I wasn’t sure if it was for me…but I went. As my friend Shauna says, because why not?!

It was, in a word, massive.  Literally tens of thousands in attendance.  A gigantic, two-story conference floor with the most beautiful, diverse displays from publishers, companies, and countries across the world.

It was not, however, a “book fair” in the typical understanding of a librarian who has hosted book fairs.  Not so many books were on display, especially considering what is commonly seen at ALA, TLA, AASL, BookExpo and the like.  None were for sale.  No authors were there (okay, that’s a lie…there was one featured author each day on site).

What was it, then?  A time for publishers, buyers, agents, and studios to do business.  It was meetings, not sessions.  The publisher booths were packed with people, sitting at tables, discussing titles to be translated or foreign rights sold or merchandising deals made or sales abroad.  It was intense.  BUSY.  Less about readers and books, more about the business of books.  So I, who love reading and talking and connecting readers and new books, was so very out of my element.  It was okay, though.  Careful observation of booths led me to some new titles.  Chronicle Books came through as a huge winner with a display of new American books that made my heart soar.  Living in London, I’m finding, means a limited access to American titles – and certainly not immediate access. There were many fewer middle-grade and YA titles on display that I’d hoped, but that’s okay: ALA is in a few short months, after all.

So what did I see?  What stood out in the world of kidlit?  Take a look.  Look for reviews of these titles in the coming days and weeks – only the best quality books rated a photograph!  And enjoy an inside view of one of the largest book fairs in the world.

Cheers, y’all! 🙂 arika

 

 

The 2018 WCCPBA Nominees

Over the weekend, my colleagues on the Washington Children’s Choice Committee met to select the nominees for the 2018 WCCPB Award. And what a list!  With twenty nominees, there’s something for everybody here (or at least for the students in K-3 in WA State).

Here they are, in ABC order by author. And…new this year: which is your favorite COVER? Which are you most excited to share with children? My votes: cover = Stick and Stone, sharing = More-igami.  Share your opinion and vote HERE!  Bonus: by voting, you can see instantly what other’s think…so take a moment and VOTE!

2017-2018 Washington Children’s Choice Picture Book Award Nominees:

  • Thunder Boy Jr. written by Sherman Alexie, pictures by Yuyi Morales
  • The Magic Word written by Mac Barnett, pictures by Elise Parsley
  • A Bike Like Sergios written by Maribeth Boelts, pictures by Noah Z. Jones
  • The Highest Mountain of Books in the World written and illustrated by Rocio Bonilla
  • Everyone Loves Bacon! written by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Eric Wight
  • Pirate’s Perfect Pet written by Beth Ferry, pictures by Matt Myers
  • Stick and Stone written by Beth Ferry, pictures by Tom Lichtenheld
  • The Marvelous Thing that Came from a Spring written and illustrated by Gilbert Ford
  • The Darkest Dark written by Chris Hadfield, pictures by The Fan Brothers
  • Plants Can’t Sit Still written by Rebecca E. Hirsch, pictures by Mia Posada
  • Quit Calling Me a Monster! written by Jory John, pictures by Bob Shea
  • More-igami written by Dori Kleber, pictures by G. Brian Karas
  • A Well-Mannered Wolf written by Jean Leroy, pictures by Matthieu Maudet
  • The Cow Who Climbed a Tree written and illustrated by Gemma Merino
  • Hare and Tortoise written and illustrated by Alison Murray
  • Madeline Finn and the Library Dog written and illustrated by Lisa Papp
  • Don’t Call Me Choochie-Poo! written by Sean Taylor, pictures by Kate Hindley
  • The Princess and the Warrior written and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh
  • Nanette’s Baguette written and illustrated by Mo Willems
  • Quackers! written and illustrated by Liz Wong

 

 

Love for AKR

Yesterday – March 13, 2017 – a bright light went out entirely too early.

Amy Krouse Rosenthal, author/writer/creater/maker/human extraordinaire – died of ovarian cancer.

I cried. Big, real tears. And at first I couldn’t figure out why. Because I’d never met Amy. Didn’t go out of my way to shower her with book-love. But damn if she didn’t have a huge impact on me as a human.

From the first book of hers that I read – Cookies: bite size life lessons – I was captivated. Here was someone who could explain abstract concepts and help humans lead a better life through clear metaphors and clever wit. I was sold.

