School Library Journal The world's largest reviewer of books, multimedia, and technology for children and teens Wed, 26 Nov 2014 19:43:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Ferguson Library Provides Calm Refuge for a Torn Community Wed, 26 Nov 2014 17:20:22 +0000 ferguson library provides calm refuge for a torn community Ferguson Library Provides Calm Refuge for a Torn Community

Photo by @IndyJazzBelle

On November 24 a grand jury in Ferguson, MO, delivered its verdict on the August 9 shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by a Ferguson police officer. The St. Louis County grand jury chose not to bring criminal charges against the officer, Darren Wilson; the decision, which was announced just after 8 p.m. CST, set off a night of protests and civil unrest, the most violent including arson, shattered windows, injuries, and, as of press time, a possible murder.

During the nearly four months of unrest since Brown was killed, the Ferguson Municipal Public Library (FMPL) has consistently stepped up to help the town’s citizens, especially its youngest members. Last summer the Ferguson-Florissant School District postponed its schools’ opening day, originally scheduled for August 14, out of fear of violence. Until schools eventually opened on August 25, FPL opened its branches to the district’s teachers, allowing them to set up activities and instruction for students in the library.

As Ferguson awaited the grand jury’s verdict, Governor Jay Nixon had pre-emptively declared a 30-day state of emergency November 17 in anticipation of unrest in Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, and the surrounding area. As predicted, demonstrations flared through the night into Tuesday morning, mainly centered around the Ferguson Police Department and the site of Brown’s shooting. As of Tuesday morning 61 arrests had been made in Ferguson and another 21 in St. Louis, and Governor Nixon had ordered additional National Guard reinforcements. Demonstrations occurred across the country as well, in cities such as Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York, Oakland, and Philadelphia.


It was announced the Monday night of the verdict that schools would be closed the following day, and on November 25 once again FMPL opened its doors to the district’s children and their teachers. Scott Bonner, library director of Ferguson Municipal Public Library District, said that while numbers weren’t as high as in August, the library hosted “scores” of children, as well as serving as a safe place for the neighborhood’s adults.

“I’m seeing a mix of moods,” he told LJ. “Our volunteers are excited and optimistic, and here to help, and then I have patrons who come in and literally hold my hands and cry—they just needed someone to hold onto and talk to. And everything in between, including people who are doing the regular walk-in, walk-out stuff.” But, he said, the mood was “a lot more emotional and taut than usual.”

Bonner is FMPL’s lone full-time librarian, working with another 10–11 part-time staff members. When the school closings were announced FMPL put out a call on social media for help, and on Tuesday Teach for America and other organizations responded with more than 50 volunteers. Operation Food Search, a local food bank, served lunch for children who would ordinarily eat at school.

The smallest children, Bonner noted, were happy to come in and do their activities. Recent events were harder on teenagers, however. Middle- and high-schoolers tended to act out, giving voice to their anxiety and anger. But while Bonner had expelled a few teens earlier in the week, he said, “Today we haven’t had to kick anyone out.”

A book swap planned for Tuesday night was canceled, as the library decided to close at 4 p.m. for safety reasons. “We don’t know if it’s going to be another night like last night,” Bonner told LJ. “There were people trying to kick in the door of the library last night after we closed.” The book swap, which had been the first event planned by FMPL’s new Teen Council, has been postponed until December.

Appropriately enough, FMPL was one of the galleries hosting art exhibit entitled “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!” The show was organized by the Alliance of Black Art Galleries to give local artists an opportunity to respond to Brown’s killing. opened October 17 and 18 and will run through December 20. Artwork was exhibited in more than a dozen galleries throughout the area.


While library staff and volunteers did their best to make neighborhood children feel at home, FMPL’s Twitter feed (@fergusonlibrary) Tuesday showed an outpouring of love and support from all over. In addition, calls for action on Twitter, some utilizing the hashtag #whatlibrariesdo, resulted in a huge spike in PayPal donations to the library. Numbers were in the five figures, according to Eyewitness News. “It’s been kind of phenomenal,” Bonner said.

Book donations remain steady as well: when FMPL first opened its doors to students in August Angie Manfredi, head of youth services for Los Alamos County Library System, NM, started a Twitter campaign soliciting books for the library. She created a wishlist for FMPL on Powell’s, which has since been filled and added to. The effort continues to be a great success, and once all the books received have been cataloged, says Bonner, “Thanks to her efforts, we’re going to have one of the strongest collections in the state for civic engagement, civil rights history, and recovering from trauma.”

Librarians across the country are working to help support students and educators as well. A St. Louis school librarian has created a LibGuide for resources about the Brown shooting, and the Twitter hashtag #FergusonSyllabus provides a wide range of links.

Schools had been planned to close Wednesday through Friday for Thanksgiving, so FPL will not be holding classes during that time. But if schools are closed next week, said Bonner, “we’ll do it again.” Bonner reinforced his steadfast approach to the library’s role. “What we’re doing is just what libraries do,” he emphasized to LJ. “We’re in a particularly dramatic situation, but we’re doing the same thing everyone does. And that’s because our libraries are awesome. We’re all about the community, and our doors are wide open to every human being in Ferguson.”

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Sir David Attenborough investigates “Fabulous Frogs”| DVD Pick Wed, 26 Nov 2014 14:00:04 +0000 Fabulous Frogs. (Nature). 60 min. Dist. by PBS. 2014. DVD $19.99. Blu-ray $24.99. ISBN 9781627890731. Gr 4 Up–Presenter Sir David Attenborough states, “There’s more to frogs than you might suppose,” and this film has the quality sound and visuals viewers expect from this series, in addition to Attenborough’s charming, conversational approach. He clearly loves these creatures. An abundance of interesting facts concerning the 5,000 species of frogs and toads that share our planet will captivate viewers, along with explanations and discussions [...]]]> fabfrogs 202x300 Sir David Attenborough investigates Fabulous Frogs| DVD PickFabulous Frogs. (Nature). 60 min. Dist. by PBS. 2014. DVD $19.99. Blu-ray $24.99. ISBN 9781627890731.
Gr 4 Up–Presenter Sir David Attenborough states, “There’s more to frogs than you might suppose,” and this film has the quality sound and visuals viewers expect from this series, in addition to Attenborough’s charming, conversational approach. He clearly loves these creatures. An abundance of interesting facts concerning the 5,000 species of frogs and toads that share our planet will captivate viewers, along with explanations and discussions of their evolution, anatomy, courtship and mating, defenses, predatory prowess, adaptation to various environments, and the threats of extinction and endangerment for many species. Attenborough describes these fascinating animals and how they endure extremes of heat and cold and their value to the planet’s ecosystems and even modern medicine through examples from all over the world, including the Arctic Circle. Students in biology, environmental science, and physics classes will find this program useful and informative. General viewers will never look at frogs the same way and will agree with Sir David when he says, “It would truly be sad if we lost them.” This is a fine presentation that will make amphibian advocates of all who watch it.–Cynthia Ortiz, Hackensack High School, NJ

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Bilingual and Spanish-language titles that celebrate family ties | Libro por libro Tue, 25 Nov 2014 18:06:19 +0000 SLJ1411w Libro Twas Nochebuena Bilingual and Spanish language titles that celebrate family ties | Libro por libro

’Twas Nochebuena: A Christmas Story in English and Spanish (Thong)
©2014 by Sara Palacios

Family is an integral part of Latino identity. These bonds often go beyond nuclear units to include tíos (uncles) and tías (aunts), primos (cousins) and abuelos (grandparents), and even other distant and semi-distant relations. Grandparents often live in the same households with children and grandchildren and gatherings are filled with lively and joyous festivities. As the holidays approach, Libro por libro highlights core titles about family, including bedtime stories, Spanish-language lullabies, and realistic and fantastical treatments of separation and loss.

All in the Family

DELACRE, Lulu. Arrorró mi niño: Latino Lullabies and Gentle Games. illus. by author. 32p. Lee & Low. 2004. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9781600604416.
PreS-Gr 1 –A stellar example of a title that parents can read and even sing aloud to children. Delacre selected rhymes from suggestions made to her by Latina mothers whom she had come to know, hailing from 14 different countries. Tender illustrations accompany the text, demonstrating a strong bond between parents and children. Musical scores for lullabies that have official melodies are also included. But as Delacre suggests, all that the rhymes require is a soothing voice.

LOMAS GARZA, Carmen. Family Pictures/Cuadros de familias. illus. by author. tr. by Rosalma Zubizarreta. 15th anniversary ed. 32p. Children’s Book Pr. 2005. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9780892392070.
K Up –This groundbreaking picture book/art album was first published in 1990 in a family scrapbook–style format. Lomas Garza’s paintings were inspired by her recollections of growing up in Kingsville, Texas. Her memories reinforce the role of the extended family in Latino life—celebrating rites of passage, such as birthday parties, quinceañeras, and cakewalk fundraisers to send kids to college. The artist remembers making tamales during Christmastime and eating watermelon in the summer. Aspects of spirituality in Latino life are represented with a scene of the curandera, or healer, visiting a neighbor’s house. Truly a touchstone.

Maravillosas historias para antes de dormir. Vol. 1. illus. 184p. Pirueta/Roca. pap. $18.95. ISBN 9788415235712.
K-Gr 3 –A great resource for Spanish-language bedtime stories. This volume has a unique feature—a grid outlining the types of stories that can be found within, which readers can use to navigate to their favorite subjects. Do you want an adventure tale about princesses? How about a bedtime story about fairies? Or would you rather hear a scary story about animals? They are all here, along with stories featuring witches, fantastical creatures, bandits, and artists. The first in a series, the title’s design is eye-catching, full of appealing and colorful illustrations. A more traditional table of contents is found at the end, which identifies the author and illustrator of each tale.

SLJ1411w Libro Migrant Mateo Bilingual and Spanish language titles that celebrate family ties | Libro por libro

Migrant (Mateo)
Illustration by Javier Martínez Pedro.

MATEO, José Manuel. Migrant. illus. by Javier Martínez Pedro. tr. from Spanish by Emmy Smith Ready. 22p. Abrams. 2014. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781419709579.
Gr 2-4 –A common struggle that Latino families face is that of immigration—which often separates members for long periods of time. This unique book is told from the perspective of a young Mexican boy who, along with his mother and sister, is left alone with the other women and children in his village after all the men have gone north to seek work. When money from his father stops coming, he and his mother and sister are forced to become migrants as well. Evading capture by the border patrol, they make their way to Los Angeles, where there is work cleaning houses. The unresolved ending makes the story more poignant and universal. The book is designed in the style of an ancient codex: it is one continuous picture, folded in the accordion style. The accompanying text follows the illustration down the left-hand side of the page. Pedro’s black-and-white drawings are detailed and have the feel of ancient Aztec art, even as they portray a contemporary story. The work might not hold up well to circulation because of the format, but this should not keep it from being purchased and shared.

PÉREZ, Amada Irma. My Very Own Room/Mi propio cuartito. illus. by Maya Christina Gonzalez. 32p. Children’s Book Pr. 2008. pap. $9.95. ISBN 9780892392230.
Gr 2-5 –Based on the author’s family history, this tale is about an unnamed girl who is almost nine years old and still sharing a room with her five brothers. She wants a space of her own, but her two-bedroom house is tiny, and her family hardly fits. What’s more, there are often members of the extended family staying with them until they find jobs and places to live. The main character recalls a time when there were up to 16 people in the house. The protagonist finally finds a place to call her own—a storage closet separated from the living room with a curtain. Her family helps her decorate it with a mixture of the only paints available, resulting in magenta-colored walls. Her uncle procures a bed and they even manage to buy a lamp. A lovely slice-of-life story that will resonate with many kids.

