School Library Journal The world's largest reviewer of books, multimedia, and technology for children and teens Sun, 19 Apr 2015 10:31:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Washington Library Media Association Releases Op-Ed: “Look in School Libraries for Graduation Rates” Fri, 17 Apr 2015 18:06:03 +0000 A recent op-ed article by Craig Seasholes, president-elect of the Washington Library Media Association (WLMA) and Sharyn Merrigan, WLMA president, emphasizes the connection between schools with certified teacher librarians and student achievement—and urges the public to take notice.

The article, “Look in School Libraries for Graduation Rates,” cites a recent WLMA impact study by Elizabeth Coker, “The Washington State School Library Impact Study: Certified Teacher-Librarians, Library Quality and Student Achievement in Washington State Public Schools.” Published on April 1, the study drew its data from a 40-question survey answered by officials at 1,486 K−12 schools in Washington.

The op-ed piece, published on the Washington Library Association website, highlights the study’s findings, which show a correlation between graduation rates and students attending “schools with certified teacher-librarians and quality library facilities.”

Washington state has cut “approximately 200 [certified teacher librarians (CTLs)] from schools for the past 15 years,” write Seasholes and Merrigan. However, “…results from a recently released new study show the huge profit to be made for us all by slightly increasing just one small premium: Investing more in CTLs for all of Washington’s public schools.”

Read the entire op-ed below.

Look in School Libraries for Graduation Rates

By Sharyn Merrigan and Craig Seasholes

Our community’s investment in public education of our children is central to our social, civic and economic future. This commitment determines everything else: the effectiveness of public safety; the quality of infrastructure and social services; and the never-ending need businesses have for an education workforce.

To that end, results from a recently released new study show the huge profit to be made for us all by slightly increasing just one small premium: Investing more in certified teacher-librarians (CTLs) for all of Washington’s public schools.

“Students who attend schools with certified teacher-librarians and quality library facilities perform better on standardized tests and are more likely to graduate,” reports Dr. Elizabeth Coker, who has just completed an exhaustive report, “Certified Teacher-Librarians, Library Quality and Student Achievement in Washington State Public Schools.” for the Washington Library Media Association. Dr. Coker is a senior research scientist for the University of Washington-Tacoma, Center for Strong Schools.

“However…it is the quality of the library facility and related instructional services rather than its presence or absence that makes a difference for student achievement,” according to Coker, who drew her analysis from the 1,486 out of 2,428 K-12 schools in Washington state responding to her 40-question survey.

According to the report, one plausible explanation for the higher achievement levels and graduation rates in schools with CTLs on staff is that CTLs “are far more likely to be directly involved in teaching curriculum-designed around Common Core standards.” Additionally, “CTL-staffed libraries are more likely to use up-to-date library curriculum developed in collaboration with general education teachers.”

More importantly, “CTLs carry a heavy load of teaching responsibilities focused on information technology; skills that are necessary for success in higher education as well as virtually any profession in today’s world.”

That, to us, hits the target dead center in explaining why some schools excel and other don’t: Information technology, and the role CTLs have in raising the information literacy of students whose teachers have all they can handle teaching basic education or whose schools only have a volunteer, part-time or one fulltime librarian on staff.

The importance of this cannot be overstated, as our favorite observation in Coker’s report points out, “CTLs are actively involved in teaching students and collaborating with other teachers to ensure that students graduate with the skills needed to differentiate, for example, between a peer-reviewed published research paper and somebody’s late-night blog on the same topic.” We’ll forever need policymaking based on the former, if we are to make and have made for us informed decisions.

No surprise that wealthier school districts would do better than poorer ones in graduation rates. Their resources allow for some CTLs, but one finding in the report I would commend to everyone responsible for shaping an education budget is this: “… while high-poverty schools do have worse graduation rates than low-poverty schools, this gap is not inevitable; and one key factor distinguishing high-performing high-poverty schools from low-performing high-poverty schools is a quality library program.”

That, we believe, makes as strong a case for CTLs in every school, not just the ones able to afford it. Yet, the state of Washington has cut approximately 200 CTLs from schools for the past 15 years, and many school districts have eliminated librarians and library programs entirely.

It always puzzles us to hear people say their obligation to education ended when their children graduated. Really? You don’t have an investment in making sure that future EMT now going to school knows how to make the right decision while trying to resuscitate your life? Or, that children now going kindergarten through 12th grade know how to apply the latest technologies to everything you will ever need help in doing for your remaining years?

Certified teacher-librarians are an investment of pennies on the dollar for yields of nickels, dimes, and quarters. They’re fulfilling a function [that] classroom teachers and non-certified library staff aren’t able to do, and that is instilling technological literacy in students living in a state that fancies itself a tech leader.

You get what you pay for, and Dr. Coker’s report is the first to show what we are getting in a little-known component of education that returns much more than it receives.

Sharyn Merrigan is president of the Washington Library Media Association (WLMA). Craig Seasholes is a former WLMA president (and president-elect) and was the lead member of the study committee. Both are Washington State Certificated Teacher-Librarians currently working in public schools.


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Be Part Of The Solution | SLJ Spotlight Fri, 17 Apr 2015 13:00:36 +0000 Teens looking to make a difference in the world will find plenty of fuel in recent offerings, from a look at how we dispose of waste (Michelle Mulder’s Trash Talk!: Moving Toward a Zero-Waste World) to an examination of wrongful convictions (Elizabeth A. Murray’s Overturning Wrongful Convictions: Science Serving Justice) to a truly excellent investigation of the Stonewall riots and their significance in the struggle for gay rights (Ann Bausum’s Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights).

stonewallredstarBausum, Ann. Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights. 128p. bibliog. ebook available. index. notes. photos. reprods. Viking. May 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780670016792.

Gr 9 Up –This powerful, well-researched work examines the Stonewall riots, which took place in 1969 in New York City when members of the gay community fought back in response to a police raid on a gay bar. Bausum describes the restrictive lives that many gays and lesbians led in the 1960s and the relief—and risks—of meeting at gay bars. On June 28, 1969, when police arrived at the Stonewall Inn to make arrests, people—transvestites, drag queens, lesbians, and gay men—fought back, instead of filing quietly into police wagons. Quoting from a variety of firsthand sources (journalists, bar patrons, cops, and others), Bausum paints a vivid picture of the three nights of rioting that became the focal point for activists, some of whom had been fighting for gay and lesbian rights in a quieter way and others who found themselves suddenly drawn to the struggle. A month later, a large group of protestors rallied to speak out in Washington Square Park and marched down Christopher Street to the Stonewall Inn in what became the nation’s first gay pride march. In the following chapters, Bausum describes the growth of gay and lesbian activism, setbacks, the impact of HIV/AIDS, and issues such as gays in the military and same-sex marriage, bringing readers to the present day and expertly putting these struggles into historical context. VERDICT An essential purchase.–Nancy Silverrod, San Francisco Public Library

overturningwrongfulconvictionsMurray, Elizabeth A. Overturning Wrongful Convictions: Science Serving Justice. 120p. bibliog. diag. ebook available. further reading. index. notes. photos. reprods. Twenty-First Century. 2015. lib. ed. $33.32. ISBN 9781467725132. LC 2014017225.

Gr 9 Up –This well-researched, extremely thorough look at how the legal system can go awry examines how people end up wrongly incarcerated and the paths that may lead to exoneration. Forensic scientist Murray presents the steps that comprise a criminal case, including arrest, arraignment, trail, plea deals, verdicts, and appeals, before detailing the potential for errors at every stage. She notes that approximately 40,000 to 100,000 people are wrongly behind bars—a staggering statistic. Murray also describes groups that fight wrongful convictions, like the Innocence Project, as well as ways that convicts are exonerated through advances in science, particularly in the area of DNA evidence. Reasons for wrongful convictions are laid out: mishandled evidence, unreliable witness accounts, false confessions, sloppy police work, bad legal counsel, racial prejudice, and mistakes made by judges. Murray looks at what happens next for those who are exonerated, noting the issues that come with reintegration into society. Though the explanations of legal procedures can be on the dense side, the text is broken up by fascinating profiles of individuals who have been exonerated. The writing is on the scholarly side, making it ideal for students doing research or seeking an in-depth analysis of the subject. VERDICT A strong purchase about an always timely issue.–Amanda MacGregor, formerly at Apollo High School Library, St. Cloud, MN

trashtalkMulder, Michelle. Trash Talk!: Moving Toward a Zero-Waste World. 48p. ebook available. filmog. further reading. index. photos. reprods. websites. Orca. Apr. 2015. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781459806924. LC 2014952068.

Gr 5-7 –Both a history of trash and a manual of its elimination (or diminution, at least), this nifty book covers a variety of topics, from the trash pits (think archaic sanitary landfills) of the ancient Minoans to the gross filth of New York City in 1850. Employing readable language, Mulder chronicles the development of garbage disposal and goes on to castigate our throw-it-away-and-buy-a-new-one way of thinking. She discusses reformatting, reusing, and repairing to lessen the landfill burdens and presents ways to cut down the enormous amounts of rubbish humans produce on a global daily basis. “Trash Facts” pop up, as do “Take in the Trash” notes. Colorful photos record garbage issues around the world and innovative solutions to cope with this mountainous problem. Pair this with such green titles as Kim McKay and Jenny Bonnin’s challenging True Green Kids: 100 Things You Can Do to Save the Planet (National Geographic, 2008) and Brad Herzog’s simpler but eye-catching S Is for Save the Planet: A How-to-Be-Green Alphabet (Sleeping Bear, 2009) for a further look at our smelly, bulky accumulations and inventive ways to change our wasteful ways. VERDICT An informative call to action for young greenies.–Patricia Manning, formerly at Eastchester Public Library, NY

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Common Sense Education Launches Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Gaming Platform Thu, 16 Apr 2015 17:15:30 +0000 EH150416_CommonSenseMedia-logoOn April 16, Common Sense Education, a division of Common Sense, the nonprofit organization dedicated to helping students, parents, and teachers thrive in a world of media and technology, released Digital Compass, an interactive gaming platform aiming to foster digital literacy and citizenship skills among sixth through ninth graders.

Digital Compass addresses the issues that kids face in the digital world: cyberbullying, privacy and security, creative credit and copyright, information literacy, Internet safety, digital footprint and reputation, self-image and identity, relationships, and communication. It also strives to provide students with the freedom to explore how their digital interactions may impact real-life relationships and future opportunities.

Designed as an animated choose-your-own-adventure game, Digital Compass puts students in the role of one of eight characters (four male, four female), each of whom is faced with a series of digital dilemmas. Students determine their character’s actions—and the story’s outcome—by making a series of decisions as the game progresses. Supplemental printable materials are tied to Common Core writing standards.

“The real-world scenarios offer students insights on how to handle common challenges with media and technology while learning to be responsible digital citizens,” said Lauren Matthews, a seventh grade teacher in Oakland Unified School District, in a prepared statement.

Teachers and parents may access Digital Compass at Versions of the app for tablets (iOS and Android), as well as one designed to work on the Edmodo platform, will be available in app stores at the end of April.

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Capstone Announces New PebbleGo Dinosaurs Wed, 15 Apr 2015 16:14:10 +0000 PebbleGo-FeatThis week, Capstone is revealing a sneak peek of PebbleGo Dinosaurs, its new pre-K−3 database, at the Capstone booth (#2141) at the Texas Library Association (TLA) annual conference (April 14–17) in Austin, Texas. PebbleGo Dinosaurs will be officially released this upcoming August, joining Capstone’s other database modules (Animals, Biographies, Science, and Social Studies) covering content for grades pre-K−3.

PebbleGo Dinosaurs will feature articles about more than 125 dinosaurs, including Tyrannosaurus rex, Stegosaurus, and Velociraptor. It also highlights some of the lesser knowns, such as Ankylosaurus, Apatosaurus, and Edmontosaurus, all spotlighted in the film Jurassic World, part of the ”Jurassic Park” film series, opening June 12.

PebbleGo Dinosaurs will group dinosaurs in three broad categories—beaked, bird-like, and long necks—with several easy-to-navigate subcategories for young researchers, such as armored, bird-footed, horned, and meat-eating raptors.

The database will explore each dinosaur’s body, habitat, food, and behavior; compare the dinosaurs to modern-day animals; and include a range map showing their geographic region. Accompanying activities, games, a question of the day, and teacher materials will round out the learning opportunities.

For more information, read the full press release.

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Avant-Garde Children’s Lit: Mac Barnett on “The Skunk” and Writing Picture Books Wed, 15 Apr 2015 16:00:12 +0000 The Skunk, and muses on the intelligence of young readers and the role of experimentation within the world of children's literature. ]]> The_SkunkSLJ called your new book, The Skunk (Roaring Brook, 2015) “clever” and “sly.” Kirkus said that it’s “training wheels for Samuel Beckett.” A Goodreads reviewer wrote (all caps hers) “WHAT IS THIS BOOK EVEN ABOUT.” You tell us—what is The Skunk about? Who (or what) is the skunk?

