Thursday, January 29, 2015

Mock Caldecott - ballot

The results for the Newbery and Caldecott voting will be announced soon! In preparation, our librarian and I have been working to organize a Mock Caldecott among the different classes at our school.

Our results will be announced shortly, but here are the books that the students will be deciding between ...  (Reviews of the books are presented below in the order on the ballot. I'll save revealing my choices until the students' results post.)

Books Previously Reviewed on The Logonauts

The Adventures of Beekle: the Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat. This is the clever and heart-rending story of Beekle who lives on the island of imaginary friends, waiting to be imagined so that he can join his new friend. Sick of waiting and being abandoned, Beekle sets off to the real world to find his friend for himself. A great way to start a discussion about friendship, stereotypes, and preconceived ideas. Beekle finds a friend quite different than the one he imagined, and this story might help our students do the same.

Bad Bye, Good Bye (2014) by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Jonathan Bean. This charming and wrenching picture book has jumped to the top of my Caldecott list. With sparse language and incredibly detailed illustrations, this book draws out the pain, process, and eventual acceptance that comes with moving. I think children and adults will be drawn to this book and its powerful message.

Draw (2014) by Raúl Colón. This wordless picture book follows the imagination of the author as he travels to Africa and imagines drawing the animals that he sees there. Many of my students have been returning to this one again and again this week, and I could hardly stop laughing when one of them decided to give a humorous oral retelling of the story to several of his friends during break time.

Emily's Blue Period (2014) by Cathleen Daly and illustrated by Lisa Brown. I really liked how this picture book uses art and art history to talk about the impacts of divorce on children, both through the eyes of Emily and her little brother. I also liked the connection to writing, as many teachers I know use "heart maps" ala Georgia Heard for helping students brainstorm ideas for stories and personal narratives. This would be a great mentor text for discussion big topics and what might be in your own heart too.

The Farmer and the Clown (2014) by Marla Frazee. This wordless picture book will doubtless be part of many Caldecott conversations this year, and the expressions of emotions is powerful. This was one of those books were I was completely drawn into the story while reading it, but after stepping outside of that moment. the whole thing seemed a bit random and odd. I'm interested to see the discussions around this one.

Gaston (2014) by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by Christian Robinson. Our librarian read this book aloud to my students on Friday, and they really enjoyed the story and the artwork. Several took it upon themselves the give the book a closer inspection afterwards as well. I really appreciated the message of this book - accepting that who you are depends on who you are on the inside and not on the outside. Though this strong message of self-acceptance and self-actualization is cloaked in dog form, I think it is an important one for students to internalize.

The Iridescence of Birds a book about Henri Matisse (2014) by Patricia MacLachlan and illustrated by Hadley Hooper. I really liked the writing and organization of this story, focusing on the influences and environment of the young Henri Matisse. The artwork did not impress me in particular, but I think this book would be a great resource for art teachers to introduce Matisse to their students and to encourage kids to think about their own lives and how to turn them into art.

A Letter for Leo (2014) by Sergio Ruzzier. I read this one aloud this week to my third graders. They enjoyed the goofiness of Leo's friend, Cheep, but did not find much to keep their interest in this story, ostensibly for younger children. I felt like that book was a little confused about what the main story was to be and that other "odd couple" books this year (like The Farmer and the Clown and Rain) did this story line better. Even good old Frog & Toad have a more engaging 'waiting for a letter' plot.

Maple (2014) by Lori Nichols. I was a child who befriended a tree, so I could easily identify with Maple and her growing relationship with her birth tree. This is also a good book for discussing how to deal with a new baby in the family.

My Teacher is a Monster! (No, I Am Not.) by Peter Brown. This one has definitely been making the rounds of "It's Monday! What Are You Reading?" and I got off the library wait list for it this past week. I am looking forward to sharing this book with my students in the spring when we study "Perspective and Point-of-View." The story is told purely from Bobby's POV, and I think discussing the teacher's POV and her changing perspective about Bobby during the story could provoke some lively conversation. (* Update: here's a link to an article by Peter Brown called Regarding Monster Teachers about his experiences that led to this book.)

