Let It Snow!

Owl Moon
In the far reaches of the northern hemisphere, snow graces the winter landscape and shapes the activities of the season. Picture books set in winter typically feature snowy backdrops. This column takes a look at five Caldecott Award-winning snow stories.

Art Will Out

Ablaze with Color
This month we have been thinking about the mysteries of the visual arts—how some artists must create, no matter the circumstances.

Abecedaria, Part 2

Ashanti to Zulu
Not all alphabet books are for the purpose of early literacy, nor do they meet the criteria for traditional alphabet books ... Still others are thematically connected, as are the following Caldecott Honor ABC books.

Abecedaria, Part 1

An Alphabet City
Traditionally, alphabet books, or abecedaria, serve as beginning literacy instruction for babies and young children to promote letter, sound, and word development. But, greater potential than instruction exists in this form of picture books.

Celebrating Black Women in the U.S.

Shirley Chisholm Dared
We feel called this month to celebrate the many accomplishments of Black women in this country — some of whom are historical icons, too many of whom we have we have never heard of.

Transportation, Part II: Riding the Rails

Locomotive
In the second part of our Transportation series, we look at Caldecott Award books that consider trains from different vantage points, from the outside or inside, from a real or fantastical world. Climb aboard!

Refugees

Dreamers
Heard on the news: “No one wants to be a refugee.” Here's a look at four picture books that share the refugee experience with young readers.

Transportation, Part I: Hitting the Road

The Paperboy
From an early age, children are captivated by “things that go,” from climbing on trucks in a Big Rig library event to racing bicycles along a park path. This article offers a line-up of Caldecott Award books that feature various modes of land transportation.

Vaunda Micheaux Nelson: Voices from History

Almost to Freedom
Books have been a part of Vaunda Micheaux Nelson’s life since the day she was born. “My mother found my name in a novel she was reading,” Nelson says. Books and family and history form a thread through many of Nelson’s award-winning picture books.

Picture Book Illustration

Reading the Art in Caldecott Award Books
In picture books, the illustrations often carry half, or more than half, of the narrative. Increased understanding of illustration techniques can enhance your appreciation and pleasure when reading and sharing picture books.

Julius Lester

Sam and the Tigers
Julius Lester loved language and he loved story. Language, Lester wrote, is not just words and what they mean; music and rhythm are also part of the meaning.  Just reading his books for children makes us want to read them out loud to hear that music and rhythm along with his gift for putting words together.

Catherine Urdahl and Her Reading Team

Go, Grandma, Go!
It’s been a month since I’ve seen my grandchildren, who live five hours away—a month since we’ve snuggled up with our favorite books. For me, a month is a long time.

Carole Boston Weatherford

Box: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom
Carole Boston Weatherford has been writing since she was in first grade. Her father taught printing and was able to publish those early stories. Weatherford has written dozens of picture books for young readers — and all readers. We cannot be exhaustive here, but we can introduce you to this wonderful writer.

Ten Ways to Hear Snow

Ten Ways to Hear Snow
When you grow up in Min­neso­ta, snow is a part of your world. From play­ing in it until your feet are so cold and wet that your grand­moth­er will scold while you drink hot cocoa to lift­ing your feet high as you trudge through knee-deep snow to a bus stop that’s far­ther away than it has ever been, snow is a fix­ture in your thoughts. 
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Ashley Bryan: Brave for Life

Beautiful Blackbird
Ashley Bryan's life has been so full of making children’s books and there are so many wonderful children’s books that we can only call out a few—a few enticements, and encourage you to take yourself on a wonderful journey into Ashley Bryan’s world.

Revisiting the Moon

Max and the Tag-Along Moon
A full moon on December 29 ended the year 2020. New year, new moon, and we are thinking once again about moon books – we’ve looked at some of these before, but good books, like the moon, keep coming back.

In the Neighborhood of Eloise Greenfield

The Great Migration: Journey to the North
Eloise Green­field In this sea­son of gift-giv­ing we want to look at the gift of poet­ry, specif­i­cal­ly the poet­ry and writ­ing of Eloise Green­field. Since pub­lish­ing her first poem in 1962, she has writ­ten more than forty-five books for chil­dren and was the recip­i­ent of the 2018 Coret­ta Scott King Vir­ginia Hamil­ton Award for Life­time Achieve­ment.
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Helen Oxenbury: A Life in Illustration

When Mar­sha Qua­ley began this col­umn six years ago, she had us all on the look­out for books about children’s lit­er­a­ture. What would add to our under­stand­ing of this very par­tic­u­lar com­mu­ni­ty of edu­ca­tors, stu­dents, col­lec­tor, and cre­ators? This book about Helen Oxen­bury by Leonard Mar­cus is a gem, filled with the wis­dom of a revered author-illus­tra­tor as well as her illus­tra­tions and deli­cious pho­tos that help our understanding.… more

The Range Eternal

The Range Eternal
I am delight­ed by the re-issue of The Range Eter­nal, a pic­ture book that reach­es back into his­to­ry and con­nects with our sens­es, our fam­i­lies, our fears, and our reas­sur­ances. I have read all of Louise Erdrich’s books for adults and chil­dren. She nev­er fails to bring me new ways of look­ing at the world. So it is with this book.
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Catherine Urdahl and Her Reading Team
December 2020

cover image
Rais­ing Star Read­ers is delight­ed to intro­duce a new Read­ing Team, this one led by children’s book author Cather­ine Urdahl. Here, Cather­ine shares some heart­warm­ing read­ing moments, with enough book-love and remem­bered sum­mer sun­shine to take the chill out of the cold­est of Decem­ber winds:
Juni and Catherine I read to my daugh­ters from the time they were infants, and now I have the joy of read­ing to my two-year-old grand­daugh­ter Juni and my new grand­son Col­by.
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Books about the Night

The Tinaja Tonight
Night­time is a mag­i­cal time for kids. It’s a time for explor­ing the night skies. It’s a time for dream­ing cozy dreams.  It’s a time of mis­chief when it comes with the thrill of being allowed to stay up late. Night­time pic­ture books have always had an allure for me because of the top­ics they explore and the amaz­ing and var­ied art by illus­tra­tors chal­lenged with the task of draw­ing the dark.
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You Should (Not) Read These Books

You Are (Not) Small
I remem­ber my neigh­bor­hood friends stand­ing on oppo­site sides of a dri­ve­way, angry, yelling loud­ly at each oth­er. I don’t recall why, but I can still feel those emo­tions. That’s how strong feel­ings are. Our chil­dren deal with a mul­ti­tude of emo­tions every day. You were prob­a­bly remem­ber­ing sim­i­lar instances from your child­hood. And what hap­pened after­ward? Most like­ly you were all friends again, because you need­ed to be.
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We Are Grateful

You Hold Me Up
We have to con­fess to book envy — that is encoun­ter­ing a pic­ture book and wish­ing that we had writ­ten it. The book’s approach is so arrest­ing, the heart of the book so big, the images so rich. Such books not only make us wish we’d done them, they change what we want to do and what we can do.
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Javaka Steptoe

Radiant Child
Though our focus this month is on Javaka Steptoe, we want to begin this column with another book by his father, John Steptoe, Daddy is a Monster…Sometimes. This book is narrated by two children, Bweela and Javaka, who begin, “We are Bweela and Javaka and we have a daddy. He’s a nice daddy and all, but he got somethin’ wrong with him… .”

Anita Dualeh and Her Reading Team
October 2020

Yellow Elephant
It’s always fun to catch up with one of our Read­ing Teams and see what titles have become new favorites for them. This month, how­ev­er, Ani­ta Dualeh and her sons are revis­it­ing OLD favorites: pic­ture books that were once beloved by Anita’s boys, but that they have now out­grown at ages 10 and 12. Below, Ani­ta describes what hap­pens when her Read­ing Team reex­am­ines these child­hood favorites through their more “grown-up” eyes: One evening a few months ago, I came down to our office to find my son Adam fin­ish­ing up The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.… more

Picture Books Minus the Age Stereotypes and Ageism

Nature's Friend
Modern day children’s books riddled with negative stereotypes of age? Sadly yes, they are all too easy to find.

Picture Books Minus the Age Stereotypes and Ageism

Nature's Friend
Modern day children’s books riddled with negative stereotypes of age? Sadly yes, they are all too easy to find.

