Category Archives: New in 2016

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!

Du Iz Tak?

There’s been a lot of  buzz about Carson Ellis’s newest picture book, Du Iz Tak?: it seems like every journal, Best Of list, and bookstore has it listed as a top picture books of the year.

Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis

You may have noticed that it wasn’t part of my Best Of 2016 list (it’s there now).  Yes, I’d read the book. It took longer expected, for a book having so few “words” (we’ll get to those in a moment).  My verdict: it was okay. Not Best Of worthy. I could leave it.

But I hadn’t stopped thinking about the book (there’s a sign).  So last night, we read it during Family Story Time.  Telling J&H (ages 9&7) that it had no real words in it piqued their interest. And 25 minutes later, we sat back, completely amazed and blown away by what Ellis created…and I admitted I was wrong.  This book is so, so worth of Best Of honors.

Let’s start with the illustrations. Ellis shows readers the passage of time – and the unfurling of Mother Nature’s gifts – with a simple, accessible ease. Grass grows, characters enter and exit with appropriate speed, seeds fall (then grow), seasons change. The cycle of life is clear, which is needed in order to make sense of the words.

The words – yes, words. You can read this story of 100% nonsense words…with a little work. And that was what made this book a grand slam to my kids. Du Iz Tak?, in our house, translated to What Is That?  Look at the cover: two insects (or oodas, as we figured out), one pointing at the green sprout – and a question mark as punctuation. It *had* to be asking What Is That?  As we read, flipping pages back and forth, we slowly figured out Ellis’s language. Using body language and gestures as well as capitalization and punctuation, we deciphered the insect’s conversation. What an exemplary example of using text features/illustrations to infer language. And for students working on decoding…it doesn’t get any better. This book is a teaching dream.

My gut says that sharing it as a whole-class read-aloud maybe tricky, but it’s totally doable. Maybe share on a doc cam would work well – to allow all to really “see” the illustrations. I’d certainly read it twice: first, without stopping, having children really pay attention to the pictures. The second time, we’d try to figure out the language. I think it’d be super-fun AND educational. Imagine pairing with an insect unit!

Fantasy. Insect Story.  ©2016.  Recommended for ages 6+. Plan on spending 20+minutes reading – and thinking through – this one.

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

Best of 2016: Picture Books

The end of 2016 has seen much upheaval and change…both in the big picture and my own little life.  But the year can’t end without a Best of 2016 Booklist – or two or three.  Because writing and sharing Best Of lists is a wonderful reminder of what was great about the past year…and there were some wonderful moments in picture books.

Here are my Best Picture Books of 2016

Best for teaching and understanding perspective: They All Saw A Cat by Brendan Wenzel

Best book to read twice – once for the pictures, then again for the endpapers: This Is Not a Picture Book by Sergio Ruzzier

Best to share with a friend: We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen

Best use of gutters to show the feeling of shyness: Shy by Deborah Freedman

Best for those who need to slow down and count their blessings: Penguin Problems by Jory John

Best read-aloud for the preschool crowd: Little Penguins by Cynthia Rylant

Best for those who want solitude and are willing to go to great lengths to get it: Leave Me Alone! by Vera Brosgol

Best bedtime story since The Napping House: It Is Not Time for Sleeping by Lisa Graff

Best for first-time or nervous air travelers of any age: The Airport Book by Lisa Brown

Best use of an inanimate object to encourage selfless kindness: It Came in the Mail by Ben Clanton

Best step-by-step book: Lion Lessons by Jon Agee

Best back-to-school book EVER…from the school’s perspective to boot: School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex

Best “wait one minute…that’s not what was suppose to happen!” book: A Hungry Lion (or a dwindling assortment of animals) by Lucy Ruth Cummins

Best explanation of math concepts for the young crowd: The Cookie Fiasco by Dan Santat

Best ending to a beloved series: The Thank You Book by Mo Willems

Best to share with to anyone who questions the true meaning of love: Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian

Best for showing the ups and downs of friendship: Best Frints in the Whole Universe by Antoinette Portis

Best book I missed the first go-around…and best for teaching decoding and inference: Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis

Looking for other Best Of 2016 lists? Check out the brilliance of: