Advertisement. Click on the ad for more information.
Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | Linda Sue Park

Skinny Dip with Linda Sue Park

Linda Sue Park

Linda Sue Park

We interviewed Linda Sue Park, veteran author and Newbery medalist, whose books have inspired children in many ways, appealing to a wide range of readers with books like A Single Shard, The Mulberry Project, Keeping Score, Yaks Yak, and A Long Walk to Water.

Which celebrity, living or not, do you wish would invite you to a coffee shop?

My paternal grandmother, whom I never got to meet. However, I suspect she wouldn’t invite me to a coffee shop; she’d invite me for naeng-myun instead (Korean cold noodle soup. Delicious.). And I realize that she is not a celebrity in the conventional sense, but I believe that all brave women should be.

Which book do you find yourself recommending passionately?

Currently: All American Boys, by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

Brendan Kiely, Linda Sue Park, Jason Reynolds

Brendan Kiely, Linda Sue Park, Jason Reynolds

What’s your favorite late-night snack?

Really good guac with really fresh chips. I will eat mediocre chips if they’re all that’s available. The guac is what matters.

Favorite city to visit?

New York!

Most cherished childhood memory?

Saturday mornings at the public library.

First date?

Roller-skating and ice cream, 6th grade, with a boy named Curtis. Where is he now?

Xander's Panda Party and Yaks YakIllustrator’s work you most admire?

UNFAIR question. Registering protest by not answering.

No, strike that: I’ll name the illustrators of my two most recent picture books: Matt Phelan (Xander’s Panda Party) and Jennifer Black Reinhardt (Yaks Yak). ‘Admire’ is too staid. Their work for my texts THRILLED me.

Tea? Coffee? Milk? Soda? What’s your favorite go-to drink?

Tea in the morning, espresso once or twice a day, swee’ tea when I’m in the South. My go-to is water.

What’s your dream vacation?

Snorkeling, reading on a beach, and eating fabulous food, both street and fine dining, with family and/or friends, somewhere that has lively outdoor markets.

WormsWhat gives you shivers?


Morning person? Night person?

NIGHT. Morning is a recurring insult to the psyche.

What’s your hidden talent?

It has faded with time, but I used to be able to identify red M&Ms blindfolded.

Your favorite candy as a kid …

As a kid? Why not now? As a kid: Bit O’Honey. As an adult: pecan rolls.

Is Pluto a planet?

Of course not. He’s Popeye’s nemesis—that big guy, with the arms. 😉

What’s the strangest tourist attraction you’ve visited?

The DMZ, border between North and South Korea.

Brother and sisters or an only child? How did that shape your life?

One of each. I’m the oldest. I don’t think my life has a shape. Or maybe it’s constantly changing.

The Park family

Best tip for living a contented life?

1) Find a way to do work that you love. 2) When you’ve got the blues, do something for someone else.

Your hope for the world?

Every child a reader.

Cavern of SecretsLinda Sue, thanks for these candid answers for our Bookology readers. If they haven’t read all of your previously published books, we encourage them to have a Linda Sue Park read-a-thon. Could you share with us which books comes out next?

I hope you’ll enjoy the second book in the Claw & Wing series, Cavern of Secrets. It follows Book #1, Forest of Wonders. You’ll find the book in bookstores on March 7, 2017. Raffa sets off on a treacherous journey across Obsidia to save his friends and family … and the world!


Interview with Julie Downing: Illustrating The Firekeeper’s Son

interview by Vicki Palmquist and Marsha Qualey

Firekeeper's SonThe illustrations in The Firekeeper’s Son are all double-page spreads. How did that design decision affect your choices and work?

I decided on the format because the landscape is an important part of the story. The original dummy I made had fewer pages so I split many spreads into smaller images. Fortunately, my wonderful editor recognized the problem and allowed me to make the book 40 pages instead of 32, so I could spread the story over 20 spreads. We both felt the expansive double-page spreads helped make the story feel bigger.

My favorite spreads are on pp. 24-25 and pp. 30-31. Similar in palate and subject, one (pp. 30-31) is effectively a close-up of the other (pp. 24-25), and that helps so much to heighten suspense at a critical moment. Did this image come quickly or was it reached slowly?

