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

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer by Carole Boston Weatherford and Ekua Holmes (ages 10-14)

As we celebrate Black History Month, we must honor those who struggled, raising their voices to call for change. Fannie Lou Hamer was an iconic Civil Rights leader who led voting drives throughout the South and co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Carole Boston Weatherford chronicles Hamer's life and struggles in the powerful picture book Voice of Freedom. This is an essential book to share--not an easy one to read, but an essential one to share with older children.
Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement
by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Ekua Holmes, narrated by Janina Edwards
Candlewick, 2015 // Dreamscape Media, 2017
2016 Caldecott Honor award, 2016 Robert F. Sibert Honor award and the 2016 John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award Winner
ages 10-14
Reading Voice of Freedom is like walking beside Fannie Lou Hamer on her hard journey. Even as a child in Mississippi, the daughter of sharecroppers who could barely make enough money to feed their family, Fannie Lou Hamer was keenly aware that the system around her was unjust:
"Black people work so hard, and we ain't got nothin'
to show for it,
I told anyone who would listen.
Sharecropping was just slavery by a gentler name."
"I was just six when I dragged
my first bag down a row of cotton."
We learn that Fannie Lou's hardships continued, and see her political awareness evolve when voting-rights activists came to Mississippi. Weatherford directly addresses harsh elements of life Hamer experienced under Jim Crow laws, such as her forced sterilization under a Mississippi law.

Conversational, free-verse text lends itself to animated adaptation. Janina Edward's narration embodies Hamer's powerful voice with depth and resonance. I watched this through my public library's Hoopla platform, and look forward to sharing this with my students.

Hamer's fierce determination to fight for equal rights survived and thrived, and this power shines through majestically in Weatherford's rich poetic text. Throughout her life, Hamer refused to give up hope. She faced many brutal hardships, which Weatherford describes with candor. This is not an easy book to read, but one that we must share with older children.

Ekua Holmes won the 2017 Caldecott Honor Award for her stunning, majestic illustrations. Multimedia collages capture Hamer's strength and struggles using both abstract and realistic elements.

Reading this book filled me with anger at the violence and bigotry that Fannie Lou Hamer faced, but it also inspired me to keep raising my voice, adding it to the persistent call for change.

Illustrations copyright ©2017 Ekua Holmes, shared by permission of the publisher. The review copy came from my public library, accessed through Hoopla Digital. 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

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain, by Peter Sís -- setting personal stories in the context of history (ages 9-16)

How do you help children understand family stories in the context of history? Our lives are impacted by the social and political climates in which we live--and these impact the stories we tell our children about our own family's lives. Peter Sís wrestles with these questions in his memoir The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain, telling the story of growing up in Communist Czechoslovakia during the Cold War.
The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain
by Peter Sís
Frances Foster/Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2007
Sibert Award for Nonfiction, 2008
Caldecott Honor, 2008
Your local library
Amazon
ages 9-16
Sís begins with a short introduction, giving context to the historical events. And then he starts his memoir by saying how he loved to draw for as long as he can remember. Throughout, he tells parallel stories of childhood and the political circumstances in Czechoslovakia. At home, he was able to draw whatever he wanted, but as soon as he started school, he was influenced by the state controlled propaganda.
"The Communists take control of the school. Russian-language classes--COMPULSORY.
Joining the Young Pioneers, the Communist youth movement--COMPULSORY."
"After drawing whatever he wanted to at home, he drew what he was told to at school."
Sís conveys the historical context while giving his personal experience at the same time. The short chunks of text with small panel illustrations helps make the information more accessible and immediate. I find that kids like reading this more than one time, as they notice different details each time.