The question that Goodreads user asks is one that all good readers ask every time they finish a book (the CAPS LOCK is optional): What is this book even about? Most books worth thinking about don’t yield their answers quickly. This is as true for a good children’s book as it is for any other work of literature.

So: What is The Skunk about? Is it a comedy? A romance? A ghost story? A tale of paranoia? An allegory of trauma? I could tell you what I think, but that would be a lot less fun than just reading it yourself.

Is this a story from personal experience?

I’ll say this: The story is important to me, and I have great empathy for both the man and the skunk.

You’ve worked with Jon Klassen, Adam Rex, Dan Santat, Kevin Cornell, Chris Van Dusen, Jen Corace, and now the great Patrick McDonnell. Do you have any say in deciding which artist illustrates your words, or do your editors generally surprise you? When did you find out it would be Patrick for The Skunk?

I’ve been lucky—editors have consulted with me about illustrators, and this has been the case since my first book, when I worked with Adam Rex. On The Skunk, it was funny: I think my editor, Simon Boughton, and I both came to the conversation planning to suggest Patrick McDonnell. After we agreed, I just hoped Patrick would be interested—he usually works alone.

When you write your manuscript, how much direction do you give to the artist? How closely—if at all—do you typically work with them? Do you get to see the artwork take shape little by little, in various stages, or do you see it nearly done toward the end of the process? How did things come together with this book?

It depends. The first conversation Patrick and I had about The Skunk happened last week. When I work with Jon Klassen and Adam Rex, both of whom are good buddies, we tend to be in pretty close touch throughout the process.

When I’m working on the manuscript, I try to leave plenty of space to let the illustrator do the storytelling. Writing a picture book is the art of finishing an unfinished thing.

Is there an illustrator you haven’t worked with yet who you’re dying to collaborate with?

There are lots. Isabelle Arsenault, Laura Carlin, Emily Hughes, Isol.

Patrick is from the comics world. Have you ever been inspired to pen a comic or graphic novel?

Not yet. I’m always excited by new forms, though.

SkunkFerriswheelYour picture books take risks. There’s a sense of playing with and upending expectations (Guess Again!), using humor to poke fun at authority (Mustache!, President Taft is Stuck in the Bath), exploring metafiction (Battle Bunny, Chloe and the Lion), and delving into some existential crises (Sam & Dave Dig a Hole, The Skunk). Was it ever hard to sell your ideas to editors and publishers—especially when you were first starting off in the industry? Who have your champions been?

I’ve been fortunate to work with editors at many different houses, and, with all their help, I’ve been able to put out a body of work I’m very proud of. But I haven’t found a single editor who gets, or gets excited about, every book I’ve published. And that’s OK. I think my stories are animated by a shared philosophy or set of ethics, but I don’t like repeating myself, and one book tends to be pretty different from another. My real champion, the person who from the beginning has understood all the strange and varied things I write, is my agent, Steve Malk. He’s incredible—a great reader, a great editor, a great adviser, a great businessman, a great friend. When you look at the books he’s represented, the many writers and illustrators he’s encouraged, it’s hard not to think that his creative contribution to 21st-century children’s books will be on par with someone like Ursula Nordstrom’s in the 20th.

Children’s book reviewers sometimes have the view that certain types of humor or themes are too sophisticated for young children—that very often most forms of subtlety, irony, and ambiguity go “over the heads” of the intended audience. What are your thoughts? When you do class visits, what are some of the reactions from kids?

I spend a lot of my time with kids—I visit more than 50 schools per year. Children’s literary tastes vary as widely as adults’, and my books aren’t for everyone. No good book is. But I believe children are more likely than adults to enjoy fiction that takes risks, just as they’re more likely to climb a dodgy jungle gym, or dance in front of strangers. Childhood is experimental. It’s only right that children’s books have long been a place for experimental literature.

I think a lot of the time, when an adult objects to a kids’ book as being too dark, or too subtle, or too ambiguous, it’s because that book’s darkness, subtlety, or ambiguity doesn’t comport with that adult’s literary tastes, or with some benighted idea of what childhood should be. Too often, the term “kid- friendly” is used to club down books that threaten adults. And when we too tightly circumscribe the biblioverse of children, who are trying to discover the kinds of books they’ll spend their whole lives reading, it’s not just patronizing and insulting. It’s downright unethical.

Mac BarnettWhat were your favorite picture books when you were a kid? When did you decide that you wanted to write one (or dozens) of them?

I loved James Marshall, Ruth Krauss, Arnold Lobel, Margaret Wise Brown, and Maurice Sendak. My mom never put my picture books away—they stayed on our bookshelves and remained part of my reading life through middle and high school. I always wanted to be a writer. It was in college, the summer before my senior year, when I figured out that I wanted to write picture books.

You seem like you’re always having the time of your life. Is this the best job on the planet?

Yes and yes.

For the aspiring picture book creators out there, what’s your one piece of advice?

Read. Read picture books all the time. It’s a peculiar form with a tremendous history. Before you start, and after, you should acquaint yourself with the craft and the tradition. (And that reading leads outward, from picture books to novels, poetry, folktale, myth, music, dance, and theater—get into all that stuff, too.)

What are you working on now?

I’m writing my first picture book biography—on Margaret Wise Brown.

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Lincoln, Jefferson, and Franklin | DVD Reviews Wed, 15 Apr 2015 15:35:22 +0000 Ben Franklin’s Big Splash makes waves, along with Maira Kalman’s inspired biographies of presidents Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson. Additionally, post-Katrina New Orleans and the civil rights movement are poignantly depicted in The Whole Gritty City and The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement. ]]> SLJ1504-DVD

redstarThe Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement. 26 min. Dist. by the Video Project. 2014. $59. ISBN unavail.
Gr 7 Up –This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Selma march, and this documentary introduces viewers to a man described as a foot soldier for the civil rights movement: 85-year-old James Armstrong. He carried a flag when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. marched towards the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and his Armstrong Barbershop (parts of which seem held together with duct tape and love) is as much a civil rights museum as a place of business. Armstrong, an energetic and dapper spokesman, brings the issues to a personal level. The film uses historic footage (including brief, disturbing scenes of beatings) to recreate the atmosphere that Armstrong faced as a young man. His conviction and commitment to nonviolence are obvious. Grainy black-and-white footage captures signs like “Keep Alabama White,” as Armstrong walks with his young sons, Dwight and Floyd, past angry protesters in front of a school. In his 80s, he watches election returns as Barack Obama wins the presidency. (Armstrong passed away in 2009.) Interviews with son Floyd, footage of speeches by Dr. King and President Obama, and a brief narrative of the civil rights time line since 1870 pack a lot of information into this worthwhile film. VERDICT A moving 20-minute capsule of the civil rights movement, particularly in Alabama, brought to a personal level by Armstrong’s sustained narration.–Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School. Fort Worth, TX

redstarLooking at Lincoln. 10 min. Dist. by Dreamscape Media. 2015. $38.99. ISBN 9781633796119.
K-Gr 4 –This animated version of Maira Kalman’s picture book (Penguin, 2012) follows a little girl who wants to learn all she can about Abraham Lincoln, and in her quest she finds out that he’s more than the face on the five dollar bill. The text includes events of Lincoln’s childhood; his time as a lawyer in Springfield, IL; his family; his strong antislavery beliefs; his love for justice; and even that he had a dog named Fido. The text presents an honorable and respectful view of Lincoln, and Kalman’s colorful and uncomplicated drawings are pleasing to the eye. It should be noted that many of the drawings are based on actual photographs, and this is a major highlight of the book. This fact could be used by teachers or librarians as a springboard for a lesson about Civil War photography and the amazing collection of Lincoln photos. Elizabeth Cottle’s narration is pleasant and charmingly complimented with music and sound effects. VERDICT This stands alone and is also useable with the book. A worthy addition for history collections for young readers.–Patricia Ann Owens, formerly with Eastern Illinois Community Colleges, Mount Carmel

redstarPlastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. 57 min. Dist. by Bullfrog Films. 2014. $350. Rent $85. ISBN 1941545246.
Gr 7 Up –After seeing this documentary, viewers will not think of plastic in the same way again and will likely be inspired to make some personal changes, such as carrying reusable bags. Journalist Angela Sun’s journey to find the so-called drifting plastic island takes her to the remote Midway Atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. There plastic debris from the waters of the United States and Asia concentrate in a kind of whirlpool of junk. As a result, the massive Great Pacific Garbage Patch is responsible for destroying wildlife and coral reefs. Graphically filmed, the bellies of the dead albatrosses on the island are cut open and the lethal junk inside is revealed. How plastics consumed by sea animals affect the people who eat them is not completely known, but the chemicals in plastics are known to have hormone-disrupting effects. Sun speaks with scientists, including marine biologists and environmental advocates, who stress that the health of the ocean is essential for human survival. She goes undercover at the International Marine Debris Conference, sponsored by the American Chemistry Council and attended by plastics giants, including Dow, DuPont, and Exxon. She interviews several representatives from the industry and exposes their lack of knowledge of the environmental consequences of manufacturing plastics—before she’s asked firmly to leave the premises. VERDICT Throughout, Sun delivers a succinct and attention-getting message in this excellent, chilling film that will both support science curricula and appeal to popular interest.–Constance Dickerson, Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library, OH

redstarThomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything. 14 min. Dist. by Dreamscape Media. 2015. $38.99. ISBN 9781633796188.
K-Gr 4 –Based on Maira Kalman’s delightful book (Penguin, 2014), a great deal of information is presented about Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, including his authorship of the Declaration of Independence; his administration, which sponsored the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis and Clark Expedition; his love of books and agriculture; and the building of his home, Monticello. Kalman doesn’t shy away from the fact that Jefferson owned slaves and that he had a relationship with one of them, Sally Hemings. Viewers learn that Jefferson was a monumental man who had flaws. Music and appropriate sound effects compliment the narration. Kalman’s illustrations are bright and crisp, and the renderings of Monticello are a major highlight of the book and this animated version. Teachers can utilize this DVD with groups or assign it to individuals. VERDICT A worthy addition for history collections. It’s a fabulous way to get to know Jefferson.–Patricia Ann Owens, formerly with Illinois Eastern Community Colleges, Mount Carmel, IL

redstarThe Whole Gritty City. 89 min. Dist. by Alexander Street Press. 2014. $295. Streaming three-year access $295, perpetual $885. UPC 888295104692.
Gr 9 Up –Post-Katrina New Orleans has one of the highest murder rates in the country, and almost half its children live in poverty. That’s the background for this documentary about three local marching bands and their dedicated directors’ efforts to instill discipline as they teach students how to make music, thereby keeping them off the streets and out of danger. These kids discover joy playing an instrument and see that there is a future for them. The film opens with a band playing at a funeral and flashes back to the first rehearsals of the year. It chronicles the progress made as the teens develop technique, strive for perfection for Mardi Gras parades, and returns to the moving funeral of one of their own, whose bright future was cut short by his senseless murder. Several band members reveal what life is like for them away from school and the band, and the stories they tell are heart-wrenching. Their ambition to excel and pride in their band is evident. Violence is referred to, but it takes place off-screen, and a few swear words are uttered when band members are harassed by bystanders and rivals during a parade. Filmmakers Richard Barber and Andre Lambertson capture the right mix of material. This first aired on 48 Hours (CBS) in February 2014. Bonus tracks add depth and context, often tugging harder at the heartstrings, especially the footage following police officer Shelita Haynes, who has two sons in a marching band. VERDICT Highly recommended for libraries collecting urban studies and for building community, music, and band programs.–Stephanie Bange,Wright State University, Dayton, OH

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.

Preschool to Grade 4

Ben Franklin’s Big Splash: The Mostly True Story of His First Invention. 10 min. Dist. by Dreamscape Media. 2015. $38.99. ISBN 9781633794450.

Chicken Little. 5 min. Dist. by Dreamscape Media. 2014. $38.99. ISBN 9781633792296.

Go to Sleep, Groundhog! 7 min. Dist. by Dreamscape Media. 2015. $38.99. ISBN 9781633794429.

There Was an Old Woman (Who Lived in a Shoe)/There Was a Crooked Man. 4 min. Dist. by Dreamscape Media. 2015. $38.99. ISBN 9781633794665.

Welcome to the Neighborhood. (Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.) 80 min. Dist. by PBS. 2015 $6.99. ISBN 9781627891462.

Where, Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone?/Three Little Kittens. 6 min. Dist. by Dreamscape Media. 2015. $38.99. ISBN 9781633794634.

Wizard of Oz. 7 min. Dist. By Dreamscape Media. 2014. $38.99. ISBN 9781629239682.

