Showing posts with label Newbery award. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Newbery award. Show all posts

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Wrinkle in Time: the movie, the novel & the graphic novel (ages 9-14)

In her Newbery medal-winning classic, A Wrinkle in Time, Madeline L'Engle created Meg Murray, an angsty, angry, passionate, heroic young girl on a quest to save her father and vanquish evil from the universe.

Does Ava DuVernay's film adaptation capture the story and L'Engle's characters? Most certainly yes. I can also certainly say that the movie is best seen alongside reading both the original novel and the recent graphic novel adaptation. Yes, see this movie AND read the book.

A Wrinkle in Time is a visual splendor. DuVernay catapults us into the fantastical otherworlds of Uriel, Ixchel and Camazotz. Even more than that, she gives us a Meg we can easily identify with, a young teen struggling with bullying at school, a missing father and a world that doesn't seem to recognize her gifts. As A.O. Scott wrote in The New York Times,
"It is the first $100 million movie directed by an African-American woman, and the diversity of its cast is both a welcome innovation and the declaration of a new norm."
I especially appreciate the way Meg is an introverted, brainy heroine who struggles to control her emotions. I am grateful for the additional layers that DuVernay added with Meg's biracial identity. She is a young teen many girls today can relate to.
Storm Reid as Meg Murray, in A Wrinkle in Time
Meg is called on a classic hero's quest, and through her journey she battles her insecurities, claims her purpose and discovers hope for the world. Storm Reid plays her with a perfect balance of straightforward every-girl and brainy teenage heroine. She is rightfully frustrated at the injustices around her, and she discovers that the answers lay in both her heart and her critical problem-solving.

The Mrs. W's were imaginatively realized in the movie. Although they were not what I had imagined when I first read this story, they came alive on the screen as fully realized characters. I must say that Oprah's Mrs. What captured the inner voice of wisdom and guidance much more than the original text or even the audiobook, in which her language came across as hissing or stuttering.

While the movie captures the emotional development and visual tone of the story, its rushed ending left me thinking back to the book. I missed Aunt Beast's careful tending to Meg, helping her discover the light and hope in the world. I wondered how Calvin reunited with Meg.

I hope those questions will lead children back to reading or rereading the books, both Madeline L'Engle's original A Wrinkle in Time and Hope Larson's graphic novel adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time.
In the end, I so appreciate the way Ava DuVernay embraced and captured this imaginative, passionate heroine. Meg wrestles with the existence of good and evil, she embraces love and hope, she claims her identity as a geeky girl who can figure out how to solve problems much bigger than herself. As Madeline L'Engle said in her Newbery Medal acceptance speech in 1963,
"We have the vocation of keeping alive Mr. Melcher's (the founder of the Newbery award) excitement in leading young people into an expanding imagination. Because of the very nature of the world as it is today our children receive in school a heavy load of scientific and analytic subjects, so it is in their reading for fun, for pleasure, that they must be guided into creativity."
Yes, that is just it. Books help young readers discover expanding worlds. Stories lead to stories, ideas create more ideas. I can't wait to hear what others think of this movie and whether it will bring them back to reading the stories.

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

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

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Freedom Over Me, by Ashley Bryan -- compelling, heartfelt look into the life and dreams of 11 slaves (ages 7-11)

As I've honored Black History Month with my students, I've been reading aloud a powerful new book: Freedom Over Me, by Ashley Bryan. This compelling story will help young readers understand about the cruelties and injustices of slavery, but even more so it brings alive the hopes and pride of individual people caught in this cruel system.
Freedom Over Me
Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams
brought to life by Ashley Bryan
Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum / Simon & Schuster, 2016
Newbery Honor Award
Coretta Scott King Author & Illustrator Honor Awards
Your local library
ages 7-11
*best new book*
Based on an 1828 document listing 11 slaves for sale, Ashley Bryan created portraits of each slave using paintings and free verse poetry--asking each slave to tell their own stories. Bryan creates full lives for each person, helping readers understand their hopes and dreams, as well as their pain and struggles.
Peggy: "I am the Fairchilds' cook.
I work in the Big House
day in, day out"
Each portrait helps readers look more closely, imagining these lives with empathy and compassion. Peggy works hard as the cook, and her mistress often invites friends over to take pleasure in her cooking. She is clear: all of her hard work profits the estate. As the head cook, she can explore the grounds, learning about local plants for cooking and for cures.
"My knowledge makes me
hunger for more.
Relieving the aches,
the pains,
the suffering
of the slaves
is my chief joy."
Herb Doctor is the title Peggy most prizes, for it is when she prepares these cures that she feels pride and accomplishment. Steaming herbs "stirs ancestral memories--my roots in Africa" as she makes cures for her slave family.