My favorite sequence of spreads is between pp. 24-25 and pp. 30-31. This is the climactic moment in the text, and Linda Sue expertly builds the climax to Sang-hee’s moment of decision. The sequence of images took a long time to get just right (most of my ideas come V E R Y slowly) I drew and redrew these 4 spreads many times so I could find just the right way to show how Sang-hee decides to put aside his desire to see soldiers (as shown in the shadow on pp. 24-25) to the moment where he lights the fire.

FirekeeperIllustrationThe toy figures Sang-hee plays with are a crucial element in the narrative, yet they’re not mentioned in the text. When and how did they become part of the story?

As an illustrator, my job is to bring something new to the text. The text says that Sang-hee loves soldiers and I wanted to show his interest in a way that young readers could understand. I watched my own son, who was Sang-hee’s age, when I was illustrating this book. He spent a lot of his time making Lego® figures and playing with them, so I started wondering what the 17th century equivalent was to Lego® and came up with the idea of clay soldiers.

Sang-hee plays with clay (or mud) soldiers. Did you find examples of these in your research? How do you go about making sure those toys were in use during the time period in which the book is set?

Children didn’t have toys in the small Korean villages and any that they made would not have survived, however I spoke to a curator at the Asian Art Museum and he suggested that children might have fashioned simple figures out of mud or clay. The actual soldiers were made by my 6-year-old-son so they looked like something a young boy would make.

Where did you do your research to find the uniforms Korean soldiers would have worn during this time period? They seem to have reflective rivets on their jackets. Is this something you could detect from your research?

I love the research part of the process. San Francisco has a wonderful Asian Art Museum and I was able to go behind the scenes and look at some of the soldiers’ actual uniforms. The museum also provided me with tons of visual reference for all the costumes in the book. The reflection in the rivets actually represents sparks from the 2nd coal. I wanted to visually blend reality and fantasy.

Did you use models for the people in your paintings?

I do use models. My son’s best friend posed for Sang-hee, and his mother posed as well. I find one of the hardest parts of painting the illustrations for a book is making the characters look consistent. It helps me if I find a real person to pose.

Do you remember making a decision to paint Sang-hee’s imagined soldiers within the fire?

The text does say he saw a huge battle in the flames, so I was inspired by the text. One of the things I loved about the story are the levels of complexity, and yet the writing is spare. Linda Sue touches on so many themes—family, duty, desire—within a simple text that I had lots of opportunities to expand the story with the art.


You achieve a wonderful luminescence with your fire. How did you accomplish this?

I worked with a combination of watercolor and liquid acrylics. The acrylics are incredibly intense colors so I watered them down and painted in dozens of layers. My studio now has a big blue-green stain right near the door, because I pinned the painting to the door, wet them with a spray bottle and literally poured paint over them. All the excess dripped onto the floor. It created a nice welcome mat!

The color palette for the paintings is blue, green, and purple, with a beautiful light suffusing the landscape. What led you to decide on that group of colors?

I chose the colors to contrast with the warmth of the fire. I usually do extensive color studies so I can work out not only the colors in the individual spreads, but also how the colors affect the story arc.

Lotus and the Feather, illus by Julie Downing Disney Hyperion, 2016

Lotus and Feather, written and illustrated by Julie Downing, pp. 18-19. forthcoming from Disney Hyperion, 2016

Many illustrators paint in watercolor, but you’ve added pastel crayons. What do you feel this adds to a painting?

I love painting with watercolor. The transparency you can achieve with the medium was perfect for the book. However, sometimes I wanted a better dark, a lighter highlight, or a different texture, so adding pastel and colored pencil allowed me to do this.

The cover is not taken from pages already existing in the book. It stands separately. What did you feel needed to be on the cover in order to draw people into the book?

I find covers to be challenging. I want to convey a sense of the story without giving anything away. The editor and I went back and forth on showing soldiers in the flames because we were worried it might reveal the ending. Finally, we decided that if they were subtle, it just adds to the mystery of the story.


Interview with Linda Sue Park: Writing The Firekeeper’s Son

Firekeeper's SonHow do you begin the research for a story set long ago?

I go to the library. I live in New York state, which has a wonderful interlibrary loan system. My local library can get me books from anywhere in the state. Many of my sources have come from the East Asian collections of university libraries.

