School Library Journal The world's largest reviewer of books, multimedia, and technology for children and teens Thu, 28 May 2015 16:03:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Long Ago and Far Away | Graphic Nonfiction Thu, 28 May 2015 13:00:47 +0000 The Underground Abductor and a look at the Middle East during the 1940s and 1950s with Leila Abdelrazaq’s Baddawi.]]> redstarHale, Nathan. Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: The Underground Abductor (An Abolitionist Tale). illus. by Nathan Hale. 128p. (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales). bibliog. photos. Abrams/Amulet. 2015. Tr $12.95. ISBN 9781419715365.

Gr 3-7 –In this series, a fictionalized Nathan Hale (a patriot from the American Revolutionary War) tells stories about America’s most extraordinary heroes and villains. In this installment, Hale tells his British captors about Harriet Tubman, the spy and nurse who helped hundreds of American slaves run away in the 1800s on the Underground Railroad. Although several children’s books about Tubman exist (all conveniently listed in a bibliography), the author injects danger, espionage, and slapstick humor into his work, as he peels back the layers of this courageous woman’s rebellion. The title begins with Tubman’s childhood and tracks her life, also discussing other notables in the war against slavery, such as Nat Turner and Frederick Douglass. Though the focus is on Tubman, the book touches upon the issue of slavery and its effect on the nation’s history, which may spark conversations among students and may encourage them to seek out more information. Rendered in gray and purple ink wash, the cartoonlike illustrations use comic book conventions to animate a piece of history that may otherwise seem distant and inaccessible to today’s readers. Those who enjoy Lauren Tarshis’s “I Survived” (Scholastic) series and other action-packed historical fiction will devour this title. VERDICT A first-choice selection for any children’s library and a fresh addition to Black History Month and Women’s History Month book lists.–Jaclyn Anderson, Madison County Library System, MS

For all the latest reviews in this subject area and more, check out our Book Verdict site! Book Verdict is fully accessible to all users, though certain content and functionality are only available to subscribers. To log in to your account, click here. To view the new subscription options, Get Started With Book Verdict Pro Today. Don't know if you have an account with us? It's easy to check and verify your email, or create a new account.
The following titles are reviewed in this month's print issue.
Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.

Adbelrazaq, Leila. Baddawi. illus. by Leila Adbelrazaq. 128p. glossary. Just World Books. 2015. Tr $30. ISBN 9781935982494; pap. $20. ISBN 9781935982401. LC 2014951487.

]]> 0
2015 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award Winners Wed, 27 May 2015 20:58:13 +0000  

BGHBAwards_smThe Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee (S. & S.) has won the 2015 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award for best picture book, while Katherine Rundell’s Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms (S. & S.) took best fiction title and Candace Fleming’s The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion and the Fall of Russia (Schwartz & Wade) was named best nonfiction book.

Roger Sutton, editor in chief of The Horn Book, and Rebecca Stead, the 2010 Boston Globe–Horn Book Fiction Award winner for When You Reach Me (Random), revealed the 2015 winners and honorees on May 27 during School Library Journal s Day of Dialog, taking place at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.

Picture book honorees included Jon Agee’s It’s Only Stanley by Jon Agee and Oliver Jeffers’s Once upon an Alphabet (both Penguin). Gregory Maguire’s Egg & Spoon (Candlewick) and Neal Shusterman, and Brendan Shusterman’s Challenger Deep (HarperCollins) were the fiction honor titles. Nonfiction honor winners were The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Phillip Hoose (Macmillan) and Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (Penguin).


Author Rebecca Stead and Horn Book editor in chief Roger Sutton announce the winners and honorees.

Read the full press release.


May 27, 2015, New York, NY—Today Roger Sutton, editor in chief of The Horn Book, and Rebecca Stead, the 2010 Boston Globe–Horn Book Fiction Award winner for When You Reach Me, announced the 2015 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award winners. Celebrating their 49th year, the Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards are among the most prestigious honors in the field of children’s and young adult literature.


A Winner and two Honor Books were selected in each of three categories: Picture Book, Fiction, and Nonfiction.


“The BHGB’s odd calendar (last half of previous year, first half of this) and small (three) panel of judges tend to bring unexpected choices to the fore, but what makes this award really stand out is its deceptively simple criterion: the judges are instructed to reward ‘excellence,’ no more, no less. Not as easy as it might sound!” says Roger Sutton.


“The Boston Globe is proud to once again present The Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards—one of the many ways the Globe promotes excellence in the arts and letters nationally. We congratulate this year’s winning authors for their exemplary work in the field of children’s and young adult literature. It is our hope that their books will spark curiosity and creativity in generation upon generation of young people,” said Linda Pizzuti Henry, Boston Globe Managing Director.



The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee, published by Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division



It’s Only Stanley by Jon Agee, published by Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Group USA


Once Upon an Alphabet by Oliver Jeffers, published by Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Group USA



Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell, published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers



Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire, published by Candlewick Press


Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman, illustrated by Brendan Shusterman, published by HarperTeen, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers



The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming, published by Schwartz & Wade Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books



The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Phillip Hoose, published by Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group


Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, published by Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Group USA


More information can be found by visiting the awards website:


The awards are chosen by an independent panel of three judges appointed by Mr. Sutton. The 2015 Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards judges are: Chair, Barbara Scotto, co-director of Children’s Literature New England; Jessica Tackett MacDonald, collection development librarian at the Boston Public Library, specializing in youth and teen collections; and Maeve Visser Knoth, librarian at Phillips Brooks School in Menlo Park, California.


The winning titles must be published in the United States, but they may be written or illustrated by citizens of any country.


The awards will be given at the Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards Ceremony on Friday, October 2nd, 2015, at Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts. The event begins with speeches by the awardees, followed by an autographing session and a celebratory evening reception. The following day, Saturday, October 3rd, The Horn Book at Simmons Colloquium features the award winners and honorees in talks, panel discussions, and small-group sessions, offering librarians, educators, and children’s literature professionals a chance to examine critical issues relevant to children’s and young adult literature. The theme of this year’s Colloquium is “Transformations.” More information on The Horn Book at Simmons can be found at


About Boston Globe Media Partners, LLC

Boston Globe Media Partners, LLC provides news and information, entertainment, opinion and analysis through its multimedia properties. BGMP includes the Boston Globe,,,, and Globe Direct.


About The Horn Book

First published in 1924, The Horn Book Magazine provides its readership with in-depth reviews of the best new books for children and young adults as well as features, articles, and editorials. The Horn Book Guide, published twice annually, provides comprehensive reviews and a numerical rating for every hardcover children’s book published in the United States during the previous publishing season. The Horn Book Magazine, Guide, and Guide Online are publications of Media Source, Inc., which is also the parent company of Library Journal, School Library Journal, and Junior Library Guild.

]]> 1
School Librarians Join Chicago Teachers Union In Pay Raise Fight Wed, 27 May 2015 18:05:04 +0000 The Chicago Public School system (CPS) is currently in negotiations with the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) about a possible contract extension after the current contract ends on June 30. Such disputes are not uncommon, but this is the first year that librarians in Chicago are officially part of talks with CTU.

Although school librarians have been able to give input during contract negotiations the contract in years past, they have not had formal representation on the negotiation committee until now. “It’s very flattering to hear the union chief and other representatives reference the importance of libraries,” say K.C. Boyd, a librarian at a Chicago high school for the past five years.

The negotiations are the latest altercation in a strained relationship between the government and the union. Citing a deficit of more than $1 billion, CPS will not be offering union workers, including teachers and librarians, a contract extension that would have come with a pay raise of three percent. Instead, the administration of Mayor Rahm Emanuel is demanding that teachers, clinicians, and paraprofessionals take a seven percent pay cut and occasional increases in insurance premiums.

CTU maintains that the financial deficit has been manufactured by the Emanuel administration. “This makes no sense—they are penny wise and pound foolish,” CTU president Karen Lewis told the Chicago Tribune.

“The District’s top priority is to ensure our students and teachers have the resources they need to succeed in the classroom,” responded CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey in a statement, according to CBS Chicago. “The financial crises facing CPS is real—we face a budget deficit that exceeds $1.1 billion, while Illinois is second to last in education funding, and Chicago teachers and taxpayers are being shortchanged because of a broken pension system that forces Chicago residents to pay twice for teacher pensions.”

While CTU and the librarians’ committee are working together in the talks, Megan Murray Cusick, CTU Librarians Committee chair and a school librarian, explained that the librarians also have specific demands of their own. “First and foremost, what we’re asking for is a school librarian in every Chicago public school,” Cusick says. “It shouldn’t come down to whether or not a school has fundraised; it should be standard.” Other demands are that librarians not be used as substitute teachers or be forced to teach additional course loads as their positions in schools get cut out due to lack of funds.

Negotiations began in November 2014. With the contract deadline looming and a recent shift in gubernatorial leadership, “Everything is evolving and shifting as we speak, including a new state board of education superintendent,” Boyd says.

“What we’re hearing is that we are just very far apart right now,” Cusick says. “We have not talked a lot about what it’s going to take to bridge that gap.”

A CTU spokesperson had no comment on the negotiations.

Some speculate that the budget crisis is retaliation for a seven-day CTU strike in 2012—and payback for the union’s support of Emanuel’s challenger, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, in a run-off election last year. Boyd and Cusick are focusing on where money might be found. “We would say there are places in the budget available to fully resource schools with librarians and the other professional students need to have a full-school experience,” Cusick says. “We need to take a look at the amount of money spent on testing, and positions at central office could be reduced or eliminated to get the money back into the schools. We should look at relationships with third parties.”

The Emanuel administration stated that it is waiting to receive word from the neighboring town of Springfield before it releases next year’s budgets, which will affect the direction of the talks. For Cusick and Boyd, the next step is to get the word out. “We really need to involve other stakeholders in the conversations that we’re having, so reaching out to parent organizations and community groups and faith-based communities to talk to them about what we’re asking for in terms of our contract because it’s the only way to help the negotiations move [forward] and to have some of our other stakeholders express their interests,” Cusick said. “They have to know what’s being discussed.” Community organizations have been sponsoring forums around the city, where union and the district representatives have been invited to speak about where the negotiations stand and what the major issues are.
Students are the main concern for Boyd and Cusick. “We know what kids need at the school level,” Cusick says. “What we have to focus on is what’s in the best interest of the kids.”

Boyd adds that as librarians get squeezed out of positions or leave for higher-paying jobs, students pay the price. “At the end of the day, the kids lose out,” she says. “It’s a problem.”

]]> 0
Follett, HarperCollins Partner to Offer 18,000 Ebook Titles for Pre-K to 12 Market Wed, 27 May 2015 13:58:20 +0000 From Follett:

Follett today announced it has launched a collection of nearly 18,02015-05-27_08-56-3600 ebook titles for PreK-12 students through a strategic partnership with HarperCollins Publishers.


Among the beloved HarperCollins classics that will be available are, “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis and “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee. In addition, students and educators will have access to Lee’s newly discovered novel, “Go Set a Watchman,” which will be published July 14, by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins. The much-anticipated novel is set during the 1950s and features characters from “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

“HarperCollins has an impressive roster of titles and authors, and we’re pleased to work with them to expand our ebook collection to the millions of students and educators across the country who use the Titlewave platform,” said Nader Qaimari, senior vice president of content services and solutions for Follett.

