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!

Sunday, February 1, 2015

2014 Nerdy Awards for Early Readers

Interesting, well written books for beginning readers can be a real challenge. Many good writers stay away because of the limited vocabulary and the need to develop  a story in  relatively short number of pages (around a hundred). The  2014 Nerdy Awards for Early Readers and Chapter Books highlights some of the best books for Kindergarten to 3rd grade from last year. Authors include two-time Newbery Medalist, Kate DiCamillo, Newbery Honor recipient, Cynthia Lord and many time Theodor Seuss Gisele Award winner and Honor recipient, Mo Willems. The great Judith Viorst is back with a third Lulu book. Her books have been a hit with kids for at least forty years.

chicken-squadDory FantasmagoryLeroy Ninker Saddles Up



Tomorrow, I’ll be back with the Caldecott and Newbery Medal and Honor winning books plus the Theodor Seuss Gisele winners.