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April 07, 2015

April – Celebrating Diversity

by Pat Scales

The Children’s Book Council and the Association of Library Service to Children sponsored a Day of Diversity: Dialogue and Action in Children’s Literature and Library Programming at the 2015 ALA Midwinter conference. A white paper, “The Importance of Library Programs and Materials Collections for Children,” is available.

Building a classroom and library collection that represents diverse populations should always be on the radar of teachers and librarians, but now is an especially good time to conduct a cultural inventory of materials. Does the collection represent all cultures that make up this nation? Is there a balance between historical and contemporary literature? How accurate are the materials? How often do these materials circulate? What can be done in library programming to promote cross-cultural materials?

There are a number of books about traditions and holiday celebrations of other cultures. There are also a number that are historical. This column will focus on books that celebrate diversity in an everyday and contemporary setting.

  • Ask readers to define diversity. Then have them name the different cultures in their classroom. What might we learn from one another?
  • Children’s book Week is the first week in May. Ask readers to design a Children’s Book Week poster that focuses on Books & Diversity.
  • Have readers read a book about another culture. Then have them design a placemat that features the book. During Children’s Book Week, ask permission to distribute the placemats in the school cafeteria.
  • Suggest that older readers write a guest editorial for the school newspaper about the importance of diversity in books. Have them include specific titles.
  • Display books about diverse populations.

Some suggestions for books featuring diverse characters from Random House include:

Picture Books

Mrs. Katz and Tush by Patricia Polacco

Piano Starts Here by Andrew Parker

The Name Jar by Jangsook Choi

Sweet Moon Baby: An Adoption Tale by Karen Henry Clark & illus. by Patrice Barton

Something Beautiful by Sharon Dennis Wyeth

Yang the Third and Her Impossible Family by Lensey Namiok

I Pledge Allegiance by Pat Mora & Libby Martinez


Jackson Jones series by Mary Quattlebaum
Book Talk Available

Yang the Youngest and His Terrible Ear by Lensey Namioka

Alvin Ho by Lenore Look & illus. by Leuyen Pham
Book Talks Available

Brendan Buckley’s Universe by Sundee Frazier

Calvin Coconut series by Graham Salisbury
Book Talks Available

The Stories Julian Tells by Ann Cameron & illus. by Ann Strugnell

Junebug in Trouble by Alice Mead

Ready? Set, Raymond! By Vaunda Micheaux Nelson & illus. by Derek Anderson

Thank You, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Eleanora Tate

Clever sticks by Bernard Ashley

 Tia Lola stories by Julia Alvarez
Educators’ Guide Available

Middle Grade

Small Steps by Louis Sachar
Educators’ Guide Available

Project Mulberry by Linda Sue Park

Half and Half by Lensey Namioka

Darnell Rock Reporting by Walter Dean Myers

The Secret of Gumbo Grove by Eleanora Tate

The Whole Story of Half a Girl by Veera Hiranandani
Book Talk Available

Young Adult

145th Street: Short Stories by Walter Dean Myers

Hoops by Walter Dean Myers

Orchards by Holly Thompson

Bindi Babes Narinder Dhami

Words by Heart by Ouida Sebestyen

Join In by Donald R. Gallo

The Living by Matt de la Pena

Finding Miracles by Julia Alvarez

Outcasts United by Warren St. John

NOTE:  The various cultures aren’t specified here so that inclusiveness is celebrated.

Two Stars for The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach
April 07, 2015

