Saturday, March 29, 2014

Librarians' Choices 2013

  1. Adler, David. 2013. THINGS THAT FLOAT AND THNGS THAT DON’T. Holiday House.
  2. Arndt, Ingo. 2013. BEST FOOT FORWARD. Holiday House.
  3. Avasthi, Swati. 2013. CHASING SHADOWS. Knopf.
  4. Becker, Aaron. 2013. JOURNEY. Candlewick.
  5. Berne, Jennifer. 2013. ON A BEAM OF LIGHT. Chronicle.
  6. Black, Holly. 2013. THE COLDEST GIRL IN COLDTOWN. Little, Brown.
  7. Boyd, Lizi. 2013. INSIDE/OUTSIDE. Chronicle.
  8. Brown, Peter. 2013. MR. TIGER GOES WILD. Little, Brown.
  9. Bryant, Jen. 2013. A SPLASH OF RED. Knopf.
  10. Bunting, Eve. 2013. THE CART THAT CARRIED MARTIN. Charlesbridge.
  11. Burg, Ann E. 2013. SERAFINA’S PROMISE. Scholastic.
  12. Cline-Ransome, Lesa. 2013. LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS. Jump the Sun.
  13. Collins, Suzanne. 2013. YEAR OF THE JUNGLE. Scholastic.
  14. Colson, Rob. 2013. BONE COLLECTION ANIMALS. Scholastic.
  15. Daywalt, Drew. 2013. THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT. Penguin.
  16. DiCamillo, Kate. 2013. FLORA AND ULYSSES. Candlewick.
  17. Engle, Margarita. 2013. THE LIGHTNING DREAMER. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  18. Floca, Brian. 2013. LOCOMOTIVE. Atheneum.
  19. Flood, Nancy Bo. 2013. COWBOY UP! RIDE THE NAVAJO RODEO. Boyds Mill.
  20. Fogliano, Julie. 2013. IF YOU WANT TO SEE A WHALE. Macmillan.
  21. Fusco, Kimberly Newton. 2013. BEHOLDING BEE. Knopf.
  22. Grabenstein, Chris. 2013. ESCAPE FROM MR. LEMONCELLO’S LIBRARY. Random House.
  23. Greenberg, Jan. 2013. THE MAD POTTER. Roaring Brook.
  24. Grimes, Nikki. 2013. WORDS WITH WINGS. Boyd’s Mills.
  25. Guiberson, Brenda Z.. 2013. FROG SONG. Henry Holt.
  26. Harley, Bill. 2013. CHARLIE BUMPERS VS. THE TEACHER OF THE YEAR. Peachtree.
  27. Henkes, Kevin. 2013. THE YEAR OF BILLY MILLER. Greenwillow.
  28. Holub, Joan. 2013. LITTLE RED WRITING. Chronicle.
  29. Hopkins, Lee Bennett, ed. 2013. ALL THE WORLD’S A STAGE. Creative Editions.
  30. Jenks, Andrew. 2013. MY ADVENTURES AS A YOUNG FILMMAKER. Scholastic.
  31. Johnston, Tony. 2013. THE CAT WITH SEVEN NAMES. Charlesbridge.
  32. Kearney, Meg. 2013. TROUPER. Scholastic.
  33. King, A.S. 2013. REALITY BOY. Little, Brown.
  34. Klassen, Jon (Lemony Snicket). 2013. THE DARK. Little, Brown.
  35. Kohuth, Jane. 2013. ANNE FRANK’S CHESTNUT TREE. Random House.
  36. Konigsberg, Bill. 2013. OPENLY STRAIGHT. Scholastic.
  37. Koertge, Ron. 2013. COALTOWN JESUS. Candlewick.
  38. Krull, Kathleen. 2013. LOUISA MAY’S BATTLE. Walker.
  39. LaFleur, Suzanne. 2013. LISTENING FOR LUCCA. Random House.
  40. MacDonald, Maryann. 2013. ODETTE’S SECRETS. Bloomsbury.
  41. Martin, Emily W. 2013. DREAM ANIMALS. Random House
  42. McClafferty, Carla K. 2013. FOURTH DOWN AND INCHES. Carolrhoda.
  43. McClure, Nikki. 2013. HOW TO BE A CAT. Abrams.
  44. McNeal, Tom. 2013. FAR, FAR AWAY. Knopf.
  45. Miller, Pat Zietlow. 2013. SOPHIE’S SQUASH. Schwartz & Wade.
  46. Moore, Eva. 2013. LUCKY DUCKLINGS. Orchard/Scholastic.
  47. Moriarity, Jaclyn. 2013. A CORNER OF WHITE. ArthurLevine/Scholastic.
  48. Mortenson, Lon. 2013. COWPOKE CLYDE. Clarion.
  49. Nelson, Kadir. 2013. NELSON MANDELA. HarperCollins.
  51. Olsham, Matthew. 2013. THE MIGHTY LALOUCHE. Random House.
