Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The 2017 Newbery Winners!

Yesterday I shared my (and my students') reactions about the Caldecott Awards announcements, so today I'd like to celebrate this year's Newbery winners.

Newbery Honor Books 2017

Freedom Over Me: eleven slaves, their lives and dreams brought to life by Ashley Bryant. This unique book fuses reality with historical fiction, as author, poet, and artist Ashley Bryant creates personalities, backgrounds, and dreams from a list of 11 slaves from an actual historic document. My one critique is that I would have liked more details for further reading for kids interested in his research and documentation.

The Inquisitor's Tale: or, the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog (2016) by Adam Gidwitz and illuminated by Hatem Aly. The ARC for this book was one of the big events at #nErDcampMI this summer, and I devoured the book almost immediately upon getting home. The big downside of the ARC however, was that it was missing most of the incredible illuminations, which pack a powerful punch along with the story.

The Inquisitor's Tale is told as an homage to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales with various narrators picking up the story while sitting around in an Inn. Each narrator brings something different to unfolding tale of three very different children who suddenly find themselves together (and eventually facing off against the King). There are many important lessons about friendship, religious tolerance, and the power of words and books ... plus much hilarity (and a flatulent dragon).

Wolf Hollow (2016) by Lauren Wolk. Another from my TBR pile for our Mock NewberyWolf Hollow has all the classic hallmarks of a Newbery-winning book: a strong, young protagonist, dangerous situations, and evocative settings and language. I just still can't make up my mind whether it worked or not. The book has very strong overtones of To Kill a Mockingbird with a bit of The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate thrown in (or is it just that cover?). I wanted to like it (and I really did at times) but at other times I just felt like I'd read this story before. This one was not on my personal Newbery short list.

Newbery Winner for 2017 is ...

The Girl Who Drank the Moon (2016) by Kelly Barnhill was far-and-away my favorite book of this past year. I received an ARC of this book at #nErDcampMI and proceeded to devour it almost immediately. It is an incredibly well-crafted tale set in a familiar fantasy setting - the small town, the downtrodden inhabitants, the problematic ancient traditions. But as soon as the perspective shifts from the villagers to the feared witch in the woods, the reader realizes that there is quite a bit more going on within this story.

The characters are delightful, and there were so many lines that made me laugh out loud. Expectations are overturned, and the more of a background you have in fairy tales and folktales, the more there is to appreciate. The book is being marketed to the upper half of middle grade, and I think that it will find readers and fans among a wide-range of ages and grade levels.

In addition to the book, Entertainment Weekly published a brief, two-part prequel: read part 1 here and part 2 here.

Which was your favorite book this year?

Monday, January 23, 2017

Congrats to 2017 Caldecott Winners!

Watching the ALA Awards announcements live this morning was thrilling and joyous! From the dominance of March Book Three to Duncan Tonatiuh winning two ... two Pura Belpré illustrator honor awards to having booktalked four of the five Printz award winners to my students, there was lots of excitement to be had!

But of course the big anticipation is saved for the oldest awards: the Caldecott and the Newbery. This year, we hosted a Mock Caldecott among several grade levels of kids, and ALL of the winners came from our mock list! Below you will find the actual winners, along with some student (and teacher) commentary.

Caldecott Honor Books 2017

Leave Me Alone! (2016) by Vera Brosgol. Admit it. We've all been there. In this hilarious picture book, our poor little old lady protagonist faces endless interrupts in her quest for peacefully knitting nirvana. Who interrupts her (and why) will keep readers chuckling through until the end.

Abby: The illustrations in here were really funny, especially the one about the moon-men. Although it's not the most scientifically accurate book (all those wormholes), the drawings were done really well. I also liked how the illustrator foreshadowed the bears coming by drawing their shadows on the page before that.

Freedom in Congo Square (2016) by Carole Boston Weatherford and R. Gregory Christie. I love picture books that are truly poems. Freedom in Congo Square tells a rhythmic interpretation of the weekly countdown to the one half-day of free time granted to slaves in New Orleans. Each day of the week is represented through the grind of the work and abuse heaped on different slaves in different situations. This acknowledgement of the tough conditions helps emphasize the importance of Congo Square and the relative "freedom" it represented, as slaves were allowed time to themselves to freely sing, dance, and host markets.

Erik: The illustrations really reflect the words, making it easy for little kids to read. It is a classic style, and I like history in a picture book. It tells a true story but in a less violent manner.

Du Iz Tak? (2016) Illustrated and written by Carson Ellis.

