Tuesday, November 25, 2014

1997 Newbery Authors - Did You Know?

When these books were published, I was in either the last semester of high school (Class of '96) or the first semester of college. With the intentions of becoming a high school English teacher, I certainly wasn't reading middle grade books so I had to read 4/5 of the 1997 Newbery books.

Posting summaries is getting rather boring, so I decided to dig up some information about the authors to share.

E.L. Konigsburg, the author of the 1997 medal winner, The View From Saturday, holds a place in Newbery history as the only author to win both a Newbery medal and honor award in the same year. Can you name the year and the titles? Source.

Nancy Farmer, author of the Newbery Honor Book, A Girl Named Disaster, actually believed that she had a twin brother that her parents gave up for adoption. She wasn't gullible enough to believe that he was turned into a lampshade, as her older sister claimed. Source.

Eloise McGraw was 81 years old when she received a Newbery Honor for The Moorchild. The state of Oregon has named a book award after her. Source.

Although she is from Virginia, Ruth White taught middle school in my home state of North Carolina.
She wrote a sequel to her 1997 Newbery Honor, Belle Prater's Boy. Has anyone read The Search for Belle Prater? Source.

Megan Whalen Turner's Newbery Honor Book, The Thief, is the first in a series. Four book have been published, with two more supposedly forthcoming. Source.

I plan to go on a hiatus from my Newbery Challenge until the YMAs for 2015 are announced. Last year, I had read 4/5 of the Newbery books before the were awarded. Time to read lots of 2014 books! My Newbery goal for 2015 is to read the medal and honors from 1996-1987.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Becoming a writing teacher

I have admitted on this blog before that I do not feel like a writer. Someone at work recently commented that the love of reading pours out of me, and it is impossible for the kids not to see it. I enjoy teaching my library classes and feel highly competent in that area. I know that being a reader is the reason why I excel as a librarian. Co-teaching writing each morning from 8-8:30 is not an area where I feel as strong. Fortunately, the classroom teacher I'm working with has put a great deal of trust and faith in me. She is a leader (in her classroom and the school) and has put me at ease about jumping into new territory as a teacher.

I feel so honored to have these students, many of which I've seen grown from age 5 to age 10 (or 11), share their stories with me. One student shared a time when her older sister scared her on an amusement park ride. Another shared about the time she met her best friend in 2nd grade. That I knew the characters from these stories made me smile, thankful for the years of connections I have had with these students. I am also learning things I didn't know, that one student's sister has seizures and that another's greatest triumph was the time he defeated his dad in a basketball game.

Some might view this time as a chore, and would rather focus their energy on their main role at school. I see it as a time to grow. I get to strengthen my bond with my students. And, who knows, in the process of teaching writing, I may just become a writer myself.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Rediscovering Old Favorites: Frog & Toad

A month ago, if I were prompted to recall favorites books from childhood, Frog and Toad wouldn't have made the list. I had a general recollection of the books, but I couldn't remember any of the stories. A few weeks ago, I decided to use the Frog and Toad books to help teach character analysis to first grade. I could have chosen a "newer book," but for some reason Frog and Toad caught my eye. Now I find myself searching out more Frog and Toad books to read, for me. My favorite story is "The Story" from Frog and Toad Are Friends. Frog is sick so Toad decided to tell him a story. The problem is that he can't think of one and does ridiculous things like pour water over his head. I laughed along with the kids while reading it.

Then I discovered that their was an animated film, Frog and Toad Together. I never saw it as a child, but Frog's voice reminds me of one of the Fraggle Rock characters. My favorite story is "The Dream."

Saturday, September 6, 2014

10 Impact Books

I was recently challenged to participate in a social media meme to list 10 books that have had an impact on my life. Talk about hard choices! Listing 100 would even be a challenge. After a lot of thought, here are my choices:

1. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White - My favorite book from childhood and a perfect model on how to be a friend. I named my daughter Charlotte after the main character; yes, she was named after a spider.

2. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery - Anne Shirley is such a kindred spirit. I always wish I could find a "bosom friend" like her.

3. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott - I still have the copy of this wonderful book that my Aunt Connie bought me when I was 11 years old.

4. Paradise Lost by John Milton - I was not a fan of poetry in my high school English classes. I read this in college and loved it, probably because it was poetry that told a story.

5.  The Wizard and the Glass by Stephen King - This is Volume IV of the Dark Tower series, and my favorite by a mile. Roland's story could be read as a standalone, and if you do not want to commit to the whole series, I encourage you to do just that.

6.  Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris - A book that made me laugh like no other. Whenever I have a bad day, I think of Rooster's advice. Read this book to find out what it is.

7. We Are In a Book! by Mo Willems - Willems is a genius! He makes listening to beginning readers enjoyable, a great feat indeed. These are perfect to share with an entire class or one on one with a child. 

8.  The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller - This book represents everything I am passionate about - sharing the love of reading with students. It also represents my online professional learning community that I have found through the Nerdy Book Club.

9. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate - Winner of the 2013 Newbery Medal, this book will make you cry. It is based on a true story of a gorilla living on display in a mall.

10. The Giver by Lois Lowry - Do you like The Hunger Games and Divergent? Lowry did dystopian fiction long before Collins and Roth, and in my opinion, she did it better. This book won the Newbery Medal in 1994.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Newbery Challenge 1998

My Newbery challenge is to read every medal and honor books starting with the present and going backwards. Because the enormity of this challenge, I'm electing not to reread books that I have read since 2004.

For 1998, I had already read:

This left two honor books to read:

Lily's Crossing is set in 1944, during World War II. Lily's father is sent to build bombs in Detroit, leaving her to spend the summer with her grandmother at Rockaway Beach. Lily is not a saintly protagonist; she lies, sneaks into movies and is disrespectful to her grandmother. Her lying becomes problematic when she meets a Hungarian refugee, Albert, and promises to help him return to Europe via boat to help rescue his sister.

I obviously know what the verb "wring" means, yet I still found the idea of wringing the necks of pigeons, injured from gunshots, shocking and quite horrifying. The main character, Palmer, would agree with me. He seems to be suffering from PTSD, haunted by memories of Family Fest, a festival that includes a shooting contest involving 5,000 pigeons. Palmer is conflicted with his desire to fit into a gang of friends and his feeling about participating in acts of cruelty, including bullying a girl who is his neighbor and friend, as well as becoming a Wringer. 

So both of these books were beautifully written, and I was sure I would be rating them both as five stars. Then I got to the endings. Both suffer from the Okay For Now problem. Both start as straight-forward historical/realistic fiction, but their endings move them to the realm of implausibility. I found myself thinking, "Really? That would never happen." I realize this is an adult perspective, but it did damper my reading of the book a bit. They were excellent despite this turn so I rated them both 4 stars.

On to 1997!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Newbery Challenge 2000

I had not read even one of the books from the year 2000, so this was an interesting challenge.

The medal winner:

Christopher Paul Curtis is one of those authors whose work is something I'm always going to read. I read and loved The Watson's Go to Birmingham - 1963, Elijah of Buxton and The Mighty Miss Malone. Bud Caldwell is an orphan living in Michigan in 1936. The story opens with an awful experience in foster care. Then Bud decides to travel from Flint to Grand Rapids to find the man he thinks is his father, based on flyers his mother had advertising a jazz band. I loved the same things @MrSchuReads mentions in his #nerdbery video.  I was so excited when Deza Malome showed up! Bud, Not Buddy is definitely on my top 10 list of Newbery winners.

Newbery Honors

I loved Tomie dePaola's picture books growing up. This is the beginning of a biographical series. It reminds me of a beginning reader book because of the short chapters and overall length of the book. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to meet Tomie dePaola in September at Scuppernong Books.

