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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | Kate DiCamillo

Raymie Nightingale

rn200pixDarling Daughter and I host/participate in an occasional parent-child bookgroup for middle-grade readers and their parents. We call it Books & Bagels and we meet at the bagel shop down the street from church and nosh on bagels while talking about books. I think we can safely say the bagel aspect of things increases participation—but all the kids who come are great readers and we love talking with them and their parents about books. We’ve read many of our favorites again with this group and they’ve introduced us to some we’ve missed in the last few years of publication. (Darling Daughter is, alas, outgrowing the middle-grade genre.)

We saved the reading of Kate DiCamillo’s Raymie Nightingale for Books & Bagels. I scheduled it not having read the book, in fact, which is not usually how I do things. But DiCamillo’s books lend themselves to good discussion, I’ve found, so I was sure it would work well for us.

And it did. We talked about the heartbreak and the hope, the crazy characters and their friendships and flaws, and the unlikely events that could absolutely happen. We talked about how it was similar to some of DiCamillo’s other books and how it was different, too. Good discussion all the way around.

I noticed as we talked, however, that one of our regulars—I’ll call him Sam—seemed a bit disgruntled about the book. Sam and I have been discussing books for a long time—he reads both wisely and widely and we have introduced each other to many books over the years. He has just turned ten and he’s honest about what he thinks, though always kind. He’s been taught to speak his mind, but never in a way that would hurt someone else’s feelings—including, say, the author of the book who is not even present.

“Sam,” I said, “it looks like you have something you want to say.”

“Yeah…well,” said Sam. “It was a great book and all…. Well-written, of course. And, I mean, the friendship of Raymie and those other girls was great, I guess. And the lousy adults were interesting…. But—” He paused and looked at his Mom out of the corner of his eye.

“Go ahead, Sam,” she said. “Tell us what you really think.”

“It’s just that…I mean it’s fine…but it’s just…it’s such a girlie book.” He looked both relieved and ashamed at having confessed this. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course.”

I asked gentle clarifying questions. I’m sort of fascinated and appalled by the idea of “girl books” and “boy books.” I want to vehemently argue that those categories don’t exist…or shouldn’t exist…or must not be allowed to exist…or something like that. But before me was a reader insisting that he understood this was a great book, but it just had way too much “girl stuff” in it to be interesting to guys like him.

“Like what kind of girl stuff?” one of the girl readers asked.

“Batons. Barrettes. Dresses.” Sam said. He shrugged apologetically.

Other kids perked up. Right, they said. Lots of girl stuff. No boy stuff whatsoever, in fact.

I was afraid to ask what “boy stuff” they thought was missing. Instead, we talked about whether various (traditionally understood) girl and boy trappings were limited or limiting. These kids know how to have good and honest conversations around perceptions and assumptions and stereotypes. We talked about whether the character of each of the girls was “girl-only.” No, everyone agreed—they knew boys who were painfully shy/anxious, or show-offy, or stubborn, just like each of the three amigos DiCamillo conjured up. They knew both boys and girls who carried heavy loads of expectation, or family distress, or who had trouble making friends. They knew themselves what it was to feel like everything, absolutely everything, depended on them. They could identify with the book—on many levels that had nothing to do with gender. And yet…this was a girlie book—on this they all agreed, as well.

It was a wonderful discussion, really. Honest. Respectful. I thanked Sam for being brave enough to say what he thought. He wondered if Kate DiCamillo made Raymie, Beverly, and Louisiana girls because she was a girl and that’s what she knew best. I said I didn’t know, but I knew that she’d also written books that featured male characters. I told him I’d share my copy of Tiger Rising with him.

As we cleaned up the bagel and cream cheese detritus I asked if anyone could suggest a book or two for our fall Books & Bagels bookgroup. Sam eagerly bounced up and down.

“I have two to suggest!” he said. “Bridge to Terabithia and The BFG.”

Two terrific books. Two terrific books that happen to have strong girl characters. I pointed this out and Sam said, “But not only girl characters. The giant is a boy!”

