Monday, November 30, 2009

For Kids who wonder about War

Kids play at war but who thinks about a war and how it gets started? Our country is fighting two wars and today's young readers need help sorting through the causes and effects. How do kids cope with the war itself? What happens when a wounded parent comes home as a stranger or a much different person? What kinds of fears, spoken and unspoken, haunt their dreams? In the weeks ahead, I'll suggest titles that could give you and your kids a springboard for discussion. Read these books first and you'll be ready to listen.

RIOT by Walter Dean Myers. Written like a screenplay, this book lends itself to reader’s theater. It tells a little known story set in New York City during the blistering summer of 1863. On July 11, far from the Civil War battlefields, the first federal draft drawing is held in lower Manhattan. Like a match to a fuse, the drawing sets off a race and class war so violent, soldiers are called home from Gettysburg to put down the rioting and looting. They do. Brutally.

The cast of characters is large: Angry Irish immigrants railed at the draft and the New York "swells" who were allowed to pay substitutes to fight in place of their own sons. Struggling white workers shared their rage, but they saw the Irish as job takers and threats to their own survival. Free blacks, already walking a narrow line, became a target for anger. Claire, the fifteen year old daughter of an Irish woman and a black man wonders aloud why anyone must be a black person or a white person. "Why can’t you just be a person?" Her growing understanding of the difficulties of a diverse world nudge the reader to ask a few questions, too.

This book would work well in a classroom or as a discussion in a family made up of several middle grade or young high school readers. What do you think?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Finalists are Tops, too.

After a top award is handed out, the spotlight is so brightly fixed upon the winner, the books that "almost won" are often lost in the shadows. There were five finalists for The National Book Award in Young People's Literature. All are granted excellence by virtue of their nomination. They'll be on library shelves for years. But will they be read? I hope you won't miss the following title. Read it before you leave it around for your kids to find. You'll want to be prepared.

CHARLES AND EMMA: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman. This biography for middle school readers brings Charles Darwin to life as much more than a white bearded man who wrote a controversial book, THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES. His wife Emma is very real, too, as a strong partner whose firm religious convictions contrasted with his radical science. Theirs is a story of love and strong devotion to each other and to their own beliefs. This would be a great springboard for discussion for parents whose teens are beginning to search for answers in their own worlds.

What kind of discussion did this book stir up at your dinner table?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

National Book Award Winner!

Congratulations to author Philip M. Hoose who won the 2009 National Book Award for Young People's Literature for CLAUDETTE COLVIN: Twice Toward Justice.

Teens will relate to this unsung heroine of the Civil Rights Movement. 15 year old Claudette Colvin was arrested for not giving up her seat on a Montgomery bus several months before Rosa Parks became the icon of the Movement. A misunderstood teen who asked questions adults didn't want to answer, Claudette endured many insults and much isolation. Girls who suffer bad hair days will empathize with Claudette's decision to stop straightening her hair. It was considered an act of rebellion at the time. How would today's independent thinking thirteen year olds view this? What a lively discussion this could be!

The author does a brave and balanced job of bringing Claudette Colvin's story forward. What do your teen readers think?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Box Filled with Magic-- Possibility

Remember your child's first birthday? What was the favorite gift? The wrapping paper, yes? Well, here's a novel idea and it's a picture book.

MAGIC BOX by Katie Cleminson. On her birthday, Eva is given...a box! She jumps in, becomes "a master magician," and starts to wish. That's when the fun begins. The ending iis fun, too, and it's all made possible by Eva's imagination. Be sure you have a big box handy for play time after you read this with your pre-schooler.

What kinds of adventures does your young reader imagine when given a magic box?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Thanksgiving Then and Now

Who loves to discuss (and discuss!) more than middle school family members? Here's a question to keep them talking during the hustle bustle of Thanksgiving preparations.

"Do you think the Pilgrim and Indian story is true?"

And here's a book with answers:
THANKSGIVING: THE TRUE STORY by Penny Colman. From early harvest rites to today’s family gatherings, Colman studied primary materials and created a survey to contrast perceptions of Thanksgiving held by everyday people like us. Then she shared her own perceptions and discoveries as the research mounted. The author is no stranger to digging in the past. recreating experiences and leading readers to share them, as if they were there, too. See her other titles at

Do you have a favorite book about Thanksgiving that you share with your family as part of the tradition?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Gathering Together

Almost forgotten in the crush of holiday festivities is a time to stop and contemplate our blessings. We are fortunate. To keep us from forgetting, we have an entire day set aside. Thanksgiving Day is dedicated to remembering all the good things in life.

THIS THE FEAST by Diane Z. Shore and illustrated by Megan Lloyd will introduce the youngest listeners to the history behind this day of gathering memories and family members together. Written in lyrical verse, the art is so inviting the reader will look for a place at the table. From crashing and thrashing on the rough, rolling seas to meeting and appreciating Squanto who shared his knowledge to harvesting from gardens leafy and green, the pilgrims make it clear their survival is reason to rejoice and be thankful.

