Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Penny Candy Books

Imag­ine walk­ing into an old-time dry-goods store.  Hear the wood­en floor squeak.  Peer through the glass case at the won­drous dis­play of pen­ny can­dy.  Close your eyes and taste your favorite … root beer bar­rels,  red-wax lips, ropes of red licorice.

Penny Candy BooksInstead of sug­ary sweets, Pen­ny Can­dy Books offers a selec­tion of books that delight, engage, and chal­lenge.  Their books reflect today’s glob­al con­cerns.  Pen­ny Candy’s vision is to work with a vari­ety of authors and illus­tra­tors to offer impor­tant sto­ries well told by a diver­si­ty of voic­es. Found­ed in 2015 by poets Alex­is Org­era and Chad Reynolds, Pen­ny Can­dy released its first title in the fall of 2016.  Pen­ny Can­dy’s imprint, Pene­lope Edi­tions, released its first title in Jan­u­ary 2017.

I asked Chad Reynolds, head of mar­ket­ing, to describe the vision of this new press.  I was struck with how sev­er­al of his phras­es echoed how I would describe their wide vari­ety of books: “few words, impor­tant ideas … small press, big con­ver­sa­tions … not afraid to take risks … an engaged world view.”  As stat­ed on the Pen­ny Can­dy web­site, we will not exclude any­one from our cat­a­log, we focus on under­rep­re­sent­ed, unheard, or for­got­ten voic­es.

Tell us about a few of your recent pub­li­ca­tions and why they are unique.

HedyPCB: We are very proud of our Spring 2019 cat­a­log. We have five titles that touch on a vari­ety of sub­jects, such as Hedy Lamar­r’s work as an inven­tor; how a lit­tle girl feels when her grand­moth­er in India dies; a book about a boy with a phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ty; anoth­er one about depor­ta­tion; and a friend­ship book using com­pound words to tell a sto­ry. The “com­pound book,” Be/Hold: A Friend­ship Book,” feels both utter­ly unlike any­thing I’ve seen and also very famil­iar.

Intrigued, I asked Chad addi­tion­al ques­tions:

What is the pas­sion that gives you the courage to cre­ate and pub­lish books?

PCB: We were inspired by a series of op-eds in the New York Times sev­er­al years ago by Wal­ter Dean Myers and his son Christo­pher, who called out the lack of diver­si­ty in chil­dren’s lit. We want­ed to be part of a grow­ing num­ber of pub­lish­ers who val­ue real diver­si­ty and who want to have con­ver­sa­tions around that. It’s been grat­i­fy­ing and encour­ag­ing to see the enthu­si­as­tic respons­es our titles have been getting–and I don’t just mean sales.

A Card for My FatherFor exam­ple, when Saman­tha Thorn­hill vis­it­ed a school in D.C. to dis­cuss her book about a child who does­n’t know her father because he’s incar­cer­at­ed, there was one child in par­tic­u­lar who was real­ly engaged in the con­ver­sa­tion. Appar­ent­ly, this child had nev­er opened up, was always reserved and with­drawn, and in fact often got in trou­ble for pick­ing fights and talk­ing back. But when Sam vis­it­ed, he opened up and after­wards shared he could empathize with the main char­ac­ter because he too had vis­it­ed his father in prison and it was a scary place. It’s sto­ries like this that give us the pas­sion to cre­ate and pub­lish books.

What do you want librar­i­ans and teach­ers to know about your vision of a good book? 

Henry, the BoyPCB: We think our motto—small press, big conversations—does a nice job of cap­tur­ing what our books are about. We want to remem­ber who our main audi­ence is—kids.  We want our books to spark big con­ver­sa­tions between kids and adults about time­ly, impor­tant top­ics. We feel that our titles—whether they be about parental incar­cer­a­tion, a boy with a phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ty, or the impor­tance of see­ing past stereotypes—will be a won­der­ful tool in many set­tings.

Also our aes­thet­ic is inten­tion­al­ly dif­fer­ent from most press­es. Our cus­tom­ary trim size at 6.5″ W by 8.5″ tall is a bit small­er than most pic­ture books because we want peo­ple to see a book and say, oh there’s a new Pen­ny Can­dy title! We don’t require our books to be a cer­tain page length—some have been 36 pages and oth­ers are up to 68! We don’t require peo­ple to sub­mit via agents. We want to cast a wide net, to give peo­ple out­side the nor­mal chan­nels a chance to let us fall in love with the sto­ries they’ve cre­at­ed.

We aren’t afraid to take risks.

What are your visions and hopes for the future of children’s lit­er­a­ture?

PCB: I think chil­dren’s lit­er­a­ture is bet­ter than it’s ever been. We’re in a good moment, with the #own­voic­es move­ment offer­ing some pro­found sto­ries and per­spec­tives and with the high qual­i­ty of pic­ture books, mid­dle grade, and young adult nov­els. I think kid-lit has always had a vital role in deliv­er­ing hard truths to kids in ways they can under­stand. Think Aesop’s Fables or Grimms’ fairy tales or the work of Hans Chris­t­ian Ander­sen. I think kid-lit can remain rel­e­vant if it helps chil­dren make sense of their world—and there’s a lot to make sense of now. 

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Five Things I Learned
Writing My First Picture Book Biography

You would think that being friends with Tanya Lee Stone would mean I wrote lots of non­fic­tion. But the truth is, until I decid­ed to try and write a biog­ra­phy of Rube Gold­berg, I stayed far away from this genre. As a read­er, I loved it. As a friend, I learned so much read­ing Tanya’s work—not just about the facts—but about the foun­da­tions of sto­ry­telling. But I was hes­i­tant to dive in. Maybe it was the research she had to do. Maybe I lacked con­fi­dence. But when I began my chal­lenge to “write what I didn’t think I was good at,” (a chal­lenge made to decrease my own per­fec­tion­ist ten­den­cies and expec­ta­tions), I found myself enjoy­ing every aspect of this craft.

If you are also inter­est­ed in writ­ing some­thing true—as in non­fic­tion true—here are some things I learned writ­ing Just Like Rube Gold­berg, my first pic­ture book biog­ra­phy!

