Have you seen this book yet?

Why Sagging Bookshelves?

I have been creating an annual “best of the year” list for almost 20 years now. I’ve decided to enter the blogging world in order to talk about my favorite books in a more timely manner, address some issues that come up in the world of children’s books, and to share information about what is coming up in this world of books.

I am Joan Kindig and I am a professor at James Madison University where I teach Children’s Literature, Young Adult Literature, and a variety of Reading courses. I have served on the Newbery, the Caldecott, the Carnegie, and the Odyssey Awards. I am an incurable bookaholic.


Where Are You Going, Baby Lincoln? by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen

Kate DiCamillo has two books this year – so far, anyway….Raymie Nightingale and now the latest one 518Ukr+t+nL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_from Deckawoo Drive. When I crack open one of DiCamillo’s books I can’t wait to find out what wild and wonderful names she has created for her characters. She doesn’t disappoint this time – the latest name of note is Calaband Darsh. I love it! But there’s more to this transitional novel then another great name. In this one, Baby Lincoln finally leaves her overbearing sister Eugenia behind and sets out into the world on her own. But is Baby really ready? I hadn’t thought of it as a coming of age story because, well, Baby Lincoln is no spring chicken.:-)  But it is, isn’t it?  Baby has set off to discover herself and widen her world and darned if she doesn’t do it. The art, as always, helps create the unusual world of  Deckawoo Drive – a place I hope we will be visiting again soon!

Skunk on a String by Thao Lam

When a skunk is spot51-wjQyJ9FL._SY406_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgted among the floats during a parade, panic ensues. After all, skunks are not known for being the life of the party, are they? But poor skunk is not a float – he got caught in the balloon’s string and is unable to steer his balloon. What will happen and who will help him return to earth? This is a wordless picture book so readers have to look carefully at the pictures to get the story. Much of the story is told in skunk’s eyes which make it clear he is not where he intended to be! Skunk eventually saves himself but…wait….what is he up to now? This is a fun “read” for little ones and a great way to get them writing about where their balloon would take them.

Little Penguins by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Christian Robinson

Another gem! Put together two artists with a Newbery and a Caldecott between them and this is what you get…perfection! Five little51udZlcf2VL._SY388_BO1,204,203,200_ penguins look out the window of the igloo and see the first snowflakes starting to fall. Every child knows the thrill that the promise of a real snowstorm brings. The penguins get their boots, their mittens, and matching scarves and off they go to explore. Then it’s back to the house with Mama followed by jammies, cookies, and a sippy – off to bed. Winter has arrived! Rylant’s prose is lovely and evocative and Robinson’s art is splendid in cut paper collage and acrylics. I love the three penguins on the cover forming a perfect triangle – a stable image that readies the reader for the journey ahead. It’s gorgeous! Christian Robinson isn’t yet thirty and he won both Coretta Scott King and Caldecott awards. Watch out for him.

Think about pairing Little Penguins with Pak’s Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn when talking about seasons. They are perfect together.

Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn by Kenard Pak


I like everything about this book and know that both children and teachers will love it. I was unaware of Pak’s work until someone asked me who created the cover art for Patricia MacLachlan’s newest, The Poet’s Dog. I knew he was an artist to look for. Consisting entirely of double-paged spreads, the story follows a child walking throughout his/her town and saying hello to all the creatures and plant life she encounters. There is always a reply from each thus providing their own particular point of view. Not only does this show children the slow, steady , and inevitable change of the seasons nut what happens to the animals and other living things as the transition occurs. The double-paged spreads are a perfect way of pulling your eye along on the child’s journey. This is one of those books where the art and the story completely dovetail. It’s just gorgeous. It comes out on August 16th just in time for back-to-school when the summer is, in fact, leaving and autumn will be arriving.

¡Olinguito, de la A ala Z! by Lulu Delacre


This is an extraordinary Alphabet book for all children and is an essential buy for all schools and libraries. It’s an alphabet book but so much more. First of all, it is in Spanish and English and, wonder of wonders, the Spanish comes first. Take that English supremacy!!! 🙂

Second of all, the alphabet is part of a larger story. The creature, the Olinguito, is the most recently identified new mammal in the cloud forest in Ecuador and readers explore the forest with a Lulu Delacre is such a lovely writer and her commitment to sharing her language of origin, Spanish, shines in this book.  I learned so much! As Delacre takes us through the cloud forest she presents the flora and the fauna along the way and then identifies and explains each of them in the back matter. That is an author who cares about the child reader and knows what they will be wondering about.

This is an alphabet book, a bilingual story, a habitat book, a non-fiction book, and it is all beautifully illustrated with graphic paintings and collage. This book has something for absolutely everyone!

A Child’s First Book of Trump


When I first saw the publisher of this book holding it up for all to see on Facebook I had a very scary moment when I thought perhaps Justin Chanda had gone over to the dark side. Thankfully his feet are fully on the side of the light and this book is priceless. Written by the actor/comedian Michael Ian Black in a Seuss-like rhyme pattern, the Trump is a rare species out in the wild. This book, then, is the field guide to tracking the wild Trump. Of course, it’s not terribly difficult because the Trump will run towards any TV camera he happens to see. This is a hilarious parody. An excerpt:

“The beasty is called an American Trump.

It’s skin is bright orange, its figure is plump;

Its fur so complex, you might get enveloped.

Its hands are, sadly, underdeveloped.”

And just look at that cover illustration – a perfect match for the topic and tone. Remember, this is a parody and, as such, is aimed at adults for the most part. You have got to check it out!

I’m back….finally!

Last-Stop-Medals    51VWEvDVrkL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg images-1.jpeg  51p6slAmTyL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Here it is July 21st and I am finally getting around to blogging once again. I have been posting about some outstanding books on Facebook but, in the end, I think it is worthwhile opening this blog back up.