Grades 5 up

China 2000 BC: The Rise and Fall of Dynasties in Ancient China. ISBN unavail.

––––. China 2000 BC: Unearthing the Truth Behind a Myth: The Xia Dynasty. ISBN unavail.

ea: 45 min. (China 2000 BC.) Dist. by National Film Board of Canada. 2014. Each $195. Both $295.

Cold War Roadshow. (American Experience). 53 min. Dist. by PBS. 2014. $24.99. ISBN 9781627892025.

DamNation . 87 and 52 min. Dist. by Bullfrog Films. 2014. $250. Rent $95. ISBN 1941545211.

Killer Landslides. (Nova.) 54 min. Dist. by PBS. 2014. $24.99. ISBN 9781627891240.

Of Oozies and Elephants. 89 min. Dist. by Dreamscape Media. 2014. $24.99. w/PPR $199.99. ISBN 857063005042.

Olympic National Park, Washington State. (Discoveries…America National Parks). 53 min. Dist. by Bennett-Watt Entertainment. 2015. $24.95. ISBN 9781604901771.

Pembe ya Ndovu. 30 min. Dist. by the Video Project. 2014. $69. ISBN unavail.

Shakespeare Uncovered: Series 2. 6 hrs. Distributed by PBS. 2014. $34.99. ISBN 9781627892377.

Somewhere Between. 88 min. Dist. by Good Docs. 2012. DVD $99. Digital streaming license $599. UPC 767685283981.

23 Blast. 98 min. Dist. by Ocean Avenue Entertainment. 2015. $19.95. UPC 602537991242.

Where Am I? (The Nature of Things.) 44 min. Dist. by Bulldog Films. DVD $250. Rent $85. ISBN 1941545181.

You May Call Her Madam Secretary. 56 min. Dist. by Alexander Street Press. 2014. $179. Streaming three-year access $179, perpetual $537. UPC 888295104692.

The Zigzag Kid. 95 min. English subtitles. Dist. by Menemsha Films. 2012. $29.95. UPC 748252384058.

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Animal adventures and fun lessons abound in “Humphrey” collection | Audio Pick Wed, 15 Apr 2015 13:00:43 +0000 Birney, Betty G. Humphrey Audio Collection, Books 8-11. 11 CDs. 13 hrs. Listening Library. 2015. $75. ISBN 9780553556490. digital download. Gr 3-7–Everyone’s favorite golden hamster is back in this audio presentation of four of the books by Birney. In “Mysteries According to Humphrey,” Humphrey’s class is reading Sherlock Holmes, a substitute takes over, and Humphrey has his own mysteries to solve. “Winter According to Humphrey” brings snow, a pageant, and all the winter holidays. In “Secrets According to Humphrey,” the class [...]]]> humphreyaudioBirney, Betty G. Humphrey Audio Collection, Books 8-11. 11 CDs. 13 hrs. Listening Library. 2015. $75. ISBN 9780553556490. digital download.
Gr 3-7–Everyone’s favorite golden hamster is back in this audio presentation of four of the books by Birney. In “Mysteries According to Humphrey,” Humphrey’s class is reading Sherlock Holmes, a substitute takes over, and Humphrey has his own mysteries to solve. “Winter According to Humphrey” brings snow, a pageant, and all the winter holidays. In “Secrets According to Humphrey,” the class studies ancient Egypt and secret clubs abound. Finally, in “Imagination According to Humphrey,” the class learns how to write stories, and Humphrey follows along with his journal. Of course, in each adventure, he also uses his role as classroom pet to help the students resolve issues and learn important social skills. Narrator William Dufris does a fabulous job reading the stories, pacing them perfectly and providing the ideal voices for the characters. Humphrey manages to be enthusiastic without being cloying, and the voices for the other characters bring them to life. VERDICT This is the best kind of audiobook, drawing listeners in and carrying them away. A treat for both children and adults.–Teresa Bateman, Brigadoon Elementary, Federal Way, WA

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Those Tired Summer Reading Lists. Here’s What to Do. Wed, 15 Apr 2015 13:00:29 +0000 SLJ1504-SummerReading

What does a summer vacation with required reading look like? For 16-year-old Heather Smith, every Friday last summer meant making sure her reading assignment was done. A junior at Golden West High School in Visalia, CA, Smith had to read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter and Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms and write weekly journal entries. An avid reader, Smith enjoyed the novels. “It was nice to have a challenge,” she says. Still, the mandatory journal-writing did little to enhance her experience. Nor did the fact that the reading was required for classes. “I’d like them a lot more if it wasn’t made into an assignment,” she says.

Once school began, there was no discussion about the books, Smith says. Moreover, the assignments could be completed easily by using a literary cheat-sheet like SparkNotes.

Jennifer Frantz can’t blame high schoolers for taking shortcuts. The supervisor of language arts at the Parsippany-Troy Hills School District (PTHSD) in Parsippany, NJ, says that while she appreciates Shakespeare, Hawthorne, and Hemingway, summer isn’t the best time to introduce students to these classic authors.

Other educators agree, and advocate for students to have more summer reading options—including more contemporary choices from diverse authors. They say it’s time to overhaul the whole idea of summer reading. Public librarians often dread the moment a child—or parent—walks into the library with the required reading list in hand. “Chances are the books are either old, out of print, or just plain boring for the kid or teen,” says SLJ reviews editor Kiera Parrott, who suggests 10 tips to flip summer reading assignments (see p. 34).

Questioning the classics

“I did not understand Shakespeare until it was taught to me by a great teacher,” says Elissa Malespina, coordinating supervisor of educational technology, media, and multimedia for the PTHSD. “Some of those other classics need to be really taught by someone who can explain the meaning behind what’s being said. The summer reading list might not be the best place for that, because you don’t get immediate help and feedback.”

“I’ve never read Moby-Dick or The Grapes of Wrath, and I don’t feel like I’m missing out,” adds Faythe Arredondo, a teen services librarian at the Tulare County Library in Visalia, CA. “I was still able to go to college and grad school—twice. Reading is so subjective that I don’t think any one person can say that something is a must.”

Frantz’s summer list includes stories that students can tackle with less guidance. “What we’re trying to do is to turn kids on to authors and books,” she says. “In the summer, [for kids] to read on their own, [the book] needs to be something they’re more used to and more interested in.”

What’s the argument for keeping classic novels on the list? Some teachers may feel pressure to push these books because they include the type of vocabulary words found on tests. “The AP Literature and Composition tests and the SAT are still based on classic literature titles,” Frantz says. “Chances are slim that you are going to find the words ‘epicurean’ and ‘affable’ in a modern text, but they are right there in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.”

The fact is that teachers and librarians often have very different ideas about what summer reading should be. While some teachers adhere to a set list of classics and view the list as an unofficial test prep tool, librarians tend to focus on the newest, most popular and award-winning books that kids will enjoy.

“Teachers have materials, assessments, and activities from the past that have worked, so they are more comfortable with that,” Frantz says. “Librarians are on the cutting edge.” So what’s a librarian to do? Frantz asks teachers what they’re currently reading and solicits their feedback on more recent books she is considering assigning. She asks teachers to consider what existing lesson plans could be used with new titles.

SLJ1504-SummerReading-SBTen Tips to Flip

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with asking summer readers to record the number of minutes, pages, or titles they’ve read, librarians may want to consider some alternatives that keep kids both reading and fully engaged in the process over the long summer months. The suggestions below can supplement or even replace traditional methods of counting and recording summer reading activity. Try one, try a few, or come up with your own!—Kiera Parrott

Choose a book you’ve read this summer and…

• Draw a map of the setting.

• Write a short story about what the character(s) would be doing one year later.

• Imagine you could interview the protagonist. What three questions would you ask?

• Redesign the cover.

• Write a letter to the author or illustrator.

• Write a short book review. Remember to include a few sentences describing the book as well as a few sentences about why you liked it—or didn’t.

Take it to the next level…

• Choose two people or characters from two different books who you think would be great friends. Why?

• Choose one book location or setting to live in for a week—it can be fiction or nonfiction. Which book would you choose and why?

• Take a photo of the cover of each book you read. Create a photo collage or animated trailer. (Free programs like Animoto might be a fun choice.)

• Recommend a book to a friend or family member. Which title did you choose and why did you recommend it?

Will this list make you smarter?

Another problem with summer reading lists is that kids looking at them see a narrow, specific demand, says Ellen Riordan, president of the American Library Association’s Association of Library Service to Children. There’s a perception that reading these specific books is a guarantee for success (academic or otherwise) and intelligence, Riordan adds. Her bottom line: “Reading is best and most effective when you create a positive experience around it.”

Josie Parker, the director of the Ann Arbor (MI) District Public Library for over a decade, agrees. “If a person believes that [the list is] the be-all, end-all of what’s available, or that that list is the only list, your child might not be getting what they need,” she says. “There’s a danger in making assumptions about the list.”

The benefits of reading over the summer have been proven by numerous studies, from Barbara Heyns’s 1978 study of some 3,000 sixth and seventh graders, to Karl Alexander and Doris Entwisle’s 1982 research connecting summer learning loss to an achievement gap between students in disparate socioeconomic classes, to Richard L. Allington and Anne McGill-Franzen’s 2013 expansion of these findings in their book Summer Reading: Closing the Rich/Poor Achievement Gap (Teachers College and International Reading Association).

But having a required list, as opposed to free choice, has not been proven to increase reading or comprehension. Stephen Krashen’s The Power of Reading (Libraries Unlimited, 1993) affirmed that free, voluntary reading yielded benefits including better spelling, writing style, and grammatical development. “Reading for pleasure improves stress levels and test scores,” Arredondo says.

Re-thinking themes

Instead of zeroing in on lesson plans geared around specific plot points or characters in books, Riordan suggests that schools can focus on themes. For example, Frantz knew that there was a unit on British literature for students in their junior year, so they read Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Doubleday, 2003) instead of a Dickens novel.

The diversity of student backgrounds was also a consideration. Since many of the kids might not understand the Catholic jokes and allusions in Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes (Harcourt, 1996), Frantz replaced the memoir with Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist (HarperSanFrancisco, 1993). The students have responded positively.

Choice—or chore?

“As high schoolers, we like to think we have some freedoms rather than have someone spoon-feed us what we’re supposed to know and what we’re supposed to think,” Smith says. “If it’s a choice of what to read, I’d be more open.”

Arredondo sees many students who view their vacation assignments as a chore. “A lot of the teens coming into the library are only there to read what they have to,” she says. “They take no enjoyment in the offerings, and I feel it kills their love of reading.”

“Relatability is a big factor” in what kids want to read, Smith says. In a summer book club, collaboration between her school and a local public library, Smith read John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars (Dutton, 2012) and the group saw the movie together. Themes such as good versus evil, family relationships, and peer group conflicts tend to resonate with students, according to Frantz.

Malespina tries to make voluntary reading appealing before a student even opens a book. “You want [to create] as much choice as possible and you want to make the whole rollout of it as interesting as possible,” she advises. When Malespina facilitated summer reading as a librarian at South Orange (NJ) Middle School, one of her strategies was to use technology to create interest in the material. “We did an iBook, with book trailers and author websites and blurbs. We made a whole booklet,” she says.

If the focus is on a positive association with the act of reading, then are lists of approved books even necessary? “I don’t think they are,” says Arredondo.

Frantz also sets her sight far beyond the list. “I think it is necessary to foster lifelong reading,” she says. “I believe in connecting reading to everyday life, and not just school or assignments.”

Okyle-Carly_Contrib_WebCarly Okyle is a writer at Her work has appeared in School Library Journal,, and, among other publications.

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Make ‘Em Laugh | Listen In Wed, 15 Apr 2015 13:00:00 +0000 SLJ1504-ListenIn_openerHumor is the ideal way to get listeners of all ages hooked on audiobooks—everyone loves to laugh! This month’s collection of audiobooks features a riverboat gambler, a peripatetic bunny, some possibly sinister carrots, a healthy dose of sarcasm, and plenty of practical jokes, all guaranteed to produce smiles, chuckles, and guffaws.

Early Elementary

CRONIN, Doreen. The Chicken Squad: The First Misadventure. 1 CD. 30 min. Recorded Books. 2014. $15.75. ISBN 9781490615653. digital download.

Gr 1-3 –Adam Grupper and Michele O. Medlin are hilarious as the voices of retired search-and-rescue dog J.J. Tully, “four fuzzy little chicks” (they know their shapes AND solve mysteries!), and a terrified squirrel with an excellent vocabulary, but poor shape knowledge. Narration that moves from deadpan to youthful excitement will have young listeners and their adult companions rolling with laughter.

KAPLAN, Michael B. Betty Bunny Didn’t Do It. 1 CD with tr book. 12 min. Live Oak Media. 2014. $29.95. ISBN 9781430117698.