Read the Complete Announcement

]]> 0
“Groundswell Rising” reports on the continued dangers of fracking| DVD Pick Wed, 27 May 2015 13:00:43 +0000 Groundswell Rising: Protecting Our Children’s Air & Water. 70 min. and 52 min.  Dist. by Bullfrog Films. 2014.  $295.  Rent $95.  ISBN 194154519X. Gr 7 Up–In this timely and critically important report, the potential dangers of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, are laid out in unequivocal terms by residents in Colorado, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, and New York, where hydraulic mining to release natural gas is taking place or has been proposed. Spurred to activism to safeguard the health of their children [...]]]> groundswellGroundswell Rising: Protecting Our Children’s Air & Water. 70 min. and 52 min.  Dist. by Bullfrog Films. 2014.  $295.  Rent $95.  ISBN 194154519X.
Gr 7 Up–In this timely and critically important report, the potential dangers of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, are laid out in unequivocal terms by residents in Colorado, Wyoming, Pennsylvania, and New York, where hydraulic mining to release natural gas is taking place or has been proposed. Spurred to activism to safeguard the health of their children and communities, these beleaguered small-town citizens have joined together in local grassroots organizations and have garnered support from national environmental organizations and celebrity activists (Mark Ruffalo). Vividly depicted are details of how gas companies make promises to get people to lease their land—and how they resort to coercion; the contamination of groundwater; noise, light, and air pollution; dangers of heavy truck traffic on rural roads; and the reneging of promises. Children suffering higher than normal rates of allergies, asthma, skin rashes, and gastrointestinal problems are examined, as well as gas company workers suffering ill effects. Scientists, engineers, doctors, and political and religious leaders weigh in, and statistics regarding the success of community efforts against fracking appear before the end credits. The 70-minute version contains additional footage, commentary, and information, but the 52-minute edition more than adequately covers the topic. VERDICT Environmental science, health, and social studies classes will find much to discuss here.–Cynthia Ortiz, Hackensack High School, NJ

]]> 0
Emus, Insects, and War Horses | Elementary Nonfiction Wed, 27 May 2015 13:00:09 +0000 SLJ1505-NFic-Elemetary

redstarBurgess, Matthew. Enormous Smallness: A Story of E. E. Cummings. illus. by Kris Di Giacomo. 64p. chron. Enchanted Lion. 2015. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781592701711.

Gr 3 Up –This enchanting picture book biography introduces children to the life and work of e.e. cummings, one of America’s most innovative poets. With a tree house in the city and a cabin by the woods in the country each summer, cummings grew up surrounded by family and nature, and his imagination soared. He began writing poetry from the age of three, which his mother recorded. Written in verse, the text is accessible and lends itself well to read-alouds. The book itself is a work of art, full of thick pages of whimsical, full-spread illustrations in a palette of grays, blues, browns, and greens. Burgess chronicles the poet’s childhood and early adulthood, beginning and ending in the Greenwich Village studio where he would spend nearly 40 years of his life. Several child-friendly poems, including “who are you, little i” and “in Just-,” are interwoven into the text (and appended). Pair with Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet’s Caldecott Honor title A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams (Eerdmans, 2008) for a unit on poetry. VERDICT A unique and inspiring introduction.–Barbara Auerbach, New York City Public Schools

redstarJenkins, Steve & Robin Page. How to Swallow a Pig: Step-by-Step Advice from the Animal Kingdom. illus. by Steve Jenkins. 32p. bibliog. HMH. Sept. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544313651.

Gr 2-5 –Jenkins and Page team up once again for a glimpse into the animal kingdom. The authors outline 18 behaviors step by step, addressing readers directly as they explain how whales fish, wasps build nests, and grebes dance. Though the text is quite witty (“If you are a guy, start things off by offering a female grebe a gift of water plants”), some adults might wish for precautionary notes for the literal-minded, who might attempt to reenact instructions such as “Pop the millipede in your mouth.” Impressive torn-and-cut paper collage artwork on white backgrounds work well with the conversational writing style. Students will be enthralled by the descriptions of an octopus disguising itself, a crocodile hunting for a meal, and a python swallowing a pig. The book includes single-page treatments and spreads of each behavior, with numbered directions laid out clockwise. Back matter provides additional information about the animals, such as their sizes and native environments. VERDICT Jenkins and Page present another fascinating, fun, and attractive look at the natural world.–Lynn Vanca, Freelance Librarian, Akron, OH

redstarMinor, Wendell. Daylight Starlight Wildlife. illus. by Wendell Minor. 32p. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Bks. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399246623; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780698187696.

PreS-Gr 2 –This gorgeous picture book provides a look at animals that are active during the day (diurnal), those who come out at night (nocturnal), and a few that appear at sunrise or twilight (crepuscular). Minor relies on simple, lyrical text (“Speedy gray squirrel scurries all day in search of acorns to store for winter.”) and stunning, full-color paintings to share characteristics of each creature, as he takes readers from day to night and back again. Many of the critters will be familiar to children (rabbit, deer, skunk), while several are lesser known (opossum, flying squirrel, luna moth). The use of comparisons and contrasts will be especially helpful in classroom settings, but browsers will also be attracted by the appealing, realistic illustrations. There are two pages of “Fun Facts” appended, which include thumbnail illustrations of the 22 animals, along with some interesting additional information for the most curious. VERDICT This lovely title should find a spot in all collections and will likely inspire greater outdoor observation and appreciation.–Sara-Jo Lupo Sites, George F. Johnson Memorial Library, Endicott, NY

redstarSmith, Matthew Clark. Small Wonders: Jean-Henri Fabre and His World of Insects. illus. by Giuliano Ferri. 40p. chron. notes. Amazon/Two Lions. May 2015. Tr. $17.99. ISBN 9781477826324. LC 2014915911.

Gr 2-5 –This enchanting picture book biography examines the life and work of 19th-century French entomologist Jean-Henri Fabre. Fairy tale–like in tone, the first few pages will easily draw in children, as Smith describes the actions of an old hermit who was considered a local eccentric by those in his village for his habit of speaking to animals and collecting insects (“Whether he was a sorcerer, or simply a madman, no one could agree.”). The villagers were shocked, however, when Fabre received a visit from the president of France. Readers are then taken back in time to learn about Fabre’s childhood, education, and ever-present interest in the natural world, as well as his unconventional teaching and writings on insect behavior. Indeed, he often shocked fellow scientists with his bizarre findings. Smith’s engaging text conveys Fabre’s zeal for his subject, while Ferri’s gorgeously detailed watercolor and pencil illustrations of plant life and insects beg readers to stop and look both at the pages as well as at the natural world around them. Historical and author’s notes and a useful time line add further context. VERDICT A must-have.–Jennifer Wolf, Beaverton City Library, OR

redstarYoon, JooHee, ed. Beastly Verse. illus. by JooHee Yoon. 48p. Enchanted Lion. 2015. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781592701667.

K-Gr 4 –Yoon’s bold imagination is evidenced by her illustrations of these 16 animal-related poems by an eclectic group of writers including Lewis Carroll, D.H. Lawrence, and surrealist Robert Desnos. The verses vary from the nonsensical, such as Laura E. Richards’s “Eletelephony,” to the sublime, such as Walter de la Mare’s “Dream Song.” By combining printmaking, drawing, and digital techniques and relying upon three Pantone colors, Yoon has created a work of art, full of vibrant colors, striking patterns, and playful layouts. To capture William Blake’s “The Tiger,” for instance, Yoon uses a gatefold that reveals part of the tiger amid a background of wild forest ferns on each page, with the color scheme moving from greens to yellows, until the tiger’s head emerges, ablaze like the sun. VERDICT An excellent, innovative approach to poetry.–Teresa Pfeifer, The Springfield Renaissance School, Springfield, MA

For all the latest reviews in this subject area and more, check out our Book Verdict site! Book Verdict is fully accessible to all users, though certain content and functionality are only available to subscribers. To log in to your account, click here. To view the new subscription options, Get Started With Book Verdict Pro Today. Don't know if you have an account with us? It's easy to check and verify your email, or create a new account.
The following titles are reviewed in this month's print issue.
Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.

Aston, Dianna Hutts. A Nest Is Noisy. illus. by Sylvia Long. 40p. Chronicle. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781452127132. LC 2013047998.

Bandy, Michael S. & Eric Stein. Granddaddy’s Turn: A Journey to the Ballot Box. illus. by James E. Ransome. 32p. Candlewick. Jul. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763665937.

Barner, Bob. Sea Bones. illus. by Bob Barner. 32p. Chronicle. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781452125008.

Barr, Catherine & Steve Williams. The Story of Life: A First Book About Evolution. illus. by Amy Husband. 40p. chron. glossary. Frances Lincoln/Janetta Otter-Barry Bks. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781847804853.

Desmond, Jenni. The Blue Whale. illus. by Jenni Desmond. 48p. Enchanted Lion. May 2015. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781592701650.

Dobrow, Larry. Derek Jeter’s Ultimate Baseball Guide 2015. illus. by Damien Jones. 96p. chart. ebook available. photos. websites. S. & S./Little Simon. 2015. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781481423182.

Frankel, Erin. Nobody!: A Story About Overcoming Bullying in Schools. illus. by Paula Heaphy. 48p. Free Spirit. May 2015. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9781575424958; pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781575424965.

ENGLE, Margarita. The Sky Painter: Louis Fuertes, Bird Artist. illus. by Aliona Bereghici. 40p. Amazon/Two Lions. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781477826331.

Greenlaw, M. Jean. Inundación. ISBN 9781627242509. LC 2013044163.

Markovics, Joyce. Terremoto. ISBN 9781627242479. LC 2013044164.

––––. Tormenta De Nieve. ISBN 9781627242455. LC 2013044165.

––––. Tsunami. ISBN 9781627242486. LC 2013044161.

Rudolph, Jessica. Huracán. ISBN 9781 627242493. LC 2013044162.

––––. Tornado. ISBN 9781627242462. LC 2013044166.

ea vol: tr. from English by Eida Del Risco. Spanish ed. 24p. (¡Que Desastre!). further reading. glossary. index. photos. websites. Bearport. 2015. lib. ed. $23.93.

Greenwood, Mark. Midnight: A True Story of Loyalty in World War I. illus. by Frané Lessac. 32p. Candlewick. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780763674663.

Himmelman, John. Noisy Bird Sing-Along. illus. by John Himmelman. 32p. (The Noisy Sing-Along). further reading. Dawn. 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781584695134. LC 2014031421.

Hocker, Katherine & Mary Willson. The Singer in the Stream: A Story of American Dippers. illus. by Katherine Hocker. 32p. glossary. maps. photos. Yosemite Conservancy. 2015. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781930238565. LC 2014942546.

Hoffman, Mary. The Great Big Green Book. illus. by Ros Asquith. 36p. glossary. websites. Frances Lincoln/Janetta Otter-Barry Bks. 2015. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781847804457.

Kostecki-Shaw, Jenny Sue. Luna & Me: The True Story of Girl Who Lived in a Tree to Save a Forest. illus. by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw. 40p. photos. Holt. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780805099768.

Kudlinski, Kathleen V. Boy, Were We Wrong About the Weather! illus. by Sebastià Serra. 32p. chron. websites. Dial. Jul. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780803737938. LC 2014019185.

Manning, Mick & Brita Granström. Wild Adventures: Look, Make, Explore—In Nature’s Playground. illus. by Mick Manning & Brita Granström. 48p. glossary. Frances Lincoln/Janetta Otter-Barry Bks. 2015. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781847804365.

Markovics, Joyce. Las mariposas monarca. ISBN 9781627244589. LC 2014019668.

––––. Las ranas de la madera. ISBN 9781627244619. LC 2014019670.

––––. Los pequeños murciélagos café. ISBN 9781627244572. LC 2014019671.

Sawyer, J. Clark. Las ardillas de tierra de trece franjas. ISBN 9781627244596. LC 2014019638.

––––. Las golondrinas comunes. ISBN 9781627244565. LC 2014019673.

––––. Las serpientes de cascabel de bandas. ISBN 9781627244602. LC 2014019669.

ea vol: tr. from English by Eida Del Risco. Spanish ed. 24p. (¿A dónde van en invierno?). index. further reading. maps. photos. websites. Bearport. 2014. lib. ed. $23.93.

