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September 01, 2015

September – The New Kid

Kids who have moved understand what it’s like being the new kid in the class, or in the neighborhood.  But even kids who have never moved experience new kid anxieties at the beginning of every school year.  They are in a new grade, have new teachers, and they may face new subject areas. Those who move from elementary to middle school, or middle school to high school feel a bit like a fish out of water as they adjust to a new environment.  Sharing books is a unifying experience, and may do a lot to relax new kid fears.  Allow time on the first day for kids to share a book they’ve read.  Then tell them that you are going to introduce them to your favorite book, and begin on the very first day reading the book aloud. Here are some other new kid activities.

  • Ask students to pick a character from a favorite book and introduce them to the class as a new kid.  Instruct them to tell three interesting things about the character.
  • Have students grade 3-up brainstorm the information that should be recorded in a reading journal.  Then instruct students to pick a character from a book that they have read and write an entry in a reading journal that reveals that character’s favorite subject. Ask them to make specific references to the book to support their thoughts.  For example, Brandan Buckley from Brendan Buckley’s Sixth-Grade Experiment (middle grade) by Sundee Frazier would really like science.
  • Then use books to introduce students to the subjects they will be studying.  Suggestions from Random House include:


R is for Rocket: An ABC Book (picture book) by Tad Hill - Guide Available

How Rocket Learned to Read (picture book) by Tad Hills - Storytime Kit Available 

Eleven (middle grade) by Patricia Reilly Giff


Tyrannosaurus Math (picture book) by Michelle Markel

Piece = Part = Portion (elementary) by Scott Gifford

G is for Googol: A Math Alphabet Book (elementary/middle) by David M. Schwartz


I, Galileo (picture book) by Bonnie Christensen

Dangerous Planet (elementary) by Bryn Barnard

Frozen in Time (middle grade) by Mark Kurlansky

The Great Trouble (middle grade) by Deborah Hopkinson - Educators’ Guide Available

Outbreak! Plagues That Changed History (young adult) by Bryn Barnard

Ringside, 1925 (young adult) by Jen Bryant

Black Gold: The Story of Oil in Our Lives (young adult) by Albert Marrin


I Pledge Allegiance (picture book) by Pat Mora & Libby Martinez & illus. by Patrice Barton

The Ballot Box Battle (picture book) by Emily Arnold McCully

Me on the Map (picture book) by Joan Sweeney & illus. by Annette Cable

The American Story (elementary) by Jennifer Armstrong & illus. by Roger Roth

The Hope Chest (middle grade) by Karen Schwabach

The Century for Young People (all ages) by Peter Jennings & Todd Brewste

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia (young adult) by Candace Fleming


The Noisy Paint Box (picture book) by Barb Rosenstock - Guide Available 

The Chalk Box Kid (early reader) by Clyde Robert Bulla

Pictures of Hollis Woods (middle grade) by Patricia Reilly Giff - Author Study Guide Available

Pieces of Georgia (middle grade) by Jen Bryant


Theater Shoes (middle grade) by Noel Streatfeild


Junie B. Jones #22: One-Man Band (early reader) by Barbara Park and illus. by Denise Brunkus

Leontyne Price: Voice of a Century (picture book) by Carole Boston Weatherford & illus. by Raul Colon - Guide Available

Harlem’s Little Blackbird (picture book) by Renee Watson & illus. by Christian Robinson

Physical Education

The Girl Who threw Butterflies (young adult) by Mick Cochrane

Toby Wheeler: Eighth-Grade Benchwarmer (young adult) by Thatcher Heldring

Good Sports (picture book) by Jack Prelutsky & illus. by Chris Raschka

Out of Nowhere (young adult) by Maria Padlan


Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library (elementary school) by Chris Grabenstein - Guide Available

Miss Brooks Loves Books (And I Don’t) (picture book) by Barbara Bottner & I  llus. by Michael Emberley


Three Stars for The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall
September 01, 2015