PreS-Gr 2 –Betty Bunny gets herself in deep trouble when she blames the Tooth Fairy after breaking a lamp. Stéphane Jorisch’s detailed illustrations pair with lively music and sound effects as Katherine Kellgren captures the emotions of the entire Bunny family in the precocious preschooler’s latest escapade.

REYNOLDS, Aaron. Creepy Carrots. 1 CD with tr book. 13 min. Weston Woods. 2013. $29.95. ISBN 9780545623797.

PreS-Gr 2 –Jasper Rabbit loves carrots from Crackenhopper Field. He eats them all the time and everywhere, until… they start following him! James Naughton’s baritone heightens the humor of Jasper’s battle with the vengeful veggies. Spooky music and sound effects are a perfect match for Peter Brown’s ominous charcoal and orange illustrations.

SLJ1504-ListenIn_StripMiddle Grade

CLEMENTS, Andrew. No Talking. 3 CDs. 3 hrs. S. & S. Audio. 2007. $19.95. ISBN 9780743566926.

Gr 3-6 –Keith Nobbs captures the tones and cadence of early adolescence in this battle between fifth grade boys and girls. Known since kindergarten as the “Un-Shushables” for their constant loud bickering, the kids’ sudden silence startles parents and teachers when ringleaders Dave and Lynsey declare a 48-hour no-talking competition. How will the standoff end?

FLAKE, Sharon. Unstoppable Octobia May. 6 CDs. 6:21 hrs. Scholastic Audio. 2014. $54.99. ISBN 9780545746458.

Gr 3-6 –Comedic escapades, a dash of mystery, and Southern family life in 1953 combine for a thoroughly engaging audio. Bahni Turpin’s narration demonstrates her distinctive talent and repertoire of vocal flourishes.

SCIESZKA, Jon. Knucklehead: Tall Tales & Mostly True Stories About Growing Up Scieszka. 2 CDs. 1:59 hrs. Brilliance. 2008. $42.97. ISBN 9781423399759.

Gr 3-6 –Scieszka’s conversational tone is just right for his reminiscences of his and his five brothers’ irreverent and hilarious adventures. Always noting the consequences of disobedience, he recounts tomfoolery that earned reprisals from his parents and tried the patience of the nuns at his Catholic school.

GRIFFITHS, Andy. Just Tricking. (Just: Bk. 11). 2 CDs. 2 hrs. Brilliance. 2012. $29.97. ISBN 9781743195048.

Gr 3-6 –Practical jokes are at the center of Griffiths’s stories. The outlandish antics are highlighted by music, sound effects, and Stif Wemyss’s Australian accent. Funny bones will be tickled as young Andy causes pandemonium, whether dressed in a gorilla suit or “playing dead.”

HELGERSON, Joseph. Crows & Cards. 6 CDs. 7 hrs. Brilliance. 2009. $69.97. ISBN 9781423391753.

Gr 4-8 –Traveling by riverboat, Zebulon Crabtree falls under the spell of an unscrupulous gambler and connects with some colorful characters. MacLeod Andrews’s voicing accentuates Zeb’s emotions and highlights the entertaining personalities of other passengers.

Young Adult

CURTIS, Christopher Paul. Bucking the Sarge. 5 CDs. 6:10 hrs. Listening Library. 2004. $45. ISBN 9781400094844.

Gr 8 Up –Luther T. Farrell is anxious to break free from his malicious slumlord mother. Encouraged by his friend Sparky and an elderly resident of one of his mother’s properties, Luther escapes in circumstances that will elicit giggles and reflection. Michael Boatman’s narration captures Luther’s youthful humor.

FANTASKEY, Beth. Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side. 9 CDs. 11 hrs. Recorded Books. 2009. $97.75. ISBN 9781440738920. Playaway, digital download.

Gr 7 Up –An American teen discovers that the handsome, egotistical Romanian exchange student is not what he seems—and neither is she. He is Prince Lucius Vladescu, come to claim her as his vampire bride! Katherine Kellgren and Jeff Woodman inhabit these humorous characters with nuanced, comedic performances.

HIAASEN, Carl. Skink, No Surrender. (Skink: Bk. 7). 7 CDs. 7:50 hrs. Listening Library. 2014. $40. ISBN 9780804166904. digital download.

Gr 7 Up –When 15-year-old Richard meets one-eyed renegade ex-governor Skink, they form a pact to rescue Richard’s misguided cousin, and an improbable, entertaining adventure begins. The humor combines sarcasm, an over-the-top plot, and some very funny scenarios. Kirby Heyborne’s vocal talent is clearly evident as his performance presents the cast of characters with aplomb.

LUBAR, David. Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie. 6 CDs. 6:45 hrs. Full Cast Audio. 2006. $29.99. ISBN 9781501237485.

Gr 7 Up –Scott Hudson is having a no-good, very bad freshman year. The school bully singles him out, the crew on the school play treat him like their lackey, and his mother is pregnant! Ryan MacConnell’s performance combines with clever dialogue and absurd situations to keep listeners chuckling.

Sharon Grover is head of youth services at the Hedberg Public Library, Janesville, WI. Lizette (Liz) Hannegan was a school librarian and the district library supervisor for the Arlington (VA) Public Schools before her retirement.

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Pictures of the Week: Kwame Alexander Named Bank Street College of Education’s First Writer-in-Residence Tue, 14 Apr 2015 18:55:26 +0000 Bank-Street-ChildLitAnnual-Writer-in-Residence (2)

From l-r.: Shael Polakow-Suransky, president of Bank Street College of Education; Carol Carter, daughter of Dorothy Carter; Kwame Alexander; Leonard S. Marcus; and Dr. E. Curtis Alexander, GS ’70 Photo by Luann Toth

Bank Street College of Education has established an endowment to support the Center for Children’s Literature’s annual Writer-in-Residence in memory of Dorothy Carter and her life’s work. Carter was a children’s book author, a Broadway actress, the first African American member of the Bank Street College graduate faculty, the first recipient of the Lucy Sprague Mitchell Award, and a leader of the Bank Street Writer’s Lab. The first Writer-in-Residence is author Kwame Alexander.

On April 6, after spending a day working with the children on their poetry, Kwame appeared at an event at Bank Street College open to the public. “Doing the Write Thing, 1969–2015: A Literary Legacy Conversation between Kwame Alexander, 2015 Newbery Medalist, and his father Dr. E. Curtis Alexander,” was moderated by historian and author Leonard S. Marcus.

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Talkin’ Trash | Spotlight on the Environment Tue, 14 Apr 2015 13:53:15 +0000 In schools across the country, we remind children and teens to “reduce, reuse, recycle,” but how these acts impact a community isn’t always visible. The consequences of avoiding that responsibility are, however: litter along roadsides, refuse in our waterways, and massive landfills. As individuals and populations continue to initiate recycling and conservation efforts, others are talking about zero waste, what that means, and how to get there.

The books included here offer examples of people and communities in the United States and abroad determined to create cleaner, healthier environments for their citizens. As you share them with your students, encourage them to think about how their daily habits and practices affect their environment. What changes can they effect to make a difference?

trashIn Trash Talk!: Moving Toward a Zero-Waste World (Orca, 2015; Gr 4-8), Michelle Mulder offers readers a historical perspective on refuse. She begins by asking them to imagine a time when everything used (and consumed) was organic and touches on how long-ago civilizations and societies did—or didn’t—deal with the problem of trash—and the consequences. But the bulk of the book focuses on current-day concerns from landfills and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to issues associated with methane gas and recycling. Mulder supports the discussions with hard facts (each year, “people use 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic shopping bags”; “70 percent of the garbage in landfills could have been recycled or reused,” etc.) and informative color photos. While the author emphasizes that there are no easy solutions, she is clear that individual, local, and national initiatives are essential—and can and do make a difference. Mulder includes information on creative ideas and projects around the world that do just that, from Streetbank to Repair Cafés and from plastic bag boycotts to maker events that use recycled materials. Actionable takeaways for kids focus on simple suggestions such as buying less, purchasing secondhand goods, and planting a garden.

tt2If your students have trouble visualizing the enormity of the problem of waste, introduce them to Loree Griffin Burns’s Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion (HMH, 2007; Gr 4-9). The book paints a powerful picture of the how, why, and where of ocean pollution. The author examines the work of Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer and other scientists who have produced important data in an effort to preserve and protect marine habitats. Students will be fascinated with Ebbesmeyer’s study on the drift of contents from two cargo spills (one of 80,000 sneakers and another of 28,800 tub toys); a chapter on the Eastern Garbage Patch, estimated to be the size of the state of Alaska; and efforts by citizens and conservationists to clean our oceans and shores of debris. The ibook adds a couple of short, informative videos and/or animations per chapter and links to relevant websites.

I'm notFans of graphic novels can follow the route of a discarded plastic bag once caught in the limbs of a tree on its journey to an ocean gyre (here, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch), in Rachel Hope Allison’s I’m not a Plastic Bag (Archaia, 2012; Gr 4-10). The wordless story vividly illustrates what these massive accumulations of garbage, household goods, tires, rope, net, and plastic goods of all sizes and shapes look like from above and below.

The menacing gyre shifts and expands, grows hands, and lures more debris, sea animals, and readers, inside through mesmerizing images and snatches of words that reveal themselves in the concentration of waste (“Hello! My name is…” “Come again.”). Back matter fills kids in on the facts: information on the top 10 items found in ocean debris (#1? Cigarettes), threatened marine wildlife, and suggestions on how readers can help. The book was produced in conjunction with the American Forests Global ReLeaf programs and in partnership with JeffCorwinConnect, the “global, ecological, educational and entertainment multimedia company” launched by wildlife expert and conservationist Jeff Corwin. Concerned about the publisher ‘s use of trees to produce the book? Archaia has pledged to plant two trees for each one needed to create the book.

one plastic bagWhen plastic bags first arrived in the village of Njau in the Gambia, villagers were delighted. They were cheap, could carry liquids, came in an assortment of colors, and, suddenly, they were ubiquitous. But as the years passed, the discarded bags were scattered all over the village and creating a health hazard. Local goats foraging for food were eating them, which sometimes resulted in death. Burning the bags was no solution, as it created another health hazards. Finally, a local woman named Isatou Ceesay decided something must be done. Along with her friends, she collected thousands of the bags, washed and dried them, cut them into strips, and began crocheting them into purses. Soon their recycling project became a cottage industry. Miranda Paul documents this story in One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia. (Millbrook, 2015; Gr 2-5), illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon, In an author’s note, Paul comments, “Today, Njau is much cleaner, the goats are healthier, and the gardens grow better.” The women involved in the project contribute “some of their earnings toward an empowerment center where community members enjoy free health and literacy classes, as well as learn about the dangers of burning plastic trash. In 2012, the center also became the home for the region’s first public library.” How Ceesay transforms these plastic bags into purses is also the subject of a short YouTube video. A website provides a host of related resources for teachers and students, including a schedule of visits Ceesay will be making in the United States during April and May 2015.

soda bottle schoolDetermination, purpose, and a sense of community drove the women of Njau to address a problem that was affecting the health of their families and their livestock. Some of those same motivations were the impetus behind a local effort in Granados, Guatemala. As Laura Kutner and Suzanne Slade explain in The Soda Bottle School: A True Story of Recycling, Teamwork, and One Crazy Idea (Tilbury House, 2014; Gr 2-4), the people in that village  had “two huge problems in 2007. Their trash piles were too big, and their school was too small.” The book documents a resourceful teacher’s “crazy idea” that supplied the school with the necessary materials to expand and freed this tiny town of its litter.

Schoolchildren and their families set out to collect plastic bottles to create walls that would increase the size of their school. Discovering that the bottles alone weren’t strong enough, the students stuffed them with trash, creating “eco-ladrillos.” An endnote adds details, including information on the impact of this project on nearby villages. Warm watercolor art by Aileen Darragh and color photos of some of the participants illustrate the book. Since the expansion of the school in Granados, other “plastic bottle schools” have sprouted up in Guatemala and around the world. In a three-minute video, Kutner, a Peace Corps (youth development) volunteer in Guatemala from 2007–10, demonstrates how to build a plastic bottle wall.

Both One Plastic Bag and The Soda Bottle School remind readers that responding to daunting issues often begin with one person and don’t necessarily require expensive technology or huge financial resources. A can-do attitude and hard work are often all that’s needed to make a difference.

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Farm to Table: The Food We Eat, the World We Live In Tue, 14 Apr 2015 13:01:46 +0000 How does food get to your plate? These well-written and handsomely illustrated stories and factual texts answer that question while emphasizing the importance of sustainable cultivation practices; the superior taste and nutritional value of locally grown, in-season produce; and the role that all growers play as stewards of the earth. From how individual families and farmers enjoy nurturing, preparing, and consuming food to the idea that all people deserve access to fresh and healthful fruits and vegetables, the books also convey a strong sense of community celebration and social responsibility. Serve these titles up as part of units on life science, health and nutrition, community workers, ecology, and the conservation of natural resources.