After the liberation of Prague Spring in 1968, the Soviets imposed strict controls once again. But Czechs found ways to push back and share ideas.
"Phones are bugged again, mail opened, people watched... Banned books are secretly translated, copied, and circulated as samizdat."
Sís struggled to keep his artistic identity and independence. He describes both in his journal entries how he was pressured to join the party. And yet, as he wrote, "he had to draw. Sharing the dreams gave him hope." The journal entries (a sample is below) help give even more immediacy and details to how the political climate impacted his life.
"To get a permit to have a studio in my own house, I have to prove that I am an artist in good 'social standing,' that is, a member of the Community Party."
My family and I recently visited the Czech Republic, meeting with several members of the university who have developed a program to honor my great-uncle, George Placzek (a long article about his scientific legacy is in the Cern Courier, the International Journal of High Energy Physics). I was fascinated to hear about how the Communist era impacted their lives, much as it had for Peter Sís. They faced limitations on their professional careers, and even brought a samizdat to show me.

The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain provides a fascinating way to combine visual storytelling, memoir and political history. I am grateful to Peter Sís, not only for persevering to follow his art, but also for telling this story. I know, from my own family history, the pressure to move forward and put difficult times behind you--and the Czech Republic is blossoming once again. But this history, both personal and political, is important to share with our children. Kirkus Review sums it up:
"A masterpiece for readers young and old."
Illustrations ©2007 Peter Sís; used with permission from the publisher, Farrar, Straus & Giroux / Macmillan. The review copy comes from our personal 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.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

2015 Caldecott Awards: a terrific range & selection of books!!! (ages 4-14, yes really!!)

This year's Caldecott Committee broke boundaries by including a graphic novel for young teens among their seven (7!!) books awarded honors. This selection of picture books, meaning books told with and through pictures, serves a wide range of children -- from preschoolers who will adore Dan Santat's Beekle, to teens who are the perfect audience for Jillian and Mariko Tamaki's graphic novel This One Summer.
Before I get any further, if you're considering This One Summer for your child, please learn about it before you order it. I genuinely recommend this for kids who are 13 and 14, but not for elementary students. Skip down to the end if you're specifically looking for information about this book.

The 2015 Caldecott Award for the most distinguished American picture book goes to:

Dan Santat, the author and illustrator of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend. This delightful story has charmed our young students at Emerson, with Santat's special message about loneliness, imagination and finding your own special, true friend.

My students are huge fans of Dan Santat's and will be thrilled to see this picture book, which comes so much from Dan's heart, honored and celebrated. Dan truly captures so much of what children value in this world -- playfulness, fun and friendship with an incredible eye and vivid imagination. Perfect for preschoolers, but enjoyed by older kids as well (ages 3-9).

Six (!!) Caldecott Honor Awards were given:

Nana in the City, by Lauren Castillo, captures the relationship between a young boy and his grandmother, as she helps him overcome his fears by listening, understanding and helping him. I especially love how his nana never scolds him, but rather emotionally comes to where this little guy is. Another truly special book, perfect for kids ages 3-6.

The Noisy Paint Box, illustrated by Mary GrandPré and written by Barb Rosenstock, conveys the way abstract artist Vasily Kandinsky experienced colors as sounds and sounds as colors. It's fascinating--this picture book biography didn't appeal to me right away (I brought too many grown-up questions to it), but my 5th grader found it fascinating and the art captivating. Kandinsky listens as “swirling colors trill…like an orchestra tuning up,” and GrandPré shows him lifting his paintbrush much like a conductor. A fascinating intersection of art and music, for ages 6-10.


Sam and Dave Dig a Hole, illustrated by Jon Klassen and written by Mac Barnett, is another huge kid favorite at Emerson precisely because it makes kids laugh and wonder at the same time. Sam and Dave are indeed digging a whole, as you can see on the cover, and they are determined not to stop until they find "something spectacular." What I love best about it is the respect Klassen and Barnett have for kids who love to puzzle over things and think about questions that don't have easy answers, or necessarily ANY answers. They're totally comfortable with that uncertainty, something grownups often forget. Kids from 4 to 10 have loved this.

Viva Frida, by Yuyi Morales, made me gasp in wonder the very first time I saw it -- and it's had the same effect on children and adults alike. Just look at the colors on the cover -- but then open, and you enter the dreamlike world that Morales creates, combining handmade puppets and carefully crafted stage sets. Morales conveys a sense of an artists' world, and how one artist infuses another artists' dreams and spirit. While this isn't a biography at all, it is an incredible testament to the artistic spirit that appeals to the very young as well as older readers who can put it into more context (ages 3-12).