  1. You need to read care­ful­ly. This may seem obvi­ous, but as a fic­tion read­er, I was used to infer­ring from the text. When you are read­ing to dis­cov­er your true sto­ry, don’t skim! Don’t infer! Take care­ful notes. It’s not like read­ing a nov­el. It’s like going deep sea div­ing for some­thing pre­cious. As you read sources, you are look­ing for TRUTH. Don’t for­get to keep a list of your sources. And every fact needs to be con­firmed in mul­ti­ple places. When I think about it, it’s not that dif­fer­ent from cre­at­ing a char­ac­ter in a nov­el. I have to get to the heart of the person—the ele­ment that will con­nect that per­son to the read­er. But in this case, it has to be true!
  2. Just like in fic­tion, your theme or through-line will appear. The more you get to know your sub­ject, the clear­er THE WHY will become. If you have a hunch about a per­son, time, or place, fol­low that hunch! Keep read­ing! Look for the glim­mer that offers a foun­da­tion and struc­ture to tell the sto­ry.
  3. It’s fun. This was per­haps the biggest sur­prise! I actu­al­ly like research a lot. I loved going to the library. I loved talk­ing to peo­ple about Rube. I also find myself look­ing for sto­ries with new enthu­si­asm. True sto­ries are inspir­ing! They are some­times whack­i­er than fic­tion!
  4. Edi­tors and copy edi­tors are your best friends! (Well, I actu­al­ly knew that already, but I can’t leave them out of this post!) When you start find­ing your voice, you need your team to tell you when you have tak­en a lib­er­ty. For me, writ­ing this book almost became a Rube Gold­berg machine! But as my edi­tor pushed me, I also found new facts that made the sto­ry even stronger!
  5. Your voice is the glim­mer! Your voice is what will invite read­ers into your true sto­ry. Your point of view will offer your read­ers the truth in a way that engages them and makes them want to read and learn more!

Writ­ers, even though I am inter­est­ed in all kinds of top­ics, I stayed away from non­fic­tion for a real­ly long time. Well, not any­more! Per­haps the best ben­e­fit to try­ing non­fic­tion is that it gave me a new way to use my brain and play with cre­ativ­i­ty. It gave me more ener­gy for my nov­el. It sparked new inspi­ra­tion for oth­er pic­ture books that had been in the draw­er for a long time. Best of all, inspi­ra­tion comes in all sorts of ways. I am get­ting ready to sub­mit a sto­ry that came from research­ing anoth­er sto­ry! Remem­ber: writ­ing and all its parts, includ­ing dis­cov­ery, is a prac­tice! Writ­ing non­fic­tion has giv­en me more sta­mi­na for all my sto­ries!

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Teaching Is an Art

I recent­ly received a mes­sage from my friend, Amir:

Mau­r­na, I want­ed to get your feed­back on this arti­cle. I taught Eng­lish for 8+ years and my final M.Ed. project was on read­ing, so this is a pas­sion of mine. When I used to pre­pare NYC pub­lic school teach­ers for their licens­ing exams, they would like­ly do bet­ter on the read­ing pas­sages if they had more back­ground knowl­edge, even though that knowl­edge was not need­ed. I won­der if we are being unre­al­is­tic in our teach­ing of read­ing?”

The arti­cle, “Why We’re Teach­ing Read­ing Com­pre­hen­sion in a Way That Doesn’t Work” was writ­ten by Natal­ie Wexler and pub­lished by Forbes mag­a­zine a few months ago. The title and Amir’s won­der­ing about whether we teach­ers are out of touch or imprac­ti­cal struck a nerve and launched weeks of fur­ther read­ing, reflect­ing, writ­ing, rewrit­ing, and rest­less nights. I felt my ini­tial response was too defen­sive and I was deter­mined to find a lev­el-head­ed way to share my take on the arti­cle. I gained empa­thy for my stu­dents who strug­gle dai­ly with writing—it has always come eas­i­ly for me but not this time. I felt like the kid who gets so frus­trat­ed with their writ­ing that they scrunch their paper into a wadded-up ball then chuck it into the garbage can only to retrieve it, smooth it out to read it over, and try to fix it one more time. I reached out to my lit­er­a­cy-guru teacher friends and asked for their hon­est feed­back on my writ­ing. And final­ly, I decid­ed to try start­ing over in an effort to find my voice and say what real­ly needs to be said.

The arti­cle by Wexler, like much of her writ­ing over the years, sounds the alarm for all the things woe­ful­ly wrong with today’s edu­ca­tion sys­tem. Her laun­dry list of com­plaints includes dan­ger­ous­ly inad­e­quate teacher edu­ca­tion pro­grams, teach­ers and pro­fes­sors who ignore the need to under­stand and teach phon­ics, teach­ers who present les­son after les­son on com­pre­hen­sion strate­gies instead of build­ing back­ground knowl­edge, teach­ers who focus on inde­pen­dent read­ing lev­els instead of push­ing text that is much more sophis­ti­cat­ed and advanced, teach­ers wast­ing time on things not endorsed by the Nation­al Read­ing Pan­el, and, final­ly, teach­ers who chal­lenge or flat out refuse to con­sid­er sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly-backed research on how read­ing pro­fi­cien­cy is acquired and should be taught. It is quite the list.

At first, I thought the best approach was to pick apart Wexler’s writ­ing, first by sum­ma­riz­ing it and then offer­ing my stance on whether I agreed or dis­agreed with her asser­tions. In order to accom­plish that, I exam­ined just about every link or ref­er­ence in her arti­cle (more than two dozen). This is where I encoun­tered the most dif­fi­cul­ty in my ear­li­er attempts to com­pose an answer for my friend Amir.

There was just so much that didn’t sit right with me. Wexler, along with her col­league Emi­ly Han­ford, and many oth­er “edu­ca­tion writ­ers” refer to The Nation­al Read­ing Panel’s report from 2001 to strength­en their case for empha­siz­ing the “sci­ence” of teach­ing read­ing. Yet an arti­cle writ­ten by Joann Yatvin, a mem­ber of the NRP, decries the report for being huge­ly mis­in­ter­pret­ed and mis­used. Yatvin might hold the “minor­i­ty view” of the NRP, but her exposé of the panel’s report as “nar­row, biased, and elit­ist” can­not and should not be ignored.