THONG, Roseanne Greenfield. ’Twas Nochebuena: A Christmas Story in English and Spanish. illus. by Sara Palacios. 32p. Viking. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780670016341.
PreS- Gr 1 –Just in time for the holidays, this Latino version of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” takes the familiar Clement Clarke Moore poem and highlights Latino family Christmas traditions. Spanish words are used throughout the text, which begins “’Twas Nochebuena, and all through the casa, every creature was kneading tamale masa.” Tamales are a vitally important part of the festivities, so it’s no wonder that this activity opens the tale. The story proceeds to showcase traditions, such as the posadas (nine-day celebration of the Nativity) procession, playing lotería (Mexican bingo), and breaking a piñata. Finally, the family attends midnight Mass, and returns home for a dinner of turkey with mole. Thong’s simple narrative makes this work a good choice for a multicultural holiday storytime. There is no Santa Claus here, but a great deal of unity and warmth. Palacios’s brightly colored and festive illustrations add cheer to this sweet title that should be on display and shared every year.

WEILL, Cynthia. Mi familia calaca/My Skeleton Family. illus. by Jesús Canseco Zárate. 32p. Cinco Puntos. 2013. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781935955504.
PreS-Gr 1 –Big sister Anita introduces readers to all of the members of the family—her bratty brother, cute baby brother, fabulous parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, and the dogs. By the way, they are all skeletons. An author’s note explains that skeletons have a long tradition of appearing in Mexican culture, especially in humorous tales. This practice is evident with characters such as Yuyi Morales’s Señor Calavera in Just a Minute (Chronicle, 2003). During the Day of the Dead/Día de los muertos (October 31-November 2) celebrations, sugar skulls are used to decorate shrines for a family’s dearly departed—and also consumed by children. A true highlight are the photos of papier mâché skeletons created by Oaxacan artist Zárate. His detailed figures are delightful and will elicit chuckles from young readers.

SLJ1411w Libro Cvstrip rev Bilingual and Spanish language titles that celebrate family ties | Libro por libro


ALVAREZ, Julia. How Tía Lola Came to Visit/Stay. Knopf. 2001. Tr $15.95. ISBN 9780375802157.
––––. De cómo tía Lola vino de visita/a quedarse. tr. by Liliana Valenzuela. Yearling. 2011. pap. $6.99. ISBN 9780307930408.
ea vol: 144p. (The Tía Lola Stories/Las historias de tía Lola).
Gr 3-7 –Alvarez’s “Tía Lola” books provide a delightful look at a contemporary Latino family dealing with realistic issues. Like Mary Poppins, Tía Lola comes to help Miguel and his sister Juanita after their parents separate and they move with their mother to Vermont. Tía Lola dresses colorfully, tries to learn English, and also helps Miguel adjust to his new surroundings. At the same time, Tía Lola is also dealing in her own way with the changes in her life, and missing her home in the Dominican Republic. There are three other titles in this chapter book series that are just as endearing. The characters, along with the distinctive third-person narration, make these books a must-purchase. Related activities for the books that can be used in the classroom and in libraries can be found at

MEDINA, Meg. Tía Isa Wants a Car. 2011. ISBN 9780763641566.
––––. Tía Isa quiere un carro. 2012. ISBN 9780763661298.
ea vol: 32p. illus. by Claudio Muñoz. Candlewick. Tr $15.99.
PreS-Gr 2 –Tía Isa can’t buy a car right away because she is saving money to bring her relatives to the United States. She has two piles of savings, one for the family, and one for the car. Tía Isa’s niece (the unnamed narrator) takes matters into her own hands and finds odd jobs to help pay for the vehicle. Medina’s lyrical prose poignantly portrays the relationship between an aunt and her niece but also a nuanced view of immigration. Tía Isa’s situation will resonate with young readers who may themselves be separated from family members and trying to find a way to bring their loved ones back together. Muñoz’s watercolor illustrations lovingly portray the bond between aunt and niece.


COSTALES, Amy. Abuelita Full of Life/Abuelita llena de vida. illus. by Martha Avilés. 32p. Luna Rising. 2007. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9780873589147.
PreS-Gr 1 –When Abuelita comes to stay with José’s family, he makes space for her in his room. The boy loves his grandmother. She plants a garden, she cooks chiles, she takes him to the park and tells him stories in the evening. The narrative is held together by the repeated refrain with variations on the idea that “grandmother is old, but she is lively,” such as “her skin is wrinkled, but it is soft to kiss.” Similar comparisons are added each time the refrain returns. This book is full of the joy of sharing and learning from a grandparent. It is a common experience for Latino children, and Avilés’s illustrations depict a quirky individual with small glasses that sit forward on her nose, braided hair, and a mischievous smile. What more could you want in a grandma?

DORROS, Arthur. Abuela. Dutton. 1991. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780525447504; pap. $7.99. ISBN 9780140562255.
––––. Abuela. (Spanish Ed.) Puffin. 1997. pap. $7.99. ISBN 9780140562262.
ea vol: illus. by Elisa Kleven. 40p.
PreS-Gr 1 –A classic in Latino literature for children, this title deserves its long life on school and public library shelves. Rosalba gets on the bus with her grandmother, and as they visit various places in New York City, they imagine that they are flying above it, like the birds in Central Park. As the little girl and Abuela fly above and around the bustling metropolis, they see grandma’s cousin loading and unloading crates on a boat, and tourists visiting the Statue of Liberty. They even hitch a ride on a jetliner leaving the airport. But their trip revolves around family—touching base with Uncle Pablo and Aunt Elisa in their store and visiting Rosalba’s father at his job. Finally, the pair returns to where they started: Central Park, where they hold hands and talk of future adventures together. This story depicts a loving relationship with touches of the Latin American literary tradition of magical realism. The fantastical becomes real not only through Dorros’s soaring text but also through Kleven’s imaginative artwork.

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#GiveaBook: Penguin Random House to Launch Book Donation Campaign with Save the Children Tue, 25 Nov 2014 16:55:49 +0000 EH 141125 GiveaBook #GiveaBook: Penguin Random House to Launch Book Donation Campaign with Save the Children Penguin Random House announced its November 29 launch of a new social media book donation campaign, #GiveaBook, to benefit children’s nonprofit, Save the Children, to benefit children in need.

For every use of the hashtag #GiveaBook on Facebook and Twitter before December 25, Penguin Random House will donate a book to the Save the Children organization, up to 25,000 times.

Read the full press release:

New York, New York, November 20, 2014 — Penguin Random House, the world’s largest and most global trade book publisher, is announcing the launch of #GiveaBook, a newly created social media campaign designed to promote books as gifts this holiday season and give back to U.S. children in need.  For every use of the hashtag #GiveaBook on Facebook and Twitter before December 25, Penguin Random House will donate a book to the Save the Children organization, up to 25,000 times.

The #GiveaBook campaign officially begins on “Small Business Saturday” (November 29) and runs through December 24.  Born out of brainstorming sessions by Penguin Random House sales reps, #GiveaBook was designed to encompass books and authors from all publishers, for readers of all ages.  Follow the campaign on Twitter @giveabooknow and on Pinterest at and become a friend on Facebook at . In conjunction with last night’s National Book Awards ceremony in New York City, the first #GiveaBook author videos were posted on the #GiveaBook Facebook page.

The campaign is issuing a #GiveaBook video challenge that encourages people everywhere to name a book they’re giving to a friend and why; challenge three friends to create their own #Giveabook videos; then post these videos online using the #GiveaBook hashtag.

Booksellers are also getting involved, creating their own #GiveaBook challenge videos and sharing them with their customers via social media, their websites, and e-mail newsletters. Some retailers are building creative #GiveaBook displays in their stores. Marketing materials for retailers are available for download at

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Capstone Launches PebbleGo Next Tue, 25 Nov 2014 16:32:31 +0000 EH 141125 PebbleGoNext Capstone Launches PebbleGo Next Capstone, a leading publisher of children’s books and digital products and services, announced the launch of PebbleGo Next, its newest line of database modules that features content connected to grades 3–6 curriculum with longer, more robust information.

PebbleGo Next debuts with a State and American Indian Studies module. Featuring articles for all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, DC, plus 11 American Indian culture areas with 40 distinct tribes, the module explores the history, geography, government, people, and more across a variety of articles.

“Today is an exciting day for our customers who have eagerly waited for the next PebbleGo for their researchers who graduated into a higher reading level,” said David Samuelson, general manager of Capstone’s Library division. “All of the features which made the original PebbleGo so loved are still there, and now students can continue to grow in their research skills with the highly anticipated launch of PebbleGo Next.”

Similar to the original PebbleGo, PebbleGo Next includes expertly leveled text, fully narrated by professional voice-over artists to provide essential scaffolds for struggling readers and English language learners. PebbleGo Next employs a streamlined interface, animated highlighting, educational videos and games, and encompassing activities which teach students how to cite articles, create reports, and share what they’ve learned. The database is available over the Internet 24/7 as an annual subscription for enrolled students.

It is recommend that customers update their browsers to Chrome, Internet Explorer 9.0 or higher, Safari 5.0 or higher, or Firefox 19.0 or higher to best experience PebbleGo Next.

Customers can sign up for a free trial at

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Change Makers at the SLJ Leadership Summit Tue, 25 Nov 2014 15:55:48 +0000 SLJSUMMIT 2014 Tichenor 006 600x399 Change Makers at the SLJ Leadership Summit

SLJ Leadership Summit attendees tune in while LEGO Education’s Stephan Turnipseed addresses the crowd.

Intrepid and innovative school librarians came from all corners of the United States (and Canada) to St. Paul, MN, a hub for institutional publishers, on October 25─26 for School Library Journal’s 10th annual Leadership Summit, Fire it Up! Sparking Creativity and Motivating Students. Key conversations and presentations over the weekend centered on school media specialists’ changing roles in schools and communities, how best to incorporate technology in order to meet 21st-century learning goals, and the importance of reaching all readers and learners.

”The library is the last place where kids can learn led by their interests,” shared David Samuelson of Capstone Publishing, a platinum sponsor of the two-day event. Samuelson debuted an inspirational video campaign called #SchoolLibrariesMatter, celebrating school librarians.

Rebecca Miller, editorial director of SLJ and sister publication Library Journal, expressed the same sentiment in her opening remarks. “Look at how librarians are transforming schools. We have a room of leaders here,” she said. “What do you need to start and sustain a burning desire to learn? Fuel, oxygen, and ignition. You bring all three to our schools.”

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SLJ’s Kathy Ishizuka presents school librarian Holly Whitt with the Build Something Bold Award.

Several special announcements at the Summit included the presentation of the winners of the “Build Something Bold” Library Design Award, presented by SLJ and LEGO Education to school librarian Holly Whitt of the Walnut Grove Elementary School, in Madison County, AL, and the Buzz Award, from SLJ and Brain Hive, to Denise Sumida of the Pearl Harbor (HI) Elementary School.

“A culture of advocacy and efficacy”

Opening the first day’s lineup was a rousing keynote by 2013 Superintendent of the Year Mark Edwards, whom Scott Chain of Follett introduced as a man filled with incomparable passion, drive, and dedication to education and a as charter member of Project Connect, a national initiative convening thought leaders to support the needs of 21st-century schools. Edwards, the leader of the much-lauded Mooresville (NC) Graded School District, shared that what sets apart his district from others is the integration of school librarians into every aspect of learning. When 10 percent of the school staff had to be cut, Edwards never thought once to cut librarians.

“The team is having an impact on every teacher and school in the district,” said Edwards. “The librarian is an orchestra leader helping students find their music and harmony.”

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Keynote speaker Mark Edwards.

The superintendent emphasized that the success in their library program is due to the “all in” attitude and the active participation of the school media coordinators, and their willingness to build “a culture of advocacy and efficacy.” Edwards stated that the school media center at his nearly 1:1 district encourages “a sense of discovery, connectivity, and collaboration” and that it’s always, “humming with activity.” The educator’s mantra has become “every child, everyday,” and he encouraged attendees to lead with the same objective.

Edwards’s keynote was followed by a presentation led by his team on practical examples of how each member implemented changes to the library’s role, all the while becoming an important and indelible part of instruction in their schools. Scott Smith, Mooresville’s chief technology officer, emphasized the incorporation of the 4C’s into the curriculum: creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication. Susie Harkey, elementary media coordinator, spoke about digital citizenship, sharing how third graders in her school created their own infomercials on how to be safe online, shown in every classroom as part of the morning announcements. Mesha Laksy, media coordinator, shared the different tools and resources, such as Google Forms; iCurio; BrainPop; and Discovery that she has used to ignite critical thinking.

SLJSUMMIT 2014 001 300x252 Change Makers at the SLJ Leadership Summit

Mooresville (NC) media specialists Mesha Lasky,Terry Lehmann, Allison Long, Susie Harkey, and Kristi Kallio.

Allison Long, teacher librarian of the East Mooresville Intermediate School, encouraged participants to spearhead communication with colleagues, kids, and partners via newsletters, websites, blogs, and old-fashioned outreach. She also suggested using Blendspace for collaborative lesson planning with teachers, a change they implemented which led to an increase of collaborative learning with students. Kristi Kallio and Terry Lehmann, media specialists at Mooresville High School, concluded the keynote panel by presenting different ways they’ve transformed their methods of communication. One change they have made includes providing weekly newsletters with library statistics to administrators and teachers and highlights of different resources used by students. They also create student-led projects.

“A visit to the library is no longer a ‘rock and read’ event, in which we read to them from a rocking chair,” Harkey said. “Instead, we have a more interactive relationship with the students.”

In his closing remarks, Edwards, revealed that for seven years, with the help of local businesses, churches, and even the town of Mooreseville, all of the kids in their district have Internet access at home, on Main Street, and the city parks. From  a partnership with the local service provider, any student that is eligible for free and reduced lunch now has free Internet access at home.

Smart stakeholders

In a panel led by Michelle Luhtala, the library department chair of New Canaan (CT) High School, the event’s sponsors were able to share their thoughts on the future of school libraries. When asked about the explosion of 1:1 and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) programs, they each emphasized the importance of more partnership among stakeholders to provide access to all students. ABDO’s Monte Kuehl stressed the ever-increasing need for trained librarians to be effective users of devices and information so that they can then educate their teacher collaborators. Roger Rosen of Rosen Publishing sees the issue as an ongoing social justice concern. Patricia Stockland of Lerner Publishing assured the audience that the company’s first and foremost focus is on the quality of the content.

When it comes to preparing for the needs of future learners, Dottie Coven of Baker & Taylor said that she is resolved to partner with educators to think outside the box and to keep evolving with the technology. Terri Soutor of Brain Hive shared her hope that more project-based learning and integration of the digital into curriculum will become more the norm as librarian leaders educate administrators and classroom teaches. Scott Chain of Capstone reiterated that partners on both side of the table have to prepare for different types of learners in order to provide equal access to all students. Trisha McDonell of LEGO Education expressed to the appreciative audience, “Companies are not looking for people to bubble in a test; they’re looking for people that can solve problems.”

Dave Schroeter of Gale Cengage spoke about how most of the pushback against digital content came from classroom teachers, not librarians. Schroeter added that librarians and vendors should continuously evaluate whether a tech decision is being made for change’s sake or if it actually makes sense for students’ needs.

Eric Fitzgerald of Capstone shared that he doesn’t think libraries and librarians should evolve, but they do need re-branding.

“Librarians have always been the drivers of collaboration and innovation,” he said. “Perhaps what needs to change is just some of the window dressing.”

Junior Library Guild’s Deborah Ford suggested mainstream media  ads to bust librarian myths and stereotypes, “Because we’re so beyond the bricks and mortar, but if we don’t tell them, they won’t know.”

Randal Heise of Mackin urged, “If you’re going to be part of the future, you have to climb in.”

“Science is an ongoing story”

The afternoon’s program concluded with an eye-opening panel on “Journeys Near and Far” moderated by SLJ editor Daryl Grabarek. These authors take “a really close look at the lives of scientists and how the work that they do is a result of research and trial and error. These books give kids the vocabulary to talk about subjects they never would have known about,” said Grabarek in her introduction. Touching upon topics as varied as butterfly pupa and wave energy, panelists Loree Griffin Burns, Elizabeth Rusch, and Joyce Sidman spoke about how curiosity and a love of research can make anyone a scientist.

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Authors Loree Griffin Burns, Joyce Sidman, and Elizabeth Rusch, and SLJ’s Daryl Grabarek.

Burns, author of Citizen Scientists (Macmillan, 2012) and most recently Handle With Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey (Millbrook, 2014), explained that she was inspired by a trip to a butterfly museum with her children to chase the story of the pupas origins all the way to Costa Rica.

“I saw something unusual, and I had some questions about it, and I let myself have the time to get the answers.”

Burns encouraged attendees to let libraries be the places where children are allowed to journey while searching for answers.

Rusch, the author of several “Scientists in the Field” titles published by Houghton Harcourt, approaches each project with the hope of showing young readers that “Science is an adventure.” When first starting on her Mars Rover, naysayers told her that the book would be published years after the two spacecraft made it to Mars. However, 10 years after they were blasted into space, Opportunity is still roving on the planet, proving that “Science is an ongoing story,” according to Rusch.

Award-winning poet and children’s book author and Minnesota denizen Joyce Sidman shared that poetry is a way of seeing the world and making connections, and a natural way to explore science.

“To be a poet you have to observe and look very closely at the world around you,” she said.

Harnessing the creativity gap

The Summit’s second day began with a rousing keynote by Stephan Turnipseed, CEO of LEGO Education, introduced by SLJ executive editor Kathy Ishizuka. Complete with dance moves, LEGO ducks fashioned by attendees, and a stirring call to action, Turnipseed’s presentation began trending on Twitter as participants shared his nuggets of wisdom about education via social media. Quoting philosophers, writers, and theorists as varied as Mark Twain, Socrates, and Sir Isaac Newton, the talk on 21st-century learning and how it relates to libraries elicited laughs, cheers, and even tears from the audience.

A member of the  21st Century Skills organization, LEGO Education promotes the need for skills and knowledge, “bridging the gap between theory and practice.”  Turnipseed shared that they believe in “learner-centricity,” where the learner is the center of education and in graduation with mastery rather than graduation with certification. In order to be successful in the 21st -century, kids should be learning in three basic areas: knowledge, skills, and dispositions.

The keynoter went on to define Knowledge as “making sense out of the experiences that we have—a uniquely creative process. In an educational system that places importance on testing, oftentimes creativity is stifled.

“Libraries can harness this creative gap,” he said.

Finding your librarian “spirit animal”

SLJSUMMIT 2014 Tichenor 011 248x300 Change Makers at the SLJ Leadership Summit

Chicago school librarian K. C. Boyd.

Channeling that same collaborative energy, Doug Johnson, Joyce Valenza, K.C. Boyd, and Michelle Colte put a creative spin on the leadership panel following the keynote. Each discussed their leadership style by comparing themselves to a creature, and attendees were  invited to share their personal “spirit animal” via Padlet. Johnson, the director of technology for the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage (MN) Public Schools, considers himself a cockroach librarian—a survivalist who evolves with his institution. Valenza, “Neverending Search” blogger and director of the Library and Information Science Masters program at Rutgers University, NJ, chose the goose as her moniker. She cited the bird’s bravery, grit, its ability to take care of its own as a perfect correlation for librarians’ “Leadership culture in action.” Valenza also encouraged attendees to learn from fellow flock members:

“Take advantage of the birds that fly ahead of you…. Honk, blog, and tweet. Show your students what professional leadership looks like.”

Because of recent events at her school, library media specialist Boyd, of the Wendell Phillips Academy High School in Chicago, IL, identifies with the bobcat.

“My program was being slowly marginalized, and there were plans to release me from my position the week that School Library Journal published the article about me online,” she explained while the shocked audience applauded. “My job is safe for this year. But over 50 percent of Chicago public schools don’t have a librarian. In response, we created Chi Schools Librarians. Our goal is to have a certified librarian in every public high school in Chicago. I’m normally not an outspoken person. But when you back a librarian into a corner, she comes out fighting.”

SLJSUMMIT 2014 Tichenor 007 300x199 Change Makers at the SLJ Leadership Summit

Michelle Colte, SLJ School Librarian of the Year.

SLJ’s inaugural School Librarian of the Year, Michelle Colte, rounded out the menagerie by selecting the chimpanzee. The library media specialist from Hale Kula Elementary School, Wahiawa, HI said that one of her goals in her school, mostly made up of students with military parents, is to bring the feeling of “Ohana” or family to the base. With projects such as the Cardboard Challenge and Hour of Code, she enjoys providing the fun part of learning.

Speed learning

In five 15-minute presentations led by school media specialists, Summit participants were served a smorgasbord of ideas to implement in their own schools. Andy Plemmons from David C. Barrow Elementary, in Athens, GA, and a School Librarian of the Year finalist, shared how a portion of his book buying budget is decided upon by his own students, who survey their classmates, research book titles, interact with publishers, and purchase books. They then market the books, creating signage, and designing displays.

These speed sessions also highlighted a local victory. Tori Jensen, media specialist, LEAP High School/St. Paul Public Schools and Leslie Yoder, digital literacy and learning specialist, shared with attendees how the plight of St. Paul’s school libraries has gone from near-tragedy to a community success story. With the help of the teacher’s union, parents, and students—a partnership that resulted in a walk-in during a snowstorm—Saint Paul Public Schools will be adding up to 15 new school media positions by the fall of 2015, and are striving for more.

Pernille Ripp, seventh grade teacher in Middleton, WI, presented on the Global Read Aloud Project. Ripp encouraged her students to share their love of reading with others by using social media to connect with classrooms around the world.  Participants can read aloud to an elder, a friend, or even the principal. Current titles include The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (Candlewick, 2006) by Kate DiCamillo and The Fourteenth Goldfish (Random House, 2014) by Jennifer L. Holm.

Tasha Bergson-Michelson, instructional and programming librarian, and Jole Seroff, director of library information Services of Castilleja School in Palo Alto, CA, shared with attendees how they’ve tried to install a love learning, reading, and research in each student at their all-girl independent school. A common obstacle is that it’s hard for students to get started with research. Using the example of “the historical veracity of Downton Abbey facial hair,” the pair presented how they devised strategies to model tacit research techniques for teachers and kids.

Lauren McBride talked about her “Feed and Read for South Sudan” program, in which the school librarian helped her students organize a book club that raised awareness about the lack of clean water and food in the war-torn country. Kids from Seneca Ridge Middle School of the Loudoun County Public Schools, VA, were inspired after reading Linda Sue Park’s A Long Walk to Water (HMH, 2010) to raise funds and address that need. Working with the nonprofit organization Sudan Sunrise, the members of the book club scheduled and moderated a presentation and panel by Sudanese former Lost Boy Jacob Atem and raised enough money to purchase 15,000 school lunches and a well of clean water for a town in Sudan. M

McBride encouraged, “If there’s something wrong in the world, students have the power to change it, and you have the power to help them.”

SLJSUMMIT 2014 Tichenor 012 300x199 Change Makers at the SLJ Leadership Summit

Author Patricia Polacco.

The two-day event ended on a sweet, inspirational note. Award-winning author Patricia Polacco shared a heartwarming family story, dedicating it to her recently deceased brother, Fred, about the importance of educators. Polacco showed her iconic keeping quilt, the subject of her book The Keeping Quilt (S. & S., 1988), that has been passed down for generations. Polacco honored the memory of her parents, who instilled in her the love of stories, and her former teachers, who pushed her to do well in school despite her learning disabilities.

“Honey is sweet and so is knowledge, but knowledge is like the bee that made that sweet honey, you have to chase it through the pages of a book,” she added, thanking all of the librarians present for the work that they do.

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Ivan, Clara, and the Freedom Tree: History in Picture Books │ JLG’s Booktalks to Go Tue, 25 Nov 2014 14:20:20 +0000 Held close to the hearts of Tacoma and Atlanta residents, Ivan, the shopping mall gorilla, is now known across the country. Clara Barton is synonymous with the American Red Cross. Ben Franklin and kite experiments equal scientist.

What happened to turn these ordinary characters into historical superstars? Find out the backstory, as well as unfamiliar tales about events of time past, selected by the editors at Junior Library Guild.
APPLEGATE, Katherine. Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla. illus. by G. Brian Karas. 40p. Clarion. 2014. ISBN 9780544252301. JLG Level: NEK : Nonfiction Early Elementary (Grades K–2).

Ivan Ivan, Clara, and the Freedom Tree: History in Picture Books │ JLG’s Booktalks to Go

Every shopping center has stores and restaurants. Only one had a gorilla. Ivan lived at the B & I Circus Store in Tacoma, Washington. “Sometimes Ivan watched TV. Sometimes he played with an old tire. Sometimes he finger-painted, signing the papers with his thumbprint.” As the years passed, he became lonely. Those he watched from his cage became angry. Petitions were signed. Letters were written. After twenty-seven years, he was sent to a new location. Ivan would finally have a chance to live among other gorillas in Zoo Atlanta.

Based on the true story, and companion to the Newbery-winning The One and Only Ivan, Applegate recounts the events that preceded his life at the shopping mall. The book’s website includes a book trailer, interview with the author, and a discussion guide. For more on the novel, visit Applegate’s website. You can also follow her on Twitter. The book is beautifully illustrated by G. Brian Karas. Readers may be interested in seeing more of his work on his website, which features an interview and a clever presentation of the covers of the books he’s illustrated.
DAVIS, Kathryn Gibbs. Mr. Ferris and His Wheel. illus. by Gilbert Ford. 40p. Houghton Harcourt. 2014. ISBN 9780547959221. JLG Level: NE : Nonfiction Elementary (Grades 2–6).

Mr Ferrris and His Wheel Ivan, Clara, and the Freedom Tree: History in Picture Books │ JLG’s Booktalks to Go

In 1892, Americans were impressed with the Eiffel Tower, the star attraction of the World’s Fair. Who would top that in Chicago the following year? George Ferris was an engineer with an idea. His structure would be made of steel, a new material. Strong yet delicate-looking, Ferris’s wheel was a risk that fair officials weren’t willing to fund. Undefeated, the young engineer used his own savings and broke ground in January 1893. The earth was frozen three feet deep. Beneath that was quicksand. How would he ever be able to complete his dream?

Read more about the author and her other books on her website. Want to know more about the process of book illustrator Gilbert Ford? Read the blog on his website and follow him on Twitter. The Children’s Bookshelf featured the picture book in their podcasts. Use the educator guide produced by the publisher which incorporates second grade Common Core standards for informational text. The book tab in JLG’s Fall 2014 BTG LiveBinder also provides support resources such as links to Hyde Park, Ferris’s obituary, and a history of theme park inventions.
JOHNSON, Angela. All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom. illus. by E. B. Lewis. 40p. Simon & Schuster. 2014. ISBN 9780689873768. JLG Level: E : Easy Reading (Grades 1–3).

All Different Now1 Ivan, Clara, and the Freedom Tree: History in Picture Books │ JLG’s Booktalks to Go

Things would be all different now―now that they were free. Word came to them in the Texas fields on a day in June. People cried. They whispered. They gathered for a picnic by the water. And stories were told by the people―people who were finally free.

Juneteenth, now widely celebrated, is captured in the powerful pairing of Johnson and Lewis. Read their notes in the back matter and visit their websites for additional information. For more on the celebration, visit, America’s Library, and PBS. HotChalk Lesson Plans features a unit of study with videos, additional reading suggestions, and additional resources that extend the lesson to middle school students.
POLACCO, Patricia. Clara and Davie: The True Story of Young Clara Barton. illus. by author. 40p. Scholastic. 2-14. ISBN 9780545354776. JLG Level: BE : Biography Elementary (Grades 2–6).

Clara and Davie2 Ivan, Clara, and the Freedom Tree: History in Picture Books │ JLG’s Booktalks to Go

As a young girl, Clara Barton struggled in school. She couldn’t pronounce words without a lisp. She grew shy and afraid. Rather than give up her education, the young girl became homeschooled. In her spare time Clara worked with the animals. Healing them was her gift. An accident that broke both of her favorite brother’s legs gave Clara the opportunity to use her medical talents on people. It would, however, take more than a knowledge of bones to help Davie walk once again. Did Clara have what it would take?

Related to Clara by marriage, Polacco weaves a poignant story that tugs at your heart and encourages readers to have hope. Visit her website for more on her prolific work and like her on Facebook. Check out the informational text at Wonderopolis, “Who Was Clara Barton,” to complete your unit of inquiry or storytime.
ROSENSTOCK, Barb. Ben Franklin’s Big Splash: The Mostly True Story of His First Invention.  illus. by S. D. Schindler. 32p. Calkins Creek. ISBN 9781620914465. JLG Level: P+ : Primary (Grades K–1).

Ben Franklins Big Splash Ivan, Clara, and the Freedom Tree: History in Picture Books │ JLG’s Booktalks to Go

What inventions do you think of when someone says Ben Franklin? Glasses? The lightning rod? How about swim sandals? In Rosenstock’s latest story, Ben loved the water and wondered why he couldn’t swim like fish. So, he invented wooden paddles to act like fins. When he wasn’t satisfied with them, he designed sandals, but they slipped off his feet. Did he give up? Not even close, for 178 years later, he was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

Today we also know Franklin as a great inventor, historical figure, and writer. Rosenstock’s website includes a book trailer and will soon post an educator’s guide. You can follow her on Twitter. Learn more about illustrator Schindler on his website and like him on Facebook. For more about the scientist, visit Ben Franklin Tercentenary, read The Papers of Ben Franklin, and other sources mentioned in the text, all of which are posted in JLG’s Fall 2014 BTG LiveBinder.
VANHECKE, Susan. Under the Freedom Tree. illus. by London Ladd. 32p. Charlesbridge. 2014. ISBN 9781580895507. JLG Level: I+ : Independent Readers (Grades 2–4).

Under the Freedom Tree Ivan, Clara, and the Freedom Tree: History in Picture Books │ JLG’s Booktalks to Go

Trees can shelter squirrels in nests of old leaves. Some protect baby birds before they learn to fly. In 1861, contrabands, runaway slaves from seceded states, found refuge under the Emancipation Oak while they learned to read. Now enemies of the state, the former slaves worked for the Union forces, much as they had before, yet they came to Fort Monroe by the thousands. Surely, being a paid contraband was better than being a slave. Nights were their own in a town near an old oak tree that showed them the way to freedom.

Author VanHecke includes links to research sites as well as a book trailer on her website. Follow her on Twitter. London Ladd went to Virginia to prepare for work on his captivating illustrations. Find out more about him on his website and follow him on Twitter. Teaching resources abound for the free verse picture book, including an educator’s guide and a reader’s theater script, published by Charlesbridge.


Additional Resources

The resources for the above titles have been organized in a new JLG Booktalks to Go: Fall 2014 LiveBinder. Titles are sorted by interest level, PreK-3, 3-6, 5-8, and YA. Check out our award-winning Spring 2014 LiveBinder which organizes resources for spring releases. All websites are posted within each LiveBinder, along with the accompanying booktalk. As I write more columns, more books and their resources are added. Everything you need to teach or share brand new, hot-off-the-press books is now all in one place. Booktalks and resources are also included on JLG’s BTG Pinterest board.

For library resources, tips, and ideas, please visit JLG’s Shelf Life Blog.

Junior Library Guild (JLG) is a collection development service that helps school and public libraries acquire the best new children’s and young adult books. Season after season, year after year, Junior Library Guild book selections go on to win awards, collect starred or favorable reviews, and earn industry honors. Visit us at (NOTE: JLG is owned by Media Source, Inc., SLJ’s parent company.)





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Q & A with ‘A Moose Boosh’ Author Eric-Shabazz Larkin Mon, 24 Nov 2014 22:44:56 +0000 A Moose Boosh, an imaginative collection of poems to do with food, accompanied by lively illustrations. ]]> EricShabazzLarkin 420x600 Q & A with A Moose Boosh Author Eric Shabazz Larkin For Eric-Shabazz Larkin, food is powerful. Though he’s all too aware that making time to eat together is increasingly difficult nowadays, with his imaginative collection of poetry, A Moose Boosh: A Few Choice Words About Food (Readers to Eaters, 2014), he attempts to breathe new life into the dinner table.

Larkin presents his subject from different angles, from the whimsical (“Ashley Won’t Eat It If She Can’t Spell It”) to the joyful (“Dancing Kitchen”) to the thought-provoking (“Food Desert in Harlem”), often using humor to shed light on significant issues but always conveying his sheer delight for food.

The illustrator and poet caught up with SLJ, discussing the importance of food in his own childhood, his artistic background, and what he hopes kids will take away from A Moose Boosh.

Where did you get the idea for your book?

Families aren’t treating dinnertime as special, as they once did. We eat dinner while we sit at our desk, in front of the television, on the go, in a car. And so I really wanted to create a collection of poems that were essentially meant to be read at the dinner table or in the kitchen while you’re cooking. Poems that would make dinnertime special again.

Coming from a very religious household, we would pray before every meal. Not all people share that religious background, and so I wanted to create something where, if you don’t say a prayer before you eat, maybe you say a poem, just to make it special. That’s where the name of the book comes from. An amuse bouche is a fancy word for a little gift that a chef gives you before you eat a meal. I imagined these as a book of literary gifts to share with the people that you love before you eat something together.