This book is so, so sad. Two girls lose their baby sister, and are sent off to live with their aunt, who has no children of her own. The younger sister refuses to speak, traumatized by what happened. Their grief and getting fed up with their aunt leads them to climb up on the roof (as seen on the cover), refusing to come down. The story begins there and everything else is told in flashbacks. It is set in a North Carolina, which is interesting, but the sad topic made it hard to read.

I blogged about this book in this post.  @colbysharp referred to this book in his #nerdbery video for Bud, Not Buddy.

I have already read Holes, the 1999 Newbery winner, and A Long Walk to Chicago, the only Honor book for that year so on to 1998!

Monday, July 21, 2014

#booksmiles #1

My twitter friends started a hashtag called #booksmiles. You write a blog post about a book that makes you smile and post it with the #booksmiles hashtag on Twitter.

A book that makes me smile:


1) Ana is a middle schooler I could identify with growing up. Very shy, having a few close friends.

2) Ana's family is interesting.  Her parents work at a zoo. She has a twin brother who is social and outgoing. Her grandfather is a star, and comes to town with his reality tv show film crew in tow.

3) The romance is sweet, without being over the top.

4) I love what happens to one of the bullies.

5) Book 2, How to Outswin a Shark Without a Snorkel will be released on January 6, 2015. Plus, there will be a Book 3!

6) Finally, the author, Jess Keating, is friendly and awesome! We struck up a friendship on Twitter in June, and I got to meet her at #nErDcampMI. She was one of 12 authors who gave their time to work with kids at Nerd Camp Jr. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

My visit to Naperville

One of the reasons I was excited about #nErDcampMI was meeting Twitter friends, and Twitter celebrities. @MrSchuReads falls into the latter category for me. He is a school librarian from Naperville, IL. He was on the 2014 Newbery Committee that helped select Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo as the winner of the greatest prize in children's literature. He blogs at Watch.Connect.Read, featuring interviews with author/illustrators, author visits, book trailers and more. My biggest obsession is the #nerdbery challenge he started with @colbysharp, a 3rd grade teacher from Parma, Michigan and organizer of #nErDcampMI. Colby is a Twitter celebrity too, and another person I was also excited to meet. He and Colby read every Newbery winner from 1922-present. They are currently working on a Newbery Honor challenge where they each choose one Honor book to read, starting with 2014 and going backwards. The videos are posted every Saturday, and watching them is a part of my weekend routine. I created a post here with all the videos.

I'm not sure if anyone else ever feels this way, but I kind of felt like a creepy stalker on Twitter, following Mr. Schu's every Tweet, favoring and retweeting most of what he posted. My opinion of him as a celebrity made me nervous to meet him.  I should not have been nervous.  He knew who I was immediately, and after talking to him for just 20 minutes, I could tell that he was a kind and wonderful person, definitely living up to his persona online. He even signed my copy of The One and Only Ivan. I found out about this wonderful book from Mr. Schu and he is definitely an ambassador for the book. Read his Nerdy Book Club post today where he introduces the trailer for the nonfiction companion, Ivan: the remarkable true story of the shopping mall gorilla.

After leaving Michigan, we planned to travel to Wisconsin for a wedding, stopping by Chicago for one day on the way. What a perfect opportunity to visit Mr. Schu's hometown, Naperville, IL.  The weather when we got there was perfect, especially for a North Carolina girl used to 90+ degrees and extreme humidity.

Anderson's Bookshop is the store where Mr. Schu buys all his books. I can't tell you how excited I was to see this sign.

Children's book display on pirates.

I decided to bring everyone back books as souvenirs. I wanted to find Squish #6: Fear the Amoeba for Charlotte. Sadly, they didn't have a copy.  Of course being at Anderson's made me wonder about Mr. Schu. I did tweet very excitedly that we were there.  I was going back to the children's section and who did I see? Mr. Schu.  And he gave me a copy of the Squish book I had just asked for in the store!  Of course, everyone knew Mr. Schu, and I found out he even gets mail at Anderson's! 

Carolyn and I both read Squish on the way home. I knew my 8-year old would LOVE it and we wouldn't get to read it once she had it. When we got home and I gave it to her, Charlotte jumped up and down yelling, "It's Squish."