When con­sid­er­ing Ms. Wexler’s arti­cle title about why we’re teach­ing read­ing in a way that doesn’t work, I con­sid­ered shar­ing a snap­shot of what she or any­one vis­it­ing my class­room might find hap­pen­ing in Room 212 when it comes to lit­er­a­cy learn­ing:

  • Kids writ­ing let­ters to authors of books they’ve fall­en in love with.
  • Kids doing research and writ­ing about a wide range of self-select­ed top­ics such as home­less­ness, African Amer­i­can mol­e­c­u­lar biol­o­gist Ernest Everett Just, and ancient civ­i­liza­tions (to name just a few).
  • Kids with voice and choice beg­ging for more time to read inde­pen­dent­ly.
  • Kids ask­ing to stay in from recess, so they can do more writ­ing.
  • Kids per­form­ing lit­tle plays for younger stu­dents.
  • Kids doing art.
  • Kids engaged in joy­ful learn­ing.
  • Kids learn­ing how to be cre­ative prob­lem solvers, open-mind­ed risk tak­ers, and kind, com­pas­sion­ate peo­ple.

I would love to ask Ms. Wexler to explain what it is exact­ly that isn’t work­ing in our vibrant learn­ing com­mu­ni­ty?!

teaching writing

What about Amir’s ques­tion: are we being unre­al­is­tic in our teach­ing of read­ing? My answer would have to be, “Yes.” In my opin­ion, edu­ca­tion writ­ers like Wexler and Han­ford, leg­is­la­tors all across the coun­try, and even school admin­is­tra­tors are being unre­al­is­tic when they sug­gest that the best or only answer to improved read­ing pro­fi­cien­cy (aka bet­ter read­ing test scores) is a script­ed, pack­aged, read­ing cur­ricu­lum that is hell-bent on push­ing core knowl­edge or huge dos­es of phon­ics. Wexler believes that the bright spot on the hori­zon is the uptick in “ele­men­tary lit­er­a­cy cur­ric­u­la designed to build stu­dents’ knowl­edge.” What a sad state­ment on so many lev­els. Insist­ing teach­ers fol­low a man­u­al for a pro­gram that touts “sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly-backed research” is not the answer. A one-size-fits-all approach to teach­ing read­ing com­pre­hen­sion is not the answer.

I must acknowl­edge that I, too, am being unre­al­is­tic. I have a deep pas­sion for teach­ing and for lit­er­a­cy. It’s hard for me to admit, but I know not all teach­ers share that pas­sion. Not all teach­ers have had the same good for­tune I’ve had to learn from won­der­ful men­tors. Not all teach­ers are encour­aged to take risks and feel con­fi­dent in what they can accom­plish with their stu­dents. For many dif­fer­ent rea­sons, it is sad but true, there are adults in teach­ing roles (luck­i­ly in my expe­ri­ence, I’ve met only a few) who see them­selves as babysit­ters, are not inter­est­ed in life-long learn­ing, and occa­sion­al­ly act like they don’t even like kids. I wish I had an answer about how to guar­an­tee all teach­ers were high­ly qual­i­fied, filled with pas­sion, and loved kids. But I would bet my bot­tom dol­lar that the vast major­i­ty of teach­ers strive to achieve these qual­i­ties, despite being blamed so often for all that’s wrong with edu­ca­tion.

library

Wexler, along with oth­er edu­ca­tion com­men­ta­tors and researchers seem to know all about “the sci­ence” of read­ing. They vol­un­teer as tutors. They test stu­dents to deter­mine whether they are pro­fi­cient read­ers using their own cri­te­ria or high stakes tests that are rid­dled with bias. They are quick to point out all the things that are wrong with today’s teach­ers and class­rooms and then they offer their easy-to-fix-it solu­tions (“buy a bet­ter read­ing cur­ricu­lum, teach more con­tent so stu­dents gain more back­ground knowl­edge”).

The glar­ing prob­lem from my van­tage point, how­ev­er, is what they don’t do.

  • They don’t seem to get it that spend­ing 165 days a year with a group of 25–30 won­der­ful­ly diverse and bril­liant kids might gar­ner them more street cred.
  • They don’t seem to get it that improv­ing vocab­u­lary and back­ground knowl­edge starts with improv­ing the severe eco­nom­ic and racial divides in our soci­ety that cre­ate class­rooms filled with “haves” and “have-nots.”
  • They don’t seem to get it that the kids who lack ade­quate vocab­u­lary and back­ground knowl­edge are often kids who have not had the ben­e­fit of attend­ing pre-school.
  • They don’t seem to get it that while the “sci­ence” of teach­ing read­ing is impor­tant, the “art” of teach­ing read­ing is and should be of even greater stature.
  • And final­ly, they real­ly don’t seem to get it that we teach kids before we teach read­ing, writ­ing, math, sci­ence, or any oth­er sub­ject.

teaching science

No, Ms. Wexler, our teach­ers and schools are not fail­ing because we are ignor­ing the research and are not impart­ing enough knowl­edge. How­ev­er, we teach­ers, the major­i­ty of us who invest extra time, our own mon­ey, our heart and soul, who spend day after day, year after year, with dozens, even hun­dreds of kids (who for many of us become a sec­ond fam­i­ly), we teach­ers have a pletho­ra of knowl­edge that only teach­ers have. It’s knowl­edge that can’t be learned until you begin your first day on the job. We do what­ev­er it takes to know, real­ly know, our stu­dents. We also know that kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. And that kind of knowl­edge won’t be found in any lit­er­a­cy cur­ric­u­la. That kind of knowl­edge is what I believe makes teach­ing read­ing a work of art.

A final note to my friend, Amir. You men­tioned help­ing teach­ers pre­pare for the teach­ing exams and not­ed that they did bet­ter if they had more back­ground knowl­edge. I can­not dis­pute the fact that more back­ground knowl­edge comes in handy when tak­ing a test and it most def­i­nite­ly makes a dif­fer­ence when it comes to com­pre­hen­sion.