Meyer, Eileen R. Sweet Dreams, Wild Animals!: A Story of Sleep. illus. by Laurie Caple. 32p. Mountain. 2015. Tr $12. ISBN 9780878426379. LC 2014037551.

Paschkis, Julie. Flutter & Hum: Animal Poems/Aleteo y zumba: Poemas de animales. illus. by Julie Paschkis. 32p. Holt. Aug. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781627791038. BL

Rabe, Tish. Out of Sight Till Tonight!: All About Nocturnal Animals. illus. by Aristides Ruiz & Joe Mathieu. 48p. (The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library). further reading. glossary. index. Random. 2015. lib. ed. $13.99. ISBN 9780375970764; Tr $9.99. ISBN 9780375870767.

Saxby, Claire. Emu. illus. by Graham Byrne. 32p. index. Candlewick. 2015. Tr. $16.99. ISBN 9780763674793. LC 2013957348.

Stewart, Melissa. A Place for Birds. illus. by Higgins Bond. 32p. bibliog. further reading. maps. Peachtree. 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781561458394; pap. $7.95. ISBN 9781561458400. LC 2008036744.

]]> 0
Make It So: Building on the Impulse to Create | Editorial Wed, 27 May 2015 12:30:09 +0000 SLJ1505-Editorial-snapshopEvery once in a while, my work and parenting dovetail in the most wonderful ways. Just last month, a spring squall sent me and my kids scrambling for shelter. That was, of course, a library, the Jefferson Market branch of the New York Public Library. It is an old haunt of mine, and I expected a crowd of like-minded caregivers and their kids. But I found so much more. Beyond a line of strollers, past the children’s room, was a making activity in process. A coordinated melee was underway, with a crowd of kids and adults busily humming over an array of colorful construction paper, scissors, and glue to make paper daffodils. Children’s librarian Rebecca Schosha moved about providing guidance. Within minutes, my daughter was cutting out petals, my son was flopped down absorbed in a book, and I was sitting crisscross on the floor with them proofing pages of SLJ, this “The Maker Issue.” There we were, living a making moment.

The maker movement has taken our culture by storm, and libraries have been stepping up with programs large and small. While some might not view storytime craft projects—such as paper daffodils—as maker, others recognize their vital place on the creation continuum. We at SLJ see the SLJ_CV_May2015nimble response from the library world and recognize how much remains unknown or untested. As the mix of coverage here illustrates, making happens on many scales, high-tech and low, and the engagement and learning is powerful. In the spirit of that widely ranging initiative in the field and beyond, we are proud to bring you this dedicated issue, spearheaded by Executive Editor Kathy Ishizuka.

“Maker spaces are red hot right now and being embraced by libraries, school and public. The dynamism is palpable and exciting to see,” says Ishizuka about the inspiration behind the maker issue. “Beyond reporting great programs out there, we wanted to step back and take a fuller view of this popular trend to explore what it all means. What are the connections to learning? How do maker activities serve the community? And this implies engaging the particular needs of your community, whether it’s special education students at a Brooklyn vocational institution, teenagers in a suburban Virginia high school, or a knitting circle of elders who congregate at their local public library branch.”

Ishizuka also notes that we wanted to “chip away—in our small, yet subversive way—at a couple of myths, starting with maker as synonymous with maker space.” In short: no dedicated space is required. And there’s a deep and informative exploration of the real learning potential of 3-D printing by Chad Sansing (“Worth the Hype?”).

“No matter the type of making,” adds Ishizuka, “I think it all comes down to human engagement, whether that’s face-to-face workshops, such as Black Girls Code or a few students working out a design challenge together using plastic cups. To work in community is more fun, of course, and certainly more messy.”

Messy, indeed, and exciting, as you’ll see in the many projects profiled here.

The team at SLJ will continue to surface maker trends and best practices. And we want to help you take your work to the next level. Toward that end, we’re pleased to offer a related online professional development course, the four-week “Maker Workshop”.

No matter where your library lands on the maker continuum, there’s plenty to dig into here as you think about what to do next. However you proceed, we’d love to hear about it and how it’s working for you and your community.


Rebecca T. Miller

]]> 0
Read It, Make It, Eat It | Great Picture Books with Recipes Tue, 26 May 2015 17:09:08 +0000 Food plays a central role in these delectable picture books, all of which come ready-made with a hands-on, taste bud–pleasing activity that expands the literary experience. Exploring various countries and cultures, dabbling in history, emphasizing the warmth of family relationships, and conveying the universal enjoyment of preparing and sharing edibles, these offerings are perfect for storytime, classroom use, or one-to-one sharing. Parents and educators can use recipes, which must be carefully decoded and require repeated readings, to provide a unique instructional opportunity for children learning to read (proof of careful deciphering will be in the pudding!). From hardy soups to delish desserts, this list highlights newer offerings along with several scrumptious older titles.

baking-day-at-grandma-s_3045482Baking Day at Grandma’s. by Anika Denise. illus. by Christopher Denise. Philomel. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780399242441.

PreS-Gr 1–Three effervescent bear cubs bundle up and journey through a wintry landscape to Grandma’s cozy cottage for a day spent making treats, sipping hot cocoa, and sharing hugs. Ebullient rhyming verses and light-infused illustrations strike a harmonious note between old-fashioned charm and cartoon quirkiness. At the end of this memorable day, “Grandma Rosie’s Chocolate Cake” is frosted, cut into squares, and tenderly packaged for distribution to loved ones.


Cora Cooks Pancit. by Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore. illus. by Kristi Valiant. Lee & Low/Shen’s Bks. 2009. TrAAACora Cooks Pancit $17.95. ISBN 9781885008350; pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781885008480.

PreS-Gr 3– Cora, the youngest in a Filipino family that loves to cook together, is always left with “kid jobs like drawing pictures in the flour or licking spoons.” One day when her older siblings are all out, Mama asks her what she would like to make, and the two spend a special time preparing noodles and vegetables while sharing family stories (they follow her grandfather’s recipe—Lolo’s Pancit). The well-written text and lush-hued artwork depict details specific to Cora’s family, while conveying emotions and experiences that are universal.


AAAFine DessertA Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat. by Emily Jenkins. illus. by Sophie Blackall. Random/ Schwartz & Wade. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780375868320; PLB $20.99. ISBN 9780375968327; ebook $10.99. ISBN 9780375987717.

Gr 1-3–From a mother and daughter picking wild blackberries and hand-whipping cream in England in 1710, to a boy and his dad purchasing and preparing ingredients in San Diego in 2010, four vignettes depict how families living during different historical periods make—and savor—the same dessert. Eloquent text and enchanting artwork convey details of the changing times, cooking methods and apparatus, food sourcing, and societal standards, while paralleling the enduring pleasure of making food together and licking the bowl clean. Delicious for family sharing and to initiate discussion of social history.


Gazpacho for Nacho. by Tracey Kyle. illus. by Carolina Farías. Amazon/Two Lions. 2014. Tr $16.99. AAAGazpachoISBN 9781477817278.

K-Gr 3–Repeatedly refusing to taste any of the tempting dishes his mother places before him, Nacho is one “picky muchacho” who demands gazpacho morning, noon, and night. However, when Mami takes the boy to the market, the array of mouth-watering vegetables inspires Nacho to don a chef’s sombrero, chop and mix the legumbres, and begin to dream of other tasty meals. Bouncy verses smoothly incorporate Spanish words (glossary and recipe appended) into an entertaining text, and earth-toned paintings blend realistic scenes with fantastical moments.


AAAGingerbreadGingerbread for Liberty!: How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution. by Mara Rockliff. illus. by Vincent X. Kirsch. HMH. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780544130012; ebook $17.99. ISBN 9780544465664.

Gr 1-4–Well-known in Philadelphia for his “honest face,” “booming laugh,” and the best gingerbread “in all the thirteen colonies,” a German-born immigrant answered his adopted country’s call to arms with sleeves rolled up and ovens fired, baking bread to fill the empty bellies of the Continental Army and sneaking into enemy territory to sway the hearts of Hessian mercenaries. This biographical confection whips together vivacious storytelling, frothy humor, historical fact, and icing-edged artwork to introduce Christopher Ludwick (and his most tasty wares).


Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas. by Natasha Yim. illus. by Grace Zong. Charlesbridge. 2014. Tr AAAGoldy Luck$16.95. ISBN 9781580896528.

K-Gr 4–It’s Chinese New Year, and Goldy is sent by her mother to the Chan’s apartment with a plate of turnip cakes and Kung Hei Fat Choi wishes. No one is there, and the girl hesitantly pushes the door open, spilling the treats everywhere. One thing leads to another until the panda family arrives home to discover everything in disarray and the girl fast asleep on Little Chan’s futon. When Goldy returns to make amends—and a fresh batch of turnip cakes (recipe appended)—a friendship is forged. The playful text and acrylic artwork of this “Goldilocks” variation are packed with details of Chinese-American culture and plenty of fun.


How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World. by Marjorie Priceman. illus. by author. Knopf. 1994. pap. $7.99. ISBN 9780679880837; ebook $7.99. ISBN 9780307793126.

Gr 1-3–Finding the market closed, a young girl travels the globe to obtain the ingredients for a mouthwatering dessert—taking a steamship to Italy for semolina wheat, boarding a train to France for a chicken to lay fresh eggs, sailing to Sri Lanka to get kurundu bark for cinnamon, and so on, finally parachuting into Vermont for just-picked apples before returning home to mill, grind, slice, bake, and serve. Priceman’s whimsical artwork and humor-warmed narrative make a satisfying combo. Serve along with How to Make a Cherry Pie and See the U.S.A. (Knopf, 2008).


AAAMamaMama Panya’s Pancakes: A Village Tale from Kenya. by Mary & Rich Chamberlin. illus. by Julia Cairns. Barefoot Books. 2005. pap. $7.99. ISBN 9781905236640.

K-Gr 4–Adika’s mother has just enough money to purchase the ingredients for yummy pancakes for their dinner. As they walk to the market, the enthusiastic boy invites all of the friends and neighbors they meet to join them, and Mama Panya worries that there will not be enough to feed everyone—until the guests arrive bearing generous gifts and good cheer. Timeless themes, color-splashed folk-style artwork, and a repeated refrain (“a little bit and a little bit more”) make this enjoyable contemporary story as satisfyingly meaty as a folktale. Facts about village life in Kenya, local flora and fauna, and the Kiswahili language are appended.


My Grandfather’s Coat. retold by Jim Aylesworth. illus. by Barbara McClintock. Scholastic. 2014. Tr AAAgrandfather$17.99. ISBN 9780439925457.

PreS-Gr 3–Arriving in America “with little more than nothing at all,” a hardworking tailor stitches himself a “handsome coat” for his wedding day, a garment that he wears until threadbare and then re-sews repeatedly through the years into a “smart jacket,” “snazzy vest,” “stylish tie,” and so on, until nothing remains but a satisfying story for his granddaughter to read aloud to her young son. Spanning four generations, this warmhearted adaptation of a Yiddish folksong is illustrated with charming ink-and-watercolor paintings that detail family events and the changing times. Make this multigenerational reading experience all the sweeter by baking “Grandfather’s Coat Cookies” and nibbling them down to follow the narrative.


AAARainbowRainbow Stew. by Cathryn Falwell. illus. by author. Lee & Low. 2013. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781600608476.

PreS-Gr 1–Scrambling out of bed on a gray day in July, three children and their grandpa don slickers and head outside to harvest a colorful array of vegetables from his garden (“Pull, pick,/gather quick”), work together to prepare the ingredients (“Peel, slice,/chop, and dice”), savor the simmering aroma (“Howl! Yowl!/Tummies growl”), and sit down to a fest of delicious—and healthful—Rainbow Stew (“Yum, yum, yum, yum!”). Depicting “purple cabbage,” “rosy radishes,” ruby-red tomatoes, and smiling children romping in the rain, the eye-dazzling collage artwork and simple text brim with family fondness.


