Thursday, November 20, 2014

Naming the Best of 2014 -- Lists!

It's that time of year when "best of " lists start popping up, and I love them!

The winners of the New York Times Best Illustrated Books for 2014 were chosen by an illustrious panel of judges--Jennifer M. Brown, Brian Floca, and Jerry Pinkney.

The ten titles on the National Book Awards Longlist for Young People's Literature were announced clear back in September.  And the finalists on the shortlist were announced in October.  Congratulations to Jacqueline Woodson and Brown Girl Dreaming for winning the award this week.  Click here to read the lists, the winners, and interviews with the authors.

Publisher's Weekly has announced their Best Books 2014 lists.  Check out the choices for Picture Books, Middle Grade, and Young Adult.  This is the list that convinced me to finally pick up The Witch's Boy--oh, so good.

One of my favorite lists of the year is School Library Journal's: Picture Books, Middle Grade, Young Adult, and Nonfiction.

I was thrilled to see My Grandfather's Coat, Firefly July, and Rules of Summer on both PW's and SLJ's lists.  I also heartily agree with the inclusion of Revolution, Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy, Brown Girl Dreaming, The Port Chicago 50, and The Family Romanov--best books all!  And now I really need to find a copy of The Crossover.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Fabulous 590s and Scientists in the Field

We kicked off our Fabulous 590s program with the fabulous Scientists in the Field series.  This series provides a diverse glimpse into the animal world--tapirs and tarantulas, kakapo and cheetahs, snakes and seahorses--by following scientists at work.  Engaging texts and stunning photography take readers right into the scientists' explorations as they ask questions, search for answers, overcome obstacles, and make discoveries.

Booktalks for twelve of the thirteen Scientists in the Field titles in the 590s section of our library were received with plenty of oohs and aahs, particularly when we showed photographs of the kakapo and the tree kangaroo.  After two days, all of our 590s Scientists in the Field books (including Kakapo Rescue which we moved from 639) were checked out.

My favorite moment was when two girls grabbed Project Seahorse at the same time and sank down to the floor, side-by-side, and began reading it.  They were so engrossed in the book that when one of them finally glanced up, she was startled to find the library empty and her class halfway down the hallway.  'Cause these books are just that good.

Here are a couple of student recommendations:

You can get more information on Scientists in the Field books here.  For updates on the research explored in the books, subscribe to Adventure Notes.  And oh, I can hardly wait for Octopus Scientist by Sy Mongomery--coming next year!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

tara recommends Shh! We Have A Plan by Chris Haughton

A couple of years ago, I came across a book that felt different and quirky - in a good way.  At first glance, you are not sure if you should love it or not, but it won me over with its enthusiasm and personality.  This book was Oh No, George! by Chris Haughton.

Now, Haughton has a new story that showcases his unique style.  Shh! We Have A Plan features four friends out for a walk in the dark woods.  They are carrying nets and they "have a plan."  Predictably, the littlest adventurer has a plan of his own - one the other three won't listen to.  Their persistence in trying to reach their goal is amusing and the build-up to the twist at the end is rewarding.

Blue and black tones dominate the pages with just a punch of red to draw your eye.  Blocky characters manage to have personality without extensive detail and the eyes especially are able to convey anticipation, frustration and surprise.  There are just over 100 words in the entire story, so the magic really is in the humorous pictures and well-paced adventure.

The premise is simple enough that my four-year-old can recite it perfectly with minimal prompting and the repetitive cadence invites participation from even the oldest audience.  This is definitely a bedtime story that will be well read and loved because of its brevity, unique pictures and delightful story.

Shh! We Have A Plan
by Chris Haughton
published by Candlewick Press
September 2014

Monday, November 3, 2014

Lions and Tigers and Bears . . . and Lizards and Spiders and Turtles and Tapirs . . .