Where Does Food Come From?

beforeweeatReady to dig into a mouthwatering meal, a family pauses to give thanks “to all the folks we’ll never meet/who helped provide this food we eat.” In Pat Brisson’s Before We Eat (Tilbury House, 2014; K-Gr 4), crisply cadenced rhymes describe the diligent and dedicated individuals who are responsible for bringing food to the table, from farmers and fishermen, to packers and truck drivers, to grocery store clerks. Also acknowledging “…the ones who bought this food,/the ones who teach me gratitude,” the book ends with a meal shared outdoors under the stars. Mary

Azarian’s sparkling woodcut prints depict farmers of varying ages and ethnicities hand-tending lush-green fields, well-cared for livestock, a store displaying locally grown produce, and other engaging scenes. This eye- and ear-catching read-aloud makes a wonderful discussion-starter for exploring how food is produced, acquired, and appreciated.

tomarkettomarketNikki McClure takes readers To Market, To Market (Abrams, 2011; Gr 1-4)—the bustling Olympia Farmers Market in to be exact—to learn about the growers and makers who sell their wares. As a mother and son shop, handsome cut-paper illustrations and detailed text introduce each artisan and describe the labor and care that go into creating their product.

Michael tends an orchard of 400 Akane apple trees, raised from scions grafted onto rootstocks; it’s too late for lettuce, but Colin and Genine’s deep green kale has been grown in well-nurtured soil “dark and crumbly like chocolate cake” and hand-picked; Steve’s salmon was bought fresh from local fishers and smoked over an alder wood fire; Benjamin’s honey has been carefully collected and poured into jars; Jessie and James have mixed, kneaded, and baked “juicy, oozy” blueberry turnovers; Yukie’s napkins were dyed using traditional Japanese methods; and Heather’s goat cheese has been lovingly crafted and wrapped in oak leaves. Each informative segment ends with a heartfelt “thank you,” and the final spread shows the boy and his family sharing a meal made from their purchases.

Down on the Farm

UpWeGrowDeborah Hodge and Brian Harris’s Up We Grow (Kids Can, 2010; K-Gr 4) blends accessible narrative and lovely photos to depict a year’s worth of happenings at a small sustainable farm. Arranged by season, the book follows the efforts of a group of farmers who own and operate the land as they plow and plant, nurture the “living dirt” by composting and mulching, provide livestock with healthy food and room to roam, hoe weeds and pick off pests, harvest ripe and juicy produce, sell their wares at a local farmers market, and plan for the following year.

From the installation of a water-saving drip irrigation hose to seed saving, environmentally friendly practices are integrated into the farm’s daily operations. Interactive text (“Juicy peaches, crunchy carrots or sweet, ripe cherries. What’s your favorite summer food?”) and magnetic photos help readers to make the connection between the tasks described and the food they eat. Depicting farmers (and their children) working in collaboration, a feast celebrating summer’s bounty, or growers interacting with their customers at a market stocked with affordable and fresh foods, the book also conveys how knowledge is shared, community is forged, and the importance of caretaking the earth is communicated.

FarmerWillAllenIn Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table (Readers to Eaters, 2013; Gr 2-5), Jacqueline Briggs Martin introduces a community activist with the insight, skill, and persistence to transform an abandoned city lot into a fully functioning, eco-friendly farm. After playing pro-basketball abroad, Will moved to Milwaukee where he noticed that “fresh vegetables were as scarce in the city as trout in the desert,” and vowed to act on his belief that “everyone, everywhere, [has] a right to good food.” The text digs in to describe how he revived the polluted soil with composting, red wiggler worms, and the help of neighborhood kids; expanded production by filling greenhouses from floor to ceiling; taught community members to become urban farmers; and began to spread his knowhow—and his worms—worldwide.

Eric-Shabazz Larkin’s buoyant artwork interprets both Allen’s fingers-in-the-dirt efforts and his vision (the final spread shows a New York City skyscape speckled with rooftop gardens and the Statue of Liberty clasping an uplifted bunch of radishes in one hand and a basket of fresh-picked veggies in the other). More info and images are available at the Growing Power website.

Grow It…Anywhere!

old manhattanBased on the traditional song, Susan Lendroth and Kate Endle’s Old Manhattan Has Some Farms (Charlesbridge, 2014; K-Gr 4) offers an accessible (and toe-tapping) introduction to various types of urban farming. Verses highlight food-producing patches in New York City (“On a high-rise here,/in a backyard there—/climbing up, hanging down,/spreading green all over town…E-I-E-I-GROW!”), empty lots in Atlanta transformed into garden plots by hard work (and earthworms), rooftop herb beds in Chicago, beehives atop a Toronto opera house, hydroponics inside a Seattle home, and compost bins in the White House vegetable garden. The final stanza invites readers to start their own farm (and create their own lyrics).

The color-drenched paintings show a mix of multi-ethnic children and adults enthusiastically tending plants, and an appended spread provides a bit more information about each type of cultivation and the benefits of urban farming (plants clean the air, help cool a city, and, best of all, produce fresh delicious food).

the patchwork gardenWritten in Spanish and English, Diane de Anda and Oksana Kemarskaya’s The Patchwork Garden/Pedacitos de huerto (Piñata, 2013; K-Gr 4) tells how a young girl, with the support of her grandmother, brings about a transformation in their inner-city neighborhood. Itching to grow—and eat—fresh vegetables, Toña asks permission to cultivate an abandoned spot of dirt behind the church (“Ah…beautiful and healthy,” proclaims Father Anselmo), weeds and fertilizes the soil, and plants and tends seeds. Abuela helps her throughout, and before long, the small square is lush with “lacy carrot tops in rows, vines of squash curling on the ground,” and other blooms.

When Toña’s classmates and their parents express their yearning to have gardens of their own, the thoughtful girl comes up with a solution. Identifying “little patches of empty land” throughout the neighborhood (in the park, near businesses, etc. ), she gets the go-ahead, writes down the locations on cards, and distributes them to interested kids at school, thus launching The Patchwork Garden Club. At harvest time, a delighted “Mmmm” fills the now-greener streets, as children bite into “the sweetest tomatoes they had ever tasted.” Gouache paintings twinkling with warmth depict Toña’s hard work, enthusiasm, and affection for her grandmother as well as the city setting. This warmhearted inter-generational tale makes an accessible introduction to the concept of urban-based community gardens.

gardentotableKatherine Hengel’s Garden to Table: A Kid’s Guide to Planting, Growing, and Preparing Food (Mighty Media Pr., 2014; Gr 3-6) provides step-by-step instructions for cultivating basil, carrots, green beans, leaf lettuce, potatoes, and tomatoes in container gardens. After introducing the highlighted produce (including photos of colorful varieties), each chapter briefly discusses how to prepare the soil and sow seeds, the stages of growth (including fertilizing, thinning, etc.), harvest and storage, and common questions (“Why are there spots on my leaves?”).

Ranging from hearty soups to yummy desserts, several kid-tempting recipes utilizing the fresh ingredient end each section, effectively bringing home the garden-to-table concept. Cooking terms are defined at the book’s beginning, and a photo glossary introduces ingredients and kitchen tools. Full-color close-up photos illustrate each phase of planting and preparing, while also depicting a bounty of fresh produce and delicious-looking dishes. Use this appealingly presented and user friendly guide as a classroom resource.

Cook It

bring me someBorn in Freetown, VA, a farming community established by her grandfather and two other emancipated slaves, pioneering professional chef and cookbook author Edna Lewis (1916-2006) grew up with an appreciation for the taste of Southern regional cuisine and locally grown, seasonal foods. Robin Gourley traces the roots of Lewis’s focus on field-fresh ingredients and dedication to “preserving traditional methods of growing and preparing foods” with a story based on her childhood.

Bring Me Some Apples and I’ll Make You a Pie (Clarion, 2009; Gr 1-4) pairs verdant watercolor paintings with text flavored by rhythmic chants, rhyming songs, and folk sayings. From the wild strawberries of spring (to bake into shortcake) through to autumn’s rooftop-pinging bounty of pecans and walnuts (nut-butter cookies and walnut bread), Edna and her family gather nature’s gifts and plant, care for, and harvest crops on their lovingly tended farm. As each sun-ripened fruit or just-off-the-vine vegetable is picked, the smiling girl envisions the delectable dish that will be created that evening (five recipes are appended), while surplus from the harvest is canned, jarred, pickled, and stowed away for winter. In addition to an array of palatable produce, the pages are permeated with a powerful sense of family affection and community, wisdom passed down from one generation to the next, hard work rewarded, and the important connection between grower and land.

AliceWatersTripMartin’s Alice Waters and the Trip to Delicious (Readers to Eaters, 2014; Gr 2-5) introduces a groundbreaking chef and food activist and her passion for ensuring that all kids have access to and “…know the taste of good food.” Beginning with three-year-old Alice donning a lettuce-leaf skirt, radish bracelets, strawberry necklace, and asparagus crown for a costume contest (she won first prize), this lively picture book biography tells the story of a true foodie, tracing her later studies in France (where she “learned wonderful food was like a symphony that woke people up, made them happier”), the beginnings of her restaurant in Berkeley, CA, in 1971 (Chez Panisse serves tasty meals that rely on fresh, local ingredients), and her founding of the Edible Schoolyard Project in 1995 (students plant, cultivate, cook, and delight in a healthful “vegetable symphony”). Hayelin Choi’s effervescent illustrations work with the upbeat text to trumpet Waters’s enthusiasm for empowering kids with the awareness and knowledge to “care about the soil, care about farmers, care about everyone having enough to eat” and to change the world.

Choose several of these titles and have students extract the main ideas and make comparisons. How do the illustrations add to the text? Introduce and discuss the basic concepts of sustainable farming and its focus on techniques that safeguard the environment (natural fertilizers, crop rotation, conservation tillage, seed saving, etc.); protect public health (by avoiding hazardous pesticides and toxins); build vibrant communities (by supporting farm workers, bolstering local and regional economies, and forging connections with city dwellers); and uphold animal welfare. Ask children seek out examples of sustainable farming in the various texts and cite examples. What are the benefits of growing, purchasing, and consuming local, in-season produce? Bring the farm to your classroom by starting a small container-growing project, identifying what produce is currently in season (start with a visit to the “Sustainable Table” website and its state-by-state seasonal food guide, preparing a meal that features fresh ingredients, or assembling a cookbook of family favorite recipes submitted by students.

The Common Core State Standards below are a sampling of those referenced in the above books and classroom activities:

Rl 1.1. Ask and answer questions about key details in a text.

RI 1.9. Identify basic similarities and differences between two texts on the same topic (e.g., in illustrations, descriptions, or procedures).

RI 2.6. Identify the main topic of a text, including what the author wants to answer, explain, or describe.

Rl 2.9. Compare and contrast the most important points presented by two texts on the same topic.

Rl 3.7. Use information gained from illustrations…and the words in a text to demonstrate understanding of the text.

RI 3.9. Compare and contrast the most important points and key details presented in two texts on the same topic.


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Poems for All Seasons| NCTE 2015 Notable Poetry List Mon, 13 Apr 2015 20:36:22 +0000

APRIL IS NATIONAL POETRY MONTH, and the perfect time to share the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)’s 2015 Notable Poetry List. Here are 16 outstanding poetry collections to offer children and teens—not just this month, but throughout the year and across the curriculum.These well-written and beautifully illustrated selections provide myriad options to engage students and to foster a love of language, both oral and written. It is our hope that this list of recommended titles is just the beginning. Use these books, and create connections with books from previous Notable Lists to create even more poetry joy!

More in this article:
Poems for All Seasons


ELLIOTT, David. On the Wing. illus. by Becca Stadtlander. Candlewick. Tr $16.99 ISBN 9780763653248.
Gr 2-6 –Elliott introduces young readers to 15 birds in this beautiful collection. The poetry is just as diverse as the winged creaturess themselves as he utilizes a variety of forms both lyrical and humorous. Each poem conveys some essential aspect or feature of the avian world. For instance, the hummingbird travels “Backward!/Forward!/Here/then/there!/Always/in a/tizzy!” Stadtlander’s strikingly gorgeous gouache artwork practically dances with the poems, and then flies off the pages.

FRANK, John. Lend a Hand: Poems about Giving. illus. by London Ladd. Lee & Low. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781600609701.

Gr 2-6 –This collection offers 13 ways to practice giving to individuals and to the community. The poems depict simple actions such as sitting with and sharing a sandwich with the new kid at school or giving up your seat on the bus to an elderly rider as well as more active roles in the community, e.g., cleaning litter from a stream or helping to build a house for a disadvantaged family. Each spread includes a poem with a beautiful color illustration portraying the act of kindness.