John Steptoe’s Beautiful Books

Stev
This month we want to celebrate the work of John Steptoe, brilliant artist and writer, who was born on September 14, 1950. His work is a year-round birthday present to all of us.

Ann Angel and Her Reading Team
September 2020

Soar High, Dragonfly
As our Rais­ing Star Read­ers col­umn kicks off anoth­er school year, edu­ca­tors and care­givers both con­tin­ue to face the kind of chal­lenges few of us could have imag­ined last fall. Here, Ann Angel describes how her Read­ing Team is coun­ter­ing the “pan­dem­ic bub­ble” by adding non­fic­tion books to their list of favorite reads:  Hey there, par­ent or grand­par­ent, raise your hand if you’re a pan­dem­ic teacher.… more

The Very Amazing Eric Carle

The Grouchy Ladybug
Phyl­lis: Spring is final­ly here, and the pol­li­na­tors are buzzing in the blos­soms, so we thought we’d write about bugs this month. Plus, we’ve just fin­ished a book with our good friend and fel­low writer Liza Ketchum about the rusty-patched bum­ble­bee, the first bum­ble­bee to be list­ed as endan­gered. Once we start­ed look­ing for bug­gy books, we found so many by Eric Car­le, from very hun­gry cater­pil­lars to very grouchy lady­bugs to very lone­ly fire­flies that we decid­ed to look at his body of work.… more

Ann Angel and Her Reading Team
May 2020

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
In this Rais­ing Star Read­ers update, Ann Angel shares how read­ing aloud helps car­ry on her family’s her­itage of sto­ry­telling. Here’s how Ann describes it:  With Stay-at-Home a require­ment in most states, mine includ­ed, I only see some of my grand­kids via Skype and Zoom. But I have a daugh­ter and grand­son liv­ing with us. That means we’re bal­anc­ing work and Teddy’s school, so, of course, I get involved.… more

Deb Andries and Her Reading Team
April 2019

The Gingerbread Baby
We’re espe­cial­ly delight­ed to cel­e­brate with Deb Andries (a.k.a. Gram­my) this month as she launch­es her newest Read­ing Team. Here’s how Deb describes the experience: My heart has always felt this “explo­sion of love” when we’ve wel­comed a grand­child into our fam­i­ly. I vivid­ly remem­ber when our grand­son Park­er, now 14, was born, and the pure and ele­vat­ed joy I felt.… more

Books about Baking Up Family Time

Jack­ie: We decid­ed to hon­or the nation’s new­found love of bak­ing with a col­umn on pic­ture books focused on bak­ing. We still don’t have libraries (a great ben­e­fit of this con­fine­ment is the reminder of how spe­cial and nec­es­sary are libraries in our lives) so we are lim­it­ed to books we can find read aloud on Youtube.… more

Lesa Cline-Ransome

Lesa Cline-Ransome
Author Lesa Cline-Ran­some is known for her pic­ture book biogra­phies of poets, anti-slav­ery cru­saders, musi­cians, ath­letes, and math­e­mati­cians. Her nov­el Find­ing Langston received a Scott O’Dell His­tor­i­cal Fic­tion Award and a Coret­ta Scott King Author Hon­or. We impa­tient­ly wait­ed for the com­pan­ion nov­el, Leav­ing Lymon, which was pub­lished in ear­ly 2020. Lesa is a won­der­ful sto­ry­teller and a stel­lar non­fic­tion researcher and author.… more

A Blizzard of Snow Books

Snowflake Bentley
We’re snowed under right now, what with teach­ing and writ­ing and, well, snow, so we thought we’d offer up a bliz­zard of books about the white stuff that falls from our skies.  Curl up with a child, a cup of warmth, and enjoy win­ter in the pages of a book. The Snow Par­ty by Beat­rice Schenk De Reg­niers and Ber­nice Myers A lone­ly woman who lives with her hus­band on a Dako­ta farm wish­es for a par­ty. … more

