Showing posts with label ALA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ALA. Show all posts

Monday, July 2, 2018

The power of stories: ALA Annual 2018

I just returned from my annual "Librarians Gone Wild" weekend, otherwise known as the American Library Association Annual Conference. I'm filled with gratitude for my fellow librarians who help me think more carefully about my craft, and for the authors and publishers share their stories with us.

Time and again, I was reminded of the power of stories and the responsibility we have in finding stories that will lift up young people. From former first lady Michelle Obama to best-selling debut author Angie Thomas, I was reminded of the important role stories play in our lives.
Michelle Obama speaking at
the American Library Association, June 2018
Michelle Obama opened our conference in conversation with Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress. I was inspired by the way she described the very ordinariness of her extraordinary story: "I grew up with music, art and love -- that's about it. There's no miracle in my story." Even more so, she talked about how important it is to learn about each other's stories and how we're all trying to figure it out. This video captures a key moment of her talk.

As a child, I often felt unsure--unable to connect to my peers, alone yet surrounded by people. Books filled my imagination, helped me see myself and feel connected to the world.

As a teacher, I have seen this same power of stories again and again. Stories can fill children's hearts and emotions, giving them courage when they feel most alone. Stories can spread laughter when everything around us seems heavy. They can help us see ourselves in other people's stories. They can make us feel less alone.

Erin Entrada Kelly, winner of the 2018 Newbery Medal, spoke directly to this. "My greatest wish as a writer is that the person reading my book -- or any book, for that matter -- feels less alone." She, too, often felt alone as a child, and it was through books that she discovered friends and companions.
Yet children must see these stories as a piece of themselves. They must see themselves in stories, for when we don't recognize ourselves, what can anchor us--as Nina LaCour (author of We Are Okay) said in her Printz Award acceptance speech.

Every day we are bombarded with terrible news, from school shootings to police brutality to inhumane immigration policies. Angie Thomas (author of The Hate U Give) said, "I often wonder what's the point of creating fiction when our society has failed young people so much." Yet I see every day young people determined to make it, to love and laugh and walk in this world. We need to give our children the message that the things they do, the people they are, all that they care about has value.

In his preface to Out of Wonder, Kwame Alexander quotes poet and author Lucille Clifton: “Poems come out of wonder, not out of knowing.” I think the same can be said of our children. They grow when they are given the love, support and encouragement to wonder. We must listen to them, see them, love them.

I wanted to capture the inspiration and wisdom that so many authors shared this weekend. Enjoy this slideshow:

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

2018 Newbery and Beyond: Highlights for 4th & 5th graders

The Newbery Medal has been compared to the Oscars of children's literature, and that's an apt comparison. It brings a boost in popularity, a promise of longevity and a bump in sales. Yesterday, the American Library Association announced not only the winner of the 2018 Newbery Medal, but also a heap of other awards for children and young adults.

Here are my recommendations of awards that are particularly good for 4th & 5th graders.
Hello Universe, by Erin Entrada Kelly: winner of the 2018 Newbery Medal. The lives of four middle schoolers collide when one of them plays a horrible prank.  This sensitive story will appeal to 4th and 5th graders who like realistic fiction that lets you get to know characters, tugging on your heart-strings and imagining how you would respond in difficult situations. I'm looking forward to rereading this friendship story and hearing my students' thoughts.

Crown: Ode to the Fresh Cut, by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James: winner of the 2018 Newbery honor, Caldecott honor and Coretta Scott King author and illustrator honor awards. Wow!!! Look at those awards! This dynamic picture book celebrates the power of a fresh haircut, the way it makes you feel and the transformation that comes with it. The strong voice is a joy to read, and would make an excellent mentor text for memoir, poetry and and small moment details. Inspiring, gorgeous and empowering -- a must-read.

Lucky Broken Girl, by Ruth Behar: winner of the 2018 Pura Belpré Award. Based on her memories growing up as a young Cuban immigrant in Queens, Behar shares with readers her difficult first few years in this country. At first, she struggles to learn English and acclimate herself to a new school and new community. Just when things are improving, she is terribly hurt in car accident and must spend the next eight months in a full body cast. While Behar never shies away from her anger or fears, she ultimately finds hope and healing.

The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora, by Pablo Cartaya: winner of the 2018 Pura Belpré honor award. Cartaya delightfully portrays this Cuban-American family and neighborhood as Arturo develops his first crush and recognizes the power of his words when a shady land developer threatens to put up flashy high rise condos and tear down his family's restaurant.

The First Rule of Punk, by Celia C. Pérez: winner of the 2018 Pura Belpré honor award. This fun, fresh story was a favorite of many Berkeley students. María Luisa wears Chuck Taylors, listens to punk rock, makes zines, and goes by the nickname Malú. She’s devastated when she has to move to Chicago and has to navigate finding new friends, balancing her Mexican culture with her punk rock identity.

Grand Canyon, by Jason Chin: winner of the 2018 Caldecott honor. Detailed illustrations show young readers what it would be like to hike down into the canyon and convey the geologic history of the canyon's formation. Stunning, informative and captivating.

