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Archive for the month “June, 2014”

Pediatric Group to Recommend Reading Aloud to Children From Birth – New York Times

Here’s a link to a wonderful story in the New York Times today. The American Academy of Pediatrics has announced that they will recommend that all children are read aloud to from the time they are born. There are a heck of a lot of teachers out there that will be saying, “Amen!” when they see this.


Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything


Teachers are always looking for new books to help with what they need to teach in their classrooms. In Virginia, Thomas Jefferson tops that list. Maira Kalman has created a terrific picture book biography of our third president that covers all facets of his life and does so in a measured, non-judgmental way. Jefferson was a remarkable man and this biography addresses all of his interests (music, books, farming, etc.), his political successes (the Constitution), and his personal life at Monticello. Sally Hemings is mentioned in a way that teachers will feel comfortable presenting. Scattered throughout are quotes from Jefferson and humorous asides from the author. Kalman’s art (think Fireboat, What Pete Ate) is so striking – I just love her palette. This is the most balanced and most interesting book for children on Jefferson and I would recommend it to all teachers and librarians. Check it out!

Bob Shea – A Banner Year

Unless my math is wrong (and it could easily be), Bob Shea has three books out this year…so far! What genius! (or perhaps he’s just showing off?) You’ll have to decide for yourself by going out and buying all three. 🙂

9781423168072_p0_v2_s600In January came Buddy and the Bunnies in: Don’t Play with your Food. Another very funny book for the ages 4-8 crowd, this one centers around the adage, “Don’t play with your food.” In this book, however, he means it literally. It’s a hoot.


Just out is the latest in the Dinosaur series, Dinosaur versus School, in which Dinosaur starts kindergarten. He’s got to make friends, do arts & crafts, and other kindergarten rituals. Dinosaur is a force unto himself in school or out but, roar, roar, roar, Dinosaur wins! This is so much fun to read aloud if you’re willing to put some oomph into it. Kids love Dinosaur and I do too.


Some time back, Bob Shea was teamed up with the incredible Lane Smith to create this crazy wonderful book, Big Plans.  I think it was a match made in….well, the publishers office, but they really are completely on the same page. Everything about this book was fun including the large trim size. The two have teamed up again, this time with a Western complete with a lawman named Kid Sheriff. I was searching for an image and found this wonderful review of the book at a site called geekdad. Click here to read a review far better than I can write.


This hilarious Western from an 8 year-old’s viewpoint comes out in October but it’s worth the wait. Never fear, I’ll remind you when the book comes out.

My New Friend is So Fun! by Mo Willems

Oh, that Mo – he’s done it yet again. I have loved the Elephant & Piggie books since the very first one. Mo has nailed beginning readers from the start. Friendship is the biggest deal to young children who happen to be setting out to read. (This is followed closely by losing their first tooth in about 2nd grade.) But there are plenty of books about friendship so what makes E&P so good? I love the repetition that is done so unobtrusively and the absolute hilarity of the stories. Kids love to laugh! The books are so well written and so appealing in the apparent simplicity of the drawings. Kids go back to them time and time again. And it’s that practice that turns them into readers.

My favorite!

My favorite!

Teachers love the books because they like to laugh too. Wasn’t it Mary Poppins who said “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down?” So true in this case – kids want to read the books and reading them again and again is just what they need to do. With my classes of teacher candidates we always do Reader’s Theater with the books. I have two or three of each title (they really are inexpensive) and my students love it. So many have emailed me from their classrooms and talk about how successful it was with their kids. I love it. I will have to admit that I stole the idea from Mo himself who, along with Brian Selznick, performed one of the books at a conference. It was brilliant.

Jealousy rears its ugly head in this latest offering. Piggy is spending a lot of time with Brian Bat. Elephant and Brian’s best friend, Snake, begin to think they have lost their best friends. Won’t kids love this set up? I can’t tell you how it ends but all’s well that ends well. It’s perfect.


I spoke to Mo’s publisher, Stephanie Lurie, at BEA and I asked her how many he plans on making. Initially I thought that six was the goal. Now Mo has decided to do 25 and this is the 21st. I’ll hate it when he stops but completely understand that he needs and wants to go on to other things. What will he think of next?

According to Barnes&, the next one is due in November and will be called Waiting Is Not Easy!


Day of Dialog: Part II

Day of Dialog continued on into the afternoon after time for lunch. Garth Nix, the Australian writer of Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen, gave a wonderful talk and gave us some insight into the next book in that fantasy series, Clariel. If you like full blown high fantasy, check out this series.

9780061561559_p0_v2_s600The panel on The Unreliable YA Narrator was marvelous. Authors Jody Lynne Anderson, Alaya Dawn Johnson. E. Lockhart, Barry Lyga, and Meg Wolitzer discussed the usefulness and purpose of the unreliable narrator in their fiction. I love unreliable narrators because it adds some edginess to the story. When you begin suspecting the narrator is feeding you a story, you can’t help but interact with the book. Barry Lyga’s series about the son of a serial killer who is fearful of becoming just like dear old dad is awesome and the narrator is a little suspect. First came I Hunt Killers followed by Game.  Soon they will be followed by Lucky Day and I can’t wait to read it.



E. Lockhart, author of a number of strong YA titles including The Boyfriend List, has a new book out called We Were Liars which follows a family as they begin to disintegrate. What happened? Our narrator isn’t sure herself so are we to surmise? She does eventually finish her story but it did not end how I thought it would.

