Sunday, December 6, 2015

New York Times Notable Children's Books 2015

Looking for some picture books, middle grade books and/or young adult books to give as presents? Here are the New York Times recommendations for 2015. One of my very favorite books on the middle grade list is Roller Girl, a debut graphic novel by Victoria Jamieson.

Twelve year old Astrid and her best friend, Nicole, have always done everything together. Astrid signs up for Roller Derby Camp expecting Nicole to sign up, too. But Nicole decides to go to Dance Camp instead. A difficult summer follows as Astrid misses her friend, makes new derby friends and learns to be a tough roller girl. At the end of the summer, Nicole and Astrid decide they can do what they each love and still be best friends. Roller girls play under a pseudonym. Astrid chooses, Asteroid. It is amazing how creative the names can be. One of the Astrid's new friends chooses Slay Miserable.

The Sonoma County Library has eleven copies.

A big shout out to Krispy Kreme Her and Suzy Bonebreaker!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

I Yam A Donkey!

Cece Bell, a 2013 Theodor Seuss Geisel Honorary for  Rabbit and Robot: A Sleepover and a Newbery Honorary for El Deafo, has written a hilarious book about grammar and wordplay.

Donkey is not too concerned about pronunciation or grammar. Yam is persnickety about both. Donkey announces,"I yam a Donkey!" Yam tells him that the proper way to say that is,"I am a donkey'."A who's-on-first routine follows as Yam tries to get Donkey to understand the meaning of am and then are versus is which draws a crowd of other vegetables. Finally, Donkey gets it which turns out not to be such a good thing for Yam and his friends.

This is a great read-out-loud book especially if you can channel Abbott and Costello.

The Sonoma County Library has one copy. 

The Day The Crayons Came Home

Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers have collaborated on a sequel to their #1 bestseller, The Day The Crayons Quit!The Day The Crayons Came Home.

Sometime after showing his crayons that he could use them more creatively, Duncan receives a stack of postcards in the mail. The Maroon crayon sent a postcard from the couch. Two years ago, Duncan's dad sat on him and broke him in two. Paperclip saved him and now he is ready to return to Duncan's crayon box.

 Pea Green informed Duncan that since no one likes peas or the color of peas, he has renamed himself Esteban the Magnificent and he is running away to see the world. He sends two more postcards, one asking Duncan to open the front door so he can see the world and another to inform him that he is returning because the world is rainy.

 Neon Red was left behind at the hotel when the family came home from vacation. She is planning on walking home. She sends two more postcards, one from a place with camels and pyramids and another with snow and skis.

Tan crayon (or was he Burnt Sienna?) was eaten by the dog, then puked up on the living room rug. He is now more carpet fuzz than crayon.

 Duncan also hears from Glow in the Dark crayon, Gold crayon, Turquoise crayon, Brown crayon and Chunky Toddler crayon each asking to be rescued. Duncan gathers the neglected, forgotten and damaged crayons and builds a place where each crayon will feel at home.

Kids will love the artwork and story, it irreverent and funny.

The AR is 3.3. The Sonoma County Library has twenty-two copies.

Saturday, November 21, 2015


Kevin Henkes, Caldecott Medalist, Newbery honorary and Theodor Seuss Geisel honorary, has written a new picture book, Waiting. Asked in a Horn Book interview about writing a book about waiting he said, " Children spend a lot of their time waiting. They wait in line. They have to wait their turn. They wait for their birthdays, holidays, weekends, the end of the school day. They seem to be waiting quite a lot, so I thought it would be a good idea for a book."

Five figurines are sitting on a windowsill, looking out the window waiting for something amazing to happen. The pig is waiting for the rain, the bear for the wind to fly his kite, the puppy on his sled waiting for the snow, the owl waiting for the moon and the rabbit was happy just looking out the window. One day an elephant joined them, he stayed awhile but then left forever. A cat with patches joined the animals on the windowsill. What was she waiting for? One day. like a Matryoshka doll, she popped open and four increasingly smaller  kittens popped out. Then there were ten friends looking out the window waiting for something amazing to happen.

The artwork is beautifully spare, we see the window but not the room, even when the elephant falls to the floor and breaks. The figurines move by an unseen hand. The view from the window changes. The text is also spare and the sentences short. The AR is 1.9. The Sonoma County Library has twenty-two copies

Saturday, November 14, 2015

In! Over! And On (The Farm)

Ethan Long, the 2013 Theodor Seuss Geisel  award winner for Up, Tall and High, has a new book aimed at beginning readers: In! Over! And On (The Farm). Using fewer than fifty words, Mr. Long tells three humorous stories illustrating the words in, over and on.