Historical fiction enables Bryan to bring his readers close to his subject, making it personal and compelling. He first drew portraits of each one, giving them an job on the estate, asking them to tell him their story. As he told Kirkus Reviews in an interview,
"After the 11 slaves told me their stories, I was deeply moved by their lives. Knowing that human beings all have dreams that we hope to realize, I thought of asking them what their dreams would be if they were living as free people. Their dreams are what brought each one to my heart and soul."
Bryan's hope and optimism shines through in these stories. My students were able to think about the cruelties of slavery, but they were really impressed by the strength and courage of each person. They saw how important community, extended family, and personal history was to each person. Most importantly, my students understood the pride and accomplishment each person felt in their work and in their craft.
Ashley Bryan reads aloud from Freedom Over Me
If you want to explore more resources for this book, I recommend looking at the following:
I'd like to end with this video. I love the sense you get of Ashley Bryan's passion for poetry sparking a light in each person, for loving who you are, honoring what you create.
The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Simon & Schuster. 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.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Ghost, by Jason Reynolds (ages 9-14) -- a strong favorite in our Mock Newbery discussions

“When I first picked it up, I thought it was a biography because it was so real.”--Sam, 4th grade
Kids across Berkeley are responding to Jason Reynolds' new book Ghost, talking about how it feels so real to them that they imagine themselves being right there with Ghost. This is definitely one of their favorite books, as we head into our Mock Newbery discussions--one that will stay with readers for a long time.
by Jason Reynolds
Atheneum / Simon & Schuster, 2016
audiobook narrated by Guy Lockard
preview on Google Books
Your local library
ages 9-14
*best new book*
Castle Crenshaw, who calls himself Ghost, is a kid my students can relate to. Some students know what it's like to have so much "scream inside" that they can't control it; others relate to working and struggling to join a team, but then having a bad decision almost cost you everything.

Jason Reynolds brings readers right into the story with his conversational tone. You can imagine being right inside of Ghost, in his head as he's watching a track team practice, eating sunflower seeds, thinking about how he could run faster than any of those kids on the track. Reynolds hooks readers just a few pages into the book when Ghost shares when he discovered he could run so fast -- the night his father shot at him in a drunken rage, as Ghost and his mother ran for their lives.
"I really loved the beginning. It was pretty tough, but it hooked me in. When he got into the track team, it relieved me. He still made some terrible choices, but he gets through them."--Rosa Parks 5th grader
Some students noted how Ghost is a complicated character--and they were very engaged by his struggles to figure out how to fix the problems he created. Many noted how much they liked seeing Ghost change and grow during the story. They definitely responded to the pacing, talking about how they couldn't put this book down--staying up all night to finish it. And the ending, oh my.
"The ending was hard. It was so good that I hurt because it was over."--Sakura, 5th grade
I have been particularly impressed by how 4th and 5th graders responded to the difficult topics of domestic violence and poverty. Reynolds helps kids think about these issues, and he creates space for acknowledging what it takes to keep going through these difficulties. He crafts a story that is full of hope and warmth, humor and relationships, even though it is also a story of struggles and bad decisions.

I absolutely agree with my friend, school librarian Eric Carpenter, who wrote on the blog Heavy Medal:
"Its spare prose creates the most authentic voice I’ve ever encountered in a contemporary piece of middle grade fiction. I can’t remember the last time a realistic, modern character sounded and acted so much like the students at my school...

Let’s think about Castle. What he wants more than anything else is an identity that is anything but a victim. He seems himself as a basketball player but won’t try playing. He is obsessed with world records because to him the record holders gain new identities by accomplishing crazy feats."
Ghost will certainly stay with my readers. I've noticed how this book appeals to a really wide range of kids, regardless of background or interests. Sporty kids love it; introspective thinkers love it. Here's how one reader summed it up:
"I liked how he eventually figured it out and solved (his problems), and helped himself even if he's the one who hurt himself. I liked how he kept working from nothing."--Rosa Parks 5th grader
Will this win the Newbery? It's definitely one of the best books I've read this year. But some may find the language too colloquial, and want to have more figurative language. It depends on how you balance the different elements, which you place more importance on. All I know is that I'll be sharing this with students for years to come. And it will be a book that stays with them in their hearts. That's what matters in the end.

