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Archive for August, 2013

Autumn is Here!
August 30, 2013

Autumn is Here!


After a humid, soggy summer in the city, we’re ready for the cool, crisp air of autumn. Not to mention, of course, the gorgeous explosion of red, gold, and orange leaves we’re treated to in our parks. There are so many cues that the new season is just around the corner: stores put out Halloween decorations and candy, coffee and treats becomes pumpkin-flavored, and those cozy knits and boots are pulled out. If you find yourself feeling the need to bring some of that spirit into your classrooms and libraries to celebrate the season with your young students, we have a couple of fantastic new recommendations for you:





Duck & Goose, Find a Pumpkin
By Tad Hills
Recommended for 2-5 years | Pages: 22 | ISBN: 978-0-307-98155-4
New York Times bestselling author and illustrator Tad Hills brings our favorite feathered friends out to find a big, beautiful pumpkin in this sturdy, large-sized board book. Duck & Goose look everywhere for a pumpkin—in the apple tree, in the leaf pile, inside a hollow log…. Where will they find one? The large size of this edition makes it a perfect book for sharing during storytime or lap time.


Sophie’s Squash
By Pat Zietlow Miller; illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf
Recommended for 3-7 years | Pages: 40 | ISBN: 978-0-307-97896-7
On a trip to the farmers’ market with her parents, Sophie chooses a squash, but instead of letting her mom cook it, she names it Bernice. From then on, Sophie brings Bernice everywhere, despite her parents’ gentle warnings that Bernice will begin to rot. As winter nears, Sophie does start to notice changes…. What’s a girl to do when the squash she loves is in trouble? With absolutely delightful text by Pat Zietlow Miller and downright hilarious illustrations from Anne Wilsdorf, it’s no wonder this story received four starred reviews! Sophie’s Squash will be a fresh addition to any collection of autumn books.


How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?
By Margaret McNamara; illustrated by G. Brian Karas
Recommended for 3-7 years | Pages: 40 | ISBN: 978-0-375-84014-2
Here is an adorable picture book for curious kids, which explores skip counting and estimation in a fun pumpkin-themed classroom experiment. “How many seeds are in a pumpkin?” Mr. Tiffin asks his class as they gather around the big, medium, and small pumpkins on his desk. Robert, the biggest kid, guesses that the largest one has a million seeds; Elinor, sounding like she knows what she’s talking about, guesses the medium one has 500 seeds; and Anna, who likes even numbers better than odd ones, guesses that the little one has 22. Charlie, the smallest boy in the class, doesn’t have a guess. Counting pumpkin seeds is messy business, but once the slimy job is done, to everyone’s surprise, the smallest pumpkin has the most seeds! As Charlie happily exclaims, “Small things have a lot going on inside of them.” This book makes a wonderful read-aloud companion to any math or science curriculum, and it’s a fun way to reinforce counting skills at home.


The Apple Orchard Riddle
By Margaret McNamara; illustrated by G. Brian Karas
Recommended for 4-8 years | Pages: 40 | ISBN: 978-0-375-84744-8
Mr. Tiffin and his students from the perenially popular How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? are back in this picture book about a school trip to an apple orchard! In this playful, humorous, and child-friendly classroom story, the students learn a lot about apples and apple orchards—including how apples are harvested, how cider is made, and what the different varieties of apples are—while trying to solve a riddle. The book also celebrates how some children learn differently than others. Margaret McNamara and illustrator G. Brian Karas bring us another fun and educational picture book.


Thanking the Moon: Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival
By Grace Lin
Recommended for 3-7 years | Pages: 32 | ISBN: 978-0-375-86101-7
This simple, young, and satisfying story follows a Chinese American family as they celebrate the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival. Each member of the family lends a hand as they prepare a moonlit picnic with mooncakes, pomelos, cups of tea, and colorful lanterns. And everyone sends thanks and a secret wish up to the moon.
Grace Lin’s luminous and gloriously patterned artwork is perfect for this holiday tale. Her story is simple—tailor-made for reading aloud to young children. And she includes an informative author’s note with further details on the customs and traditions of the Moon Festival for parents and teachers. The Moon Festival is one of the most important holidays of the year along with the Lunar New Year, so this book makes an excellent companion to Grace Lin’s Bringing In the New Year, which features the same family.