  52. Panzieri, Lucia. 2013. KINDHEARTED CROCODILE. Holiday House.
  53. Pautis, Stephan. 2013. TIMMY FAILURE. Candlewick.
  54. Pinkney, Jerry. 2013. THE TORTOISE AND THE HARE. Little, Brown.
  55. Quick, Matthew. 2013. FORGIVE ME, LEONARD PEACOCK. Little, Brown.
  56. Raschka, Chris. 2013. EVERYONE CAN LEARN TO RIDE A BICYCLE. Schwartz & Wade.
  57. Reid, Barbara. 2013. PICTURE A TREE. Whitman.
  58. Robinson, Michelle. 2013. DING DONG GORILLA. Peachtree.
  59. Rueda, Claudia. 2013. IS IT BIG OR IS IT LITTLE?. Eerdmans.
  60. Rosenthal, Amy Krouse. 2013. EXCLAMATION MARK. Scholastic.
  61. Roth, Susan L. 2013. PARROTS OVER PUERTO RICO. Lee & Low.
  62. Rowell, Rainbow. 2013. ELEANOR AND PARK. St. Martins.
  63. Salerni, Dianne K. 2013. THE CAGED GRAVES. Clarion.
  64. Sanchez, Jenny Torres. 2013. DEATH, DICKINSON, AND THE DEMENTED LIFE OF FRENCHIE GARCIA. Running Press.
  65. Sax, Aline & Caryl Strzelecki. 2013. THE WAR WITHIN THESE WALLS. Eerdman.
  66. Sayre, April. 2013. EAT LIKE A BEAR. Henry Holt.
  67. Schneider, Josh. 2013. THE MEANEST BIRTHDAY GIRL. Clarion.
  68. Sedgwick, Marcus. 2013. MIDWNTERBLOOD. Roaring Brook Press.
  69. Seeger, Laura Vaccaro. 2013. BULLY. Roaring Brook.
  70. Sepetys, Ruta. 2013. OUT OF THE EASY. Philomel.
  71. Shepherd, Megan. 2013. THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER. Balzer and Bray.
  72. Sidman, Joyce. 2013. WHAT THE HEART KNOWS. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  73. Sloan, Holly Goldberg. 2013. COUNTING BY 7’S. Dial.
  74. Smith, Andrew. 2013. WINGER. Simon & Schuster.
  75. Staake, Bob. 2013. BLUEBIRD. Random House.
  76. Stephens, Helen. 2013. HOW TO HIDE A LION. Henry Holt.
  77. Stockdale, Susan. 2013. STRIPES OF ALL TYPES. Peachtree.
  78. Stone, Tanya Lee. 2013. COURAGE HAS NO COLOR. Cambridge.
  79. Strasser, Todd. 2013. FALLOUT. Candlewick.
  80. Stroud, Jonathon. 2013. THE SCREAMING STAIRCASE. Hyperion.
  81. Swanson, James. 2013. THE PRESIDENT HAS BEEN SHOT. Scholastic.
  82. Tavarer, Matt. 2013. BECOMING BABE RUTH. Candlewick.
  83. Thompson, Holly. 2013. THE LANGUAGE INSIDE. Delacorte.
  84. Thomson, Sarah L. 2013. TERROR BIRD. Charlesbridge.
  85. Urban, Linda. 2013. THE CENTER OF EVERYTHING. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  86. Ursu, Anne. 2013. THE REAL BOY. HarperCollins.
  87. VaDerwater, Amy Ludwig. 2013. FOREST HAS A SONG. Clarion.
  88. Vawter, Vince. 2013. PAPERBOY. Random House.
  89. Villa, Alvaro. 2013. FLOOD. Capstone.
  90. Wein, Rose. 2013. ROSE UNDER FIRE. Hyperion.
  91. Whitman, Sylvia. 2013. MILK OF BIRDS. Atheneum.
  92. Willems, Mo. 2013. THAT’S NOT A GOOD IDEA!. HarperCollins.
  93. Williams-Garcia, Rita. 2013. P.S. BE ELEVEN. HarperCollins.
  94. Winter, Jonah. 2013. JFK. Random House.
  95. Wissinger, Tamera. 2013. GONE FISHING. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  96. Yaccarino, Dan. 2013. DOUG UNPLUGGED. Random House.
  97. Yamasake, Katie. 2013. FISH FOR JIMMY. Holiday House.
  98. Yang, Gene Luen. 2013. BOXERS AND SAINTS. First Second.
  99. Yancey, Rick. 2013. 5TH WAVE. Putnam.
  100. Young, Cybele. 2013. TEN BIRDS MEET A MONSTER. Kids Can.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Things That Float and Things That Don't

