Category Archives: Award-winning books

We’re Full…of Beans

Oh, Jenni Holm. How I am thankful for you.

As a parent, your books make reading fun. Babymouse was J’s first graphic novel that she loved. Proof: her 2nd grade diorama.  H, like any younger sibling, followed suit. He doesn’t care if a book is pink or blue. He’s all about fun. And Babymouse is fun to read.

When your new chapter book came out – Full of Beans – I read it. LOVED it. Talked about it. And gave it to J – now a 4th grader – to read. And she did: she likes Jenni Holm books, after all. And like the little brother he is, H picked it up. He started reading it a week ago, then said he was almost done the other night. Like a good teacher-parent, I asked what he liked about it. Turns out, there was a lot that went over his head. So: FAMILY READ ALOUD.

Full of Beans is a brilliant read aloud: fast-paced, diverse characters, memorable setting. And as we read, we sometimes talk. About Key West. Rum-running. Choices. Through your story, we’re building understanding and empathy for others whose lives might be different from ours.  We are inferring (who DID paint “Queen Dot’s Throne” on the outhouses?). Learning. Enjoying. And, ultimately, connecting.

History is a tricky subject to teach and to learn. (My childhood report cards are evidence of this.) I truly believe literature – specifically kidlit – is a magic portal for learning and understanding historical events and outcomes.  Full of Beans is a brilliantly accessible novel to introduce readers to the Depression, the New Deal, and how lives are impacted by economics. This was not my goal; rather, it is a happy result of our time spent reading and reflecting on Beans, his choices, and his family.

Our reading and conversations about Full of Beans has really stuck with my kids. Yesterday, while grocery shopping, there was a kid-initiated discussion on which character each child would choose to be and why. Ultimately, H chose Termite…because everyone loves dogs, even flea-ridden ones. J was Beans. Naturally.

So Jenni, thank you. Our family is full – full of appreciation for the stories you share with us readers year in and year out. Full of gratitude for creating memorable characters who have depth and flaws.  Full of admiration for writing historical fiction that is appealing and informative.  The bright, shiny 2017 Scott O’Dell Historical Fiction Award is truly deserved.

2017 Mock Predictions

Tomorrow morning – less than 10 hours, really – ALSC and ALA will announce the 2017 Youth Media Awards.

I’m not lying when I say that this is my favorite morning of the year.  I *might* get a little excited. (Read: I’ve woken up my kids by cheering each of the last 3 years). This was last year:

There’s the lead-up. Waking up at 4am PST. Making tea. Prepping breakfast. Getting devices ready – phone to Tweet, iPad to photo, desktop to view the live feed. And the, the main event. The live feed. You can find it HERE: https://www.facebook.com/ILoveLibraries/

My predictions for Newbery, Caldecott & Geisel: The Wild Robot. They All Saw a Cat. Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea.

Now, to get a good night sleep. The day is almost here!

2017 Mock Newbery – RESULTS!

We did it. Almost 30 students and 3 teachers took part in our Mock Newbery book club. This morning’s penultimate meeting: VOTING and the announcement of the WINNING and HONOR titles!

We had 11 titles on our ballot: the ten from our original list, and one mid-year addition.

Similar to the real Newbery Committee, students had three votes: a first place, second place, and third place. Ballots were handed out. Points were assigned. Numbers added and compared. And now: our 2017 Mock Newbery winner and four 2017 Mock Newbery honor titles.

#mtigerslibrary 2017 Mock Newbery Honor Titles

  • When Green Becomes Tomatoes by Julie Fogliano
  • Some Kind of Courage by Dan Gemeinhart
  • Pax by Sara Pennypacker
  • Maxi’s Secrets by Lynne Plourde

#mtigerslibrary 2017 Mock Newbery Winner

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

We are eagerly anticipating next week’s Youth Media Awards. As we’re on the West Coast, I’m begging students to not look at the results before arriving for our final gathering – when we watch the tape-delayed 2017 Newbery announcement as a group. I cannot wait to see their reactions!