Three Stars for The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall

★  “ Traumatized by his father’s recent death, a boy throws a brick at an old man who collects junk in his neighborhood and winds up on probation working for him.Pearsall bases the book on a famed real work of folk art, the Throne of the Third Heaven, by James Hampton, a janitor who built his work in a garage in Washington, D.C., from bits of light bulbs, foil, mirrors, wood, bottles, coffee cans, and cardboard—the titular seven most important things. In late 1963, 13-year-old Arthur finds himself looking for junk for Mr. Hampton, who needs help with his artistic masterpiece, begun during World War II. The book focuses on redemption rather than art, as Hampton forgives the fictional Arthur for his crime, getting the boy to participate in his work at first reluctantly, later with love. Arthur struggles with his anger over his father’s death and his mother’s new boyfriend. Readers watch as Arthur transfers much of his love for his father to Mr. Hampton and accepts responsibility for saving the art when it becomes endangered. Written in a homespun style that reflects the simple components of the artwork, the story guides readers along with Arthur to an understanding of the most important things in life. Luminescent, just like the artwork it celebrates.”—Kirkus, July 2015

★  “ A middle school student learns the meaning of redemption in this excellent coming-of-age story. For the rest of the country, it was the year President Kennedy was assassinated. For Arthur Owens, it would always be the year his Dad died. Arthur is struggling to adapt. When he sees his Dad’s hat being worn by the neighborhood “Junk Man,” it is just too much. Arthur isn’t a bad kid, but he picks up that brick and throws it just the same. The judge pronounces a “highly unconventional sentence.” At the behest of the victim James Hampton, the “Junk Man,” Arthur must spend every weekend of his community service helping to complete Hampton’s artistic masterpiece. Inspired by real life artist James Hampton’s life and work, “The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations’ Millennium General Assembly,” the plot avoids overt religious tones and sticks with the exploration of friendship, love, and life’s most important lessons. From the “Junk Man’s” neighbor, Groovy Jim, to no-nonsense Probation Officer Billie to Arthur’s new best pal Squeak, and even his family, Pearsall has struck just the right tone by imbuing her well-rounded, interesting characters with authentic voices and pacing the action perfectly. Give this to fans of Wendy Mass’s Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life (Little, Brown, 2006) and Gennifer Choldenko’s Al Capone Does My Shirts (Penguin, 2004). Reluctant readers may be intimidated by the page count, but a booktalk or read-aloud with this title should change their minds. VERDICT A recommended purchase for all libraries.”—School Library Journal, July 2015

★  “ Pearsall’s latest historical novel, set around the time of JFK’s assassination, shifts its focus away from the familiar topics, instead focusing inward on the main character’s redemption. When Arthur T. Owens hurls a brick at the local trash picker, James Hampton, whom he spies wearing his recently deceased father’s hat, he receives a most unusual sentence: 120 hours of community service with the Junk Man himself. Toting Hampton’s list of the seven most important things, Arthur reluctantly scavenges, unsure of the purpose of wood, lightbulbs, coffee cans, foil, mirrors, glass bottles, and cardboard, until he discovers what James does with them. In the garage is the Junk Man’s shiny, thronelike masterpiece, which he calls The Throne of the Third Heaven. Readers will be moved by Arthur’s growth, as he forms an attachment to the man to whom he initially gave so little thought, as well as by his dedication to saving the folk artist’s prized work after his death. Pearsall shines a light on an amazing, lesser-known artist, whose pieces are housed in the Smithsonian Museum, with an author’s note detailing the true story. A moving exploration of how there is often so much more than meets the eye.” —Booklist, August 2015


August 04, 2015

August – Humanitarianism

by Pat Scales

Mother Teresa would turn 105 on August 26.  Though she is no longer living, her work lives on in the slums of Calcutta, India where she served the poor, the sick, the needy and those who were helpless.  For her work, she received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, and the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1985.  In celebration of Mother Teresa’s birthday, ask readers to read and think about the less fortunate in their own communities, and discuss ways they can help. It may be something as simple as providing school supplies for students who can’t afford them.  Run a book drive for children and young adults who may have never owned a book.  Here are other activities that libraries might do in the weeks leading up to Mother Teresa’s birthday:

  • Identify local organizations like the Urban League, United Ministries, the local chapter of the Red Cross, Department of Social Services, Loaves and Fishes, Free Medical Clinics, Habitat for Humanity, etc. that offer services to the underserved.  Ask someone from these organizations to speak to young library patrons, or offer a panel discussion for young patrons and their parents.
  • Then have them find out about global humanitarian organization working to make a difference in third world countries.  Such groups may include: Doctors without Borders, Action Against Hunger, World Food Programme, WHO: Humanitarian Health Action, World Vision, CARE, Save the Children, and Women for Women International.
  • Ask children and young adults to discuss how these local and global organizations embody the spirit of Mother Teresa.
  • Read Aloud-Dear Malala, We Stand with You by Rosemary McCarney to all ages.  Tell them that Malala also won the Nobel Peace Prize.  Ask them to compare her work to that of Mother Teresa. Use the educators’ guide  along with your story time.
  • For the youngest readers, have them read books about caring, sharing, justice and equality, and respect for others.  Suggestions from Random House include:

The Berenstain Bears Think of Those in Need by Stan and Jan Berenstain

The Berenstain Bears Lend a Helping Hand by Stan and Jan Berenstain

Doña Flor by Pat Mora and illustrated by Raul Colon

How Dalia Put a Big Yellow Comforter in a Tiny Blue Box by Linda Heller and illustrated by Stacy Dressen McQueen

The Mitten String by Jennifer Rosner and illustrated by Kristina Swarner

  • Suggest that middle-graders and teens read the following books and discuss which character most represents Mother Teresa’s qualities, or which character could benefit from humanitarian groups:

Middle Grade

All the Earth Thrown to the Sky by Joe R. Lansdale

All the Way Home by Patricia Reilly Giff  Guide available

Children of the River by Linda Crew

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

The Great Trouble by Deborah Hopkinson  Guide available

Laugh with the Moon by Shana Burg  Guide available

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead  Guide available

The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis  Guide available

One Year in Cold Harbor by Polly Horvath

Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff  Guide available

Slumgirl Dreaming by Ali Rubina in collaboration with Anne Berthod and Divya Dugar


Ghost Boy by Iain Lawrence

Grief Girl by Erin Vincent

How to Build a House by Dana Reinhardt

I Will Save You by Matt de la Peña  Guide available

In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer by Irena Gut Opdyke with Jennifer Armstrong  Guide available

Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder, Adapted for Young People by Michael French

Small Steps by Louis Sachar  Guide Available

The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay

Prizefighter en mi Casa by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

Trash by Andy Mulligan

What They Found by Walter Dean Myers

  •  If your library has a blog, encourage older readers to create blog posts titled In Celebration of Mother Teresa.

Three Stars for Lillian’s Right to vote by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Shane Evans
August 04, 2015

Three Stars for Lillian’s Right to vote by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Shane Evans

★  “In a book commemorating the Voting Rights Act of 1965, readers are introduced to 100-year-old black Alabaman Lillian, who recalls her long-delayed journey to exercise her American right to vote 50 years ago. As Lillian climbs the “very steep hill” to the courthouse to vote, she reminisces about the struggles that African-Americans faced and overcame on the way to the passage of the historic law that dismantled the widespread exclusionary practices that African-Americans encountered to that point and guaranteed their right to vote. She’s reminded of the legacy of slavery that her great-grandparents Edmund and Ida survived and of the 19th Amendment, which allowed women to vote, yet angry mobs of white locals forced her parents to back away, holding little Lillian by the hand. She pauses to recall the actions in Selma, 1965. She arrives at the voting booth and presses the lever. In Evans’ mixed-media illustrations, a stooped Lillian makes her slow way up the hill as the tableaux of history play out on the page. She is dressed in vibrant colors, contrasting with the faded, translucent historical images. A burning cross figures in one powerful spread; another joins 100-year-old Lillian to her 50-years-younger self at the gutter, emphasizing her determination to claim her rights. A much-needed picture book that will enlighten a new generation about battles won and a timely call to uphold these victories in the present.”—Kirkus