The Firekeeper’s Son is set, according to the Library of Congress data on the copyright page, in the early 19th century. Did you choose that time because you could verify the fires were in use as a signal system (as mentioned in your author’s note)? Because it was a time of peace, which was crucial to Sang-hee’s longing to see soldiers?

Both. I read about the signal system in a traveler’s account of 19th century Korea, and I also chose that time frame because there was no war.

bk_Park_stripThis picture book was published after you’d written four novels. How much paring down of the story and text did you have to do from the first draft?

Actually, I started my writing life as a poet. I’ve written poetry since I was a child, and published poetry as an adult long before I became a fiction writer. Good picture-book text is a kissin’ cousin of poetry. So when I wrote the book, it felt like ‘coming home’ to me.

I did end up cutting words from the original draft; I can’t recall the exact number, but it wasn’t drastic. As I implied above, I approached the manuscript wearing my ‘poetry’ hat, not my ‘novel’ one!

How did you decide on the critical element of tension within the book?

In every story I write, the character has to face a problem, make a decision, and act on that decision. Picture books that tell stories aren’t exempt from this structure. So I knew I wanted to put Sang-hee in a position where he would have to make a difficult decision: one where he would have to choose between his own desires and what he knew was the right thing to do. Even quite young children face this kind of dilemma in their own lives—I know I’m not supposed to throw this valuable breakable figurine but I really really want to—so I was confident that it would work in a picture book.

You have traveled to Korea several times. Do you feel that Julie Downing, your illustrator, captured the land that you know?

Korea has of course changed dramatically in many ways since the 19th century, especially in the cities. I haven’t been able to visit the countryside as much as I would like. But the mountains and the sea are forever—at least I hope so—and I think Julie did a terrific job there. I also love her depiction of Sang-hee’s village.

FirekeeperIllustrationThe toy figures Sang-hee plays with are a crucial element in the narrative, yet they’re not mentioned in the text. When and how did they become part of the story?

I was absolutely delighted to see the toy figures in the illustrations. They were entirely Julie’s idea, and a perfect way to show Sang-hee’s keen interest in soldiers. I love how she brought her own vision to the story. That sort of detail is what makes a picture book a true collaboration.

Why was it important to you to tell this story?

I think many of us feel that history is something that happens outside of our own experiences—to famous people, as a result of momentous or turbulent events. But history is happening all around us, all the time, and each one of us is participating, even if we don’t think we are! In all my historical fiction, including this book, I want to explore how ordinary people are part of shaping history. And of course I’m always interested in learning more about Korea, where my family comes from. For me, writing is a way of learning.




From the Editor

by Marsha Qualey

ph_redbirdHere in the upper Midwest most of us are waiting for the other shoe to drop. We’ve had a hint of winter, and we all suspect the real thing will arrive soon.  Meanwhile, the landscape is brown, with the occasional flash of color from holiday trimmings, birds, blaze orange outerwear. 

The National Book Awards were bestowed last month at what’s probably the fanciest book event in the U.S.  While the book award season is now on hold until January, the end of year “best” or “best bets for gifts” listing is in full swing. These commercial lists have a lot in common with those announced in conjunction with an award: They’re all about the new books.

From its inception, Bookology has not been about new books. Yes, a number of our Bookstorm™ books have been new releases, but month-to-month we aim our focus on and use our platform to herald the vast catalogue of books published in previous years.  The perfect book to place in the hand of a young reader might not be the one generating all the current buzz, and that’s why so many titles in our columns and ‘storms and Quirky Book lists have a few miles on them and deserve to be talked about once again.

Firekeeper's SonOur Bookstorm™ book this month is The Firekeeper’s Son by Newbery medalist Linda Sue Park. A picture book set in 19th century Korea, it’s the story of a boy who is suddenly swept away from playtime with his toy soldiers and challenged to “step up” when his father is injured.

We’ll have interviews with both Linda Sue Park and, later this month, the illustrator, Julie Downing. Also coming soon: a Quirky list and an end-of-year slide show honoring the children’s book creators who have died this year. And of course we’ll have the usual columns from the bookologists and authors who show up regularly in Bookology. Today: author Elizabeth Fixmer shares how children’s books deepened her work as a psychotherapist.

Thanks for visiting Bookology.


Bookstorm™: Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall

Untamed Bookstorm

Untamed: the Wild Life of Jane GoodallThis month, we are pleased to feature Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall, written by Anita Silvey, with photographs and book designed by the incredible team at National Geographic. This book is not only fascinating to read, it’s a beautiful reading experience as well.

It’s not often that a book offers us a glimpse into the childhood of a woman who has followed a brave, and caring, career path, but also follows her through more than 50 years in that chosen profession, describing her work, discoveries, and her passion for the mammals with whom she works. I learned so much I didn’t know about Dr. Goodall and her chimpanzees, Africa, field work, and how one moves people to support one’s cause.

In each Bookstorm™, we offer a bibliography of books that have close ties to the the featured book. For Untamed, you’ll find books for a variety of tastes and interests. The book will be comfortably read by ages 9 through adult. We’ve included fiction and nonfiction, picture books, middle grade books, and books adults will find interesting. A number of the books are by Dr. Jane Goodall herself—she’s a prolific writer. We’ve also included books about teaching science, as well as videos, and articles accessible on the internet.

Jane Goodall and Her Research. From Me … Jane, the picture by Patrick McDonnell about Jane Goodall’s childhood, to Jane Goodall: the Woman Who Redefined Man by Dale Peterson, there are a number of accessible books for every type of reader.

Primate Research. We’ve included nonfiction books such as Pamela S. Turner’s Gorilla Doctors and Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wick’s Primates, a graphic novel about the three women who devoted so much of their loves to studying primates: Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas.

Chimpanzees. Dr. Goodall’s research is specifically about chimpanzees so companion books such as Michele Colon’s Termites on a Stick and Dr. Goodall’s Chimpanzees I Love: Saving Their World and Ours are suggested.

Fiction. Many excellent novels have been written about primates and Africa and conservation, ranging from realism to science fiction and a novel based on a true story. Among our list, you’ll find Linda Sue Park’s A Long to Water and Eva by Peter Dickinson and The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate.

World-Changing Women and Women Scientists. Here you’ll find picture book biographies, longer nonfiction books, and collections of short biographies such as Girls Think of Everything by Catherine Thimmesh, Silk & Venom by Kathryn Lasky, and Rad American Women: A to Z by Kate Schatz.

Africa. The titles about, or set on, this continent are numerous. Learning About Africa by Robin Koontz provides a useful and current introduction to the continent. We also looked for books by authors who were born in or lived for a while in an African country; Next Stop—Zanzibar! by Niki Daly and Magic Gourd by Coretta Scott King Honoree Baba Wague Diakiteare are included in this section.

Animal Friendships. Children and adults alike crave these stories about unlikely friendships between animals who don’t normally hang around together. From Catherine Thimmesh’s Friends: True Stories of Extraordinary Animal Friendships to Marion Dane Bauer’s A Mama for Owen, you’ll be charmed by these books.

Animals In Danger of Extinction. We’ve included only two books in this category but both of them should be stars in your booktalks. Counting Lions by Katie Cotton, illustrated by Stephen Walton, is a stunning book—do find it! Dr. Goodall contributes a moving book, Hope for Animals and Their World: How Endangered Species Are Being Rescued from the Brink.

Teaching Science. If you’re working with young children in grades K through 2, you’ll want Perfect Pairs by Melissa Stewart and Nancy Chesley. For older students in grades 3 through 6, Picture-Perfect Science Lessons will inspire you.

Let us know how you are making use of this Bookstorm™. Share your ideas and any other books you’d add to this Bookstorm™.



Bookstorm™: Bulldozer’s Big Day


written by Candace Fleming  illustrated by Eric Rohmann  Atheneum, 2015

written by Candace Fleming 
illustrated by Eric Rohmann 
Atheneum, 2015

It’s Bulldozer’s big day—his birthday! But around the construction site, it seems like everyone is too busy to remember. Bulldozer wheels around asking his truck friends if they know what day it is, but they each only say it’s a work day. They go on scooping, sifting, stirring, filling, and lifting, and little Bulldozer grows more and more glum. But when the whistle blows at the end of the busy day, Bulldozer discovers a construction site surprise, especially for him!

An ideal book for a read-aloud to that child sitting by you or to a classroom full of children or to a storytime group gathered together, Bulldozer’s Big Day is fun to read because of all the onomatopoeia and the wonderful surprise ending.

In each Bookstorm™, we offer a bibliography of books that have close ties to the the featured book. For Bulldozer’s Big Day, you’ll find books for a variety of tastes and interests. The book will be comfortably read to ages 3 through 7. We’ve included picture books, nonfiction, videos, websites, and destinations that complement the book, all encouraging early literacy.

Building Projects. There have been many fine books published about designing and constructing houses, cities, and dreams. We share a few books to encourage and inspire your young dreamers.

Construction Equipment. Who can resist listening to and watching the large variety of vehicles used on a construction project? You’ll find both books and links to videos.

Birthday Parties. This is the other large theme in Bulldozer’s Big Day and we suggest books such as Xander’s Panda Party that offer other approaches to talking about birthdays.

Dirt, Soil, Earth. STEM discussions can be a part of early literacy, too. Get ready to dish the dirt! 

Loneliness. Much like Bulldozer, children (and adults) can feel let down, ignored, left out … and books are a good way to start the discussion about resiliency and coping with these feelings.

Surprises. If you work with children, or have children of your own, you know how tricky surprises and expectations can be. We’ve included books such as Waiting by Kevin Henkes and Handa’s Surprise by Eileen Browne.

Friendship. An ever-popular theme in children’s books, we’ve selected a few of the very best, including A Sick Day for Amos McGee, by the Steads.

Let us know how you are making use of this Bookstorm™. Share your ideas and any other books you’d add to this Bookstorm™.



Creating a Classroom Community with 31 Letters

by Maurna Rome

Long gone are the days of “Don’t do this or that or the other thing” lists of classroom rules. At least I hope they are long gone… The influence of “responsive classroom,” greater awareness of the power of being positive and much research on effective classroom management have ushered in a new approach to establishing expectations in our schools. Most educators know that in order to learn, there has to be order in the court. Most educators know that “buy in” from the kids is the shortest route to arrive at the destination. Most educators know that it is a worthwhile investment of time and energy to lay a solid foundation at the start of each school year that incudes discussion about goals, hopes and dreams (see First Six Weeks of School, Responsive Classroom). 

Yet after 24 years (this year marks the beginning of my 25th !) I have just recently realized how much easier it will be to establish and reinforce the shared classroom agreements we will be creating using some of my favorite literary treasures. My vision includes a fair amount of “guided discovery,” AKA, I know what I want the outcome to be but I want the kids to feel like they have come up with it on their own. Here’s my plan…

The 31 letters are scrambled on the wall. This invitation is posted above.

  Dear Students,

   Please think about the kind of classroom where cool kids make

   awesome things happen every day. A place where we are all making   

   our hopes and dreams come true. The type of environment where  

   learning and looking out for each other are the name of the game.

   Using the 31 letters below, can you help build the 9 words that will

   guide us as shared agreements on this wonderful journey together?   

   Thanks!  Mrs. Rome

My hope is that my students will think, discuss and work together to take 31 letters and turn them into our classroom creed containing just nine words. Nine powerful words that when combined become five simple and short, yet powerful sentences. Just 31 letters that will guide us all year long as we design and navigate the roadmap to success in our 4th/5th grade Humanities classroom.

Be safe. Be kind. Work hard. Have fun. Grow.

These nine powerful words encompass all that I hope to accomplish with each one of my 50 scholars in the coming year. I am convinced that this mantra is something we can all agree on. Bringing these words to life, making them a part of our daily actions and most importantly, what we feel compelled to do in our hearts, is another order of business. A tall order of business. Yet this IS my business… to keep kids safe, to help them be kind and develop a strong work ethic, to experience joy as often as possible, and always, to cultivate their talents so they can grow and develop.

As is most often the case, when I find myself searching for wisdom from a reliable friend, I turn to the vast collection of books in our classroom library. As I begin my 25th year as an educator, I marvel at just how important my books and the lessons they provide are. Allow me to share how my treasures—picture books and chapter books—will pave the way to creating our classroom community in Room 123.

I will begin by sharing some of my favorite picture books, stories that can be shared in the first week or two of the new school year to help us establish the importance of our 31 letters. I don’t hesitate to read aloud these books that are usually reserved for the younger crowd, because I know that the big kids benefit from picture books just as much. The insights and discussions that come from these terrific titles help my students learn more about how our shared agreements will support our learning. The chapter books will unfold over days, weeks, months, yet again, the stories will illustrate how those 31 letters take our fictional friends through many life lessons.