There is a seri­ous need for stu­dents, espe­cial­ly Eng­lish lan­guage learn­ers, to gain as much back­ground knowl­edge and vocab­u­lary as pos­si­ble.

All kids must have a sol­id foun­da­tion that includes phon­ics and phone­mic aware­ness so that sol­id decod­ing will lead to flu­en­cy which opens the door to greater com­pre­hen­sion and vocab­u­lary. The goal is to not only teach kids how to read, but to instill the desire to want to read. The sci­ence is there but the art is achieved by inspir­ing kids to devel­op a love of read­ing.

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Watching for the Brown Truck

mouse in the houseA few years back, I had one fright­en­ing week. I had my head down, work­ing hard, when I heard a com­mo­tion out­side. I got up to look out my front win­dow and saw the SWAT team march­ing towards my house, car­ry­ing guns and wear­ing bul­let-proof vests. Once the sound of the news heli­copters alert­ed me to turn on the TV, I found out what was going on: there had been a work­place shoot­ing in my nor­mal­ly qui­et neigh­bor­hood, and at first law enforce­ment thought the gun­man might be on the loose.

Things even­tu­al­ly went back to being qui­et here, but they’re not the same. There’s an almost tan­gi­ble sor­row hang­ing in the air because of the lives lost. I can’t help but remem­ber the care that our neigh­bor­hood UPS dri­ver, one of those killed, always took to hide my pack­ages from the win­ter weath­er (some­times he hid them so well that I didn’t find them at first, either). The last pack­age he deliv­ered to me was some­thing I’d great­ly antic­i­pat­ed: the line edits for my nov­el. I’ve tied a brown rib­bon on my rail­ing in his hon­or.

I’m not the only one who wait­ed fear­ful­ly until they announced it was safe to leave our homes again. I was talk­ing to a neigh­bor yes­ter­day, and she said that her five-year-old reas­sured her, dur­ing the time when we still thought there was active dan­ger, by say­ing, “It’s okay, Mom­my, I learned what to do in school. We just get down on the floor and hide.”

That breaks my heart.

Dur­ing that chill­ing week, I was also deal­ing with anoth­er series of mini-scares—and I want to make it clear, I rec­og­nize that these are on a rad­i­cal­ly small­er scale than the tragedy above. But for me they’ve been fright­en­ing events, nonethe­less: mice have sud­den­ly appeared in my house. I’m ter­ri­fied of mice. It’s a fear that goes way beyond ratio­nal, housed in some deep pri­mal cor­ner of my brain, as evi­denced by the fact that my response when I see one is the embar­rass­ing­ly stereo­typ­i­cal duo of jump­ing up on the clos­est piece of fur­ni­ture and shriek­ing.

My response, although way over-the-top, is a good reminder that fear isn’t always ratio­nal, but it’s always deeply felt. Some­times the things we fear are based on hor­ri­ble real­i­ties, and some­times they’re just a mouse in the house. Wher­ev­er they fall on the spec­trum, fear is still one of the biggest human emo­tions. And writ­ing, I’ve learned, is one way that young peo­ple can effec­tive­ly grap­ple with their own fears. Ask­ing your stu­dents, “What is the thing that most scares you?” and then giv­ing them the chance to jour­nal about it, or to address a let­ter poem to that fear­ful thing, or to con­struct a plot where the char­ac­ter shares their fear, can lead to deeply pow­er­ful writing—as well as, some­times, to a sense that they have some con­trol over the fear­ful thing itself.

With sin­cere apolo­gies to author Neil Gaiman for most like­ly hor­ri­bly man­gling his words, I remem­ber once hear­ing him respond to an inter­view­er who asked why he wrote such fright­en­ing books for kids. He answered that kids are all too aware that there are mon­sters hid­ing under their beds, and it’s no use try­ing to con­vince them oth­er­wise. So he tries to give them sto­ries that acknowl­edge the mon­sters, but where kids still win out in the end.

Some­times, maybe, we can also gain a lit­tle ground on our mon­sters by writ­ing about them—just like I’ve done here.

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The Animals in The Stuff of Stars

The Stuff of StarsWhen I first read The Stuff of Stars by Mar­i­on Dane Bauer and Ekua Holmes, I was cap­ti­vat­ed by the beau­ty of the book and its lyri­cal thoughts about the earth and our envi­ron­ment. Ms. Holmes’ illus­tra­tions invite us to look clos­er, to dis­cern the crea­tures she’s so art­ful­ly includ­ed. Ms. Bauer’s text includes a list of ani­mals that roam the earth, bring­ing to mind all of the sto­ries and facts about these spe­cif­ic ani­mals, birds, insects, and rep­tiles.

We thought it would be help­ful to pull togeth­er a Quirky Book List that you could use for dis­cus­sions in your class­room, research units, book dis­plays on The Stuff of Stars theme, or inde­pen­dent read­ing. Be sure to refer to Bookol­o­gy’s Book­storm for The Stuff of Stars for more resources that com­ple­ment this book.

BEETLES
Bonkers about Beetles  

Bonkers about Bee­tles
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Owen Davies
Fly­ing Eye Books, 2018

Fun and fas­ci­nat­ing infor­ma­tion about the tough­est bugs in the world. The illus­tra­tions are incred­i­ble but the facts will astound young read­ers.

 

Masterpiece  

Mas­ter­piece
writ­ten by Elise Broach
illus­trat­ed by Kel­ly Mur­phy
Hen­ry Holt, 2008

Mar­vin, the bee­tle, lives under the kitchen sink in the Pom­pa­days’ apart­ment. James Pom­pa­day is an eleven-year-old boy who lives in the same apart­ment. When James receives a pen-and-ink set for his birth­day, Mar­vin sur­pris­es him with an intri­cate draw­ing. Soon, these two friends are drawn into a staged heist of an Albrecht Dür­er draw­ing at the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art.

 

One Beetle Too Many  

One Bee­tle Too Many:
The Extra­or­di­nary Adven­tures of Charles Dar­win
writ­ten by Kathryn Lasky
illus­trat­ed by Matthew True­man
Can­dlewick Press, 2009

A child­hood of col­lect­ing spec­i­mens, espe­cial­ly bee­tles, Charles Dar­win was a nat­u­ral­ist to his very toes, hap­pi­est when he was sail­ing The Bea­gle to South Amer­i­ca to observe the flo­ra and fau­na. Lasky writes the sto­ry of Darwin’s life in a way that reveals the com­plex man who chal­lenged the world’s think­ing.

