Monday, April 11, 2016

Pick a Peck of Poems

What better way to celebrate spring than a poetic foray into a farmer’s market?
FRESH DELICIOUS, Poems from the Farmers’ Market, by Irene Latham, Illustrated by Mique Moriuchi, Wordsong, 2016

Poet Irene Latham's fanciful wordplay and illustrator Mique Moriuchi's  gift with paint, paper, scissors, and glue turn a trip to the outdoor market into a hunt for fun.  Who could resist a puzzle of squash or a battle with okra swords? Not I!

Engaging recipes close this adventure among the stalls of beans and peas (did one of those just wink at me?) and young readers will be eager to help, sample and devour the finished version. 

In the meantime, you will be reading this to the child on your lap over...and over...and over.

Good thing you have a healthy snack of fruit kebabs to nibble on while you turn the pages.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

What’s Your Favorite Sea Creature?

A book byte…

THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH by Ali Benjamin, Little, Brown & Company  2015

The first place I visit in an aquarium is the jellyfish tank. They mesmerize me. I am not the only one affected this way, apparently.

Suzy Swanson is in 7th grade, grieving the loss of her best friend in more ways than one. As the story unfolds, the reader sees that Suzy’s best friend left many months before, long before her sudden drowning. This is about grief and growing through and up because of it.

You will learn a lot about jellyfish, among other things.

A quote from this book will always be with me: “We are made of stardust.”



Friday, February 19, 2016


A librarian called this picture book, “airy.”
SWAN, The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova, by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Julie Morstad, Chronicle Books, 2015

And, indeed, it is airy.
Snowflakes. Petals. Feathers. Also airy. Illustrator Morstad scatters them across the pages, never letting the reader forget the soaring ambition of a little girl.

Author Snyder won’t let the reader forget, either, reminding us of the humble beginnings of this legend, repeating “shirt, shirt, laundry” even as the artist is applauded by kings and queens, yet drives herself to take ballet where it has never been.   

Anna Pavlova is known best for The Dying Swan ballet she made her own. Her influence on classical ballet can never be fathomed.  
In my mind, if we had to use a different word for ballet, it would be Pavlova.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Conversation Gap

Book bytes
A byte is a small unit.

By a stretch of my imagination, a “book byte” would be a small unit of a book review or book discussion including a quotation, comment, recommendation, whatever pops up when readers talk about books.

A writer friend asked me, “So what did you think of the Printz* winner this year?”
BONE GAP by Laura Ruby, Balzer + Bray, 2015

I couldn’t say much.

If I did, I’d risk telling too much. Spoiler alerts? I can think of several. How could I sidestep them?
This I can tell you: schedule this book for a time when your next day is an easy one, maybe a morning you can sleep in. Chances are that once you turn the first ten pages or so of this magical and haunting novel (words two other reviewers used, appropriately), you will keep reading until you are long past your usual bedtime.

After you finish Bone Gap, you will want to read it again. You can turn the pages faster when you read it the second time. And you will.

*The Michael L. Printz award honors the best book written for teens. It is sponsored annually by Booklist, a publication of the American Library Association.

Monday, January 25, 2016

A Friend Indeed

Book bytes
A byte is a small unit.
By a stretch of my imagination, a “book byte” would be a small unit of a book review or book discussion including a quotation, comment, recommendation, whatever pops up when readers talk about books.

CRENSHAW by Katherine Applegate, Feiwel and Friends, 2015
The author’s name is well known. She created the ANIMORPH series and won the Newbery Medal for THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN. A sister writer told me, “You must read this one.” Of course, she was right.

CRENSHAW is about good parents, sweet kids, and hard times. It deals with homelessness from a child’s tender perspective and the comfort he receives from an imaginary friend.  3rd grade readers will enjoy the story. Some will relate in a personal way. It could be their story.  Anyone—teachers, parents, social workers--seeking a way to help the most vulnerable among us would find this book a gentle path to building trust. If only CRENSHAW could be discovered by an older audience--adults who don’t understand that poverty is not always a choice.


Monday, January 18, 2016

Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Robert Sibart Award for the most distinguished informational book for children was announced last week by the American Library Association. Two of the four honor books named will bring home the meaning of this special day honoring Dr. King.

VOICE OF FREEDOM: FANNIE LOU HAMER: THE SPIRIT OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT by Carole  Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Ekua Holmes, Candlewick Press, 2015.
Author Weatherford has written more than 35 books for children and young adults. This is the first picture-book for fine artist Holmes who also won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award.     

Fannie Lou Hamer’s courage is legendary. It would take a strong pair of talents to introduce her to young readers. Weatherford brings the first person voice of Hamer to the page with an effective verse style that is her own poetic strength. Yet, her beautiful writing never gets in the way of the gritty, forward moving story. The emotion Holmes brings to each page turn pulls the reader deeper into a relationship with Hamer. The “little light” of Hamer’s goodness shines in both art and text.

TURNING 15 ON THE ROAD TO FREEDOM: MY STORY OF THE 1965 SELMA VOTING RIGHTS MARCH by Lynda Blackmon Lowery as told to Elspeth Leacock and Susan Buckley, illustrated by P. J. Loughran, Dial, 2015.
While researching my own work in progress, I had the privilege of getting to know Mrs. Lowery. She was part of the struggle we learn about on Martin Luther King Day. She and her family lived inside the Civil Rights Movement. Authors Leacock and Buckley give her appreciable space to tell about the events that shaped her life.

Any teacher or librarian building a program for Black History Month or hoping to impress writing students about the importance of primary resources would benefit from inviting Mrs. Lowery into their classrooms. She was “there.”

Black History Month is days away. Here are two books to put front and center for any display. What’s in your library?

Friday, January 15, 2016

Book Byte

A byte is a small unit.
By a stretch of my imagination, a “book byte” would be a small unit of a book review or book discussion including a quotation, comment, recommendation, or whatever pops up when readers talk about books.

Here’s a quote from the father of an avid ten year old reader:
“That (book) was right in his wheel house.”

The book?

HOW RUDE by Heather L. Montgomery, Scholastic, 2015
This book is about bugs that don’t mind their manners. Classified as non-fiction and science, the “ugh” factor is replaced by an exclamation of “gross” at every page turn, something 7-10 year olds “get” while they laugh so hard they snort milk out their noses. 

My thought? If your child reads this book during snack time, you might want to have a stack of napkins handy.
Repeating the first words of that sentence, If your child reads, be happy!


Hillview School Library