I want to send special thanks to the whole team in Berkeley who's been supporting our Mock Newbery project, especially our library director Becca Todd. The review copy came from my public library. 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.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, February 2, 2015

2015 Newbery Awards -- HOORAY for Crossover, El Deafo & Brown Girl Dreaming!!!!! (ages 4-14)

This morning, the American Library Association announced the winners for 2015 distinguished books for children across many categories. This week, I'd like to share these with you along with my excitement and my students' reactions to these books. I am jumping with joy because all of these books speak to children so well. (read the full press release here)

The 2015 John Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature:

The Crossover,” written by Kwame Alexander, won the 2015 Newbery Medal, for the most outstanding contribution to children's literature. From the very first time I read this aloud to students, they have loved it. I'll never forget 5th grade boys nearly wrestling each other in the library to check out our copy first. This story captured their heart and the words conveyed power, rhythm and emotion that connected to students. (read my full review here)

Two Newbery Honor Books also were named:

El Deafo” written and illustrated by Cece Bell. For the first time, a graphic novel has won a Newbery Honor, and my students adore this. They love graphic novels, and El Deafo soars to the top on every measure. Cece shares her memoir, growing up deaf after suffering meningitis. My students completely relate to Cece's character, even though they have not gone through exactly the same experiences. She brings them right into her world, conveying her thoughts and feelings so well through words and comics. Please seek out this outstanding, very special story.

Brown Girl Dreaming,” written by Jacqueline Woodson. This memoir told in verse drew many of my students in, helping them see Jackie's experiences growing up in the 1960s and also showing them how some of her experiences were similar to their own. I'll never forget the way Elani and Aleecia came in after reading it together, just glowing and saying, "It's like WE were in the book."

Woodson crafts her verse so differently than Alexander and tells her memoir in such a different way from Bell -- I love that we're showing our children that there are so many different ways you can live in the world. Your goal is to be the best YOU that you can be.

I am also thrilled that these books are so accessible to children. Not only are they distinguished in their literary merit, they also are respectful of where children are developmentally, what they bring to the reading experience.

Kwame Alexander talked with us about how he knew some kids could enter a novel in verse more easily than dense text -- he wanted to write a book that invited kids into a the story, but once they were there provide them with a nuanced, layered, powerful story. And man, does he do that. Because his language is so accessible, kids can enter the conversation and then talk deeply about all sorts of literary devices the author used, the messages he's conveying, the journey his characters go through.

Check out some of Emerson students' discussions and thoughts on all our Mock Newbery books. I can't wait to share these titles with even more readers.
Part 1 -- The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond + Brown Girl Dreaming
Part 2 -- The Crossover + Dash + The Fourteenth Goldfish
Part 3 -- The Great Greene Heist + Half a Chance + The Life of Zarf
Part 4 -- Magic in the Mix + Nest + The Night Gardener
Part 5 -- Nuts to You + The Red Pencil + Snicker of Magic
Part 6 -- The Swap + Witch's Boy + Zoo at the Edge of the World
Part 7 -- OUR WINNER!!! (plus giveaway)
My heartfelt appreciation goes out today to all the authors who are writing books for kids. They put so much heart, soul and thought into their craft. It makes a tremendous difference in kids' lives, finding books that speak to them. My heartfelt thanks also goes out to the whole children's literature community, from librarians who spend countless hours on committees evaluating and discussing books, to publishers who take incredible risks to bring stories into our hands, to booksellers who help get books into the hands of as many readers as possible. This is a very special community.

Early review copies were kindly sent by the publishers Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ABRAMS, and Nancy Paulsen/Penguin Books for Young Readers. 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, January 29, 2014

Hooray for Flora & Ulysses!! Winner of the 2014 Newbery Medal (ages 8-12)

Wow-oh-wow!! It's been an exciting week telling kids about the news that Flora & Ulysses won the Newbery Award. Our students have loved this story since they first started reading it last fall and they started bounding back to the library exclaiming how fantastic it is.
Flora & Ulysses is just the sort of book that adds a bounce to your step and a smile to your face.