BLUEBIRDS

Bluebird

 

Blue­bird
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Lind­sey Yankey
Sim­ply Read Books, 2014

Lit­tle Blue­bird awak­ens one morn­ing to find the wind miss­ing. She and wind always fly togeth­er. Deter­mined to find the way, Blue­bird sets off on a clever, well-illus­trat­ed, heart­warm­ing jour­ney.

 

Bluebird  

Blue­bird
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Bob Staake
Schwartz & Wade, 2013

In this emo­tion­al pic­ture book, read­ers will be cap­ti­vat­ed as they fol­low the jour­ney of a blue­bird as he devel­ops a friend­ship with a young boy and ulti­mate­ly risks his life to save the boy from harm.

 

Captivating Bluebirds  

Cap­ti­vat­ing Blue­birds:
Excep­tion­al Images and Obser­va­tions
writ­ten and pho­tographed by Stan Tekiela
Adven­ture Pub­li­ca­tions, 2008

Although not strict­ly a children’s book, Tekiela’s out­stand­ing pho­tographs will keep children’s atten­tion as you share some of the intrigu­ing facts on each page.

 

What Bluebirds Do

 

What Blue­birds Do
writ­ten by Pamela Kir­by
Boyds Mills Press, 2009

After a male and female blue­bird select a place to nest, they raise a young fam­i­ly of hatch­lings, feed­ing them and encour­ag­ing them to fly off on their own. Excel­lent pho­tographs illus­trate this book.

BUTTERFLIES

Caterpillar to Butterfly

 

Cater­pil­lar to But­ter­fly
writ­ten by Lau­ra Marsh
Nation­al Geo­graph­ic Kids, 2012

This ear­ly read­er gives kids an close-up look, through stel­lar pho­tographs, at how a cater­pil­lar becomes a but­ter­fly. The book includes infor­ma­tion about the dif­fer­ent types of but­ter­flies and poi­so­nous cater­pil­lars.

How to Hide a Butterfly

 

How to Hide a But­ter­fly & Oth­er Insects
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Ruth Heller
Gros­set & Dun­lap, 1992

Each page invites the read­er to hunt for the but­ter­fly or bee or inch­worm, all the while nar­rat­ed by Heller’s dis­tinc­tive poet­ic text.

A Place for Butterflies

 

A Place for But­ter­flies
writ­ten by Melis­sa Stew­art
illus­trat­ed by Hig­gins Bond
Peachtree Press, 2006

By fram­ing but­ter­flies as a vital­ly inter­con­nect­ed part of our world, this book teach­es about behav­ior and habi­tat, while encour­ag­ing efforts to pre­serve forests and mead­ows, cut­ting down on pes­ti­cides.

CRICKETS

Cricket in Times Square

 

CLASSIC
A Crick­et in Times Square
writ­ten by George Selden
illus­trat­ed by Garth Williams
Far­rar, Straus & Giroux, 1960

When Chester Crick­et hops into a pic­nic bas­ket, lured by the smell of liv­er­wurst, this coun­try crick­et is trans­port­ed to Times Square. There, he’s giv­en a com­fy home by Mario Belli­ni, and becomes friends with Tuck­er Mouse and Har­ry Cat. And yet, Chester’s coun­try home calls to him. A favorite of young read­ers for more than 50 years!

Oscar and the Cricket

 

Oscar and the Crick­et
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Geoff War­ing
Can­dlewick Press, 2009

A begin­ning sci­ence book that teach­es about mov­ing and rolling. One day Oscar sees a ball in the grass. “Try push­ing it!” says Crick­et. Oscar learns that the ball rolls slow­ly in grass and faster on a path, until it bounces off a tree and changes direc­tion. Some things need a push to move, and oth­ers use their mus­cles to move themselves—and to move plen­ty of oth­er things, too.

Quick as a Cricket

 

Quick as a Crick­et
writ­ten by Audrey Wood
illus­trat­ed by Don Wood
Child’s Play Library, 1982.

I’m as quick as a crick­et, I’m as slow as a snail. I’m as small as an ant, I’m as large as a whale.” The young child plays with imag­i­na­tion and words, illus­trat­ed with fun and ram­bunc­tious inter­pre­ta­tion.

FROGS

Frog and Toad Are Friends

 

CLASSIC
Frog and Toad Are Friends
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Arnold Lobel
Harper­Collins, 1970.

The beloved tale of two friends who are always there for each oth­er, whether it’s find­ing a lost but­ton or going swim­ming or writ­ing let­ters.

The Frog Book

 

The Frog Book
writ­ten by Robin Page
illus­trat­ed by Steve Jenk­ins
HMH Books for Young Read­ers, 2019

With more than 5,000 dif­fer­ent frog species on the plan­et, in every col­or of the rain­bow and a vast num­ber of vivid pat­terns, no crea­tures are more fas­ci­nat­ing to learn about or look at. Jenk­ins and Page present a stun­ning array of these intrigu­ing amphib­ians and the many amaz­ing adap­ta­tions they have made to sur­vive. An excel­lent non­fic­tion pic­ture book.

It's Mine!

 

It’s Mine!
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Leo Leon­ni
Scholas­tic, 1986

Three frogs con­stant­ly fight and bick­er over who gets to eat the lat­est hap­less insect. But a toad and a storm help them real­ize that there are mer­its to shar­ing.

GIRAFFES

Giraffes

 

Giraffes
writ­ten by Lin­da Marsh
Nation­al Geo­graph­ic Read­ers, 2016

A true book, with inter­est­ing facts and teach­ing points for begin­ning read­ers. Giraffes are fas­ci­nat­ing crea­tures. The text and pho­tos in this book are engag­ing and mem­o­rable.