Your book is visually very creative, with illustrations drawn on top of the photographs themselves.

When I was working in an advertising agency, I would have all these books at my desk, because I was an art director. So I’d have all these books from photographers. I would take out photos…sharpies, white-out, paper clips, and I would just start vandalizing the photo books, but people would fall in love with the vandalisms. So I decided to go and take it further. I went out and took my own photos in the street…then I’d go home, and I’d vandalize the photo. The illustrations are really the childhood imagination layered on top of the photos.

A Moose Boosh1 215x300 Q & A with A Moose Boosh Author Eric Shabazz Larkin I did a presentation when I launched the book…with a bunch of kids in east New York and…they were so inspired that I created this style of presentation in white out and with a Sharpie. I think there’s something to be said for the ingenuity of [using] the things that are right in front of [you]. In some ways [the art] serves as a metaphor for cooking. People become artists and celebrities from just taking a couple of ingredients and putting them together and making something that tastes delicious.

What is your poetry background?

I come from a spoken word background. [I think that poems] are supposed to be read aloud. My editor, Karen, we fought a lot about what words rhyme and what words don’t. When you’re a spoken word artist, you can make any word rhyme. And that doesn’t always come across when you’re writing it down. This is my first time actually writing down poems for people to read and not coming from my own voice. So I had to grow a lot as a poet in writing the poems for that very reason. I just hope that some kids will read this book and take the stage in their living room before their meals, with their family.

What was your own childhood relationship with food?

The dinner table was a big part of my family. That was where my father would quiz me on my vocabulary. That was where my mother would tell stories of her hospital. (She was a nurse.) Everything happened at the dinner table. It’s really sad for me to find that people don’t have that centerpiece of life anymore…My wife is pregnant now, and I can’t wait to sit my son down at the table and have dinner with him, and pass on the traditions.

Was cooking a big part of your childhood? I’m thinking of your poem “My Father Is a Painter,” which compares cooking to an art form.

It’s funny. My father is certainly not a painter and certainly not a cook. My father had one special dish. It was called Chigetti. I don’t know what that means, but I know there were noodles involved, there was meat involved, and there was some red sauce involved, but it was great, because it was the only thing my father would make.

That poem really kind of came from something I read a while ago that says the perfect meal has something salty, something sweet, something crispy, something sour, something savory. And if you can have all these things on your plate, then it’s the perfect meal. But I [also] always try to have many different colors on my plate. That poem really came out of learning when you have a plate that’s all brown, maybe you need to try to add some other things. I didn’t grow up in a home where I got to have the greatest meals, and most of my meals were brown. My family couldn’t afford to have fancy things—purple cabbage, red beets. We had brown rice and brown chicken, and that was it. So that was a very special poem for me, because it is something I learned later on in life. I learned about the colors and the textures.

I didn’t want to point out—hey, you kids who don’t have the means to have big, fancy meals, this is what you could be having. Instead, I just wanted to show these things. In an urban context. What can the colors of the table be? And have kids think about these things in a way they never did.

A big theme of your book is that not everyone knows where the food they eat comes from. Was that something you were thinking about when you were writing?

I don’t know that we do a good job of teaching about our bodies. So I really started to write so many poems that were educational. And then my publisher said, you know the best thing you can do? Make the kids think about what they’re eating, and they will be better at what they’re eating. You don’t need to be another educational voice.

I think that we’re very far removed from the food that we eat. Especially if you live in some of the food deserts that we have right here in New York City. You don’t think of [food] as something that grew out of the ground or something that walked the earth.

[A couple of weeks ago, at an event] when I launched my book, I had kids tell me their favorite food and then [tell me] where that food comes from. Just having kids think about where their food comes from, I think that they become better food people in general.

Also, read:

Feeding Minds and Bodies: Libraries, Nonprofits, and Authors Offer Food Education

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Feeding Minds and Bodies: Libraries, Nonprofits, and Authors Offer Food Education Mon, 24 Nov 2014 15:40:25 +0000 Hyde Park SL2 June 2014 release Feeding Minds and Bodies: Libraries, Nonprofits, and Authors Offer Food Education

A young girl eats lunch at the Hyde Park branch of the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL). Photo by LAPL.

These days, many believe that being information literate in the 21st century doesn’t just involve research and vetting sources—it means being food literate. For author Eric-Shabazz Larkin, whose recent children’s book A Moose Boosh: A Few Choice Words About Food (Readers to Eaters, 2014) examines issues related to food through poetry, knowledge of food and nutrition is a vital but often overlooked educational component, every bit as essential as knowledge of math or the periodic table of the elements. Many organizations, such as Edible Schoolyard and Slow Foods International, and libraries, such as the Oakland Public Library and the Los Angeles Public Library, are stepping in to develop this much-needed skill, doing everything from providing food itself to incorporating lessons on nutrition into the curriculum.

In California, several public libraries have addressed the problem of child hunger in the last few years, through the Lunch at the Library program, which works with the California Summer Meal Coalition (CSMC) to provide free lunches to children. Though the state of California provides free lunch to low-income students, 85 percent of those children don’t receive lunch when school is out during the summer. In 2011, the Alemeida Food Bank sought venues for summer meals—including libraries like the Oakland Public Library (OPL). Nina Lindsay, supervising librarian of children services of OPL (and a contributor to SLJ’s “Heavy Medal” blog), says that she was initially daunted by the prospect of serving lunches when the food bank approached her but quickly jumped on board.

Lunches at the Library

Though the food bank runs the actual event at OPL, providing the volunteers, the library has more than pitched in, with 11 branches now involved. Staff members help to order food and run special programming right before or after lunches are served, such as storytime and crafts. Kids spend a lot of time in the public library during summer,” said Lindsay. “Serving the lunches is just a natural link for the kids who can get fed right before or after a program.”

Lindsay says that the library has been inspired to create several food and gardening-related programs. Three of their branches now have gardens, and many others are aiming to as well. According to Lindsay, programs have included presentations from local beekeepers (complete with free honey samples), talks given by representatives from a local farmers market association, and workshops on simple, nutritious food preparation.

The emphasis on food has paid off, Lindsay says. “We notice we get a really good turn out.” The advertisement for one event, where staff made cookies from scratch with children, was limited to an announcement over the PA system, but the program proved massively popular.

San Pedro SL1 July 2014 release Feeding Minds and Bodies: Libraries, Nonprofits, and Authors Offer Food Education

Kids eating lunch at the San Pedro branch of the LAPL. Photo by LAPL.

Overall, Lindsay says, the emphasis on nutrition and food has had a or positive response from patrons.

“We get a huge thank you from kids and their parents,” she says, attributing its success to the library’s ability to foster a sense of community. “It makes the library feel much more like their home. It adds to that quality of the third space.”

The Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) has also become part of Lunches at the Library program, kicking off their first summer in 2013. Coordinator of Children’s Services at LAPL, Eva Mitnick, told SLJ that she worked with the California Summer Meals Coalition to select eligible sites and to get in touch with the L.A. Regional Food Bank to organize the program. Staff and volunteers were trained on food handling.

Kids received much more than a hot meal, however. All the children were signed up for the library’s summer reading program, and several branches offered additional activities, such as helping with a mural or participating with science experiments. The volunteers, many of whom were teens, who read to the children, helped with arts and crafts activities, and signed kids up for the library’s reading club.

Nourishing the Community

The program does more than feed children—it’s nourishing the community, says Mitnick.

“The community loves the program. Some of our adult volunteers were community members saw what we were doing and wanted to help out.” Her staff, too, feels it’s a strong program that reflects the library’s purpose. “Bring them in, feed their bodies, feed their minds.”

For many, awareness about food and nutrition isn’t optional—they see it as a vital but often overlooked part of children’s education. Author and illustrator Eric-Shabazz Larkin, whose recent book A Moose Boosh: A Few Choice Words About Food (Readers to Eaters, 2014) examines issues related to food through poetry, told SLJ that he believes nutrition is a vital part of education.

“There’s so many things we’re taught,” he says. “It just doesn’t make sense to leave out the one thing you need to survive.”

Fanny at Chez Panisse 205x300 Feeding Minds and Bodies: Libraries, Nonprofits, and Authors Offer Food Education

Alice Waters wrote ‘Fanny at Chez Panisse’ about adventures in her San Francisco restaurant, Chez Panisse, told through the eyes of her seven-year-old daughter, Fanny.

Many organizations are heeding such advice. For two decades, Edible Schoolyard (ESY), a one-acre garden located at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Berkeley, CA, established by activist and restaurateur Alice Waters, author of Fanny at Chez Panisse: A Child’s Restaurant Adventure with 46 Recipes (William Morrow Cookbooks, 1997), has followed its mission to “build and share a national edible education curriculum for pre-kindergarten through high school.” Many sister programs all over the country have sprung up, in New York, New Orleans, and San Francisco, among others, and through an online community, 4,000 other programs all over the world are joining in.

At ESY, the garden and kitchen are integral to the curriculum, and lessons on math, science, and the humanities are served up alongside cooking and nutrition. According to Kyle Cornforth, executive director of ESY, a science lesson for eighth graders involves testing the pH levels of soil from around the garden, while a sixth grade unit on the Silk Road that takes place in the kitchen involves preparing recipes from places along the route, such as China and India, including vegetable curry and steamed dumplings.

These students also identify which cultures the various ingredients with which they’re working are from and engage in mock-trading to fully understand the significance of the Silk Road.

Central to ESY, says Cornforth, is the belief that “every kid deserves access to food education and to understand where food comes from.” He emphasized the prevalence of obesity and childhood diseases, many of which are easily preventable through better knowledge of nutrition. Cornforth says, “Education involves a more whole child: How are they feeling? How are they being fed at home? It’s a mix of things.”

Similarly, Slow Food International, a global, grassroots organization founded on the belief that “everyone should have access to good, clean, and fair food” is empowering children and teens to become more food literate. Among the organization’s many projects is its National School Garden Program, which promotes the use of gardens in schools across the country through more than 150 local chapters.

Andrew Nowak, director of the National School Garden Program, told SLJ that “We believe that school gardens and education around them are allowing students to become more food literate.”

He cited several examples: in Charlotte, NC, Slow Food helped launch a program called Friendship Gardens, in which students grow food for Meals on Wheels. In Colorado, Slow Food Denver has an initiative called Youth Farmers Market, where students sell the school garden’s produce in farmers market stands, providing food deserts with fresh, local foods.

With programs like these, “They’re building their own knowledge about how to handle food,” says Nowak. “Through this active participation with food…the kids are learning how to make better food choices.”

Read our Q & A with Eric-Shabazz Larkin about his book of poetry A Moose Boosh: A Few Choice Words About Food.

Books to support food education and food-related themes:

Larkin, Eric-Shabazz. A Moose Boosh. 96p. Readers to Eaters. Oct. 2014. pap. $18.95. ISBN 9780983661559.

This quirky, eclectic compendium of poetry, complete with artful and innovative graffiti-style illustrations, presents food in a new and delectable light. Larkin deftly weaves in themes about food deserts and the importance of nutrition, but he’s never preachy. A strong and visually enchanting way to cultivate appreciation for food.

Marchive, Laurane & Pam McElroy. The Green Teen Cookbook: Recipes for All Seasons—Written By Teens, for Teens. 144p. Zest. Jul. 2014. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781936976584.

