Saturday, November 19, 2011

Picture Book Brouhaha

It has been an exciting year for the picture book. With nay-sayers touting the immiment demise of what used to be a childhood staple, it seems that picture book lovers have put on their rally caps in an attempt to educate and inform parents, booksellers, educators (and anyone else who will
listen) about their value.
The New York Times ran an article about a year ago which
detailed the downward spiral of picture book thus kicking off a great debate about the fate of a cherished and treasured format.
Librarians buzzed, publishers defended... in fact Publishers Weekly printed a response to the New York Times piece shortly after it was published claiming that picture books were alive and well. Many librarians, publishers, parents and other defenders have continued their quest to send the message that picture books need to be valued. A few of my favorite responses to the outcry include:
Children's book illustrator Matthew Cordell issues the following challenge on his blog.
"This is my challenge to you, dear readers. Go into a book store (not a website, but a store with a roof, walls, people, books you can hold and browse over) and spend some time in the children's book section. Find something incredible (it ain't hard). Then, when you're all filled up, buy just one picture book. And in a week's time, repeat. Buy one picture book a week for your kid(s), some other kid(s) you love, or for yourself or some other grown-up you love. I can identify that it's hard to get, at first, but adults can also enjoy reading picture books. And if you absolutely can't swallow that concept, you can't escape appreciating them for the amazing artwork alone. It's like buying amazing art that can sit on your coffee table (or wherever you keep your favorite books with your favorite images) for, like, 16 bucks or whatever. Someone you know needs more picture books in her/his/their life/lives. You need to experience, again, what you loved when you read picture books as a kid.(Okay, okay.... if you absolutely, seriously, truthfully can't get to or find a brick and mortar book store, buy your books online. But try this first.)If you can't do a pic book a week, make it a pic book a month.And if you can't do that (understood, times are tight).... Go into your most excellent local library and check out 10 picture books a week. If you can't do it every week, do it once a month. Challenge issued."
Go to his Facebook page to join in on the fun!
an international initiative to designate
November as Picture Book Month, encouraging everyone to celebrate literacy with print picture books. Founders of the initiatve believe that with the predicted death of the print book, picture books need love.
As for this picture book lover, I continue to collect and cherish them. I read them again and again. I give them as gifts, I tell my friends about them. Do I worry about the death of the picture book? Not this girl. I believe that the picture book is will be alive and kicking for a good long time. :)

Friday, October 21, 2011

In Search of Sasquatch is an engaging work of non-fiction. The book examines the stories of Sasquatch over the years and compiles the evidence (both anecdotal and scientific) in one slick volume.

Fascinating facts about Sasquatch and background on how that information was obtained will keep readers turning the pages of this well put together book and begging their parents to add plaster of paris to their weekly shopping list!
In addition to legends, footprints and reported sightings, the author adds intresting facts about the "Sierra Sounds" i.e. Big Foot language, a transcript of a 911 call and a story about how actor Jimmy Stewart smuggled a Yeti finger to the United States in his wife's suitcase.

Illustrations, photos, and archival images and add intrigue to the text and make this a book that will be returned to again and again. A glossary and a healthy "learn more about it" section includes books, videos and websites - enough to keep an interested reader busy until the next Sasquatch sighting.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Unforgotten Coat by Frank Cottrell Boyce

A quiet, contemplative story about 2 boys who have immigrated from Mongolia to Liverpool. The brothers meet and befriend Julie and make her their "Good Guide". She has to show them how to play football, where to sit at lunch and they seem to expect her to help them find a place to keep them safe from demons. Heartbreakingly honest and wonderful. This slim novel was devoured in one sitting.
Recommended for grade 5 & up.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Along with Susan Dee (left) and Diana Mullins (right) and lots of helping hands from parent volunteers. I took a group of students from Biddeford to the Maine Reading Round-Up to book talk the freshly pressed Maine Student Book Award Reading List.

The Maine Student Book Award is designed to expand literary horizons of students in grades 4-8 by encouraging them to read, evaluate, and enjoy a selection of new books and to choose a statewide favorite by written ballot each spring. In order to be eligible to vote, students must have read 3 books off from the list.
This year's winner, announced in April was Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine & a Miracle written by Major Brian Dennis, Kirby Larson and Mary Nethery.

These kids worked so incredibly hard preparing for this conference. The list was published on March 12th which meant the kids had only 1 short month to select and read a book as well as prepare their presentation. They stayed after school, worked through lunch breaks and gave up study halls. They are true ROCK STARS and I am proud of each and every one of them. Care to take a look at the books they discussed? Check out the annotated list here.

Monday, April 18, 2011

As Small as an Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobson

I've been carrying this book around with me for sometime now and had yet to even read the book flap. Knowing it was by Jennifer Richard Jacobson was enough, I didn't actually need to know what the book was about. I was pleasantly surprised, however, to discover that Maine is the setting for this heartbreakingly wonderful new release.

Eleven year old Jack goes on a camping trip to Acadia National Park with his mother just before school is about to begin. When Jack exits his small tent the morning after their first night, his heart sinks when he discovers that his mom's tent, their gear and the rental car are all gone. Jack realizes almost immediately that his mom is "spinning", his term for her manic episodes, again.

With only a few dollars in his pocket and no gear, Jack finally decides to make his own way home to Boston. He is terrified of the authorities finding out and taking him away from his mother for good. In addition, he feels ashamed that he argued with her and feels responsible for setting her off. His fear and shame are evident, but the resourceful boy finds a way to get money, food and varied modes of transportation. It is clear that Jack has learned to be self-sufficient due to his mother's illness.