Best Foot Forward

Chasing Shadows

Avasthi, Swanti. 2013. CHASING SHADOWS. Ill. Craig Phillips. New York: Knopf. ISBN 9780375863424. [Suggested Grade Levels 9-12]

Holly, her brother, and her best friend are “freerunners” who use Chicago as their personal gym. When Holly's twin brother is murdered and she is severely injured by an unknown gunman, after her initial recovery, she begins to spiral into mental illness. Believing that she is the human incarnation of a graphic novel heroine the Leopardess, Holly wants to rescue her brother from the Shadowlands. Her friend and Corey's girlfriend Savitri, who also grieves Corey’s death, tries to save Holly and puts her own life in danger. The book is a powerful read that blends of alternating narrative text and graphic novel.

Beyond that, the novel is poignant picture of mental illness and the power—and lack of power—of friendship. The blending of the two formats—traditional novel format and graphic novel, with Phillips’ darkly detailed illustrations—adds to the intensity of the read.

This would be a good book to use with teens to discuss grief and/or mental illness. Use the book as a way to explore genre and format. Have artistic students take a chapter of a favorite books and add graphic novel type illustrations to the book or pair students to write a short story that is a blend of narrative and graphic format.

Rosen, Michael. THE SAD BOOK. ISBN 0763625973.
Wesselhoeft, Conrad. ADIOS NIRVANA. ISBN 9783551311221

Kuehn, Stephanie. CHARM AND STRANGE. ISBN 9781250021946
Walton, K.M. CRACKED. ISBN 978442429161


Becker, Aaron. 2013. JOURNEY. Somerville, MA: Candlewick. ISBN 9780763660536 [Suggested Grade Levels 1- 4]

This wordless picture book opens on a city street with a girl riding a bright red scooter.  The contrast of the urban browns to the vibrant red item immediately engages the reader. The spotlighted item eventually becomes a crayon the girl uses to draw a door. Once the girl passes through the door, the world transforms into an exotic new realm. The heroine travels to vibrant, foreign lands, narrowly escaping dangers, falling into the clutches of a sinister villain, finding courage, and ultimately returning home with a new companion. All along, the trusty crayon creates transport and thrilling adventure.  

The unique book grabs the attention of readers of all ages and invites multiple readings and observation. The pen, ink, and watercolor artwork is detailed and exquisite. The beginning and final pages are done in sepia tones with only the pop of primary color; the pages detailing the journey to the magical lands are rich with color and absolutely enchanting. The contrast is brilliant. 

Color is vital to the story. Discuss the illustrator’s choice for different spreads. Encourage observation of the basic colors; discuss their purpose and placement. Distinct architecture styles are used. Encourage students to compare the city to the fantasy worlds. The book contains much foreshadowing. Reread and allow readers to detect the clues tucked within the illustrations.  Finally, encourage children to create their own journeys allowing them to decide where they would travel with a magical crayon.  