Sea Otter Heroes: The Predators that Saved an Ecosystem, by Patricia Newman: winner of the 2018 Sibert honor award. I have not yet read this yet and am definitely looking forward to it. Newman describes marine biologist Brent Hughes and his work investigating the impact of sea otters on the ecosystem of Elkhorn Slough, near Monterey, CA. A fascinating look at the scientific process in action.

Not So Different: What You Really Want to Ask about Having a Disability, by Shane Burkaw: winner of the 2018 Sibert honor award. With candid humor and accessible descriptions, Shane Burcaw explains how spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) has affected his body and invites questions readers might have. Engaging, informative and important.

Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess, by Shari Green: winner of the 2018 Schneider Family Book Award for Middle Grade. I am looking forward to reading this novel in verse about a deaf sixth grader as she deals with changes life is throwing her way: her mother is remarrying, they are going to move to her step-father's house, and she is going to have to change schools.

Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets, by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Ekua Holmes: winner of the 2018 Coretta Scott King honor award for illustration. In this dynamic collection, Alexander and fellow poets Chris Colderley and Marjorie Wentworth share original poems that dance and spin with poets they admire, inviting readers join the celebration. Ekua Holmes' illustrations are magnificent, capturing and extending the rich themes and imagery of the poetry.

With many thanks to the publishers who sent review copies. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, February 8, 2018

2018 Berkeley Mock Newbery Book Clubs -- our results are in!!!

For the second year, every elementary school in Berkeley Unified School District held a Mock Newbery Book Club to read and discuss the best new books of the year. Our 4th & 5th graders have wrapped up their final voting meetings and the results are in!

The American Library Association awards the Newbery Award each year to the most distinguished children's book written by an American author. Kids know this award and have been so excited to add their voices, taking part in mock elections.
Across the district, over 300 4th and 5th grade students read and discussed the best new books published in 2017. Library staff, literacy coaches, and teachers are worked together to host book clubs. Children's librarians from Berkeley Public Library are coming to support several of our schools. The enthusiasm was contagious!

In order to vote in February, we asked students to read at least 5 of the nominated books. This gave students voice and choice to read based on their preferences:
2018 Berkeley Mock Newbery Nominations:
Amina's Voice, by Hena Khan
A Boy Called Bat, by Elana K. Arnold
Clayton Byrd Goes Underground, by Rita Williams-Garcia
The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora, by Pablo Cartaya
The First Rule of Punk, by Celia C. Perez
The Harlem Charade, by Natasha Tarpley
Patina, by Jason Reynolds
The War I Finally Won, by Kimberley Brubaker-Bradley
Wishtree, by Katherine Applegate
The Wonderling, by Mira Bartok
Our readers chose The War I Finally Won, by Kimberley Brubaker-Bradley, to honor with the Berkeley Mock Newbery Award. Students talked about how vividly the author described Ada's emotions. "I liked the main character because she was stubborn and daring on the outside, but on the inside she's a different person." They talked about how scared she was climbing the church steeple, and how she overcame her fear through sheer determination. "Ada was so complex," another student said.

Students also noticed how secondary characters were well developed in The War I Finally Won. One student remarked that Susan (Ada's adoptive mother) could connect to the children because she had also lost someone she loved. Other students really liked how well the author wove historical setting into the story, helping them learn about World War II without telling them specific facts.

Our students chose three honor books: The Harlem CharadeWishtree and The Wonderling. It's fascinating that these choices span across a wide range of genres.

Many loved the mystery and intricate plot in The Harlem Charade. One student said, "It was really thought-provoking. It made me keep wondering and asking questions about what was happening, how they would solve the mystery." Other students noticed how it was written from different characters' perspectives, making it especially interesting to read. Many remarked about the action-driven plot, an important quality they look for in books.

Wishtree appealed to students who like more sensitive stories. A 5th grader said, "Even though it's for a younger audience, I liked the way it was about animals as well as human." Another student said, "I liked how the tree was important to the animals and the people; it rooted their community."  Students noticed that the pacing was effective, with suspenseful elements introduced as chapters ended, making them want to keep reading.

The Wonderling especially appealed to our fantasy readers. Students liked how it was about groundlings, creatures that were part animal and part human. This captured their imaginations, and the characters were fully developed. Many commented on how they related to Arthur, feeling alone and left out at times.  They liked how he started off not really knowing where he belonged, and ending up with a family and friends. The secondary characters generated quite a bit of discussion in some groups, with special love for Trinket. Even the villain, Miss Carbunkle, was complex with her own backstory that created empathy in some of our readers. Davey Reed, one of our terrific librarians, noted,
"The Wonderling was a book that kids may have tried early in the year -- it had appeal, but was a little long and hard to get into. But once their friends liked it, they were willing to give it another shot. All it takes is 2-3 kids to start talking about it."
I love how Mr. Reed describes this social side of reading, because that's what the Mock Newbery Book Clubs really help foster. The create community among our readers by honoring their voices and encouraging them to spread the love of reading. Library staff, literacy coaches, and teachers are all working together to host book clubs. Children's librarians from Berkeley Public Library are coming to support several of our schools.
The Newbery Committee is meeting this weekend in Denver, as part of the American Library Association's Midwinter Conference. The 2018 Youth Media Award announcements will take place on Monday, Feb. 12, at 8 a.m. MT from the Colorado Convention Center. Fans can follow 2018 results in real-time via live webcast at , or follow hashtag #alayma.

