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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.

What are middle schoolers reading?

One of my students in my YA Lit class was recently in his middle school practica working with the kids. His cooperating teacher was clearly all about getting her kids reading and offered them some great titles. Ji decided to write down a bunch of the titles and I thought I would share them with you. Notice there is not one Dickens on the list! 🙂

  • Roar – Emma Clayton
  • The Lightning Thief – Rick Riordan
  • Wonder – R.J. Palacio
  • endangered – Eliot Schrefer
  • The Son of Neptune – Rick Riordan
  • Seekers – Erin Hunter
  • The 21 Balloons – William Pene du Bois
  • Brown Girl Dreaming – Jacqueline Woodson
  • I’d Tell You I Love You But Then I’d Have to Kill You – Ally Carter
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid – Jeff Kinney
  • Paper Towns – John Green
  • Joey Pigza series – Jack Gantos
  • Twilight series – Stephanie Meyer
  • The Night Gardener – Jonathan Auxier
  • Ripley’s Believe it or Not
  • Maze Runner – James Dashner
  • The Strange Case of the Origami Yoda – Tom Angleberger
  • Dragonbreath series – Ursula Vernon
  • Vet Volunteers series – Laurie Halse Anderson
  • Books by Gordon Korman
  • Books by Mike Lupica (sports stories)
  • Divergent – Veronica Roth
  • Eragon – Christopher Paolini
  • All the “Percy Jackson” books – Rick Riordan
  • All the Alex Rider books – Anthony Horowitz (adventure)
  • Maximum Ride – James Patterson
  • Many Gary Paulsen titles
  • Wonderstruck – Brian Selznick
  • Many Neal Shusterman titles
  • Many Roland Smith titles (adventure)
  • Maggie Stiefvater titles
  • The Sisters Grimm – Michael Buckley
  • Scott Westerfeld titles
  • Chasing Lincoln’s Killer – James Swanson
  • The Nazi Hunters – Neal Bascomb
  • Bulu: African Wonder Dog – Dick Houston
  • The Boy on the Wooden Box – Leon Leyson
  • Blue Lipstick: Concrete Poems – John Grandits (poetry)
  • Sarah Dessen titles
  • Bone series – Jeff Smith (graphic novel series)

The range of genres and formats is inviting to all readers in her classroom, she also has varying degrees of reading difficulty represented thereby ensuring everyone in her classroom can actually read books, and by all reports they are reading like mad. More reading equals better readers which provides the students a real chance at becoming lifelong readers and learners.

The National Book Award Finalist announcement on October 15th!

Tomorrow we find out which of the ten books on the long list for YA fiction will survive the cut. The list will be down to five finalists and, from there, will come one winner. That winner will be announced at a benefit dinner on November 19th in New York. I grabbed this announcement from the National Book Award web site so that you can all tune in tomorrow to find out the five finalists:

On October 15, at 8:40am ET, the Finalists for the National Book Awards for Young People’s Literature, Poetry, Nonfiction, and Fiction will be revealed exclusively on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Very Exciting!

National Book Festival Recap

The National Book Festival was a bit different this year since it moved from the Mall to a nearby convention center. Some liked it because it took weather out of the equation but, for me, the Book Festival was meant to be on the Mall. Sitting in the tents listening to fabulous authors and seeing the monuments around us made it magical. It also sent a clear message that this nation believes in books and reading. In the convention center, not so much! 🙂

As always, there was a smorgasbord of authors to choose from on the program. I started out with Kate DiCamillo, the current National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, and she was terrific. Because of Winn-Dixie will always be a favorite of mine. Rather than doing a canned speech she interacted with the audience – especially children – and the audience ate it up. She is a hoot in person and she calls it as she sees it. I thought she was terrific.


Next was one of my favorite picture book author/illustrators, Peter Brown. He won a Caldecott Honor for Creepy Carrots, if you recall. I love his The Curious Garden and Mr. Tiger Goes Wild. He has a new book out called My Teacher is a Monster which focuses on one boy’s perception of his teacher. But he does fly paper airplanes in class so maybe his perception is a bit off? 🙂 Peter did a great presentation and he had the full attention of the children there.


A treat was to follow with the always inspiring Bryan Collier. If you haven’t read his first book, Uptown,  in a while you need to go back and revisit it. It really is a masterful picture book. I love hearing him read it aloud. He also read aloud Knock Knock, his book with Daniel Beaty which deals with the loss a son feels when his father exits his life. It’s incredible and Bryan’s art brings it to a whole other level.


Jack Gantos was back again and again he had everyone laughing in the aisles. Jack won the Newbery for Dead End in Norvelt and, if you’ve read that, you’ll know that he knows humor. He has just published the final Joey Pigza book called The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza. I love the Joey Pigza books (“Can I get back to you on that?” is one of the great quotes from book #1) and am really looking forward to reading this last installment. He also has done the audio versions of his books and they are fantastic. Treat yourself!