The Dream Lives On
August 28, 2013

The Dream Lives On

Fifty years ago today, Martin Luther King, Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Monument in Washington, D.C. and gave a landmark speech that’s remembered not only for its importance in propelling the civil rights movement forward, but as a defining moment in American history. The speech is considered a  rhetoric masterpiece–the themes of equality and freedom for all are not only relevant today, but in invoking the Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Constitution, and the Gettysburg Address, it also provides avenues of discussion for many of our nation’s important events.

 We were privileged to work with Dr. King’s estate to create I Have a Dream, a stirring rendition of the speech masterfully illustrated by Caldecott Honor winner Kadir Nelson (A CD of the audio is also included). In honor of the occasion, we encourage you to share your reflections on the event using the hashtag #marchdreamread. For other recommendations on introducing your students to the civil rights movement, or for educator guides to help hone your lesson plans, please visit our site for I Have a Dream.

Retro Resource: AS GOOD AS ANYONE Educator Guide
August 27, 2013

Retro Resource: AS GOOD AS ANYONE Educator Guide

Retro Resources is a feature that highlights classroom and library materials you may have missed.

Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel. Their names stand for the quest for justice and equality.Martin grew up in a loving family in the American South, at a time when this country was plagued by racial discrimination. He aimed to put a stop to it. He became a minister like his daddy, and he preached and marched for his cause.Abraham grew up in a loving family many years earlier, in a Europe that did not welcome Jews. He found a new home in America, where he became a respected rabbi like his father, carrying a message of peace and acceptance.Here is the story of two icons for social justice, how they formed a remarkable friendship and turned their personal experiences of discrimination into a message of love and equality for all.

Click here to download the educator’s guide.


August 06, 2013

August: One More Time

by Pat Scales

A third-grade student once said to me, “I wish I could spend a whole day in the library and read all my favorite books one more time.”   This student was an excellent reader, and I think she had the idea that once she became a fourth grader that she wouldn’t be allowed to read books that had delighted her during her first three years in school.  Instead of asking students to give up their favorite books, we should ask them to hold on to them.  This celebrates the power of books and the reading experience and offers clues about what titles to suggest next. There is also another side to this scenario.  Teachers and librarians shouldn’t be so quick to give up old favorites either.  Some books are just too good to miss, and many children or young adults may never find such literature without our guidance.

  • Make your own “Too Good to Miss” list and post it on the school or library website.
  • Ask readers to make a list of their favorite books from each of their school years.
  • Allow readers to write a  “Dear Reader” note on the end pages of their favorite books.  Ask them to focus on why it’s their favorite book.
  • Ask readers to write about a book they would most want in their personal library.  How many titles does the library own?
  • Suggest that readers make placemats about favorite books to be use in the school cafeteria on the first day of school.  For example, have second-graders make placemats for first-graders, etc.
  • School and public libraries should display favorite books so that other readers might discover them.

Here’s my “Too Good to Miss” and “One More Time” list from Random House:

Picture Books



Middle Grade


Young Adult


Four Stars for SOPHIE’S SQUASH!
August 06, 2013

Four Stars for SOPHIE’S SQUASH!

★ “Good friends are hard to find,” says Sophie to her best buddy, Bernice. This must be so, because Bernice is a farmers’ market squash. The fruit is supposed to be for supper, but all bets are off when Sophie gives it a face and a name. The two friends are inseparable, visiting the library and other squash at the market, practicing somersaults on the hill…and every night Sophie gives Bernice a baby bottle and tucks her into a cradle. (“Well, we did hope she’d love vegetables,” Sophie’s mother observes.) Countless stories exist about girls’ exploits with their dolls or stuffed animals. Few, if any, feature healthy produce. But the tale of Sophie and Bernice is charming and even suspenseful as the title character reluctantly realizes that her squash will not last forever. Miller’s sweet and lively story is perfectly matched by Wilsdorf’s expert ink and watercolor illustrations. With lessons on life, love, and vegetable gardening, this tale will be cherished by children, and their parents will be happy to read it to them often.–Susan Weitz, formerly at Spencer-Van Etten School District, Spencer, NY School Library Journal