The book pays homage to classics:
Johnson, Crockett.  HAROLD AND THE PURPLE CRAYON. ISBN 9780064430227

Other wordless books:
Banyai, Istvan. ZOOM.  ISBN 9780670858040
Staake, Bob. BLUEBIRD. ISBN 9780375870378

By Jill Bellomy

On a Beam of Light

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown


Mr. Tiger Goes Wild

Brown, Peter. 2013. MR. TIGER GOES WILD. New York: Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316200639 [Suggested Grade Levels K- 2]

Mr. Tiger lives in a very proper world. “Everyone was perfectly fine with the way things were. Everyone but Mr. Tiger.”  He wants to loosen up, to have some fun, to be wild.  His wild acts are too much for the city and eventually lead him to the wilderness where he can explore his wild side. He loves being himself, but is lonely. Upon return to the city, he finds that others are exploring their wild sides too. “Now Mr. Tiger felt free to be himself.  And so did everyone else.”

Peter Brown has created another unique, hilarious story. Sepia and gray tones paired with strong horizontal lines are used skillfully to portray the proper, upright life of the city; Mr. Tiger’s bold orange strikes an immediate contrast. Double page spreads halt the action perfectly when Mr. Tiger descends to four feet and when he shockingly sheds his proper clothing. The vibrant colors and irregular shapes used to create the wilderness juxtapose expertly to the gray city. Brown’s simple strokes, facial expressions, and word choice communicate feelings and reactions impeccably. The delightful tale celebrates being oneself even if that means sometimes celebrating one’s wild side.

Mr. Tiger’s simple lines beg to be imitated by young artists. Allow children to draw him in both settings. Many important messages are woven in this simple book. Discuss these messages with readers such as the importance of being oneself and when it is acceptable to go a little wild.

Other books that recognize the wild side in all of us:
Sendak, Maurice. WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE. ISBN 9780060254926
Willems, Mo. NAKED MOLE RAT GETS DRESSED. ISBN 9781423114376

By Jill Bellomy

A Splash of Red

Bryant, Jen. 2013. A SPLASH OF RED: THE LIFE AND ART OF HORACE PIPPIN. Ill. by Melissa Sweet. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 9780375867125 [Suggested Grade Levels K-3]

Bryant and Sweet present the life of artist Horace Pippen, from his childhood in the late 19th century through his success as a respected artist. As a child Pippen, with his large hands, enjoyed illustrating day-to-day events in his life. As he grew older, he discovered painting and used it as a hobby outside of his jobs requiring much physical labor. While fighting in World War I, Pippen injured his arm. Upon returning home, he was unable to continue working manual labor jobs, and painting was extremely difficult. He re-taught himself how to draw and paint, eventually earning acclaim in the art world.

The mixed-media art is eye-catching and beautifully illustrates the well-told story of one man's artistic hobby-turned-career. Both Bryant and Sweet provide notes at the conclusion, and there are resources for further research (books, a film, and web sites), as well as a map of the US depicting the current locations of Pippen's work on display.

A Splash of Red is an excellent choice for livening up a biography study, offering a refreshing alternative to the traditional focus on political figures. Additionally, children can compare and contrast different artists’ styles from the time period as well as from other time periods.

Other biographical books for children about artists:
Winter, Jonah. FRIDA. ISBN 9780590203203
Any of the titles from the Anholt’s Artists Books for Children series

By Jennifer E. Richey

The Cart That Carried Martin

Bunting, Eve. 2013. THE CART THAT CARRIED MARTIN. Ill. by Don Tate. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge. ISBN 978150893879 [Suggested Grade Levels K-4]


Martin Luther King, Jr. preached equality.  At the core of his message was the idea that things like race, wealth, and background are not measures of a person.  This philosophy ran deep, and THE CART THAT CARRIED MARTIN brings home the message.

Rather than share this message through life events as the typical Martin Luther King, JR biography does, Bunting tells the story of King’s funeral, weaving together elements of his legacy and message. 

During preparations for the funeral parade, two men found and borrowed an unwanted old cart.  In King’s message is an embrace of the lowly, and the cart, which they painted green, held not only the man, but also the essence of his words.   Instead of majestic horses, two mules were chosen to pull his cart, as a symbol of freedom given to freed slaves.