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Bink and Gollie

Early this morning I read Bink and Gollie books to my nieces. We were killing timeBink&Golliebook-180pix while their parents picked up the rental car for their Great American Summer Roadtrip. To say that the level of excitement was palpable is an understatement—it was a wave that nearly knocked me down when they opened their door. They talked—both of them—nonstop for an hour while we sipped our breakfast smoothies.

Mom and Dad were not back when we sucked down the final drops of smoothie, which was concerning, so anxious were they to get on the road already. I said, “Well, what can we do…that we can put down if your Mom and Dad come back in two minutes…and pick back up after your trip?”

“Books!” said one.

“YEAH—WE CAN READ BOOKS!” said the other.

“On the deck!”

“In the sunshine!”

“Let’s do it!”

And so we took Bink and Gollie with us to the sunny deck. No matter how excited these sweet girls get—and let me tell you, they were excited this morning!—they calm down instantly with a book. Their breathing changes by page two. And so we snuggled up and read, breathing deeply in the early morning sunshine.

I’d forgotten how much of the story is told in the pictures in Bink and Gollie books—and how many words are in the pictures. Labels and instructions, signs and notes, jokes and fun. Because both girls are learning to read, this works really well. I read the story itself and they read the pictures. The pictures are often filled with big words. (So is the story itself—it’s something I appreciate about Kate DiCamillo’s and Alison McGhee’s writing. They do not simplify vocabulary.) Some things we have to sound out together, but the real fun is getting the inflection right. Reading it in our Gollie voice, or like a 1940’s radio advertisement, or like a carnival barker.

Bink and Gollie are opposites in many ways—Gollie is tall and skinny, pragmaticBink&Gollie-180-pix and formal in her speech. She says things like I long for speed. And Greetings. And I beg you not to do that…. My nieces find this amusing. They are also tall and skinny, pragmatic (sometimes, anyway), and hilariously formal in their speech at times.

Bink is short and has hair sticking up all over her head. She loves bright socks and pancakes and peanut butter. No one would call my nieces short. (“We don’t have that problem,” one of them said this morning as we read about Bink ordering a Stretch-o-matic to make herself taller.) But their hair is sometimes Bink-like. And they delight in the simple things of life—including, but not limited to, socks, celebratory pancakes, and peanut butter. They also have Bink’s energy—they yammer, they jump, they zip, they climb and glide.

In short, they love both Bink and Gollie. They are Bink and Gollie—they can relate, as it were. Bink and Gollie have adventures, a sweet friendship, and they rollerskate everywhere—these details light up my sweet girls. They enjoy decoding the words in the pictures and getting the joke. They are envious of the treehouse in which Bink and Gollie live. They’d like to visit Eccles’ Empire of Enchantment—and maybe hit a Bargain Bonanza. (Maybe the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota will satisfy them.)

Bink and Gollie got us almost to Mom and Dad’s return. We did have to take a little field trip to my house (just around the corner) because their cousin was baking scones, but then Mom and Dad were home, the rented Jeep was loaded in record time, and off they went!

I wonder if they’re levitating with excitement in their car seats, chattering away like Bink or saying I long for the mountains…. like Gollie. They invited me to sneak in their car and go with them. Maybe I should’ve taken them up on it.

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Creating a Curriculum and Culture of Kindness in the Classroom

bk_wonder_140by Maurna Rome

When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.” ― R.J. Palacio, Wonder

Wouldn’t our classrooms be grand if students were given opportunities to learn about and experience what being kind looks like, sounds like and feels like on a daily basis? Wouldn’t life be grand if we could all simply choose true collaboration with our teaching colleagues to promote kindness? Wouldn’t our schools be grand if our districts would invest in kindness? My answer is a resounding “YES!” to these questions, and I hope other teachers would agree on all counts.