Obsessed with elephants from a young age, Jack uses his fascination with the animal as a way to cope with his dire circumstances. Jacobson effortlessly weaves interesting facts about elephants into the story.

This is a fast moving story that will please fans of "Waiting for Normal" by Leslie Connor.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Focus on the Future: Connecting Books and the 21st Century Reader

I recently had the pleasure of presenting at the Maine Association for School Librarians annual conference. The theme this year was Digital Citizenship which seemed like a natural fit for my co-presenter, Susan Dee and I. Susan and I have spent many hours integrating technology into our collaborative book groups which we run at the Biddeford Intermediate School. We put together a Live Binder for our presentation with lots of rationale for using technology in the classroom and library. Additionally you will find a host of resources and fun examples of ways in which we are using Twitter, blogs, word clouds, book trailers and more. Check out our Live Binder here and see how Biddeford kids are making meaningful connections with books!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Plain Kate by Erin Bow

Not usually a lover of fantasy, but I quite liked this one! Check out the book trailer and review below.

Plain Kate, lives a simple life with her father a woodworker. A talented carver herself, Plain Kate is determined to become a master by age 20. Suspicious townsfolk fear Kate, her talent with her "witch blade" and her two different colored eyes. When a plague claims the lives of many, including her father, Kate is the target of the blame. With no place to go, no money and few friends in town Kate is pegged as the town's weakest and easiest prey by a mysterious stranger, Linay, who is witch-white and threatening. Kate is strong-armed into striking a bargain with the stranger - her shadow in exchange for much needed supplies and one wish. Without a shadow, it is certain Plain Kate would be condemned as a witch by the already wary townsfolk. Plain Kate takes off with a band of Roamers hoping for acceptance. Instead she becomes even more entangled in a web of magic and an elaborate plan of revenge. Well developed characters, who experience growth and change as the story progresses, drive this story to its bitter-sweet, if a little convenient, climax. Suggested for grades 6 & up.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda is one of my favorite books of 2010. When the school weirdo, Dwight, comes to school brandishing a Yoda finger puppet his classmates scoff. However, when Yoda begins dispensing strangely accurate advice to his classmates, they begin to wonder if it is real. In a quest for the truth one student, Tommy, decides to investigate. Tommy compiles the stories of all the kids who have sought out the advice of Origami Yoda in order to prove once and for all whether or not Dwight and his "green wad of paper" are for real. While this story will be a crowd pleaser at its surface, the social complexities of being a middle-schooler are portrayed authentically. Suggested for grades 5 - 8. Of course, after reading this I wanted my own Origami Yoda. Who wouldn't? There are directions in the back of the book, but being the uncoordinated dweeb that I am, I needed more detailed instruction. I was delighted to find a youtube video (below) of Tom Angleberger walking through the process step by step. Send me photos of your Origami Yoda and maybe I'll post them here! May the force be with you.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Buzzing about the Awards!

There were definitely a few surprises when the Youth Media Awards were announced earlier this week at the ALA Mid-Winter Meeting but also some very, very exciting news out there.... especially if you happen to be an almost unheard of first time John Newbery Medal Award winner!
Here are a few of the awards I was most interested in but you can check out the entire list here.

The big surprise John Newbery Medal Award winner:
Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
And the John Newbery Medal Honor Awards:
Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm
Heart of a Samurai by Margi Preus
Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman and Illustrated by Rick Allen
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

The Randolph Caldecott Medal

The Caldecott medal is awarded for the most distinguished American picture book for children.
The winner:
A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Erin E. Stead
Caldecott honors were awarded to:
Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave by Laban Carrick Hill and illustrated by Bryan Collier
Interrupting Chicken written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Wimpy Kid Trend

Ever since Jeff Kinney hit a grand-slam with his Wimpy Kid series there has been an insurgence of titles published in a similar format. Here are two which I found to be particularly good.
Justin Case: School, Drool, and Other Daily Disasters by Rachel Vail:
Alvin Ho (Lenore Look) meets Wimpy Kid, Greg Heffley (Jeff Kinney) in yet another diary format book. Justin (Case) K. is a sensitive, self conscious worry-wart. When Justin isn't playing with his beloved stuffties, much of his time is taken up with worry and dread; what if his new teacher hates kids with curly hair and blue sneakers? Justin is a big-hearted, loveable boy who readers will root for as he navigates the perils of friendship, family-life, school and gym class. Believable and laugh-out-loud funny. A great choice for reluctant readers, worriers or younger kids who might not yet be ready for the Wimpy Kid series. Recommended for kids in grades 2-4

The Popularity Papers: Research for the Social Improvement and General Betterment of Lydia Goldblatt & Julie Graham-Chang
by Amy Ignatow
In a quest for popularity, 5th graders Julie and Lydia decide to record the behavior, dress and activities of those kids who have already acheived the elite status of "popular". The girls keep a co-authored journal including "hand-written" notes in each girls distinctive handwriting and colored illustrations. Julie and Lydia experiment with new wardrobes, hairstyles and participating in different extra-curricular activities. The experiement yields different results for each girl and turns out to be a learning experience neither expected. Along the way, readers are introduced to a cast of well drawn supporting characters including Julie's two dads; Daddy and Papa Dad. This visually captivating book (somewhat reminiscent of the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series) offers a realistic look at the stuggles that tweens endure and is sure to be a hit. Recommended for readers in grades 5 - 7

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Check out the book trailer for Spaceheadz by Jon Scieszka

This title is taking off at my library. It is especially popular with those already familiar with Scieszka's brand of humor.