Ann Angel and Her Reading Team
January 2020

Wherever You Go
Rais­ing Star Read­ers rel­ish­es this chance to catch up with Ann Angel and her multi­gen­er­a­tional Read­ing Team. For this entry, Ann was espe­cial­ly focused on how the words and visu­al art in pic­ture books lead kids to think and to dream. Here’s how Ann describes it: Long before I had kids and grand­kids, I thought I’d grow up to be a visu­al artist.… more

Celebrating Winter Celebrations

Phyl­lis: Win­ter has come down like a snowy blan­ket, and ani­mals in our world have migrat­ed, hiber­nat­ed, or are shiv­er­ing their way through the months ahead. But ani­mals in pic­ture books have oth­er ideas. Why not be a part of December’s cel­e­bra­tions of Hanukkah, Christ­mas, Sol­stice or help a friend in frozen need? These books make us feel as cozy as a cup of tea, a light­ed tree.… more

Cookies

Mr. Cookie Baker
Jack­ie: Novem­ber is a month to cel­e­brate food and fam­i­ly, to cel­e­brate mak­ing meals and eat­ing togeth­er. Phyl­lis and I both love pie. And we often review pie books in Novem­ber but we are run­ning out of pie sto­ries. (Writ­ers out there: more pie sto­ries, please.) So, this year we decid­ed to look for cook­ie sto­ries. Who doesn’t love a cook­ie?… more

McDuff Moves In

When I was young, my moth­er and I lived in a suc­ces­sion of apart­ments, none of which allowed pets. I had a fer­vent hope for a dog or a cat, an ani­mal friend to love. Every year for Christ­mas, I received a new stuffed ani­mal, usu­al­ly a dog because my moth­er didn’t care for cats. I still have those stuffed ani­mals, but I’ve nev­er had a pet. Even when we final­ly moved into a house 20 years ago, we were trav­el­ing so much that we wouldn’t have made a good home for an ani­mal.… more

Aging Down, Aging Up

Elizabeth Verdick
Back when my kids were lit­tle, I start­ed work on a non­fic­tion SEL (Social and Emo­tion­al Learn­ing) series called the “Best Behav­ior” series. More than a decade lat­er, these board books and paper­backs are still going strong, I’m hap­py to say. Titles in the series include Teeth Are Not for Bit­ing, Voic­es Are Not for Yelling, and Wor­ries Are Not For­ev­er.… more

The Arrow of Time

Candice Ransom
When you walk into our house, you know imme­di­ate­ly my hus­band and I are read­ers. The din­ing room is des­ig­nat­ed as the library, but there are book­cas­es and books in every sin­gle room, includ­ing the bath­rooms. We sub­scribe to The Wall Street Jour­nal and the Sun­day New York Times, as well as Smith­son­ian, Audubon, and Sky and Tele­scope.more

The BEARdecotts

Drawn Together
The ALA/ALSC recent­ly announced their Youth Media Awards, result­ing in much excitement. The teacher librar­i­ans at a Min­neso­ta pri­vate school with three cam­pus­es help their stu­dents look for excel­lence in children’s books by hold­ing their own award process each year. Called The BEARde­cotts, after their school mas­cot, the edu­ca­tors select books for a short list that they then share with their stu­dents over sev­er­al months, read­ing aloud, read­ing indi­vid­u­al­ly, mak­ing crit­i­cal analy­ses, and final­ly vot­ing on the most wor­thy books.
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Books Are Our Emissaries

Stephanie Calmenson
As authors, we send our books out into the world and, if we’re lucky, they con­nect us to good peo­ple whose paths we would­n’t oth­er­wise cross. For 28 years, Din­ner at the Pan­da Palace has been my excel­lent emissary.  Din­ner at the Pan­da Palace start­ed as a sim­ple count­ing and sort­ing book with lots of ani­mals and a par­ty atmos­phere to make the learn­ing fun. … more

Making Something Out of Nothing

Thank You, Omu!
Jack­ie: We are in cold, cold win­ter. Too cold to read seed cat­a­logs – spring just seems too far away to imag­ine frag­ile green. We are con­fined to cab­in. What to do but think of repur­pos­ing, mak­ing some­thing out of noth­ing, or next to nothing? Stone Soup by Mar­cia Brown has always been one of my favorite some­thing-out-of-noth­ing (or at least some­thing out of stones) sto­ries.… more