Neighborhood Sharks: hunting with the great whites of California's Farallon Islands by Katherine Roy. Just wow. The artwork and level of detail in this book is stunning, and it is a great mix of draw-you-in story, nonfiction information, and details about the scientists who study sharks. I had to share this book with a former student who loves sharks, and she sat down and immediately devoured the whole thing. This one should definitely be a part of your Caldecott conversation.

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Melissa Sweet. I love their earlier River of Words: the story of William Carlos Williams, so I was excited to be the first in the library hold line for this new title. Will definitely share this one with students when we get to talking about how and why to use a thesaurus. Fascinating to read how the idea evolved and to see the original meaning-based organization of the first edition.

Sam and Dave Dig a Hole (2014) by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klasen. This book did not do a lot for me on my first personal reading, but this one has lit up my classroom. Students were interrupting conversations and insisting that others read this book (or insisting that they read the book aloud to friends). They cackled hysterically over the illustrations and found the ending intriguing rather than random. (Many immediately went back to compare the beginnings and endings.)

Shh! We Have a Plan (2014) by Chris Haughton. While this simplistic picture book did not do a lot for me, my kids this week have really enjoyed it. This is another one that they have enjoyed reading aloud to each other repeatedly. In fact, it was one of my students who drew my attention to the differences between the opening and closing end papers. Somebody is ready for our mock Caldecott discussions!

Take Away the A by Michael Escoffier and illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo. This very clever alphabet book combines sets of two words - one created by taking away a single letter from the original word. Thus, the beast knows he is the best, and the bride goes for a ride. I think this would be a really fun word-play activity to try with students - have them create and illustrate new word pairs. My students took to this book immediately.

Books Not Yet Reviewed

An Oak Tree Grows (2014) by G. Brian Karas. My students loved discovering the growing timeline at the bottom of the illustrations and using it to follow the life story of this tree.

Brother Hugo and the Bear (2014) by Katy Beebe and illustrated by S.D. Schindler.

Grandfather Gandhi (2014) by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedur and illustrated by Evan Turk. Personally, I did not care much for this book. I felt like it did not do enough to give kids any background about Gandhi beforehand, which made the book make less sense. Plus the story felt too self-centered to be interesting, to me.

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone (2014) by Katheryn Russell-Brown and illustrated by Frank Morrison.

The Pilot and the Little Prince: The Life of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (2014) by Peter Sis. Still have not found the time to devote to all the details in this book ...

Quest (2014) by Aaron Becker, the sequel to last year's honor winner, Journey.

The Scraps Book: notes from a colorful life (2014) by Lois Ehlert. Delightful memoir of her life and inspiration as an artist.

Three Bears in a Boat (2014) by David Soman.

Viva Frida (2014) by Yuyi Morales. In orders for kids to make sense of this book-told-as-diorama, it really helps to first provide them with some background on Frida, her actual look, and her artwork. Otherwise this is a tough one for kids to parse out on their own.

Books Left off the Ballot that I Still Like

Nana in the City (2014) by Lauren Castillo. This is a great book to use to discuss compare-contrast structures with kids, as they can examine the two different halves (days) of this story. It is also useful to talk about the differences between perceptions and realities and help them to see how opinions can grow and change when presented with more information.

Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold (2014) by Joyce Sidman and Rick Allen. This charming collection of winter-based poems is well-matched by the detailed illustrations and the informative paragraphs about the plant, animal, or object being featured in the poem. Children will love exploring the illustrations and imagery of the poem - as well as following the journey of a certain red fox across the pages.

Blizzard (2014) by John Rocco. Disappointed by our dusting of snow that was forecast to be three inches, I had to content myself by reading Blizzard, which is an engaging take on the author's experience during the New England blizzard of 1978. I really liked the joyful, kid-centric approach of this story, though I imagine most adults would read between the lines and see the totally different story written on the faces of the background adults. The illustrations are detailed and lovely, and I could see this being a sleeper for a possible Caldecott Honor.

Hug Machine (2014) by Scott Campbell. This very endearing book follows the day in the life of the self-proclaimed "Hug Machine!" Kids will love the variety of people and objects that are validated and hugged in this book. My students giggled throughout and enjoyed making predictions.

Which picture books are your favorites to win this year's Caldecott?

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