Two Stars for The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach

★ “Our narrator patiently explains to a listener how a bear rode from woods to city in a truck bed, entered the city park, found the listener’s unattended sandwich on a bench, and ate it. A spread near the story’s end begins to disclose the clearly culpable narrator’s identity in a perky pair of pointed black ears; the closing spread completes the reveal, featuring a black terrier finishing his “explanation” to a brown- skinned little girl: “I saw it all. I tried to save your sandwich. I was able to save this little bit of lettuce here.” The bear’s transport into the city (he supposedly ate the berry harvest in the back of the truck and then fell asleep there) and subsequent urban activities (climbing a clothesline, walking through wet cement, trying out playground equipment), all of which seemingly happens without human notice, are pretty unbelievable—but that’s the point, isn’t it? While the bear storyline is entertaining in itself, the ending twist will equally delight kids who love to spot untruths, and a second reading for hints as to the narrator’s credibility may well be in order. The loose, sometimes expressionistic strokes of acrylic paint with pencil illustrations helpfully—and amusingly—fill in the text’s scenarios with entertaining and vivid detail. The scenes of the baggy-bottomed black bear at the playground and sneaking up on the sandwich are particularly humorous, and the ingratiating tail-wagging and eager-to-please posture of the terrier add to the subtext of deceit. This has numerous language arts possibilities, and it would also make a lively addition to a food or bear-themed storytime.”—Bulletin, March 2015
★ “By now I think you know what happened to your sandwich. But you may not know how it happened.” An offstage narrator spins this entertaining tale about the fate of a missing sandwich. The narrator’s creative version of events begins with a hungry bear, a berry-eating binge, a postprandial nap in the back of a pickup truck, and an unexpected road trip to the big city. All the while, we see words at entertaining odds with the pictures: those “high cliffs” the bear notices are the skyscrapers in the big-city landscape to which the truck has inadvertently transported him. Sarcone-Roach uses a vibrant color palette in her impressionistic paintings, gleefully depicting the bear exploring unfamiliar terrain. To her credit, the question of the narrator’s identity—and reliability—may not come up for readers until book’s end. If they do wonder, the diverting story and illustrations help to keep it a surprise. After the bear returns to the forest, the silver-tongued narrator’s subterfuge quickly falls apart, and the truth is unleashed (“Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! Ruff! Ruff!”). The book stands up to repeat readings; the illustrations (and endpapers) beg for more attention.”—Horn Book Review January/February 2015

March 11, 2015

New spring picture books that are not to be missed!

I Don’t Want to Be a Frog is the book the Wall Street Journal calls, “…a paean to self-acceptance wrapped in snappy dialogue and illustrated with richly colored comic paintings by Mike Boldt.” This book is a perfect read aloud for classrooms and libraries. In case you missed it in our picture book brochure, here’s an adorable storytime craft to go along with it.

If that wasn’t enough for goofy animals, Julia Sarcone-Roach has a gorgeous new picture book that will satisfy your craving. For books that is, because as you’ll find out, The Bear Ate Your Sandwich. Take a peek inside to find out what happened to your sandwich and the bear!


(All illustrations © 2015 by Julia Sarcone-Roach and should not be reproduced anywhere without permission.)

March 11, 2015


by Pat Scales

There continues to be much in the news for children and young adults to follow.   Connecting fiction and nonfiction to these topics help the young gain a greater understanding of the world in which they live.  Some topics like the brutal winter that much of the nation has experienced may be examined in a lighter way, or in a factual way by looking at climate change, etc.  The recent outbreak of measles is causing some to once again raise the question of childhood vaccinations.   The deadly epidemic of Ebola in West Africa has caused health care professionals in the United States to prepare hospitals for the disease.  By reading articles and viewing conversations about Ebola, the young may want to examine other plagues that threatened the world’s population at sometime in our history.  Later in the year the nation will celebrate the end of World War II.  Suggest that younger students read books that prepare them for this important date.

Public and school librarians should take every opportunity to engage in conversation with the young about tough topics they hear about in the news.

Younger readers may want to focus on issues related to the fun side of the weather, and some of the hardships the weather has caused.  Consider the following titles from Random House:

Picture Books

Cold Snap  by Eileen Spinelli; illustrated by Marjorie Priceman

Lemonade in Winter by Emily Jenkins; illustrated by G. Brian Karas

Snow Happy! by Patricia Hubbell; illustrations by Hiroe Nakata

Snow by Roy McKie and P.D. Eastman

Snowflakes Fall  by Patricia MacLachlan; illustrated by Steven Kellogg

Guide Available

Middle Grade

May B. by Caroline Starr Rose

Book Talk Available

Young Adult

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson

Guide Available

The world has long suffered epidemics that threatened to wipe out entire populations.  The United States has ways of controlling such devastating illnesses, but populations riddled with poverty don’t have medical facilities to help them control these epidemics.  The following books from Random House may help younger readers better understand these global public health issues:

Middle Grade

All the Way Home by Patricia Reilly Giff

Guide Available

The Great Trouble by Deborah Hopkinson

Guide Available

Laugh with the Moon by Shana Berg

Guide Available

Young Adult

A Matter of Days by Amber Kizer

Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder, adapted by Michael French