Salsa: Un poema para cocinar/A Cooking Poem. by Jorge Argueta. tr. by Elisa Amado. illus. by AAASalsaDuncan Tonatiuh.  Groundwood. 2015.Tr $18.95. ISBN 978155498442-8.

Gr 1-3–Grinding fresh ingredients in a volcanic stone molcajete just like those used by the Nahua, Aztec, and Maya people centuries ago, a brother and sister mix up a tasty topping for tortilla chips, tacos, and more while the whole family dances and sings (salsa of course!). Rhythm-filled bilingual verses intone the recipe as the children imagine that “chubby-cheeked red tomatoes,” tongue-flaming chili peppers, and spices become players in a sizzling “salsa orchestra.” Mixtec-inspired folk artwork in deep earth tones echo the poem’s exuberant rhythms and cultural connections while trumpeting fun and affection.


AAAWhopperWhopper Cake. by Karma Wilson. illus. by Will Hillenbrand. S & S/Margaret K. McElderry. 2007. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780689838446.

PreS-Gr 3–It’s Grandma’s birthday, “and Granddad has an itchin’/to bake a whopper chocolate cake/and traumatize the kitchen.” His culinary masterpiece requires boatloads of ingredients, mixing in a pickup truck bed, outdoor baking in the blazing mid-July sun, and a crowd of decorators armed with shovel-loads of frosting. Uproarious rhyming verses blend with sparkling sherbet-hued artwork in this storytime treat (a family-size version of the recipe is appended).


]]> 1
Ballerinas Behaving Badly: Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton on “Tiny Pretty Things” Tue, 26 May 2015 14:13:05 +0000 Tiny Pretty Things, a novel about diverse ballerinas fighting for roles in a posh dance boarding school, and what inspired them to create the book packaging company for diverse teen books, CAKE Literary.]]> Tiny Pretty ThingsDebut YA authors Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton discuss how they came to write Tiny Pretty Things, a novel about diverse ballerinas fighting to land roles in a posh dance boarding school, and what inspired them to create CAKE Literary, a book packaging company for diverse teen books. A middle school librarian in East Harlem, Clayton met Charaipotra, a magazine journalist, while both were studying for an MFA at the New School. The pair’s debut centers on the machinations, heartaches, and drama of three aspiring ballerinas at a dance academy in New York City.

How did you come to write this novel together?

Dhonielle Clayton: We met at the New School where we attended some of the same workshops. We realized that we were both writing diverse content because we grew up not seeing diversity in the books we read. I used to work at a private ballet academy in Washington, DC, and I suggested that we write a book together set in that world. We started brainstorming characters and discussing ways to include organic, meaningful diversity into this novel.

Sona Charaipotra: I like to watch Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars—TV shows that in their book form are real page-turners. There’s rarely diversity in those kinds of stories. A diversity story is usually one with a lesson—more pedantic. We wanted something that was fun and delicious that still had a level of diversity to it without making diversity the central focus. Because of what Dhonielle saw in this school, we knew it was going to be a juicy story. The students themselves were as diverse as the characters in this book. That’s what made this world really prime for this story.

DC: We wanted to really reflect the ballet world and its hidden diversity. But many people don’t realize how diverse it is because of the people who get the main roles and those who are primarily photographed in the major magazines and programs. Writing a book together was an opportunity to market how we want to see diversity in books—our take on it—as a launching point for our literary development company, CAKE.

Did any of you take dance while you were growing up?

DC: Yes, I took dance for a few years. But I never was able to get to pointe [ballet]. I was a resident advisor at the dance academy and then ended up teaching English for about eight years.

SC: I took dance until I was 11, but I never got to pointe, either. I realized very much after the fact, how much racism there was in that world, even for little girls. We never got asked to be in the recital. I was the only brown girl in the class.

sona photo

Sona Charaipotra. Photo by Navdeep Singh Dhillon.

What was your writing process like?

SC: It was divide and conquer. Because we wanted to have a unified voice, we also were very flexible about our chapters. We weren’t precious about things. Dhonielle tends to be very thorough in her writing, and I go in and cut, cut, cut. She adds a lot of poetry to the writing, and I’m definitely a plot person. We each have our own strengths and when they come together they make something that’s so unique. It’s a different voice for both of us.

DC: There are three narrators, and we each took on one. I wrote Gigi, Sona wrote June, and we split Bette. It was a lot of fun to collaborate and plot things out together. We split up the chapters and then edited the other’s chapters. We ended up using our writer hats and editor hats.

SC: When we were having trouble with something, it was so great to have a second brain on it. For example, I was struggling with something in one of the last chapters of the book, and Dhonielle went in and suggested an idea and it elevated it so much. It’s great to have that feedback almost instantaneously. It also makes it a lot more fun of a process.

DC: I sold a book on my own, and I’ve been whining about not having Sona to help me. I don’t like writing the romance, and she’s good at it. It’s definitely a bonus.

Dhonielle Clayton

Dhonielle Clayton. Photo by Navdeep Singh Dhillon.

There’s lots of juicy drama and ballerinas behaving badly in this book. But a refreshing part of this novel is the diversity of its characters and the discussions of body image and sexism. Why did you think it was important to include your work?

DC: When we sat down to talk about the issues we wanted to dig into in this book, we chose to include these because it’s what I saw [at the dance school]. These were things that really haunted my girls. Sexism is huge in the ballet world. Girls are treated like a dime a dozen. And body image is key because they’re constantly on stage and in front of a mirror. I felt that when I was teaching, that really messed up their [the teens’] psyche, particularly because they were constantly being critiqued by others and themselves. It would create an interior monologue that was negative and upsetting. It was something they wrote their papers about, and they were always talking about it. It’s a universal feeling, but especially in the ballet world, when you’re in front of all of those mirrors and critics. It’s something you feel deeply.

SC: And it’s feelings and issues that the average teen feels. It’s just amplified to 10,000 in the ballet world. Those are all issues—like eating disorders, drug abuse—that teens face. It does bring something relatable to this very insular world.

DC: And diversity is part of us. We wanted to fold in diversity the way we experience it in our daily lives. I don’t walk around thinking, “I’m a brown girl, today.” It’s not like that. Race comes up in smaller, cultural, everyday moments, such as moments of microagressions.

This novel is told from three different perspectives (Gigi, Bette, and June). Is there a particular character that you connect with?

DC: I connected with Bette. When I was a teen, I didn’t act the way she acted, but I definitely had those mean interior thoughts of entitlement. I couldn’t control my own universe. And that’s what resonates with me and Bette. She’s trying to control her universe, and she doesn’t know how to do it positively. It feels very teen to me. I work in the library with a lot of teens, and that’s how they behave.

SC: I relate to June, because she feels neither here nor there. Growing up as a little brown girl in New Jersey in the 1980s and 1990s, I definitely felt that, even as more diversity got into the States. I grew up in a mostly white neighborhood. Once I got to high school, there was this unwritten rule that brown people are supposed to hang out with brown people and you had to join the international club. But I didn’t know that; it was kind of an awkward thing.

Many of the characters were “unlikable” and not easily relatable. What are your thoughts on “unlikable characters”?

DC: I’m around unlikable teens all day. I tend to write teens as they are vs. how I want them to be. I like when characters are unlikable, because it’s real. When I encounter characters that don’t inhibit the manifestations of a real teen, it frustrates me; it feels inauthentic. Gatekeepers like me—librarians, parents—don’t like to think that kids are reading unlikable characters. Spend some time at high school and middle school, and then tell me who’s likable.

SC: People are unlikable. Most people are flawed. It makes them more interesting and more human. No one wants to read about someone who is perfect—that’s just annoying. And it doesn’t create opportunity for story, movement, and change.

DC: We want that catharsis for change. We owe it to them to give them characters to help them really work it out.

SC: Characters that are strong, fierce, and go after what they want are often considered unlikable characters—especially females. We should be able to go after something we want.

DC: It’s veiled sexism. It’s like calling women bossy. They’re determined and ambitious. Women get slapped with that unlikable term a lot.

CL_logo_thumbWhat are you working on after the sequel to Tiny Pretty Things? Do you see yourselves continuing this collaboration on future projects?

DC: We have some things cooking. We work so well together. We want to be a model of ways to do diversity in juicy, page-turner text. There’s not enough of that. We’re going to continue to write those books and give a variety of the human spectrum. Brown girls want to make out, too.

I sold a high YA fantasy series to Disney Hyperion called “The Belles.” It’s a fun read about beauty, and it has characters of color.

SC: There are a few things that I’m working on, but they are not quite ready to go out yet.

Tell me a little bit about CAKE Literary and what inspired you to start up the book packaging company.

SC: Dhonielle had worked for someone who knew about packaging. And I had interviewed for positions at a packager before. We both had a lot of ideas for things we can see on shelves and were diverse. And we know that there is an audience for these books. There are so many gaps on bookshelves. I never saw myself in a book until I was 19. My daughter is five now, and there are still not many books for her. There are so many readers that are missing out. We knew that creating a packaging company was one way to get those ideas on the shelves. We’ve got a few things cooking that hopefully will go out to publishers soon. Each of those projects is a really fun, high concept story with lots of diversity. Neither Dhonielle nor I could do them justice, so we found writers who could bring a level of authenticity and realism to the voices that we couldn’t.

DC: We also wanted to give opportunities to writers of color. Publishing sometimes feels like a rigged system. It’s based on your connections and having a mom and dad who can support you while you work your way up the ladder, while writing on the side. Here’s a paid opportunity to write something that is fun and that will help you get your foot in the door. You have an editor to work with you through your publishing journey. We wanted to reach back and bring people with us. My family is a big believer of that, and it’s a big piece of what our company wants to do.

SC: Dhonielle and I have found a few mentors on our publishing journey, and that was so key. Sometimes it’s hard for people from diverse backgrounds to find people in which they recognize a little bit of themselves. Being able to find mentorship in the book publishing world has been so revitalizing. If we could do that for someone else, that would be such an amazing thing.

]]> 0
Washington Study Further Ties Quality Library Programs to Student Success Tue, 26 May 2015 13:05:26 +0000 CTL_poverty_chartThe results from of a study released by the Washington Library Media Association (WMLA) join a growing body of evidence from other reports showing that that certified teacher librarians and library programs have a significant and measurable impact on student success.

According to the April 1 report, “The Washington State School Library Impact Study: Certified Teacher-Librarians, Library Quality and Student Achievement in Washington State Public Schools,” students who attend schools with certified teacher librarians (CTLs) and quality library facilities perform better on standardized tests and are far more likely to graduate. Facilities with CTLs had an 85 percent five-year graduation rate, vs. 79 percent for those without. The study drew results from 1,486 K−12 public schools across the state.

The impact of high-quality CTL instruction is further heightened among students in high-poverty schools: The five-year graduation rate is 78.8 percent in schools with CTLs and 43.2 percent at those without.

“The impact of well-staffed, better-stocked, and better-funded libraries cannot be explained away by poverty, race/ethnicity, or other school and community factors known to impact student success,” says Keith Curry Lance, a research consultant who has been involved with impact studies in 15 states. He consulted on the Washington study.

“School library programs are positive predictors of student success that poverty cannot suppress,” Lance says. “Some people think that poorer students are going to do poorly in school no matter what we do. The findings of these studies challenge that by showing that even poorer students do better in the presence of strong school library programs.”

The Washington study was written by Elizabeth Coker, a senior research scientist for the University of Washington-Tacoma, Center for Strong Schools, and developed from conversations with Craig Seasholes, WLMA president-elect, and other WMLA members. It received input from  Debra E. Kachel, co-chair of the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association, who edited a 2011 impact study, “How Pennsylvania School Libraries Pay Off: Investments in Student Achievement and Academic Standards.”

“Consistently, reading and writing scores are better for students who have a full-time certified librarian than those who don’t,” Kachel and Lance wrote in a 2013 SLJ article about the Pennsylvania study. “Students who are economically disadvantaged, black, Hispanic, and have IEPs (i.e., students with disabilities) benefit proportionally more than students generally….Students who are poor, minority, and have IEPs, but who have full-time librarians, are twice as likely to have ‘Advanced’ writing scores as their counterparts without full-time librarians.”

Library Quality Scale

The Washington study takes this work a step further, incorporating analysis regarding the quality of library services. While 96.7 percent of the survey respondents reported having an on-site library facility, just having a library facility is not enough, according to the report. The library must have a high-quality program, determined by specific factors, and related instructional services in order to positively influence student achievement.

Achievement indicators (five-year graduation rate and reading and math test scores) were examined alongside the quality of the library facility and services offered by the school—via a mechanism called the Library Quality Scale (LQS), newly developed by Coker. The LQS score ranges from 0−35, based on data from nine questions that were sent out in a statewide poll. They include the hours a school library is open, the number of group or class visits to the library per week, inventory of books and informational databases available, and the number of computers available for direct instruction and use during library programs.

Schools with an LQS of 26 or upward tend to have higher indicators of student achievement. High-poverty schools have lower LQS and achievement indicator scores than wealthier schools.

“[Coker developing] the LQS is going to be a great contribution for other states that want to do similar studies,” says WLMA president Sharyn Merrigan. School libraries staffed by CTLs scored significantly higher on the LQS than schools without CTLs—24.9 vs. 18.5, respectively.

While the LQS strongly correlates to student achievement within this particular study, Coker emphasizes it “only addresses facilities and resources” and does not include factors such as services provided by CTLs.

“To be replicated, it would need a lot of statistical work done to establish the reliability, weight the questions accordingly, etc.,” Coker says.

The opportunity gap: schools with or without CTLs

In high-poverty schools, facilities with a low LQS score have a 43.2 percent five-year high school graduation rate while those with high library quality have a 78.8 percent rate.

“Certified teacher librarians and library programs impact students regardless of rural or suburban and income,” said Merrigan. “Sometimes I hear about [schools] cutting library programs to keep the cuts far away from the classrooms. Obviously [doing so] isn’t keeping cuts away from the classrooms. And when we’re talking about kids who are already experiencing some deficits of resources, [funding a certified school librarian] is one pretty simple way to ensure that kids have equitable access to funds and resources.”

Schools with higher rates of poverty, unemployment, and incidents of child abuse or neglect are less likely to have CTLs on staff. The study shows. Among libraries with CTLs, 72 percent accommodate between 21 and 100-plus students per day, while only  55 percent of libraries without CTLs receive these visits.

Facilities with CTLs also have larger collections of print books (67 percent have 10,000 or more, compared to 44 percent without CTLs), higher total circulation, and more computers available for student use (61 percent have at least 11–20 available computers for student use; 37 percent of libraries staffed by non-CTL personnel have fewer than five). Those CTL-staffed libraries also teach online literacy skills at a markedly higher rate than those without, including using databases for online research (96 percent vs. 59).

In addition, 80 percent of CTLs responded that they were “very” or “somewhat” engaged in instruction related to the Common Core State Standards.

Takeaway: invest in libraries

While the insights on library quality add great depth to this impact study, the implication that CTLs matter to the achievement of the impoverished reinforces past findings, says Kachel. She notes that 23 states have published impact studies on school library programs and student achievement: “Statewide impact studies are all finding the same thing.”

The study began as a conversation between WMLA colleagues and took about three years to complete, says Seasholes, who cowrote an op-ed article about the project with Merrigan. Seasholes adds that the school library impact study builds a strong argument for funding certified teacher librarians, which should be a priority to improve student success, graduation rates, and information literacy and to close the opportunity gap.

The study was carried out with the help of the Washington Library Association and other agencies, including the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Washington State Institute of Public Policy, Washington Education Association, Quality Education Council, Washington State Board of Education, and many others.

“The takeaway for legislators is this,” says Lance. “If you’re looking for something to fund in public education for which there is consistent evidence of a positive association with student success—one that can’t be explained away by social and economic inequality—school library programs are just such an investment opportunity.”

]]> 2
A Tomie dePaola Title and Myriad Animals on Holiday House Fall List | Publishers Preview Mon, 25 May 2015 13:18:45 +0000 IMG_1048

Original art from Look and Be Grateful by Tomie dePaola on display at the Holiday House preview.

It is always a pleasure to visit the homey offices at Holiday House and learn about upcoming titles. This preview event had the feeling of a homecoming, with original art on view by featured artists and illustrator Tomie dePaola, whose new book with the publisher releases this fall. DePaola is returning to Holiday House after a 20-year hiatus. Over the years, he has published more than 30 books with the publisher, five of which are still in print, including his first, The Cloud Book (1972). Seeing the cover of his upcoming work, Look and Be Grateful (October), one cannot help but be mesmerized by the eyes of the children illustrated by this gifted artist. This story about gratitude may find a place in the hearts of both children and adults.

Every publishing house should have a dog or a cat book on the list, but this fall season Holiday House will have plenty of both. In the dog category is My Dog, Bob (September) by Richard Torrey. Bob is reminiscent of Mister Peabody, the erudite TV cartoon beagle from the 1950s with very human abilities, such as cooking and driving.


Holiday House publicist Aubrey Churchward with original art from Baa, Baa, Black Sheep by Jane Cabrera, publishing in July.

Driving a car is also a skill possessed by Pete the dog in Lost Dog (September) by Michael Garland. Pete is driving to grandma’s without a GPS and loses his way while en route to Mutt Street. Bob and Pete’s canine competition among the fall books is a persistent hound in need of a job who tries to pass as a cow in Job Wanted (October) by Teresa Bateman, a school librarian in Tacoma, Washington, and Chris Sheban.

The featured dogs are joined by two nameless cat protagonists, both on the prowl. Tim Hamilton’s feline in Is That a Cat (September) is in search of a friend, while Steve Henry’s creature in Cat Got a Lot (September) is on the lookout for a fish, but gets distracted buying gifts, including a book for a dog who likes to read. Cat Got a Lot and other titles are part of the Holiday House “I Like to Read” series, with more than 50 titles, all available in hard, soft, and ebook format.


One of Valeri Gorbachev’s illustrations for Doctor Nice.

Then there are the pigs—including the bookish one in Douglas Florian’s Pig Is Big on Books (September). When pig runs out of things to read, he decides to write his own book. “Adorable porker” is how Holiday House publicist Aubrey Churchward describes Emily Arnold McCully’s pig character in Pete Makes a Mistake (September). Cute though he may be, this pig causes hurt feelings—and must save the day. Another pig, with a frostbitten nose, appears as a patient in Doctor Nice (October) by Valeri Gorbachev. This is a tale about playing doctor to a group of animals with winter ailments.

Looking for a book to teach spelling rules? Then check out Ms. Spell (September) and you won’t misspell. Ethan Long’s magical, unorthodox teacher to provides excellent spelling advice.

Tedd Arnold has created an homage to the artist Vincent van Gogh in Vincent Paints His House (September). The book offers parents and teachers a way to introduce young children to the artist in a story that contains many influential insects.

Middle grade and YA titles by several debut novelists offer a variety of topics and locales. Sara K Joiner, a children’s coordinator at the Brazoria County (TX) Library System, debuts with After the Ashes (October). This YA novel set in 1883 Java has two teen girls surviving the Krakatau volcanic eruption. Meanwhile, debut middle grade novelist Susan Ross uses her home state of Maine as the setting for Kiki and Jacques (October), a story of tolerance. It is drawn from recent history in Lewiston, Maine, which experienced an influx of Somalia refugees in the early 2000s. Another debut middle grade novel, Clayton Stone, At Your Service (September), by Ena Jones, is set in Washington, DC. What’s a boy to do when he finds out his grandmother is head of the special service undercover work, and the family diner sits atop the Special Services office? What else, but join the family business!

It is worth noting that Holiday House has made a concerted effort to align its titles with the Common Core State Standards {CCSS). Each book includes four related discussion questions.

]]> 0
Hands-on Projects and Titles that Celebrate Maker and Latino Cultures | Libro por libro Sat, 23 May 2015 13:00:20 +0000 A scene from Newbery Honor winner Margarita Engle’s Drum Dream Girl.  Illustration by Pura Belpré Award winner Rafael López.

A scene from Newbery Honor winner Margarita Engle’s Drum Dream Girl.
Illustration by Pura Belpré Award winner Rafael López.

Imagine that you are entering a library with a brand-spanking-new maker space. This same library has a largely Spanish-speaking clientele. It features a glass-enclosed area formerly used as a computer lab. The space is flexible, with furniture designed to be easily movable and to accommodate multiple stations. To celebrate the new configuration, the library has decided to host a community Maker Faire. Families are invited to partake in an all-day immersion of maker culture with a Latino twist.

Making Art

Inside, the current maker-in-residence, a local Latina artist, is leading children and their parents in an art project—they are making papel picado, a Mexican folk art, in which paper is cut into elaborate designs. Prominently displayed on a table featuring books from the library’s collection is Magic Windows by Carmen Lomas Garza and its companion title Making Magic Windows (Children’s Book Press, 2014).

Libro-Garza_Magic-WindowsLOMAS GARZA, Carmen. Magic Windows: Cut-Paper Art and Stories as told to Harriet Rohmer/Ventanas Magicas: Papel picado y relatos de Carmen Lomas Garza contados a Harriet Rohmer. tr. by Francisco X. Alarcon. Children’s Book Pr. 2003. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9780892391837.
Gr 1-4–This 2000 Pura Belpré Award winner for illustration exhibits a strong sense of extended family ties and was inspired by Lomas Garza’s grandfather. One of the illustrations was created as an offering for him. Each of the exquisite paper cuts are accompanied by a one-page story. Many of the images portray things from nature such as a nopal cactus, flowers, horned toads, hummingbirds, fish, deer in a corn field, and the Mexican symbol of the eagle with a rattlesnake. The beauty of this title is not only the artwork, but the way in which Lomas Garza turns her creations into a tribute to her family and her culture. This book is really about connections across generations.
Young patrons can create their own papel picado by trying out these simple instructions.


The walls of the maker space have been coated with a special paint that turns them into erasable whiteboards, and a colorful mural by the maker-in-residence is taking shape. Children are invited to add their own drawings to the scene of people dancing and playing instruments in a carnival-like setting.

Libro-Ortiz-Sofi-Magic-Musical-MuralORTIZ, Raquel M. Sofi and the Magic, Musical Mural/Sofi y el mágico mural musical. illus. by Maria Dominguez. Piñata Bks. 2015. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781558858039.
PrS-Gr 3–When Sofi is sent on an errand to the bodega to get some milk, she gets sidetracked on the way home. The bodega is just at the end of the block, but the mural, The Pueblo Sings, painted on the side of the building, is a huge distraction with its “musicians, dancers, tropical fish” and a vejigante, or trickster. After she buys the milk, she stops to admire the mural again, and it comes alive. One of the musicians stretches out his hand, and Sofi finds herself in the world of the mural. She dances and becomes part of the celebration, eventually becoming a vejigante herself. Then she is back in the real world with the jug of milk at her feet.
The titular mural isn’t presented in all of its glory—only pieces. The kids in our imaginary maker space could have a great time fleshing it out. They can also try their hand at making their own vejigante masks.

