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Archive for September, 2013

September 23, 2013

Banned Books Week 2013

“[I]t’s not just the books under fire now that worry me. It is the books that will never be written. The books that will never be read. And all due to the fear of censorship. As always, young readers will be the real losers.”

—Judy Blume

This week marks the 31st annual Banned Books Week, the national book community’s annual celebration of the freedom to read. The initiative was originally launched in 1982, and, since then, over 11,300 books have been challenged in schools, bookstores, and libraries. Would it come as a surprise to know that of the ten most challenged titles of 2012, five of them are children’s books?

      1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
        Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group
      2. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
        Reasons: Offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
      3. Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher
        Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group
      4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James.
        Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit
      5. And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson.
        Reasons: Homosexuality, unsuited for age group
      6. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini.
        Reasons: Homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
      7. Looking for Alaska, by John Green.
        Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group
      8. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
        Reasons: Unsuited for age group, violence
      9. The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls
        Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit
      10. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
        Reasons: Sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence

If you’re looking for a way to celebrate the right to read in your classrooms and libraries, be sure to download the below poster!


September 19, 2013

Judy Blume Honored with Two Literary Awards!

Congratulations, Judy Blume!  The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) recently was named as the winner of the NCTE/SLATE National Intellectual Freedom Award as well as the ALAN (Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of NCTE) Award.

She will receive the NCTE/SLATE National Intellectual Freedom Award on Thursday, November 21, during the Opening General Session; she will accept the ALAN Award during the ALAN Breakfast on Saturday, November 23, during the NCTE Annual Convention (http://www.ncte.org/annual) in Boston, MA.

September 06, 2013

Class Trips and the Common Core

Over on SLJ, library Joy Fleishhacker has compiled a fantastic list of books that would help in enhancing a number of different class trips, all of which can be used to support Common Core Standards through a number of different avenues. For instance, introducing vocabulary related to the location you and your class will be visiting, or as a means of inspiring a post-trip creative or research project.  What ties them all together? As she explains, these books “encapsulate the magic of a field-trip experience and expand the learning–and enjoyment–well beyond the designated outing.”

Several of our titles were included in her original list (noted with an asterisk), but we’d like to expand upon her recommendations with a few more.

Farm Forays

The Apple Orchard Riddle by Margaret McNamara,  illus. by G. Brian Karas

Tr $15.99. ISBN 978-0-375-84744-8; lib. ed. $18.99. ISBN 978-0-375-95744-4; ebook $10.99. ISBN 978-0-375-98783-0.

K-Gr 2–Mr.Tiffin’s students mull over a brainteaser while touring Hill’s Orchard: “Show me a little red house with no windows and no door, but with a star inside.” Gathering bushels of apple facts throughout the day, the children make guesses galore, but only the quietly observant class daydreamer gets to the riddle’s core. Personality-packed artwork spices up this winning tale.


An Edible Alphabet: 26 Reasons to Love the Farm  by Carol Watterson, illus. by Michela Sorrentino

Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-1-58246-421-3.

Gr 1-4–Bursting with wordplay and whimsy, this exuberantly illustrated A-to-Z provides a bounty of intriguing facts and helps readers make the connection between food and farm. Letters are accompanied by alliterative snippets (“Blueberries, Beets, and Beans”) while smaller-size text introduces the featured plants, animals, or agricultural process. A captivating read-aloud or invigorating idea-starter for creative projects.


Though they don’t involve class trips, we’d also recommend the following titles for introducing your students to life on farms: It’s Milking Time, Our Farm, and Chicks!


Museum Meanderings

Time Flies by Eric Rohmann

Tr $17. ISBN 978-0-517-59598-5; pap. $6.99. ISBN 978-0-517-88555-0.

PreS-Gr 4–In this wordless picture book, a bird flies into a museum’s dinosaur hall during a storm-charged night. Suddenly, time slips away–the walls disappear, the gigantic skeletons become fully fleshed-out behemoths roaming a prehistoric landscape, and the bird is placed in peril. This gorgeously illustrated flight of fancy can inspire creative endeavors or paleontological research.


For more museum tales, be sure to check out: The Girl in the Castle Inside the Museum, Arthur Lost in the Museum, and The Sixty-Eight Rooms.


Is this a strategy you’ve tried in your classrooms?

Three stars for THE WAKING DARK!
September 05, 2013

Three stars for THE WAKING DARK!

