Showing posts with label awards. Show all posts
Showing posts with label awards. Show all posts

Monday, February 19, 2018

Before She Was Harriet, by Lesa Cline-Ransome -- poetic, powerful, beautiful (ages 7-10)

"The story of Harriet Tubman has always been one that has infused me with pride." -- Lesa Cline-Ransome, interview on TeachingBooks
Before she was Harriet Tubman, she was a young girl with the courage and determination to fight against injustices. This powerful, poetic picture book takes readers back in time to look at Tubman's many contributions fighting for freedom.
Before She Was Harriet
by Lesa Cline-Ransome
illustrated by James E. Ransome
winner of the 2018 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Award
Holiday House, 2017
Amazon / Your local library
ages 7-10
*best new book*
Harriet Tubman is an iconic figure in American history as a courageous leader on the Underground Railroad, helping enslaved people escape to freedom. With lyrical free verse text, Lesa Cline-Ransome looks back on Harriet's long life.
"Before she was an old woman,
she was a suffragist
a voice for women
who had none"
With each page turn, readers are taken further back in Tubman's life. During the Civil War, she was a spy for the Union and a nurse for wounded soldiers. Before all of this, she was a little girl who learned from her father to read the woods, "readying for the day/ she would leave behind slavery." Lesa Cline-Ransome's writing is poetic, focusing in on key moments to help bring readers in close to see Tubman's humanity, her dedication to helping others, her perseverance.

Striking, luminous illustrations highlight Tubman's determination and courage, providing visual context for her long life. James E. Ransome was awarded the 2018 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Award for this magnificent book.
"Before she was a suffragist
she was General Tubman..."
Share this picture book with children who have already learned about Harriet Tubman. Help them see her more fully and appreciate her humanity, drive and hope. I especially appreciated these resources:
Illustrations copyright ©2017 James E. Ransome, shared by permission of the publisher. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Holiday House. 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

Friday, May 12, 2017

Congratulations! Margarita Engle named Young People's Poet Laureate (ages 5-14)

I am so happy to celebrate poetry this beautiful Friday morning. Many congratulations to Margarita Engle on being named Young People's Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation. This award "recognizes a career devoted to writing exceptional poetry for young readers" and Margarita embodies all that this award stands for.
Margarita Engle has written so many books -- these are just a few of my favorites. Much of her verse highlights her Cuban-American ancestry, influenced by her childhood summers spent visiting her mother's homeland. Her poetry also reflects her background in botany and is filled with vivid descriptions of setting. As Henry Bienen, president of the Poetry Foundation, said,
“Margarita Engle’s passion, knowledge of nature, and curiosity about the world make her work fascinating to children and adults alike.”
Here are just a few of her books that I love to share with children:
Bravo: Poems about Amazing Hispanics
Drum, Dream Girl: How One Girl's Courage Changed Music
Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings -- A Memoir
The Wild Book
In honor of this, I'd like to share two poems Margarita wrote as part of her long collaboration with Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong.
In "Discovery," which is part of The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science, Engle captures the quiet waiting of explorers and the joy when you finally find the treasure you were looking for. Much of her poetry is also available in Spanish translations -- as it is here. Share this poetry video with students to show how photographs can combine with poetry reading to bring it alive.

Many thanks to Sylvia Vardell for sharing this via Poetry for Children.

Much of Engle's work speaks directly to teens. In "Who Am I?" she captures the confusion created with forms and tests that ask students to categorize themselves. This powerful, accessible poem kicks off the terrific collaboration in Just You Wait: A Poetry Friday Power Book, with prompts to encourage students to write their own poetry.
I am thrilled that Margarita has been awarded this prestigious position. She does so much to encourage the love of poetry in our children. Bravo!!!

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Audies Finalists: Terrific audiobooks for middle grades (ages 8-12)

I love listening to audiobooks -- but even more so, I love introducing children and families to this wonderful way of reading. Parents often ask me whether this is really reading, and I assure them that it is. Listening to an audiobook helps a child develop their comprehension skills as they imagine the story in their mind.

The Audie Awards finalists have just been announced, and I'm having a great time exploring them. These awards are given annually by the Audio Publisher's Association, recognizing distinction in audiobooks. It considers everything from the narrator's performance to the editing and production qualities.