Making Music

Two former study rooms have been converted to music and video recording studios. Inside one of them is a drummer laying down tracks with her cajón, a six-sided box-shaped percussion instrument. She was inspired to learn percussion when she learned about Millo Castro Zaldarriaga.

Libro-Engle_DrumDreamGirlENGLE, Margarita. Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music. illus. by Rafael López. HMH. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780544102293.
Gr 2-5 –Engle, writing in her familiar free verse, tells the story of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a girl of Chinese, African, and Cuban ancestry who broke the gender barrier in the male-dominated Cuban salsa scene. Millo dreams and practices on her drums until she gets the opportunity to play her bongos in a cafe. The author’s note shares more about the young musician’s story, inspiring readers to learn about this heroine who broke through the drumhead ceiling. López’s illustrations here are among his best. There’s a magical realism cast to the images. When Millo taps out rhythms on the table at home, López depicts her and the table floating dreamlike in the air. The illustrator creates poetry using the vibrant visuals. His intriguing use of perspective makes the drums seem bigger than the birds and fauna pictured in the background. This book will be a hit with young, budding musicians, and any kids who want to do something that they are told they cannot.


In the other studio, a young girl with a vihuela is recording a song she has written.

Libro-Torres-FINDING_THE_MUSICTORRES, Jennifer. Finding the Music/En pos de la música. illus. by Renato Alarcão. Lee & Low. 2015. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9780892392919.
Gr 2-5 –Reyna accidentally damages her grandfather’s vihuela, which is smaller than but similar to a guitar. The instrument hangs above a booth in her family’s restaurant, until Reyna knocks it from the wall, gesticulating wildly because of her frustration with the behavior of twin boys who are misbehaving in the next booth. Reyna journeys throughout the neighborhood to find a way to get the vihuela fixed. The journey takes her to someone who not only knew her grandfather but also has an old recording on which her grandfather played.

The vihuela is a very important part of mariachi music, as an author’s note makes clear. Take the opportunity to explore mariachi music by having local musicians join in on a fiesta-themed storytime. For related hands-on projects, check out these maracas and drum craft ideas on Pinterest.

Making Fun

In the upcoming weeks, the library’s maker-in-residence, who also belongs to the local lowrider club, will be teaching attendees how to use the brand-new 3-D printer by creating parts for her vehicle. Included on the list of related library materials is the graphic novel Lowriders in Space.

Libro-Camper-Lowriders-in-spaceCAMPER, Cathy. Lowriders in Space. illus. by Raúl the Third. Chronicle. 2014. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9781452121550; pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781452128696.
Gr 3-6–This graphic novel is a maker book if there ever was one. In a world occupied by animals and insects, the wolf Lupe Impala and her sidekicks, the aptly named mosquito Elirio Malaria and Flapjack Octopus set out to win the Universal Car Competition. They take an old junker and fix it up. Lupe and friends are going to need a lot of fixtures to get the vehicle running. They don’t have a lot of money, so they improvise with things they find at an old, abandoned airplane factory. They come upon the mother lode—an unopened box of random rocket parts. The friends trick out the car (Raúl the Third’s illustrations show the trio’s designs sketched out on graphing paper) and make it look like new. With the spare rocket parts, the car jets off into space, getting a makeover of an extraterrestrial kind.

With its terrific retro three-color comic illustrations, the ingenious design of the spreads, the Latino cultural references and Spanish (including translations) sprinkled throughout, and particularly the breezy, easy-to-read text, this book is a perfect vehicle for getting reluctant readers engaged.


The 3-D printer expert will also be on hand to help kids design and print out their own mini Lucha Libre wrestler action figures. Yuyi Morales’s Niño Wrestles the World (Roaring Brook, 2013) and Xavier Garza’s books are just the thing to get kids excited for the future session.

Libro-Nikko--Great-and-MightyGARZA, Xavier. The Great and Mighty Nikko! A Bilingual Counting Book. Cinco Puntos. Aug. 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781935955825; pap. $7.95. ISBN 9781935955832.
K-Gr 3–Garza takes the traditional bedtime story and gives it a festive twist. Nikko is playing with Lucha Libre action figures on his bed. His mother, of course, doesn’t want him wrestling on the bed. Nikko is not wrestling; it’s the Lucha Libre fighters. His mother points out that they are just toys, but Nikko tells her that his bed has become a Lucha Libre ring. The wrestlers come out one at a time until it’s nine against one—it’s Nikko himself who emerges triumphant. What makes this work particularly distinctive is Garza’s art, which is big and bold, with strong colors. The title’s art style has a comic book feel, down to the Growls! and Roars! of the wrestlers. This is a book that celebrates not only Mexican culture, but the universal joys of imaginative play.


The Maker Faire’s last stop is a kite-making booth, complete with recycled materials and an educator discussing the physics of kite-flying with the young participants. The following volume serves as an excellent read-aloud to conclude the program.

Libro-Kleipeis_Franciscos-KitesKLEPEIS, Alicia. Z. Francisco’s Kites/Las cometas de Francisco. illus. by Gary Undercuffler. tr. by Gabriela Baeza Ventura. Piñata Bks. 2015. pap. $17.95. ISBN 9781558858046.
PrS-Gr 3 –As he looks out his window and sees kites flying, Francisco decides that he wants to make kites himself. He doesn’t have money to buy supplies, but he scours the area around his apartment building and finds junk and scrap, all perfect for making a kite. When Francisco finally gets to fly his creation, he is approached by Mr. Morales, the owner of a recycled goods shop who says he wants Francisco to make kites that he can sell. Once the boy’s mother gives her approval, Francisco makes the kites, which sell out. The child uses his earnings to take his mother out to a Salvadoran restaurant for her birthday. The notion of creating things of beauty with recycled materials makes this book perfect to share with budding makers. Check out these kid-friendly instructions for creating kites.

Making Food

To finish off the day, refreshments are served—homemade salsa in molcajetes with chips. Jorge Argueta’s Salsa is on display, along with all his other “Cooking Poem” titles (Groundwood).

Libro-Argueta-Salsa-by-JorgeARGUETA, Jorge. Salsa: Un poema para cocinar/A Cooking Poem. illus. by Duncan Tonatiuh. tr. by Elisa Amado. Groundwood. 2015. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781554984428.
PreS–2–Argueta’s cooking poems have all been gems, and it’s surprising to realize that up until now he hasn’t covered salsa. Argueta places the yummy treat into historical context, beginning with the traditional vessel in which salsa is made—the molcajete, which is fashioned from volcanic rock. The first illustration depicts a volcano, giving the whole process a sense of awe and wonder. Argueta connects the making of salsa with ancestors and ancient tradition. Modern-day children are depicted in the style of ancient Aztec art as they make the salsa from fresh ingredients. The salsa makes them want to dance in the style named after this delicious, spicy condiment. The poem, presented bilingually, shines in both languages.
Those at the cooking station can use the verses that are highlighted in Argueta’s text or this easy-to-follow and kid-friendly recipe—adult supervision always required—to concoct the flavorful sauce.


You leave the maker space amazed and gratified by the way that the activities and technology are galvanizing the community. You are grateful that, no matter how advanced the technology, makers are still inspired by books and stories.

]]> 1
Pictures of the Week: Author Gabrielle Balkan Wows Librarians at Quarto Fall Preview Fri, 22 May 2015 20:13:49 +0000 The 50 States.]]> On Wednesday May 13, Quarto Publishing USA presented its fall titles during its first-ever librarian preview, calling attention to its new nonfiction imprint, Wide Eyed Editions. On hand was author Gabrielle Balkan, whose book The 50 States, state-by-state look at the United States, is one of the latest offerings from the imprint.


Gabrielle Balkan

Author Gabrielle Balkan discusses her writing process.


Michelle Bayuk, Gabrielle Balkan, and Betsy Bird

(From l. to r.) Michelle Bayuk, associate director children’s book marketing, publicity, and social media at Quarto Publishing Group USA; author Gabrielle Balkan; and youth materials specialist at New York Public Library and SLJ blogger Betsy Bird.

]]> 1
How to Run a Library Volunteer Program that Students Love Fri, 22 May 2015 13:00:08 +0000 library _volunteers_1

Dartmout Middle school students Payton and Aidan delete and recatalog old reference books.

The bell just rang for the start of school at Dartmouth (MA) Middle School, and I’m still taking off my coat. Fifty to 60 students are about to flood into the library to print schoolwork, look for books, hang out, and play computer games for 15 minutes before the Pledge of Allegiance signals the start of homeroom.

No worries. The lights and computers are on and the circulation desk computer is ready to go, thanks to the Leconte sisters, student volunteers who let themselves in each morning. Reilly, in eighth grade, and Reese, in sixth, check out books until they head off to their lockers. Then, eighth grader Normandy takes over while I circulate the library assisting students.

On an average day, at least ten students help me run the library. Altogether, over 40 seventh and eighth-grade students work there each year. I couldn’t do it without them.

Why have student library volunteers?

Having student library volunteers frees me up to do more collaboration with teachers, one-on-one instruction at students’ point of need, and reader’s advisory. Like many school librarians. I operate a busy program with no paid assistance. While parent volunteers have always been a part of it, I was excited to start the school’s first student volunteer initiative when I started here six years ago. Since I’ve given students the responsibility to help plan and create displays and programs, the initiative has taken off. It’s now a hotly demanded leadership position.

How it works


Eighth grade volunteers test-run Touchcast, am iPad app students use with green screens in the library.

Seventh and eighth grade students are eligible to be library assistants, positions that I promote during my sixth grade Library Skills class. Promotion is really unnecessary, though, since I probably get asked five times a week how to become a library assistant! The most common suggestion on my Padlet wall this year was to let sixth graders help in the library.  I have enough volunteers at the moment, and I love knowing all my volunteers from their year in my class.

My middle school students crave responsibility and love doing authentic work. Every class period is busy. When library assistants aren’t working the circulation desk, they’re straightening books, running errands, and doing special projects like helping me delete weeded books, relabel my reorganized biography section, or set up a book buffet for an incoming class.

Most students volunteer during free periods, but those with no room in their schedule volunteer before or after school. I treat the students like real employees and stress that this is a real job. I require that students be in good academic standing, and I check in with teachers at least twice a year. Occasionally, I’ve asked students to take a break until their grades have improved, and I’ve had to “fire” two students for various reasons. If I have a group of students in a class period, I often save big projects for them to complete together such as moving books, relabeling, or playing with new apps for the iPads.


Get administrator approval

I’m lucky to work in a place with lots of support from my building administrators. Still, launching my volunteer program was not without its challenges. Proposing a change in student scheduling, which I had to do that first year, can be a tough argument. Make your case to administrators and guidance counselors (often in charge of scheduling) that your initiative will benefit the whole community and provide a leadership and service opportunity for students. My assistant principal, Carl Robidoux, said, “When students can connect with their environment they take better care of it, plus the program gives the school library new ideas, immediate feedback and a fresh set of eyes.”

Bestow responsibility

Requiring students to fill out an application ensures that they are interested in the position and not just in spending a free period in the library. The application I use is fairly simple, with an essay component (“Why do you want to be a library assistant?”), two teacher recommendations, and a parent signature. Most students who take the time to fill out the application are a good fit. Some may not yet be ready for the responsibility; don’t be afraid to take them aside and talk about what they need to do to become a library assistant the next year.

Getting students who truly want the responsibility is important. Look for enthusiasm and excitement on the student applications; those students will be your rock star volunteers. For instance: “It would be lots of fun and an honor to help out in one of my favorite places. Plus, library assistants get to hang out with Ms. G!”

Keep ‘em busy

Maintain an ongoing list of tasks that volunteers can do. Those of us who have run solo programs for years may have difficulty delegating, but prioritizing your time as a professional is important. When I see a low level task that needs doing I add it to my special project list for parent or student volunteers. I also have a standard list that students can reference that includes things like look for trash, straighten books, water plants, push in chairs, clean tables and empty recycling.