Since this book was recently published, the Sonoma County Library does not yet have the book. But the author has published many other books aimed at Kindergarten, first and second-graders. You can find them here

Monday, November 9, 2015

I Really Like Slop!

Mo Willems' latest Elephant and Piggie book, I Really Like Slop, cracks me up. I have known my fair share of Geralds! Piggie has made her favorite dish: slop. Slop is part of pig culture and Piggie really, really, really likes it. Gerald questions her about the smell and the flies (flies are how you know that the slop is ripe) before Piggie asks him if he wants to try some. Gerald's first reaction is NO WAY! He sees that he has hurt Piggie's feelings so he agrees to try a small taste. Gerald takes a pea sized morsel. It takes him four pages to get it to the tip of his tongue, then we have six pages of Gerald's reaction to the taste while Piggie explains the flavors. Does he  really like slop? Not, but he's glad he tried it because he really likes Piggie.

Mo Willems uses lots of color and pattern to show Gerald's reaction to the slop. It is his most colorful Elephant and Piggie book yet. 

The Sonoma County Library has twenty-eight copies. After being on the market only three weeks, I Really Like Slop, is number one on the New York Times Children's Best Seller List. 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

That's (Not) Mine

Our furry friends from You Are (Not) Small are back in That's (Not) Mine by Anna Kang and illustrated by Christopher Weyant. This time their dispute is about who has possession of a comfy chair. There is more action because of the tactics each uses to get the other one out of the comfy chair.

It takes a little over forty different  words to tell this story about (not) sharing and (not) being a good friend. Eventually, they apologize and go out to play. Like the first book, the font is easy to read and there are just a few words on each page. There are plenty of action words that are easy to sound out, too. The slapstick humor will attract young readers and keep them reading.

The Sonoma County Library currently has two copies

Sunday, November 1, 2015

November is Picture Book Month

 Picture Book Month is an annual celebration of the importance of picture books. They are not just for toddlers. Two of the Caldecott Medal winners in the past decade were for books aimed at a much older audience: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick and Locomotive By Brian Floca.

 Of course, many picture book subjects are aimed at younger children but the content of many is aimed at grade school kids who want to jump to chapter books as quickly as possible. There is a wide array of subjects, both fiction and non-fiction that can enhance grade school kids'  appreciation and understanding of the world around them. Check out The Picture Book Month website to hear from picture book champions why they think picture books are important.
Over the next few weeks, we will be looking at picture books for beginning readers and a few with a more advanced vocabulary and story. 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween!

A Pumpkin Library carved by children and decorated by Truro Public Library (Massachusetts) librarians has gone viral on social media this week. Looks like a cozy place to read, if you ask me.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Stick and Stone

When we first meet Stick and Stone, each is alone and lonely. When both are playing by themselves at the park, Pinecone makes fun of Stone. Stick comes to his rescue, banishing Pinecone. The two become fast friends and have fun together until a hurricane separates them. After the storm, Stone sets out to find Stick, searching day and night until he finds him stuck upside down in a mud puddle. Now it is Stone's turn to save his friend.

This simple story is written by first time author, Beth Ferry, and illustrated byTom Lichtenheld. It is a perfect book for  beginning readers. The text is minimal and the illustrations advance the story without unnecessary visual clutter. The font is large and bold and the words are well-spaced. Most of the words can be sounded out by a first grader, It is a funny story about kindness and friendship and in the case of Pinecone, redemption.

Stick and Stone is available at the Yulupa Library and Sonoma County Library. The AR is 1.2.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Book With No Pictures

Reading aloud to your child is an important part of raising a reader. The writer, Emilie Buchwald,  says that "children are made readers in the laps of their parents".

 The Book With No Pictures will delight children of all ages.I dare you to find a kid who would not sit through a reading of this book. It makes grown ups say silly things. What kid wouldn't like that?

A book without pictures may seem boring and serious (according to author B.J. Novak), BUT "Everything the words say, the person reading the book has to say. No matter what." Even  if the words aren't even words like blork or bluurf or if you have to read like a robot monkey or even sing a song about eating ants for breakfast. The book provides all the  words for you to say, even the asides.