Giraffes Can't Dance

 

Giraffes Can’t Dance
writ­ten by Giles Andreae
illus­trat­ed by Guy Park­er-Rees
Orchard Books, 2001

Ger­ald the giraffe is excit­ed to go to the dance but the oth­er ani­mals tell him he can’t dance because he has knob­by knees and skin­ny legs and he’ll look sil­ly. Ger­ald slinks away, unhap­py, until a kind voice tells him to dance to a dif­fer­ent song. Soon Ger­ald is danc­ing so beau­ti­ful­ly that the oth­er ani­mals gath­er to watch and admire.

Stay Close to Mama

 

Stay Close to Mama
writ­ten by Toni Buzzeo
illus­trat­ed by Mike Wohnout­ka
Dis­ney / Hype­r­i­on, 2012

Twiga is curi­ous and wants to explore, but Mama knows about the dan­gers of the savan­nah and wants to pro­tect lit­tle Twiga. An excel­lent read-aloud with engag­ing illus­tra­tions.

HAWKS

Hawk Rising

 

Hawk Ris­ing
writ­ten by Maria Gian­fer­rari
illus­trat­ed by Bri­an Flo­ca
Roar­ing Brook Press, 2018

A father red-tailed hawk hunts prey for his fam­i­ly in a sub­ur­ban neigh­bor­hood in this thrilling, fierce non­fic­tion pic­ture book. Infor­ma­tive book writ­ten in sen­so­ry, poet­ic, per­cep­tive text with Bri­an Floca’s stun­ning illus­tra­tions.

Tale of Pale Male

 

Tale of Pale Male: a True Sto­ry
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Jeanette Win­ter
Har­court, 2007

When a red-tailed hawk makes its nest on top of a New York City apart­ment build­ing, the res­i­dents remove the nest, pro­test­ers raise their voic­es, and even­tu­al­ly bird­ers rejoice.

Birds of Prey

 

Birds of Prey: Hawks, Eagles, Fal­cons,
and Vul­tures of North Amer­i­ca
writ­ten by Pete Dunne, with Kevin T. Karl­son
HMH Books for Young Read­ers, 2017

A book of nature writ­ing that dou­bles as a field guide, this is a well-researched and ‑writ­ten book with accom­pa­ny­ing pho­tos.

HIPPOPOTAMUSES

Mama for Owen

 

A Mama for Owen
writ­ten by Mar­i­on Dane Bauer
illus­trat­ed by John But­ler
Simon & Schus­ter, 2007

When an African baby hip­po is sep­a­rat­ed from its moth­er dur­ing the Indi­an Ocean Tsuna­mi of 2004, it bonds with a giant tor­toise. This is a gen­tle per­spec­tive on the true sto­ry.

I've Lost My Hiippopotamus

 

I’ve Lost My Hip­popota­mus
poems by Jack Pre­lut­sky
illus­trat­ed by Jack­ie Urbanovic
Green­wil­low, 2012

Short, rhyth­mic poems about ani­mals that are ide­al for ear­ly read­ers.

How to Clean a Hippopotamus

 

How to Clean a Hip­popota­mus:
A Look at Unusu­al Ani­mal Part­ner­ships
writ­ten by Robin Page
illus­trat­ed by Steve Jenk­ins
HMH Books for Younger Read­ers, 2010

A non­fic­tion book about ani­mal sym­bio­sis, fea­tur­ing the hip­popota­mus as well as oth­er ani­mals.

Saving Fiona

 

Sav­ing Fiona:
The Sto­ry of the World’s Most Famous Baby Hip­po
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Thane May­nard
HMH Books for Young Read­ers, 2018

The sto­ry of the first pre­ma­ture baby hip­po born in cap­tiv­i­ty, raised at the Cincin­nati Zoo & Botan­i­cal Gar­den.

George and Martha

 

CLASSIC
George and Martha
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by James Mar­shall
HMH Books for Young Read­ers, 1972

Legions of fans love these sto­ries about two hip­pos who rev­el in being friends.

HORSES

The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses

 

The Girl Who Loved Wild Hors­es
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Paul Gob­le
Atheneum, 2001

Though she is fond of her peo­ple, a girl prefers to live among the wild hors­es where she is tru­ly hap­py and free.

Leroy Ninker Saddles Up

 

Leroy Ninker Sad­dles Up
writ­ten by Kate DiCamil­lo
illus­trat­ed by Chris Van Dusen
Can­dlewick Press, 2014

Leroy Ninker has all the trap­pings of a cow­boy, but he doesn’t have a horse. Then he meets May­belline, a horse who loves spaghet­ti and hav­ing sweet noth­ings whis­pered in her ear. Will their rela­tion­ship mean an end to Leroy’s lone­li­ness?

Misty of Chincoteague

 

CLASSIC
Misty of Chin­coteague
writ­ten by Mar­garet Hen­ry
illus­trat­ed by Wes­ley Den­nis
Rand McNal­ly, 1947

On the island of Chin­coteague off the coasts of Vir­ginia and Mary­land lives a cen­turies-old band of wild ponies. Among them is the most mys­te­ri­ous of all, Phan­tom, a rarely seen mare that eludes all efforts to cap­ture her—that is, until a young boy and girl lay eyes on her and deter­mine that they can’t live with­out her.

Rosie's Magic Horse

 

Rosie’s Mag­ic Horse
writ­ten by Rus­sell Hoban
illus­trat­ed by Quentin Blake
Can­dlewick Press, 2013

Rosie puts a dis­card ice-pop stick into a box, but the stick wants to be some­thing! When Rosie dreams of a horse named Stick­eri­no, the ice-pop stick trans­forms, gal­lop­ing out of the box. “Where to?” he asks. “Any­where with trea­sure!”

JELLYFISH

I Am Jellyfish

 

I Am Jel­ly­fish
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Ruth Paul
Pen­guin, 2018

Jel­ly­fish is chased into the ocean depths by Shark. Shark is attached by Squid. Who will save Shark? Jel­ly­fish!

Peanut Butter and Jellyfish

 

Peanut But­ter and Jel­ly­fish
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Jar­rett J. Krosocz­ka
Knopf, 2014

Peanut But­ter, a sea­horse, and Jel­ly­fish are best friends. Crab­by is NOT their best friend. But when Crab­by gets into trou­ble, will Peanut But­ter and Jel­ly­fish help? Of course they will.