I am very lucky because Mr. Schu is scheduled to present at the North Carolina School Library Media Association conference in October. The conference will be held in Winston-Salem, NC, where I was born and grew up. I know Mr. Schu will be busy, but I hope to treat him to lunch or dinner, and spend some more time talking with him. He is definitely still a Twitter celebrity, but he is also a friend.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Panic! at the #nErDcampMI

I am one of those who would consider herself a reader, never a writer, a mindset I plan to change. #nErDcampMI was a huge, life-changing experience. Instead of trying to cover the whole thing, I am going to write a Slice of Life-type post about it.

Waking up in Dublin, Ohio on July 7th, I was completely pumped to travel the rest of the trip to Michigan (started out in NC) for #nErDcampMI. I enjoyed our trip through the Ohio countryside, including the site of two Amish horse and buggies. I think it was around Ann Arbor that the panic started to set in. I could feel my heart pounding and I started sweating. By the time I was walking into Western School, I thought I was going to throw up (and I really had to pee).

I recognized Niki (@daydreamreader) right away. Instead of greeting her warmly like a normal person, I looked down and mumbled my last name. I grabbed my swag (including my free copy of The Troublemaker), thinking to myself, "How many books are in here?" I hightailed it to the restroom.

I was still extremely flustered when I entered back into the commons. I saw @colbysharp. I wanted to greet him, hug him, thank him for everything, but I couldn't move. I thought, "What have I gotten myself into?"

Thank God for Donalyn Miller! @donalynbooks was greeting people at the name tags. I waited my turn to talk to her, even though I was still anxious. She recognized my Twitter handle, called me friend and hugged me. I should have been thinking, "How in the world does she know me?" Instead, I thought, "I'm going to survive this."

I knew I had to move on because everyone wanted to talk to Donalyn. I smiled hesitantly at a few people, checked out the EIGHT books in my swag bag and decided I needed some water. As I was filling up a water bottle, my Twitter librarian friend Michelle Simpson greeted me. Talking to @m_simpson and her husband, Chris, caused my anxiety to ease completely. I knew as it was time to go to the first session that not only would I survive #nErDcampMi, but would experience the best (un)conference of my life. And I did. See you nerdies in 2015!

Monday, July 7, 2014

#nErDcampMI poem (15 words or less)


A sea of faces
Alone in a crowd?
Heavens no!
Readers are one tribe.

Not a poetrina like Mary Lee Hahn, but enjoyed learning.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The one about obesity

So in two days I'm leaving for a road trip to the Midwest. One of the things I'm looking forward to most is attending nErDcamp, MI. Having followed the Nerdy Book Club blog and blogs from several members and making connections on Twitter for the past few years, I'm excited about meeting and learning from these people in person. However, that excitement is also accompanied by anxiety. In the past, I would have kept this to myself, but in the spirit of bravery found in The Nerdy Teacher's post about depression, I decided to share.

I recently read Butter by Erin Jade Lange. This book was recommended to me by a Nerdy Book Club post. Butter is a morbidly obese high school student who plans to eat himself to death in front of a live audience over the Internet. His social coping mechanism is try to fade into the background.  Except for an online relationship, where he pretends to be another person, and a friend from Fat Camp, Butter has no friends. Once his peers find out about his last meal plans, he is jolted to a place of popularity, sitting with the cool kids at lunch and getting invited to parties.

Butter's experience struck a nerve. I'm not suicidal, but I am a morbidly obese person. I know why I am here.  I loathe vegetables and love sweets. I am too sedentary; I need to put my books down and participate in more physical activities. I know I need to make changes. Even though I have tried time after time to do so, and I often feel like I am a failure, I will keep trying to make those changes. Not because of wanting to be popular or fit into a bikini, but because I want to see my children and my grandchildren (should I be blessed with them) grow up. 

I have a bit of anxiety about walking into a nErDcamp, MI where I do not know anyone. What will they think when they see someone of my size. Will the high school have those desks attached to the chairs that I might not fit in?

