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May 30, 2014

June: A Whopper of a Tale

by Pat Scales

Most young readers study tall tales and folklore at some point in school. Even those who haven’t actually studied the genre may be familiar with stories about Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, Blackbeard, Davy Crocket, Daniel Boone, Annie Oakley or Buffalo Bill. Most of these stories have a tall tale element. Since June 28 is Paul Bunyan Day, libraries may take the opportunity in June to have some fun with tall tales. Discuss the following elements of the genre:


• Hero is larger than life and stronger than real people
• The hero has a specific task
• The problem is solved in a humorous or outrageous way
• The details are exaggerated
• The story is difficult to believe

1. Read aloud a Paul Bunyan story (http://americanfolklore.net/folklore/paul-bunyan/). Apply the characteristics of a tall tale to the story read aloud. How do the exaggerated details make the story humorous? Why is the story unbelievable? Discuss why the stories called “tall tales.”
2. Discuss symbolism with readers. Ask them to discuss how Paul Bunyan symbolizes “might,” “a willingness to work,” and “a resolve to overcome obstacles.”
3. Libraries should have books that include many different Paul Bunyan stories. Display them and encourage readers to borrow them for their own personal entertainment.
4. Introduce other tall tales such as American Tall Tales by Mary Pope Osborne and illustrated by Michael McCurdy (all ages). Allow readers to work in small groups and read aloud a tall tale other than Paul Bunyan. Have them consider the following questions:

a. Why is the story considered a tall tale?
b. Is the story based on a real person?
c. How is the person a hero?
d. What is the exaggerated element?


5. Have readers read about a hero or heroine of their choice, and write a tall
tale about the person. Encourage them to illustrate their story, placing emphasis on the exaggerated part of the story. Suggestions from Random House include:

The Bravest Woman in America by Marissa Moss & illus. by Andrea U’Ren (picture book)
The Daring Nellie Bly by Bonnie Christensen (picture book)
Dust Devil by Anne Isaacs & illus. by Paul O. Zelinsky (picture book)
New York’s Bravest by Mary Pope Osborne & illus. by Steve Johnson & Lou Fancher (picture book)
The Mighty Lalouche by Matthew Olshan & illus. by Sophie Blackall (picture book)
Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart by Candace Fleming (middle grade)

6. Encourage older readers to create a tall tale from a work of fiction. Let them know that tall tales are traditionally short and often grew out of the oral tradition. For this reason, they should use a specific scene from the book, and plan to tell the tale to the group. Allow them to make the larger than life hero or heroine either the main character or a secondary character from the novel. Ask them to think carefully about the details to exaggerate. What is the outrageous resolution? How does the hero of their story embody the symbolism of Paul Bunyan? Suggestions from Random House include:

All the Way to America: The Story of a Big Italian Family and a Little Shovel by Dan Yaccarino (picture book)
Chompby Carl Hiaasen (middle grade)
Holes by Louis Sachar (middle grade)
Johnny Swanson by Eleanor Updale (middle grade)
Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool (middle grade)
May B. by Caroline Starr Rose (middle grade)
One Came Home by Amy Timberlake (middle grade)
The River by Gary Paulsen (middle grade)
Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm (middle grade0
Dust Girl by Sarah Zettel (young adult)
North by Night by Katherine Ayers (young adult)
Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larsen (young adult)
Nature Girl by Jane Kelley (young adult)
Roy Morelli Steps up to the Plate by Thatcher Heldring (young adult)
Shackleton’s Stowaway by Victoria McKernan (young adult)

May 30, 2014

Oh, the Places You’ll Go… trying to find the perfect gift for your grad!

In the world of graduation gift-giving, one book seems to reign supreme:

Oh, the Places You’ll Go! is beloved for its poignant, whimsical look at life’s journey and the many challenges one may encounter. It doesn’t matter if the student is in kindergarten, middle school, high school, or college—a reader’s appreciation of the story’s wisdom will change as they continue to grow and explore. Will they succeed? Yes! They will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)

 (We have more than a few ideas for incorporating the story into your graduation festivities. Check them out here.)

Want to try something a little different this year?  We have a few more suggestions that may make a perfect gift for your grad, no matter their age.