At this very moment, educators all across the country are carefully planning or presenting lessons that are designed to promote enthusiasm for reading. At the same time, those dedicated individuals are working on building a positive classroom community. Most educators know that the right book in the hands of the right kid can make an enormous difference. Some of us even believe books have the ability to changes lives. I am grateful to know, love, and share these books with my colleagues.

Rome_stripBe Safe

The Huge Bag of Worries by Virginia Ironside

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Be Kind

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Work Hard

Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman and Thank You Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco

Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

Have Fun

Wumbers (or anything by Amy Krause Rosenthal)

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Christopher Grabenstein


Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg and Beautiful Hands by Kathryn Otoshi

Wonder by RJ Palacio


Summer School

by Maurna Rome

photo salt flats

Maurna, reading at the salt flats in Argentina

The bumper sticker reads: “Three reasons to be a teacher; June, July and August.” This may be true for some, but it was never my mantra, at least until this summer. This summer I decided to participate in summer school and what a good decision that was! My class of “summer kids” included the most diverse, interesting bunch of characters I have ever experienced in my 25 years of teaching. And best of all, rather than being confined to one classroom for the entire stint, our lessons took place in a variety of locations including London, New York, and New Orleans. If you’re thinking this was one of those online “virtual” schools, think again. It wasn’t. I had the pleasure of creating this summer school experience that was like none other. I hand picked most of the kids and the places to which we travelled. I know it sounds too good to be true in many ways and, although it wasn’t always easy, it has been one of the most rewarding summers of my career.

Let me tell you a bit about the kids… Trust me, learning about the histories of kids who have dealt with some unimaginable hardships at a very young age can pull mightily on your heartstrings and make you lose sleep. My “summer kids” have had to navigate some serious challenges. Ada was born with a physical impairment that could’ve been treated at birth yet her abusive mother chose to keep her locked in their apartment, away from other kids. Her language development was severely impacted by this neglect yet she finally

photo bookstore

Visiting a bookstore in Argentina.

learned to read at the age of 9, thanks to her foster mom. Albie is one of the kindest, most hard-working, sincere boys I have ever met. Although his parents try to be supportive, they are extremely frustrated with low academic achievement and the fact that they were asked to remove him from his highly regarded private school. And then there’s Rose. A very high potential girl with autism who lives with her emotionally distant father and a dog she loves dearly. Rose has frequent meltdowns in class and has been known to throw things, scream and make it difficult for others in the classroom to learn. Armani is a sassy, brave young lady who survived Hurricane Katrina and has had to grow up fast as she helped her family pick up the pieces after they lost everything. Finally, there is Robert, a very lonely, troubled boy being raised by his grandmother. He yearns to find out more about his mother who died when he was a baby. These incredible “summer kids” are just a few of the 20 or so who have filled my days with worry, sadness, inspiration and joy. Many of my “summer kids” have been teased and tormented by peers. Not all of them have endured such trauma, but they all have a story to tell. My time with these “summer kids” has taught me much about the power of friendship, perseverance and hope.

Meeting Caldecott award winning author, Dan Santat at the ILA Convention.

Meeting Caldecott award winning author, Dan Santat at the ILA Convention.

One of my students had a real gift for making up rhymes. Consider this gem:

Home is a place to get out of the rain

It cradles the hurt and mends the pain
And no one cares about your name

Or the height of your head
Or the size of your brain

Another quote worth pondering came from the mother of one of my “summer kids”:

If you have to tell lies, or you think you have to, to keep yourself safe—I don’t think that makes you a liar. Liars tell lies when they don’t need to, to make themselves look special or important.

And imagine how taken I was with this thought for the day, shared by that same young man who was removed from his prestigious school for not being smart enough:

You couldn’t get where you were going without knowing where you’d been. And you couldn’t be anywhere at all without having been almost there for a while.