If not for anything else than to talk about my extraordinary experience on Newbery. I have posted the winner above followed by the three honors in no particular order. You should read or listen to each and every one of them right away! Interesting that I point out listening because two of the Newbery Honor winners walked away with Odyssey Awards as well! The War That Saved My Life, read by Jayne Entwistle (narrator extraordinaire), won the main award and the multi-voiced Echo won the Honor. Echo stands out for the harmonica music (see below) that flows in and out throughout the book as well as marvelous narrators. Both were absolutely extraordinary!

As you can see, our committee chose a picture book, Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De la Pena, as the Newbery winner. Of course, it didn’t hurt that the book has spectacular art by Christian Robinson either. I have heard some chatter about the appropriateness of a picture book for the Newbery but I should point out that the age range for Newbery consideration is 0-14. That is quite an age span, isn’t it? In addition, picture books have won before. Does that surprise you? Two that come to mind are Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson in 2006 and Nancy Willard for A Visit to William Blake’s Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers in 1982.

And what about that crazy year when The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick won the 2008 Caldecott Award? I think looking outside the box is a good thing. Of course, I served on that committee as well. 🙂

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley is an astonishing read (there is no one I have given it to that hasn’t loved it, truth to tell) set during WWII in London during the Blitzkrieg. Ada has a club foot and is unable to leave her flat to go to school or see her little corner of the world up close. Her mother is a nightmare but it is actually the evacuation of children to the countryside that changes the course of Ada’s young life. The road is diffcult, to be sure, but the journey is so worth reading.

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan was amazing as well. It’s also set during the WWII era and focuses on three different children whose lives are altered by the war. Believe it or not, the story connects these characters by a harmonica. Who would have thought it! The harmonica starts off in Germany at the factory where it is made and played by a young boy, Friedrich, living in fear of persecution. It next appears with two boys in an orphanage in Pennsylvania. Mike becomes entranced with the harmonica and hopes it will help him earn money to keep his brother safe. Ivy Lopez moves around a lot in California following the crops that need to be tended to. Ultimately they find themselves caring for a small farm whose owners are incarcerated at a Japanese Internment camp. The interconnectivity of the plot provides cliffhangers that will keep any young reader engaged.

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson is in a category all its own. It’s a coming of age story that follows Astrid as she realizes that she and her best friend are growing apart. Nicole loves ballet and Astrid follows her lead. But when Astrid’s mother takes them to a roller derby match, Astrid is hooked? What happens to the friendship? Can we change and still be friends? Astrid works her rear end off all summer learning roller derby and while she finds that it has its challenges, she loves it. Kudos to the author for not making her the best at it and tying it all up in a bow at the end. All this, by the way, in a graphic novel format. The cover alone sells this novel and the what’s in between the cover dazzles.

Now we are all on to reading the next great books and I already have some great ones to share with you. More soon!

Sagging Bookshelves and the Newbery

I haven’t posted anything yet for 2015 and it’s not entirely because I am lazy. 🙂

I have the great honor to be serving on the Newbery Committee for 2016. That means I will be reading all of the books that come out from January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2015. My committee will announce our winners in January 2016. Hence it is referred to as the 2016 Newbery committee.

The American Library Association has a “conflict of interest” policy to ensure that no one on the acting committees (Newbery, Caldecott, etc.) has any connections or are beholden in any way to publishers. It is imperative that the awards remain as pure as they always have been. The down side is that it means I cannot post reviews or put anything in print about any book that comes out in 2015. Heartbreaking for all of you , I know! 🙂 Doing so could possibly taint the award and I absolutely do not want to do that. It’s too important.

I will post this coming year. I’ll mention books that I discovered from 2014 that are great and I will certainly post my Best of the Year.

I have my first Newbery Award committee meeting in Chicago before long. At that meeting I will get specifics about what I can put in print and what I can’t. I will report back to you when I get these clarifications.

For now, happy 2015 reading! It should be a great year.

The Nerdy Book Club

The Nerdy Book Club is a website for readers and devotees of children’s and young adult literature. The site was created by four educators –  Donalyn Miller (The Book Whisperer), Colby Sharp, Katherine Sokolowski, and Cindy Minnich – all of whom use children’s and YA literature in their classrooms. These teachers  know what they’re talking about! The website can be found at:

Check it out – it has so many resources to investigate. In particular, now is the time that the NBC (Nerdy Book Club not the TV channel!) shares their best of the year lists. Lots of outlets create lists and it’s fun to look at them all and notice the commonalities and disparities. Here are three that are worth looking at:



School Library Journal:

My own list will be coming in January and will be found in a post on this site. In the meantime, click on the link above for The Nerdy Book Club’s best of the year lists. You will find some great titles there for your classroom.

Eye to Eye: How Animals See the World by Steve Jenkins

You’re probably sick of me writing still another great review of a Steve Jenkins book. Well, too bad, I say! This recent book looks at the eyes of creatures we know of (in some cases) but have never looked carefully at. It’s all about using our eyes, isn’t it. As usual, Jenkins uses paper collage to illustrate his strong text and, as usual, I am blown away but how amazing his art is.


In Eye to Eye, he tells the reader that there are four kinds of eyes at the outset which allows children to put each eye in the book into context. He provides a close up view of the eye on each page but also provides a collaged image of what the whole creature looks like. I love the design of the book – each page is consistent in its design and is appealing throughout. He focuses (no pun intended) on eyes in this book and in a way that is really compelling to children. There is abundant backmatter that scientists-to-be will pore over. It’s that kind of book. I swear you can never go wrong with a Jenkins book and this new one makes my point perfectly.

Post Navigation