★ It’s Lord of the Flies on steroids! One strange day twelve people are murdered, all by relatives, friends, or neighbors—the most unlikely of suspects. None, including 18-year-old Cass who murdered the toddler she was babysitting, knows why. Soon after, a terrible tornado ravages the town and removes all semblances of law and order. Anarchy rules; far too many adults and role models revert to their base-est instincts. An unlikely band of teens reluctantly joins forces to plot escape: Jules, part of the meth-dealer Prevette clan; West, golden boy (but gay) football jock; sweet, unassuming Daniel; Ellie King, self-prescribed evangelist dubbed saint by the Deacon during the strange times; Cass; and Gracie, the sister of the murdered toddler. The Waking Dark is a horror story worthy of Stephen King. Wasserman’s tightly woven plot arouses our darkest fears—a government (or private industry) experimenting on its citizens, contemporary witch hunts that remind us of our Puritan heritage, natural disasters that destroy basic infrastructure including communication systems. Her characters are anti-heroes, seeking to hold themselves in check, fearing that they, or anyone around them, can suddenly become the monster they are trying to escape. It’s a violent, edgy, well-written, and foreboding novel, so realistic that readers can only hope it’s simply fiction.- Booklist 

★ Wasserman (The Book of Blood and Shadow) delivers an exceptional horror novel that will lead to inevitable (and deserved) Stephen King comparisons. In the isolated Kansas town of Oleander, five people suddenly go on murder sprees, with four of them committing suicide. A year later, five survivors are united when a storm (and later, soldiers) isolate the town: loner Daniel, closeted jock West, newly evangelical Ellie, outcast Jule, and Cassie—the one remaining murderer, who has no recollection of what she did or why. As the days pass, the five grow increasingly aware that everyone else in Oleander is starting to act strange. The characters’ own conflicts—Jule’s family deals meth, West’s parents are homophobic, etc.—help fuel the tension until the insanity really takes over. While the plot isn’t new (see either version of The Crazies), Wasserman juggles a huge cast, intense action, and some truly horrific moments with style and skill. The novel works just as well as mainstream horror as YA, and the ending is both effective and brutal. Ages 14–up. Agent: Barry Goldblatt, Barry Goldblatt Literary. (Sept.) – Publishers Weekly

★ This contemporary thriller opens on an ordinary Tuesday afternoon in a small town in Kansas, when five people with no connection to one another inexplicably commit murders and then kill, or attempt to kill, themselves. This becomes known as “the killing day,” and no one has an explanation for it. The dark story is told from the perspectives of five teenagers, each of whom suffers in a different way due to the crimes, but it’s nearly a year before their linked lives truly converge. After a devastating tornado, the entire town is quarantined and the adults are descending into violent madness. The five teens seem to be the only ones who realize something terrible is happening; they struggle both to stay alive and unravel what’s really going on and who is responsible. While the number of protagonists can be confusing at times, their alternating stories are all compelling. Great dialogue and intriguing subplots add to the action-packed story, which will have readers frantically flipping pages. Wasserman sustains a truly spooky mood throughout, and the suspense doesn’t let up until the final pages.–Sunnie Lovelace, Wallingford Public Library, CT – School Library Journal

Althea Gibson
September 04, 2013

Althea Gibson

On August 23rd, the United States Postal Service revealed the latest addition to their Black Heritage stamp series, Althea Gibson. The gorgeous stamp was revealed on the grounds of the U.S. Open in Flushing, New York, last Friday and was illustrated by none other award-winning artist Kadir Nelson (who illustrated Martin Luther King, Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech in breathtaking detail).

Gibson was the first African American athlete of either gender to win a Grand Slam title, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Nationals (the predecessor of the U.S. Open) in 1956, and turned around and won Wimbledon and the U.S. Nationals again in 1958. In total, she won eleven Grand Slam tournaments, and was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame and the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame.  As her time on the tennis court coincided with the American civil rights movement, and she so effectively broke down color barriers, she was often compared to another sports legend, Jackie Robinson.  as the first African-American of either gender to win Wimbledon coincided with the American civil rights movement.

As if all of that isn’t impressive enough, she was a professional singer, appeared on countless television shows, worked as a sports commentator, and later became a professional golf player and the first African American woman to join the LPGA.

If you’d like to learn more about Gibson’s incredible life, or if you’d like to bring her into your classroom discussions of the civil rights movement, be sure to find Nothing but Trouble: The Story of Althea Gibson. (And check out our guide for incorporating this title, as well as other picture book biographies, into your lesson plans!)