I am so grateful for the support from all of my colleagues in Berkeley. Together, we are making a huge difference in kids' lives. Many many many thanks.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

#Road2Reading suggestions for beginning readers & chapter books (ages 6-9)

Our panel discussion at AASL was fascinating. As Fran Manushkin noted, series provide her with friends for life as a young reader. She loved the Betsy, Tacy and Tib stories:
"Because there was more than one book about Betsy, Tacy and Tib, they became my friends! I got to know so much about them, and I could revisit these stories whenever I needed the comfort of an alternate family. I was mastering reading and I was finding a great source of continuity and comfort.

To me, this is the glory of series books for beginning readers: as the boys and girls build reading confidence, these new readers also find a new collection of friends, and these friends keep them reading. Reading confidence an a bunch of new friends: this is a double whammy of joy!"
I especially loved the range of ideas that panelists and the audience suggested for books to share with beginning readers. Below I have embedded the Padlet that we created during this session. Feel free to add other suggestions if you'd like.
Made with Padlet
If you want to keep exploring books for beginning readers, definitely check out these resources:
©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Reading on my own! Beginning reader series @AASL17 (ages 6-9)

Today I’m moderating a panel: Reading On My Own! Beginning Reader Series. We will talk with Megan McDonald (Judy Moody), Fran Manushkin (Katie Woo), Dori Butler (Kayla & King) and Richard Haynes (Slingshot & Burp) about writing for kids who are just beginning their reading journeys.
These authors sparkling with humor and wit, and they create books that are accessible and supportive for new readers. For these readers, a series helps create a comfortable, predictable story environment, but these authors' fresh, funny stories keep readers coming back wanting to read more.

Please add to this padlet ( and share ideas on terrific books to share with developing readers. Our readers at this stage need to read such a volume of books, that we need to help our developing readers find more to read. I like to think of them as book friends.

Follow along the tweets to hear all about the conversation: #AASL17 #Road2Reading.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

#AASL17: School librarians leading, teaching and learning together

This week, school librarians from across the US are coming to Phoenix for the National Conference of the Association of American School Librarians. As conference co-chair, I've worked over the past two years with an amazing committee and staff to help plan this event that brings together the leaders in our profession.

I'm excited to see friends, to meet new librarians, and stretch my thinking about how we can meet the needs of students and teachers. I also want to encourage librarians who aren't able to come to join the #NOTATAASL conversation -- see all about it on Joyce Valenza's blog The Neverending Search.

This is the only nationwide conference that focus specifically on our unique roles as teachers and librarians. As a school librarian, I have one foot firmly in the world of books and literacy development, and the other foot in the world of technology and information. This conference helps me think more deeply about both worlds.

As a co-chair of AASL’s National Conference, I’ve tried to ensure that our programs meet the diverse needs of our members as they support students and teachers across the nation. Whether you’re interested in diversity and equity issues, technology and digital literacy, or research and inquiry, I hope the conference will help you think more deeply about your practice.

On Saturday, I’m moderating a panel: Reading On My Own! Beginning Reader Series. We will talk with Megan McDonald (Judy Moody), Fran Manushkin (Katie Woo), Dori Butler (Kayla & King) and Richard Haynes (Slingshot & Burp) about writing for kids who are just beginning their reading journeys. These authors sparkling with humor and wit, and they create books that are accessible and supportive for new readers. For these readers, a series helps create a comfortable, predictable story environment, but these authors' fresh, funny stories keep readers coming back wanting to read more.

Here are some more sessions I'm especially excited about:
If you're coming to conference, I hope to be able to say hi and learn more about your school library. If you aren't able to come, please reach out on Twitter using the hashtag #AASL17 and #NOTATAASL.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Friday, January 20, 2017

Excitement builds across Berkeley -- final Mock Newbery meetings

It has been so exciting to see the excitement building across Berkeley. We are having our final Mock Newbery meetings at each of our 11 schools. Every school has a group of excited, enthusiastic kids, with 30 - 65 students coming during lunchtime to talk about the best books of the year. They are having engaging, thoughtful discussions as they consider what makes an outstanding book.
Teachers and principals are noticing the book buzz. Here's what one veteran teacher wrote:
"Thanks, everyone! I am a true fan and promoter of Mock Newbery Club. The initial data is just coming in, but this model has improved student reading skills and scores." -- Becky Lum, 5th grade teacher
It's hard to convey the passion that students and teachers have been sharing. The look on their faces, the way they eagerly raise their hands to contribute, the variety of kids coming to meetings, their thoughtful comments about books' characters, themes and language. Here's a little video montage of one of our meetings, just to give you a sense:
The 2017 Newbery Committee, 15 librarians from across the country, starts its meetings today in Atlanta. They'll deliberate and consider these and many many more books -- carefully talking about what makes a distinguished book for children.

