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:

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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!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Giveaway + Interview with Author Debra Sweeting

Today I'd like to welcome author Debra Sweeting to The Logonauts to talk about her new diversity book, Inclusion Island. Make sure to scroll all the way down to enter the giveaway for your own copy!

Interview with Author Debra Sweeting

What did you want to be when you grew up?

I actually wanted to be a newscaster growing up but knew that it looked more glamorous than it appeared. Instead of sharing local news stories I get to try to make a difference by inspiring the world through children’s literature.

What was the inspiration for writing children’s books?

My daughter is my most precious gift and inspiration for writing children’s books. I am the proud mother of a beautiful little girl diagnosed with Down-syndrome and Autism (DS-ASD). Milestones that typical children achieve easily by watching and imitating requires specialized instruction, practice, and repetition for a child with special abilities.

I am amazed by my daughter’s desire to learn and her unconditional love for everything life has to offer. She has truly been an amazing gift, and I am honored to be her mom. Children diagnosed as disabled want the same things that all children want. They just may have to do certain things in a different way, which is part of the message that I want to convey to the world.

What does your writing process look like?

My stories are based off of actual real life experiences. I typically start brainstorming with bullet points and then fill in the story details afterwards. I also think timing is important. If I am feeling tired or fatigued I wait until another time when I feel well rested and inspired to write.

What is your favorite part about being an author?

The best thing about being an author is the ability to give thoughts and experiences a voice. I want to share insight on what life is like through my daughter’s eyes. She is diagnosed with Down syndrome and autism (DS-ASD). I believe in kinesthetic learning so words, images, audio download, and coloring books are cool ways to help children see, hear ,and participate in the stories. Each one of my books comes with an eLive audio download code. eLIVE stands for Listen, Imagine, Visualize and Experience.

Do you have any advice for a child interested in becoming an author?

There is a need for diversified children's books that are mirrors and doors. Mirrors help children to see main characters in books that look like themselves. Doors offer a child the ability to understand what life is like through someone else’s experiences. My advice to a child is to trust yourself and go for it! Everyone has gifts and talents to share with the world.

Review of Inclusion Island

Inclusion Island (2016) by Debra Sweeting and illustrated by Ryan Joseph Balbuena. (Review copy provided by the author. All thoughts are my own.)

Inclusion Island is a fable-style story for younger children about an island that has always been divided by a large stone wall down the center. Children live on both sides of the wall but have never met - plus they have heard troubling things about the children on the other side of the wall. Yet a few brave and curious children on both sides of the wall decide they want to see for themselves. The end lays out the important lesson that people are more alike than different.

The book opens with a preface about the book and the importance of people-first language, and the author's note poem at the end includes a picture of the author and her daughter. Both of these help to put a personal face on the story and encourage readers to think about their own friends and neighbors.

I think this book could be used to start a conversation about differences and misconceptions with young children, and the simple narrative and repeated phrasing draws attention to the similarities between the two sides. For school-aged children, I would have liked to see more character development and the incorporation of people-first language (and its importance) into the story itself.

For more books featuring children with disabilities, check out the latest Diverse Children's Book linkup.


Shared with #DiverseKidLit

Enter the giveaway below to win a copy of Inclusion Island (US domestic addresses only).