Simon: Du Iz Tak, had very good drawings, because the book was written in a made up language. The drawings illustrated everything. I don't know why, but the drawing style fit almost perfectly with the language. Du Iz Tak was fun to read, because of the interesting language, and had amazing pictures to illustrate the whole story.

Ceci: I absolutely loved this book. It was possible to decipher part of the made-up language the characters spoke, but the book made you rely on the pictures to understand the story. It was humorous and entertaining, and made you think while getting the main point across.

They All Saw a Cat illustrated and written by Brendan Wenzel is an incredible take on the idea of perspective and multiple points of view, and I love the different styles and feelings of the artwork throughout this book.

Griff: A picture book's main is to use the unique pictures to show the story in an interesting way and they all saw a cat did just that. They all saw a cat is a picture book showing the same cat through the eyes of different people, or animals. When the cat is shown through the eyes of a fox, it is shown as being prey, soft, and plump. The contrast in art can show how we all we different things, depending on our situation, I thought that this was a great book.

Peter: I think that the book "They All Saw a Cat" was a very great and original book. I thought it was neat to show how the different animals saw the cat. I thought that that style of art was not only creative it was also teaches kids how different animals see. I think that this would be the perfect book for a kid and it should win the Caldecott.

Caldecott Winner for 2017 is ...

Radiant Child: the story of young artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (2016) by Javaka Steptoe [Mock Caldecott contender]. This biography of street artist turned museum-worthy artist Jean-Michel Basquiat has really grown on me after reading it aloud and discussing it with both of my classes. (Originally I was turned off by the decision not to include any of Jean-Michel Basquiat's original art in the story, so I showed selections from his web site instead.) They really appreciated how Javaka Steptoe took Basquiat's style and colorful palette but rendered it in a way that was more familiar and comprehensible to a younger audience. There are so many hidden details that make the reader keep coming back and back.

Joshua: I really liked how the art was done similar to the unique style of Basquiat.

Want more Caldecott details?

(Click the 'Caldecott' tag to see previous ballots and winners. Our students have a great track record over the last two years, having previous picked winner/honor books like Finding Winnie, Waiting, and Beekle.)

Which was your favorite this year?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR 01/23/17

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

  • Mock Caldecott ... Winners! ALA announcements are this morning (I'll be watching!). This post shares our school's best guesses about the winners of the Caldecott.
  • New Immigration Books, part 2. I decided to expand my original three-part series of books on immigration to highlight the many new, wonderful contributions. Part 2 includes more picture books and anthologies.

    Picture Books

    I Am Not a Number (2016) by Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer and illustrated by Gillian Newland. This powerful new story about the Native American residential schools of Canada was inspired by the author's grandmother's experiences. Readers see through Irene's eyes as she and her brothers are taken away from their parents and sent away to a school where they are fed poorly, treated poorly, and punished for speaking their native languages. The shocking details in the author's note - especially that the last such schools were only closed down in 1996 - serves to remind readers just how recently these events happened.

    Grandfather's Story Cloth / Yawg Daim Paj Ntaub Dab Neeg (2008) by Linda Gerdner and Sarah Langford, illustrated by Stuart Loughridge. This family history story has an added twist as young narrator Chersheng becomes frustrated by his grandfather's increasing forgetfulness as his Alzheimers progresses. After discovering that the story cloth that Grandfather made helps him remember, Chersheng decides to make his own version of a story cloth about the present day.

    Middle Grade

    Still busily reading (and rereading) the finalists for the Cybils Middle Fiction category, but I have to wait to share my reviews until after the awards are announced in February. (You can read about the finalists here.)

    Happy Reading!

    Saturday, January 21, 2017

    Mock Caldecott ... Winners!

    With only days to go until the live ALA announcements on Monday (click here to watch), it was time to finally vote on our school's Mock Caldecott. With both of my seventh grade classes, we held a mock discussion, trying to follow the rules and format of the actual committee (especially no repeating of comments) before we held the vote. We only had time for one round of voting, rather than continuing to narrow and vote until reaching a total consensus. Younger classes simply held a vote.

    And the winners are ...

    Third Grade Winner: Du Iz Tak?

    Honor Books: Are We There Yet?,  A Voyage in the Clouds: The (Mostly) True Story of the First International Flight by Balloon in 1785, and Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions.

    Fifth Grade Winner: They All Saw a Cat

    Honor Books: Du Iz Tak?Leave Me Alone!, and The Princess and the Warrior: a tale of two volcanoes

    Seventh Grade, A group: Winner, Du Iz Tak?