Join the excitement, and watch their announcement on Monday morning: The awards will be live streamed from the I Love Libraries Facebook page.
I am so grateful for the support from all of my colleagues in Berkeley. Together, we are making a huge difference in kids' lives. Many many many thanks.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Bearing Witness: Reflections on institutional racism & sharing books with children

"Librarians: In a world where some folks want to build walls, you give kids the tools to tear them down." -- Matt de la Peña, 2017 Newbery acceptance speech
Grief and outrage, a combination of intense sadness and overwhelming rage have been swirling together as I've tried to process violent, disturbing news over the last month. I know that this is my space for sharing books for children. I also need space to bear witness to the crisis our society is facing, and to frame my work as a librarian in light of this crisis.

Police brutality and institutional racism are disturbingly intertwined. This week in Louisiana and Minnesota, two black men were shot by police, further examples of the longstanding pattern of disparate, unfair treatment of black people. These are not isolated examples. This violence is upsetting and unacceptable. All of us must bear witness and speak up against it. I am honored to share this painting by Christian Robinson, in response to these tragic events.
painting by Christian Robinson, shared with permission
It is essential that we recognize the injustice, to add our voice to the outrage caused by this violence. It is even more important that we take time to listen to people of color and honor their experiences, their feelings, their voices. We must listen to friend, to authors, to our students when they talk about the impact that these events have.

Jason Reynold's poem "Machetes" reverberates in my heart and soul, especially this week. He wrote it for and read it aloud during the Coretta Scott King Book Awards last month in Orlando, FL. Please read it in its entirety and listen to Jason perform it with powerful, raw emotion.
(written for and read during Coretta Scott King Honor acceptance speech, 2016)

if you listen closely
you can hear the machetes
cutting the air
in half
connecting for half a second with something
breathing and growing
breathing and growing
before being chopped
down like sugar cane in a Louisiana field
yes there are machetes everywhere
the sound of them cutting the air

chop CHOP
chop CHOP

we try not
to bend in the wind
try not to bow or bow
try to wrap fingers around our own
saccharine souls
and brace ourselves
for the

chop CHOP
chop CHOP

the machetes
cutting the air in half
coming for us

seems like folks like us be best
when we broken open
when we melted down
when we easier to digest

[read the full poem on the CSK blog]
My personal mission is to share books that build children up, that help them see that they are strong, that they are loved, that their imaginations can help them soar. My student Mahari, an African American 5th grader, loved reading Adam Gidwitz's fantasy novels, A Tale Dark & Grimm, In a Glass Grimmly, and The Grimm Conclusion. Mahari also championed Kekla Magoon's fantasy novel The Shadows of Sherwood, with its strong girl protagonist Robyn, who is of mixed race. Perhaps these books were just escapism, but I'd argue that these fantasy novels gave him strength, gave him a belief that he had inner strength, like the main characters, as he faced challenges in his own life. We must give students a full range of characters, so they can see themselves in the books they read and walk through the doors to many worlds.

This crisis is real: our society is crippled by institutional racism, poverty and inequalities. The National Education Association just held a conference specifically looking at the issues surrounding institutional racism. I really like this video they produced, working with Marley Dias, the 11-year old girl who started the terrific social media project #1000blackgirlbooks. In sixth grade, she already knows that racism and other built-in barriers are “keeping kids like me from reaching our full potential.”

To be an effective educator and a just member of society, I must bear witness to the devastating impact of institutional racism and poverty, especially upon children who deserve to soar. Part of this is entering difficult conversations and listening to my students.

As a librarian and book lover, this means I work extra hard to find stories that reflect the experiences of people of color. This means I work extra to include, draw in and listen to my students of color. As educators, we must listen to our students, honor their voices and their lived experiences. We can help all of our students identify the causes of injustices, and support them as they write about, talk about, think about how they want to change the world.

I feel eternally grateful to have a community that supports this difficult work, that helps me understand how I must listen to my students, how I must think not just about my intentions but the impact. I want to end with Jerry Pinkney's acceptance speech for the Wilder Award:
"Librarians and teachers have the most important job... they are the keepers of dreams, the dispensers of possibility."--Jerry Pinkney, 2017 Wilder Award acceptance speech
There is a storm raging around us. We have to acknowledge this, bear witness AND hold a torch to create change. I am convinced that books help light the way, both in our souls and in our communities. We must take on this work and speak up for change.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, June 19, 2016

You Got This! Unleash your awesomeness, find your path, and change your world, by Maya Penn (ages 11-16)

If you want to fuel your teens and tweens' creative fires or you need a pep talk yourself, you'll want to read or listen to Maya Penn's inspirational debut. I especially enjoyed the audiobook, which Maya narrates herself.

Maya is a sixteen-year-old entrepreneur (see Maya's Ideas) who talks directly from her heart, encouraging other teens to find their passions and follow their dreams. Her TED talks have been watched by millions, and this inspirational self-help drew me in right away.
You Got This!
Unleash your awesomeness, find your path, and change your world

by Maya S. Penn
North Star Way / Simon & Schuster, 2016
Your local library
ages 11-16
Curious, enthusiastic and genuine are words that immediately come to mind when I think about Maya Penn. At eight years old, she started her own company by selling headbands that she created. She's also really interested in animation, so she taught herself how to create her own films. In this inspirational self-help book, she shares about her own experiences to encourage other teens to develop their own passions and create plans to change the world.