I kept reading, and my appreciation deepened.  Her books always delivered a clear message, applicable to children and adults alike. She challenged readers to be okay with who they are in The OK Book. To say YES to fun and life in Yes Day!. To consider different perspectives (that both could, in fact, be correct) in Duck! Rabbit!.  To look past appearances and form lasting relationships in Friendshape. To make our unique mark, literally, in ! (Exclamation Mark). To think positive and be more in I Wish You More.

There are more books. These stand out. (Side note: Tom Lichtenheld, your illustrations are perfection. I wish you more peace.)

Then there is her essay. THE essay, published by the New York Times. To write so candidly, to be so honest and open (and witty!) in the face of cancer, was utterly heartbreaking. But it was true AmyKR- she explained life, from start to finish – as only she could.

From that, #loveforAmyKrouseRosenthal emerged. The sunny yellow umbrella was seen across the globe, a beacon of light to shine on during dark days, thanks to her publisher Chronicle.

I didn’t follow her online until recently (shame on me). And wow. Was I missing out. AmyKR’s Project 1-2-3 was pure brilliance. A list of three, posted by 1:23 each day. Looking back over her creations in the last weeks, I am drawn to this one:

It’s a daily reminder – literally, I see it every time I turn on my phone – to Be Present, Come Alive, Every Day.

There’s so much AmyKR to explore: TED Talks, adult memoirs, YouTube videos, blog posts…and then there are the books, of which there are still more (an apt AmyKR word).  Make the most of your time here: read her words. Watch her videos. Then make the most of your time here. I will.

The London Adventure: I Spy literature!

I’m back, y’all.  The plane landed, the suitcases made it, and I’m in London! Here’s a peek of what our temp space looks like at the moment:

Actually, that photo makes a lovely little game of I Spy…with a London twist.  

In my London flat, can you spy: a Cadbury bar, a mug for tea, the electric kettle, a place for laundry?

A little bit of Seattle snuck into the photo by way of two votives, given to me by my colleagues and a dear family prior to moving. And a book. Because there are always books around…

Speaking of I Spy and books – the first two weeks in the city we took time to get out, see the sights, and visit some museums and shops. And boy is there a whole lot of literary love in London! Some photos, the connection is obvious. Others remind me of books and authors. All of it made my heart happy as I attempt to settle my family in.

Victoria & Albert Museum: Home of the National Art Library. I squealed upon finding original sketches from Beatrix Potter AND Randolph Caldecott (he of the Caldecott Medal). Excellent books in the gift shop, including Du Iz Tak?

The British Museum: Mummies – including cat mummies – reminded my kids and I of Mummy Cat. Too bad we couldn’t find this version their gift shop (they had MANY other books, though). And real-life amulets caused my kids to ooh and aah and remember their favorite graphic novel series of the same name.

Magical Lantern Festival in Chiswick Garden: The massive lanterns were inspired by the silk road, and these reminded me of the folktale Aladdin and the fairy tale Thumbelina.

LEGO store on Leicester Square: Three words – Life-size Lego Shakespeare! I had to get in this picture 🙂

Waterstone’s book shop: Comparing U.K. covers to some U.S. favorites…including a not-yet-released-in-the-U.S. Andy Griffiths book!

Gosh! Comics book shop: Shopping the outstanding selection of quality comics, graphic novels, and picture books. And the piece of Dickens ABC art didn’t go unnoticed 😉

Paddington Station: Paddington. LOTS of Paddington. Books, toys, pencils, hats…

John Lewis (an all-in-one store, a bit like a huge Nordstrom+BBB+Crate&Barrel): This journal. I love journals. And while not a piece of “literature”, this one brought a smile to my face, for I often wake up at 3am – wide awake, with swirling thoughts, usually about details relating to our move here.  Upon opening the journal, I had a moment of clarity. Because these are the words I need to remember on this London Adventure: It might be hard, but it’s worth it.

Cheers, y’all.  ♥ arika

a reflective moment

The move to London is imminent. Less than two weeks, and we’ll be there.  And not just visiting…living life.

People often ask how I’m doing. If we’re packing. Cleaning. Ready.

To be real: the answers change depending on the day, the hour, the moment.

There are many days when I’m like Piggie in Mo Willems’s I Am Going! Excited. Joyful. Effervescent. Thrilled for the adventure.

But not always. There are times when Bernard Waber’s Courage gives me strength when feeling overwhelmed.  That I *can* do this.

Some evenings though, with thoughts swirling, I’ve felt like Katie Woo in A Nervous Night: unsure and afraid.

Todd Parr’s cheerful illustrations and messages help me face my nerves. I’m Not Scared…usually.