Best of 2016: Early Readers, Graphic Novels, Nonfiction…

Broad category here, so please forgive me. As usual, I didn’t read enough nonfiction. Or graphic novels (to my daughter’s chagrin). I did read lots of beginner readers/transitional books, and these are exceptional.  Here are some great choices from 2016:

Best retelling of a fairy tale in graphic novel format: Snow White by Matt Phelan

Best cover of the year that also happens to be a stellar graphic novel for young readers: Narwhal: unicorn of the sea! by Ben Clanton

Best for super-fans of Ezra Jack Keats (um, ME!): A Poem for Peter by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Best use of language to describe the essence of seasons: When Green Becomes Tomatoes by Julie Fogliano

Best nonfiction story to use to develop growth mindset among students: Whoosh!: Lonnie Johnson’s super-soaking stream of inventions by Chris Barton

Best math concept book since The Greedy TriangleThe Cookie Fiasco by Dan Santat

Best gift for teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week: The Thank You Book by Mo Willems

Best realistic portrayal of divorce through a child’s eyes: Weekends With Max and His Dad by Linda Urban

Best “bad boys…but not really” story: The Infamous Ratsos by Kara LaReau

Best must-read of the year as chosen by my 7-year-old son: Dog Man by Dav Pilkey

…and now, a little lagniappe.

What is lagniappe?  A bonus or unexpected gift. Also, a little bit of my Louisiana years coming out. 🙂

I didn’t read much YA this year (shame on me!), but these stood out:

Three completely different stories, characters, problems – but similar in that they’re each unforgettable. Like YA? You won’t be disappointed by these.

Happy reading, y’all!

Best of 2016: Middle Grade/Chapter Books

It is nearly impossible to quantify what “Best” means, especially in books. To me, it means a story that I can clearly recall that did something exceptional: plot, characters, theme, mood, language, or overall feel.  These books envelop most of the previous traits…truly 16 of the Best of 2016 for middle-grade readers. I promise there is something for everyone!

Best thing I’ve read this year and can’t stop talking about and think EVERY SINGLE PERSON should read because it’s the best (and worst) of humanity with nary a human in sight: The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

Best fast-paced book with a lasting message: Ghost by Jason Reynolds

Best villain EVER: Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

Best feel-good story on mistakes, consequences, and second chances with a solid helping of love: All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor

Best overarching depiction of 9/11 in a realistic narrative: Nine, Ten: a September 11 Story by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Best happy-dog-but-heartstrings-sad story of friendship: When Friendship Followed Me Home by Paul Griffin

Best magical realism: Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eager

Best action/adventure/historical fiction mash-up: Some Kind of Courage by Dan Gemeinhart

Best portrayal of the effects of addition on a family in a true middle-grade novel: The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner

Best “I wish I had this in middle school” illustrated novel: Frazzled by Booki Vivat

Best first two sentences of a novel “Let’s get this part over with – it’s no secret. My dog, Maxi, dies.”: Maxi’s Secret by Lynne Plourde

Best rum-running, fire-alarm-pulling, baby-toting main character: Full of Beans by Jennifer L Holm

Best true fantasy with a dash of folklore: The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

Best baseball book featuring a female protagonist (something that hasn’t happened since The Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson)The Distance to Home by Jenn Bishop

Best secondary characters who steal the show: Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo

Mock Newbery Book Club: a how-to

This is my year of TRY. As often as possible, I’m trying new things and getting out of my comfort zone.  In that vein I endeavored to start a Mock Newbery Book Club (M.N.B.C.) for my 4th and 5th graders.

Why? Because new books are exciting. Because anyone in grades 4 and 5 can participate. Because reading to answer rote questions is boring but reading and thinking and reading and conversing and reading is FUN. Because creating and defending opinions while conversing is a powerful tool.  Because I love talking new books with students…and they like reading and talking about new books, too. BECAUSE IT WAS TIME TO TRY SOMETHING NEW.

How it is working, in a timeline-style of way:

Research Mock Newbery and think of your school. (Aug/early Sep)

Our nominees:

Create a spreadsheet of titles/authors/prices. (mid-Sep)

  • Make it easy for people to say YES. Have a detailed budget. Plan for the cost at many levels (1 copy vs 4 copies). Here’s our Excel spreadsheet: mock-newbery-budget
  • Start thinking of how to pay for the books. DonorsChoose and PTA grants are two ways to get funding.
  • Start thinking of what you’ll do with the books after voting. Donate them to teachers? Giveaways for student readers? Something else?