By Sally Lloyd-Jones; Illustrated by Sue Heap | Schwartz & Wade Books | 978-0-375-86664-7

Start grads off with a quirky and colorful tour of the job hunting process! With this helpful text, they’ll practice responses to key interview questions (Do you know how to use scissors? Can you dress yourself?), and learn the necessary skills for different industries (teachers need invisible eyes that can see behind them; magicians need someone who won’t mind being cut in half). This corporate heroine and her friends demonstrate that grads should strive to be anything they want, whether it’s Balloon Holder or President of the World.



By Dr. Seuss | Random House | 978-0-679-89477-3

With a mix of insight, humor, and inspiration, this collection of pithy quotes from Dr. Seuss will help business-minded readers get ahead in the one place wackier than anything Seuss himself could conjure up—the corporate world. This New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller makes the perfect gift for graduation that can be enjoyed with friends both young and old.




By Devon Kinch | Random House | 978-0-375-86735-4

Attention finance majors! It’s back to basics with Pretty Penny, a savvy saving guru who knows that if you want something, you’ve got to earn it. Before grads step into the Real World, invite them to join Penny on an entrepreneurial adventure, proving that good things come to those who save!





By Barack Obama; Illustrated by Loren Long | Knopf | 978-0-375-83527-8

There are few things more inspiring than reading the stories of trailblazing Americans. In this tenderly written letter to his daughters, President Barack Obama does just this, exploring the lives of thirteen great Americans who opened up a world of opportunity through their struggles. More than that, though, this beautifully illustrated title also focuses on the future–and the potential we have within ourselves to pursue our dreams and forge our own paths.





By Barbara Park; illustrated by Denise Brunkus |  Random House | 978-0-375-80292-8

Wowie wow wow!  You grad is graduating, and their old pal Junie B. is, too!  Make this a sentimental gift for older students who grew up reading about Junie’s misadventures, or a charming all-too-perfect gift for kindergarten students on their way to elementary school.






By R.J. Palacio | Knopf | 978-0-375-86902-0

This  #1 New York Times-bestselling story of a boy born with a facial deformity attending school for the first time has captured the hearts of hundreds of thousands of readers across the country–and has become a go-to pick for all-school reading programs and class graduation gifts. It’s an uplifting, beautiful meditation on choosing to be kind both in school and everyday life.






By R.J. Palacio | Knopf | 978-0-553-49904-9

In Wonder, readers were introduced to memorable English teacher Mr. Browne and his love of precepts. Simply put, precepts are principles to live by, and Mr. Browne has compiled 365 of them–one for each day of the year–drawn from popular songs to children’s books to inscriptions on Egyptian tombstones to fortune cookies. His selections celebrate kindness, hopefulness, the goodness of human beings, the strength of people’s hearts, and the power of people’s wills.







By Diane Muldrow | Golden Books | 978-0-307-97761-8

This humorous guide offers advice for getting the most out of life, the Little Golden Book way! Gleaned from The Poky Little Puppy, We Help Mommy, and many more classics, observations such as “Remember to stop and smell the strawberries,” “Don’t forget to enjoy your wedding,” and “Be a hugger” are paired with iconic images by Richard Scarry, Eloise Wilkin, Mary Blair, Garth Williams, and more.


May 01, 2014

May: Awards Galore

By Pat Scales

Most schools have an Awards Day at the end of the school year, and some public libraries grant awards to children and teens that have been active in their programs.  And, later in the summer most public libraries recognize kids that have participated in their summer reading programs.  Since May marks the special celebration of Young Achievers Leaders of Tomorrow, it seems appropriate to have young readers focus on what it means to be a good leader, and how working hard in school leads to greater opportunities in the future.  This international and national recognition considers students in grades 5-11, and the focus includes: Positive Role Model; Success in a Variety of Areas; Good Citizenship; Competent Scholar. These criteria are often used for single awards granted by schools.  For example, there is usually a Good Citizenship Award; Outstanding Scholar in each grade; Top Scholar Award in the school; and Best All Around Student.  In addition to these awards, there are ones in the area of sports, art, music and drama, specific academic subject areas, perfect attendance, and there is usually An Outstanding Student Award that is based on multiple criteria.  There is a perfect opportunity here for school and public librarians to engage young readers in some “critical thinking” about the characters in the books that they read.

  • Begin by asking readers to name the awards granted in their school.  Start them off by suggesting such awards as Good Sportsmanship, Outstanding Science Students, etc.  How many different awards are granted? What are the criteria for selection?  Who makes the decision about the recipient?
  • Allow them to work in groups, and ask them to name criteria for a set of specific awards. (Each group may deal with three or four specific awards like Science or Math). Display the Awards and Criteria so that readers can refer to them as they read. Then have them think about books they have read, and decide in which school subject might the main character receive an award.  Such main characters may include:

Brendan in Brendan Buckley’s Universe by Sundee Frazier (ages 9-12)

Deza in The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis (ages 9-14)

Harriet Welsch in Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh (ages 9-12)

Hollis Woods in Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff (ages 9-12)

Macey Clare in Burning Up by Caroline Cooney (ages 12-up)

Mena in Me, Evolution and Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande (ages 12-up)

Zach in Road Rash by Mark Huntley Parsons (ages 14-up)

  • Talk about what it means to be a good citizen and serve the community.  Then have readers write a citation for an award called Best Citizen and Most Caring about the Community to present to a main character in a book.  Suggestions from Random House:

The boy in A Chance to Shine (picture book) by Steven Seskin

The young girl in Something Beautiful (picture book) by Sharon Dennis Wyeth & illus. by Chris Soentplet

Autumn in Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different by Kristin O’Donnell (ages 9-12)

Juli Baker in Flipped (ages 9-12)

 Nick and Marta in Scatby Carl Hiaasen (ages 9-12)

Leon in Pirates of the Retail Wasteland by Adam Selzer (ages 12-up)

Nina Ross in The Summer I Saved the World…in 65 Days by Michele Weber Hurwitz (ages 12-up)

  • Discuss the definition of courage.  As a group develop the criteria for a Most Courageous Award.  Then grant the award to a main character in a novel.  Write a presentation speech that states all the reasons why the character is getting the award.  Suggestions from Random House include:

The boy in Fish by L.S. Matthews (ages 10-up)

Brother in Heart of a Shepherd by Rosanne Parry (ages 9-12)

Brian in The River by Gary Paulsen (ages 9-12)

Clare Silver in Laugh with the Moon by Shana Burg (ages 9-12)

Ivy June Mosely in Faith Hope and Ivy June by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (ages 9-12)

Shabanu in The House of Djinn by Suzanne Fisher Staples (ages 12-up)

Armpit in Holes by Louis Sachar (ages 11-14)

Jerry Renault in The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier (ages 14-up)

  • Finally, have readers pick a favorite character from a novel and create a new award to honor the character.  Introduce the award to the class or group, and then state why this award has been created for the character.  Suggestions from Random House include:

Brian in The Invisible Boy (picture book) by Trudy Ludwig & illus. by Patrice Barton

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

August in Wonder (middle grade) by R. J. Palacio

George in Liar and Spy (middle grade) by Rebecca Stead

Janie in The Face on the Milk Carton (ages 12-up) by Caroline Cooney

Simone in A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life (ages 14-up) by Dana Reinhardt




Guest Post: I Pledge Allegiance
April 05, 2014

Guest Post: I Pledge Allegiance

By Pat Mora & Libby Martinez


PM: I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE is our first co-writing adventure. Did you feel we worked as equals, or did the fact that I asked you to refer to me as Your Ladyship prove an obstacle?

LM: I think the question may give readers the false impression that I am only required to refer to you as Your Ladyship when we are writing together…when, in fact, I am actually required to refer to you in this manner at all times and during all seasons, with each utterance always preceded and followed by a brief curtsy. Is this the correct forum to mention the strict tea and scone rules as well?

PM: Thirty years ago this year, I held my first book in my hands. How did you feel when you held your first copy of I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE?

LM: It was a surreal moment, in the best sense. To feel the glossy cover, to hear the book literally crack open for the first time, to see both of our names together, to see Lobo’s name in the pages and feel her warmth radiating from the exquisite illustrations…it is a moment I will never forget.

PM: You and our aunt (your great-aunt) whom we called Lobo are the central characters in the book. We dedicated the book to this amazingly loving lady. What is a favorite Lobo memory?

LM: Two of my favorite Lobo memories are sitting in our den playing Go Fish and Crazy Eights for hours together, and going to Luby’s cafeteria on Friday for lunch…we both loved coconut cream pie.