The Thing about Jellyfish

 

The Thing About Jel­ly­fish
writ­ten by Ali Ben­jamin
Lit­tle, Brown, 2015

For a mid­dle grade read­er: Suzi con­vinces her­self that her friend Fran­ny drowned because she was stung by a rare jel­ly­fish. Suzi explores her the­o­ry and comes to real­ize many truths that make it pos­si­ble for her to grow past her grief and remorse.

LARKS

Ostrich and Lark

 

Ostrich and Lark
writ­ten by Mar­i­lyn Nel­son
illus­trat­ed by the San artists of Botswana
Boyds Mills Press, 2012

This pic­ture book about an unlike­ly friend­ship is the result of col­lab­o­ra­tion between the award-win­ning poet Mar­i­lyn Nel­son and the San artists of Botswana. The sto­ry, which cap­tures the feel of a tra­di­tion­al African folk­tale, is brought to life with vibrant illus­tra­tions inspired by the ancient rock paint­ings of the San people’s ances­tors.

LIONS

Deadliest Animals

 

Dead­liest Ani­mals
writ­ten by Melis­sa Stew­art
Nation­al Geo­graph­ic Children’s Books, 2011

Fas­ci­nat­ing facts about the most threat­en­ing ani­mals in the world, includ­ing lions, writ­ten on an ear­ly read­er lev­el.

Eli

 

Eli
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Bill Peet
HMH Books for Young Read­ers, 1978

A decrepit lion despis­es a vul­ture, but he soon learns about friend­ship from his pesky vis­i­tor.

Library Lion

 

Library Lion
writ­ten by Michelle Knud­sen
illus­trat­ed by Kevin Hawkes
Can­dlewick Press, 2006

Miss Mer­ri­weath­er is a librar­i­an with a lot of rules for her library. When a lion appears one day, there isn’t a rule to cov­er it. What will they do? The lion res­cues the library, which finds a place for him.

Lion and the Mouse

 

The Lion and the Mouse
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Jer­ry Pinkney
Lit­tle, Brown Books, 2009

A book about a devel­op­ing friend­ship between an unlike­ly pair, with ele­ments of fam­i­ly bonds woven into the famil­iar fable. African ani­mals are beau­ti­ful­ly depict­ed in the Calde­cott-win­ning illus­tra­tions for this book.

SHARKS

Great White Shark Adventure

 

Great White Shark Adven­ture
writ­ten by James O. Fraioli and Fabi­en Cousteau
illus­trat­ed by Joe St. Pierre
Mar­garet K. McElder­ry Books, 2019

Graph­ic nov­el. Junior explor­ers Bel­la and Mar­cus join famed explor­er Fabi­en Cousteau and his research team as they embark on an ocean jour­ney off the coast of South Africa, where the world’s largest con­cen­tra­tions of great white sharks are found. Their mis­sion is to inves­ti­gate a sight­ing of a mas­sive white shark and tag it so they can track and pro­tect it. 

If Sharks DIsappeared

 

If Sharks Dis­ap­peared
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Lily Williams
Roar­ing Brook Press, 2017

Even though sharks can be scary, we need them to keep the oceans healthy. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, due to over­fish­ing, many shark species are in dan­ger of extinc­tion, and that can cause big prob­lems in the oceans and even on land.

Shark vs Train

 

Shark vs Train
writ­ten by Chris Bar­ton
illus­trat­ed by Tom Licht­en­held
Lit­tle, Brown, 2010

Smack talk­ing, Shark and Train are pit­ted against each oth­er in this wild and crazy book about what would help them gain suprema­cy in a vari­ety of sit­u­a­tions. Fun!

SNAILS

The Biggest House in the World

 

CLASSIC
The Biggest House in the World
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Leo Lion­ni
Knopf, 1968

A young snail is deter­mined to have the biggest shell in the world until his father tells him a gen­tle fable about the respon­si­bil­i­ty and weight of car­ry­ing around that type of shell.

The End of the Beginning

 

The End of the Begin­ning:
Being the Adven­tures of a Small Snail
(and an Even Small­er Ant)
writ­ten by Avi
illus­trat­ed by Tri­cia Tusa
Har­court, 2004

Avon the snail sets out on an adven­ture because that’s what every­one does. They encounter a drag­on in dis­guise, the begin­ning of the sky, and a mag­ic cas­tle. Along the way, they dis­cov­er friend­ship. It’s a great read-aloud for kinder­garten and up.

The Snail and the Whale

 

The Snail and the Whale
writ­ten by Julia Don­ald­son
illus­trat­ed by Axel Schef­fler
Dial Books, 2004

A tiny snail and a hump­back whale set out to trav­el the world, explor­ing the oceans, under­wa­ter caves, and the skies. When the whale is strand­ed on the beach, will the snail be able to save him?

SPIDERS

Charlotte's Web

 

CLASSIC
Charlotte’s Web
writ­ten by E.B. White
illus­trat­ed by Garth Williams
Harp­er & Bros, 1952

Some Pig. Hum­ble. Radi­ant.These are the words in Char­lot­te’s web, high up in Zuck­er­man’s barn. Char­lot­te’s spi­der­web tells of her feel­ings for a lit­tle pig named Wilbur, who sim­ply wants a friend. They also express the love of a girl named Fern, who saved Wilbur’s life when he was born the runt of his lit­ter.

Spiders

 

Spi­ders
writ­ten by Lau­ra Marsh
Nation­al Geo­graph­ic Children’s Books, 2011

Spi­ders are every­where. And there are so many kinds of spi­ders! Some red, some blue, yel­low, and more … all fas­ci­nat­ing. Amaz­ing pho­tog­ra­phy and easy-to-under­stand text makes Spi­ders a hit.

Very Busy Spider

 

CLASSIC
Very Busy Spi­der
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Eric Car­le
Philomel, 1985

Ear­ly one morn­ing a lit­tle spi­der spins her web on a fence post. One by one, the ani­mals of the near­by farm try to dis­tract her, yet the busy lit­tle spi­der keeps dili­gent­ly at her work. When she is done, she is able to show every­one that not only is her cre­ation quite beau­ti­ful, it is also quite use­ful!