I don't really read nonfiction.  Nonfiction is just not my thing.  I haven't read that--it's nonfiction, right?  I can't count the number of times I have heard variations of this sentiment recently.  And as I was listening to Sy Montgomery (Kakapo Rescue, Chasing Cheetahs) speak at a conference this summer, I thought, Why?  Why are these captivating books so often dismissed?  Are we as enthusiastic book talking nonfiction titles as we are talking about the newest fantasy series?  What can we do to get our students excited about nonfiction?

So, at our library, we have decided to celebrate nonfiction during November with an event called The Fabulous 590s.

Throughout the month we will be spotlighting many of the books from our 590-599 shelves.  And because nothing can rival the power of peer recommendations, we are encouraging our students to write about their favorite books.

Student recommendation wall.
Our first recommendation.

Bookmarks for students who recommend books.
More bookmarks.

Tarantula highlighting our event.

Our 590s shelves.

We are looking forward to a great month sharing fabulous books!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

October 2014 Storytime Briefly

Because of fall break, we only had three weeks for storytime in October.  I chose more nonfiction books for the first two weeks, and then finished out the month with spooky books.

We talked about great ideas and read
We also talked about a couple of longer picture books that I hope some of the students will pick up on their own:  The Boy Who Invented: The Story of Philo Farnsworth by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Greg Couch and The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer's Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors by Chris Barton, illustrated by Toni Persiani.

We read true stories about animals:
  • Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas by Lynne Cox, illustrated by Brian Floca; and
  • Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla by Katherine Applegate, illustrated by G. Brian Karas.
Many of the students are either reading or have read Katherine Applegate's fiction story inspired by Ivan's life, The One and Only Ivan, (particularly because it is a selection for America's Battle of the Books this year).  Reading Ivan's story gave us a chance to discuss elements of the story that are factual and elements that are imagined.  The kids especially loved the photos of Ivan and the picture of one of his paintings.

In anticipation of Halloween, we read about two creepy gardens.  We read
  • Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown; and
  • The Garden of Abdul Gasazi by Chris Van Allsburg.
We talked about achromatism and color choice.  We discussed why an artist might want to create black-and-white illustrations, and the marvelous effect of having spots of orange color in Creepy Carrots.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

kids recommend The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale

The Princess in Black is a story about a seemingly perfect princess, with a secret.  When a nosy duchess comes to visit, Princess Magnolia has to rush to turn into her alter ego (the Princess in Black), battle monsters from the nearby Monster Land, and make it back to the castle before her secret is discovered.   This comical story with colorful illustrations is sure to delight young readers.

Now, it's time to let our kid readers do the talking.

K. (age 7) wrote:

My favorite part is when the Princess in Black is thinking about the nosy duchess.  If I were the Princess in Black, I would try not to think about the nosy duchess.  I like how cute the Princess in Black looks when she is hoping the duchess will not snoop.

L. (age 7) wrote:

My favorite part was when she switched from the Princess in Pink to the Princess in Black.  If I were the Princess in Black, I would save people all over the WORLD!!!

The Princess in Black
by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale
illustrated by LeUyen Pham
published by Candlewick
October 2014
recommended for ages 5-8

Review copy received from publisher.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Tick . . . Tick . . . Tick

You only have a few more days left to nominate books for the Cybils this year.  Look at this list of some of the good nonfiction books that haven't shown up on the lists yet:
  • Frida & Diego: Art, Love, Life by Catherine Reef
  • Chasing Cheetahs: The Race to Save Africa's Fastest Cat by Sy Montgomery
  • Everybody Paints!: The Lives and Art of the Wyeth Family by Susan Goldman Rubin
  • Freedom Summer: The 1964 Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi by Susan Goldman Rubin
  • Strike!: The Farm Workers' Fight for Their Rights by Larry Dane Brimner
  • The Dolphins of Shark Bay by Pamela S. Turner
If you haven't nominated your favorites yet, do it now--it only takes a minute.  Here is the link.