What helps me cope with this anxiety is the belief I have in this wonderful community of readers.  How could a group that champions the "Choose Kind" message of Wonder show me anything but kindness?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Links to #nerdbery challenge videos

This post is a collection of links to videos made by Mr. Schu, a school librarian, and Colby Sharp, a third grade teacher as part of their Newbery Challenge.  These videos have been such a blessing to me and a wonderful part of my Saturday each week. If there was a Newbery Challenge fan club, I would be president (because I am obsessed).  I am still kind of in shock that I will get to meet them both in person very soon at nErDcamp MI.

The title links are to the Goodreads page for that book.  Some of the title/author names differ slightly. I have included the titles/authors as they appear on the ALA list of Newbery Winners.

Mr. Schu's video links are to his blog: http://mrschureads.blogspot.com/  Unfortunately, about seven of Mr. Schu's videos and two joint SharpSchu videos are no longer available, but since Mr. Schu includes resources related to the books, I've included links to his blog anyway.

Colby's video links are to his blog: http://mrcolbysharp.com/

The majority of the Newbery medal videos were filmed in 2012 and 2013.  The video for Flora and Ulysses was filmed in May 2014 and the videos for the honor books began in June 2014. I will add other Newbery Honor videos as they are published.

Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo (Medal)  Mr. Schu and Colby's video
The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes (Honor) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

Colby's Seven Stories Up Bonus Video
Mr. Schu's Newbery Challenge: The David Wiesner Edition
Bonus Newbery videos:  Mr Schu's video / Colby's video

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (Medal) Mr. Schu and Colby's video
Bomb: The Race to Build - and Steal - the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin (Honor) Mr. Schu's video
Three Times Lucky by Shelia Turnage (Honor) Colby's video 

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video
Breaking Stalin's Nose by Eugene Yelchin (Honor) Mr. Schu's video
Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai (Honor) Colby's video

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video
Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman (Honor) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video
Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose (Honor) Mr. Schu and Colby's video

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video
After Tupac and D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson (Honor) Mr. Schu's video
The Surrender Tree by Margarita Engle (Honor) Colby's video

Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!: Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video
Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson (Honor) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video
Rules by Cynthia Lord (Honor) Mr. Schu's video
Penny From Heaven by Jennifer L. Holm (Honor) Colby's video

Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video
Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson (Honor) Mr. Schu's video
Hitler Youth: Growing up in Hitler's Shadow by Susan Campbell Bartoletti (Honor) Colby's video

Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video
Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko (Honor) Colby's video
The Voice That Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights by Russell Freedman (Honor) Mr. Schu's video

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video
Crispin: the Cross of Lead by Avi (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video
Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff (Honor) Mr. Schu's video
Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie S. Tolan (Honor) Colby's video

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video
Carver: a Life in Poems by Marilyn Nelson (Honor) Mr. Schu's video
Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath (Honor) Colby's video

A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

Holes by Louis Sachar (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video




Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech (Medal) Mr. Schu and Colby's video

The Giver by Lois Lowry (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

Missing May by Cynthia Rylant (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video





The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley (Medal) Mr. Schu's blog (video unavailable) / Colby's video

Dear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

Dicey's Song by Cynthia Voigt (Medal) Mr. Schu's blog (video unavailable) / Colby's video

A Visit to William Blake's Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers by Nancy Willard (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

Jacob Have I Loved by Katharine Patterson (Medal) Mr. Schu's blog (video unavailable) / Colby's video

A Gathering of Days: A New England Girl's Journal 1830-1832 by Joan W. Blos (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patterson (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

Roll of Thunder, Here My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

The Grey King by Susan Cooper (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

M.C. Higgins, the Great by Virginia Hamilton (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

Sounder by William H. Armstrong (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

The High King by Lloyd Alexander (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

Up a Road Slowly by Irene Hunt (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

Shadow of a Bull by Maia Wojciechowska (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

It's Like This, Cat by Emily Neville (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

Onion John by Joseph Krumgold (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