Make it special

For middle school students, learning how to use the circulation system is special; my students fight over who gets to check in the books! Give them other special privileges, such as delivering reserved books to students around the school during class time. Nametags are another way to make the job special. Creating them seems like a small thing, but I’ve found that most students are thrilled to decorate and wear them while working in the library.

Celebrate and appreciate

Find a small way to say thank you to your volunteers. A simple breakfast party at the end of the year and thanking them for all their hard work goes a long way. Say “thank you” on a daily basis, and take the time to let students know how much you appreciate their assistance. I also write letters of recommendations for eighth graders that can be used for future employment and have been used as job references.

Capitalize on their interests and talents

“I absolutely love to read…I could show younger kids and kids my age who I know and influence them to read. Since I know these people, they might take my advice and end up reading more than ever.” —From a volunteer application essay

Spending a little time to get to know student interests and talents is well worth the effort. I’m hopeless when it comes to bulletin boards and display ideas. Luckily, some of my student volunteers are always pros at this. One annual display they make shows their favorite books with notecards explaining their choices. We always have a huge jump in circulation when that’s up. I’ve also had students test out the new library website, iPad apps, ebooks, and green screens. Last year, they created book trailers using Animoto that were featured on our school website and on QR codes around the library. Some students have more outlying interests, such as eighth grader Kate, who enjoys reading the shelves in the nonfiction area and reordering books that are misplaced. She says that it’s relaxing to re-shelve books.

I say I understand…and that she’s in the right place.

Laura GardnerLaura Gardner has been a school librarian for ten years and is a teacher librarian and National Junior Honor Society advisor at Dartmouth Middle School. A National Board Certified Teacher in Library Media, she serves on the board of the Massachusetts School Library Association. She and her husband live in Fairhaven, MA with their two young children.


]]> 4
Mathical: A New Book Award Honors the Magic of Mathematics Thu, 21 May 2015 11:53:17 +0000 Marc 2What subject area is the ugly duckling of your library? The one that doesn’t get much attention, isn’t seen as appealing or as much fun as the other sections—but just may be as attractive and exciting? I bet I know: math books. I’m talking about those titles that approach the topic as fresh and interesting—and as alive as the latest sports result. If math titles are your ugly duckling, I have a solution—a way to free those titles to flock with the other swans. Just last month a new prize was announced: Mathical Books for Kids from Tots to Teens. I can’t say I love the name, but I do think this is an award worthy of your attention.

A bit of background: the prize comes from an alliance between Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI)—a non-profit that focuses on mathematical research and works to deepen appreciation of mathematics across all age levels—and the Children’s Book Council (CBC). As you know, the CBC works with other organizations, such as the National Council of Social Studies and the National Science Teachers Association to produce annual lists of “notable” trade books in those fields. But the Mathical prize is different. As David Eisenbud, director of MSRI, explained to me, the organization wanted to select and honor individual exceptional books, which makes the award sound to me more like American Library Association’s (ALA) celebrated youth award winners, than a long list of titles.

The name Mathical was chosen to imbue math with a sense of the magical, or mythical—the aura of wonder and inspiration—and Eisenbud hopes the prize will help K-12 readers to appreciate the “charm and reach” of mathematics. Thus MSRI is open to all kinds of books in which the subject plays a role—nonfiction, of course, but also adventure stories, picture books that take an imaginative and original approach to to the topic, applications of math to real-life situations and concerns, and more.

To facilitate this wide-ranging mandate, the organizers have crafted an impressive, and unusual, set of judges. There are the math professors—Jordan Ellenberg, who teaches at the University of Wisconsin and author of the wonderful How Not to Be Wrong (Penguin, 2014), was struck by the “variety and multiplicity” of approaches in the books; but also SLJ blogger Betsy Bird; and former children’s book ambassador Jon Scieszka, who along with some middle and high school math teachers, comprised the panel (full list on the site). Each book had many readers, indeed, some judges also actively sought comments from young readers. The judges then met—physically and digitally—to share perspectives. Out of this discussion came the first list of winners and honor titles—and one very special addition.

If you want to highlight math in your library as creative and an exciting and enjoyable endeavor, here’s your ready-made display (the prize comes with handy stickers, and a poster and bookmarks, so the books can display their pride). From the Mathical site:

The Mathical prize winners in five age categories, published in 2014, are:

Have You Seen My Dragon? by Steve Light

Grades K-2:
One Big Pair of Underwear by Laura Gehl

Grades 3-5 and Grades 6-8:
Really Big Numbers by Richard Evan Schwartz

Grades 9-12:
Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano

The Mathical Honor books (published 2009-2014) are:

Count the Monkeys by Mac Barnett
Over in a River: Flowing Out to the Sea by Marianne Berkes

Grades K-2:
Zero the Hero by Joan Holub

Grades 3-5:
Bedtime Math: This Time It’s Personal by Laura Overdeck
Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci by Joseph D’Agnese
Edgar Allan Poe’s Pie: Math Puzzlers in Classic Poems by J. Patrick Lewis
Numbed! by David Lubar
The Rookie Bookie by L. Jon Wertheim and Tobias Moskowitz

Grades 6-8:
Mathemagic! Number Tricks by Lynda Colgan
The Ice Castle: An Adventure in Music by Pendred Noyce

Grades 9-12:
The Unknowns by Benedict Carey
What Is Relativity?: An Intuitive Introduction to Einstein’s Ideas, and Why They Matter by Jeffrey Bennett

The first Mathical Awards were presented at the Mount Pleasant Neighborhood Library in Washington, DC. Fourth grade students from were in attendance.

The first Mathical Awards were presented at the Mount Pleasant Neighborhood Library in Washington, DC. Fourth grade students from Sacred Heart School were in attendance.

The Mathical folks are aware that in honoring math books they have a lot of catch-up to do—so they’ve added a Hall of Fame category. Each year, a book—a past great, published long before the prize existed but deserving of a place in the sun—will be named. The first winner, is, of course:

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll

The first Mathical prize was announced to applause at the Mount Pleasant Neighborhood Library with fourth grade students from the Sacred Heart School in Washington, DC, in attendance. CBC will have a table at ALA annual in San Francisco where you can pick up Mathical swag to decorate your display. And the next round of books, the 2015 candidates as well as the second Hall of Fame selection, will be judged in June to be announced at a propitious time in the winter or spring. For authors or publishers interested in submitting books for consideration, a set of guidelines is available from Mathical.

So fly on math books—you are finally free to soar, with your prizes glittering in the sun.

]]> 0
Charged! From Atoms to Electricity | Touch and Go Thu, 21 May 2015 11:50:57 +0000 At this point we’re playing catch-up with Kids Discover; the developer has produced more than two dozen apps based on single issues of the magazine by the same name. While we have reviewed many of their productions, we’re still working our way through their list. The two apps reviewed today are introductions to foundational science topics studied at one point or another during every student’s career.

For those living in the tri-state New York area, Ted Levine from Kids Discover will be presenting with author/illustrator Roxie Munro on “The Digital World of E-books, Apps, and Gamification” at the 21st Century Children’s Nonfiction Conference in NYC June 12-14, 2015, a full, three-day event that brings together publishers, authors, and educators.

photoAtoms (Marjorie Frank / Joe Zeff Design; iOS $3.99; Gr 4-8) is one of 26 assorted history, geography, and science apps offered by Kids Discover. The content is neatly divided into eleven sections; the first eight are informational with appealing titles such as “How Small Is Small?” “It’s Elemental,” and “Fission Fusion No Con-Fusion.” Information and facts are presented in small chunks and accompanied by impressive graphics (colorful photos or drawings) and a number of videos and animations. A short clip showing the effect of a nuclear blast on a wood-frame house, three-fifths of a mile from a 1950s Nevada test site, will fascinate viewers, as will the animated look at how nuclear power is converted into electricity used in the home.

The final sections are comprised of activities designed to reinforce concepts (mostly memory and matching games), and a quiz. “Resources” contains links to five websites including one of the  periodic table (one is also found in the app); however, the link to the “atomic timeline” leads to a timeline site and students will have to do some digging to find the related one. The further reading suggestions link to each title’s Amazon listing. Not all the resources are free of ads.

Navigation is fairly straightforward. From the intro page, viewers swipe to switch pages or tap the screen to bring up a scrubber bar with small page views they can choose from. In most apps, a tap to the arrow at the bottom right corner of the screen will turn the page; here it just indicates there is more to the chapter and readers must swipe or tap the screen to advance forward. (There is a quick tutorial at the app’s opening).

The Kids Discover site has additional resources including lesson plans, infographics, and activities to help make the best use of their apps.—Kelly Jo Lasher, Middle Township High School, Cape May Court House, NJ

Screen from Electricity (Kids Discover) Joe Zeff Design

Screen from Electricity (Kids Discover) Joe Zeff Design

Kids Discover magazine has created another dynamic science-based app for budding scientists to explore. Electricity’s (Sean Price/Joe Zeff Design; iOS, $3.99; Gr 4-8) visual index offers readers 11 chapters or sections to begin their journey. Each section provides clear, succinct basic facts about the topic, accompanied by eye-catching visuals. Offerings include interactive 3-D models, videos, photos, and pop-up captions that will capture users’ attention.

Lightning flashes across the screen as the difference between static and dynamic electricity is explained, and in another section students can follow a simplified view of the path of an electrical current from a power plant to the inside of a home. An additional enhancement within the app is the “Currents in Time” page where taps to a timeline consisting of 11 dates yield images and information on their significance including facts about Thomas Edison, Luigi Galvani, Georg Ohm, and other leading scientists. A word search; a matching game, “Who Did What?”; and a five-question quiz are offered in the last section. “Resources” recommends books and websites. This electrifying app is a winning choice for middle level students. Two related print downloads are available on the developer’s website.Stephanie Rivera, Naperville Public Library, IL 

For additional apps on science topics, see School Library Journal’s list of “Outstanding STEM Apps.”

]]> 1
Latinitas and DIY Girls: Paving the Way for Latina Makers Wed, 20 May 2015 17:53:36 +0000 DIY girlsThe rise of maker culture and new media focused initiatives has not gone unnoticed in the Latino community. Two nonprofit organizations, Latinitas and DIY Girls, are working with Latina teens and tweens to promote tech- and media-related skills.

Luz Rivas, founder of DIY (“Do-It-Yourself”) Girls, was inspired to start an organization aiming “to increase girls’ interest and success in technology, engineering, and making through innovative educational experiences and mentor relationships,” she says, when she revisited her elementary school in Los Angeles and noticed the lack of technology programs for girls.

“I became interested in technology when I was in elementary school,” she says. “It was hard to see that 30 years later, nothing has progressed. I thought, why don’t I combine aspects of the growing maker movement, activities, and equipment that is accessible to everybody and create a program for girls?”

DIY Girls develops and implements educational programs and events designed to encourage engagement with technology, promote self-confidence, and support aspiration to technical careers among tween girls in L.A.’s northeast San Fernando Valley, where the majority of students are Latino. Now in its fourth year, DIY Girls offers afterschool programs to fifth grade girls in five area schools, bringing equipment and materials for projects, such as coding and creating video games and a controller, and using the 3-D printer.

It has also branched out to middle school students, offering monthly programs and summer camps that have taken place at the Los Angeles Public Library. “Our goal is to keep connected with the girls as they grow older, offering a mentorship that we hope continues until they graduate high school,” Rivas adds.

Since its inception, DIY Girls has worked with 400 girls. Its staff is made up of Latina women with degrees in engineering, toy design, psychology, and an aspiring maker/STEM librarian, in addition to volunteers and mentors. The organization is currently is fund-raising for a two-week maker-themed summer camp on Indiegogo with the goal of reaching $8,000 within the next 15 days.