Start building interest! (mid-Sep)

  • Write a Mock Newbery interest letter. Here’s mine: mock-newbery-interest-letter-generic
  • Send an overview email to teachers. Invite them to participate! Include your principal, too! (mid Sep)
  • Advertise upcoming interest meeting to students during library class. (mid Sep)
    • In my building, I hold interest meetings in order to informally assess the dedication students have to a club. They can only receive the sign-up form by attending the interest meeting.

Hold interest meeting. (mid-late Sep)

  • I hold mine during recess. Spending 15 minutes to hear about a book club has not been an issue in my school.  This year, over 60% of attendees ended up joining the club. The #1 reason for who didn’t join: the early 7:15am start time…but that wasn’t to be helped due to teaching/scheduling issues.

Buy the books and consider circulation. (late Sep)

  • By waiting to see how many students show up (and return) the interest letter, I can estimate how many copies we’ll need. This year, with 30 students and 4 teachers, I bought 4 copies of 10 books. Everyone is reading something at any given point in time.
  • How will the books circulate? I honestly didn’t know what to do here, so I gave this task to my students at our first meeting. They came up with a sign-out sheet idea and found a good space to store the M.N.B.C. titles in our library…all without using the computer. I wanted the books to be without barcodes (to facilitate donating / gifting) and the system to be very easy; hence, old-fashioned paper and pencil.

Now, it’s time for the meetings…and what is causing me some panic. Here’s what we’re doing each week. Note: in a perfect world, the start date would’ve been Oct 5…

  • Week 1: Oct 19, 2016
    • Overview of Newbery Medal from http://www.ala.org. I asked students what they knew about the medal and filled in from there.
    • Show M.N.B.C. titles. Booktalked Raymie Nightingale and Pax. Showed the book trailer for Some Kind of Courage. Thanks to Mrs. Hembree for the great trailer!
    • Come up with way to circulate/store M.N.B.C. books.
    • Hand out books to student readers!

  • Week 2: Oct 26, 2016
    • Review circulation of M.N.B.C. titles.
    • Review Newbery criteria from ALA.
    • Break out into small groups. Start discussing titles and noting opinions via informal rating form. mock-newbery-rating-sheet-generic Maybe one day, this’ll be organized on OneNote.
    • Hand out M.N.B.C. bookmarks!
  • Week 3: Nov 2, 2016
    • First book discussion and rating. Break apart into 3 groups. Talk/listen about each title. Compare reading to ALA’s standards.

Our principal even got in on the reading and discussing!

  • Week 4: Nov 9, 2016
    • More small-group book discussion. Prepare for next week’s Skype visit by brainstorming questions.
  • Week 5: Nov 16, 2016
    • Skype author visit! This year: Dan Gemeinhart talked about Some Kind of Courage.
      • Notice the stacked chairs? We did this during Book Fair week! And I’m holding my phone – my laptop wouldn’t connect to Skype, so my iPhone (and a Smartboard adapter) to the rescue!
  • Week 6: Nov 23, 2016
    • Book discussion
    • Thankful For Books – notes to Mock Newbery authors for Thanksgiving
  • Week 7: Nov 30, 2016
    • Online research: what does the Internet have to show for 2017 Newbery contenders?
    • Choose 1 additional title to add to Mock Newbery List (for us: The Girl Who Drank the Moon)
  • Week 8: Dec 7, 2016
    • Host guest from local library – Cecilia McGowan, 2018 Newbery Chair
  • Week 9: Dec 14, 2016
    • More book discussion!
  • Week 10: Jan 4, 2017
    • Book discussion
  • Week 11: Jan 11, 2017
    • Last week of discussion – write 1 sentence to persuade someone to read the book you like best
  • Week 12: Jan 18, 2017
    • VOTING WEEK!
  • Week 13: Jan 25, 2016
    • Final recap. Watch tape-delayed announcement. Be prepared to talk about winner that we didn’t choose 🙂

2016-2017 WCCPBA Nominees!

Hot of the press!

Here are the nominees for the 2016-2017 Washington Children’s Choice Picture Book Award.

When the list is first released, it’s titles/authors/publishers…which isn’t overly exciting.  Seeing the cover images brings the list to life!

A chunk of Summer 2016 will be spent reading the titles, then choosing a handful to create critical-thinking questions and/or extension learning activities.  So…of the books above, which 2-3 titles would YOU want to have questions/extension activities? Let me know!