Here are some of the comments our book club made when they first started discussing it:
  • "I loved the characters, especially Ulysses. It was so ironic and not-normal--you can only get this from a book. It was unexpected and unrealistic. But also realistic at the same time."
  • I asked whether Flora change or develop in the book. Naomi said, "Her love for her mom changes throughout the book. Flora didn’t really know the truth about the situation between her parents. Her dad changed--he was unexpected. Underneath an ordinary businessman was a superhero, in a way."
  • Bella E. said, "I liked the fact the squirrel crashed into the window - it makes it more realistic. The author played it for humor as well. The wacky words didn’t bother me because I got the sense it was a wacky type of story."
  • Ben said, "Wacky, weird, amazing! One of my favorites I’ve ever read. My favorite moment is when Flora’s dad had a really fat cat on his head -- it was funny & entertaining. It seemed like a point when Ulysses was established as a superhero." 
  • Ruby agrees: "INCANDESTO!"
  • Naomi added, "My favorite person was William Spiver because he was really important, even though he didn’t have that large part of the story. Without him, it wouldn't be that weird and funny."
  • Julia said, "You thought it would be just all wacky and silly, but it was actually deeper than I thought it was going to be. The relationship between Flora and Ulysses--I didn’t really expect it to be like that. It was also mysterious because you didn’t always know exactly who the characters were."
As I write this, I'm drawn back to a wonderful post written by Amy Koester, a friend and wonderful children's librarian, which she titled "On Giving Readers Credit". Amy talked about hearing Jasper Fforde speak about how once a book is shared, it is no longer just the author's creation. When a book goes out into the world, it creates a unique experience within each reader. Amy wrote, 
"Readers are active participants in the world of the book, and it is their participation that makes the story so rich for them."
As we all celebrate the Flora and Ulysses winning the 2014 Newbery Medal, I want to keep in my heart the joy seeing readers bound into the library full of enthusiasm.

Many many thanks to my Mock Newbery book club students for the joy, thoughtfulness and camaraderie they brought to all our meetings. Also thanks to Betsy Bird who gave Emerson kids a shout-out on her Post Game Show over at SLJ's Fuse Eight.

Many thanks to Candlewick and all the publishers who supported our Mock Newbery at Emerson. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Mock Newbery discussions at Emerson: Final 2014 Results

Kids always amaze me. They come to discussions full of energy and enthusiasm, with fresh eyes. Our final Mock Newbery discussion was rich, thoughtful and passionate. I'll start with our process and discussion, and then move (quickly!) to our voting results.

Emerson 2014 Mock Newbery notes
One of the biggest challenges is comparing such different books--and books we've read over the span of 4+ months. We worked in pairs to fill out a simple chart that helped us focus on the essential literary qualities the Newbery Committee will be considering. Our goal was to think about which book exemplified a distinguished contribution to American children's literature for each quality.

We spoke about each element, citing specific ways we felt the different books were outstanding examples. For example, Ben felt that Swanson developed excellent characters in "The President Has Been Shot!" Ben said,
"I think Swanson really changed perspectives and you could feel like you were Lee Harvey Oswald, having a tough life and then switching to JFK and being the president." 
Bella held firm to her opinion that it was difficult to connect to the characters in this nonfiction book, instead putting forth the example of Serafina:
"The author helped us go inside of Serafina and understand her feelings and emotions."
Natalie agreed, especially noting that she could empathize with Serafina "because she had to go through a rough life, but she still tried to see the happy things in it, not just the miserable."

Julia felt that Kirby Larson kept the plot moving perfectly in Duke:
"I thought Duke was really well paced because it didn’t really drag on about anything, but kept your interest."
Our other Bella noted that Amy Timberlake used the plot and pacing to draw us into understanding the character in One Came Home: "It really laid out the plot so you got to understand the character and why she had to figure out this mystery, and then her personality made the things she did more realistic." Naomi liked the plot twists that kept readers engaged, especially the fiasco involving the counterfeit money.

Our discussion went on to cover setting, language and themes as well. We focused on positive examples, but also brought up examples where we felt the books were weak. This structure helped us talk about the literary qualities in each book, and not just our individual emotional reactions.