WHALES

Amos & Boris

 

CLASSIC
Amos & Boris
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by William Steig
Far­rar, Straus and Giroux, 1971

Amos the mouse and Boris the whale: a devot­ed pair of friends with noth­ing at all in com­mon, except good hearts and a will­ing­ness to help their fel­low mam­mal. They meet after Amos sets out to sail the sea and finds him­self in extreme need of res­cue. And there will come a day, long after Boris has gone back to a life at sea and Amos has gone back to life on dry land, when the tiny mouse must find a way to res­cue the great whale.

Breathe

 

Breathe
writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Scott Magoon
Simon & Schus­ter, 2004

A good book for young chil­dren, this looks at the life of a baby whale who ven­tures out on his own for the first time, engag­ing in adven­tures, and return­ing home to his mom.

Whales

 

Whales
writ­ten by Sey­mour Simon
Collins, 2006

This non­fic­tion book is full of infor­ma­tion about cows, calves, feed­ing, habi­tat, and the 90 species of whales around the world. From a mas­ter researcher and writer of non­fic­tion for young read­ers.

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Waiting for My Editor, part 2

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Joining Forces

Cre­at­ing a Library Exchange Net­work

Last year, I had the dis­tinct hon­or to attend a pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment oppor­tu­ni­ty at MIT (Mass­a­chu­setts Insti­tute of Tech­nol­o­gy). As part of the train­ing, we were giv­en a chance to see some of the projects stu­dents and pro­fes­sors are work­ing on in fields such as edu­ca­tion, fash­ion, and health­care. I was sur­prised to learn from Dr. Chris Bourg, Direc­tor for MIT Libraries, about the Pub­lic Library Inno­va­tion Exchange (PLIX) where MIT researchers work with pub­lic librar­i­ans to exchange ideas to devel­op new cre­at­ed learn­ing pro­grams. Scratch Cod­ing and the Duct Tape Net­work are exam­ples of their pre­vi­ous projects. After return­ing home, I cre­at­ed a Library Exchange Net­work with both com­mu­ni­ty and state part­ners to devel­op new learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for library patrons and the com­mu­ni­ty by reach­ing out to indi­vid­u­als in a vari­ety of dis­ci­plines such as the arts and engi­neer­ing.

From small to large libraries, any size library can cre­ate a Library Exchange Net­work with THREE easy steps:

Step 1: Part­ner­ship Radar

A part­ner­ship radar pro­vides you the oppor­tu­ni­ty to map out poten­tial part­ners for your exchange. Cre­ate a list of poten­tial part­ners who could poten­tial­ly offer a library pro­gram (this is some­thing you might already have com­plet­ed). Some exam­ples might include a con­struc­tion com­pa­ny who could help chil­dren cre­ate bird­hous­es, a uni­ver­si­ty or col­lege who could pro­vide a STEM pro­gram, or a gar­den­ing group who could pro­vide chil­dren the oppor­tu­ni­ty to plant a bulb. Your map can include local and or non-local part­ners. Your part­ner­ship radar will con­tin­ue to grow.

Storytime with WrigleyStep 2: Throw­ing the Line Out

As with fish­ing, you need to throw a line out to poten­tial part­ners by email or phone, express­ing the library’s inter­est in devel­op­ing a library pro­gram relat­ing to their pro­fes­sion or skill. For exam­ple, I reached out to a local teacher who has a ther­a­py dog to estab­lish a new Sat­ur­day sto­ry­time pro­gram where fam­i­lies enjoy not only sto­ries, songs, and a craft but also enjoy time with her ther­a­py dog. Con­clude your email by wel­com­ing them to your library for a brain­storm­ing ses­sion.

Step 3: Idea Exchange

The idea exchange is an oppor­tu­ni­ty for you and the poten­tial part­ner to brain­storm ideas on poten­tial pro­gram oppor­tu­ni­ties for the com­mu­ni­ty. For exam­ple, I had our local train muse­um vis­it with me to brain­storm new pos­si­bil­i­ties for fam­i­lies to learn about the his­to­ry of trains through expe­ri­ences includ­ing an inter­ac­tive kiosk and a live pre­sen­ta­tion. The goal at the ini­tial exchange meet­ing is to throw out as many pro­gram ideas as pos­si­ble even if they seem impos­si­ble. The meet­ings that fol­low will be reserved for the design of the pro­gram. 

10 Ben­e­fits of a Library Exchange Net­work

  1. Pro­vides new learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for the com­mu­ni­ty.
  2. Increas­es the library’s vis­i­bil­i­ty.
  3. Lim­its staff time to devel­op new pro­grams.
  4. Requires lit­tle or no cost. Many employ­ers require employ­ees to com­plete com­mu­ni­ty ser­vices.
  5. Shares both tal­ents and resources.
  6. Fos­ters coöper­a­tion.
  7. Reach­es new audi­ences.
  8. Re-images the pur­pose of the pub­lic library.
  9. Expands both ser­vices and pro­grams.
  10. Ensures the library con­tin­ues to be an enjoy­able place with­in the com­mu­ni­ty.

Nation­al Part­ners:

Code NinjasOur local part­ner­ship is exten­sive; how­ev­er, here are some of our non-local part­ner­ships who have chains through­out the Unit­ed States.

  1. Cod­ing Nin­jas
  2. Syl­van Learn­ing
  3. Bricks 4 Kids
  4. Boy and Girls Club
  5. After­school Alliance
  6. Engi­neer­ing for Kids

Arti­cles to Enjoy on Library Part­ner­ships:

The Who, What, Where, Why, When, and Hows of Pas­sive Pro­gram­ming,” by Aman­da Ben­nett, OLC Small Libraries, 17 March 2014

How Pub­lic Libraries Help Build Healthy Com­mu­ni­ties,” by Marcela Cam­bel­lo and Stu­art M. But­ler, Brook­ings Insti­tu­tion, 30 March 2017  

Books to Gen­er­ate Pro­gram Ideas

books for programming

Some Pro­gram Exam­ples Pro­vid­ed by Our Part­ners

Two Programs

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Bookstorm™: Just Like Rube Goldberg