True, we are faced with constant pressure to prepare students for “those tests.” You know, the ones that are used to determine just how accomplished we teachers and our students are. Many of us still feel the urge to just close the door and do what we do in isolation. And yes, in many districts, significant funding is being used to buy new and comprehensive “core” reading programs (remember those test scores). Yet what about the content of our students’ character? What about their current level of engagement and future happiness? Could the answer be the pursuit of kindness and utilizing authentic literature in our classrooms? Do books really have the power to change lives? Again, my answer is a resounding “YES!”

from Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s “Thought Bubble on Kindness”

Despite the challenges, my incredible colleagues and I have sought out an intentional approach to weave kindness into our teaching. As “humanities” teachers, it seems only fitting that along with lessons on parts of speech, comprehension strategies and writing literary essays, we include a commitment to teaching kindness. It is after all, an integral aspect of belonging to this thing we call humankind.

Smart teachers know there is a sense of urgency in our classrooms. Time is always in short supply while meetings, lesson planning, paper correcting, and grading are a constant demand. It helps to have a team like the one I work with. The strong levels of trust, mutual respect and shared enthusiasm for what we do is invigorating. We encourage each other to want to be the best teachers we can be. We continually brainstorm, test, succeed, fail, and try again, as we share our ideas, resources and instructional strategies with one another. This is a recipe for professional kindness that works. If you want to teach kindness in your classroom, it is much easier if you have camaraderie among your colleagues.

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Global Read Aloud (aka Glow Ball Read Dahl Loud) day. Click to enlarge.

And kids seem to notice when their teachers love what they do. On November 13th, classrooms near and far participated in two simultaneous events: World Kindness Day and Global Read Aloud (aka Glow Ball Read Dahl Loud). My teammates and I wore our glow sticks and ball gowns, while reading poetry by Roald Dahl (loudly). We also shared the short film, Snack Attack, to promote a message of kindness and generate lots of discussion. Our unusual attire and this award-winning movie with a twist were excellent ways to reinforce the concept of “Contrasts and Contradictions” a signpost from Notice and Note; Strategies for Close Reading by Kylene Beers and Robert Probst. 

It’s up to us teachers to work our magic to carve out the time, to create an integrated curriculum and culture of kindness. Kids who learn the importance of kindness are kids who develop empathy and compassion. They are more apt to be selfless in a world where “selfies” rule. Consider these “Words of the Wiser” (another Notice and Note signpost):

I think probably kindness is my number one attribute in a human being. I’ll put it before any of the things like courage or bravery or generosity or anything else. Kindness—that simple word. To be kind—it covers everything, to my mind. If you’re kind that’s it.”  ―Roald Dahl

The following kindness resources have been field-tested and have earned a solid stamp of approval from dozens of wise (and kind) 6-11 year olds.

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 Children’s Picture Books:

  • Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson
  • Have You Filled a Bucket Today by Carol McCloud
  • Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena
  • My Friend is Sad by Mo Willems
  • Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts

YA/Middle Grades Chapter Books:

  • The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
  • The Misfits by James Howe
  • Sahara Special by Esme Raji Codell
  • The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio

In addition to reading books to and with kids to teach kindness, these professional books are well worth the investment of time and money:

  • Beyond Nice: Nurturing Kindness with Young Children by Stuart L. Stotts
  • Bullying Hurts, Teaching Kindness through Read Alouds and Guided Conversations
    by Lester Laminack
  • Secret Kindness Agents: How Small Acts of Kindness Really Can Change the World
    by Ferial Pearson

Finally, if you are looking for ways to bring a kindness campaign to your classroom, consider these special events.

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USBBY Reflections

by Nancy Bo Flood 

Books can help readers heal. Stories can create compassion. Every one needs to find “their story” in books.

flood_USBBY_Logo_1The United States Board on Books for Young People (USBBY) is part of The International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY), a world-wide organization that works to build bridges of understanding through children’s and young adult books.  “A child who reads will be an adult who thinks.”

USBBY/IBBY brings together authors and illustrators, editors, librarians, teachers, and readers who support the creation of books that speak to children and their parents whatever their home country or language. IBBY’s Hans Christian Andersen Medal celebrates the best world-wide author and illustrator whose words and images excite imagination, and its Astrid Lindgren Memorial award is given to authors, illustrators, storytellers, and persons and organizations that work to promote literacy. Each award is selected from the nominations of over a 100 participating regional units, such as USBBY.