    Honor Books: Ada's Violin: the story of the recycled orchestra of Paraguay and The Sound of Silence

    Runners-Up: They All Saw a CatThe Uncorker of Ocean Bottles, and Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions

    Seventh Grade, B group: Winner: Henry and Leo

    Honors Books: Ada's Violin: the story of the recycled orchestra of ParaguayBefore Morning, and Du Iz Tak?

    Want more Caldecott details?

    (Click the 'Caldecott' tag to see previous ballots and winners. Our students have a great track record over the last two years, having previous picked winner/honor books like Finding Winnie, Waiting, and Beekle.)

    Who's your pick?

    #DiverseKidLit: Human Rights

    Our theme for both linkups in January is Human Rights. In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which is celebrated in the US in January, think about your favorite books to share with children about the importance and the history of human rights and/or civil rights. (As always, 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, February 4th and on the first and third Saturdays of every month.

    Upcoming Theme

    Our theme for the current month is Human Rights. Themes are a suggestion only; all diverse book posts are welcome. If you're interested, you can start planning now for our upcoming themes ...
    • February 4th and 18th linkups: Love. Let's spread our love of diverse books by sharing diverse books about love, families, and relationships. 
    • March 4th and 18th: Changing Seasons. As we eagerly await the beginning of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere and Autumn in the Southern, let's share favorite books and resources on the seasons.

    Most Clicked Post from Last Time

    Our most-clicked post from last time was a review by Alex of Randomly Reading of Ashes, book 3 in Laurie Halse Anderson's Seeds of America trilogy.

    My DiverseKidLit Shout-Out

    Mark your calendars for Multicultural Children's Book Day, Jan. 27, 2017! Multicultural Children's Book Day is an all-day (really, more like all-month) celebration of diverse books. This will be my third year participating in #MCCBD and my first year as a co-host. In addition to the incredible diverse books and resources shared as part of the massive linkup (check back here on the day), you can also win amazing book bundles by participating in our Twitter Party that night. You can find all the details - including the questions and prizes - 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 thelogonauts.com.

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

    Get #DiverseKidLit Recommendations on Pinterest!

    Our Pinterest board highlights a wide range of amazing posts and resources for Diverse Children's Books. Please consider following the board for even more great books!

    Friday, January 20, 2017

    Great Diverse Books from Scholastic

    Multicultural Children's Book Day is an annual event on January 27th where bloggers, teachers, authors, and parents come together to celebrate and promote diverse books for children. As a co-host for the event, I will be helping host the big day-off linkup of diverse book posts, and I also received books to review for the event.

    Scholastic is a platinum-level sponsor of the event and provided me with a package of several wonderful books to share here with you. (All thoughts are my own.)

    Picture Books: Family Stories

    Under the Same Sun (2014) by Sharon Robinson and illustrated by AG Ford. This memoir tells the story of Sharon and her mother's visit to Tanzania to see her brother David and his family. The universal nature of family and togetherness is celebrated as the continents come together. The family goes on a safari and spends a few pages enjoying African animals.

    The trip ends on a somber note as the families visit the historic slave port of Bagamoyo and discuss their personal history of enslavement, but they turn it to a positive note by thinking about their freedoms and personal connections. This is a powerful book for presenting one possible outcome of a family history study in an African-American family.

    The Granddaughter Necklace (2013) by Sharon Dennis Wyeth and illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline provides another version of an African-American family history story. This one is told from the present moving backwards as it traces the progression of a crystal necklace from daughter to mother to mother (and back and back and back). Inspired by the author's own family history, the necklace turns out to have originated with an Irish woman who immigrated to America and married a free black man in the mid 1800s.

    This book has the potential to spark a lot of great conversations with students about their own family histories as well as some of the assumptions they might have when it comes to the ancestors of today's African-Americans. (For older students you could talk about the history of ideas like the "one-drop" rule, terms like mulatto, and what it means to be mixed race or have mixed ancestry.)

    Young Fiction

    Big News! (Emma on the Air, book 1) (2015) by Ida Siegal. This charming new series features third grader Emma who has decided that a TV reporter is a perfect job for her to become famous! With the help of her dad (a "boring" newspaper reporter), Emma breaks her first story about a mysterious worm-burger, which sets her off on a detective-style search for the truth. Emma's dad is from the Dominican Republic, and there are a variety of Spanish phrases thrown into the story too. I can imagine this series inspiring quite a few citizen journalists. The series currently has four books.

    Early Middle Grade

    Making Friends with Billy Wong (2016) by Augusta Scattergood. Most books set during the Civil Rights Era focus on discrimination against African-Americans, but in this story, Azalea is shocked to discover there is a "Chinese" boy living near her grandmother's house, where she has been dumped for the summer. Billy's perspective is told through interspersed poetry, and he worries about friendship and starting at the white school in the fall. This is a very gentle introduction to racism geared towards the younger end of middle grade readers.