Drum roll please -- we all were eager to see how the votes came in --

Emerson School Mock Newbery Medal:

Emerson School Mock Newbery Honors:
Six of our ten members voted for Serafina's Promise as one of their top three books of the year. This title has certainly been recognized by library journals (it's one of Kirkus Review's best of the year), but hasn't made it to other Mock Newbery ballots. For a great round-up, check out Betsy Bird's post at Fuse #8.

So we're all now all-a-twitter over which books will be honored by the Newbery Committee. I'll certainly be watching the ALA Youth Media Awards live broadcast here:
DATE: January 27, 2014
TIME: 8 A.M. (EST)
WEBCAST: Click here
Many thanks to my terrific book club at Emerson, my intrepid partner Armin Arethna, and all the publishers who supported our endeavor. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Mock Newbery discussions at Emerson: Part 4

Our Mock Newbery list stretched readers to try out books they may not have been drawn to initially. Two historical fiction books particularly struck our readers: Duke, set during World War II, and One Came Home, set in rural Wisconsin in 1871.
by Kirby Larson
Scholastic, 2013
ages 8-12
*best new book*
your public library
Hobie Hanson misses his dad who's away flying fighter planes in World War II, but he tries to think about what he can do to help the war effort. Sure, he can buy war stamps and help collect tin and rubber to recycle. But his mettle is truly tested when he decides to donate his beloved German shepherd, Duke, to Dogs for Defense.

Our students often connect to animal stories, especially ones about pets, so I was happy to include Duke in our selection. It was also very important to me to include a story with a boy as the main character. In this video, author Kirby Larson talks about her passion writing this story.

Students noted that the setting is a definite strength in Duke. Larson incorporates historical details in a way that really place you in the time -- from the cookies Hobie ate to the radio shows he listened to. These details helped us understand just why Hobie would do something as difficult as send away his beloved dog.

Some students felt that the characters could have been fleshed out a little more. Bella talked about how she wished the story was written from Hobie's first person perspective (don't you love it the way our kids are talking in these writerly terms!!). We got into a great discussion comparing the perspectives in Duke, Flora & Ulysses and Serafina's Promise. Others also noticed that the secondary characters did not come to life as much as they did in Flora & Ulysses. Mitch was clearly a bully, but he wasn't really distinct as a character. Nonetheless, the plot, setting and themes resonated to keep Duke a real favorite of our group.
One Came Home
by Amy Timberlake
Alfred A. Knopf/Random House, 2013
ages 9-13
your public library
One Came Home starts off with punch, but then slowly builds the setting and situation, reeling you in.
"'So it comes to this,' I remember thinking on Wednesday, June 7, 1871. The date sticks in my mind because it was the day of my sister's first funeral and I knew it wasn't her last--which is why I left."
Thirteen-year-old Georgie goes heads out of town to search for her sister Agatha, even though everyone else believes she's dead. After all, they found a body wearing her dress.

Our Mock Newbery club felt Timberlake's plot and pacing were certainly distinguished. As Bella E. said,
"It really laid out the plot so you got to understand the character and why she had to figure out this mystery. Then her personality made the things she did more realistic."
Naomi and Natalie particularly liked the plot twists that kept you guessing. Overall, the kids felt that the setting, with its focus on pigeoning, was a bit confusing at times and didn't add to the story as much as in Serafina's Promise. I remember some had trouble getting into One Came Home and understanding the set up of the mystery. I think they got hooked on the story once Georgie leaves in search of Agatha and has to figure out the mystery on her own.

I particularly like this trailer, made by Melissa McAvoy, a friend and fellow librarian:

Many thanks to Random House and Scholastic for sharing review copies with us. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Mock Newbery discussions at Emerson: Part 3

We really liked the format of our Mock Newbery book club this year. Each student committed to reading five books from our list of ten books, but we read them at our own pace. We did this because we only had two copies of each book, but I loved the side effects. Kids took their reading suggestions from each other, listening to what others raved about. Some got "buzz" and others fell flat. Our students came back raving about Serafina's Promise, but none really responded to Doll Bones. I would have never predicted that.
Serafina's Promise
by Ann E. Burg
Scholastic, 2013
*best new book*
ages 9-13
your public library
Serafina dreams of becoming a doctor, but she knows that she must go to school to reach her dream. This is no easy feat in modern rural Haiti. How can she do this when her mother needs her help at home, especially with a new baby on the way? Ann E. Burg writes in free verse poetry, conveying Serafina's struggles in sparse, effective language.