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus, illustrated by Melissa Sweet and written by Jen Bryant. I adore this utterly splendid book that tells the life of Peter Roget and the creation of his thesaurus. Sweet uses playful illustrations to draw children into young Peter's life, showing them how he loved lists of words and discovered that words had power, especially when gathered together and organized in interesting ways. This is a book children will enjoy pouring over again and again, noticing more details each time. I particularly love showing kids (ages 6-10) the ways science, language and art intersect.

This One Summer, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki and written by Mariko Tamaki. This fantastic graphic novel eloquently captures young teens on the cusp of adolescence, as they spend the summer together. For the first time, the Caldecott Committee said, YES, the illustrations in a graphic novel is a true form of art, one that is vitally essential to the story. It is utterly ground-breaking and I am so happy.

This book speaks to young teens about the way friendships change as they enter the murky waters of adolescence. Rose is so happy to spend the summer once again with her friend Windy, but she rejects many of their past activities as too childish and yearns to mimic the older teens in this beach town. I like the way Kirkus sums it up: "The realistic dialogue and sensitive first-person narration convey Rose’s naïveté and confusion, and Windy’s comfort in her own skin contrasts with Rose’s uncertainty." Teen pregnancy, gossip and a parent's depression all wind their way through this story. I've found it speaks well to young teens, ages 13-15.

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 Little, Brown, Random House, Candlewick, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Macmillan and Eerdmans. 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

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


Green
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

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Mock Caldecott discussions, part 3 - how our students are reacting

Our 2nd graders have loved sharing their thoughts and opinions about what the best picture books have been this year. We've talked lots about how the Caldecott Medal is awarded to the illustrator, and how we need to think about how the pictures add to the story above and beyond the words. We've talked about the color choices illustrators make, the way the convey emotions in characters' expressions, and the perspectives they use and how this brings readers into the picture books.

Above all, they feel part of the process and are excited to find out the winners of the 2013 Caldecott Medal. Are you looking forward to it? Check out this website: ALA Youth Media Awards. You can also check into Facebook for the announcements on Monday morning.

My students passionately discussed three more books today, declaring love and admiration for all three. They're convinced that the Caldecott Committee has a very hard job on their hands, comparing these different illustrations!
Chloe and the Lion
by Mac Barnett
illustrated by Adam Rex
Disney / Hyperion, 2012
reviewed here
ages 4-8
available at your local library and on Amazon
Our second graders thought it was hilarious the way that the author and illustrator argued in this story. But more than that, they argued vociferously that the illustrations add to the humor and pizazz of this story. The love the combination of different media - with the puppet figures for Adam and Mac, the cartoon characters for Chloe, and the stage elements that give the story a 3-D feeling. They laughed at the way Adam's dragon is way-cooler than Mac's lion. And they loved the resolution at the end. This is a smart story that completely hooks its audience. In many ways, it reminds me of Interrupting Chicken, a Caldecott honor book in 2011.
Unspoken
by Henry Cole
Scholastic, 2012
reviewed at 100 Scope Notes
ages 7-10
available at your local library and on Amazon
This wordless book took our breath away when we read it. It's truly a book that makes you think at each step of the way, as you unravel and make sense of the story. As the pieces of the puzzle came together for my 2nd graders, they were amazed at the young girl's kindness and courage, and the runaway slave's daunting challenge escaping to freedom. We talk all the time about "reading is thinking" and Henry Cole asks his readers to do just this. On our first read, some of my students were frustrated that we never see the full face of the African American hiding in the corn stalks. But as we talked about it today, those same students talked about how much this story stayed with them. Cole's pencil drawings evoke the girl's emotions and the setting of Civil War Virginia, creating tension and mystery within this quiet book. It's a book that will stay with us for many years.
Z is for Moose
by Kelly Bingham
illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
Greenwillow / HarperCollins, 2012
discussed at Calling Caldecott
ages 3-7
available at your local library and on Amazon
With giggles and pointing, our 2nd graders ate up every inch of Bingham and Zelinsky's mad romp in Z is for Moose. They loved the goofiness of the premise, but they also loved the heart of the story - declaring that this is really a friendship story in the end. We talked at length about how the illustrations add to the story. The love the chaos that ensues when Moose disrupts the story, but they also responded to the emotions in Moose's face as he felt left out from all the fun. Just look at Zebra's expression on the cover and you can tell the way Zelinsky adds tension through those angry eyes. Other children noticed the way the color frames contrast with the background and the stage. But mostly, our second graders just loved this silly, funny book and wanted to read it over and over again.

