Category Archives: Book Awards

The award goes to…

Awards.  If you know me, you know book awards are big events in my world.  My various social media accounts are witness to this: I shout from the rooftops and from behind the keyboard to celebrate honors bestowed upon the written word.  And on the occasion when I felt there were not enough awards for books, I went and created one.

So I do love awards.  For books.  But when it comes to people – to awards for librarians doing what they do – I get a bit quieter. Y’all, let me be real: as a professional, when I read the amazing, celebrated, award-lauded accomplishments of other librarians, I am in awe.  The awe is often followed by a ‘I am not good enough’ moment.  A ‘is there anything they don’t do?’ moment.  A ‘how on Earth do they do X-Y-and-Z when I can barely survive this day’ moment.  Please don’t get me wrong – I am inspired by my colleagues near and far and the innovative work they’re doing each and every day.  But the doubt, the comparison, is there and it’s real.  And maybe you, like me, have these moments.  So what do we do?

Reading the words of Theodore Roosevelt may help: “Comparison is the thief of joy.”   When we compare ourselves to others, we allow our joy to be taken away.  Ugh.  That’s awful-sounding.  We need more joy, less comparison.  

What we do in our libraries, with our resources, for our learners cannot be compared.  The joyful moments are there, big and small alike – moments where things work, when our students learn and ask and create and find.  Those awesome moments occur because of YOU.

So today, YOU win the Awesome Librarian Award.  Yes, YOU!  The first grader who you allowed to check out an extra book?  You win for kindness!  The third grader who remembered how to log in to Destiny?  You win for patience!  The teacher who asks for a recommendation for read-aloud?  You win for perseverance!  The child who shows up in the library early each morning just because?  You win for friendliness!  The colleagues who email requests at the last minute and you reply?  You win for timeliness!   The hours spent running a book fair, hosting book groups, organizing an author visit, starting a makerspace?  You win for passion!  The time you tried a new technology with students for the first time?  You win for courage!

For these and all the other moments that bring the library and literature to life: you win the Awesome Librarian Award (or The ALA…quite fitting, really).  You create joyful library moments.  You make a difference.  You win.  There is no comparison.

Stay strong, friends.  Finish the year with passion and as much energy as you can muster.  You are a winner, after all.

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 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



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:

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!

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 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
  • Week 13: Jan 25, 2016
    • Final recap. Watch tape-delayed announcement. Be prepared to talk about winner that we didn’t choose 🙂

Top 10 Fiction of 2016

The chapter books, as they’re often called, are the first thing you see when walking in our library. Shelves line the walls. Series sit off to one side. Sasquatch and OTTER Award titles are shown face-out on mobile carts and the circ desk. And we have multiple copies of state award nominees. These are our Top 10 Fiction from 2016.


10. Rump by Liesl Shurtliff

What kid doesn’t like a story called Rump? Or, for that matter, what adult? This was loved by many book groups this year. A 2016 Sasquatch nominee.


TIE 8. The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

Slightly scary and spooky = solid hit. With many high level readers in our building, this was huge among 4th and 5th graders. A 2016 Sasquatch nominee.


TIE 8. The Popularity Papers #2 by Amy Ignatow

No Wimpy Kid on this list…because most of my students own them. Popularity Papers, though, is the perfect read for fans of the series.


7. The Terrible Two by Jory John and Mac Barnett

Fact: I hand this book out to every kid I can. It’s funny. Clever. A perfect 8-12 read. Plus, Mac Barnett is one heck of a guy.


6. Jinx by Sage Blackwood

Yet another 2016 Sasquatch nominee. One of the smartest fantasies of the last couple of years…and the students agreed.


5. The Prairie Thief by Melissa Wiley

Never would I have imagined this to be in the top 10…but tons of 3rd graders read and loved it.  Or it could be the gnome on the cover. Gnomes are cool. A 2016 Sasquatch nominee.


4. The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale

Behold, the mighty Princess in Black! She slays the top five with the first book in her series. (Also: tons of boys love PiB. LOVE THIS!) An OTTER Award nominee.


3. Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown

The winner of the 2016 Sasquatch Award for WA State, this Star Wars spoof was in the right place at the right time. New Force Awakens movie = new generation primed for Star Wars everything. And this book delivered.


2. One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

“Page 32 will make you want to throw this book.”  That’s part of my booktalk, and a huge part of why so many students read up to page 32, then couldn’t put it down. A 2016 Sasquatch nominee.

tales-of-bunjitsu-bunny1.Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny by John Himmelman

This ninja-bunny slayed the year with over 100 circulations. The bold cover, short stories, and numerous illustrations made it a favorite of students from K to 5.  An OTTER Award nominee (and winner)!

Fore more Top 10 in 2016:

2016 Top 10 Nonfiction

2016 Top 10 Graphic Novels

Top 10 picture books of 2016

Everyone loves picture books. Yes, everyone. Even big kids.  Many 5th graders show up for Wednesday’s Lunch & Listen, featuring (you guessed it) picture books. But which titles were tops? Here are our Top 10 Picture Books of 2016.