Teens interested in whipping up healthy, easy dishes need look no further. This fun and creative cookbook, with recipes by teens, encourages aspiring chefs to use fresh ingredients and makes recipes that are both tasty and accessible. There’s a heavy, though never preachy, emphasis on nutrition that should inspire adolescents to consider the significance of a balanced diet.

Jenkins, Emily. A Fine Dessert. illus. by Sophie Blackall. 44p. Random House. Jan. 2015. lib. ed. $20.99. ISBN 9780375968327; Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780375868320; ebk. $10.99. ISBN 9780375987717.

This beautifully illustrated picture book is an affectionate look at the way food holds family together. Spanning centuries, the title looks at four families and their experiences with the dessert blackbery fool. Blackall’s sweetly old-fashioned illustrations add charm to this delectable tale.

Kurlansky, Mark. Frozen in Time. 176p. Random House. Nov. 2014. lib. ed. $18.99. ISBN 9780375991356; Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780385743884; pap. $7.99. ISBN 9780385372442; ebk. $7.99. ISBN 9780385372435.

This adaptation of Kurlanksey’s adult biography of Clarence Birdseye explains how the Birdseye founder pioneered the concept of frozen foods. This thought-provoking look at a lesser-known figure will stir up discussion on food preservation and nutrition.

Martin, Jacqueline Briggs. Alice Waters and the Trip to Delicious. illus. by Hayelin Choi. 32p. Readers to Eaters. Aug. 2014. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9780983661566.

Founder of Chez Panisse Alice Waters is not only a celebrated foodie and restaurateur—she’s bringing a much-needed lesson on nutrition to children. Though the book’s intended audience may not yet be familiar with her or her work, Martin’s picture book makes Waters’s message kid-friendly and fun, conveying the chef’s sheer delight in food through vibrant illustrations and engaging free verse.

Muller, Gerda. How Does My Garden Grow? 28p. Floris Books. Mar. 2014. Tr $17.95. ISBN 9781782500377.

With gorgeously old-fashioned, nostalgia-inducing illustrations, this sweetly charming look at a young girl and working a garden with her grandfather is both an enchanting primer on where food comes from and a gentle reminder of the importance of family.

Bass, Jennifer Vogel. Edible Colors. 32p. Roaring Brook Press. Nov. 2104. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9781626720022; ebk. $8.81. ISBN 9781466883291.

Aimed at the youngest readers–and eaters–this attractive and imaginative concept book groups fruits and veggies by color, highlighting both well known and more obscure examples of red, blue, green, purple, orange, and other shades. A charming and strikingly original way to inject some color onto a child’s palate.

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Librarian Helps Snag $7 Million Federal STEM Grant for Indiana High School Mon, 24 Nov 2014 15:21:42 +0000 At Pike High School in Indianapolis, IN, school librarian Chad Heck is playing a significant role in a $7 million grant which is set to transform the grade 9–12 campus—and the way the school library is perceived by the district.

“The library program has gotten a lot more respect from the administration,” says Heck. “They didn’t understand our role as curriculum and tech leaders.”

But after Heck helped co-write the U.S. Department of Labor Youth CareerConnect (YCC) Grant, his role, and that of ninth-grade librarian Lena Darnay, has changed dramatically. For starters, the school learned they’d won the grant in March 2014 and was expected to have many pieces in play by last summer. Those elements included professional development classes for staff as they adopted a new digital curriculum.

Twelve teachers began working with Heck for two weeks this summer toward developing inquiry projects for students, many of whom are being taught research skills this year, from how to phrase a search query to how to access information in databases. Teachers are also learning how to integrate more tech tools into classroom lessons—for example, outfitting  students’ cell phones with polling software.

“We’re infusing information literacy throughout,” says Heck, a former classroom teacher who taught STEM-based classes himself, though not in the Metropolitan School District (MSD) of Pike Township, where Pike High is located. “There are inquiry projects, as well as face-to-face classes. I’m helping the teachers design those lessons and also co-teaching research skills.”

The YCC Grant, launched in 2013 and funded by the Department of Labor, will focus the school’s move toward becoming a STEM-focused campus. Students now have four STEM paths they can follow. Similar to a major, the paths include engineering, biomedical/health science, information technology, and advanced manufacturing and logistics. There are also internships available with regional companies, including Eli Lilly and Rolls Royce.

Students are expected to commit to two years of the program, and 500 enrolled this fall. The school anticipates enrolling another 250 for the 2015–2016 school year, and interest has already exceeded availability.

“It’s going to have to be much more competitive to sign up,” says Kathy Sharpe, program manager for Pike High’s YCC program. “We may have to allow first-come, first-serve or have an application process.”

School laptops are on order, part of the Pike’s plan to become a 1:1 campus. That equipment was funded by the grant, which also enabled the school to hire a technology integrator. That’s been a tremendous help to Heck, who has a full plate providing library services and helping with tutorials and other technology lessons for science teachers and students alike.

In his eighth year in the district, including four years as Pike High School’s librarian, Heck doesn’t understand the meaning of downtime. He’s also completing his last year of law school, attending classes at night. But the grant and the related new opportunities has renewed his passion for school libraries, information literacy, and his school.

“I don’t think I want to practice law,” says Heck. “I think I want to stick with the library thing.”

Heck photo 600 509x600 Librarian Helps Snag $7 Million Federal STEM Grant for Indiana High School

School librarian Chad Heck (in dark shirt, wearing glasses) in a training session with teachers at Pike High School in the library.

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Ditch Holiday Programming | Opinion Mon, 24 Nov 2014 14:00:50 +0000 Every year, youth services staff ask these kinds of questions: “Do you do a Hanukkah/Christmas storytime/program in your library? If so, what do you do?”; “Do you decorate your library for the holidays?”; “Is it important to represent all the holidays in the winter?” And every year, I get ranty about this.

DitchHolidayProgramming2 Ditch Holiday Programming | OpinionThis year, I’d like to challenge you to eliminate holiday-themed programming in your library. You may say, “It’s fun! People want it! I want it!” and I will say to you, “Lots of things are fun! People can get it for free in many other places! And I don’t care what you want—programs are for your patrons (all patrons), not for you!” If you love Christmas, use your programming expertise and plan something for your church or your friends and family—all of them willing participants who likely feel the same way you do.

Allow me to further explain why you should not provide holiday programs this winter, or ever.

You are not an expert on holidays. You cannot accurately explain the meaning behind Hanukkah, Christmas, or any holiday when a young patron asks about them. Nor should you.

If a patron asks about the birth of Christ, you would not tell them your personal beliefs. Rather, you would show them the wide variety of materials available on the topic. You would perform a reference interview to make sure you are answering their question as best you can with the resources you can access. Unless you plan on hosting community members to talk about the various holidays of their cultures and you plan on doing this all year round, just don’t go there. You run the risk of deeply insulting someone who celebrates a certain holiday if you present it inaccurately. This falls under the same category as offering medical or legal advice—just don’t do it! You are representing the library when you present a program on work time. And unless your library is coming out as Christian, you shouldn’t be presenting programs about Christian holidays (or any holidays).

Stop thinking from a traditional, privileged point of view. It often appears as if Anglo tradition is screaming, “It’s not fair! I want to do Christmas in the library!” in a Veruca Salt tone, stomping its privileged feet. However, it is not your right to celebrate Christmas in a public institution. It is your right to celebrate whatever you want on your own time and your job to help patrons find places, outside the library, offering celebrations or events around any holiday in which they might be interested. Remember that those who celebrate holidays during the winter do not need the library to help them celebrate.

Conversely, those who do not celebrate Christmas, specifically, have very few places (basically their own home, if they have one) where “holiday spirit” is not constantly in their face. The library should be one of these places.

We are not being diverse by including a holiday like Hanukkah in our themed winter programs, though we may think we are. Ask yourself, “Why Hanukkah?” Did Jewish patrons request this type of programming? Have you spoken with leaders in your Jewish communities? Muslim communities? Native Peoples? Indians? And on and on and on?

DitchHolidayProgramming1 488x600 Ditch Holiday Programming | Opinion

Have you connected with any of these groups in your community? If you answered, “No” to any of these questions, maybe you should spend time building relationships instead of planning Santa’s visit. Do not ignorantly and selfishly pick holidays from non-Anglo cultures that happen about the same time as Christmas. Not cool, people. Celebrate diversity by allowing all people to participate in all library programs. I really like what Angie Manfredi, head of youth services at the Los Alamos County Library System, said on the “Storytime Underground” Facebook page in regards to inclusive, diverse programming: ”…I have 10 pagan patrons and 100 Christian ones. Doesn’t it make more sense for me to have a program for the 100? But ya know? I don’t want to provide services and programs to the 100 people at the cost of 10. It’s that simple to me.”

Still not convinced? Let me paint you a picture. It’s Wednesday, and you’re nine years old. You come to the library every Wednesday for the library’s craft program. Today your mom says you cannot go. Today the craft is making Santas and reindeer, and your family’s religion prevents you from participating. The one place in the world that should be open and inviting for all has just excluded you. And as librarians, we have failed for allowing this to happen.

Step outside yourself this year, get creative, and offer programs in which everyone in your community can participate. If you are having a hard time explaining to patrons and staff why you are leaving Santa out of the library this year, here’s Angie on Facebook once again: “I have books for everyone; I’ll be happy to help you find them and even recommend some favorites. Please feel free to share them with your families and children and in your churches and ceremonies. But we are a public institution and we’ll be programming around snow so that every kid can feel welcomed, not just the majority.”

Finally, some food for thought from Mark Twain. “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

EH 141120 HolidayProgram 170x170 Ditch Holiday Programming | OpinionKendra Jones is a children’s librarian at the Wheelock Library of the Tacoma (WA) Public Library system. She is a toddler-wrangling Twitter addict (@klmpeace) blogging at “Read Sing Play” and “Storytime Underground,”where she is a joint chief and creator of Storytime University.