Book Talk Available

Outbreak: Plagues That Changed History  by Bryn Barnard

Perhaps young adults know about the raising of the United States Flag on Iwo Jima on Feb. 23, 1945. They may wish to read Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley & Ron Powers & adapted by Michael French

Japan surrendered to the United States on September 2, 1945, officially ending World War II. Commemorate the 70th anniversary of this event by reading books set during World War II with special emphasis on the Pacific Theatre:

Middle Grade

FDR and The American Crisis by Albert Marrin

Under the Blood-Red Sun  by Graham Salisbury

Young Adult

Unbroken: An Olympian’s Journey from Airman to Castaway to Captive by Laura Hillenbrand

Eyes of the Emperor  by Graham Salisbury

House of Red Fish by Graham Salisbury

Farewell to Manzanar  by Jeanne Houston


Three Stars for Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman
March 11, 2015

Three Stars for Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman

“Despite a prolonged wait, Hartman’s blazing sequel to her award-winning debut, Seraphina (2012), will appease her passionate (and patient) fans. With the kingdom of Goredd caught in the crossfire of a dragon civil war, Seraphina is tasked with finding her fellow ityasaari (human-dragon half-breeds), whose strange abilities may be able to protect the capital city. While the exiled dragon leader Comonot and his allies enact a risky plan to end the war, Seraphina travels as an emissary to the other kingdoms to gather those she thinks of as her family. As she makes contact with a host of rich, idiosyncratic characters, Seraphina is haunted by thoughts of the one she does not want to find: Jannoula, who invaded her mind as a child. Though barred from Seraphina’s mind, Jannoula remains a threat, and her insidious diversion of Seraphina’s mission is devastating, driving her to finally confront the shadow self that she has locked away. Aside from a few key moments, Hartman wisely relegates the larger war to the background in favor of Seraphina’s story. Though the pacing occasionally lags across this lengthy, tangled novel, the intricate plotting, clever surprises (including the identities of Goredd’s Saints), and lovely prose make this a worthy conclusion for all of Hartman’s big-hearted characters. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The Morriswinning Seraphina was a commercial and critical breakout. Major monthly promotions, school visits, and social media campaigns are planned.”Booklist, December
★ “Having come to terms with her own heritage, both dragon and human, Seraphina is back for more, following her eponymous first outing (2012). The dragon-dragon war continues to rage, and it seems a cohort of half-dragons might make a difference. The mental garden Seraphina built to control her visions of other half-dragons is a map to that cohort, and so she crosses kingdoms to raise a different kind of army in hopes of saving the world. Along the way, Seraphina uncovers the truth of the Goreddi Saints, searches for her missing uncle, navigates a complex relationship with a man she can’t have and must come to terms with Jannoula, a powerful half-dragon who seems the shadow to Seraphina’s light. Love, betrayal and sacrifice wind throughout, all narrated in Seraphina’s appealing, slightly stiff voice. Every now and again, a book comes along that reimagines a familiar trope so magnificently it resets the bar, which is exactly what happened with Seraphina, Hartman’s debut. Here, she continues to expand her world with enough history and detail to satisfy even the most questioning of readers, doing it all so naturally that it’s hard to believe this is fiction. Dragon fiction has never flown higher. Seraphina’s adventures may be over, but here’s hoping there are more Goreddi tales to come.”Kirkus, January
★ “In this strong follow-up to 2012’s Seraphina, Hartman continues the adventures of that book’s eponymous half-dragon, who is now assigned with finding and uniting her fellow “ityasaari” before the full-blooded dragons can resolve their civil war and mobilize to wipe out the southern human kingdoms. But some ityasaari don’t want to be found, and one, who has the power to enter and control minds, would rather see them united for her own bitter purpose. With numerous factions jockeying for power and war on the horizon, Seraphina must unlock her own long-dormant potential and find a way to save everyone she loves. As the page count attests, Hartman’s style is leisurely; she builds her epic fantasy carefully, with attention to detail and atmosphere, while letting the plot simmer and allowing just as much to happen off-screen as in Seraphina’s presence. She juggles the large cast skillfully, balancing wide-screen action with intimate character development (including some deft, thoughtful treatments of gender identity), allowing for some subtle yet surprising revelations. This is a worthy and wholly satisfying continuation of Seraphina’s tale.”Publishers Weekly, January