★ Who says children don’t love vegetables? Sophie certainly does, as her best friend is a yellow squash whom she’s named Bernice. Even though Bernice is supposed to be dinner, Sophie draws a smiling face on her and convinces two very tolerant parents to let her keep the gourd as a playmate. The two have tea parties, somersault down the hill, go to library story time, and have sleepovers. As the summer wanes, Mom is always exploring new recipes for cooking Bernice before she rots away altogether. “Don’t listen, Bernice!” Sophie cries in terror, shielding her friend. In the fall a blotchy Bernice seems softer and “her somersaults lacked their usual style,” so Sophie plants her in the garden. In a perfect blend of story and art, the humorous watercolor-and-ink illustrations are bursting with color and energy on every page, replete with patterns in swirls, stripes, floral, and polka dots appearing on clothing, curtains, and upholstery. Endpapers depict the pigtailed Sophie with her jaunty red bows in constant motion—running, tossing, flipping, cuddling, and balancing the squash. This is a paean to love and friendship, which can come in all species, shapes, and sizes. – Booklist
★  Debut author Miller takes the idea of playing with one’s food to another level in this sensitive but funny story about a girl’s affection for a squash. When Sophie selects a butternut squash at the farmer’s market, her parents assume they will be having it for dinner. Sophie, however, quashes that plan by adopting the vegetable as her new best friend and naming her Bernice (“It was just the right size to hold in her arms…. Just the right size to love”). Despite gentle prodding to relinquish Bernice before she rots, Sophie brings her deteriorating pal to the library and somersaults with her in the yard. Miller’s easygoing storytelling taps into the familiar scenario of children making fierce attachments to favorite objects; Sophie is passionate without being bratty, her parents are pragmatic but not harsh, and Sophie eventually makes new friends, including Bernice’s offspring. Wilsdorf’s (Five Funny Bunnies) winsome ink-and-watercolor scenes adeptly capture both Sophie’s many moods (“Don’t listen, Bernice!” she scowls when her mother suggests baking the squash with marshmallows) and her unruly pigtails. Ages 3–7. Author’s agent: Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary Agency. (Aug.) – Publishers Weekly


★ Miller’s debut, in which a little girl affectionately adopts a butternut squash, is a winner.

After her parents buy that squash for dinner at the farmers’ market, Sophie commandeers it, giving it a face with markers. It proves just the right size to hold, bounce on her knee and love. “I call her Bernice,” Sophie says. “I’ll call for a pizza,” says her mother. Throughout the fall, Sophie coddles her veggie, attending library storytimes, visiting other squash at the farmers market and practicing somersaults near the garden. Her parents do their gentle best to suggest alternatives for the moldering squash, from a trip to the toy store to a donation to the food pantry. Sophie will have none of it. “Bernice will last forever.” When even Sophie notices changes in Bernice, she asks a farmer what keeps a squash healthy. Her unique interpretation of his advice (“Fresh air. Good, clean dirt. A little love”) yields, next spring and summer, delightful twin surprises. Wilsdorf’s amusing ink-and-watercolor illustrations alternate between full-bleed spreads and spots. From her bouncy braids to her red shoes, Sophie’s vibrant, determined nature shines forth charmingly.

This season-spanning turn with high-spirited Sophie offers endearing lessons about nurture and regeneration. (Picture book. 3-8) – Kirkus Reviews



August 02, 2013

Raising a Reader on Comics

Comics have come a loooong way in recent decades, not only in their overall sophistication and inventiveness, but also in public opinion. What once was (mistakenly!) seen by some as “not really reading” and/or lacking in, shall we say, traditional literary merit, the storytelling medium continues to grow and thrive. Not only because comic lovers continue to read them as they age, but because they can also serve as a fantastic entry point to a life-long love of reading in even the most reluctant of readers.

That’s the idea behind the new guide Raising a Reader! How Comics & Graphic Novels can Help Your Kids Love to Read! Written by Meryl Jaffe, with an introduction by our own Jenni Holm, the publication is sponsored by the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

As Jenni explains, “Comics! Not only are they fun, they’re an incredible tool for helping create a genuine love of reading. While the connection of words and pictures at first seems playful, the skills readers develop help provide a practical foundation for other kinds of learning. From verbal and visual literacy to critical thinking and memory, comics are a great tool to give young readers a head start.”  We couldn’t agree more.

The guide goes back to the basics in an incredibly helpful way, teaching readers the right way to read the panels, what the different text/sound effect balloons mean, as well as touching on how educators can use them to work with a student on their sequencing, language, and critical thinking skills!

Click here to download the guide!


We also have a guide of our fan-favorite graphic novel series—including Babymouse!—here.  It’s no exaggeration to say that there’s a graphic novel out there for every reader.

Now you tell us: how do you use graphic novels and comics in your classrooms and libraries?