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Tennessee School District’s Tech Policy Blocks Students’ Constitutional Rights, ACLU Says Fri, 21 Nov 2014 19:56:22 +0000 Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, students do not ‘shed their constitutional rights…at the schoolhouse gate.’” “My daughter shouldn’t have to trade away her rights to free speech and privacy just to get a quality education,” Pomerantz states in an ACLU media release. Jamie Williams, Frank Stanton legal fellow at the EFF, told SLJ that while the WCS policy is “well intentioned and designed to see to student safety and network security,” in the end it “opens doors to abuse of rules.” In comparison, the Metro Nashville Public Schools’ policy on BYOT items clearly outlines when and why technology could be confiscated and the steps for students and parents to follow if an infraction occurs. WCS’s acceptable use policy  also grants the school the option to install of a mobile device management client “for the purpose of managing the device while on the WCS network.” Castelli’s letter to the WCS board notes that the policy “permits a search of any BYOT device…whether or not the interest underlying the search is important or compelling. The policy also places no limits on the type of data that can be extracted from the device during the search or how the data can be used.”  He concludes that there is potential for “arbitrary and abusive” use of these searches. WCS policy rules about social networking among students on and off campus also concerns Pomerantz. “Students participating in any social media site are not permitted to post photographs of other students or WCS employees without permission from a teacher of administrator,” according to the WCS policy, which adds, “Personal social media use, including use outside the school day, has the potential to result in disruption to the classroom.  Students are subject to consequences for inappropriate, unauthorized, and illegal use of social media.” “[T]he policy’s social media guidelines impermissibly restrict students’ constitutionally protected off-campus speech,” according to an EFF article about the WCS policy by Williams and EFF staff attorney Nate Cardozo. Williams points out that students must sign off on all aspects of the district’s tech policy in order to participate in school activities on school computers, WCS is “[f]orcing students to use school equipment to participate in school functions means forcing them to give up their rights.” In his letter to Looney and the WCS board, Castelli wrote that “denial of participation in WCS’s computer and Internet program does not merely deny students a benefit, it denies them an equivalent education—to which they are unquestionably entitled.” He adds that computer and Internet access “are, in this modern world, fundamental to a complete education.” “Our attorneys are looking into the letter from the ACLU and will be providing a response,” a representative from the WCS Board told SLJ. “Until then, it would be inappropriate for the Board to comment.” According to a local media source, the Williamson Herald, Looney released the following statement in response to the ACLU-TN’s letter: “Our attorneys are reviewing the request…The district remains committed to protecting the constitutional rights of our students while maintaining a safe and secure learning environment for them.” During a WCS board policy committee meeting on November 3, the technology policy did not appear on the formal agenda, according to Lindsay Kee, Communications Director for ACLU-TN. Leading up to a full session Board meeting on November 17, Williams said he hoped for a “quick conclusion” and an immediate recall of the policy. The more attention this issue receives, he said, “the better to make good policies from the beginning” for other school districts as they manage their own technology programs. As of November 21, he had not hear from WCS, and the school board did not respond to SLJ’s requests for comment. April Witteveen is a community and teen services librarian with Deschutes Public Library in Central Oregon.  She is the upcoming chair of the Printz 2016 Committee and has served on the YALSA Board.]]> 0 Jacqueline Woodson and Ursula K. Le Guin Shine at the National Book Awards Ceremony Fri, 21 Nov 2014 15:54:07 +0000 Woodson 223x300 Jacqueline Woodson and Ursula K. Le Guin Shine at the National Book Awards Ceremony

Jacqueline Woodson won the award n the Young People’s Literature category for her work Brown Girl Dreaming. Photo by Rocco Staino

(Updated: November 24, 2014) The third time was the charm for Jacqueline Woodson on the evening of November 19, when she was awarded the 2014 National Book Award (NBA) for Young People’s Literature for her book Brown Girl Dreaming (Penguin, 2014) at the NBA ceremony hosted by Daniel Handler (aka “Lemony Snicket”)  in New York City. Woodson had been a finalist for the award in 2003 for Locomotion (Putnam, 2003) and in 2002 for Hush (Putnam, 2002). Told in verse, Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming is a memoir of her youth growing up in South Carolina and New York City during the 1960s and 70s.

In announcing Woodson’s win, author Sharon Draper, chair of the judging committee, let it be known that Brown Girl Dreaming was the unanimous decision of the judges, who also included authors Sherri L. Smith (Flygirl; Putnam, 2008) and Rebecca Stead (When You Reach Me; Random House, 2009), as well as Starr LaTronica, outgoing president of the Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC), and bookseller Dave Shallenberger.

Woodson prevailed over two-time finalists Eliot Schrefer, author of Threatened (Scholastic); Steve Sheinkin, who wrote The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny and the Fight for Civil Rights (MacMillan); Deborah Wiles, author of Revolution: The Sixties Trilogy, Book Two (Scholastic); and first-time finalist John Corey Whaley, who wrote Noggin (S. & S.).

NBAfinalists 300x300 Jacqueline Woodson and Ursula K. Le Guin Shine at the National Book Awards Ceremony

NBA finalists in the Young People’s Category (l to r): Steven Sheinkin, John Corey Whaley, Jacqueline Woodson, Deborah Wiles, Eliot Schrefer Photo by Rocco Staino

While accepting the award, Woodson congratulated her fellow finalists, saying, “I love how much love there is the world of YA literature.” Commenting on the merger of publishers Random House and Penguin, she thanked her “fabulous blended family.”

Woodson also inadvertently became entangled in a controversy caused by comments, some of them alluding to Woodson’s race and watermelon, made by the evening’s host, Handler, following her acceptance speech. Both Handler and his comments were the topic of outrage on social media the next morning ranging from a tweet from Lee & Low Books (“Pro tip: If you’re a white person hosting an award ceremony, do not make jokes about race. I repeat, DO NOT MAKE JOKES ABOUT RACE”) to a post on “The Mary Sue” blog titled: A Series of Unfortunate Events: Daniel Handler Makes Racist Joke at Expense of African American Author.

Watch the C-SPAN video of Handler’s remarks after Woodson’s acceptance speech.

Handler apologized the day after the ceremony on Twitter, saying, “My job at last night’s National Book Awards #NBAwards was to shine a light on tremendous writers, including Jacqueline Woodson…and not to overshadow their achievements with my own ill-conceived attempts at humor. I clearly failed, and I’m sorry.”

Update: Along with his apology, Handler pledged to match donations, up to $100,000, to the We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) indiegogo campaign, within a 24-hour period. According to the WNDB press release, dated November 24, the campaign has raised a total of $321,901, partly due to a donation made by “Dork Diaries” author, Rachel Renee Russell, who donated the $30,000 necessary to fulfill the entire $100,000 Handler pledge.

Ursula Jacqueline Woodson and Ursula K. Le Guin Shine at the National Book Awards Ceremony

Ursula K. Le Guin Photo by Heather McCormick

Legendary author Ursula K. Le Guin was also honored at the event with the 2014 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Accepting the honor, Le Guin, author of the “Earthsea Cycle” series, warned the audience, many from the publishing industry, that what is needed are “writers who know the difference between making a commodity and crafting a work of art.”

Le Guin also lambasted the publishing world for the high prices charged to libraries for ebooks. “I don’t want to see American literature sold down the river,” said Le Guin. “The name of our beautiful reward is not profit. It is freedom.”

Libraries also got a shout-out from Kyle Zimmer, president and CEO of First Book, when she accepted the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community. First Book has distributed over 115 million new books and educational resources to children of low-income families.

The 65th annual National Book Awards are presented by the National Book Foundation.

See also:

Jacqueline Woodson’s ‘Brown Girl Dreaming’ Wins 2014 National Book Award

SLJ Reviews of the 2014 National Book Award Finalists in Young People’s Literature

Pictures of the Week: The 2014 National Book Awards Ceremony

Video: Jacqueline Woodson Keynote | SLJ Day of Dialog 2014

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Behind the Scenes: The 2014 SLJ Best Books List Fri, 21 Nov 2014 15:41:35 +0000 BestBooks web tease 600 Behind the Scenes: The 2014 SLJ Best Books List

Boasting 70 stellar titles, the SLJ 2014 Best Books were revealed November 20 at a Twitter event that kicked off at 7 PM ET. The list is broken down into four different categories—picture books, middle-grade fiction, young adult fiction, and nonfiction—and represents the notable, can’t-miss books out of the thousands of children’s and YA titles published each year. This list often features books that will go on to garner coveted awards, such as this year’s Brown Girl Dreaming, which recently won Jacqueline Woodson the National Book Award.

The Best Books represent a long, painstaking process that begins months in advance, with SLJ’s book review editors starting in early fall to revisit titles that have received starred reviews the previous year and homing in on those that they believe are not simply great but truly excellent. Over several intensive meetings—with separate discussions devoted to each category—taking place over a period of months, editors nominate the titles they feel truly deserve inclusion, arguing for and defending the merits of a particular title. After lengthy discussion, several rounds of voting are held, with editors retaining the option to bring back books that may not have made the cut the first time round, in what is informally termed “the zombie round.” Often, a single editor may champion a particular title and even successfully convince the rest of the team of the book’s distinction.

Integral to the process is not only selecting high-quality literature but also a solid balance of titles. For instance, editors made an effort to include picture books that appeal to toddlers as well as to older readers, nonfiction that tackles both science and technology as well as humanities and the arts, and fiction that represents protagonists with a wide variety of experiences, among many other criteria. Editors also paid close attention to a book’s impact on its targeted audience; for example, Byron Barton’s vibrant picture book My Bus was considered a strong choice because it appeals to toddlers and novice readers alike.

Often, trends that editors noticed on the list represent those in the larger publishing world, such as the high number of wordless picture books (Marla Frazee’s The Farmer and the Clown, Raúl Colón’s Draw!), titles about the concept of creating books and literature (Katy Beebe’s Brother Hugo and the Bear, Marie-Louise Gay’s Any Questions?, Scott Westerfeld’s Afterworlds, Lois Ehlert’s The Scraps Book), and memoirs or novels that blurred the lines between autobiography and fiction (Cece Bell’s El Deafo, Raina Telgemeier’s Sisters, Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming).

SLJ CV DEC2014 Behind the Scenes: The 2014 SLJ Best Books ListWhile librarians may already be well aware of these books, SLJ hopes for the list’s impact to disseminate and be felt among those outside of the library community as well. In her December editorial, editor-in-chief Rebecca T. Miller emphasizes the need to put books directly in the hands of users: “Engage patrons, caregivers, and teachers directly, list in hand. Encourage users, for instance, to check out a Best Books title before they buy it as a gift.”

This year’s process also represented a change in the formation of the list. As in the past, careful attention was given to each starred title, the new process also resembled a Caldecott or Newbery Award Committee meeting, with timed discussion and voting, as well as editors being given a list of criteria to keep in mind as they debated.

Once the list was finalized and complete, the editors took to social media to announce the Best Books, in their fourth annual Best Books Twitter Party, with editors speaking briefly about their personal favorites and tweeting fun categories of mock superlatives: for instance, Chris Raschka’s The Cosmobiography of Sun Ra was named “most likely to inspire you to bust a move.” Librarians, publishers, and even authors of some of the books attended the event and weighed in, voicing their opinions about the selected offerings.




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College Daze: YA Novels that Tackle the Undergraduate Years | SLJ Spotlight Fri, 21 Nov 2014 14:00:14 +0000 As teens make their final decisions on their higher education options, they’ve already begun fantasizing about their post-high school lives. The following novels explore that time before college, in which the line between adult- and childhood is blurred and growing up is the only option.

playlistforthedead 197x300 College Daze: YA Novels that Tackle the Undergraduate Years  | SLJ SpotlightFalkoff, Michelle. Playlist for the Dead. 288p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Jan. 2015. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062310507; ebk. ISBN 9780062310521.

Gr 9 Up –Accustomed to operating outside of the major social scene, Sam is disappointed when a rare party he attends is ruined by a fight with his best friend, Hayden. Disappointment fades quickly when he discovers that Hayden killed himself afterward. Rocked by the tragedy, Sam is left puzzling over tracks that his friend left for a playlist and struggling to figure out who he is without Hayden around. Despite the heavy subject matter, the overall tone of the book is less somber than the title would indicate, and it is a quick, engaging read. Falkoff nails the war-zone mentality and painful symbiosis of high school friendships. The mixture of grief, anger, and guilt that Sam works through is realistic and well written, and his reactions to Hayden’s music choices further illuminates not only his struggle but also how their friendship was beginning to change. The characters and concept work better than the plot—it gets an all-loose-ends-tied-up treatment at the end. This is especially frustrating as an entire eerie subplot is explained away in the course of a short paragraph. The strong characters, dialogue and the use of the playlist to structure the book make this a good pick for struggling readers. Hand this to fans of the movie Superbad and Spotify-obsessives.–Erinn Black Salge, Saint Peter’s Prep, Jersey City, NJ

mybesteverything 199x300 College Daze: YA Novels that Tackle the Undergraduate Years  | SLJ SpotlightTOMP, Sarah. My Best Everything. 400p. Little, Brown. Mar. 2015. Tr $18. ISBN 9780316324786; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780316324762. LC 2013039870.