I bet you notice something: there are an awful lot of Mo Willems titles on this list.  Yep, there are. And there are some reasons that we LOVE Mo. K’s do a “The Mo You Don’t Know” author study. The first graders (who know Mo) went to the Elephant and Piggie play at our local children’s theatre (after we wrote letters to persuade the 1st grade teachers at the end of K).  Lots of families went, too.  And did you see our library windows?!?

So…in the interest of sharing the picture book love, let’s see the Top 10 non-Mo Willems titles. To do that, we have to skip from #1 to #20…because Mo had 18 of the top 20 picture books of 2016 and 22 of the top 30. Let that sink in.

Wow. WOW!

Okay. Here we go. The Top 10 no-Mo Picture Books of 2016!

32. Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake by Michael B. Kaplan

This sassy bunny is one of my all-time favorite read-aloud titles. Sorry, Betty Bunny. No chocolate cake for you…

31. The Rescue Mission: LEGO Ninjago by Kate Howard

Ninjago. Chima. LEGO. These have broad appeal and are shelved as E LEGO to facilitate location by the little (and big) kids who can’t get enough of Kai, Cole and the ninja gang.

30. Mogie: the heart of the house by Kathi Appelt

One of our 2016 WCCPBA titles, Mogie’s adorable doggie face gets it picked up lickety-quick.

29. Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio

Another 2016 WCCPBA title, Gaston is one of those tiny dogs that elicit huge squeals of “He’s. So. Cute!” from multitutes of students. Predicting that the follow up Antoinette will be on this list in a  year or two.

28. Chester’s Masterpiece by Melanie Watt

Oh, Chester. You naughty kitty. With his ever-present red marker and sly face, this cat is king of the Melanie Watt titles (out-circulating Scaredy Squirrel in a surprise upset).

26. This is a Moose by Richard T. Morris

The third and highest placement of the 2016 WCCPBA titles.  Moose are popular among my students. The 5th graders are quite taken with any story featuring moose and will check them out. Plus, it’s downright funny. Tom Lichtenheld’s illustrations make this a must-see.

24. Glamourpuss by Sarah Weeks

Pink cover. Glamorous cat. Need I say more? This checks out the moment it gets put on display.

23. Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman

Is there another cover that screams “pick me up and read me now” quite like this one? Nope. Can’t think of any other covers with a pink bunny suit-wearing wolf.

20. The Gingerbread Man Loose in School by Laura Murray

One of those reads by K/1 teachers in the fall that moves off the shelf all year long.  We have 2 copies, plus the others in the series.

1. The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt

Oh, you crayons. You just don’t quit. You won last year’s 2015 WCCPBA Award. You are read in the fall by many k, 1, 2 teachers. And even though lots of students own you, they still check you out. That’s a #1 title for sure!

For more winners:

2016 Top 10 Nonfiction

2016 Top 10 Graphic Novels

Top 10 graphic novels of 2016

Our graphic novels reside in the nonfiction section, taking take up two shelves during the school year…two mostly-empty shelves.  But don’t be fooled. Our GN collection is massive. MASSIVE.

When they were returned at the end of they year, they would have taken up a full 5 shelves! They sit on top of the bookcase until the fall, when the shelves will be empty within days. With over 100 different titles in constant rotation, graphic novels are the workhorses in our library. These are our top 10 GN’s of 2016.

10.Explorer: the hidden doors edited by Kazu Kibuishi

Kazu Kibuishi visited our school in February. Afterwards, every GN with Kazu’s name on it was hot-hot-hot.

8. Bone: Crown of Horns by Jeff Smith

Jeff Smith, the longtime king of GN’s, came in tied with his friend/fan Kazu (below) with #9 in the Bone series. I bet he’d rather wear a crown of horns than thorns at his coronation.

8. Amulet #2: the stonekeeper’s curse by Kazu Kibuishi

The Stonekeeper’s Curse in our school: books circulate…then get “lost”…then get replaced…then go “missing”…replaced again…and circulate some more.

7. Drama by Raina Telgemeier

The royal family of GN creators wouldn’t be complete without Raina. Drama, which has some mature content, is usually read and received with love and support.

6. Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

Sisters was sold at our book fair two years ago. We sold over 50 copies that year…and more this year.  Probably the reason it comes in at #6.

5. Big Nate Out Loud by Lincoln Peirce

Big Nate is half of the reason the 5th grade boys come to library with spring in their step. They know we’ve always got the newest title in the series.

4. Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke

Zita! You former Sasquatch Nominee! With 4 copies of this on our shelf, she continues to circulate years after appearing on the award list.

3.Smile by Raina Telgemeier

The GN that made autobiographies cool. Kids LOVE the honesty of Raina. Predicting she’ll have 4 books on next year’s list (Ghosts comes out in September!)

2. Amulet #1: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi

Remember that visit by Kazu? This book had more holds on it than any other title before/after his visit. We had 3 copies. We’re down to 2…and 1 needs replacing.

1. Monster on the Hill by Rob Harrell

Okay. So you’re wondering how this eclipsed the other titles? A few reasons: it was a 2016 Sasquatch Nominee… there were 6 copies to circulate… students were invested in reading nominees to vote…and it was the only GN on the nominee list.

For more winners:

2016 Top 10 Nonfiction