Rifles for Watie by Harold Keith (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorenson (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

...And Now Miguel by Joseph Krumgold (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

Secret of the Andes by Ann Nolan Clark (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

The Twenty-One Balloons by William Péne de Bois (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

Miss Hickory by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

Strawberry Girl by Lois Lensky (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson (Medal) Mr. Schu's blog (video unavailable) / Colby's video

Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes (Medal) Mr. Schu's blog (video unavailable) / Colby's video

Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

The Matchlock Gun by Walter Edmonds (Medal) Mr. Schu and Colby's video

Call It Courage by Armstrong Sperry (Medal) Mr. Schu and Colby's video

Daniel Boone by James Daughtery (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright (Medal) Mr. Schu and Colby's video

The White Stag by Kate Seredy (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

Dobry by Monica Shannon (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of Little Women by Cornelia Meigs (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze by Elizabeth Lewis (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

Waterless Mountain by Laura Adam Armer (Medal) Mr. Schu video and Colby's video

The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworth (Medal) Mr. Schu and Colby's video

Hitty, Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

Gay Neck, the Story of a Pigeon by Dhan Gopal Mukerji (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

Smoky, the Cowhorse by Will James (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

Shen of the Sea by Arthur Bowie Chrisman (Medal) Mr. Schu and Colby's video

Tales from Silver Land by Charles Finger (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

The Dark Frigate by Charles Hawkes (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

Bonus: Colby Starts The Dark Frigate

The Voyages of Doctor Doolittle by Hugh Lofting (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Willem van Loon (Medal) Mr. Schu's video / Colby's video

Mr. Schu's 1st Video

Mr. Schu explains the Newbery Challenge

Colby: Newbery Challenge Launch

If I've made errors or omissions, feel free to correct me.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Graphic Novels

Even though I am a children's librarian, and feel I should read EVERYTHING, I prefer middle grade fiction. I think this comes from my childhood when my dad would limit our library books even though I finished reading mine days before it was time to go back to the library. Therefore, I picked the thickest books I could find in the children's section.

I hadn't read many graphic novels, except the few that were nominated for SLJ's Battle of the Kids' Books and the elementary graphic selection from Junior Library Guild that I receive every month. However, as any librarian worth her salt, I have ordered plenty of them for my school library, and am familiar with lots of titles.  After reading Our Only May Amelia, I decided I had to read a Babymouse book so I bought Happy Birthday Babymouse.  Then I borrowed Raina Telgemeier's Smile and Drama from my 11-year old.  I enjoyed them so much that I preordered Sisters from my local Indie.  When I get it, I will be a reader first and a parent second because I intend to hide that book from my children and read it after their bedtime.

I found more great graphic novels at my public library:

I won two books in blog giveaways in one month. As such, it is time for, ahem, ahem, *My first blog giveaway!* In celebration of my discovery (as a reader) of graphic novels, I will give one graphic novel to three readers. Ways to win:

1. Tweet this link or retweet. Mention @sralph31 so I see your tweet.
2. Comment below.
3. Respond to my FB post.
4. Email me at sralph32@gmail.com

Your choices are below (note, if you choose Sisters, you will not receive your book until after it releases on August 26). You can put your choice in your tweet or email, or inform me if you win.  None of these float your boat; give me the title of a graphic novel I should add.  Good luck!  Contest ends on Friday, July 4th at 11:59 pm.  US and Canada only.

Friday, June 20, 2014


So my Twitter friend Niki @daydreamreader started an initiative called #booksmiles. In her blog post, Niki shared Hooray for Hat, a delightful picture book by Brian Won. In this book, animals combat grumpiness by wearing a hat.

Lately, the books I've been reading have led to more tears than smiles. What benefits does a child get from reading sad books?  It can be a source of therapy if a child has experienced something similar, and it teaches empathy. Also, crying can be cathartic. My favorite book as a child was Charlotte's Web by E.B. White.

I cried every time I got to the part where Charlotte died, even though I knew it was coming. Most sad children's books end on a hopeful note, and that is reflective of real life. Struggles and disappointments are inevitable, but they are balanced by hope and joy. Here are the #booktears I read this week.