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Kate DiCamillo (r) speaking at the opening USBBY session.

This year’s USBBY conference was held in New York City, lower Manhattan. The conference is kept small, under 300 attendees, so the atmosphere is friendly, like old friends coming together to share new ideas, new trends, and new award-winning books from around the world. What a celebration of books! This year the opening speaker was our very own National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Kate DiCamillo. She spoke about her journey from writer to published author.

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Kate DiCamillo signed books and took the time to chat with each person, even me.

Persistence! Kate affirmed that within each of us we have stories to tell. But to successfully move from that first page to a published book, one needs to believe in oneself, write and re-write, and stubbornly pursue the quest of finding the right editor. With humor Kate described her initial ten years of first thinking about writing before actually having the courage to put pen to paper and write. Then came 470 rejection letters. Now Kate has 22 million books in print world-wide, translated into 41 languages. She calls herself a “late-bloomer.” Her first book was published a few years before she turned forty. Even today, Kate is “still surprised that I ever got published.” When asked why her books are read by all ages of readers in countries on every continent, she imagines that somehow the stories she writes have universal appeal because she writes honestly of experiences and emotions we all share – fears and hopes, disappointments and sorrows. Kate asserts, that “the love of story is in the core of humankind.” Through story we step into the heart of another and walk within their journey. Kate also affirms that “every child has the right to learn to read.”

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Susan Cooper signing at USBBY.

This universal love of story was reiterated in a later talk by Susan Cooper, one of England’s greatest storytellers (The Dark is Rising), a creator of many worlds, a writer of fantasy. Susan asked, “is it possible for storytelling, this basic love of story that all cultures share, to be a way to heal the divisions of our world? Through the magic of entering another place, another culture, can we increase compassion and come to accept differences, erase prejudices based on ignorance?” Yes, both Susan and Kate contend, books can build bridges. They can tell universal truths. They can let us walk within the heart and skin of another person and feel “both joy and sorrow as sharp as stones.”

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(l-r) Holly Thompson, Margarita Engle, Padma Venkatraman presented a panel on verse novels.

A child might sit in a classroom, on a park bench, or snuggled under bed covers with a flashlight, and become lost in a book. Or a child might sit in front of a tent in a refugee camp or a detention center near a border crossing. Books let us enter new worlds, consider new ideas, rethink old hates. Both Kate DiCamillo and Susan Cooper agree that stories help us laugh and give us hope.

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(l-r) The war panel: me, Lyn Miller-Lachman, and Terry Farish.

 

This year at the conference I was part of a “war panel.” The smiling trio in the photo, “the war panel,” presented different perspectives about war and the effects on children. Today over forty million children live as refugees. Here in the United States, more veterans—mothers and fathers of children—die from suicide than from combat. How do their children make sense of war? We need well-written books about war so children can find their stories and begin to heal.

Thank you, Colorado Author’s League, for supporting me with a travel grant to attend this USBBY conference. I encourage writers and illustrators to become a member of this international organization. Throughout the year USBBY is involved in a variety of projects that bring appropriate books to children and parents. As Kate DiCamillo stated: “Every child has the right to read.”

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Chris Van Dusen: Illustrating Leroy Ninker Saddles Up

 

Chris Van Dusen

Chris Van Dusen

Leroy Ninker first appeared in Mercy Watson Fights Crime as the criminal. Did you consciously change his appearance for Leroy Ninker Saddles Up to make him a more sympathetic character?

I’m not sure that I consciously changed his appearance. I tried to make him look like the same character. In the original series he was wearing a robber’s mask which gave him a slightly sinister look. Since he’s now a “reformed thief” I removed the mask which made him a warmer and more likeable character which is more fitting for the story.

Your palette for the Deckawoo Drive books has a retro feeling. What do you think decided you on working with the colors you use in those books and now Leroy Ninker Saddles Up?