Teachers and librarians might find these two resources interesting:

Our students were immediately drawn to Serafina and could connect with her situation, even though it was so different from their own. Several connected it to Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai, a Newbery Honor book from 2012 -- partly because of the use of free verse poetry, but also because of the way both drew readers into a character's situation.
Ben expressed surprise that Burg "got us hooked on the situation so quickly through poetry." 
Our group agreed that the setting was also a definite strength of Serafina's Promise. Not only could they could imagine being in Haiti, several talked about what an integral part of the story the setting was.
"With some books, it could happen anywhere. With this, you knew it was definitely happening in Haiti." 
I particularly liked the way Burg used Creole phrases throughout, and I know that the first person voice helped kids connect to Serafina's character.
Doll Bones
by Holly Black
with illustrations by Eliza Wheeler
Margaret K. McElderry / Simon & Schuster, p2013
ages 9-12
your public library
Best friends Zach, Poppy and Alice struggle to balance their childhood games with new interests in middle school. Holly Black captures the inner emotional journeys of these friends as they come together to solve the mystery of the Queen, an antique doll that Poppy swears is made from the bones of a murdered girl.

I was surprised that this fantasy didn't grab our readers more. It's not that they didn't like it; rather, it just didn't affect them much. I'm guessing that even though the cover is creepy, the story wasn't as scary as something like Coraline. And the emotional aspects didn't resonate with our ten year olds. Perhaps it will connect to a middle school audience more--twelve and thirteen year olds who can relate to the tension between childhood games and adolescent social pressures.

Many thanks to Scholastic and Simon and Schuster for sharing review copies with us. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, January 12, 2014

2014 Mock Newbery at Emerson School, Part 1

We have had a terrific time this fall turning our 5th grade book club into a Mock Newbery group. Over the next ten days, I'll be sharing about the books we've been reading, students' comments, and then our final voting.

Our process:

2014 Newbery list, Emerson School
Each week, we talk about the books we've been reading, sharing the books' strengths and weaknesses. We began our list with 6 original titles and added others as kids raved about current reads. I've really enjoyed meeting weekly -- it's spread the love of reading and kept up enthusiasm for different titles.

Since we only have two copies of each title, we're each reading different books each week. I've asked each student to read five titles from our list. For some, it's been hard to fit these in with their Harry Potter addictions! We've kept track of our reading on the poster that hangs in the library.

We start with a check-in, sharing what we've been reading. I talk with my students about how important it is to recognize that some of us will *love* a book and we need to respect that. Then we move into weaknesses. Throughout, I encourage the kids to think of specific examples from the books that support their ideas.

We end with a reading plan for the week. I really like this way of helping kids think about a reading plan.

Our Newbery contenders:
There is no way that our small group could read all the books that the Newbery Committee will be discussing. I wanted a representative sample that fell within our 5th grader's range.

In fact, I think I've inspired new admiration from our group about just what the Newbery Committee must do -- from the amount of reading to the hard, hard decisions. Each student has tried to read at least five books from our list. We will only include books with at least five readers in our final vote. Here are the posts on our Mock Newbery:

I've been so excited to share this journey with Armin Arethna, a wonderful children's librarian from Berkeley Public Library, and a member of the 2015 Newbery Committee.

Many thanks to all the publishers for sharing review copies with us. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, January 28, 2013

Librarians Gone Wild! Celebrating the best books of the year: Newbery, Caldecott and more

Today was a certainly a day for Librarians Gone Wild! Across the nation, librarians gathered to watch the live announcements of the Newbery, Caldecott, Corretta Scott King Awards and more. Their were shouts of joy as favorites were honored, and sighs as others were not selected. But it is a happy day for all, as our profession celebrates the most distinguished and outstanding books for children.

I'll do a quick roundup today, and feature these outstanding books over the next several weeks.

Caldecott Award
As our Emerson 2nd graders know, this award honors the illustrator of the most distinguished American picture book. One book receives the gold medal, and today four books also received the silver honor awards.
This Is Not My Hat
illustrated and written by Jon Klassen
Candlewick Press, 2012
2013 Caldecott Medal winner
available at your local library and on Amazon
This darkly humorous tale will take kids by surprise as they wonder about the little fish who steals the enormous fish's hat and thinks he can get away with it. I can't wait to have kids act out this book, telling it from different points of view.