Tweens and teens enjoy Maya's upbeat, casual tone as she starts by talking about her process. She encourages readers to use a dream board to brainstorm ideas and identify what creates sparks they might use to ignite their plans. I especially liked the way she helps kids understand different thinking styles and ways to keep yourself motivated.
watch Maya Penn on The View talk about her business
The length and detail make this best suited for middle and high schoolers, although several fifth graders were drawn to it. I'd love to see some more of Maya's terrific ideas illustrated for the tween audience--much like an American Girl book. Hand this to creative teens and see what dreams they build, or recommend it to families as a great audiobook for summer listening.

Library friends, I'm excited that Maya will be speaking at ALA Annual Conference on Saturday, June 25th at 3:30pm.

Many thanks to the publisher Simon & Schuster for sharing review copies--I've also purchased several copies for local schools and summer reading projects. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Diverse Stories, Diverse Lives: Reflections on Sonia Manzano’s talk at the #AASL15 Author Banquet

Reading IS thinking. As we share books with our students, we talk with them and show them through these small (or grand) conversations that books and stories help us make sense of a very confusing world. We have a responsibility to find and promote books that speak to all of our students—not just the majority—and that help connect all of us as readers.
Sonia Manzano, Rita Williams-Garcia & Matt de la Peña at the 2015 AASL Authors Banquet
This weekend, I had the honor and responsibility of organizing the author events at the American Association of School Librarians National Conference (#aasl15). Matt de la Peña, Rita Williams-Garcia and Sonia Manzano spoke to a full banquet of librarians about their experiences growing up as young readers, and the impact they seek to make through their writing.

Sonia Manzano played Maria on Sesame Street for forty-four years, teaching us how to count in English and Spanish, how to say our ABCs, how to laugh with (and gently tease) our friends like Oscar the Grouch. Named as one of the “25 Greatest Latino Role Models Ever”, Sonia has retired from her television role and is devoting more time to her writing. Her memoir, Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx, reveals life-changing moments in her early life that led to her later success.

As a young person, Sonia never felt represented in the media she watched or the books she read. She told us:
“In all my viewing I never saw anybody who looked like me or lived in a neighborhood like the one I lived in. Not being represented in the media made me feel invisible.”
The books that teachers shared were no better--Dick and Jane’s family was nothing like her own. Reading and writing were not things that happened at home growing up—curling up with a book was seen as lazy. But Sonia has always been drawn to the stories of others.

Books connect us as people because we see pieces of ourselves in the stories we read. Manzano shared with us teacher Monica Ediger’s thought that the only way to help young people do better than previous generations is to share “sensitive mirrors of others into distant tragedies.” Books can help young readers understand the plight of the less fortunate, help them think about the confusing world around them.

As we read and share stories, however, we must make sure our diverse students are represented in these stories, not just inviting them to think about someone else’s experience. Sonia told us:
“There is something so important about seeing yourself and your own experiences reflected in media. As much as I saw pieces of myself in these other characters, it wasn’t until I was taken to see West Side Story that I realized that the world of creating art was accessible to me and that I could actually be represented on stage and in books the way I was, not just as part of someone else’s experience.”
Whenever we choose a book to recommend, whether we are a parent, teacher or librarian, we are making a statement about what stories we value. We must continue to be inclusive, to challenge ourselves to think beyond stereotypes. In our own reading, we must strive to find stories in which we see our children’s lives and experiences validated. Sonia concluded her speech by reminding us of this:
“When you make decisions on what books to share, think of the child who doesn’t see himself reflected in society, books that will be the beginning of an experience and not the end, and books that are full of emotion.”
Create a conversation about the stories you read, around the dinner table, around the classroom rug, at the circulation desk. Reading IS thinking, and our students will surprise us every day with the power and depth of their ideas.

Last week I shared about the amazing impact that Matt de la Peña and Rita Williams-Garcia had on our audience at #AASL15. Thank you so much to Scholastic for sponsoring Sonia Manzano this weekend. It was a truly pleasure having him as our guest.

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Caretakers of our readers: Reflections on Rita Williams-Garcia’s talk at the #AASL15 Author Banquet

Day in and day out, school librarians help children find books that speak to them. We help our students grow as young readers, but even more than that we create memories each and every day. In doing this, we have a responsibility as caretaker of our children, finding and promoting books that speak to all of our students—not just the majority of our students.

This weekend, I had the honor and responsibility of organizing the author events at the American Association of School Librarians National Conference (#aasl15). Matt de la Peña, Rita Williams-Garcia and Sonia Manzano spoke to a full banquet of librarians about their experiences growing up as young readers, and the impact they seek to make through their writing.
Matt de la Peña, Rita Williams-Garcia & Sonia Manzano at AASL banquet 

Rita Williams-Garcia sparkles with energy, laughter and heart every time I meet her or read her stories. Rita received the Newbery Honor and the Coretta Scott King Award for the outstanding novel One Crazy Summer, and was a National Book Award finalist. Delphine, Vonetta and Fern’s story continues in P.S. Be Eleven, and now their story comes to a close with this year’s Gone Crazy in Alabama.