We did not have an official Mock Caldecott vote with our second graders. Over five weeks, I read three classes different sets of books. Maybe next year I'll rotate a set amongst the classes, the way that Travis Jonkers did (see his post here). Whatever the case, the children really developed their ability to talk about picture books they love, support their ideas with clear reasoning, and share their love with other children.

Many thanks to the publishers for supporting our Mock Caldecott unit: Disney / Hyperion, Harper Collins, and Scholastic. 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 ©2013 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Mock Caldecott discussions at Emerson, Part 2

Emerson 2nd graders have **loved** reading and thinking about which picture book they would award with the 2013 Caldecott Medal. This project is really deepening their ability to articulate how pictures contribute to an overall story. In library language, we call this "visual literacy" - the ability to interpret and make meaning from illustrations. Here are four more of our favorite picture books from 2012.
Extra Yarn
by Mac Barnett
illustrated by Jon Klassen
Balzar + Bray, 2012
ages 4 - 8
reviewed here
available at your local library and on Amazon
Our students love Extra Yarn more and more with each reading. Even though the artwork is subdued, they respond to Annabelle's creative spirit, to her generosity and to her tenacious refusal to sell her precious box to the archduke. They love the surprising twists of this story, and the way that the illustrations add to the visual surprises. The notice that the illustrations help make the pacing and details are perfect; in particular, the love the wordless pages near the end, as readers need to guess what is happening to the box of yarn.
Little Dog Lost
by Mônica Carnesi
Nancy Paulsen Books, 2012
ages 4-8
reviewed at Calling Caldecott
available at your local library or on Amazon
Children have really responded to this true story of a little dog who was stuck on an ice flow in Poland’s Vistula River, and rescued after drifting for two days on the open sea. Was it just because our students adore little dogs, or do the illustrations really add to this? After a hearty debate, our students definitely think Carnesi's illustrations are distinguished, making the story "pop", helping them connect to the dog and understand how he felt. Carnesi creates tension as one thing goes wrong after another. She creates empathy without overdoing the emotions. In fact, today's class voted this as their winner! We'll see if the Caldecott Committee notices this sweet, quiet story - we sure hope so.
Green
by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
Roaring Brook Press, 2012
ages 3 - 8
reviewed at Fuse #8
available at your local library or on Amazon
On the surface, this is a book about just one color; but as our students quickly realized, Seeger makes readers appreciate just how many variations there are for a single color. Students loved Seeger's inventive descriptions of different shades of green, from forest green to sea-green to khaki green. We talked about the texture of the oil paint and the canvas that shows on each page. And they loved the twist near then end when Seeger adds yet another layer with “all green / never green / no green / forever green.” This is certainly a book where the illustrations extend it far beyond its simple words, making reader think about color in new and different ways.
And Then It's Spring
by Julie Fogliano
illustrated by Erin E. Stead
Roaring Brook Press, 2012
ages 3 - 8
reviewed here
available at your local library or on Amazon
While this book took my breath away, it did not stay with our 2nd grade readers quite the same way when compared to other favorites in our Mock Caldecott discussions. When we read it together, the students responded to the details in each illustration, noticing what different animals were doing on each spread. They liked the muted colors and the building of tension as the little boy waited and waited for spring. But I think this quiet book might be too slow and subdued for their tastes. But I wonder if the Caldecott Committee might appreciate the way Stead's artwork builds the themes and anticipation in this lovely story.

Many thanks to the publishers for supporting our Mock Caldecott unit: Penguin, Harper Collins and Macmillan. 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 ©2013 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Best picture books of the year: Mock Caldecott discussions at Emerson, Part 1

Each year, a group of librarians gather together to discuss the best picture books of the year, awarding the Caldecott Medal to the artist of the "most distinguished" American picture book for children. This year's Caldecott winners will be announced on Monday, January 28th - we are very excited to see which artists are recognized with this great honor!