Ultimately, though, it’s Kat Yeh’s The Friend Ship that keeps me afloat.

Knowing that friends near and far are cheering, supporting, and hoping for the best for me and my family has made the stress of the transition bearable. If this life change has taught me anything, it is that our friendships are vital. They sustain us when life becomes overwhelming. They provide reassurance.  And that no matter how big the world seems, the bonds of friendship can stretch and grow.

So thanks, friends. Every sidewalk talk, phone call, email, text, hallway & office chat, Facebook message, Instagram comment, Tweet, and moment you’ve taken to be a friend has mattered. It’s helped. And I only hope to one day repay it.

TheThankYouBook

With gratitude, arika

New year? New ideas! Kindergarten

After teaching elementary school library for over a decade, one would think there is a set lesson or format I use to map out each school year. It’s often assumed that I do the same thing, year in and year out. After all, why recreate the wheel?

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Well, I do. New classes mean new personalities. What worked with one group of children may not work with another. Our annual school learning goals need to be taken into account, as well as curricular, technological, and logistical changes. In short: I never do the same thing exactly the same way each year.WP_20141002_006

Our K’s traditionally take part in unit studies, but the books, activities, and technologies used change a bit each year. With so many new titles, apps, and websites, there will always be new ways to foster learning.  The questions used in lessons change, too, since I work to get better at incorporating critical-thinking, claim-evidence-reasoning questions. Adding strategies and ideas from the Maker movement into our lessons (when reasonable) is also a goal.      

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Protecting their garden from invading bunnies. Inspired by Candy Fleming’s Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!

The first six weeks tend to follow a pretty set format regarding skills introduced and overall expectations. Most of my first six weeks is explained here.  Note: for the lessons listed, students visit library 1x week for 40 minutes.

  • Week 1: Play I-Spy in the Library game, learn where to sit (assigned spot) and how to sit (hands/feet to self), get to know one another with the Squishy Ball, listen to one story (first author study), show where to sit at the end of the lesson (the line near the door…no chairs/table spots), learning goal: what does an author do?
  • Week 2: Review where/how to sit, play make-believe games with Mr. Tiger (large stuffed animal mascot who I “talk” to), listen to story, barcodes & passes, self check-out (books on top of shelves only), learn whose responsibility it is to bring back book (students, not moms!)
    • Before week 3 – remind students to bring back books. No tears is the goal…
  • Week 3: review where/how to sit, play make-believe with a stuffed animal Tiger (he holds our stories…I model kindness by asking to borrow it politely, then giving it back at the end), listen to one story, begin questioning, learn E=Everybody, review what happens if you forgot your book (browsing basket), review self check-out
  • Week 4: continue week 3. No new additions.
  • Week 5: Add Rhyme Time. Continue with previous skills/expectations.
  • Week 6: Introduce book care. Continue with previous skills/expectations.

By this point, routines are usually down pat. If they’re not…it’s reteach, reteach, reteach. It’s impossible to add in how to find books if children can’t remember where to sit so that they have their own safe space.

Most of our lessons will have a focus question and includes stories and rhymes. I’ll often include movement games and make-believe to maintain interest and focus. Technology (in the form of beginning database research and project creations) is usually added in the second half of the year. Some tech I like: PebbleGo (for outer space/animal research), Flipgrid (for video responses to any literature), iPads (is perfect for K to extend learning, Daisy the Dinosaur & Lightbot Jr are great for coding). Major units outside of Author Studies may include the Geisel Award, a Wool/Fabric science collaboration, and Folklore Around the World (which includes map skills). However…

I’ve been known to extend units into first grade. To leave units out. To add new learning. Because life happens: there are subs, no school days, new classroom units.  Because each group of children is different…so my teaching should embrace and reflect their differences. And while there are certain authors I read year in and year out (Ezra Jack Keats), each group has stories shared and questions asked that best meet their needs.

Curious as to which author/illustrator units were kid-friendly AND whose stories had great questioning / conversation potential from the past few years? See below! And please note: the K’s will usually study 5-7 per year at a minimum of 3 weeks per individual.

  • Ezra Jack Keats ♥♥
  • the Mo you don’t know (lesser-known Mo Willems titles)
  • Kieko Kasza
  • Jon Klassen
  • Mac Barnett
  • Candace Fleming
  • Lauren Castillo
  • Jon Agee
  • Sergio Ruzzier
  • Deborah Freedman
  • Cynthia Rylant (usually with Arthur Howard)
  • Christian Robinson

Happy reading & teaching, y’all! ~arika