Circa lives with her parents, who both are skilled in the area of photography. Mom takes pictures and Dad restores old photographs.  A terrible tragedy changes Circa's life forever. To help her deal with the "ordeal," she has her best friend, Nat and Miles, a boy who turns up at her house with no memory of who he is. A unique feature of this book are photographs that have been "Shopt." Since Dad restores photographs, he uses Photoshop and on some pictures he adds a new detail and then makes up a story that goes with the new creation. I loved the writing and the lessons in this book, like when Circa says,  "And now I know that even if God lets somebody life's be short, there could be still be one now that makes the coming and going of his soul totally worth it."

Reading this for my Newbery Challenge. May Amelia is growing up on the frontier in Oregon in 1899.  She is the only daughter in a family with seven boys. She is a complete tomboy and always wants to tag along with her brothers.  This gets her into trouble because Pappa says, "I am a Girl and because I am a girl I cannot be going what the boys are doing, that there is danger everywhere." May Amelia is spunky and I found her take on her surrounding to be so humorous.  Perhaps, that is why the tragedy hit me so hard. Even though this book is 15 years old, I will not spoil it for you. The tragedy (and its aftermath) was one of the saddest things I have ever read.  However, Jennifer Holm brings us back from the depths of despair, ending on a hopeful note.  And, guess what?  There's a sequel.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Let's talk about labels

I literally mean labels...on books.  It might seem like a librarian issue, but it can have an impact on a student's freedom to read. I was inspired to write about this after participating in a Twitter conversation on best practices for teachers with the hashtag #bproots and led by educators, Donalyn Miller @donalynbooks and Teri Lesesne @ProfessorNana

I'll start by criticizing myself.  Yes, we still have AR labels on many of our books, although we no longer use the program.  Why? Guess what happens when you peel these labels off?  You're left with a sticky mess. Any advice on how to deal with this would be helpful. I need to start the process of removing these labels.

At least the label from the book from my library could be removed.  Not the case here:

What's wrong with these labels? Book levels and age recommendations are readily available online for teachers, librarians and parents who need that information.  When we slap a label on a book, kids feel pressure (at least indirectly) to only read books recommended for their age level or reading level.  Also, if you read below grade level, who wants to carry around a book that announces that?

I checked out this book yesterday:

We live in NC, and I have two words to describe the mindset here: red state.  However, I must give major props to my public library for having this book available.  I wouldn't mind reading this book in public and would welcome questions about it, but what about a teen who is unsure of their sexuality?  This book could change their life, but maybe they are afraid to be seen reading it, or to even check it out.  

I think we should let books stand on their own.  A big topic of discussion from #bproots was trusting students in regards to reading.  We need to trust students to choose books without relying on labels.  Too often, kids are restricted when making their own reading choices, and these restrictions contribute to a culture of nonreaders.  Labels provide restrictions. Librarians are champions of reading and I do not believe anyone means labels to be harmful, but maybe we should rethink our use of them.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Indies Rule!

So I've been an Amazon.com shopper for a long time.  I also have frequented B&N and Borders, before its demise. Then I read this post by author/illustrator Peter Brown.  My heart sank a little bit.  No more Amazon?  But, but, but...it is so easy, so convenient, so cheap.  However, I respect Peter Brown too much not to at least explore other options.  So I searched the IndieBound site and found a local independent bookstore about 20 miles away.  It is called Scuppernong Books and is located in downtown Greensboro, NC.  I do not balk at paying the list price so my biggest fear was shipping costs, but they have this cool option - pick up in the store.  I was impressed to get a personal email from the bookseller telling me that my order had been placed.  I was able to actually to respond to the email and ask a question about their store.  I was so impressed with the correspondence that I ordered 3 more books.  Two came in that very week so I made my first visit on Saturday.  Below are my purchases and some pictures that I took at the store.  As for Amazon.com, I will definitely be buying other things there, but books?  Not anymore.