Rita began by sharing her early memories, growing up in the cocoon of her family’s love. At the age of 2, her family moved from New York to Arizona, traveling that long way by car. Rita described traveling through the South as the first time she saw her mother frightened: crying and fearful when the police stopped them. They didn’t stay in hotels, but were welcomed into other black families’ homes along the way—something that Rita didn’t think about at the time. As she said, when you are a child, your eyes are open and your memories stay with you.

As young children, we only know our direct experiences. Our children notice race, but might not know how to process their thoughts. In first grade, Rita’s teacher read wonderful stories—but when she read the stories of Little Black Sambo, Rita clearly remembers feeling that her classmates were laughing at Little Black Sambo, feeling different from her classmates because she was one of the only black children in her class.

When we share stories with our students, we must think about the memories we are creating. How are we validating their experiences? How are we inviting them into the conversation of stories?

Librarians and teachers are the caretakers of our children’s reading lives, as teacher and friend Donalyn Miller so wonderfully said on the NerdyBookClub. Every time we recommend books to children, we are inviting them to see themselves in stories. The stories we buy and collect must have many entry points, must have many different types of characters, must reflect the diversity of broader world around us.

We do this, as Rita reminded us, by being honest with our young people about the world around us, being authentic, and engaging in the hard conversations of our times. I love this tweet from Rita. These are turbulent times, full of strong emotions. When we have honest, caring discussions together, we can all move forward.
All week I am sharing about the amazing impact that Matt de la Peña, Rita Williams-Garcia and Sonia Manzano had on our audience at #AASL15. Thank you so much to HarperCollins for sponsoring Rita Williams-Garcia this weekend. It was a truly pleasure having her as our guest.
If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Inviting all our readers into stories: Reflections on Matt de la Peña’s talk at the #AASL15 Author Banquet

As school librarians, we have the honor and responsibility of knowing all of the students in our school. We watch them grow as young readers, we share their excitement finding books that speak to them and light a spark in their eyes. But we also have a responsibility of finding and promoting books that speak to all of our students—not just the majority of our students.

This weekend, I had the honor and responsibility of organizing the author events at the American Association of School Librarians National Conference (#aasl15). Matt de la Peña, Rita Williams-Garcia and Sonia Manzano spoke to a full banquet of librarians about their experiences growing up as young readers, and the impact they seek to make through their writing.

Matt de la Peña has received much praise and recognition for his realistic fiction for young adults, including his standout Mexican WhiteBoy. I have been thrilled that he has begun writing more for younger children, and have absolutely loved this year’s stellar picture book Last Stop on Market Street.

When Matt was growing up, he didn’t find many stories that spoke to him, didn’t like reading or writing—until he read A House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros. This slim, powerful collection of stories spoke to him so deeply that he read it over and over again, nearly memorizing it. The story “Darius and the Clouds” particularly stayed with him, inviting him into the world of poetry, giving him permission to see poetry as something he could try.

Was it that Cisneros provided a mirror for Matt, or that she understood Matt’s heartbeat? She spoke in a language that he understood, filled with metaphors and imagery that connected to his experiences as a young Latino growing up in the United States.

And now when he writes, Matt wants to create stories that have diverse characters, yes, but really with characters full of heart, full of complex emotions, full of language and experiences from a wide range of backgrounds. Diversity is not the issue these characters wrestle with, but rather part of the fabric of their lives.

As we select stories to share with our students, we need to provide a number of ways in for our students, not just thinking about their race, but also thinking about what might create a spark for them, what helps them feel a character’s heartbeat, what helps them hear the language of their soul. It is essential that our stories have diverse characters, that we acknowledge and affirm our children’s lives and experiences, and that we say again and again that stories are for all of us.

Later this week I will share about the amazing impact that Rita Williams-Garcia and Sonia Manzano had on our audience at #AASL15. Thank you so much to Penguin Random House for sponsoring Matt de la Pena this weekend. It was a truly pleasure having him as our guest.

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Answer is Yes -- reflections on the power of literature, of stories, of community

My friends, we live in a time when the world is being thrown about by so many forces. There are times when I feel swept under by the prejudice and hate that still engulfs our world. But then I look at the way we are able to create good in small measures--especially through sharing stories and songs and community--and I know that we can recreate our worlds step by step.
celebrating the Coretta Scott King Awards with Emerson students and staff

Christian Robinson
& Patricia Hruby Powell
I was thrilled and honored to share the Coretta Scott King Awards celebration with two students and two staff members from my school community. The awardees' speeches are still reverberating within me. Christian Robinson spoke about how Josephine Baker had always inspired him with her courage and determination, and then he and Patricia Hruby Powell danced with delight.

Kwame Alexander, accepting the CSK honor award for The Crossover, read a poem he had written just a few nights before, filled with hope, pain, and the determination to change the world for our children.

Christopher Myers, in his acceptance speech, talked about giving up on the world:
"I can barely hear, over the silence of all those children, those lives that we have cut out of our literature. I am frightened by the possibilities that all of their voices, so long censored, can only now be heard on news broadcasts in burning cities, on endless loops of helicopter film footage."
The pain he talked about reverberates through me--as an educator, I am so disheartened by the persistent racial achievement gap in my community. And yet, Chris also talked about the power of stories to change our world, to create new worlds for our children.
"I’d just about given up on the world.