I especially like the way the Audie Awards have a specific category for middle grade audiobooks. These books make terrific family listens for long car trips and also for daily drives to school. Here are this year's finalists:
All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook, by Leslie Connor
narrated by Michael Crouch and Kathleen McInerney
Eleven-year-old Perry has lived with his mom at the Blue River Coed Correctional Facility his whole life. So far, Warden Daugherty has let him stay with his mother. I am looking forward to listening to this book -- one that's been recommended by several friends. AudioFile magazine writes, "This poignant story inspires questions about truth, justice, family, and home."
Demon Dentist, by David Walliams
narrated by David Walliams, Jocelyn Jee Esien, and Nitin Ganatra
Demon Dentist is perfect for fans of Roald Dahl's Matilda or The Witches. Alfie is reluctant to visit the town's new dentist--like many of us, he hates someone prodding in his mouth. But when Dr. Root visits his school, Alfie can immediately tell that something is not quite what it seems. The multiple narrators, including author Walliams, brings alive this colorful cast. I have just started listening to this, and Dr. Root is deliciously wicked in this goofy, outlandish story of tooth-rot and good-versus-evil.
The Enchanted Files: Hatched, by Bruce Coville
narrated by a full cast, including Bruce Coville, Matthew Frow,ayne Entwistle, Kirby Heyborne and more
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the first Enchanted Files book, Cursed, the diary of a mad brownie Angus who's curse brings him to modern America. In this new book, Gerald, a poetry-writing griffin named Gerald, tells his story in diary format, as he struggles with his worries whether he'll be brave enough to live up to being a griffin. Coville's signature wit and humor makes me look forward to listening to this--his stories have always been terrific as audiobooks.
How to Train Your Dragon: How to Fight a Dragon’s Fury, by Cressida Cowell
narrated by David Tennant
Many of my students love this series, and I know they're going to be excited to learn about this epic finale. I've always found the audiobook versions of these tales terrific because they convey Hiccup's accent and humor so well. From the publisher's summary, "The Doomsday of Yule has arrived, and the future of dragonkind lies in the hands of one boy with nothing to show, but everything to fight for. Hiccup's quest is clear... But can he end the rebellion?"
The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog, by Adam Gidwitz
narrated by Adam Gidwitz, Vikas Adam, Mark Bramhall, and more
The Inquisitor's Tale comes alive as an audiobook, with multiple narrators helping readers envision the different characters who come to the roadside tavern to tell their part of the story of three magical children and their quest. Gidwitz combines adventure, history, humor and action along with a story that helps us think about prejudice, collaboration and friendship, I read this story, and then listened to the entire story again as an audiobook. It is absolutely terrific. Gidwitz won a Newbery Honor (hooray!!) for this outstanding tale. I'm so glad it's also being recognized for the terrific audiobook.

Have fun listening to these great stories. Thank you to all of the judges of the Audie Awards for helping bring these to our listening ears.

The review copies borrowed from the 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

Sunday, February 8, 2015

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

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

2015 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award

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

2015 Illustrator Honor Awards

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

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

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

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

2015 Author Honor Award

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

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

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

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

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

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

2015 CSK Illustrator Honor Awards:

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

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

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

2015 CSK Author Honor Awards:

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

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

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

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

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

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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, 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

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Little kids take on the world: Nino Wrestles the World & Lucha Libre toys (ages 4-8)

The little kids I know have BIG imaginations. Playing with action figures and dolls is still one of kids' favorite activities. One of my favorite books from last year taps into this imagination perfectly: Niño Wrestles the World. Pair this with a set of Lucha Libre wrestling figures, and you'll create lots of playtime fun.
Dressed up in his lucha libre mask, little Niño uses his active imagination to battle some mighty foes. Whether he’s defeating the Guanajuato mummy or exploding the giant Olmec Head, this is one confident little kid.

Lucha libre, the popular masked Mexican wrestling sport, will appeal to kids familiar with it or just learning about it for the first time. Morales brings humor, dynamic energy and vivid artwork to this terrific picture book. She mixes in Spanish words seamlessly, providing great access for Spanish speaking families. But all of my students have loved this.

I love this video with Morales reading the story with flair. It gives you a great sense of how fun and dramatic it is.

Pair this with a set of plush lucha libre action figures and I can see little kids having a great time channeling their dreams of world-domination. To be honest, I have not ordered these but they look like so much fun. Let me know what you think!
CMLL Lucha Libre Plush Doll 7 inches
Yuyi Morales has put together a great Pinterest page for Niño Wrestles the World, full of other fun things to share. Over at her site, Morales has printable coloring sheets for kids to make their own luchador mask.

The review copies came from our school 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.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Saturday, July 19, 2014

A Dog Called Homeless: celebrating the Schneider Family Book Award 10th anniversary (ages 9-12)

Today, I'd like to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Schneider Family Book Award. Each year, three books are honored for their artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences. If you're interested in a free giveaway and other blogs celebrating this anniversary, make sure to read to the bottom.