The Yulupa Library has one copy, The Sonoma County Library has twenty-one copies. Scholastic is now selling the book as well. Strawberry's Book Fair will be from Friday, November 13 to Friday, November 20, 2015.

Monday, October 12, 2015

More Schools of Hope Resources

The Five Finger Rule to help a child find the “just right” book.
Instructions for making a word game based on dominoes. We are encouraged to play a game with our students at the end of a tutoring session. This is an easy one to make yourself.

Schools of Hope Tutor Resources

Welcome to the new and returning Schools of Hope tutors. For those of us who like instant gratification, this is a great way to spend an afternoon. Yulupa uses the PALS (Peer Assisted Learning Strategies) from Vanderbilt University. You can read about the program here. We use a slightly different version of PALS but the principles  are the same.
When many of us went to school, the most used reading method was Whole Word (the Dick and Jane days). If you would like to review the letter sounds, you can go to Alphabet SoundsSpring Creek Elementary made a video of a tutoring session. They do no use the same materials as Yulupa, but it gives you some idea of the flow.
If you need some additional insight check out this  Advanced Tutor Training by MaryAnn Nichol. She is a professor at Sonoma State and is part of the team doing research on Schools of Hope.
Finally, for more ideas to help you with your students, just click on the Schools of Hope tag at the bottom of this post or in the left hand column on this blog.

Sight Words

Yulupa uses a phonics based reading program, but there are plenty of commonly used words in the English language that do not follow the the “Rules”. These words are called Sight Words: the, and, see, come, go, know; you get the drift. By the end of first grade a child should know over a hundred of these words.

 This Reading Mama has a great article about the development of word learning as it pertains to sight words. Most of the students we see in Schools of Hope are in the second phase. These learners typically know basic letter sounds but not more complex ones like sh or th; they do not have strong decoding skills and rely on pictures and cues like the first and last letter to read words they don’t know.

Sight words are  introduced in the classroom gradually. Schools of Hope tutors review current sight words with their students every week. There are fun ways to do this. I have a couple of Sight Word Bingo games and a Picture Word Bingo game.

I found these games locally back when we had a teacher store in town but they are available like almost everything else, at Amazon. Another game that kids like to play is Pop for Sight Words. There is a second version appropriate for late first grade and second grade.  I found the original game here in town but it both are also available at Amazon.

The Reading Mama, Becky Spence, has more than a dozen free printable sight word games here. Scroll down to the list under sight words and click on any of the games that interest you. All of these games are far more fun than drilling with flash cards while accomplishing the same goal.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Children’s Book Week 2015

May 4-10, 2015 is Children’s Book Week the 96th year of celebrating books for young people and the joy of reading.


This year’s poster is by Grace Lin, author of the Newbery Honor book When the Mountain Meets the Moon.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Leroy Kinker Saddles Up


Leroy Ninker Saddles Up_thumb[1]

Leroy is meant to be a cowboy. He has boots, a hat and a lasso; what he doesn’t have is a horse. He answers an ad for a horse for sale. Maybelline is a particular horse, she likes sweet talk, she eats  lots of grub and she gets lonesome. She is past her prime, way past actually. It is love at first sight for Leroy and Maybelline. Leroy learns to take particular care of Maybelline and they are getting along well until a thunderstorm comes along. Like in all love stories, Leroy’s true love is lost but he finds her again. And they live happily ever after.

Leroy appeared in the third book of the Mercy Watson series by Kate Di Camillo, Mercy Watson Fights Crime. Mercy and hot buttered toast make an appearance in Leroy Ninker Saddles Up. It is illustrated by Chris Van Dusen. Several copies and formats are available at the Sonoma County Library.

Dory Fantasmagory

Dory Fantasmagory
Dory is the youngest child in her family,. She is curious and has plenty of imagination. All she really wants is to be invited to play with her sister, Violet and brother, Luke. They think she acts like a baby and  find her annoying. All they really want is for Dory to leave them alone. Violet and Luke tell Dory about Mrs. Gobble Cracker, who is 507 years old with very sharp teeth and steals baby girls. They have heard that Mrs. Gobble Cracker is looking for Dory so she’d better stop acting like a baby.  Dory and her imaginary friend, Mary, concoct schemes to evade Mrs. Gobble Cracker which continue to annoy her siblings. After vanquishing Mrs. Gobble Cracker, she saves the day (or the doll)  which keeps Violet and Luke from getting into trouble. In gratitude she is invited to play.
Dory Fantasmagory is written and illustrated by new author Abby Hanlon.  There are several copies available at the Sonoma County Library. A sequel, Dory and the Real True Friend will be published on July 7, 2015. My six year old granddaughters love this book. It is a great read-a-loud book, too.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Free Money!