The original Mercy Watson Series definitely did have a retro feel. The colors I used were similar to those that appeared in the picture books I grew up with – colors that were popular in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s. The new series has BW interior art but I ended up painting the pictures in the same method using gouache.

Cover Sketch

Sketch of a rejected cover idea for Leroy Ninker Saddles Up

When Leroy runs through the neighborhood to rescue Maybelline, you use a fluid line to indicate his rapid motion. For young readers who’d love to draw their own stories, how did you learn to convey action in this way?

Motion lines are a classic cartoon way of showing movement. I probably picked this up from my early interest in comic strips and animation.

How is illustrating a chapter book different from illustrating a picture book?

In a picture book there are fewer words, so the illustrations have to tell more of the story. Also, picture book illustrations are usually larger, often a full spread. In a chapter book, the illustrations support the text rather than tell the story.

What words of advice would you share to encourage young illustrators who’d like to follow in your footsteps?

 You can do it. But you have to keep drawing. Good drawing skills are the basis for any career as an illustrator, animator, cartoonist, painter, etc. 

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A preliminary sketch
for the spread on pages 86 and 87.

 

 

 

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Skinny Dip with Kate DiCamillo

Kate DiCamilloDo you remember any book reports you wrote or gave while in elementary school?

No one has ever asked me this question before! Here is the truth: I don’t remember doing one, single book report. Have I blocked the memories out? Or did I really not do any? I’m thinking it’s the latter. Truly.

Describe your all-time favorite pair of pajamas.

Red flannel. Decorated with dogs. And Milk bones. Divine.

What was the best Halloween costume you’ve ever worn or seen?

I love the Bugs Bunny mask I wore when I was three. I can still smell the interior of that mask. I can still feel the power of *hiding* behind that mask.

Are you good at wrapping presents?

Ha ha ha. I am laughing. And I can hear my mother laughing from the great beyond. I inherited my inability to wrap presents from her. Present-wrapping always ends up with me in the middle of a great big snarl of wrapping paper and scotch tape. Imagine Bink wrapping a present and you get the right visual.

Do you like to cook for friends or meet them at a restaurant?

Still laughing. Cook for friends? Me? I like to go to *their* houses and eat *their* food. But I do take them out to restaurants to return the favor.

Which outdoor activity are you most likely to participate in: running; fishing; leaf raking; parade watching?

Parade watching. I love a parade. And it’s all a parade.

When did you get your first library card, and from what library?

*Swoon* I got my first library card when was I seven. I got it from the Cooper Memorial Public Library.

Favorite bird?

Crow.

 Which children’s book do you wish you’d read as a child?

Matilda. It wasn’t in our school library or the public library. Strange, huh?

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Leroy Ninker Saddles Up! Companion Booktalks

Let these help you get started on the Bookstorm™ books:

Actual SizeActual Size, written and illustrated by Steve Jenkins

  • Animal parts or whole animals shown in actual size (a squid’s eye!)
  • Try to guess the animal by looking at just one part
  • Ideal for comparing and contrasting


Bill PicketBill Picket: Rodeo-Ridin’ Cowboy,
 written by Andrea Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney

  • True story of an African-American rodeo star
  • You won’t believe his trick for quieting bulls and calves
  • Biography of a true-life action superhero


Black Cowboys, Wild HorsesBlack Cowboy, Wild Horses,
 written by Julius Lester, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

  • True story about one of the many African-American cowboys
  • Find all the camouflaged critters!
  • Horses galore!


Cowboy UpCowboy Up! Ride the Navajo Rodeo
, written by Nancy Bo Flood, photographs by Jan Sonnemair

  • You’ve heard of buckin’ broncos—how about buckin’ sheep?
  • Photos of children and teens of the Navajo Nation participating in all the events
  • Poetry, photos, and prose make you feel part of the action


Cowgirl KateCowgirl Kate and Cocoa,
 written by Erica Silverman, illustrated by Betsy Lewin

  • Easy reader with four stand-alone chapters
  • A girl with her very own horse
  • Kate and her contrary horse get into all sorts of trouble