Five Caldecott Honor Books also were named. I am so happy that such a wide range of books have been honored. Some, like Creepy Carrots, amp up the fun, while others, like Green, mesmerize you with their beauty.

Creepy Carrots! 
illustrated by Peter Brown
written by Aaron Reynolds
Simon & Schuster, 2012
2013 Caldecott honor award
my review
available at your local library and on Amazon

Extra Yarn
illustrated by Jon Klassen
written by Mac Barnett
Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins, 2012
2013 Caldecott honor award
our Mock Caldecott discussion
available at your local library and on Amazon

illustrated and written by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Neal Porter Books / Roaring Brook Press, 2012
2013 Caldecott honor award
available at your local library and on Amazon

One Cool Friend
illustrated by David Small
written by Toni Buzzeo
Dial Books / Penguin, 2012
2013 Caldecott honor award
available at your local library and on Amazon

Sleep Like a Tiger
illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski
written by Mary Logue
Houghton Mifflin, 2012
2013 Caldecott honor award
available at your local library and on Amazon

This award honors the writer of the most distinguished American book for children. It can be a picture book, but much more often it is a full length book. It can be either fiction or nonfiction, although most commonly it's fiction. One book receives the gold medal, and today three books also received the silver honor awards.

The One and Only Ivan
by Katherine Applegate
HarperCollins, 2012
my review
2013 Newbery Medal winner
available at your local library or on Amazon
I have been giving The One and Only Ivan to kids all summer and fall - as birthday presents, pressing into their hands in the library, carrying it to classrooms as soon as it's returned. This is a book that will touch your heart, make you think deeply about the way we treat animals. Even more than that, it will lead to conversations about friendship, humanity and respect. What a joy that this wonderful book received the Newbery Medal.

Three Newbery Honor Books also were named. They also show us the splendid range of children's books. I adored each and every one, from the enchanting historical fantasy of Spendors and Glooms to the fast-paced nonfiction of Bomb, to the mystery that kept me laughing of Three Times Lucky.

Splendors and Glooms
by Laura Amy Schlitz
Candlewick Press, 2012
2013 Newbery honor award
available at your local library and on Amazon

Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon
Steve Sheinkin
Flash Point / Roaring Brook Press, 2012
2013 Newbery honor award
available at your local library and on Amazon

Three Times Lucky
by Sheila Turnage
Dial Books / Penguin, 2012
2013 Newbery honor award
available at your local library and on Amazon

I know I'm not able to say much about these books right now, but if you're willing to take a gamble, try one of them out. Each one of them is truly outstanding. That doesn't mean it will work for every kid, but rather that for the right audience they are exceptionally compelling, engrossing and memorable.
Well, I'm off to bed to rest after a wonderful weekend full of "Librarians Gone Wild". I feel truly lucky to be able to connect with amazing authors, inspiring professionals and enthusiastic publishers. But most of all, I feel incredibly lucky to be able to share these books with children, thinking of just the right book for each different kid.

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2013 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, January 16, 2012

Caldecott winning books: mid-1940s

I'm continuing my Caldecott Challenge, reading as many of the books which have been recognized as distinguished picture books by the American Library Association. This week, I have read several books from the mid- and late-1940s. While this was a dark time for Americans, the picture books reflect a celebration of children's innocence. Two books in particular struck me from this week's reading: A Prayer for a Child and Juanita.
A Prayer for a Child
by Rachel Field
illustrations by Elizabeth Orton Jones
NY: Macmillan, 1944
1945 Caldecott Medal
ages 2 - 5
available at your local library, favorite bookstore, or on Amazon
This sweet book is a poem written by Rachel Field for her daughter, sending a message of love and joy. The illustrations are sweet, and I would think this would make a lovely present for a new young family. But somehow, the illustrations didn't appeal to me quite the same was as in Juanita. It seemed to me that this little girl was a bit generic, that it didn't resonate as one specific little girl. I wish I could put my finger more specifically on that feeling. But, then again, it could be that it would connect more to someone from the this background. A good Twitter friend, Aly Beecher, told me, it "seemed a lot like New England to me. Something resonated for me in everything about the illustrations." A Prayer for a Child reminded her very much of her grandparents' summer cottage.
by Leo Politi
NY: Scribner, 1948
1949 Caldecott Honor
ages 3 - 6
available at your local library, favorite bookstore, or on Amazon
preview available on Google Books
I adored this book - absolutely adored it. Politi captures the atmosphere of Olvera Street, the historic Latino community in downtown Los Angeles, in a way that both celebrates Juanita's innocence and childhood joy, and honors this Mexican American community. Juanita's parents own a small shop, or puesto, on Olvera Street. It is Juanita's fourth birthday, and her parents give her a small white dove (symbolic? yes, I do think so). On the day before Easter, Juanita takes her dove to the Old Mission Church for the annual Blessing of the Animals. 