Last year, James Patterson, author of numerous books for adults and children gave one million dollars in grants to independent bookstores. This year he has pledged 1.25 million for school libraries. You can find the details and application here. Scholastic will match each dollar of the grant with bonus points for the classroom. James Paterson grant

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Mattie Washburn Students Celebrate Dr. Seuss’ Birthday

Yesterday, Windsor’s Mattie Washburn students and teachers celebrated the birth of Dr. Seuss by reading. It was part of the annual Read Across America Day.

read across america

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss

March 2 is the 111th anniversary of the birth of Theodor Seuss Geisel. For 18 years the National Education Association has celebrated the birthday of Dr. Seuss  as Read Across America Day, with the purpose of motivating children and teens to read.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Nana in the City

As a young child, I was much like the narrator of this story. A young boy goes to visit his Nana in the big city. He loves his Nana but not the noisy, busy and scary city. I grew up in suburbia. When I was six my grandmother moved to the city. Even though it was only a half hour bus ride away, it was a whole different world. Like our young protagonist, my grandmother introduced me to the wonders of the city.

Nana in the city

While our young hero was sleeping, his Nana knitted him a red cape to wear on their walk. It made him feel brave. This time though the city was busy and loud, it was not scary. Lauren Castillo wrote and illustrated Nana in the City. She was awarded a 2015 Caldecott Honor. The Sonoma County Library has several copies.

The Importance of Parents Reading Aloud to Big Kids

Most parents recognize the importance of reading to preschoolers and emerging readers, but when kids start to read on their own the read-a-louds stop. kids. Scholastic published a survey of kids 6-17 (Scholastic Kids and Family Reading Report), 83% of those kids love(d) or like(d) to be read to at home. Only 17% of parents with kids aged 9-11 are still reading aloud at home. My son-in-law is part of that 17%. His experience reading nightly with his older kids is very similar to the benefits Melissa Taylor outlines in this article in Brightly.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Easy Readers That are Actually Easy

As the grandmother of four book-obsessed girls aged 4-5 1/2 (that 1/2 is VERY important to the two girls who are that age), I have been on the lookout for really easy readers. The youngest, who just turned four, has decided that she will learn to read this winter. I gave her some of the books mentioned in this blog post by Erica at the What Do We Do All Day blog. Kids like humor and get a great sense of accomplishment being able to read a book by themselves. The Five Finger Rule will be easy to obey with a few of the books because they have less than five words. Perfect for emerging readers!

I have used Ball by Mary Sullivan to teach reading with expression.


Up, Tall and High
by Ethan Long was awarded the Theodor Seuss Gisele Medal in 2013.


Our good friend, Mo Willems, appears a couple of times on this list, as well. One new book with very few words that is not on Erica’s list is the 2015 Theodor Seuss Gisele Medal winner, You Are (Not) Small, by Anna Kang illustrated by Christopher Weyant.

You Are Not Small

The author uses fewer than twenty different words to tell a funny story about size: it is all relative.

Monday, February 2, 2015

2014 Nerdy Awards for Middle Grade Fiction

Now that  The American Library Association’s Newbery Committee has announced  their choices for the Newbery Medal and Honors, let’s look at some other worthy books from 2014. The Nerdy Book Club’s list of outstanding books is longer and frequently more accessible. My favorite book from the list is A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd.No surprises here as I love spunky southern girl heroines.

snickerI also love The Ghosts of Tupelo Hollow, a sequel to the 2013 Newbery Honor book, Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage, a mystery (with a ghost) that fits right into the spunky southern girl category. the-ghosts-of-tupelo-landing


The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm has a spunky heroine, but it takes place in the San Francisco Bay Area. Ellie must deal with her grandfather who has found the fountain of youth. He is an old man in a 13 year old body. The story actually gets into the ethics of immortality.