Photos courtesy of Latinitas.

Photos courtesy of Latinitas.

Latinitas is another nonprofit organization that is focused on inspiring young Latinas to develop technology skills, with an added emphasis on media. Latinitas was founded by Laura Donnelly and Alicia Rascon in 2002. Originally conceived as a class project at the University of Texas Austin, where they first met as graduate students, as a way to address the misrepresentation and lack of positive portrayals of Latinas in media and technology, it began as a digital magazine made for and by young Latinas.

“Young women are always struggling with issues of identity and self-esteem, but most Latina girls don’t often find themselves in magazines. And so we started Latinitas, says Donnelly. “It became a space where teens could receive lessons in writing, photography, and then digital publishing as media evolved. Since Austin is tech-centered, coding was the next natural step.”

Latinitas has expanded to include a nonprofit that hosts programs, clubs, workshops, and summer camps in Austin and El Paso, TX. With an audience of 12–17-year-old girls, Latinitas aims to provide a creative outlet for expression, help participants learn about their culture, and foster career exploration in STEM fields.

The organization has served over 20,000 elementary, middle, and high school Latinas with afterschool enrichment programs focused on media, technology, and cultural literacy. As the participants grow older, they serve as models for their younger counterparts in the program. Ninety-two percent of Latinitas alumni reported that they had graduated from high school within four years. Latinitas has four full-time staff members and 20 volunteers.

The group has partnered with 12 libraries in Austin and El Paso to host events that are open to entire families, not just girls. A recent library workshop, Code Chica, which focused on video game design, took place at the Southeast Austin branch. Families came from as far as an hour away to attend. The projects and ideas are usually generated by the participants themselves, and they often tie it back to their culture. One girl created Piñata zombie video game. Another tied her game to the Llorona legend,” says Donnelly.

The family connection is a big part of what makes DIY Girls have a long-lasting impact on attendees, Rivas believes. “When they do things with electronics at our programs, they get to take [their creations] home and share [them] with their families. It creates a special bond with their dads, who [often] have always been tinkerers. The fathers are surprised that their daughters could make projects like that.”

classroom10 - Latinitas

Paola Ferate-Soto, a librarian at the Austin Public Library who has hosted several Latinitas programs at her branch, has a daughter who attended the summer workshops held by the group. “It’s a great opportunity to offer tech-related programs to girls. We have wonderful male librarians and they attract a lot of boys for computer-focused programs. But we noticed that there weren’t that many girls wanting to use the computers,” says Ferate-Soto. She has since seen less resistance to tech programs from young female patrons. “It’s a great away to expose them to tech in a non-threatening and exciting, accessible way,” she says.

DIY Girls and Latinitas have each received financial and in-kind sponsorships from companies and organizations as varied as Microsoft, the L.A. Lakers, the United Latino Fund, Evil Mad Scientist, Target, and IKEA.

They both aim to inspire at-risk young Latinas to pursue STEM-related fields—and to impart confidence and creativity in their mentees. “We are allowing them to create; we’re not giving them step-by-step instructions,” says Rivas. “We provide opportunities for them to learn by troubleshooting a project. Our goal is for them to be excited and enthusiastic about creating technology, rather than just using technology.”


]]> 0
How Brooklyn Special Ed Students Built a Library | The Maker Issue Wed, 20 May 2015 15:00:11 +0000 Adaptive Design  teacher Charles Brown with a reading easel in progress.

Adaptive Design teacher Charles Brown with a reading easel in progress.

All students consider themselves makers at P.S. 721K, a public school in Brooklyn, NY—it’s part of the educational mission. The school’s 400 on-site 14- to 21-year-old special education students make their own soap, cook meals (often with vegetables grown in the school garden), and run coffee and bake shops. In a third-floor shop, they wield tools and assemble furniture from industrial-strength corrugated cardboard, glue, and wooden nails.
The young people at this facility, a vocational school/occupational training center, live with a range of disabilities. Some have mild autism, while others are wheelchair bound, or do not speak. Yet “there’s not a job done here that the kids were not a part of,” says principal Barbara Tremblay.
Recently, shop students at the school built furniture for their new school library—colorfully painted stools and book return boxes (color-coded for students who don’t read). Students work at the library, too, under the guidance of teacher Rizwan Malik.
“Not all of our kids are readers,” says Tremblay. Still, having a school library was a top priority when she became principal three years ago. Then, the library space was mostly used for teacher meetings. That was before she overhauled it, knocking out a wall to make the space wheelchair accessible and enlisting Malik to oversee it. “Library is part of what we do here,” Tremblay says. “Whether it’s picture symbols or you hear it on audio, you need to access literature.”
While Tremblay’s students won’t be packing the library to cram for AP exams, many of them will likely become lifelong library users, says Melissa Jacobs, coordinator at the Office of Library Services in New York City’s DOE. “This is the population that needs [a school library] the most,” she says.

Student-built stools and book bins.

Student-built stools and book bins.

The return of shop

For many students, that means spending time building things in the shop with teacher Charles Brown, who guides them in making the sturdy chairs, book stands, and other items—all out of cardboard. “Everything you see here was made from three-layer cardboard—the kind stores like Costco use to ship their big materials,” he says.
Brown received training in this construction from the Adaptive Design Association (ADA), a New York City nonprofit dedicated to creating custom-designed furniture out of industrial cardboard for disabled children. In ADA’s midtown Manhattan storefront location, staff teach volunteers, from high school and college students to educators and professional designers, these skills.
ADA and the NYC DOE are in the process of setting up more shops in city high schools serving general education students.
“Kids helping kids is powerful and working for a purpose is powerful, especially with a purpose that is very clear, and you quickly see that your work has an impact,” says ADA executive director Alex Truesdell. The right adaptation can enable developmental milestones, she adds.
Giving a child the right furniture—for instance, an elevated chair that literally helps her sit at the table with peers—allows kids’ abilities, rather than their limitations, to shine, she says.
Truesdell sees multiple benefits of the hands-on shop experience, for both able-bodied children and others. “We must put shop in every school. We only learn by doing,” she says. “We don’t learn by watching.”

Accessible and low cost

ADA shares its building with DIYAbility, a group dedicated to assistive technology and promoting equal access to maker tech tools. Among the organization’s initiatives is a summer maker program for teenagers with physical disabilities. DIYAbility is also developing an affordable Morse Code communication system for people who don’t speak, Truesdell says.
“People with disabilities are the largest minority worldwide,” she adds, “and the most underperforming in schools.”

]]> 0
Our Voices Matter: SLJ Chats with Valynne Maetani About “Ink and Ashes” | Up Close Wed, 20 May 2015 14:10:34 +0000 SLJ1505-Upclose_Valynne-MaetaniValynne Maetani’s Ink and Ashes, releasing in June from Lee & Low’s Tu Books imprint, is not only the author’s first book, it’s also the first Tu Books New Visions Award winner. Established in 2012 as an opportunity for diverse unpublished and unagented writers of middle grade and YA fiction to submit their work, the New Visions Award was given to Maetani in 2013 for her mystery thriller. With a fast-paced plot and threads of Japanese culture, this debut adeptly heeds the call for diverse genre fiction for teens.

What first motivated you to submit your manuscript to the contest?

When I heard about the New Visions Award, it was three weeks before the submission deadline. With a manuscript in dire need of revisions, I realized I couldn’t make it. But then someone replied to the announcement for the award ask[ing] why it mattered if the writer was “white,” suggest[ing] Tu Books get rid of the term “of color” from their website.

I have read many wonderful books with diverse characters written by authors who are not “of color”—books that were meaningful and shed light on different cultures. But underrepresented voices are equally as important. This award matters. I am a Japanese American writer who grew up in Utah, surrounded by and reading books about people who looked nothing like me. I am an author of color. Our voices matter.

The dynamic among the siblings is just so spot-on. Were you inspired by your own family history while writing this book?

I am the oldest of five children (two brothers and two sisters). Because my brothers and I are very close in age, we were in high school at the same time, so I got to experience them in a way my younger sisters never did. The siblings in the book are based on my brothers, although I actually toned down the personalities of the characters. In real life, they are so over-the-top that I didn’t think it would be believable.

SLJ1505-Upclose_CV-InkandAshesThe themes in Ink and Ashes include everything from bullying to adoption to first love. How did you map out the plotting and pacing while still maintaining these real-teen details?

This was definitely my greatest challenge. I really struggled with the pacing. In the final draft, I analyzed all the themes and aspects of Claire’s life and examined how they could affect her both positively and negatively and then tried to sequence the events according to the degree she might be affected.

There’s a lot of Japanese culture interwoven into the narrative, but it’s not the entire focus of Claire’s tale. Why was it important for you to write the story this way?

I have a [younger] sister, and I wrote Ink and Ashes for her 18th birthday. Because I never got to see myself in books other than [those with] settings involving war, an internment camp, or high fantasy, I wanted her to have a contemporary [title] with a Japanese American protagonist. I was tired of reading about people like me who were hated just because of the way they look; thus, I thought the greatest gift I could give her was a book I never got to read.

What kind of research did you do for this book?

My paternal grandparents were very superstitious. While they taught me things I shouldn’t do or say, I never knew why, and I never thought to question my elders. Writing this story allowed me to learn the meaning behind various Japanese rituals and traditions that I grew up practicing.

What are you working on next?

My current project is a collaboration with Courtney Alameda, author of Shutter (Holt, 2015), on a young adult Japanese horror/thriller, [which is] a retelling of Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. Our main characters will be plagued by Japanese monsters and ghosts and require the help of shinigami (death gods) for protection. After that, I hope to be working on the sequel to Ink and Ashes.

]]> 0
“Listen, Slowly” explores a teen’s journey from the valley to Vietnam| Audio Pick Wed, 20 May 2015 13:00:12 +0000 LAI, Thanhhà. Listen, Slowly. digital download. 8 hrs. Harper Audio. 2015. $18.99. ISBN 9780062346469. Gr 6-8–Mai (though at school in Laguna Beach she’s known as “Mia”) is a seventh grade valley girl who is expected to accompany her grandmother on an all-summer visit to Vietnam. Bà fled Vietnam with her children during the Fall of Saigon, and doesn’t know what happened to her husband, Mai’s grandfather. Occasionally using her rudimentary Vietnamese, Mai tells the story (grudgingly adding SAT vocabulary sent daily [...]]]> listenslowlyLAI, Thanhhà. Listen, Slowly. digital download. 8 hrs. Harper Audio. 2015. $18.99. ISBN 9780062346469.
Gr 6-8–Mai (though at school in Laguna Beach she’s known as “Mia”) is a seventh grade valley girl who is expected to accompany her grandmother on an all-summer visit to Vietnam. Bà fled Vietnam with her children during the Fall of Saigon, and doesn’t know what happened to her husband, Mai’s grandfather. Occasionally using her rudimentary Vietnamese, Mai tells the story (grudgingly adding SAT vocabulary sent daily by her mother) as she frets over her oily T-zone, her crush back home, bloodthirsty mosquitoes, and OMG: only dial-up Internet! At the same time, Mai revels in the sights and tastes of crowded cities and rural villages, eventually embracing even awkward traditions as she comes to appreciate her heritage. Narrator Lulu Lam beautifully manages both the ending uptick of valley-girl inflections, and the tonal variations of Vietnamese. The writing is excellent, and the narration rises in every way to the material. This book has abundant educational points that make it good for classroom use, yet it never feels heavy-handed as it explores the cultural points. Funny, heartfelt and full of depth, this modern narrative is seamlessly wrapped in a lush cloak of history and culture. Mai and Bà’s journey will captivate listeners. VERDICT An excellent multicultural title for social studies or history classes. Suggest to fans of authors Mitali Perkins and Lisa Yee.–Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX

]]> 0