The sorrow, pain, and resolve felt by mourners as they crowd the streets and the church fill page spreads.  The words and images share the emotion of the day.

“This humble cart that, not so long ago, carried greatness.” 

Many books share the message and story of Martin Luther King, Jr.  For students to begin to understand the power of his words and message they should be exposed to a variety of books from a variety of perspectives.  This book is one that is able to provide a unique look at his message.  Students could also match quotes from his speeches to the message of humbleness that prevails in THE CART THAT CARRIED MARTIN.

Martin Luther King Jr books with a unique perspective
Martin and Mahalia: his words, her song by Andrea Davis Pinkney
My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by King, Martin Luther, III
Marching to the Mountaintop by Bausum, Ann

By Emily Bredberg

Serafina's Promise

Burg, Ann E. 2013. SERAFINA’S PROMISE. New York: Scholastic. ISBN 9780545535649. [Suggested Grade Levels 4-7]

Serafina and her family live in Haiti. Despite her family’s poverty, she wants to attend school and someday become a doctor, but her mother is pregnant again and Serafinal must help around the house. Maybe if this baby lives, she will be able to once again attend school. But life is hard. Rain washes away their home. School costs money. Her mother does not want her to go to school. After her baby brother is born, her mother decides that if she can save enough money, she can attend school. And then the earthquake comes.

Written in verse format, Burg’s supreme artistry weaves words into an exciting and realistic story of family, of hope, of poverty, and of the powerful destruction of nature. Using simple but powerful language, Burg’s word pictures are perfect:
I wish I could
jump rope and laugh
with my friends.
But I have nor brother
or sister to help with chores.
Even on Sunday
there’s no play
until all my work is done. (p. 3)

Use this book to introduce the power on nature and natural disasters. The book can also be used to introduce Haiti. Use it as a starting place to talk about poverty. The book would also serve as a model for students to write a memoir in verse format.

Benoit, Peter. THE HAITIAN EARTHQUAKE OF 2010. ISBN 9780531266250
Danticat, Edwidge. EIGHT DAYS: A STORY OF HAITI, ISBN 9780545278492

Burg, Ann E. ALL THE BROKEN PIECES. ISBN  9780545080934

Light in the Darkness

Year of the Jungle

Collins, Suzanne. 2013. YEAR OF THE JUNGLE. Ill. by James Proimos. New York: Scholastic. ISBN 0545425162 [Suggested Grade Levels 1 - 8]

Year of the Jungle is touching picture book from The Hunger Games’ author Suzanne Collins.  Little Suzy has a dad who has to go to “something called war” in Viet Nam.  Through the story Suzy not only misses her father dearly, but imagines what it’s like for him to be off in a war in a jungle.  As time goes on and communication from her father become confused and then stops, Suzy’s worries grow as do all children with parents or family on active duty.

James Proimos’s illustrations are whimsical and captivating.  They help tell the story of a young girl in first grade with a great imagination.  Even though the pictures are whimsical, they still connect the reader to Suzy’s feelings throughout the book.  The writing and illustrations pair well to communicate the deep feelings of possible loss to a little girl.

This book is a great read especially for children who have parents or relatives deployed elsewhere.  It could help them see that they are not alone in their concern and feelings about their loved ones.

Lead a discussion about family deployed in dangerous situations.  Students can discuss, even hypothetically, what it must feel like to be concerned about a parent or an older sibling who is away.
Create a word wall of feelings from Year of the Jungle.  Have students give feeling words and even use a thesaurus to find related words.

Brisson, Pat. SOMETIMES WE WERE BRAVE. ISBN 1590785867
Hardin, Melinda. HERO DAD. ISBN 0761457135

By Lisa M. Zinkie

Bone Collection: Animals

The Day the Crayons Quit

Flora and Ulysses

DiCamillo, Kate. 2013. FLORA AND ULYSSES: THE ILLUMINATED ADVENTURES. Ill. by K.G. Campbell. Somerville, MA: Candlewick. ISBN 9780763660406 [Suggested Grade Levels 3- 6]

Flora is a “natural born cynic.” She spends her time reading comics and studying the bonus sections entitled Terrible Things can Happen to You! and The Criminal Element Among Us. (“Flora found it wise to be prepared.”)  She reminds herself not to hope; instead observe. But in a series of “unanticipated occurrences,” a squirrel is vacuumed up by her neighbor and transformed into a typing, poetry-writing, flying superhero that brings surprises, new friends, and adventure into Flora’s life. He enables her to face issues with her parents and to finally hope again.  

