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A Word from Pat Scales

June 11, 2015

June – National Family Month

by Pat Scales

Families are celebrated each June with the commemoration of National Family Month. This is a good time to help children and teens understand that there are all types of families. Many children and teens live with only one parent, or with two moms and two dads. Some live with grandparents or other relatives. There are stepfamilies, multigenerational families and foster families. There are wealthy families and those that struggle to put food on the table. Whatever the family unit, or socioeconomic level, it’s important that the young understand the characteristics of family. Here are suggestions to help them grasp the many meanings of family.

  • Read aloud Families, Families, Families! by Suzanne Lang & illus. by Max Lang to the youngest readers.  Describe the different families in the book. Use our family tree activity with your storytime.
  • After reading the book, ask readers to draw a picture of their family.  Then allow them the opportunity to share their pictures with the class.  Encourage them to share something they enjoy doing with their family.
  • Display poetry anthologies and allow readers to work in small group to browse the books and find poems about family. Ask for volunteers to read aloud one of the poems.
  • Have older readers write an acrostic poem using FAMILY as the spine word.
  • Suggest that older readers write and perform a rap about their family, or a fictional family.
  • Display books with various family units, and family challenges. Ask readers to select a title, and discuss the family in the book. Older readers may write an essay that compares the family in the novel to their own.  Suggestions from Random House include:

Picture Books

Just Plain Fancy by Patricia Polacco

Piggybook by Anthony Browne

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

The Berenstain Bears by Stan and Jan Berenstain

Who’s in a Family? by Robert Skutch

Early Readers

Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business by Barbara Park

Tooter Pepperday by Jerry Spinelli

Middle Grade

Brendan Buckley’s Universe and Everything in It by Sundee Frazier

Child of the Mountain by Marilyn Sue Shank

Chomp by Carl Hiaasen

Laugh with the Moon by Shana Burg

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

The War with Grandpa by Robert K. Smith

The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis

Nest by Esther Ehrlich

Tia Lola books by Julia Alvarez

True Colors by Natalie Kensey

The Penderwicks Series by Jeanne Birdsall

Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff

Young Adult

Cuba 15 by Nancy Osa

Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario

Love Me Tender by Audrey Couloumbis

Mexican Whiteboy by Matt de la Peńa

Spoils by Tammar Stein

Tending to Grace by Kimberly Newton Fusco

The House of Djinn by Suzanne Fisher Staples

May 05, 2015

May – Diversity Continued

by Pat Scales

Last month the focus was on diversity in children’s books, and the importance of building a diverse collection so that young readers might connect with all populations in their communities, and gain an appreciation of cultures from around the world. Books that present various cultural traditions and celebrations are very important if we expect the young to become globally conscious.

  • Folk and fairy tales reveal a lot about world cultures. Display copies of fairy tales, especially those that reflect specific cultures. For example, almost every culture has a version of Cinderella. Ask readers to compare and contrast the stories.
  • Suggest that readers find other books from the oral tradition that introduces diverse cultures. Suggestions from Random House include:

The Beautiful Lady: Our Lady of Guadalupe (picture book) by Pat Mora & illus. by Steve Johnson & Lou Faucher

Borreguita and the Coyote (picture book) by Verna Aardema

John Henry (picture book) by Ezra Jack Keats

Mirandy and Brother Wind (picture book) by Patricia McKissack & illus. by Jerry Pinkney

The Mitten String (picture book)  by Jennifer Rosner & illus. by Kristina Swarner

The Secret Footprints (picture book) by Julia Alvarez & illus. by Fabin Negrin

The Silk Princess (picture book) by Charles Santore

Sootface (all ages) by Robert D. San Souci

The Legend of Bass Reeves (middle grade) by Gary Paulsen

Porch Lies (all ages) by Patricia McKissick & illus. by Andre Carrilho

Many Thousand Gone (all ages) by Virginia Hamilton & illus. by Leo and Diane Dillon

The People Could Fly (all ages) by Virginia Hamilton & illus. by Leo and Diane Dillon