A few days before Christmas a number of guests arrive at a  smuggler’s inn run by Milo’s adoptive parents in the Greenglass House by Kate Milford.  Each guest has a secret reason for being there and as each guest begins to tell their story, Milo and his new friend Meddy try to find the truth about Greenglass House and themselves. Meddy has a surprise for everyone (and let’s face it, me too) at the end.


Half A Chance by Cynthia Lord is about Lucy, her new home on a lake, the boy summering with his grandmother next door named  Nate, photography, kayaking and Nate’s Grandmother’s slowly fading memory. Like her Newbery Honor book Rules, there is no miracle cure or sentimentality, just a coming to grips with a reality.


Revolution by Deborah Wiles is a mix of historical fiction and news stories and pictures from Freedom Summer 1964 in Greenwood, Mississippi. Most of the fictional chapters are narrated by Sunny, an almost thirteen year old white girl and the rest are narrated by Ray, a fourteen year old African-American boy. They meet for the first time on June 21, 1964 at night in a “whites only” swimming pool. People are arriving in Greenwood from up north to help African-Americans register to vote. Real historical figures like Martin Luther King, Stokely Carmichael and Bob Moses are woven into this meticulously researched story. Segregation is not glossed over. It is a great book for a mature middle grader and a young adult or adult reader. As the people who lived that summer age and die off, this book will become even more important.


How to Outrun a Crocodile when Your Shoes Are Untied by Jess Keating is a humorous look at being in the seventh grade, living in a zoo, dealing with the Sneers and your best friend moves to New Zealand.



You can find more recommendations at    2014 Nerdy  Awards for Middle Grade Fiction.

2015 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus written by Jen Bryant was named as the most distinguished informational book for children. The book also received a Caldecott Honor for the beautiful illustrations by Melissa Sweet.

The Right Word

Five Honor books were named: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion & the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming, Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker written by Patricia Hruby Powell and illustrated by Christian Robinson, Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great White Sharks of California’s Farallon Islands written and illustrated by Katherine Roy and Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiah.

Brown Girl DreamingThe Family RomanovJosephine

Neighborhood SharksSeparate Is Never Equal

It was quite a morning for Jacqueline Woodson. She won a Newbery Honor and the Coretta Scott King Award as well as a Siebert Honor. Last fall Brown Girl Dreaming won the National Book Award for children’s literature.

Theodor Seuss Geisel Award

It was a busy morning at the American Library Association meeting in Chicago. Another category that is pertinent to this blog is the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for the most distinguished beginning reader book. The Award winner is You Are (Not) Small written by Anna Kang and illustrated by Christopher Weyant.
You Are Not Small
The Honors were awarded to Mr. Putter & Tabby Turn the Page written by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Arthur Howard and Waiting Is Not Easy written and illustrated by Mo Willems.
Mr Putter & Tabby Turn the page

2015 Newbery Medal

Earlier this morning the John Newbery Medal for outstanding contribution to children’s literature was awarded to The Crossover by Kwame Alexander.
The Crossover
Two Honor books were named: El Deafo by Cece Bell and Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson.
El DeafoBrown Girl Dreaming
There has been a big push for more diverse books in children’s literature for several years. All three of these books qualify in one category or another. Another interesting thing is that two of these books are written in verse and one is a graphic novel aimed at middle graders. Brown Girl Dreaming also received the Coretta Scott King Book Award which recognizes an African-American author of outstanding books for children and young adults. The Crossover was awarded an Honor in the same category.
2014 was a banner year for middle grade fiction. Later today I’ll post the Nerdy Book Awards for Middle Grade fiction to give you some idea of what the Newbery committee looked at in their deliberations.

2015 Caldecott Awards

This morning the 2015 Caldecott Medal was given to  The Adventures of Beekle, The Unimaginary Friend  written and illustrated by Dan Santat.
The Honors went to Nana in the City written and illustrated by Lauren Castillo
Nana in the city
and The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art illustrated by Mary GrandPre and written by Barb Rosenstock:
The Noisy Paint Box
and Sam and Dave Dig A Hole illustrated by Jon Klassen and written by Mac Barnett:
sam and dave dig a hole
and Viva Frida written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales:
Viva Frida
and The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus Illustrated by Mellisa Sweet and written by Jen Bryant:
The Right Word
and finally, This One Summer illustrated by Jillian Tamaki and written by Mariko Tamaki.
This One Summer
There are three biographies among the Honor books plus a graphic novel aimed at tens. Very interesting to say the least!