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A Word from Pat Scales

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

December 03, 2014

December: Write to a Friend Month

Most people don’t write letters anymore. It’s too easy to communicate by email or text. I’m amazed at how many people don’t write thank-you notes for gifts. Most people don’t even bother to RSVP for a special event. Perhaps it’s time to remind the younger generation that while email and text are fabulous ways to convey a quick message, sometimes a written note (sent via snail mail) is more appropriate. Since December is Write to a Friend Month, this is a good time to practice letter-writing skills. Like always, this site offers ways to connect books with special occasions or events. Here are suggestions for ways to make that connection with Write to a Friend Month:

●   Ask students or library patrons if they have ever received a letter from a friend or family member. Librarians and
teachers should write a letter to an unnamed friend to share in class. How does the letter begin? What type of
information is in the body of the letter? How does the letter end? What is the purpose of the PS at the end of the
letter? How does the address appear on the envelope?

●   Have them think of a bit of news they would like to share. Perhaps it’s a victory in a sporting event or an accomplishment in the performing or visual arts. Then have them write about it to a friend.

●   Read aloud from the letters that Austin Ives writes to his brother Levi in Dear Levi: Letters from the Overland Trail by Elvira Woodruff. How do Austin’s letters reveal the plot of the story?

●   Have readers think about the events in a specific novel and write a letter from one character to another. Suggestions from Random House include:

—Freddy to Marlene in Marlene, Marlene, Queen of Mean (picture book) by Jane Lynch, Lara Embry, and A. E. Mikesell, illustrated by Tricia Tusa

—Harriet M. Welsch to Sport in Harriet the Spy (middle grade) by Louise Fitzhugh

—Little Man to Mr. Spiro in Paperboy (middle grade) by Vince Vawter

—Wahoo Cray to Tuna Gordon in Chomp (middle grade) by Carl Hiaasen

—Katie to Mark in Very Bad Things (young adult) by Susan McBride

—Angel to Inggy in Jersey Angel (young adult) by Beth Ann Bauman

●   Write a letter from a main character to another character after they are grown up. How might they remember significant moments in the plots of their lives? Suggestions from Random House Children’s Books include:

Alvin Ho (beginning reader) series by Lenore Look, illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Melonhead and the We-Fix-It Company (elementary age) by Katy Kelly, illustrated by Gillian Johnson

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

—Georges in Liar & Spy (middle grade) by Rebecca Stead

—Deza Malone in The Mighty Miss Malone (middle grade) by Christopher Paul Curtis

—Sylvia Mendez and Aki Munemitsu from Sylvia & Aki (middle grade) by Winifred Conkling

—Tomi from Under the Blood-Red Sun (young adult) by Graham Salisbury

—Kana Goldberg in Orchards (young adult) by Holly Thompson

—Ethan in The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy (young adult) by Kate Hattemer

—Lotus Lowenstein in The Pillow Book of Lotus Lowenstein (young adult) by Libby Schmais

●   Finally, have readers write a letter from the main character of one novel to another. An example for younger readers is Gooney Bird Greene (elementary age) to Junie B. Jones.

●   Ask for volunteers to share their letters.

November 03, 2014

Celebrate American Education Week

“Great Public Schools: A Basic Right and Our Responsibility” – Theme of American Education Week

This year marks the 93rd annual celebration of American Education Week. The National Education Association
suggests daily activities or ways to spotlight education during the week November 17-22. But the focus on the importance of education leads to many programming opportunities for school and public libraries during this week
and all year long. The fact that Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani girl who speaks out about the importance of education for girls in a country where girls aren’t honored, received the Nobel Peace Prize is reason enough to help students in the United States understand how lucky they are to live in a country that offers free public education to all. At the same time, students need to know that educational opportunities haven’t always been available to every school-age child. Our history points to the fact that slave owners didn’t think that slaves had the right to an education. Nightjohn and Sarny by Gary Paulsen tell the story of two people born in slavery who risked their lives to teach black children to read. The early immigrants, farm families, or those suffering economic challenges often kept their children home from school to help earn a living. Counting on Grace by Elizabeth Winthrop tells of one girl who desperately wants to continue her education but must drop out to help her family by working in the mill.

  • Read aloud Dear Malala We Stand with You by Rosemary McCarney (picture book). Ask readers to discuss why girls aren’t offered the same educational opportunities as boys in Pakistan. What makes Malala different from other girls in her country?
  • Explain what Malala means, “One child, one teacher, one book and one person can change the world.”
  • Have readers name one book they’ve read that has broadened their view of the world. Instruct them write a letter to their parents that state how the book changed their global view. Suggestions from Random House include:

Enrique’s Journey (middle grade) by Sonia Nazario
Laugh with the Moon (middle grade) by Shana Burg
Slumgirl Dreaming (middle grade) by Ribina Ali with Anne Berthod and Divya Dugar
A Time of Miracles (young adult) by Anne-Laura Bondoux and translated from French by Y. Maudet
The Book Thief (young adult) by Markus Zusak
An Ocean Apart, A World Away and Ties That Bind, Ties That Break (young adult) by Lensey Namioka
Shabanu, Haveli or The House of Djinn (young adult) by Suzanne Fisher Staples

  • Ask readers to read about The Nobel Peace Prize and write a front-page story for a national newspaper that pays tribute to Malala and her efforts on behalf of girls.
  • Have students research one of the milestones in public education in the following timeline of events documented by the NEA.
    The following books from Random House may help them understand these important events:

Sylvia & Aki (middle grade) by Winifred Conkling
Navigating Early (middle grade) by Clare Vanderpool
Wonder (middle grade) by R.J. Palacio

  • Recognizing and honoring teachers is one of the activities that NEA suggests for American Education Week. Ask students to read a book about a special teacher and think of a way to honor them. Suggestions from Random House include:

Miss Brooks Loves Books and Miss Brooks’ Story Nook (Where Tales are Told and Ogres are Welcome) (picture books) by Barbara Bottner and illus. by Michael Emberley
The Magical Ms. Plum (picture book) by Bonny Becker and illus. by Amy Portnoy
SCAT (middle grade) by Carl Hiaasen
Burning Up (young adult) by Caroline B. Cooney
Ringside, 1925 (young adult) by Jen Bryant

September 29, 2014

October: Family History Month

by Pat Scales

October is Family History Month, and school and public libraries have many books to help readers focus on the idea of family heritage. Some families have family trees that date back to the time their ancestors immigrated to America. Others may only know names of two or three generations. Family history projects in schools have sometimes been an issue with adopted children: Do they place their name on the tree of their adoptive family? Many families have no problem with this, while others feel as though it doesn’t represent the truth of their child’s heritage. In the event this is an issue with their parents, these readers may focus on fictional families (as in the activities below for all readers). If the adoption is a foreign adoption, then these readers should be asked to share something about the culture of their birth.

● Have readers ask the oldest member of their family to tell a favorite story from his or her   childhood.
Then read aloud the picture book Grandfather Tang’s Story by Ann Tompert, illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker.
Have readers use the method of storytelling used in the book and tell their family story to the group. (Even adopted
children may find this a fun activity.)

  ● A good way to help readers focus on family history is to look at old family photographs. Ask them to make
photocopies or digital copies of at least five photographs (don’t risk losing the originals) and write captions for
each photograph. These may include school pictures, baby pictures, and family reunion photos.

  ● Have readers find out about an object that has been in their family for generations. Perhaps it’s a household item, a
baby garment, a toy, or a wedding dress. Then have them draw a picture or take a digital photograph of the item
and write a creative story about it.

  ● Invite someone who immigrated to the United States to talk with the group about their family’s immigration story.
Prepare for the speaker by having students read one of the following:

All the Way to America: The Story of a Big Italian Family and a Little Shovel
(picture book) by Dan Yaccarino

I Will Come Back for You: A Family in Hiding During World War II
(picture book) by Marisabina Russo

Children of the River (middle Crew) by Linda Crew

A House of Tailors (middle grade) by Patricia Reilly Giff

Ashes of Roses (young adult) by Mary Jane Auch

Enrique’s Journey (young adult) by Sonia Nazario

Goodbye, Vietnam (young adult) by Gloria Whelan

  ● Ask readers to read one of the following books and then write a family history for the main character. Be creative,
and embellish the story by taking it back two more generations.