The Dark Thirty (all ages) by Patricia McKissack & illus. by Brian Pinkney

  • Invite speakers from various cultures in your town of community to the school or library and ask them to talk about specific traditions of their culture. Then ask readers to research customs and traditions of cultures from around the world. How many cultures are represented? Suggest they prepare a power point presentation that introduces the culture, the traditions, and recommendations of several books to read. Books from Random House may include:

Bringing in the New Year (picture book) by Grace Lin

Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama (picture book) by Selina Alko

Everybody Says Shalom (picture book) by Leslie Kimmelman & illus. by Talitha Shipman

Dim Sum for Everyone (picture book) by Grace Lin

Happy, Happy Chinese New Year (picture book) by Demi

Honeyky Hanukah (picture book) by Woody Guthrie & illus. by Dave Horowitz

Max Makes a Cake (picture book) by Michelle Edwards & illus. by Charles Santoso

Thanking the Moon: Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival (picture book) by Grace Lin

The Longest Night (picture book) by Laurel Snyder & illus. by Catia Chien

Together for Kwanza (picture book) by Juwanda G. Ford & illus. by Shelley Hehenberger

What You Can do with a Paleta (picture book) by Carmen Tafolla & illus. by Magaly Morales

The Tequila Worm (middle grade) by Viola Canales

ZigaZak! (picture book) by Eric Kimmel & illus. by Jon Goodell

Along the River: A Chinese Cinderella Novel (young adult) by Adeline Yen Mah

Chinese Cinderella (young adult) by Adeline Yen Mah

Shabanu Daughter of the Wind, Haveli, and The House of Djinn (young adult) by Suzanne Fisher Staples

The Shadows of Ghadames (young adult) by Joelle Stolz

Ties that Bind, Ties That Break (young adult) by Lensey Namioka

  • Have readers locate recipes from various cultures. Older readers may wish to prepare some of them. Make a cookbook that represents the cultures studies. Write a paragraph that describes if the food is used for a special holiday, or if it is commonly served.

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.

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


February 11, 2015

February: What’s In The News?

There is never too much information when guiding young people to an understanding of national and world events. Most are aware of heated debates over issues like terrorism, immigration and the lifting of the Cuban embargo, and they need guidance as they begin to form their own opinions about hot topics. Have them search libraries for books and materials that relate to articles in the news.

●   Create a Then and Now display that highlights events of the 20th Century that led to newsworthy actions in the 21st century. Begin by introducing The Century for Young People by Peter Jennings and Todd Brewster.  For example, what led to the Cuban embargo in the first place?

●   President Obama has called upon Congress to end the 50-year Cuban embargo.  Display books about Cuba and ask readers to find out how lifting the embargo may change the life for Cubans.  Why have some Cuban Americans taken a stand against Obama’s move?  Titles from Random House that help readers connect to the Cuban culture are:

Cuba 15 (young adult) by Nancy Osa

The Red Umbrella (young adult) by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

●  The recent events in Paris where two gunman stormed the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical newspaper, and killed eleven people because of the way Muhammad was depicted in cartoons has caused much debate about Free Speech and the way nations deal with terrorists.  Teaching tolerance is the first step in this debate.  Recommended books from Random House are:

Dear Malala, We Stand with You (picture book) by Rosemary McCarney

The Genius of Islam: How Muslims Made the Modern World (middle grade) by Bryn Barnard

Growing Up Muslim (middle grade) by Sumbul All-Karamall

I Love I Hate My Sister (young adult) by Amelle Sarn

No god but God: The Origins & Evolution of Islam (young adult) by Reza Aslan

Shabana. Haveli and House of Djinn (young adult) by Suzanne Fisher Staples

●    Immigration remains in the news.  Suggest that readers “walk in others shoes” by reading a book that brings issues related to immigration front and center.  Titles from Random House include:

The Name Jar (picture book) by Yangsook Chol

Return to Sender (middle grade) by Julia Alvarez

The Tia Lola series (middle grade) by Julia Alvarez

Dark Water (young adult) by Laura McNeal

Enrique’s Journey (young adult) by Sonia Nazario

Outcasts United (young adult) by Warren St. John

●   2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the Voter Rights Act signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson on August 6, 1965. The movie “Selma” is much in the news because critics question whether it’s historically accurate, especially the portrayal of Johnson. Ask young readers to document all of the events that led to the Voter Rights Act by reading books set during the Civil Rights Movement.   Titles from Random House include:

Child of the Civil Rights Movement (picture book) by Paula Young Shelton & illus by Raul Colon

I Have a Dream (picture book) by Martin Luther King, Jr. & illus by Kadir Nelson

My Dream of Martin Luther King (picture book) by Faith Ringgold

Thank You Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  (elementary) by Eleanora Tate

The Watson’s Go to Birmingham 1963 (middle grade) by Christopher Paul Curtis

January 12, 2015

January: Name the Best

by Pat Scales
It’s the season for the People’s Choice Awards, the ALA Youth Media Awards, and the announcement of the nominees for the Golden Globes and Academy Awards. Public and school libraries looking for ideas for programming might consider pulling ideas from these much-anticipated events. Children and young adults may already participate in the book-award programs in their state or in mock Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz award-selection groups.

Let’s take the award season a bit further and encourage readers to make their choices for best book and best character in categories named by readers. They may select genres like historical fiction, fantasy, realistic fiction, science fiction, or nonfiction. It may be fun to narrow the categories to specific themes and topics.

Have readers write a nomination for each suggested category. Post the nominations on the school and public library websites to engage other readers in the school and community. Here are suggestions from Random House:


Betty Goes Bananas (picture book) by Steve Antony

While You Were Napping (picture book) by Jenny Offill and illustrated by Barry Blitt

Freckle Juice (elementary) by Judy Blume

Family Ties (middle grade) by Gary Paulsen

Death by Toilet Paper (middle grade) by Donna Gephart

Flush (middle grade) by Carl Hiaasen

7 Kinds of Ordinary Catastrophes (young adult) by Amber Kizer

Andromeda Klein (young adult) by Frank Portman


Doug Unplugs on the Farm (picture book) by Dan Yaccarino

In New York (picture book) by Marc Brown

The $25,000 Flight (Totally True Adventures) (elementary) by Lori Haskins Houran and illustrated by Wesley Lowe

Chomp (middle grade) by Carl Hiaasen

Navigating Early (middle grade) by Clare Vanderpool

Boys of Blur (middle grade) by N. D. Wilson

The Living (young adult) by Matt de la Peña


Puss in Boots (picture book) by Kathryn Jackson and illustrated by J. P. Miller

Emma and the Blue Genie (elementary) by Cornelia Funke and illustrated by Kerstin Meyer

The Witch at the Window (elementary) by Ruth Chew

Gabriel Finley and the Raven’s Riddle (middle grade) by George Hagen

Unmade (young adult) by Sarah Rees Brennan


Anatole (picture book) by Eve Titus

The Little Island (picture book) by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Leonard Weisgard

Harriet the Spy (middle grade) by Louise Fitzhugh

Where the Red Fern Grows (middle grade) by Wilson Rawls

A Day No Pigs Would Die (young adult) by Robert Newton Peck

I Am the Cheese (young adult) by Robert Cormier

Best Series

Junie B. Jones (early reader) by Barbara Park

Babymouse (elementary) by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

Alvin Ho (elementary) by Lenore Look and illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Calvin Coconut (elementary) by Graham Salisbury

Cheesie Mack (elementary) by Steve Cotler

Jackson Jones (elementary) by Mary Quattlebaum

The Boys and Girls (middle grade) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Sammy Keyes (young adult) by Wendelin van Draanen

Most Admired Character

Ida Lewis from The Bravest Woman in America (picture book) by Marissa Moss and illustrated by Andrea U’Ren

The boy from Paperboy (middle grade) by Vince Vawter

Clare Silver from Laugh with the Moon (middle grade) by Shana Burg

Auggie Pullman from Wonder (middle grade) by R. J. Palacio

Kenny from The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 (middle grade) by Christopher Paul Curtis

Andi Alpers from Revolution (young adult) by Jennifer Donnelly

Jerry from The Chocolate War (young adult) by Robert Cormier

Hattie Brooks from Hattie Big Sky and Hattie Ever After (young adult) by Kirby Larson