One of our best writers for children, middle grades, and young adults is Jacqueline Woodson. She has won the Coretta Scott King, the Newbery, and just about every other award she has been eligible for. She is a treasure in the world of children’s books. I absolutely love her work. This year she has published a memoir, written in verse, that is outstanding. It follows her life from Ohio to North Caroline, and finally Brooklyn, New York and all the nuances of the times she grew up in. It’s wonderful. She read aloud some of the poems and it was such a treat to hear the poems in her own voice.


Lastly I went to see Susan Stockdale whose latest book, Stripes of All Types, captivates young children. I love her books. Her illustrations are so bold and the language describing these stripes in nature is lyrical. I was so captivated by her talk (author visit anyone?) that I forgot to take a photo. I emailed Susan and got this one that a friend of hers took. Take a look at her books – they will be ideal for classrooms Pre-K to 2nd (at least).

UnknownAll in all a great day. Be looking for an announcement here when the Book Festival rolls around again. It is free and it is fantastic. Oh, and I should mention that books are sold and the authors are available for signing. What a great day out for families and what a great souvenir to remember the day – a signed book!

Talking Books at Target

I really was just trying to get some milk from the dairy case….really. I happened to overhear two lovely women talking about their middle school children and how they might choose appropriate books for them to read. I couldn’t resist and (probably rudely) inserted myself into their conversation. They are right. How do you, as a parent, select appropriate books for your child? Their kids had already read books like Tom Angleberger’s Origami Yoda  series and were looking for something a bit more challenging. But these women didn’t want them reading beyond their own life experience. They sounded like very sensible parents.

I told them about this blog and I hope they take a look. (Hi!) Here are some resources that might help:

Capitol Choices – click here for the description of this excellent book list and the group that produces it. It’s a WONDERFUL resource.


I published a book called Choosing to Read: Connecting Middle Schoolers with Books (Heinemann, 2012) that features lists of books that appeal to middle school kids.


The American Library Association has a web presence at that offers full lists of books for reluctant teen readers, the Newbery winners, Caldecott winners, Printz winners (for YA), and numerous others. It’s a great way to look at what has received recognition over the years. Don’t just look at the titles, though; notice authors whose names tend to come up again and again. It’s likely their work is strong enough to merit multiple mentions.

I also mentioned my Best Bets for the Classroom lists and adding them to this blog has been on my list of things to do. I will make that a priority.

That’s all for now. I may add to this and create a new category when time permits. 🙂

The National Book Festival


This coming Saturday, August 30th, the 14th annual National Book Festival will be held in Washington, D.C. It boasts an incredible array of authors for children and adults across a variety of genres. If they don’t have something for you, I’d be surprised.

There is one difference this year – they are moving the festival from the National Mall to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The nearest Metro stop is the Mount Vernon Square station.

If you click on this link it will bring you to the Festival’s home page which contains a list of the authors that will be there. If that fails, Google National Book Festival and follow the link they provide. Sometimes these links can be a bit cranky. 

Some of the highlights for me are Peter Brown, Bryan Collier, Jacqueline Woodson, Raul Colon, Kate DiCamillo (the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature and author of Flora & Ulysses, the 2014 Newbery Award winner!), Jules Feiffer, Jack Gantos, Molly Idle (Caldecott Honor medalist, 2014, for Flora and the Flamingo), Cynthia Kadohata, Brian Biggs, Rep. John Lewis, Dav Pilkey, Jeff Smith, Raina Telgemeier, Anne Ursu, Susan Stockdale, Judith Viorst, Rita Williams-Garcia, Gene Luen Yang, and I am sure I am leaving quite a few out.

It is a day meant for book lovers of all kinds and it’s free!!! The amount of authors is an embarrassment of riches. Plan on coming; you won’t regret it. The hours are from 10am-10pm with the doors opening at 9am. See you there!

Judy Blume: Still Speaking Out for Her Beliefs


I recently saw Judy Blume at ALA at a party for the “Two Judys.” It was not only Blume but Judith Viorst as well. The latter’s book, Alexander and the Horrible No Good Very Bad Day, will be coming to your local movie theater soon and, like Judy Blue, continues to write. In today’s The Guardian”  there is a very nice interview with Judy Blume which can be found here:

By the way, believe the accompanying photo, she looks THAT good. 🙂


Walter Dean Myers: The Loss of an Inspired Man

MYERS-obit-master675Walter Dean Myers, a giant both in physical stature and in the world of children’s and YA literature, died on Tuesday, July 1st. Myers created Monster and Fallen Angels, among so many other highly regarded books, will be remembered for good stories that told the truth about growing up. He told it at he saw it and held nothing back.

Some years ago Myers came to UVA for the Highlights Children’s Literature conference and I had the good fortune of spending the day with him. Together we hunted through antique stores in search of old photographs of black children. He had already published a book of poetry illustrated with beautiful sepia-toned photographs but he kept searching for more. Walter was such a pleasure that day. I worried about what I would talk about but that became a problem. Conversation flowed. I feel so lucky to have met the man – the man who has inspired so many teens with his wide variety of books. He will be sorely missed.

Myers’ NY Times obituary can be found at:

Myers’ website is found at:


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.

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