 Award-winning PAT MORA’s books include Tomás and the Library Lady and Doña Flor. She is an honorary member of the ALA, the highest honor the association bestows on non-librarian members. Click for more information on Pat

LIBBY MARTINEZ has worked in the Texas political arena, has served as the Director of School and Community Partnerships at the Philadelphia Zoo, and is the founder of a strategy consulting practice. She lives with her husband in Colorado Springs. Click for more information on Libby.

April 02, 2014

Our TLA and IRA author signing schedules

TLA 2014 [San Antonio, TX | April 8-11, 2014 ]

Books will be available immediately before each author’s signing. Books are free, limit one per person.


  • 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. | CHRISTINA GONZALEZ – IN-BOOTH SIGNING
    The Red Umbrella (pb)
    A Thunderous Whisper (pb)
  • 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. | VARIAN JOHNSON – AISLE #7
    Saving Maddie (hc)


  • 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. | E. LOCKHART – AISLE #5
    Lemonade in Winter (hc)
    Water in the Park (hc)
    We Were Liars (hc)
  • 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. | WENDELIN VAN DRAANEN & MARK HUNTLEY PARSONS – AISLE #5
    Road Rash (hc)
    The Running Dream (pb)
    Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief (pb)
    Sammy Keyes and the Killer Cruise (hc)
  • 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. | DAVID LEVITHAN – AISLE #5
    Boy Meets Boy (pb)
    Every Day (pb)
    Two Boys Kissing (hc)
  • 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. | JENNIFER L. HOLM – AISLE #7
    Babymouse #1: Queen of the World (pb)
    Babymouse #2: Our Hero (pb)
    Babymouse #16: Babymouse for President (pb)
    Babymouse #17: Extreme Babymouse (pb)
    Babymouse #18: Happy Birthday Babymouse! (pb)
    Squish #1: Super Amoeba (pb)
    Squish #2: Brave New Pond  (pb)
    Squish #3: The Power of the Parasite (pb)
    Squish #4: Captain Disaster (pb)
    The Fourteenth Goldfish (ARC)
    Penny from Heaven (pb)
    Turtle in Paradise (pb)
    Hattie Ever After (pb)
    Hattie Big Sky (pb)
    The Friendship Doll (pb)
    Better Than You (hc)
    Confessions of a Former Bully (hc)
    The Invisible Boy (hc)
  • 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. | DANA REINHARDT – AISLE #5
    Odessa Again (hc)
    The Summer I Learned to Fly (pb)
    The Things a Brother Knows (pb)
    We Are the Goldens (hc)
  • 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. | PAT MORA – IN-BOOTH SIGNING
    The Beautiful Lady (hc)
    I Pledge Allegiance (hc)


  • 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. | CHRIS GRABENSTEIN – AISLE #2
    Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library (hc)
    The Book of Blood and Shadow (hc)
    The Waking Dark (hc)


IRA [New Orleans, LA | May 10-12]


  • 4:00 – 5:00 P.M. | KIRBY LARSON
    Hattie Ever After (pb)


  • 1:30 – 2:30 P.M. | E. LOCKHART
    We Were Liars (hc)
  • 1:30 – 2:30 P.M. | SARAH MLYNOWSKI
    Don’t Even Think About it (hc)
  • 3:00 – 4:00 P.M. | MATT DE LA PEÑA
    The Living (hc)
  • 3:00 – 4:00 P.M. | MICHAEL D. BEIL
    Lantern Sam and the Blue Streak Bandits (hc)


    High Time for Heroes (hc)
    Heroes for All Times (pb)

March 04, 2014

The Penderwicks

Jeanne Birdsall’s beloved Penderwicks series has been refreshed in paperback!  Brimming with the magic and adventures of summertime, the books are centered on the lives of four charming sisters and their hilarious, often touching, interactions with each other and the world around them. When the first title, The Penderwicks, appeared on shelves, it was a National Book Award winner, a New York Times bestseller, and was named to countless best-of lists.  Its sequels, The Penderwicks on Gardam Street and The Penderwicks at Point Mouette, are equally beloved. (Psst–we have an Educators Guide for the series available to download!)

 Check out the revamped covers below:

A boxed set of the new cover is also available. And get excited, Penderwicks fans!  We’ll have some news in the near future that may interest you…