FriendsFriends: True Stories of Extraordinary Animal Friendships,
written by Catherine Thimmesh

  • Friendships between animals of different species—some are very unusual animals
  • What happens to injured wild animals? Learn about animal rehabilitation centers
  • Enticing, immediate photographs


Horse SongHorse Song: the Naadam of Mongolia, written and illustrated by Ted and Betsy Lewin

  • Based on the authors’ own visit to Mongolia
  • Young readers will love riding into competition with 9 year-old jockey Tamir
  • Illustrations bring the Naadam festival to life


In the Days of the VaquerosIn the Days of the Vaqueros,
written by Russell Freedman

  • Who were the first cowboys in the Americas? How were they different from the cowboys in movies?
  • Find out why California Vaqueros would lasso and capture grizzly bears
  • Great material for a report


Just the Right SizeJust the Right Size,
written by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Neal Layton

  • Why can’t there be a real King Kong?
  • Why can geckoes climb on ceilings and humans can’t?
  • Have fun with math (and the cartoon illustrations) to find the answers


Leroy NinkerLeroy Ninker Saddles Up
, written by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen

  • A scary storm, a search for a lost friend, a celebration with friends—exciting action
  • Silly characters and their tongue-twisty, funny dialogue
  • First book in a companion series to the author’s Mercy Watson books—plenty more reading for eager readers


Name JarThe Name Jar
, written and illustrated by Yangsook Choi

  • Classroom story about young Korean immigrant Unhei’s dilemma: should she choose an American name?
  • Warm, simple illustrations that evoke all the emotions and humor
  • Topic of “Your name” makes a wonderful discussion and writing prompt


RainstormRainstorm,
written and illustrated by Barbara Lehman.

  • What do you think about on a rainy day?
  • Mingles a boy’s real and imagined world in a story without words
  • Caldecott Honor author/illustrator

 

Ready Steady SpaghettiReady Steady Spaghetti, by Lucy Broadhurst

  • Cookbook with colorful and engaging photographs—wow factor
  • Uncomplicated recipes for a range of food–vegetarian, desserts, snacks, and more
  • “Swamp Mud” looks delicious!


Star of Wild Horse CanyonStar of Wild Horse Canyon,
written by Clyde Robert Bulla, illustrated by Grace Paull

  • Capturing and taming wild horses!
  • A mystery involving a lost horse—can you solve it before Danny does?
  • Why is the horse named Star?


WindWind
, written by Marion Dane Bauer, illustrated by John Wallace

  • All the facts about this unseen weather element—in text just right for beginning readers
  • Part of a set of four, also including Rain, Snow, and Clouds—great for first science reports
  • And just where does the wind come from?

 

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Horse Stories in Children’s Literature

Leroy Ninker Saddles Up rides on the withers of a great many previous books. A timeline is only an at-a-glance historical survey, of course; still, we created this one to highlight some of the seminal books in a long history of horse stories. 

Horse Story Timeline

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Teaching the Future

by Rob Reid

Animal Shenanigans

Animal Shenanigans, Rob Reid’s latest resource book for teachers, parents, and librarians.

I am fortunate to teach three sections of children’s literature each semester to future elementary teachers, future special education teachers, and future librarians. It’s truly a fun gig. I was asked by the Bookology folks to share those books and topics I teach to these budding professionals.

I open each semester by introducing myself and reading my current favorite interactive picture book. The last few years, it has been Press Here by Hervé Tullet and the students are delighted to know such a book like this exists. I then ask them to tell me what comes to mind when I say, “Children’s Books.” I write their responses on the board and…the same titles appear year after year. Titles from their school years: Arthur, Amelia Bedelia, Magic Treehouse, Harry Potter, Dr. Seuss—the usual suspects. All good choices but no surprises and nothing recently published. That’s my job then for the next 15 weeks: combine history of children’s literature with the best of the newer stuff, so they can share those with kids down the road.

Next, we look at current trends in children’s publishing: trends I pick up from Publishers Weekly, the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, the American Library Association, and my own observations. We also look at the current NY Times bestseller lists for picture books, middle grade books, and series. I read a few of those bestselling picture books to the class as well as selections of the chapter books. (I read aloud children’s books to my college students pretty much every class session.)