★  “An elderly woman stands at the bottom of a steep hill, determined to walk to the top to cast her vote. As she climbs she recalls significant people and events that have led her to this day: her great-greatgrandparents being sold at a slave auction, her great-grandpa picking cotton, her uncle failing unfair voting registration tests, her parents being deterred from the polls, cross burnings, civil rights marches, and, finally, the signing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Evans’ mixed-media illustrations both complement and extend Winter’s poignant text. The use of full-bleed color spotlights Lillian and contemporary events, while memories are depicted in a muted, less finished style. Readers will also note how the sun signals the passage of time, as the story moves from dawn to moonlit night. An afterword details the story’s inspiration—African American Lillian Allen, who voted in 2008 at age 100—and notes how the 1965 Voting Rights Act has been diminished by a 2013 Supreme Court decision. Simple yet powerful, Lillian’s narrative transforms a complex topic into an affecting story suitable for a younger audience, making it a perfect introduction to voting and civil rights. An important book that will give you goose bumps.” —Booklist

★  “Lillian may be old, but it’s Voting Day, and she’s going to vote. As she climbs the hill (both metaphorical and literal) to the courthouse, she sees her family’s history and the history of the fight for voting rights unfold before her, from her great-great-grandparents being sold as slaves to the three marches across Selma’s famous bridge. Winter writes in a well-pitched, oral language style (“my, but that hill is steep”), and the vocabulary, sentence structure, and font make the book well-suited both for independent reading and for sharing aloud. The illustrations, though, are what truly distinguish this offering. Lillian is portrayed in resolute left-to-right motion, and her present-day, bright red dress contrasts with the faded greens, blues, and grays of the past, sometimes in a direct overlay. A bright yellow sun, which readers may recognize from Evans’s illustrations in Charles R. Smith Jr.’s 28 Days: Moments in Black History That Changed the World (Roaring Brook, 2015), symbolizes hope as it travels across the sky. The story concludes on an emphatic note, with a close-up of Lillian’s hand on the ballot lever. An author’s note provides historical context, including information about the woman who inspired Lillian (Lillian Allen, who in 2008 at age 100 voted for Barack Obama), and ends by reminding readers that protecting voting rights is still an ongoing issue. VERDICT A powerful historical picture book.”—School Library Journal

Stay out of this blog, or you might get CHOMPED!
August 04, 2015

Stay out of this blog, or you might get CHOMPED!

We wouldn’t want to spoil the delightful end of Jory John and Bob Shea’s first picture book collaboration, but you already know it features a Chomp monster, who definitely doesn’t want you to turn the page.

This little monster has a sweet tooth, and no inclination towards sharing. Sounds like a few picture book readers we might know.

There are a few times during the school day where sharing may become important. Free play time, trips to the water fountain, snack time, choosing the kickball with the most bounce.

Our little Chomp monster isn’t quite the exemplar for teaching young readers to share, but I WILL CHOMP YOU is a great jumping off point for talking about this important social skill.

EXAMPLE (spoiler alert!):

Chomp doesn’t want to share the cakes at the end of the book because he wants to chomp them all to himself.

While young readers have a good concept of “mine” vs “yours” this book is a great way to introduce the pleasure of giving. Chomp learns his lesson when he gets a tummy ache from too many cakes. Opportunities in class where it might be better to share than to keep to yourself might include independent reading. Two students can share a picture book, holding it together, and helping each other with difficult words. In fact, we have the perfect recommendation…

Add I WILL CHOMP YOU by Jory John and Bob Shea to your collection. This is one book we can’t wait to share.