What are you thankful for this year?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

What's Ahead

Next week:

Thanksgiving Books!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Calling Reluctant Readers

Looking for a book for your middle school reader with no drugs, sex, or violence done to classmates? Of course, you'd want that young let-me-choose-it-myelf teen or tween to read it, right? Here's a great mystery that fills the bill.

THE MILES BETWEEN by Mary E. Pearson is an unpredictable mystery that builds to a powerful revelation. The reader will be certain he’s figured it out. Pearson is also the author of THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX which is being made into a movie. Jenna's story is futuristic and raises a number of issues to ponder and discuss. Again, the ending comes as a shock. Read them both and leave them in odd places around the house for your other reader(s) to discover.

Did you figure out the endings?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Let's Pretend We're at the Library

Most libraries are future reader friendly. Many libraries host story times for the youngest set and these special events inspire parents to read more books, to their little wigglers and to themselves. Sharing a book about how to treat books would be a great way to prep your child before each visit, wouldn’t it?

READ IT, DON’T EAT IT! By Ian Schoenherr is exactly that book. A dog, a bear, and other animals young readers love to recognize show what NOT to do with a book–all in rhyming text and bright colors.

How did your last visit to story time turn out?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Start Your Engines!

Motors, engines, the roar of a bus, plane, or train. Kids love these sounds. They imitate them. And they love to hear about them as characters in books. When my daughter was 2, she brought me her book about Stubby the Tractor whenever I made a lap.

OTIS by Loren Long is another tractor book. The author/illustrator paired this lovable and loyal farm machine with a calf bawling for its mother. The combination hits just the right note of nostalgia for parents and the kind of warmth and comfort toddlers get from a favorite bedtime blanket.

What do your toddlers call their blanket?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Snuggle Book

Winter may be a gray time of year, but it can also be a cozy time. Snuggle under a quilt made by loving hands with a little reader or a very young listener and feel blessed.

ONE WIDE SKY: A BEDTIME LULLABY by Deborah Wiles is as wide as a yawn. Soft hues, warm words, and careful page turns will lull even the most resistant to quiet time. ZZZZ

Are you asleep?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Music, music, music.

Music surrounds us. But how much do we know about those who create it?

LIVES OF THE MUSICIANS and What the Neighbors Thought by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Kathryn Hewitt, answers questions we'd never think of asking. Did you know Johann Sebastian Bach was thrown in jail because he wanted to quit his job? Ludwig Von Beethoven's favorite food was mac and cheese. Clara Schumann's concerts were so well attended that police were needed for crowd control. That might sound like "today" but it happened in the 1840's!

With an appeal to all ages, this book could inspire your family to start its own musical tour.

Or not.

Kathleen Krull has written other "Lives of..." books. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Veggies for Monsters

Halloween is over and NOW your little ones like monsters so much they want to BE them, all the time. And of course real monsters don't eat the green stuff that's good for them. What's a caring cook to do?

MONSTERS DON'T EAT BROCCOLI by Barbara Jean Hicks, illustrated by Sue Hendra, may start out on a note of "no!" but it ends with a second helping. Read it aloud with your toddler. Happy munching sounds should follow.

Did they?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Call of the Great Outdoors

I'm writing from Alabama in fall weather so glorious everyone wants to bolt from school and office and head for the woods.

ALABAMA MOON by Watt Key is one of those adventure and survival books boys will make time to read even if they say they don't like books. Middle school guys and girls (parents, too!) will not want to sleep until they find out how this one ends. Hint: start before lunch. Warning: you might be tempted to live in the woods until snowfall.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Frantic about Flu?

You can't watch TV without hearing concerns about flu, regular and H1N1. Parents are anxious, many distressed. If parents are upset, how could kids NOT be worried, too? Readers who've progressed from chapter books to middle-grade novels might be relieved to learn about the health crises their grandparents experienced--and survived!

BLUE, by Joyce Moyer Hostetter, is set in WWII. Ann Fay Honeycutt is 13 when her daddy goes to war and she steps into the role of "man of the house." Life develops its own routine of struggles. Then polio storms the Honeycutt household and a different kind of war erupts. A sequel, COMFORT, follows Ann Fay to Warm Springs, GA for polio rehabilitation. Both books celebrate the spirit of those who triumph over disabilities and demonstrate how hard times build strong people.

What kind of discussion will these books start at your house?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Overcoming Sugar Rush

Halloween isn't over 'til all the candy is gone. All that sugar adds energy (for the moment) to your little ones and you may need the energy but abhor the calories. What better way to work off the sugar rush than to act out a picture book. Here's one that leaves a sweet taste:

TREASURE by Suzanne Bloom.

Goose thinks Bear is taking him on a treasure hunt. They race, dig, and dive, but Goose decides there is no treasure. Bear sets him straight.

A favorite book is a treasure. What's yours?


Hillview School Library