One of the reasons I love awards is discovering new books that I might have overlooked. I had ordered A Dog Called Homeless (2013 winner) for my library, but hadn't taken the time to read it yet. So in honor of the tenth anniversary, I chose to read a book I thought would appeal to my students. I'm so glad I did -- this is a very special book that touched my heart in many ways.
A Dog Called Homeless
by Sarah Lean
Harper Collins, 2013
Winner, Schneider Family Book Award
read a sample: HarperCollins
Amazon
Your local library
ages 9-12
Cally has lost her mother, and her family is struggling to deal with all their grief. Her father doesn't seem to be able to talk about it at all, but that makes Cally feel that her mother is completely gone. A year after her mother's death, Cally starts seeing her mother everywhere. She knows that it isn't really her mother, but she can feel her mother there watching her.

When her school holds a sponsored silence for a day to raise money for a local hospice, Cally reluctantly takes part. But she discovers that the silence is somehow a good reaction for her -- especially as she doesn't feel her father really listens to her anyway.

During this silence, Cally meets a new friend Sam when she moves into a small apartment. As Sam's mother says, Sam is "eleven. He’s blind and mostly deaf, but otherwise he’s just like you and me.” Cally learns to talk with Sam silently, by spelling words in sign language into his hand. This friendship really touched my heart. Sam and Cally understood each other. They listened to each other and shared their feelings and thoughts.

Sam encouraged Cally to talk to her mother, even silently through her thoughts. Here's a passage I found really powerful. The italics show Cally and her mother talking to each other through Cally's thoughts.
They painted the earth in the middle; and the sun went around the outside, and I said—
People get things the wrong way around. I remember.
She smiled. Exactly.
I don’t get it.
Well, what you think is on the outside is in the middle.
Like your name is my middle name.
Just like that.
I felt her in the middle of me. That’s when I noticed my belly didn’t hurt anymore. I’d gotten so used to aching.
I thought you were up in space or something.
Why would I go so far away? Just because you can’t see me it doesn’t mean I’m not here with you.
That’s what Sam said.
Cally was so lucky to have found Sam. Even though Cally insisted on not talking, she was able to connect with Sam. He could understand that just because you can't see someone, doesn't mean they aren't there. Cally discovers the power of watching, observing, noticing.

A Dog Called Homeless, like many of the Schneider Family Book Award winning books, would make a wonderful read aloud in a classroom or at home. It encourages kids to notice the people around you. Listen to them. Feel them. Don't expect everything to be right on the outside -- sometimes you have to look into the middle of something to find out what's really going on.

I'm happy to be participating in the blog tour celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Schneider Family Book Award. Check out all of the links of the Schneider Family Book Award 10th Anniversary Blog Tour & Giveaway:
July 6, 2014 Nerdy Book Club
July 6, 2014 Kid Lit Frenzy
July 7, 2014 Nonfiction Detectives
July 9, 2014 Teach Mentor Texts
July 10, 2014 There’s a Book For That
July 11, 2014 Kathie CommentsJuly 12, 2014 Disability in Kidlit
July 14, 2014 Librarian in Cute Shoes
July 15, 2014 The Late Bloomer’s Book Blog
July 15, 2014 CLCD
July 16, 2014 Read, Write, and Reflect
July 17, 2014 Read Now Sleep Later
July 18, 2014 Unleashing Readers
July 19, 2014 Great Kid Books
July 20, 2014 Maria’s Mélange
In celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Schneider Family Book Award, you may enter to win a set of all 3 Schneider Family Book Award Winners from 2014. Participants must be 13 years or older and have a US or Canadian mailing address. Just enter in the Rafflecopter box below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway


The review copy came from our school 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.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Words with Wings, by Nikki Grimes -- powerful novel in verse (ages 9-12)

Kaiyah C., a fourth grader at Emerson, came to me last week asking to write a review of Nikki Grimes' Words With Wings. You have to know that it takes something special for a kid to ASK to write a review. This book is truly special, and it has found a home in Kaiyah's heart.
Words with Wings
by Nikki Grimes
WordSong, 2013
2014 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award
your local library
Amazon
ages 9-12
Review of Word with Wings
by: Kaiyah C.

I just read Words with Wings by Nikki Grimes and I really liked this book because I related to Gabby (Gabriella). We both daydream to keep our lives/minds magical so we can throw all our ideas out and put it on paper.

Gabby especially daydreams when her parents are fighting. This helps her forget. Gabby and her mom are very different. Gabby’s favorite word is pretend and her mom’s is practical . Gabby is just like her dad. Sometimes Gabby’s mom stops her from daydreaming because she does not want her to be just like her dad. In the end Gabby becomes an author and her mom starts daydreaming too.