GRAHAM, Joan Bransfield. The Poem That Will Not End: Fun with Poetic Forms and Voices. illus. by Krysten Brooker. Amazon/Two Lions. Tr $17.99 ISBN 9781477847152.

Gr 2-6 –Ryan O’Brian has been seized by rhyme! So begins this mixed-genre narrative about a boy who is so taken with poetry that he writes it everywhere. His poems are interspersed throughout. The colorful illustrations capture Ryan’s action-packed day, along with his poem writing. Endnotes offer “Ryan O’Brian’s Guide to Poetic Forms” and a helpful guide to creating different voices in writing poetry.

HEPPERMANN, Christine. Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Tr 17.99. ISBN 9780062289575.

Gr 8 Up –In this pocket-size book, 50 edgy, short poems, darkly inspired by fairy tales, characterize the issues faced by contemporary adolescent girls. Along with haunting shadowy gray-and-white surrealistic photographs, these selections describe the societal-based challenges of body image, dating, friendship, and the double standards that teen girls often experience. For example, “Sleeping Beauty’s Wedding Day” explores in a list poem the beauty rituals women perform on their faces, hair, and bodies. The accompanying photograph shows shadows of multiple hands behind a backlit wedding-dress skirt.

HOPKINS, Lee Bennett, ed. Manger. illus. by Helen Cann. Eerdmans. Tr $16. ISBN 9780802854193.

K-Gr 3 –Based on the legend that all creatures were granted human speech for one hour to welcome the Christ child to earth, these 15 poems represent many diverse animal voices. A llama, a spider, an owl, and a wren join the traditional barnyard animals to present their messages to the baby king. Cann’s rich, mixed-media and watercolor paintings are the perfect complement to the quiet, graceful poems.

SLJ1504-Poetry-NCTE-Strip-2JANECZKO, Paul B., ed. Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems. illus. by Melissa Sweet. Candlewick. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780763648428.

PreS-Gr 3 –The 36 “very short” poems in this collection are snapshots of small moments that occur throughout a year. Readers or listeners will savor the unique perspectives on the seasons, captured in the words of these classic and contemporary poets and through Sweet’s luminous mixed-media illustrations.

LATHAM, Irene. Dear Wandering Wildebeest and Other Poems from the Water Hole. illus. by Anna Wadham. Lerner/Millbrook. Tr $17.95. ISBN 978-1467712323.

PreS-Gr 3 –Latham introduces animals of the African grasslands through 15 finely crafted poems in a variety of voices and presents friendly informational text with each one. Taking on everything from a guarding meerkat to a bathing elephant, the selections inform readers about the importance of the water hole and of the needs and threats in these animals’ lives. Wadham’s warm and whimsical illustrations enrich the lyrical poems, as listeners follow wildebeest’s advice to “Wander with me,/meander with me.”

LEWIS, J. Patrick. Everything Is a Poem: The Best of J. Patrick Lewis. illus. by Maria Cristina Pritelli. Creative Editions. Tr $24.99 ISBN 9781568462400.

Gr 1-6 –The master of wordplay and former U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate, Lewis shares more than 60 of his best poems covering such topics as animals, people, reading, sports, riddles and epitaphs, nature, and places. Readers will find that the poems vary in form as much as topic, but they all work to unlock imaginations and remind us that poetry is everywhere: “A firefly’s a poem,/A flashy verse sublime/That is Read by other fireflies/One sparkle at a time.”

LEWIS, J. Patrick. Harlem Hellfighters. illus. by Gary Kelley. Creative Editions. Tr $18.99 ISBN 9781568462462.

Gr 4-9 –With free-verse poetry, Lewis shines a light on the Harlem Hellfighters, a group of black American soldiers in World War I known not only for their bravery on the battlefield but also their unique music, a mix of primitive jazz, blues, and upbeat ragtime. The poems span a time period from their recruitment in Harlem in 1916 to their training in South Carolina and transport to Europe, their service and musical achievements during the war, and their eventual homecoming in 1919. Kelley’s hauntingly beautiful illustrations depict both the soldiers’ bravery and the racism that black Americans encountered—at home and at war.

LEWIS, J. Patrick, & George Ella Lyon. Voices from the March on Washington. Highlights/Wordsong. Tr $15.95. ISBN 9781620917855.

Gr 5 Up –This book bridges nonfiction and poetry as readers learn about the 1963 March on Washington through poems in “imagined voices.” The book contains an in-depth introduction and table of contents as well as back matter including a guide to the voices, bibliography, websites, and two indexes (one by voice and one by title). The book has a satisfying arc read as a whole, and the variety of poems and the informational content make it appropriate for a wide range of readers.

MUTH, Jon J. Hi, Koo! A Year of Seasons. illus. by author. Scholastic. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545166683.

K-Gr 4 –These 26 short seasonal poems are complemented by Muth’s signature watercolor illustrations and organized alphabetically. The art and the words work together to celebrate moments from each season (“King!/my crown a gift/from a snowy branch”). The poems are the heart of this collection, and some readers will recognize Koo from previous books (he is Stillwater’s nephew). Muth’s author’s note provides readers with more information about haiku and his choices as both an artist and poet.

NELSON, Marilyn. How I Discovered Poetry. illus. by Hadley Hooper. Dial. Tr $ 17.99. ISBN 9780803733046.

Gr 6 Up –In 50 unrhymed sonnets set in the 1950s, Nelson’s fictionalized memoir in verse travels beautifully and honestly through 10 years and cities, chronicling the thoughtful coming-of-age of an African American child in a military family. The poems depict everything from her daily pleasures of playing with dogs and horses to the harsh realities of racism, illustrating how Nelson was able to “flee into the arms of poetry.” Spare illustrations by Hooper offer an oasis for readers to pause and consider one child’s life.

SLJ1504-Poetry-NCTE-Strip-3OLIVER, Lin. Little Poems for Tiny Ears. illus. by Tomie dePaola. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Bks. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978039916605.

PreS –These 23 short, lively, rhyming poems give literary voice to the universal experiences of learning to walk; exploring toes, noses, and belly buttons; speculating on a possible first word (uppie or binko-gaga-whoopsie-goo); and experiencing the affections of pets and parents. At his artistic best, dePaola delights with happy, cherubic children of many ethnicities, cheerful pastel borders on each page, and multiple items for toddlers to point at and exclaim over. Preschoolers and their favorite adults will enjoy this book again and again.

RACZKA, Bob. Santa Clauses: Short Poems from the North Pole. illus. by Chuck Groenink. Carolrhoda. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781467718059.

K-Gr 3 –What if Santa took the time one December to write a single haiku each day from the first of the month all the way through Christmas Day? What would he notice and write about? Raczka gives readers a delightful peek into Santa’s and Mrs. Claus’s preparations for the holiday and their love of nature.

SIDMAN, Joyce. Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold. illus. by Rick Allen. Houghton Harcourt. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780547906508.

Gr 1-4 –Do honeybees hibernate? How do chickadees survive the bone-chilling northern winters? Readers will discover the answers to these questions and many more survival wonders by reading Sidman’s 12 imagery-filled poems, inserted nonfiction prose, and glossary of scientific and poetry-related words. Allen’s complex, hand-colored, linoleum block prints envelope each poem, creating on each spread a crisp glimpse into the snowy season.

WILSON , Karma. Outside the Box. illus. by Diane Goode. S. & S./Margaret McElderry Bks. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781416980056.

Gr 2-5 –Children will giggle and adults will smile while enjoying Wilson’s humorous poems about being sick on a Saturday, actually liking Mary Ellen Burkenshire’s playground kiss, and the downside of having your dad discover your video game. This collection of 88 poems, accompanied by Goode’s simple black-ink drawings, is dedicated to Shel Silverstein and is reminiscent of his many collections. Wilson includes poems representing many forms, including narrative, lyrical, and concrete.

National Council of Teachers of English Excellence in Poetry for Children Award Committee: Nancy L. Hadaway, Arlington, TX (chair); Darcy Bradley, Medical Lake, WA; Kathryn Button, Lubbock, TX; Lesley Colabucci, Millersville, PA; Mary Lee Hahn, Columbus, OH; Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Holland, NY; Terrell A. Young, Provo, UT

Back to Top

Poems for All Seasons

This year’s list highlights poetry collections that are compiled (Manger) as well as individually authored (Everything Is a Poem) and those that are thematically organized (On the Wing), as well as general collections (Outside the Box). While compendiums that combine informational text with poetry are increasingly popular, The Poem That Will Not End offers a different twist, mixing a prose narrative about a young boy who sees poetry in everything around him with poems by the boy himself.

There are so many ways to spark student interest in poetry and to share these specific anthologies. Reading poetry aloud is always an excellent starting point, and Outside the Box is ideally suited for this purpose. Once students are exposed to a sampling of these poems, they can choose a favorite and practice it for a recitation. Students might select a poem from Little Poems for Tiny Ears, which is targeted to preschoolers, and create an individual or group poetry performance to present to a younger child or group of children or to simply take home to share with a younger family member.

In terms of curricular connections, the thematically related collections On the Wing, Dear Wandering Wildebeest, and Winter Bees are easily linked to science with a study of different birds, animals found in the grasslands of Africa, and animal adaptations to the cold of winter, respectively. The last two are mixed-genre books that add informational texts that extend readers’ understanding about the animals and natural environments introduced in each poem. Each of these collections could be extended by an examination of other animals. For instance, using On the Wing as a beginning view of different types of birds, readers could locate a list of the state birds and create poems about some not featured in the book. Poetry books about the changing seasons, such as from Hi, Koo!: A Year of Seasons and Firefly July, can also be woven into science lessons. Individual selections can be used to introduce a lesson or topic, or students might scan SLJ1504-Poetry-NCTE-Strip-SBpoems for the characteristics and activities of different seasons. They can also debate whether they would place any of the poems in a different season, including their rationale for this change, or they can find additional seasonal poems to create their own collection.

Social studies and poetry make an excellent combination because poetry can furnish the emotion and passion that textbooks and reference materials often lack. Harlem Hellfighters, How I Discovered Poetry, and Voices from the March on Washington share some similar themes and provide a view of racism extending from World War I to the 1950s to the March on Washington in 1963. As an extension, students might compare the World War II Tuskegee Airmen with the World War I Harlem Hellfighters, and they can locate nonfiction books about the civil rights era for additional information about the ideas mentioned in How I Discovered Poetry and Voices from the March on Washington. Another comparison option is to examine Lewis’s When Thunder Comes: Poems for Civil Rights Leaders (Chronicle, 2012) from the 2014 Notable Poetry List with this year’s Voices from the March on Washington, noting the differences and similarities in format and themes. Poisoned Apples offers thought-provoking poetry that explores fairy-tale expectations and contemporary social issues surrounding the beauty myth and double standard for women. This collection begs to be paired with advertisements and media campaigns, leading to critical discussions about the direct and indirect messages sent to young women today. Finally, Lend a Hand shares a variety of ways to reach out to individuals and give back to the community. Students might research outreach efforts in their own area or invite a guest speaker from organizations such as Habitat for Humanity or the Sierra Club who can share their work. The poem “Home Run” can connect the theme of kindness to the issue of teasing and bullying, and students might brainstorm a school antibullying campaign. And, of course, students can write their own poems about times when they were able to lend a hand.

Lastly, writing in general and writing poetry in particular can be addressed through several collections, including The Poem That Will Not End, the “autobiographical memoir” of How I Discovered Poetry, and three books with haiku (Firefly July, Hi, Koo!, and Santa Clauses). Readers can use the endnotes in Graham’s narrative/poetry collection and experiment with creating various poem forms and poetry with different voices. They can also analyze and use Nelson’s fictionalized memoir and the many examples of haikus by different authors as mentor texts before trying these types of writing on their own.

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ALA’s Most Frequently Challenged Books; Teen Read Week Grants; Springtime Giveaways | SLJTeen News Mon, 13 Apr 2015 18:43:05 +0000 Doctor Who–themed lock-in with great success.]]> getawaylibApply for YALSA’s Teen Read Week Grants
Applications for the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA)/Dollar General Literacy Foundation’s 2015 Teen Read Week (TRW) Activity Grant are now open. Ten grants worth $1,000 each will be awarded to 10 libraries to help fund their literacy-focused TRW programs and activities. Applications are due by June 1. Learn more about the event on the official TRW website. This year’s theme is “Get Away @ Your Library,” and it will be celebrated from October 18–24, 2015. The theme encourages teens to escape to the library to enjoy genres such as fantasy, adventure, sci-fi, comics, and travelogues.

