Monday, September 26, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR 09/26/16

It's Monday! What are you reading? was started by Sheila at Book Journey and was adapted for children's books from picture books through YA by Jen of Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee of Unleashing Readers. You can visit either site for a round up of blogs sharing their weekly readings and thoughts or search Twitter for #IMWAYR.

Last Week's Posts

  • This month's Kid Lit Blog Hop went live last Wednesday. Stop by to share and find great kid lit posts.

    Picture Books

    Last Friday, our school's librarian came bursting into the study hall I was overseeing to let me know that a package had arrived from Penguin (Candlewick) with a sticker outside identifying the content as books to be published on Oct. 11th. We ripped in hopefully and were rewarded with an advanced copy of We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen! Of course, we read it immediately.

    Fans of Jon Klassen's now-classic Caldecott Honor-winning I Want My Hat Back and Caldecott-winning This is Not My Hat will be truly delighted with the conclusion of this trilogy. Every detail is as perfectly-done as its predecessors. (Truly, I think an entire dissertation could be written analyzing Klassen's use of eyes to convey emotions across these three books.) I don't want to say too much or ruin the joy of reading this one for yourself. Can he complete a Caldecott trifecta? He's got my vote! (A review copy of the book was provided by publisher. All thoughts are my own.)

    Middle School

    To Stay Alive: Mary Ann Graves and the Tragic Journey of the Donner Party (Oct. 11, 2016) by Skila Brown. The second book in the mystery package was the newest novel-in-verse from Skila Brown, author of Caminar. The first-person poetry of 19-year old Mary Ann Graves brings to life the haunting unfolding of the tragic events leading to the Donner party's historic winter in the Sierras.

    During my four years of teaching fourth grade, my students participated in a Pioneer wagon simulation loosely based on the decisions and choices faced by the Donner party, and many of them also "perished" in their efforts to summit the snow-covered peaks. So I was intimately-familiar with the story before reading this book.

    What has always stood out for me was how avoidable their disaster truly was (one less day resting up before summiting the peaks, for example) and how unevenly the consequences befell the different families (some families survived intact, while others were decimated, and not all families resorted to cannibalism during the course of the winter). Both of these facts are hinted at in the story but could have received bigger emphasis.

    My other big nit-pick was the lack of a bibliography, though two footnotes reference letters written by Mary Ann Graves and her brother. This would have been an excellent opportunity to share with kids the joys and difficulties of historical research, as I believe several members of the Donner Party kept journals, and many newspaper recounted the events later.

    These minor issues aside, I think this book definitely has the "ick" factor to draw in reluctant older readers, and the poetry format makes for a quick and fairly accessible read. (A review copy of the book was provided by publisher. All thoughts are my own.)

    Happy Reading!

    Saturday, September 24, 2016

    Preparing for Banned Books Week (Sept. 25-Oct. 1, 2016)

    Next week, September 25 to October 1 is Banned Books Week. I am extra excited that this year's theme is "Celebrating Diversity." It is shocking to read and reflect on how diverse books take the brunt of censorship challenges and bannings.

    The Children's Cooperative Book Center in Madison collects annual statistics about diversity in children's book publishing - both in content and in authorship. If you have never read their annual reports, you should start. You can read the most recent essay on 2015 here. Lee & Low has a great articled based on these statistics: The Diversity Gap in Children's Publishing 2015.

    In My Classroom

    Now that I am teaching seventh grade, I am looking forward to having a deeper discussion about banned and challenged books. These photos show a part of the banned book display in our classroom library (and our school librarian is putting together another display in the school's library).

    Looking through banned book lists [links below], I chose books that would likely be familiar to my students, as well as others that are already a part of our classroom library. Several of the titles are books they have read in previous years. I plan to use this display to facilitate discussions about book choice as well as to encourage students to continue to be assertive and open-minded in their book selections.

    What You Can Do

    Highlight diverse books and banned books in your classrooms and in your homes. The American Library Association tracks book challenges and has created many different lists of challenged books. You can also visit the Banned Books Week site for more articles and ideas.