I love my “summer kids” and the time we spent together but I have a confession to make. The truth is, I did not receive a paycheck for any of the hours I devoted to summer school. That may seem absurd, yet I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. What I got out of the experience was worth much more. There is no denying how real and full of grit my “summer kids” lives are. There is also no doubt that I learned some tremendous lessons from this group. But, you see, my “summer kids” came to me from the books I savored throughout several weeks of travelling and time with family and friends. While I was swept up in the worlds in which they live, they accompanied me on my summer Rome_SummerKidsadventures, from Salta, Argentina to St. Louis, MO. And just like every eager learner who greets me at the start of a new school year, their challenges and triumphs become mine and their stories will remain in my heart forever.

I’ll bring these “summer kids” into our classroom this fall where they’ll join us on our literacy journey in the coming year. We’ll all get to know and discuss this bunch of characters as I read their books aloud. I am a reader and it is so important that my students learn about my reading life as they continue to create their own!


Some of the “kids” I spent my summer with:

  • Ada – The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
  • Albie – Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff
  • Rose – Rain, Reign by Ann M. Martin
  • Armani – Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julie T. Lamana
  • Robert – Rump by Liesl Shurtliff
  • Jack – Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos
  • Ellie – 14th Goldfish by Jennifer Holms
  • Lina – Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
  • Hyung-pil – Single Shard by Linda Sue Park
  • Dinky – Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack by M.E. Kerr

Quirky Book Lists: Go Fly a Kite!

by The Bookologist

Curious George coverCurious George Flies a Kite

H.A. Rey
HMH Books for Young Readers, 1977 (reissue of 1958 edition)
Ages 5-8

First George is curious about some bunnies, then about fishing, and then about his friend Billy’s kite. All’s well that ends well. Ages 5-8.


cover imageDays with Frog and Toad

Arnold Lobel
1979 HarperCollins
Ages 4-8

Five stories with the two famous friends, including “The Kite,” in which Frog’s optimism and Toad’s efforts prevail over the predictions of some nay-saying robins. 



cover imageThe Emperor and the Kite

Jane Yolen and Ed Young (illustrator)
Philomel, 1988 (reissue)
Ages 4-8

Princess Ojeow Seow is the youngest of the Emperor’s children, and no one in the family thinks she’s very special. But when the emperor is imprisoned in a tower, the princess’s kite-building skills prove everyone wrong. 1968 Caldecott Honor book. 

coverimageKite Day

Will Hillenbrand
Holiday House, 2012
Ages 3-7

Bear and Mole decide it’s the perfect day to fly a kite, but first they have to build one. 

cover imageThe Kite Fighters

Linda Sue Park
Clarion, 2000
Ages 9 and up.

A story about three friends in 15th Century Korea: a boy who builds beautiful kites; his younger brother, who is an expert kite flyer and kite fighter; and a boy who is the king of Korea. 



cover imageKite Flying

Grace Lin
Knopf, 2002
Ages 4-8

Everyone has a job to do when a family builds a dragon kite. Includes cultural and historical notes on kites and kite flying. 

cover imageKites for Everyone: How to Make Them and Fly Them

Margaret Greger
Dover Publications, 2006
Ages 8 and up
Easy-to-follow, illustrated instructions for creating and flying more than fifty kites. Includes history and science of kites. 



bk_KiteTwoNationsThe Kite That Bridged Two Nations: Homan Walsh and the First Niagara Suspension Bridge

Alexis O’Neill, Terry Widener (illustrator)
Calkins Creek, 2013
Ages 8-11

True story of 16 year-old Homan Walsh, who loved to fly kites and especially loved to fly kites over the magnificent Niagara Falls that separates New York from Ontario. 

cover imageStuck

Oliver Jeffers
Philomel, 2011
Ages 3-7

Floyd’s kite is stuck in a tree! What can he throw that will knock it free? What can he throw that won’t get stuck? 






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 […]


Baseball Crazy

Yup. I admit it. I am baseball crazy. I have been since my mom took me to games at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minnesota, to see the newly arrived Minnesota Twins. And this year the Twins have outdoor baseball for the first time since 1982. It’s no wonder “baseball awareness” is heightened at this time […]


Best Read-Aloud Picture Books

Reading out loud is a low-cost, high-payback activity. It benefits both the reader and the listener. Lifelong bonds are often formed between people who engage in this activity. Make reading out loud a can’t-miss half hour in your home, classroom, daycare, place of worship, library, or workplace. The results may surprise you. “Best Read Aloud […]