Three Day SummerDreaming of Summer? A Groovy Giveaway to Get You Started

After our record-breaking winter, who can blame librarians (and patrons!) for wanting to jump start summer reading programs? Although Memorial Day is still a month away, get in the mood with this great giveaway. Three Day Summer by Sarvenaz Tash (S. & S., May 2015) immerses readers in the culture and music of the Woodstock festival of 1969. Michael and Cora come to Woodstock for different reasons but discover each other, along with the soundtrack of the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and more.

Three lucky winners will receive a copy of Three Day Summer for their collections. To enter, send an email with your name, shipping address, and email address. Entries must be received by midnight (PDT) on May 1, 2015. Winners will be selected in a random drawing and notified via email. One entry per person, please; prizes will only be shipped to U.S. addresses.

Some boys2015 RITA & Golden Heart Finalists Announced

Romance Writers of America (RWA), the trade association for aspiring and published romance fiction authors, recently announced the finalists for the 2015 RITA and Golden Heart Awards. The 2015 winners will be revealed on July 25 at the 2015 RWA Annual Conference in New York. The RITA — the highest award of distinction in romance fiction — recognizes excellence in published romance novels and novellas. The Golden Heart recognizes excellence in unpublished romance manuscripts. Two young adult debuts are in the running for Best First Book: Fake by Beck Nicholas and Run to You by Clara Kensie (both Harlequin Teen, 2014). Nominees in the Young Adult Romance category include Boys Like You by Juliana Stone and Some Boys by Patty Blount (both Sourcebooks Fire), Plus One by Elizabeth Fama (Farrar), and Run to You by Clara Kensie (Harlequin Teen, all 2014)

9780803741638_CastOff_JK_2P.inddCAST OFF for Adventure with this Swashbuckling Giveaway!

In Cast Off by Eve Yohalem (Dial, May), the year is 1663 and 12-year-old Petra sees only one way to escape her abusive father: stowing away on a merchant ship bound for the East Indies. It will be impossible to survive for months at sea on her own, so when the marginalized mixed-race son of the ship’s carpenter finds her, she convinces him to help disguise her as a boy. As they face pirates, sickness, and even mutiny, Petra and Bram must make impossible decisions about friendship, loyalty, freedom, and survival. Fans of Avi’s The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle will love the heart-stopping action and high-seas adventure found in this riveting historical fiction novel.

Three lucky winners will receive a copy of Cast Off for their collections. To enter, send an email with your name, shipping address, and email address. Entries must be received by midnight (PDT) on May 1, 2015. Winners will be selected in a random drawing and notified via email. One entry per person, please; prizes will only be shipped to U.S. addresses.

perksPerks of Being a Wallflower Author Responds to CT Book Controversy

Stephen Chbosky, author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower (MTV Books, 1999) says he’s offended when critics quote passages of the book out of context. In a recent interview, Chbosky clarified the contents of his book, which one Wallingford parent deemed controversial, complaining to the school district and objecting to students being allowed to read it. Wallingford Superintendent Salvatore Menzo removed the book from the curriculum in response back in February.

The book is meant to create dialogue, Chbosky added, because “the more conversations we have about these things, the better.” His book has been on the American Library Association’s Top 10 most challenged books numerous times in the past decade. Read the full article for more on the controversy.

(Photo courtesy williamsdb/Flickr Creative Commons ((CC BY-NC-SA 2.0))

(Photo courtesy williamsdb/Flickr Creative Commons ((CC BY-NC-SA 2.0))

Doctor Who–themed Library Lock-In

Heath Ward, Youth Services Manager for the Pickens County Library System (PCLS) in Easly, SC, recently organized an event for teens based on the long-running British sci-fi series about a time-traveling alien. “We do them once a quarter with different themes. This time we chose Doctor Who,” said Ward in the local Pickens Sentinel.

The show chronicles the travels of a 900-plus-year-old regenerating Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey known only as the Doctor. With the aid of his spaceship disguised as a 1960s London police box called the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space) and a companion or two, the Doctor travels throughout the universe on his various adventures.

About 20 kids attended the event at the library, many dressed as their favorite Doctor. The night started off with a dinner mystery theater [program]. “Everyone here is a Doctor, and they’ve all got amnesia,” explained Ward. “Throughout the night they’ll have to figure out which Doctor they are by answering trivia questions and finding clues in the library itself.” A life-size TARDIS, hand-built by the librarian, sat center stage and was protected by a word-combination lock. The combination was placed in one of 250 Easter eggs that staff had hidden throughout the library. The kids would have to find the eggs and open the TARDIS before they could move on to their next quest.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time IndianPersepolis, Diary of a Part-Time Indian, and Drama Among ALA’s Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2014

The American Library Association just released the list of the most frequently challenged books in 2014. Among the usual suspects, such as The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (Little, Brown, 2007)—gaining the top spot once again and subject to a ban just last week in Iowa—and The Perks of Being a Wallflower (also a recently banned), were three acclaimed graphic novels: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (Pantheon, 2003), Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (Image Comics, 2012), and Drama (Scholastic, 2012) by Raina Telgemeier.

Persepolis (an autobiographical account of Satrapi’s teenage years in Iran during the Islamic Revolution) was listed as the second most banned book in 2014. Saga is one of the most acclaimed new series in comics, dominating best of and best-seller lists. It was challenged in 2014 for sexual content, nudity, and language, earning it the number six spot on the most challenged list. Rounding out the top 10 challenged books in 2014 is Raina Telgemeier’s Drama, which focuses on a middle school girl who is working on her school play. It explores friendships, crushes, puberty, and other topics that might make some adults uncomfortable. It was challenged for sexual content.

For more information on 2014’s most frequently challenged books see ALA’s complete list.


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Using Comics to Teach English Language Learners Mon, 13 Apr 2015 18:26:05 +0000 wing_portrait

A comic book rendering of Dawn K. Wing, a media and reader services librarian in New York.

I discovered the power of graphic novels as a language-learning tool while teaching English in Japan in 2006. As a non-Japanese speaker, I was encouraged by my colleagues to learn more vocabulary by reading manga or comics, specifically the classic comic strip Sazae-san (Kodansha International, 1997). Since then, I have become an avid reader and teacher of graphic novels. In Japan, manga is everywhere. It was not unusual to see students reading it in the classroom, between classes, or in the cafeteria. If you’re a high school teacher in the United States today, the sight of graphic novels in the hands of a teen reader is not uncommon.

From 20082011, I taught English as a Second Language (ESL) at Pan American International High School in Queens, NY. I was excited to share the love and passion I’d acquired for graphic novels with my students. Fortunately, I had colleagues and literacy coaches who were already experienced in creating curricula around teaching graphic novels like Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis (Pantheon, 2004) and Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese (First Second, 2006) that supported English language learners’ (ELL) development in multiple literacies. Studies have also shown increased engagement and vocabulary development in ELLs when reading graphic novels and producing visual narratives.

During my tenure as a high school ESL teacher, I developed curricula that enabled students to practice their English language skills across all modalities by reading and creating visual narratives. Teaching graphic novels with ELLs requires specific planning and scaffolding of activities. Here are some of my best practices for using graphic novels in the ESL classroom.

Teaching Art Spiegelman’s Maus


Wing had her students tell their immigrant stories using comic book software.

When planning to teach reading comprehension and literary analysis to ELLs using graphic novels, it is best to assess students’ prior experiences with visual narratives and subject interests. From survey results gathered at the beginning of the fall 2009 semester, I realized most of my 11th grade intermediate and advanced ESL students wanted to learn more about world history. From my research, using online educator resources such as the International Literacy Association’s Read Write Think website, I decided to teach Art Spiegelman’s Maus (Pantheon, 1991), the Pulitzer prize−winning graphic novel about the journey of his father, who survived the Holocaust.

Although a number of students were familiar with reading manga, others needed to learn the basic visual grammar of graphic novels. This meant providing explicit instruction of graphic novel terminology such as panels, dialogue, captions, and speech bubbles. Because I had a mixed-level class, I chose excerpts from Maus for students to read aloud during class, combining excerpts that focused primarily on the main character’s experience living in concentration camps.

To help students understand the historical context of the story, I did in-class activities about Polish ghetto life. Students matched captions I’d written to select photographs of Mendel Grossman, whose work was published in the book My Secret Camera (HMH books, 2000). I also facilitated activities using PowerPoint presentations, explaining the causes and outcomes of World War II, and focusing on the rise and fall of Nazi powers in Europe.

During class, students enjoyed reading aloud select pages from Maus while writing their thoughts and responses to questions in reading guides that I’d created. They were prompted to review what happened in a scene, foreshadow what might happen later, and analyze the symbolism Spiegelman uses in the story. Students were asked why they thought the author chose to represent Jews as mice and Germans as cats, and how this device was effective to convey key concepts of the story.

After collectively analyzing Maus, students were asked to write a comparative literary essay using this story and another work of literature. I created a packet that scaffolded the essay writing process that would help prepare students for the required New York State English Language Arts Regents exam. Overall, the students were engaged throughout our selected chapter readings and discussions of Maus. A few extended their interest in learning about the Holocaust by opting to go on a field trip to the Brooklyn Academy of Music to watch a puppetry production about Auschwitz later that semester.

Creating educational comics

If you’re having difficulty finding educational comics or visual narratives on a specific topic, you can make your own. Finding visual books that target the interests of high school ELLs, especially Students with Interrupted Formal Education (SIFE) or beginner ELLs, can be challenging. However, teachers can produce their own educational comics that cater to their students’ reading abilities. Using Microsoft Word, Comic Life, and Internet images, I have created custom visual reading materials about the immigration experience through Ellis Island and have adapted folklore into comic form. Another benefit of creating one’s own educational comic is the ability to customize text for students of varying English proficiencies in the same classroom. It is a great way to differentiate learning materials.

Students making comics


Wing’s students used software, including Microsoft Word and Comic Life, to create their own comic books.

Students enjoyed producing personal narrative comics about their experiences immigrating to the United States and learning English. The opportunity to combine text with pictures enabled them to communicate the complexities of their stories while integrating new vocabulary into their writing. They also learned to use pronouns and verb tenses appropriately when writing dialogue and internal thoughts using word bubbles.

The comic strip format also lends itself naturally as a visual scaffold for students to write information in a sequential order. To guide students in creating coherent narratives, I provided templates with panels and word prompts containing transition words and phrases. We also went over key vocabulary words relating to places, travel, and immigration. I created handouts with sentence prompts that served as drafts for students to practice their writing, as well as drawings that they were able to use as practice templates to read, review, and self-correct with my guidance. I offered students the option of using Comic Life or drawing their comics by hand. Many selected Comic Life, as it allowed them the opportunity to practice online image searching and advance their literacy with technology.

My students were genuinely excited about this project, because it was a way for them to be heard and to share with others how they were dealing with their current circumstances. When they saw their comics project published and complete, I was touched when students asked for extra copies. Many wanted to send them to parents still living in their home countries to let them know how they were doing in the United States.

To find additional resources about teaching Maus and making comics with high school English Language Learners, visit:

Dawn K. Wing is the media and reader services librarian at Suffolk County Community College in Selden, NY. She oversees the library’s growing graphic novel collection and enjoys integrating media into information literacy instruction. She taught English as a Second Language at Pan American International High School in Queens, NY from 2008–2011.

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Walking on Fear Street with R.L. Stine Mon, 13 Apr 2015 14:22:00 +0000 FEAR STREET SUPER THRILLERFACT: R.L. Stine is the Stephen King of children’s literature.

FACT: R.L. Stine famously said, “I love killing teenagers. I really enjoy it.” (Admit it, if you work with young adults and teens you know exactly what he’s talking about.)

FACT: Because of a young editor’s fangirl moment on Twitter, R.L. Stine’s “Fear Street” is finally back on library shelves!**

FICTION:  Freddy Krueger lives on Fear Street.



New student Lizzy Palmer is the talk of Shadyside High. Michael and his girlfriend Pepper befriend her, but the closer they get to her, the stranger she seems…. He invites her to join him on a snowmobile race that ends in a tragic accident. Soon, Michael’s friends start being murdered, and Pepper becomes convinced that Lizzy is behind the killings. But to her total shock, she and Michael are drawn into a tragic story of an unthinkable betrayal committed over 60 years ago. Frightening and tense in the way that only this master of horror can deliver, THE LOST GIRL is another terrifying Fear Street novel by the king of juvenile horror.


In one volume, R.L. Stine presents two bone-chilling stories of teens in terror in his worldwide bestselling “Fear Street” series (St. Martin’s Griffin.