I contrast what sells with what wins the numerous awards: quantity vs. quality (and luckily, the two go together with many titles) and how kids need to be exposed to all. Over the semester, my students learn what the following awards are for, who are the most recent winners, and many of the notable past winners: Newbery (and I share my own experience being on that committee), Caldecott, Geisel, Coretta Scott King, Pura Belpré, American Indian Youth Literature, Scott O’Dell, Sibert, Orbis Pictus, and the Schneider Family Award.

Sibk_wonder_140nce that last award originated at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where I teach, and because I have many special education students, we put special emphasis on this award that recognizes portrayals of people with disabilities. As a class, we all read Wonder by R.J. Palacio (before that it was Rules by Cynthia Lord) and I will also be adding El Deafo by Cece Bell this upcoming year as a required read to represent graphic novels (I have been using the first Babymouse and the first Lunch Lady as examples of elementary school graphic novels).

The other required read is Love That Dog, and I introduce the other works of Sharon Creech and Walter Dean Myers (who is a fictionalized character of himself in the book). We look at dozens of poetry books not written by Shel Silverstein (and I have some good Silverstein anecdotes to share) and learn ways to make poetry fun for kids.

Out of My MindStudents pick an elective chapter book from a list I provide (which includes Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry, Out of My Mind, Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, Al Capone Does My Shirts, Coraline, Tale of Despereaux, Princess Academy, Elijah of Buxton, and several more) and they create a literature activity guide to go with their novel.

Students draw the name of a children’s illustrator and put together a PowerPoint to share with the class what they learned about the various artistic elements present in the picture books.

We also look at the timeline of diversity in children’s literature, traditional folklore from around the world, fantasy and science fiction, controversial books, informational books and biographies, easy readers and bridge books, realistic fiction, historical fiction, and Minnesota and Wisconsin book creators (since most of my students are from these two states and we have so many talented, published, award-winning authors and illustrators here).

Each student also has to tell an oral story to the class based on a folktale. They are sent to the 398 section of the library to look through both the picture book editions and anthologies of folktales, learn one, and share it without notes.

We finish the semester with competitive rounds of Kiddie Lit Jeopardy, they fill out their student evaluations that all read “This was a lot of work!” and I send them off to explore the remaining 99% of the wonderful children’s books we didn’t have time to cover in class.

[Reid-Rob-bio]

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Peace

Peace is elusive. It is a goal of some people at some time in some parts of the world. As John Lennon wrote: “Imagine no possessions / I wonder if you can / No need for greed or hunger / A brotherhood of man / Imagine all the people sharing all the world …” Is […]

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The Nature of Humor

I’ve been pondering the many questions I have about the nature of humor as the Chapter & Verse Book Clubs prepare to discuss next week the book Funny Business: Conversations with Writers of Comedy, compiled and edited by Leonard S. Marcus (Candlewick Press). Wherever we go, teachers and librarians—and parents—ask for more funny and light-hearted […]

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Bank Street’s 2010 Choices

We eagerly await the annual list of books chosen by the Bank Street College of Education as books that work well with children from birth to age 14. Each year, the Children’s Book Committee reviews over 6000 titles each year for accuracy and literary quality and considers their emotional impact on children. It chooses the […]

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Award winners, award criteria

Big Bob and The Magic Valentine’s Day Potato Red Reading Boots 1 Several years ago, a mysterious package arrived at our house on Valentine’s Day: a plain brown box addressed to our entire family with a return address “TMVDP.” The package weighed almost nothing. It weighed almost nothing because the box contained four lunchbox serving-size […]

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Monday morning roundup

Hey, Joyce Sidman, your new book, Ubiquitous, has done the Most Unusual … five starred reviews! In 2009, only 13 books received five starred reviews (if you’re curious, check out the Seeing Stars 2009 document, stored on Radar, the CLN members’ home page). Booklist, The Horn Book, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal […]

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