Through quirky characters, humor, and exquisite word choice, Kate DiCamillo creates a delightful, heartwarming fantasy. Campbell’s gentle pencil illustrations created in the style of Flora’s beloved The Illuminated Adventures of the Amazing Incandesto! are the perfect complement to the endearing tale. Readers suspend belief as they fall in love with this verse-writing squirrel and the girl he adores. Once again master author DiCamillo uses small characters to tell a big story about what truly matters in life.

Use Ulysses’s free verse and his list of words to inspire readers to create their own poetry. Children can also create comic strips of Flora and Ulysses, the Amazing Incandesto, or original characters. They can create editions of Terrible Things can Happen to You! or The Criminal Element Among Us. Exclamations and dialogue are used throughout the text and comics.  Readers can identify the different types of sentences used in these exchanges and then write their own. 

Other fantasies that celebrate words and transport readers to magical worlds:
Blackwood, Sage. JINX. ISBN 9780062129901
Lloyd, Natalie. A SNICKER OF MAGIC. ISBN 9780545552707

By Jill Bellomy

The Lightning Dreamer


Floca, Brian. 2013. LOCOMOTIVE. New York: Atheneum. ISBN  9781416994152. [Suggested Grade Levels 1-6]

Brian Floca’s beautifully illustrated Caldecott Medal winning book is perfect for those boys who love “train books” but its well-constructed mix of blank verse and the story of the transcontinental railroad make it a valuable addition to both classrooms and library. While the book begins with a brief history of the building of the transcontinental railroad, it is really a celebration of those who built, who travelled, who drove those mighty locomotives across the country. Floca masterfully blends facts and schematics of the locomotives, sweeping scenic panoramas, stories of the people, vignettes of what might have been seen along the way, and wonderful words to make this book a visual and verbal delight, chock full of information and smoothly flowing narrative. His watercolor illustrations are understated but bold. The result is a book that can be enjoyed on many levels by both children and adults. Extensive introductory and back matter gives additional historical information.

For younger students, use this book as part of a transportation unit. Have students pretend that they are riding on the train and talk about what they would have seen if they had written the train back when it was built as compared with what they would see today. For older students, use it as an introductory lesson in American history about the Western expansion and building of the transcontinental railroad.

Coiley, John. TRAINS. ISBN 9780756650322
Simon, Seymour. BOOK OF TRAINS. ISBN 9780060284756

Cowboy Up! Ride the Navajo Rodeo

Flood, Nancy Bo. 2013. COWBOY UP! RIDE THE NAVAJO RODEO.  Ill by Jan Sonnenmair. Honesdale, PA: Wordsong. ISBN 9781590788936 [Suggested Grade Levels 2-6]

Poetry, prose and photography combine in this unique picture book that depicts a busy day at a Navajo rodeo.  Each poem reveals the perspective of a participant—from the anticipation of the night before in “Tomorrow” to the we’ll get ‘em next time reflections of the final poem “Heading Home.” The poetry and expository text on each double-page spread frequently are accompanied by the authentic narration of a rodeo announcer and plentiful photographs of rodeo participants engaging in mutton busting, barrel racing, steer wrestling, eating fry bread and more. Back matter includes a page on rodeo history and a listing of additional resources in print and on the web. 

This look at an aspect of contemporary Navajo life provides an opportunity to help children understand that Native-Americans continue to inhabit tribal lands across North America. Read more about the lives of Native Americans in the following titles.