    Talk with kids and parents about the difference between finding "good fit" books for yourself vs. censoring books for others. Not every book is the right fit for every reader at every time. But that does not mean that that same book isn't the right book for another reader.

    Talk about the differences book banning and "soft censorship" (book omission). Kate Messner's latest novel, The Seventh Wish, was subject to many initial complaints from administrators and librarians, and she explains her thoughts in a series of must-read blog posts.

    Evaluate your own book collections. Later in the year, I plan to have my seventh grade students inventory our in-class library (and perhaps even sections of our school library), inspired by this post from Crawling Out of the Classroom: Having Students Analyze Our Classroom Library To See How Diverse it is.

    Participate in the Reading Without Walls Challenge from Gene Luen Yang, the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature (and recently-named MacArthur fellow!). The idea is to encourage kids to seek out books that are different from those that they regularly read, whether its about a character that is different or a new topic or a new format. You can read more and download posters here.

    How will you celebrate Banned Books Week?


    Shared with #DiverseKidLit

    Wednesday, September 21, 2016

    Kid Lit Blog Hop for September

    We want to welcome you to the September 2016 Kid Lit Blog Hop. September is a great month for books - many publishers seem to feature potential award-winners around this time!

    This exciting, monthly hop is an engaged group of people who love everything that has to do with children's literature. Everyone is welcome to join us: bloggers, authors, publicist, and publishers! Please make sure that your posts are related to children’s literature only. Please make sure to add a direct link to your post only, but authors are invited to simply to link to your blog.

    Once you are done, then hop around to visit others. Please follow the hosts and visit at least the one or two people directly before your link. Please leave a comment when you do visit - we all like those. Also, it would be appreciated if you grab the Kid Lit Blog Hop badge image and displayed it on your blog and/or your post.

    Have you seen the new Kid Lit Blog Hopper Facebook fan page? This page has all the news and information related to the hop plus ongoing posts, giveaways, news articles, etc. related to Kid's Lit. Check it out, and of course, please like the page.

    We would be grateful if you tweet about the blog hop using our hashtag #KidLitBlogHop and/or posted on Facebook. Let’s grow this wonderful community.

    Our next hop will be October 19, 2016. The hosts will be around to see you soon.

    Reading AuthorsHost
    Julie Grasso
    Cheryl Carpinello
    Pragmatic Mom
    The Logonauts
    Spark and Pook
    The Bookshelf Gargoyle

    Happy Hopping!

    Link Up Below:

    Tuesday, September 20, 2016

    New Book Alert: Snow White

    Happy one-week birthday to Matt Phelan's newest graphic novel: Snow White! As the graphic novel format continues to explode in popularity, this is an interesting addition, aimed at older readers.

    Snow White

    Snow White: a graphic novel (2016) by Matt Phelan (A review copy of the book was provided by Candlewick. All thoughts are my own.)

    Phelan reimagines the story of Snow White set in and around the stock market crash that abruptly ended the roaring 20s. The tale unfolds mostly in the ways that would be expected, but the most interesting fun is to be had in seeing how Phelan interprets and translates each character and event in the story into the new time period.

    Told in his sparse, image-heavy style, readers may need to rely on their knowledge of the tale in some points to better interpret the story and its actions. (Background about the time period can be helpful too.) It will be interesting to see whether this becomes part of a series of fairytale reimaginings.

    Monday, September 19, 2016

    It's Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR 09/19/16

    It's Monday! What are you reading? was started by Sheila at Book Journey and was adapted for children's books from picture books through YA by Jen of Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee of Unleashing Readers. You can visit either site for a round up of blogs sharing their weekly readings and thoughts or search Twitter for #IMWAYR.

    Last Week's Posts

    Picture Books

    What a Beautiful Morning (2016) by Arthur Levine and illustrated by Katie Kath. This is a gentle story about a young boy named Noah and his relationship with his Grandpa. But this year, things are different. Grandpa doesn't remember things as well anymore, and on one scary occasion he doesn't remember Noah. This is an important story to talk with kids about Alzheimers, although an author's note about the disease would have been a welcome addition too. Another to add to my text set of books featuring diverse grandparents.