The students and teachers at Emerson have been reading and discussing many of the best picture books this year. It's a wonderful opportunity to talk about how the illustrations add to a story, creating meaning and emotions. This week, I'd like to share some of the books we've been discussing. Look for Part 2 and 3 later this week. For now, here are some of our favorite potential Caldecott books:

Baby Bear Sees Blue
by Ashley Wolff
Beach Lane / Simon & Schuster, 2012
ages 2 - 5
reviewed here
available at your local library or on Amazon
My students were charmed by this sweet book, loving the rhythm of the story, the unexpected items selected to focus on each color, and the rich, saturated color of each illustration. On each page, they noticed the details in Wolff's illustrations, as well as the balance between large figures and spaces and small detailed illustrations.
Step Gently Out
poem by Helen Frost
photographs by Rick Lieder
Candlewick Press, 2012
ages 4 - 9
reviewed here
available from your local library or on Amazon
Lieder's photographs took my students' breath away. As one student said, "They make the images pop out." The brilliant color, the compositions, the contrast between blurred backgrounds and crystal clear animals, and the incredible details in each photograph are astounding. The photographs complement Frost's words and extend them, giving readers fascinating images to contemplate on each page. Students also remarked about the pacing, the way that the photographs allow you to read the poem slowly, savoring each image.
Oh, No!
by Candace Fleming
illustrated by Eric Rohmann
Schwartz & Wade / Random House, 2012
ages 3 - 8
review by 100 Scope Notes
available at your local library, on Amazon and as a
"Read & Listen" iBook for the iPad
Flemings rhyming text and Rohmann's colorful illustrations absolutely captivated my students. They chanted along with me, saying the choral, "Ribbit-oops! Ribbit-oops!" and "Oh, no!" right in time. But best of all, they loved the way Rohmann changed his perspective with each page, showing just enough of each scene to draw you right in. They loved the playfulness of having to find the tiger - spotting his claws wrapping around the tree, or his tail poking out from the bushes.

Rohmann creates his illustrations using relief prints with the reduction method (see here for an explanation of what that means), and you can see some fascinating examples of his work in progress at the wonderful blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. While Betsy Bird over at Fuse #8 wonders whether problems with the perspective will cause this trouble, my students and I would agree with Ed Spicer (see the comments in Betsy's post) that the animals in the hole can sense the tiger prowling outside the hole without having to see him. Rohmann's illustrations add to the humor, energy and pacing of this wonderful book. This is one we will read again and again.
Nightime Ninja
by Barbara DeCosta
illustrated by Ed Young
Little, Brown, 2012
ages 3-8
Horn Book review
available at your local library and on Amazon
Ed Young's expressive collages hooked my students from the cover, with those big eyes peering out from the black disguise. My second graders loved the twists and surprises that Young reveals in his illustrations, as he slowly hints that the Ninja might be a young boy with an active imagination. My students would agree with the Horn Book, which writes, "Young’s art, however, perfectly pairs with the minimal text. His cut-paper and cloth illustrations do the heavy lifting here, imbuing the tale with mystery, beauty, and emotion." The illustrations create tension and pacing that captivates young readers, making them want to turn to this book for multiple readings.

Many thanks to the publishers for sharing and supporting our Mock Caldecott unit: Simon & Schuster, Candlewick, Random House, and Little, Brown. 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 ©2013 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Sydney Taylor Book Award: honoring books that portray Jewish experiences

Every year, I am excited to see the books selected for the Sydney Taylor Book Award by the Association of Jewish Libraries. This award "honors new books for children and teens that exemplify the highest literary standards while authentically portraying the Jewish experience." This award is in honor of Sydney Taylor, author of The All-of-a-Kind Family, a classic series about an immigrant Jewish family in New York City in the early 1900s.