Dennis, Yvonne Wakim and Arlene Hirschfelder. CHILDREN OF NATIVE AMERICA TODAY. 9781570919657
Smith, Cynthia Leitich. JINGLE DANCER. 9780688162429
Smith, Cynthia Leitich. INDIAN SHOES. 9780060395318

By Suzy Parchman

If You Want to See a Whale

Fogliano, Julie. 2013. IF YOU WANT TO SEE A WHALE. Ill. by Erin E. Stead. New York: Roaring Brook Press. ISBN 9781596437319 [Suggested Grade Levels P-2]

This clever advice book for young whale watchers includes helpful tips as well as activities to avoid while looking for the elusive mammals. Instead of stopping to smell the roses or investigate small insects along the beach, Fogliano cautions her readers to be patient and stay attentive to the sea. Children shouldn’t gaze at passing ships “because possible pirates won’t help at all when you’re waiting for a whale.”

Stead’s pencil illustrations perfectly complement Fogliano’s story of a leisurely day spent whale watching. The soft colors and simple nautical scenes fit the peaceful mood of the story. Young children will enjoy finding the whale outlines hidden in some of the pictures and spotting the little bird that accompanies the boy while he waits.

Readers follow the boy’s day as he leaves his window, walks to the beach, and boards his small rowboat in hopes of a whale sighting. The young boy, his dog, and the bird are eventually rewarded for their patience and persistence when a large whale pops up in front of their boat.

This lovely picture book would be a great read aloud selection. Pair this book with non-fiction titles about whales for an ocean unit or encourage children to patiently search for other animals in their local habitats.

Other books for children about whales:
Antill, Sara. A WHALE’S LIFE. ISBN 9781448849789
Bunting, Eve. WHALES PASSING. ISBN 9781413162738
Gunzi, Christiane. THE BEST BOOK OF WHALES AND DOLPHINS. ISBN 9781428712690

By Kimberly C. Kinnaird

Beholding Bee

Fusco, Kimberly Newton. 2013. BEHOLDING BEE. New York: Knopf Books for Young Readers. ISBN 9780375868368 [Suggested Grade Levels 3-7]

Ten year old Bee was orphaned at the age of four and has spent the last several years of her life in the care of Pauline, a family friend. Together, they work the hot dog cart in a traveling carnival in 1942 New York. Bee has a large, diamond-shaped birthmark on her face, which results in frequent inquiry, teasing, and sometimes bullying from carnival visitors and her carnival boss. Bee longs for a normal life, living in a cozy home with Pauline in a quaint town. When the owner of the carnival forces Pauline to relocate, leaving Bee to care for herself and the hot dog cart, Bee runs away hoping to find a stable life and acceptance. She is seemingly magically led to a home occupied by two peculiar women. Bee moves into the house, enrolls in school for the first time in her life, and begins to grow. She makes friends and enemies. She learns how to cook, clean, and care for herself. She discovers mysteries from her past. And she finds love and acceptance within herself and from others.

Fusco presents a warm, heartfelt, and engrossing story about coming of age, empowerment, acceptance, and self-reliance. Bee is a likeable character experiencing realistic internal struggles in a slightly magical world.

Beholding Bee lends itself to a large group a-chapter-a-day read-aloud or a book club with discussions centering on similarities of the human experience despite physical, emotional, and learning differences, on individuality, and on accepting oneself.

Other books for tweens on acceptance:
Golden, Laura. EVERY DAY AFTER. ISBN 9780385743266
Creech, Sharon. THE BOY ON THE PORCH. ISBN 9780061892356

By Jennifer E. Richey

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library

Grabenstein, Chris. 2013. ESCAPE FROM MR. LEMONCELLO’S LIBRARY. New York: Random House. ISBN 9780375870897 [Suggested Grade Levels 4-8]

Grabenstein’s latest novel is a witty treasure hunt filled with literary references. When famous game maker, Mr. Lemoncello, hosts an essay contest for all the 12 year olds in town to attend the grand opening of his new library, Kyle Keeley dreams of being selected as one of the lucky winners. Along with his friends Akimi and Miguel, Kyle wins one of the coveted spots to the private lock-in. Once they arrive, the kids discover there is another game. Whoever can escape the library in 24 hours will star in the game company’s holiday commercials. Their library cards and the library staff, including a holographic image of Mr. Lemoncello’s childhood librarian, will help them find everything they need to win.

Kyle’s talent at winning board games comes in handy as his team races against the clock to solve the riddle of the library by drawing on their past experiences playing Mr. Lemoncello’s puzzles combined with their knowledge of literature and the Dewey decimal system. Working together, the team uncovers the secret exit to the library and Kyle even discovers a new love of reading along the way.