    I am a Story (2016) by Dan Yaccarino. This is a loving tribute to the power and longevity of the story. Narrated by the story itself, the book traces the history of storytelling and the evolution of the written and printed word. Astute readers will enjoying following the progress of the red bird through the book as well as the shout-outs to a wide range of books and libraries (even the "Little Free Libraries" first started here in Wisconsin). Definitely a book that could lead to some great discussions about books and stories.

    Happy Reading!

    Saturday, September 17, 2016

    #DiverseKidLit: Favorite Bilingual Books

    Our theme for today's Diverse Children's Books linkup is Favorite Bilingual Book(s). What are your favorite children's books in two or more languages? (The theme is only a suggestion. Diverse posts on alternate topics are always welcome.)

    What Is #DiverseKidLit?

    Diverse Children's Books is a book-sharing meme designed to promote the reading and writing of children's books that feature diverse characters. This community embraces all kinds of diversity including (and certainly not limited to) diverse, inclusive, multicultural, and global books for children of all backgrounds.

    We encourage everyone who shares to support this blogging community by visiting and leaving comments for at least three others. Please also consider following the hosts on at least one of their social media outlets. Spread the word using #diversekidlit and/or adding our button to your site and your diverse posts.


    We hope this community will grow into a great resource for parents, teachers, librarians, publishers, and authors! Our next linkup will be Saturday, October 1st and on the first and third Saturdays of every month.

    Upcoming Theme

    Our theme for the current linkup is Favorite Bilingual Book(s). Themes are a suggestion only; all diverse book posts are welcome. If you're interested, you can start planning now for our upcoming themes ...
    • October 1st and 15th linkups: Favorite Diverse Author or Illustrator. Who is a must-read author or illustrator for you? Share your favorite(s) with us for next time.

    Most Clicked Post from Last Time

    Miss T's post on 7 Diverse Books Featuring a Character With A Disability was our most-clicked post of the previous #diversekidlit! This compilation reviews a great mix of fiction, nonfiction, picture books, and novels featuring characters with a range of disabilities. This is a great resource for all readers.

    My #DiverseKidLit Shout-Out

    Students at our school have a choice between taking French or Spanish, so I love sharing The Keys to My Kingdom: a poem in three languages, as it retells the same poem in English, Spanish, and French. The repetitive format of this poem also provides a great scaffold for students who might be intimidated by the idea of writing a poem in another language. [Yes, technically it's a trilingual book, but that just means there's even more languages to love!] You can read more about how I use this book to teach poetry here.

    #DiverseKidLit is Hosted by:

    Want to be notified when the next #diversekidlit linkup goes live?

    Receive an email reminder for each new #diversekidlit linkup

    Interested in joining as a host or an occasional co-host? Contact katie at

    (Never participated in a linkup before? Please click here for a more detailed step-by-step.)

    Get #DiverseKidLit Recommendations on Pinterest!

    We've started a new group board on Pinterest to highlight all the amazing posts and resources for Diverse Children's Books. Please consider following the board for even more great books!

    Friday, September 16, 2016

    Poetry Forms and Gone Fishing

    Moving up to teaching seventh grade, I've been very excited about doing more with my students. For our poetry unit, one of those "mores" is being able to move into a deeper discussion about poetry forms. My secret weapon? Gone Fishing: a novel in verse by Tamara Will Wissinger and illustrated by Matthew Cordell.

    This cute poetry novel-in-verse not only tells a full story but also tells that story through a wide range of poems in many different styles. Not only are those styles explained in a glossary section in the back, but they are also helpfully labeled in the book itself.

    It's one thing to try and explain the idea of a dactyl, and it's another to be able to jump right to the poem and hear the (BUM da dum) pattern for yourself. This is a great resource for students and teachers, and I am looking forward to introducing these poems to my students and seeing how it inspires their own poetry explorations!

    Visit Michelle at Today's Little Ditty for more great Poetry Friday posts!