I'd like to highlight a few books from their list this year that particularly struck me as having wonderful appeal to children and families:

Chanukah Lights
by Michael Rosen and Robert Sabuda
MA: Candlewick, 2011
ages 7 - 10
2012 Sydney Taylor Book Award for Younger Readers
available at your local library, favorite bookstore and on Amazon
Michael Rosen and Robert Sabuda are honored with the 2012 gold medal in the Sydney Taylor Book Award’s Younger Readers Category for Chanukah Lights, an intricate cut paper pop-up book that celebrates Jewish history and the Chanukah holiday. Barbara Bietz, Chair of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee, said: “From the shtetl to skyscrapers, the white pop-up scenes against a background of deep rainbow colors illuminate Jewish life for the eight nights of Chanukah. Together, children and adults will marvel at the stunning scenes that magically unfold with each turn of the page.”
Naamah and the Ark at Night
by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
illustrations by Holly Meade
MA: Candlewick, 2011
ages 4 - 8
2012 Sydney Taylor honor award
available at your local library, favorite bookstore or on Amazon
As Noah’s wife Naamah, a beautiful singer, calms the animals, her husband and children with soothing lullabies, she brings peace to the storm-wracked ark. Bartoletti's lyrical text is perfectly paired with Meade's collages. Children will love looking at all the animals in the ark, especially seeing them paired with different constellations in the night sky.
When Life Gives You OJ
by Erica S. Perl
NY: Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2011
ages 8 - 12
2012 Sydney Taylor honor award
available at your local library, favorite bookstore or on Amazon
I had so much fun reading this heartwarming, funny book this summer. Zelly Fried wants a dog more than anything, but her parents aren't convinced. When her eccentric grandpa Ace leaves her a note tied to an old orange juice jug, she's the one who isn't quite convinced. Ace has cooked up a plan for Zelly to have a "practice dog" to prove to her parents that she really is ready to take on the responsibilities of owning a dog. Zelly's family is one of the few Jewish families in her Vermont neighborhood, and her grandfather's dialog is full of Yiddish phrases.
Hammerin' Hank Greenberg
by Shelley Sommer
PA: Calkins Creek, 2011
ages 11 - 14
2012 Sydney Taylor honor award
available at your local library, favorite bookstore or on Amazon
Sommer weaves together the story of Hank Greenberg, the first Jewish baseball star, with the history of America during the 1930s and 1940s in this accessible biography for tweens and teens. I really enjoyed reading this biography, and will review it in depth tomorrow.

If you are interested in these and other books about the Jewish experience, you'll definitely want to check out the blog tour to celebrate the Sydney Taylor Book Awards. Below is the full schedule:

THE 2012 SYDNEY TAYLOR BOOK AWARD BLOG TOUR
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2012

Susan Campbell Bartoletti, author of Naamah and the Ark at Night
Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Younger Readers Category
at Ima On & Off the Bima

Holly Meade, illustrator of Naamah and the Ark at Night
Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Younger Readers Category
at Into the Wardrobe

Shelley Sommer, author of Hammerin' Hank Greenberg, Baseball Pioneer
Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Older Readers Category
at Great Kid Books

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2012


Marcia Vaughan
, author of Irena's Jar of Secrets
Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Older Readers Category
at Shelf-Employed

Ron Mazellan
, illustrator of Irena's Jar of Secrets
Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Older Readers Category
at The Children's War

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 7, 2012


Trina Robbins
, author of Lily Renee, Escape Artist: From Holocaust Survivor to Comic Book Pioneer
Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Older Readers Category
at Bildungsroman

Anne Timmons (and possibly Mo Oh), illustrators of of Lily Renee, Escape Artist: From Holocaust Survivor to Comic Book Pioneer
Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Older Readers Category
at Gathering Books

Morris Gleitzman, author of Then
Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Teen Readers Category
at The 3 R's

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 2012

Michael Rosen, author of Chanukah Lights
Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Younger Readers Category
at A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy

Robert Sabuda
, illustrator/paper engineer of Chanukah Lights
Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Younger Readers Category
at Practically Paradise

Susan Goldman Rubin
, author of Music Was It: Young Leonard Bernstein
Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Older Readers Category
at Cynsations

Robert Sharenow
, author of The Berlin Boxing Club
Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Teen Readers Category
at Jewish Books for Children