I am so happy that Juanita is still in print, reprinted by Getty Publications. Many of my friends who are joining me in the Caldecott Challenge have not yet been able to see this, so I made a short video sharing it with friends. Here's a quick look at these books:

For more Caldecott books, head over to the fantastic Laura Given's blog: LibLaura5. Over 40 bloggers have signed up for the Caldecott Challenge! Come join us!

These review copy came from my local library collection. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Whirling, spinning, with books in hand at #ALA11

I'm away for a long weekend at the American Library Association, known in my household as "Librarians Gone Wild," the annual meeting where librarians from around the country (and world) gather to talk, share and trade. It's hard to put into words how wonderful this experience is so far, but I think the greatest part of it has been making connections with people whose work I've read - authors, bloggers, friends on GoodReads, librarians on list-serves, reviewers.

SmileOn the first day, I walked into the exhibit hall's graphic novel artist's lane because I knew my students adore graphic novels. I'm quite a shy person, not very good at asserting myself into conversations, so I was waiting patiently to say hi to Raina Telgemeier, the author of our most popular graphic novel Smile, when she saw me and shouted, "Mary Ann! Hello!!!" and gave me a huge hug. I've never met Raina or her husband Dave Roman before, but I've shared my enthusiasm for their stories on my blog and on Twitter. My support (and truly, the support of my students) has meant a lot to them, and Raina recognized me immediately from my blog - I was stunned!

I'm just thrilled to connect with the people who create these stories that mean so much to our children. That's really the heart of it. These stories enrich our children's lives, help them make meaning out of the confusing times, bring them hope and joy when they may be sinking low, and keep them company when they may feel alone. And I want to be able to share that appreciation with the artists who make huge efforts and take tremendous risks to share these stories.

I also have loved meeting and connecting with other librarians, bloggers and book lovers at the conference. Today I met three bloggers and librarians I really admire: Brenda Kahn of ProseandKahn, Travis Jonker of 100 Scope Notes, John Schumacher a.k.a. Mr.Schu, a Library Journal Mover and Shaker of the Year. I had connected with all of these amazing book-loving librarians online, but had never met in person. And yet we've had great connections. MrSchu and I have shared late night book swaps on Twitter. Brenda leaves encouraging messages on my blog and amazes me with the breadth and depth of her reading and amount of books she reviews on her blog. And Travis amazes me with his creative reviews, always seeking new ways to share books he's loving. I've felt connected to each one, but to finally meet them in person has me whirling and spinning!

Turtle in ParadiseI would like to give special thanks to two people who have truly inspired me, in more ways than these simple words can convey: Kathy Shepler and Jenni Holm. Kathy is a librarian and book-lover extraordinaire who invited me to join her Mock Newbery book club several years ago, where a group of passionate, fun-loving adults read the best children's books of the year. Kathy has introduced me to a world of literature, with grace and passion that have made me sparkle with joy. This year, Kathy served on the Newbery Committee and it was amazing to watch and listen as she read more than I could ever imagine, considering each book thoughtfully and deeply. And Jenni has not only brought such joy to the students at our school and to me as a reader, as the author of the Babymouse series and the Newbery Honor winning Turtle in Paradise, but she has welcomed me, inviting me to dinner with her editor and sitting at her table. So tomorrow night I will be able to sit at the Random House table at the Newbery / Caldecott Awards banquet with Jenni's family.

Never in my wildest dreams as a child would I have ever imagined such a small world, where we could reach out and connect to authors we admire, to people far across the country.