Then I remembered that I am a storyteller, and in the hands of a storyteller, we can make new worlds. Our narratives can carry the full weight of the past and build infinite futures. With pens and word processors, with paint and ink and collage, we can, like Misty, like my father, create possibilities where there weren’t any before. Rewrite reality. And there will be days I want to give up on the world as it is, but I will never give up on the worlds that I have yet to make, the worlds that my friends are making, the worlds that all of us here share and do so much to bring into reality."
Jacqueline Woodson began her speech by talking about the power of community, the power of gathering together in a room to celebrate and to share. In this age of online communication, it is so important to carve out time to be together in person.

But then she went on to talk about the strength of our broader community, both in the ancestors that walk with us every day and the people who hold us up here and now.
"We are here because of our ancestors and elders and the people who hold us up every day — thanks for helping all of us never forget them or the way each of us finds a way to make a way out of no way — every single day. Thank you so much, all of you who believe in Diverse Books, who believe in keeping young brown children — and all children — dreaming."
This community of authors, illustrators, and librarians comes together to keep our children dreaming in the possible, in making new realities. It is hard work, advocating and supporting and promoting good literature that speaks to children. But together we can.

I love how good teaching passes from one person to another, creating a life of its own. Nikki Giovanni wrote in her profile of Newbery-winning author Kwame Alexander,
"Kwame learned maybe only one thing…from me…The
Answer Is Yes…
Yes to small cities and Book Festivals around the country who needed
a writing friend…Yes to starting his own Book Festival…
His own publishing company…His own line of greeting
cards and posters…Yes to his own idea of empowering
young writers by helping them publish a Book-in-a-
Day…Yes to the excitement of life…to writing on the
road…to growing taller and stronger while trusting that
vision and strength…and every time he said Yes we all
said Yes to him…"
The Answer is Yes. That's it. I want to share that buoyancy, that power to keep afloat, with my students. And I am sure, as sure as I can be, that our stories help us not only see ourselves but also see what our world can be. The Answer is Yes.

Please take the time to read the Coretta Scott King Award acceptance speeches, published in The Horn Book and available online.

Thank you to Andrea Davis Pinkney who helped me bring my students to the CSK breakfast. Thank you to all the honored authors and artists for inspiring us to keep sharing stories with students and with each other. Thank you to my family for supporting me and helping me celebrate with the world beyond our immediate community.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, February 8, 2015

2015 Pura Belpré Awards: Celebrating the Latino cultural experience in children's books (ages 2-14)

The Pura Belpré Medal
Each year, I look to the Pura Belpré Awards with joy. These awards celebrate the Latino cultural experience in books for children. Year after year, this committee selects books that speak to my students, both affirming my students' experiences and providing a window into others' cultures. Each year, I discover new books through these awards and celebrate ones that are already favorites.

2015 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award

Viva Frida, by Yuyi Morales, was awarded both the Pura Belpré Award for Illustration and the Caldecott Honor Award. I adore this book and have shared it with teachers and families all fall. As the Belpré press release states, Morales "uses rich, vibrant color photographs and minimal evocative text to beautifully portray the unique imagination and creativity of an iconic Latina artist." The joy and inspiration Morales gets from Kahlo is palpable on every page. (ages 3-12)

2015 Illustrator Honor Awards

Little Roja Riding Hood, illustrated by Susan Guevara and written by Susan Middleton Elya. I can't wait to share this with students -- they love modern twists on favorite fairy tales. I haven't read it yet, but Kirkus Reviews calls it "a spirited interpretation" that blends "a whimsical fairy-tale land with contemporary Latino-American life." (ages 3-7)

Green Is a Chile Pepper: A Book of Colors, illustrated by John Parra and written by Roseanne Greenfield Thong. My kindergarteners loved this duo's Round is a Tortilla last year, with Parra's folk art and Thong's rich language. Green Is a Chile Pepper continues this pair's delightful concept books that are full of Hispanic cultural details woven into lively text and colorful illustrations. (ages 2-6)

Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation, by Duncan Tonatiuh. Tonatiuh combines clear text and folk-inspired art to bring this important story to children. Sylvia Mendez and her family fought for their right to go to their local neighborhood school in Westminster, California, in a court case that set a precedent for Brown vs. the Board of Education. This evocative, accessible story is one of my absolute favorites of the year, and I'm so happy to see it honored here and by the Sibert Committee. (my full review) (ages 6-10)

2015 Pura Belpré Author Award
I Lived on Butterfly Hill, by Marjorie Agosín, illustrated by Lee White and translated by E.M. O'Connor. I just started reading this last week after the awards were announced, and I can already tell that several of my students will love it. Celeste’s carefree life in Valparaíso, Chile, is shattered when warships appear. As people disappear, Celeste’s parents go into hiding, and she is sent into exile. When she returns home, she works to reunite people she loves and to move her country forward. The award press release states, "Lyrically written by acclaimed poet, Marjorie Agosín, this Chilean story offers a refreshing perspective on resiliency." (ages 10-14)