September 02, 2013

September: Self-Improvement Month

by Pat Scales

September is Self-Improvement Month, and while the month long observance may have really been intended for adults, it’s also a good time for children and teens to think about ways they can improve.  Maybe it’s making a pledge to work harder it school.  It could be a focus on improving behavior.  And it never hurts for anyone to conquer something out of their comfort zone or acquire a new skill.  Here are things that a school or public library can try to encourage readers to focus on self-improvement:

  • Have readers learn a new skill and share it with others. Introduce books where a main character learns a new skill.  Then have them compare the skill they learned to that of the main character in the books.  Suggestions from Random House include:

I Can Draw It Myself, By Me, Myself (PB) by Dr. Seuss

Everyone Can Learn to Ride a Bicycle (PB) by Chris Raschka

Rosie Sprout’s Time to Shine (PB) by Allison Wortche & illus. by Patrice Barton

Stitchin and Pullin:  A Gee’s Bend Quilt (PB) by Patricia C. McKissack & illus. by Cozbi A. Cabera

Magic Tricks from the Tree House (New Independent Readers) by Mary Pope Osborne & Natalie Pope Boyce & illus. by Sal Murdocca

Tae Kwon Do! (Step into Reading 1) by Terry Pierce & illus. by Todd Bonita

Super Surprise (Middle Grade) by Patricia Reilly Giff

When You Reach Me (Middle Grade) by Rebecca Stead

Whittington (Middle Grade) by Alan Armstrong

Catwalk (YA) by Deborah Gregory

Lemonade Mouth (YA) by Mark Peter Hughes

Nightjohn (YA) by Gary Paulsen

How to Build a House (YA) by Dana Reinhardt

The Book Thief (YA) by Marcus Zusak

Tiffany’s Table Manners for Teenagers (YA) by Walter Hoving & illus. by Joe Eula

  • Introduce readers to books where the main character tackles life experiences out of their comfort zone. Suggestions from Random House include:

Bears Beware (New Independent Readers) by Patricia Reilly Giff

The Mighty Miss Malone (Middle Grade) by Christopher Paul Curtiz

Wonder (Middle Grade) by R.J. Palacio

Hattie Big Sky (YA) by Kirby Larson

Hattie Ever After (YA) by Kirby Larson

  • Perhaps a reader chooses to make a change in behavior.  Book talk books where a main character improves their behavior either consciously and through the help of others.   Titles from Random House include:

Confessions of a Former Bully (PB) by Trudy Ludwig & illus. by Beth Adams

Liar and Spy (middle grade) by Rebecca Stead

The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 (middle grade) by Christopher Paul Curtis

Small Steps (YA) by Louis Sachar

Revolution (YA) by Jennifer Donnelly

  • The national focus on good health may inspire a reader to set a goal for a healthy lifestyle.  Display books about diet, exercise, rest, etc.  A suggestion from Random House:

Be Healthy! It’s a Girl Thing: Food, Fitness, and Feeling Great (Middle Grade) by Mavis Jukes & Lillan Wai-Yin & illus. by Debra Ziss

  • Academic success should always be a personal goal. Students may be encouraged by the characters in the following novels:

 Darnell Rock Reporting (Middle Grade) by Walter Dean Myers

Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen (Middle Grade) by Donna Gephart

The Smart Aleck’s Guide to American History (middle grade) by Adam Selzer

  • The success of others is always inspiring.  Introduce books about people, whether real or fictional, who offer such inspiration.  Here are a few suggestions from Random House:

 Bon Appetit! The Delicious Life of Julia Child (PB) by Jessie Hartland

Brush of the Gods (PB) by Lenore Look & illus. by Mello So

Nothing but Trouble: The Story of Althea Gibson (PB) by Sue Stauffacher & illus. by Greg Couch

The Boy on Fairfield Street: How Ted Geisel Grew Up to Become Dr. Seuss (PB) by Kathleen Krull & illus. by Steve Johnson & Lou Fancher

Song and Dance Man (PB) by Karen Ackerman & illus. by Stephen Gammell

  •  Reading always contributes to self-improvement.  Suggest that library patrons read at least one book a week in September.  Here are some reader favorites:

 Tomas and the Library Lady (PB) by Pat Mora & illus. by Raul Colon

Crow (Middle Grade) by Barbara Wright

Harriet the Spy (Middle Grade) by Louise Fitzhugh

Navigating Early (Middle Grade) by Clare Vanderpool

Scat (Middle Grade) by Carl Hiaasen

Mexican WhiteBoy (YA) by Matt de la Pena

Tiger Eyes (YA) by Judy Blume

  •  At the end of the month have readers write about how they accomplished the goals they set at the beginning of the month.
  •  Sponsor a Look What I Achieved! event at the end of the month.