The author’s note after the story claims the game isn’t really finished. The book contains a clue about a mysterious puzzle that wasn’t solved by Kyle’s team. Readers are encouraged to email their solutions to the author.

This is a fun book for reviewing research skills without even trying. Divide students into groups to see who can find the most literary references in the story.

Other library adventure books:
Kerrin, Jessica Scott. THE SPOTTED DOG LAST SEEN. ISBN 9781554983872
Scieszka, Jon. SUMMER READING IS KILLING ME! 9780142401156

By Kimberly C. Kinnaird

The Mad Potter

Words with Wings

Frog Song

Charlie Bumpers vs. the Teacher of the Year

The Year of Billy Miller

Henkes, Kevin. 2013. THE YEAR OF BILLY MILLER. New York, NY: Greenwillow Books. ISBN 9780062268129 [Suggested Grade Levels 1-3]


This is the year of Billy Miller, and by all accounts it will be remarkable.  Billy has entered 2nd grade. 

THE YEAR OF BILLY MILLER is told in 4 parts, each centered around an important figure in his life.  We begin with “Teacher,” who Billy gifts with silver trinkets in honor of her name, Ms. Silver.  “Father,” “Sister,” and “Mother” follow.  Through each section this important character from his life helps lead Billy through a transformation, truly making it his year.

Billy’s reactions, emotions, perspectives on family and school will be familiar to the young readers.  Each student entering the 2nd grade classroom (or any other grade for that matter) on the first day of school is filled with anticipation and excitement.  In their world, the events that unfold throughout the year are exhilarating and noteworthy, even if they may not be for those watching from the outside. 

In THE YEAR OF BILLY MILLER, Kevin Henkes captures the power of every day interactions from a second grade point of view, while creating an engaging and empowering story.  If Billy Miller’s story is worth telling, if his story is exciting, then to a young reader, they may begin to recognize that their story and life is important too.

THE YEAR OF BILLY MILER would be an excellent beginning of the year read aloud for a 1st or 2nd grade classroom.  These students are no longer the youngest in the school, but they are not yet school leaders either.  Henke’s book would be a powerful way to prepare them for the year.

Words with Wings by Nikki Grimes
Ellray Jakes is Not a Chicken by Sally Warner
The Year of the Book by Andrea Cheng

By Emily Bredberg

Little Red Writing

Holub, Joan. 2013. LITTLE RED WRITING. Ill. by Melissa Sweet. San Francisco: Chronicle. ISBN 9780811878692 [Suggested Grade Levels K- 3]

In this clever retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, a little red pencil navigates the scary world of writing. The hilarious tale is full of puns, word play, and exaggerated description as Little Red makes her way through the halls of “Pencilvania School” on her way to Principal Granny’s office. There she meets the Wolf 3000: “the grumpiest, growliest, grindingest pencil sharpener ever made!”, and ultimately lives up to her goal of creating “a story about bravery” when she boldly saves the day. In the midst of the fun, sound writing tips are given as Little Red remembers to stick to the story path, to cut through excessive description, to avoid run-on sentences, and to utilize structure and punctuation to strengthen her story. 

The creative tale is extended perfectly in Melissa Sweet’s vivid, trademark illustrations. Notebook paper backgrounds and handwriting style fonts add personality to the action. Sweet’s layered canvas of pencil, watercolor, and collage invite rereading and pouring over the many details. This celebration of creativity and storytelling can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. 

This book offers connection possibilities for classrooms across the grade levels. The book can be reread allowing students to listen for and collect puns, adjectives, action verbs, adverbs, dialogue, or writing tips. Children can create their own writing notebook in the style of Little Red’s adventure. They can also write stories by the other pencils in Red’s class or create further adventures for Little Red herself. 

Other clever books full of puns and word play:
Auch, Mary Jane. THE PLOT CHICKENS. ISBN 9780823420872
Lichtenheld, Tom. E-MERGENCY!  ISBN 9780811878982
Stevens, Janet. THE LITTLE RED PEN. ISBN 9780152064327

By Jill Bellomy