2015 Author Honor Award

Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes, written by Juan Felipe Herrera, illustrated by Raúl Colón. This accessible volume contains 20 short biographies of Latino men and women who have shaped the United States. Each chapter is about 3 to 4 pages long, providing enough depth to hold the reader's interest and paint a picture of these noted figures' remarkable achievements. I especially love the range of people Herrera includes. An excellent book for schools and families. (ages 8-12)

Please seek out and share these excellent books. Early review copies were kindly sent by the publishers Penguin, Abrams, Macmillan, and Chronicle Books. We have purchased additional copies for our school library and classrooms, and we will continue purchasing more for gifts. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

2015 Coretta Scott King Awards: celebrating African American culture and universal human values (ages 4-15)

Coretta Scott King Award
The Coretta Scott King Book Awards are a continued source of inspiration for me and the schools I serve. Each year, these awards are given to authors and illustrators for books that honor African American culture and universal human values. Today, I would like to share the winning books with you. As the award website states,
"The award commemorates the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and honors his wife, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace and world brotherhood."
2015 CSK Illustrator Award
Firebird, illustrated by Christopher Myers and written by Misty Copeland. In this stirring, beautiful picture book, Copeland creates a conversation between a young girl who dreams of dancing and herself as a professional ballerina (my full review) Myers illustrations are full of vibrant, saturated colors and help children visualize a story as they listen to Copeland's poetic text.

I read Firebird today with 2nd graders -- Jeehyun said, "It's like it was showing the young girl's life cycle," as she grew up and followed her dreams. I smiled, as we thought back to Jeehyun in kindergarten and wondered what advice she would have to herself as she was just starting school. It was a magical moment to share.  Inspiring, for ages 6-10.

2015 CSK Illustrator Honor Awards:

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Joesphine Baker, illustrated by Christian Robinson and written by Patricia Hruby Powell. I adore this beautiful biography that Patricia Hruby Powell & Christian Robinson created celebrating Baker's life and work (see my full review).  Christian Robinson captures Josephine's movement and playfulness with his gorgeous acrylic illustrations. Savor this long picture book biography over several sittings -- and notice how the pictures and words play off each other. For ages 8-12.

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone, illustrated by Frank Morrison and written by Katheryn Russell-Brown. As Kirkus writes, "Bewitched by the rhythms of jazz all around her in Depression-era Kansas City, little Melba Doretta Liston longs to make music in this fictional account of a little-known jazz great." Kids love the exaggerated illustrations that brim with humor, sass and verve--just like I imagine Melba's trombone playing did. A great picture book biography, for ages 4-8.

2015 CSK Author Award:
Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson, is a moving, evocative memoir in verse that paints a picture of what it was like to grow up black and female in the 1960s and 1970s (see my full review). This book was especially meaningful to several of my African American students, especially girls, who could relate to Jackie's experiences. This powerful book will now be decorated with four medals: the National Book Award, the Newbery Honor, the Coretta Scott King Award, and the Sibert Award for nonfiction. Excellent and outstanding in so many ways, best suited for ages 10-14.

2015 CSK Author Honor Awards:

The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander, was recognized for its portrayal of a close-knit African American family, loving and supportive but also rife with tension between the brothers. As you know, my students are **huge** fans of The Crossover. As I said to a friend when I first read it, I love how the characters' African American identity is an important part of the book, but not an issue in the story -- it's just part of who they are. Don't BOTH of those medals look fantastic on this cover? Fantastic for ages 9-14.

How I Discovered Poetry, by Marilyn Nelson, is memoir in verse that is based on Nelson's experiences growing up as a daughter of one of the first African-American career officers in the Air Force during the 1950s. Publisher's Weekly calls this "an intimate perspective on a tumultuous era and an homage to the power of language." To learn more, listen to this NPR interview with Nelson. I have not read this or shared it with students, so I'm not quite sure if it's best suited for ages 12 and up, or would be a good fit for our 5th graders.

How It Went Down, by Kekla Magoon, is a gripping novel for teens that is undeniably relevant to issues our society is grappling with around the country. As Publisher Weekly writes, Magoon "offers multiple, contradictory perspectives on the shooting of an African-American youth. No one disputes that 16-year-old Tariq Johnson was shot on the street by Jack Franklin, a white gang member, but the motives of both killer and victim remain fuzzy, as do the circumstances surrounding the shooting." While I have not read this, I am a big fan of Magoon's previous work and know this will be an intense and full of raw emotions, for ages 14 and up.

2015 John Steptoe Award for New Talent:
When I Was the Greatest, by Jason Reynolds. I have not read this, but friends are raving about this engaging story of urban teens Ali, Noodles and Needles. As the award committee writes, "In an authentic contemporary voice, Reynolds focuses on the importance of family, the acceptance of responsibility and the obligations of friendship and portrays a likeable teenager learning how to be a good man." Recommended for ages 12 and up.

Please seek out and share these books with kids in your life. They are each truly special. Early review copies were kindly sent by the publishers Penguin, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Lee & Low, and Chronicle Books. We have purchased additional copies for our school library and classrooms, and we will continue purchasing more for gifts. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books