9780385741262_p0_v3_s260x420The last panel featured Lois Ehlert, Chris Raschka, Peter Sis, and Raina Telgemeier whose books tell the story of (in order…) of her life, the life of jazz musician Sun Ra, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, and herself. Did you follow that? Lois Ehlert has done a magnificent autobiography called The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life. It is Lois’s life to a T. Her artwork throughout comes from many of her books and it tells her story of creating art from the time she was a child. It is a great introduction to autobiography for children and it’s just a great story of a great woman. Isn’t it gorgeous?


Chris Raschka has created a biography of Sun Ra – a kind of crazy, experimental jazz performer illustrated with his signature art. There is something about Raschka’s art that really draws me in. It has movement, the colors are bold, and the tone is as wild as Sun Ra himself. It’s called The Cosmobiography of Sun Ra and is one of a number of books he has done on jazz musicians.


Peter Sis is an amazing book creator. He has won so many awards including the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship. His latest book tackles the life of the author of The Little Prince.  It is called The Pilot and the Little Prince: The Life of Antoine de Saint-Exupery. There was lots I didn’t know about his life, that’s for sure. Sis’s intricate and detailed art is mind-boggling. It is beyond gorgeous. As with other books he’s done, this one has layers of information. Think of his book, The Wall. You can read the story or you can pore over the art and read snippets of Saint-Exupery’s life. It really is fascinating.

9780374380694_p0_v1_s260x420Last but certainly not least is graphic novelist extraordinaire, Raina Telgemeier. The first book of hers I read was Smile which chronicled her own life as a middle school student with a mouth full of braces. It was by turns funny and kind of sad. You really felt the character’s pain. Next came Drama in which a character wants desperately to be part of the drama group in school but, sadly, she’s a little lean on talent. Again, ouch! Now comes her latest which I just loved, Sisters. She wished for a sister and she got one but not the one she had romanticized in her head. This autobiographical graphic novel explores the strange relationship that sisters sometimes have. It really was terrific and middle school kids will love this one. Treat yourself on this one!


The fabulous day concluded with a book signing with all of the authors that spoke earlier in the day. Did I mention that all the books were free? It really was a wonderful and insightful day. I’m going next year!



Update on Eugene Yelchin’s Arcady’s Goal

I got the chance to meet Eugene Yelchin at BEA and he is the most delightful man. Before I even got to BEA I received an email from Eugene with an image attached of his new book that I mentioned in an earlier post, Arcady’s Goal, which I loved. I couldn’t find an image online so, thanks to Mr. Yelchin, here it is!

arcadys-goal-bookjacket_smIt comes out October 4th so put that date on your calendar!

BEA: Where to Start?

Book Expo America comes around once a year in late May, early June and it is an extravaganza of books. It’s pricey to spend a few days in New York but they do offer hotels that make it a bit more palatable (gulp!). I have to say, it’s worth the money.

On Wednesday, May 28th, School Library Journal hosted their annual Day of Dialog.  It costs about $35 and for that you get an amazing day of presentations by children’s and YA authors on a variety of subjects. In addition, the publishers do short presentations about what is coming out this summer and fall. Check out the schedule of this year’s event:

This year we started off with Jacqueline Woodson who has a new book coming called Brown Girl Dreaming (pub. date August 28, 2014). She read from the book and gave some background on it – it was such a great speech. The book? 9780399252518_p0_v1_s600-1She has created one of the most impressive autobiographies I have ever read. First of all, it is written in verse and, let me tell you, it is exquisite. Her story is that of a child of the Civil Rights movement and the South and a large, loving family that envelopes her to this day. It is amazing. Here she is signing ARCs of the book later in the day.


Next came a panel on Wordless Picture Books (WPB). Take a minute and think…all of the Caldecott Honor books this year were Wordless Picture Books (or nearly). David Wiesner’s Mr. Wuffles!, Molly Idle’s Flora and the Flamingo,  and Aaron Beckers’ Journey all won Caldecott Honors. That has never happened before. Teachers like WPB because they rely on visual literacy, not the actual ability to read. Yet there is a story there and practice in understanding stories and story structure is incredibly beneficial to children. If a child is having difficulty reading, a WPB is just the thing for them. The art itself is phenomenal so kids will become engrossed on that level as well. And perhaps they will write their own story?

Arron Becker did Journey. Here’s the book and here’s Aaron signing. He’s such a nice guy and so talented. He has a new WPB coming called Quest.  Can’t wait!




Molly Idle was terrific. I swear she is always smiling. Her Caldecott Honor was Flora and the Flamingo and it’s a wonderful wordless story of Flora and the dance of imitation she does with a flamingo. The art is beautiful. She has a new one coming in late September called Flora and the Penguin and it looks terrific. Here are  the two titles…I neglected to get a photo of Molly although here’s a shot of the entire panel. Molly, obviously is second from the left. Raul Colon (WPB is Draw! comes out in September) is far left, Molly, Aaron Becker, and Bob Staake (Bluebird).




The morning continued with a fabulous panel on Diversity in Middle Grade Fiction. It’s a terrible photo but here’s the panel from left to right: Brenda Woods, Kwame Alexander, Raul Gonzalez, Coe Booth, and Kat Yeh. They were awesome! Brenda has the most wonderful novel this year that I absolutely loved, The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond.  Kwame has a new book out called The Crossover, written in verse, and it has gotten rave reviews. That’s next on my list! Raul has an illustrated story book called Lowriders in Space.  Does that sound like something middle school readers will go for? Coe Booth has done two books that I really think highly of, Tyrell and Kendra. These are set in the inner city and the stories are very gritty and realistically done. Her new one is Kinda Like Brothers and I am expecting great things from it. Lastly, was Kat Yeh who has a new book coming called The Truth About Twinkie Pie. I was so impressed by Kat and can’t wait to read the ARC.





Are your appetites whetted? 🙂 More tomorrow in the Day of Dialog and BEA. There was a ton of things going on!

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