    What are your favorite diverse books for kids from Scholastic? (Check back on Jan. 27th for the huge linkup on Multicultural Children's Book Day!

    Wednesday, January 18, 2017

    New Immigration Books, part 2: picture books and anthologies

    Two years ago I wrote a three-part series about teaching kids about the history and impact of US immigration. The first post introduced nonfiction resources for studying immigration; the second post covered historical fiction and memoirs, including novels and picture books; and the third shared books about modern-day immigration. A few months ago I shared a review of the picture books of Rene Colato Laínez, many of which feature immigrants to the US.

    Since those posts, several more wonderful books have come out - so many so that I thought it was high time for a follow up. I've broken them down into several categories. The previous post shared books about the Syrian migration to Europe and books about Central American migration through Mexico to the US, while this post will cover other picture books about recent immigrants and anthologies and novels about immigration.

    More Picture Books about Recent Immigrants

    The Favorite Daughter (2013) by Allen Say. Based on his own daughter, Yuriko is struggling to figure out where she fits, with her divorced parents and the bright blond hair and Japanese name she inherited from each of them. This is a great story about figuring out who you are and where you belong. (My students' favorite parts of this book are the photographs of Allen Say's actual daughter - especially as a chubby toddler in her kimono!)

    Here I Am (2014) story by Patti Kim and illustrated by Sonia Sánchez. This wordless picture book is a wonderful way to convey some of the confusion and difficulty of moving to a new place and not being able to immediately communicate. But when the young boy loses something important, it takes great courage for him to reach out and make a new friend. There is much to discuss and discover here. (The story is inspired by the author's own experience moving to the US from Korea at age 4.)

    I'm New Here (2015) by Anne Sibley O'Brien. This thought-provoking picture book follows the stories of three recent immigrants as they try to adjust to their new lives in the United States. The story alternates point-of-view from Maria from Guatemala, Jin from Korea, and Fatimah from Somalia. Each child has a unique way of explaining his/her own difficulties during the adjustment process, and each is helped in different ways by classmates.

    My Two Blankets (2015) by Irena Kobald and illustrated by Freya Blackwood. This story is narrated by a young girl who flees her home country due to war and ends up with her aunt in an unfamiliar country with new languages and new animals. The two blankets are a metaphor for how she wraps herself in the known and the familiar, and they are also a testament to the power of a smile and of friendship. The book is based on the author's observations of her own Austrian-Australian daughter and her Sudanese-Australian friend.

    A Piece of Home (2016) by Jeri Watts and illustrated by Hyewon Yum. This new addition on the theme of immigration is a first-person story narrated by Hee Jun as his family unexpectedly leaves Korea and moves to West Virginia in the United States. Hee Jun also shares the perspectives of his younger sister and his grandmother, as all three of them adjust to their new life in different ways. A fairly straight-forward story and not particularly memorable. (A review copy of the book was provided by the Candlewick Best in Class mailing. All thoughts are my own.)

    Anthologies and Novels about Immigration

    First Crossing: stories about teen immigrants (2007) edited by Donald Gallo. This is a powerful collection of short stories about the immigrant experience from a teenage point-of-view, though I wish the stories had more details about how many of them are purely fiction vs. autobiographical. I will definitely be using some of these stories with my middle schoolers. (A review copy of the book was provided by the Candlewick Best in Class mailing. All thoughts are my own.)

    Open Mic: riffs on life between cultures in ten voices (2013), edited by Mitali Perkins. I really liked this short story collection and am planning on using several as mentor texts for my students. Authors share stories about growing up and navigating their backgrounds, heritages, and family situations. Many seem to be memoirs or at least directly-inspired by personal experiences. (A review copy of the book was provided by the Candlewick Best in Class mailing. All thoughts are my own.)

    The Unforgotten Coat (2011) by Frank Cottrell Boyce (winner of the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize 2012). This powerful and haunting story revolved around the sudden appearance of Chingis and his younger brother, immigrants to England from Mongolia. The book follows classmate Julie as finds herself suddenly their advocate. Told at times from her grown-up perspective, the story quickly becomes more complex as Julie tried to explain the boys' suspicious behavior. An interesting take on modern immigration and refugees, as well as the complexity of governmental responses.

    What are your favorite new books about immigration or immigrants?

    Read more in the immigration series here: nonfiction resources for studying immigration , historical fiction and memoirspicture books of Rene Colato Laínezbooks on modern immigration, and new books about Syrian and Central American immigration.