I enjoyed reading this book because of the way it was written in poetry. I think you would especially like it if you daydream. It would be awesome if we could have 15 minutes of daydreaming, just like Gabby’s teacher told her to do. But I don’t think that will really happen for us. This was a really heartwarming book.

This was the best book I’ve ever read.
-------------------------------------
I think Kaiyah will be interested in reading Ms. Grimes' reflections on her own childhood and the importance of daydreaming to her personally, over at the Teaching Books blog. Ms. Grimes writes:
Daydreaming becomes a strong muscle if you exercise it often enough. By the time I was ten, I could lasso a daydream and ride the wind. Who wouldn’t want to do that?
There were no lassos where I grew up in the inner city, of course, but there were daydreams to be had, if you knew where to look. That’s the secret I shared with Gabriella, the main character in Words with Wings (Wordsong, 2013). Like Gabby, I was a girl who lived inside her head.
- See more at: Teaching Books blog
Thank you, Nikki Grimes, for writing such wonderfully powerful stories that speak to my students. Thank you, Kaiyah, for such a heartfelt response to Words With Wings.

The review copy came from our school 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.

©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:
ALA YOUTH MEDIA AWARDS
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

Monday, January 20, 2014

Mock Newbery discussions at Emerson: Part 5

Our students noted three books for their character development: Counting by 7s, The Real Boy and Jinx. The characters in each of these books spoke to our students and stretched their thinking. I also noticed how discussions about the characters often turned into deeper discussions about theme, another important element that the Newbery Committee will consider.
Counting By 7s
Dial / Penguin, 2013
ages 9-14
Twelve year-old Willow Chance is a character who bore her way into our readers' hearts. "Ms. Scheuer, Ms. Scheuer! You have to add Counting by 7s to our Newbery list!!"

Willow has trouble making friends and feels most comfortable at home. When we meet her, she's just starting sessions with a hapless school counselor, Dell Duke. Suddenly, a car crash kills both of Willow's parents and she's left totally alone. Willow is with Dell and another one of his students, Mai, when she finds out.

Sloan brings us right into Willow's perspective through first person narrative. This is what we read when Willow hears about her parents:
"My teeth start to chatter.
I want to shut my eyes and make everything stop.
I no longer care if my heart pounds in my chest or if my lungs move."
One of the things I liked best about this novel is how each of the characters changed, and how each person impacted the people around them. They all start off living very isolated lives, but by the end they have come together as a family.

At times, I wondered if Willow actually sounded like a twelve year old child, but she was very convincing to my students. She's a character who will stay with them in their hearts for a long time.
The Real Boy
by Anne Ursu
Walden Pond Press / HarperCollins, 2013
ages 9-12
*best new book*
Amazon
your local library
Oscar is another isolated character who found his way into our readers' hearts, this time in a fantasy setting with many echoes of a classic hero's journey. Oscar's world falls apart when his master, the magician Caleb, is killed and people look to Oscar to continue supplying herbs and potions to cure them.

I wish I had taken more notes during my talks with Julia about The Real Boy. She's a thoughtful, soft-spoken reader who is passionate that "more people need to read The Real Boy!" Her observations deepened my appreciation of this book, especially for Oscar's courage and inner-strength. At times, I had trouble following all of the twists in the plot, but Julia was taken right into Oscar's fully realized world.
Jinx
by Sage Blackwood
HarperCollins, 2013
ages 9-12
*best new book*
Amazon
your local library
Jinx is another character who's an outsider in his world, an orphan who must find his own way. Noticing any themes here? It's a common one in middle grade literature--kids can certainly relate to those feelings. All three of these characters find their inner strength, connecting to a friend who proves an important ally.

Jinx is a more fast-paced fantasy than The Real Boy, and it appealed to our readers who love exciting stories. They loved the magic and danger in Jinx's world, as he battled the evil wizard known as the Bonemaster. I imagine the underlying environmental themes also appealed to our readers, although they did not say that. Instead, they talked about liking a world where the trees could talk to us and tell us how they were feeling.

When I read Jinx, I was struck that some of the dialog seemed too colloquial, but this did not bother any of our students. They were swept away by this exciting fantasy and are eagerly awaiting the sequel, Jinx's Magic.

Each of these books had its champions in our group, and none had enough readers to really engage in a full discussion. In just three months, I could only ask our readers to commit to reading five books. While the Newbery Committee will certainly read each of the titles on their list, I'm sure that some will receive more discussion than others.

Many thanks to Penguin and Harper Collins 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