Stitchin’ and Pullin’ (picture book) by Patricia McKissack, illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera

Child of the Mountains (middle grade) by Marilyn Sue Shank

Family Ties (middle grade) by Gary Paulsen

The Mighty Miss Malone (middle grade) by Christopher Paul Curtis

Nest (middle grade) by Esther Ehrlich

The Quilt (middle grade) by Gary Paulsen

Hattie Big Sky (young adult) by Kirby Larson

The House of Djinn (young adult) by Suzanne Fisher Staples

Orchards (young adult) by Holly Thompson

Roots and Wings (young adult) by Many Ly

What the Moon Saw (young adult) by Laura Resau

  ● Have readers make Family Heritage Boxes. Decorate them with photocopies of old photographs. Then pick at least
five items to include in the box that would tell their personal story to future generations.

  ● Refer to the following websites for ideas of other ways to celebrate Family History Month.




September 13, 2014

September: Fall Hat Month

by Pat Scales

In my neck of the woods it seems a little early for Fall Hat Month, but for folks who live in some areas of the country warm hats may well be in order in September. Hats are worn for all kinds of reasons: some people wear them to protect themselves from the hot sun; some wear them to keep their head warm in the winter; some wear them for religious purposes; others wear them simply to accessorize. The Queen of England loves her hats, and the journalists covering the last royal wedding for television and newspapers focused much space on the fascinators worn by female wedding guests.

Hats can be a lot of fun, and library users of all ages should be invited to join in the celebration of Fall Hat Month. Here are a few ideas:

- Read aloud (to all ages) The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins by Dr. Seuss. Lead a discussion about
  Bartholomew’s experience in the Kingdom of Didd.

- Ask readers to bring in the oldest hat belonging to their family and tell the hat’s story. Then have them create a five-
  frame cartoon strip that explains the significance of the hat.

- Have them write a short story that is about a favorite hat.

- Provide a box of fabric, feathers, beads, etc. and ask older readers to create a fascinator. Have them choose a model
  to wear the creation in a runway show.

- Create a hat museum in the library. Ask readers to make a hat for a favorite fictional book character for the museum.
  Then have them write a description of the hat and why it’s appropriate for the character. Suggested characters from
  Random House include:

Miss Brooks from Miss Brooks Loves Books (picture book) by Barbara Bittner & illus. by Michael Emberley

Grandpa in Song and Dance Man (picture book) by Karen Ackerman & illus. by Stephen Gammell

Widow tulip Jones from Meanwhile Back at the Ranch (picture book) by Anne Isaacs & illus. by Kevin Hawkes

Alex Hart and brother Chuck from Racing the Moon (middle grade) by Alan Armstrong & illus. by Tim Jessell

Gabriel Finley or one of his three friends from Gabriel Finley and the Raven Riddle (middle grade) by George Hagen

Little Man in Paperboy (middle grade) by Vince Vawter

Ophelia Jan Worthington-Whittard from Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy (middle grade) by Karen Foxlee

The ex-governor in Skink (middle grade) by Carl Hiaasen

Crash Coogan from Crash (young adult) by Jerry Spinelli

Pearl DeWitt from Dark Water (young adult) by Laura McNeal

Pearl from Written in Stone (young adult) by Rosanne Parry

Zach in Road Rash (young adult) by Mark Huntley Parsons

- Offer research opportunities for older readers and ask them to find out the type hats worn in historical periods.
  Ask them to cite their sources. Then suggest that they read a book set in one historical period and create a cover for
  the book with an illustration of an appropriate hat. Suggested books from Random House include:

Colonial Era

Storyteller (middle grade) by Patricia Reilly Giff

Woods Runner (young adult) by Gary Paulsen

Civil War

The Storm Before Atlanta (middle grade) by Karen Schwabach

Western Expansion

One Came Home by Amy Timberlake

Immigrant Experience

Ashes of Roses (young adult) by Mary Jane Auch

World War II

The Eyes of the Emperor (middle grade) by Graham Salisbury