Stine is a household name when it comes to horror novels for kids. Expect plenty of turnout for this one.”—Booklist


Stine revives his Fear Street series with a tale that brings together a group of Shadyside teenagers for a night of terror in an eerie mansion…. Aimed at Goosebumps graduates… [C]arefully gauged to titillate or gross readers out without really disturbing them…Stine again demonstrates that he is a true master.”—Booklist

“The author’s instinctive for creative kills remains strong…These books are designed to be a pleasant diversion as well as fodder for nightmares…and the author doesn’t disappoint.”—Kirkus

**If you’re a librarian in the United States that hasn’t yet jumped on the R.L. Stine bandwagon (shame on you!), email Talia Sherer today for your complimentary copy of PARTY GAMES. #RLSTINELOVESLIBRARIES


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Librarians Can—and Should—Help Students Navigate the High Cost of College | College Ready Mon, 13 Apr 2015 14:00:01 +0000 150414_CollegemoneyBIGIn my junior year of college—for reasons I sometimes question today—I transferred from a large public university in California to a pricey private one in New York. My tuition bill more than quadrupled, and while my parents anted up, I had to pick up the rest: housing, food, and books.

Multiple shifts waitressing enabled me to cover my dorm, materials, and meals—microwaved noodles, mostly.

In five short years, my daughter will start college. While I appreciate the life skills those years gave me, I want a less stressful experience for her. Yet the expected price for her degree? For the 2014-15 school year, students paid more than $42,000 in tuition, room, and board at a private institution and nearly $19,000 a year for an in-state public school, according to the College Board.

Sandra Hernandez understands this reality well. At the Fair Haven branch of the New Haven (CT) Free Public Library where she is branch manager, Hernandez encounters many high school students who are the first in their family to apply to college. For them, getting accepted is only half the battle.

“Once I started working here, I had a better understanding of what the kids would need,” says Hernandez. “I want them to focus on school and applying to college. But at the same time, there are situations where they need to consider ways to bring money into the home. For me it’s about trying to find a balance.”

To start, Hernandez directs students to online sites for scholarships, and offers to help them with their FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) forms, which are required for anyone applying for financial aid. She also hires students as volunteers so they can earn community service hours needed for a local scholarship, the New Haven Promise. Some students also work at the library during the summer and after they enter college to bring in additional funds. Parents can also seek help from Hernandez and the staff—who are always ready to offer their services.

“A lot of the parents may not have gone to college, but they know they want their kids to go,” she says. “So they’ll ask how they can get money [for their children.]”

SLJ1504-CollegeReady-PQAt Bound Brook (NJ) High School, about 80 percent of students are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch. So Katie Llera, Bound Brook’s school librarian, talks with students early—when they’re still sophomores—to get them thinking not just about the SAT, the ACT, and possible careers—but about their financial needs. She’ll even discuss jobs they might consider to help stretch their resources while in college. Llera also counsels them about scholarships that require an application fee and otherwise seem dubious.

“We really harp on that,” says Llera. “There’s so much information about scholarships, it’s overwhelming. But we focus on applying for something that’s legitimate and that mentions the criteria applicants need.”

This is vital information for the majority of families. While students commonly turn to college counselors for help as they near the end of their high school careers, the involvement of a librarian is becoming more critical to help students wade through online resources and provide other needed services.

During my sophomore year of college, I landed a coveted spot at one of the undergraduate libraries on campus. I loved the dusty smell of the stacks—not to mention the decent hourly wage. When my daughter starts college, she’ll work as well. Perhaps on campus, perhaps not—but she will help support her needs and literally buy into her own education. Her father and I are going to cover as much of the cost as we can (“Hello, student loans.”) But, like most students, she’ll need a job to help pay for her degree. And like most parents should, I’ll encourage her to seek help from the library—both at high school and college—for direction and maybe a paycheck as well.

“I haven’t heard of many other librarians getting involved [in college guidance],” says Llera.

Perhaps it’s time to step up.

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A Starred Sequel, a Family Adventure, and Laugh-Out-Loud Stories in the Latest Chapter Books Reviewed Fri, 10 Apr 2015 20:48:12 +0000 Dory Fantasmagory.]]> SLJ1504-ChapterBks-FicredstarHanlon, Abby. Dory and the Real True Friend. illus. by Abby Hanlon. 160p. (Dory). Dial. Jul. 2015. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780525428664; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780698135956. LC 2014034036.

Gr 2-4 –Dory has quite the imagination. She has a monster for a friend, a fairy godmother who understands her, and a nemesis named Mrs. Gobble Gracker. When Dory starts a new year at school, however, she decides that it’s time to make a real pal. After all, her monster friend caused a lot of trouble. Rosabelle, a girl her age who has an amazing imagination just like Dory seems like a good option. But Rosabelle doesn’t seem to want to spend any time with her. Can Dory win her over? What will happen when Mrs. Gobble Gracker gets in the way? The story is well written, humorous, and engaging. The illustrations are amazingly detailed and complement the text well. The characters are fairly well developed and will grab young readers. Fans of Annie Barrows’s “Ivy and Bean” (Chronicle), Barbara Park’s “Junie B. Jones” (Random), and books with a little bit of humor and fantasy mixed into a school setting will enjoy reading this second installment in the “Dory” series. VERDICT A great addition to any library collection.–Kira Moody, Whitmore Public Library, Salt Lake City, UT

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.

Amateau, Gigi. Two for Joy. illus. by Abigail Marble. 96p. ebook available. Candlewick. Jun. 2015. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780763630102.

Doodler, Todd H. Super Fly: The World’s Smallest Superhero! illus. by Todd H. Doodler. 115p. Bloomsbury. May 2015. pap. $6.99. ISBN 9781619633780; Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781619633797.

Gay, Marie-Louise & David Homel. The Traveling Circus. illus. by Marie-Louise Gay. 152p. Groundwood. Apr. 2015. Tr $15.95. ISBN 9781554984206; ebk. $14.95. ISBN 9781554987849.

Kredensor, Diane. Buck’s Tooth. illus. by Diane Kredensor. 64p. S. & S./Aladdin. May 2015. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9781481423823.

Olbrys, Brooks. The Adventures of Blue Ocean Bob: A Challenging Job. illus. by Kevin Keele. 56p. Greenleaf. Apr. 2015. Tr $12.95. ISBN 9780982961353; ebk. ISBN 9780982961360. LC 2014941637.

Pinkwater, Daniel. Mrs. Noodlekugel and Drooly the Bear. illus. by Adam Stower. 96p. ebook available. Candlewick. May 2015. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780763666453.

Poploff, Michelle. Where Triplets Go, Trouble Follows. illus. by Victoria Jamieson. 96p. ebook available. Holiday House. May 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9780823432899; ebk. $16.95. ISBN 9780823433728.

Ravishankar, Anushka. Captain Coconut and the Case of the Missing Bananas. illus. by Priya Sundram. 96p. Tara. May 2015. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9789383145225.

Graphic Chapter Books

Sturm, James, Alexis Frederick-Frost, & Andrew Arnold. Gryphons Aren’t So Great. illus. by James Sturm, Alexis Frederick-Frost, & Andrew Arnold. 40p. (Adventures in Cartooning). First Second. Sept. 2015. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781596436527.

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Killer Manga, a Whodunit, & Noelle Stevenson’s “Nimona” | YA Graphic Novels Fri, 10 Apr 2015 17:07:30 +0000 SLJ1504-Fic-YA-GNredstarStevenson, Noelle. Nimona. illus. by Noelle Stevenson. 272p. ebook available. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. May 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062278234; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780062278227.

Gr 7 Up –This celebrated webcomic, a mash-up of medieval culture with modern science and technology, is now available in print. Lord Ballister Blackheart, a knight, has assumed the role of a supervillain in order to expose the nefarious schemes of the kingdom’s front organization, The Institute of Law Enforcement. The kingdom’s champion is Lord Blackheart’s nemesis and former best friend, Sir Ambrose Goldenloin. Blackheart’s prickly relationship with Goldenloin further explores the limits of their friendship. Enter the title character, a brash young shapeshifter who doggedly follows Ballister until he agrees to take her on as a sidekick. Nimona’s skills as a shapeshifter up the ante in the ongoing rivalry between Ambrose and Ballister. Despite her anger management issues, the teen becomes Ballister’s invaluable ally and together they form an alliance of mutual trust and dependence. Action scenes dominate as Nimona shifts with Hulk-like ferocity from frightful creatures such as a fire-breathing dragon to a docile cat or a timid child. Dialogue is fresh and witty with an abundance of clever lines. A complementary color palette of Blackheart’s muddy browns contrasts with Goldenloin’s fresh transparent yellow-greens. Both color schemes highlight Nimona’s intense reds. Readers will note subtle visual differences in webcomic images. The print edition includes an exclusive epilogue not available online. At its core, Nimona is a story of rescue. Each of the main characters rescue allies, friendships, the Kingdom, and ultimately, themselves. VERDICT A vibrant solo work from “Lumberjanes” (Boom!) cocreator.–Barbara M. Moon, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY

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.

Balak, Michaël Sanlaville, & Bastien Vivés. The Stranger. illus. by Balak, Michaël Sanlaville, & Bastien Vivés. tr. from French by Alexis Siegel. 208p. (Last Man: Vol. 1). First Second. 2015. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781626720466.

McClintock, Norah. Tru Detective. illus. by Steven P. Hughes. 128p. ebook available. Orca. 2015. Tr $19.95. ISBN 9781459803794. LC 2014952051.

Matsui, Yusei. Assassination Classroom. 192p. (Assassination Classroom Series: Vol. 1). ebook available. Viz Media. 2014. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781421576077.

Toriyama, Akira. Jaco the Galactic Patrolman. 248p. (Jaco the Galactic Patrolman Series: Vol. 1). ebook available. Viz Media. 2015. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781421566306.

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Paul B. Janeczko: On Poetry, Anthologizing, and Shelfies | An Interview Fri, 10 Apr 2015 16:24:03 +0000 death of a hatIn Paul B. Janeczko’s latest anthology, 50 poems explore an equal number of objects from Rumi’s “just-finishing” candle to William Carlos Williams’s red wheelbarrow. Filled with expressive full-page and spot art watercolor-and-ink illustrations by the inimitable Chris Raschka, the book takes readers on a tour through 17 centuries of poetic form through the lens of these everyday items. Divided into nine sections representing the major literary periods upon which most scholars agree, The Death of the Hat (Candlewick, 2015; Gr 4 Up) offers children a means of examining historical and political change, as well as shifts in language and culture, while introducing some of the greatest poets of all time.

Eloise Greenfield’s “Things” (“Went to the kitchen/Lay down on the floor/ Made me a poem….”) opens this anthology. Why did you choose that poem—among what I’m sure are many personal favorites—to launch this work?
It was the perfect poem to open the book. When I create an anthology, I put the first and last poems in place first. They bookend everything that comes in between. In this case, I ended with Naomi Shihab Nye’s “Famous,” a lovely poem about how we take some things for granted.

How would you like young readers to experience and use this book?
Most of all, I hope readers find some poems that they like enough to share with friends and family. Poetry is a sharing. My book is a sharing of the work of many poets, so I hope that readers, young and not, continue that.

Do you think there’s a “best” age to introduce poetry?
Not really. Because poetry is meant to be heard, as soon as a child can listen, someone should begin reading poetry to him or her. Having said that, we all know that some poems are more challenging than others. For the most part, the teachers and librarians that I’ve worked with have a good sense of which poems are appropriate for which age. I always want some of the poems to be a reach for readers…to challenge them. Because of the nature of this collection, it probably has more of those poems than some of my other anthologies.

What’s your favorite…no, no, I won’t ask you for your favorite poem! That would be too cruel. What’s your favorite era?
I’m quite fond of contemporary poems, and I was able to include some of my favorites: Pablo Neruda, Mary Oliver, Ted Kooser, Billy Collins, Naomi Shihab Nye. As far as an era goes, I do like the Victorian period, with the likes of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Emily Dickinson, and my favorite—Walt Whitman.

Do you keep a poem in your pocket?
Usually not. However, I do keep a book of poems in my backpack (currently: Billy Collins), another on my bedside table (currently: Robert Frost), and another where I do my early-morning reading (currently: Mary Oliver). And I do make a practice of sticking a poem in nearly everything that I mail: electric bill, articles to friends, and thank-you notes. And on each envelope I slap a sticker: Read a poem today.

Were there any poems that you wanted to include in this anthology that you couldn’t for whatever reason?
That is always the case. Always. But Richard Jackson, the first editor with whom I worked on my young adult anthologies, told me, “Don’t worry about the poems you left out. Concentrate on the ones you include in the collection. Maybe you’ll find a place for the others in the next book.” It was great advice—and I’ve followed it ever since.

In your introduction, you mention that you have a personal collection of more than 1,500 poetry books and four file cabinets full of individual poems. Have you heard of a “shelfie”? That’s when book nerds like us take a photo in front of our favorite shelves of books. Would you be willing to share a shelfie with our readers?


Paul J'a shelfie

Paul B. Janeczko’s shelfie


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