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2012


Durga Yael Bernhard, author & illustrator of Around the World in One Shabbat
Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Younger Readers Category
at Frume Sarah's World

Shirley Vernick, author of The Blood Lie
Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Teen Readers Category
at The Fourth Musketeer

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2012

Eric Kimmel, author of The Golem's Latkes
Sydney Taylor Notable Book, and winner of the National Jewish Book Award
at Ann Koffsky's Blog

Gloria Spielman, author of Marcel Marceau, Master of Mime
Sydney Taylor Notable Book, and finalist for the National Jewish Book Award
at Shannon and the Sunshine Band

Richard Michelson, author of Lipman Pike: America's First Home Run King
Sydney Taylor Notable Book, and finalist for the National Jewish Book Award
at Blue Thread

Sydney Taylor Award Winners – Wrap-Up
All winners, all categories
at The Whole Megillah

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Ball for Daisy, by Chris Raschka - winner of the 2012 Caldecott Medal (ages 3 - 8)

Our 2nd graders at Emerson have loved thinking about which picture books should win the 2012 Caldecott Medal, participating in a mock Caldecott of our own. Yesterday we read A Ball for Daisy, by Chris Raschka, who was awarded the 2012 Caldecott Medal this past weekend by the American Library Association. This wordless book will appeal to a wide range of children, from young preschoolers on up. Our students responded to the way Raschka expressed so many emotions purely through his paintings.

A Ball for Daisy
by Chris Raschka
NY: Schwartz & Wade / Random House, 2011
ages 3 - 8
available from your local library, favorite bookstore or on Amazon
2012 Caldecott Medal
Daisy is a happy, eager little dog who loves her red ball. She leaps and bounds, playing with it at home and then at the park. But one day at the park, another dog starts playing with Daisy's ball. The ball suddenly POPS! and Daisy is despondent. Her owner, a young girl not depicted until half-way through the book, tries to comfort Daisy.

Children respond to Daisy's emotions throughout the story - how excited she is playing with her favorite toy, the despair she feels when she loses that toy. Raschka captures these emotions through Daisy's expressions, movement and posture. We had a great time with 2nd graders looking at Daisy's eyes and practicing different emotions our eyes convey.


The story concludes with another trip to the park, as Daisy and her little girl meet the dog who popped Daisy's ball. This little brown dog and her owner have brought Daisy a new ball, and the book ends with a very happy Daisy cuddling on the couch with her new ball. Our students loved the ending, recognizing that's what you should do if you break a friend's toy. They wondered if Daisy and the brown dog will become friends.

The first time I read A Ball for Daisy I mistakenly thought it was only for young preschoolers. My 2nd graders have shown me, once again, how much they can get from a wordless picture book that explores and celebrates a rich palette of emotions. They appreciated Daisy's emotions, they loved Raschka's use of color and lines, they noticed patterns and details I passed by on my first reading. Picture books, especially wordless ones, let children develop their love of stories, and their understanding of illustrations and visual imagery.

Other reviews can be found in many places, including:
  • A Year of Reading: "brilliant illustrations that tell so much of the story to the reader.  You cannot help but feel what the dog feels throughout the story--all the ups and downs."
  • Waking Brain Cells: "From the bright red of her ball to the striped couch in green, the book embraces color.  Raschka also uses color to convey emotion, which is particularly effective when the air itself is colored with purples and blues after Daisy’s ball is popped."
  • ProseAndKahn: "Daisy is drawn with a minimum of squiggly lines, but her posture and expressions speak volumes. The contrast of moods between the walk to the park and away from it, is striking. Readers will feel pity for the poor lonely dog trying to nap without his favorite toy."
  • NPR interview with Chris Rashka:  Raschka has a simple criterion for choosing his subjects: "Anything that creates a strong emotion in me," he says. "Whether it's music, loss of something, loneliness or friendship — if that emotion is heightened in some way and painted to fit in between the covers of 32 pages, that can become a picture book."
  • Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast: "I’m a raging fan of Raschka’s minimalist, vigorously-stroked artwork".
The review copy came from our local bookstore Mrs. Dalloway's and our school library. 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

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.
Juanita
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