Gr 9 Up –Luisa “Lulu” Mendez dreams of leaving her dead-end small town behind. She cannot wait to immerse herself in the University of San Diego’s biochemistry program in the fall. So she is devastated when her dad admits that he has lost her college funds in a bad investment. Lulu is determined to make her college dreams a reality, and when a confiscated distillery turns up at the junkyard where she and her best friend work, she sees it as a bit of serendipitous luck. Although Lulu is not a party girl, she is aware that the moonshine business, illegal or not, is still thriving in the rural mountains of Virginia. Roni and Bucky do not take much convincing to go along with her plan—some extra cash will hurry her friends’ wedding date along—and through some creative paperwork, the still disappears from the impound lot where it sits awaiting a trial. Lulu has recently met Mason Malone, whose family wealth comes from generations of “shining.” There’s an instant attraction between the two, and although Mason is a recovering alcoholic who has sworn off the family business, he reluctantly agrees to share his knowledge with the three 18-year-olds so that they can operate the still without blowing themselves up. As the still starts producing and the enterprising friends see the money coming in, college no longer seems out of reach—but will she be able to walk away from Mason at the end of the summer? And will her unorthodox college fund scheme mean his destruction as he edges closer and closer to his addiction? Lulu narrates the story in second-person, as a confessional of sorts to Mason, and readers will race to turn the pages as it becomes apparent that Lulu’s gamble may result in the destruction of the people she cares about the most. A wholly original and most satisfying debut.–Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA

ontheedge 198x300 College Daze: YA Novels that Tackle the Undergraduate Years  | SLJ SpotlightVan Diepen, Allison. On The Edge. 304p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Dec. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062303448; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062303462.

Gr 9 Up –College-bound Maddie finds herself in the middle of a dangerous gang war after witnessing the murder of a homeless man. With a target on her back, she is unexpectedly defended by an underground gang and in the midst of it all begins to fall for their mysterious leader, Lobo. As their relationship heats up so does the danger, and Maddie becomes an essential piece to bringing down a gang-run human trafficking ring. While the relationship between Maddie and Lobo is the focus of the story, the thriller-type subplot set in the Miami underbelly steals the show. The sometimes violent, always gripping action of a vigilante underground gang rescuing trafficked girls keeps the pace moving and the tone from becoming saccharine. The menace of this dark world is a nice foil to the unexpectedly sweet development of young love, and adds a desperation and sense of urgency to their romance. The friendship between Maddie and her friends is especially multifaceted, and readers will appreciate the honest examination of the complex emotions of friendship as they learn to allow their relationship to evolve while facing big life changes. While the hyper-gritty street life may be over-the-top and border on unrealistic, the struggle of the characters to do right at all costs will resonate with teen readers.–Sarah Townsend, Norfolk Public Library, VA

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SLJ Best Books Cover | December 2014 Thu, 20 Nov 2014 23:45:28 +0000 Morales CV DIG OPT 800pxNAMEPLATE SLJ Best Books Cover | December 2014

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Pictures of the Week: The 2014 National Book Awards Ceremony Thu, 20 Nov 2014 18:29:09 +0000

Ursula! Ursula! Ursula! Goddess of American letters, look away from the flash #NBAwards

— Heather McCormack (@HuisceBeatha) November 19, 2014

On November 19, notables from the literature world gathered at Cipriani’s Wall Street restaurant, in New York City, to fête the winners of the 65th annual National Book Awards, sponsored by the National Book Foundation. Children’s literature and young adult authors were present and decked out in their shiny best, including Ursula Le Guin, who accepted an award for her distinguished contribution to American letters and stole the show with her rousing speech, during which she torched Amazon for its pricing dispute with Hachette Publishing, defended science fiction writers, and was quoted as saying:

“We need writers who remember freedom.”

Watch her rousing speech on YouTube.

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A Surprise Fiction Win and a Dazzling Le Guin at the National Book Awards 2014 Thu, 20 Nov 2014 18:15:08 +0000 The evening featured a surprise win in fiction for Phil Klay’s Redeployment (Penguin Pr.), a first book of stories by a former U.S. Marine who was stationed in Iraq for 13 months as a public affairs officer. Other fiction finalists looked as if they had an edge—for instance, Marilyn Robinson, up for Lila (Farrar), has been a fiction finalist twice and a nonfiction finalist once. Still, Klay’s accomplished stories of life in battle and afterward has received considerable praise since its spring publication. Not only was it a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection and a New York Times best seller but Klay was a 2014 National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Honoree. As a stunned Klay explained in his acceptance speech, being a marine means wondering what to say to a father whose marine son has meant so much to you or to a middle schooler disappointed that you haven’t killed anyone. “I don’t have the answer to those questions, but the book was the only way to start really thinking them through,” he concluded. Other winners were less surprising if certainly satisfying. Jacqueline Woodson, who won the Young People’s Literature Award for Brown Girl Dreaming (Nancy Paulsen Bks: Penguin), has been an NBA finalist twice before and had an indisputably large cheering section at the event. She concluded her acceptance speech by noting, “It’s so important that we talk to our old people before they become our ancestors and get those stories.” Louise Glück, the 12th Poet Laureate of the United States and a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award winner, finally (and tearfully) won the Poetry Award for Faithful and Virtuous Night (Farrar) after having been an NBA finalist three previous times. Evan Osnos, the Nonfiction Award winner for Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China (Farrar), currently a New Yorker staffer, was Beijing bureau chief of the Chicago Tribune, where he contributed to a series that won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. Like his fellow winners, he stressed how humbled he was in the presence of his fellow finalists and concluded his acceptance speech by thanking “the people in the pages of this book; they live in a place where it is dangerous to be honest, and I tried to do them justice.” The evening opened with sharp reminders of the value of books beyond glittery awards—even if, as the risk-takingly (and sometimes inappropriately) funny  master of ceremonies Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket) observed, “This is all pretty glam.” The Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community was given to Kyle Zimmer, founder of First Book, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit that since 1992 has distributed 120 million books to impoverished children worldwide at little or no cost. In accepting, Zimmer spoke eloquently of the importance of bringing together books and needy children, pointing out that 45 percent of children in this country are raised in homes that are poor or near poor and that 80 percent of such children read below proficiency level, creating a situation that is very much like a “permanent recession.” Putting on a hobbit persona, she said, “The giant spiders are heading our way, and we are all standing together, we are all holding our swords, and our whole story hangs by a thread.” Audience members were urged to find their “inner Bilbo Baggins.” Ursula K. Le Guin, winner of the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, threw down an even greater challenge to the audience. After proclaiming of the award “I rejoice at accepting it for, and sharing it with, all the writers who were excluded from literature for so long”—that is, fantasy writers like herself—she went on to deliver a spirited attack on the market forces that dominate publishing today. “I see sales departments given control over editorial,” said Le Guin. “I see my own publishers in a silly panic of ignorance and greed, charging public libraries for an ebook six or seven times more than they charge customers. We just saw a profiteer try to punish a publisher for disobedience and writers threatened by corporate fatwa, and I see a lot of us, the producers who write the books, and make the books, accepting this. Letting commodity profiteers sell us like deodorant, and tell us what to publish and what to write” If Le Guin made the gathered publishing dignitaries uncomfortable with her admonishments (and there were uncomfortable stirrings, along with scattered applause), at least one person yelled out, “I love you.” And what’s not to love about an author who proclaims, “But the name of our beautiful reward is not profit. Its name is freedom.”]]> 0 ‘Katniss and Mouse’ Game in ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 1′| Film Review Thu, 20 Nov 2014 16:11:38 +0000 mockingjay1 Katniss Katniss and Mouse Game in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 1| Film Review

Katniss Everdeen played by Jennifer Lawrence. All photos courtesy of Murray Close/Lionsgate.

Just as the messianic rebel leader Katniss Everdeen has found her footing, the hit “Hunger Games” film series has become more assured with its latest installment, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 1, while retaining most of the scaffolding of Suzanne Collins’s novel (Scholastic, 2010­­). The decision to halve the final part of the trilogy allows the filmmakers to tell Mockingjay’s serpentine story line with ease and to take time in the building of tension while letting the characters, and the audience, catch their breath. (Collins also adapted the screenplay.) In other words, this is not a case of a film cramming in too much plot in too little time.

Like the best seller, the movie doesn’t stand alone. The script assumes viewers are in the know. At this point in the story, an all-out war has broken out between the decadent dictatorship in the Capitol, hell-bent on restoring its power, and the surrounding districts. The rebels of militarist District 13 have saved Katniss’s life, and its leadership now props up the reluctant heroine as “the face of the revolution,” making her the star in its propaganda videos (called “propos”) to counter the beamed in messages from President Snow (played by the slithering Donald Sutherland). However, Katniss’s fellow victor in the previously seen Hunger Games—and love interest—Peeta, has been captured by Rose and is being used as a weapon to taunt Katniss. The lethal cat-and-mouse game between Katniss and Snow dominates over the low-simmering relationship tension from loyal nice guy Gale (Liam Hemsworth), with the puppy dog eyes.

This time around, most of the story is set in the dark and cavernous underground lair of District 13, where Katniss and the survivors of her decimated home, District 12, have taken refuge. (Like the Spartans, District 13’s inhabitants have grown up trained for warfare.)

mockingjay1 Effie 300x200 Katniss and Mouse Game in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 1| Film Review

Effie Trinket become a political refugee in this installment.

One of the strongest pleasures of Collins’s world-building, whether in print or on screen, has been the mash-up of varied references. The endless tunnels and multiple levels of District 13 call to mind what may be the first dystopian movie ever, Fritz Lang’s 1926 Metropolis, where the enslaved are forced to burrow for the above-ground elite. A clandestine rescue mission takes its visual cues from the last half-hour of Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty (2012), and there’s the equivalent of a visit from John Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate (1962), in which someone gets brainwashed.

As the emotionally stripped down Katniss, Jennifer Lawrence achieves equilibrium. More reactive in this installment than in the first two movies, she brings more depth to her role than most stars fronting a franchise and goes for broke without going over-the-top. Besides Katniss, the film has an additional savior: the de-blinged Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks). Katniss’s bubble-headed, entirely superficial (and proud of it) escort has become a political refugee—while still trying to right fashion wrongs. Banks brings a much needed lightness to a movie that begins on a downbeat note that reverberates throughout. With so many other of Katniss’s allies dropping like flies, it’s reassuring to see a familiar face.

Perhaps the main point of contention among the book’s fans is how to divide Collins’s narrative. The filmmakers have chosen a less-than-obvious moment to conclude the first part. Right when audiences assume it’s over, the film proceeds for another five minutes. Nevertheless, it’s not a deal breaker. Audiences will certainly return for the conclusion of Mockingjay.

(The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2 will open in November 2015.)

Directed by Francis Lawrence

123 min.

Rated PG-13 (massacre of thousands, implied torture, and overall high body count)


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Jacqueline Woodson’s ‘Brown Girl Dreaming’ Wins 2014 National Book Award Thu, 20 Nov 2014 16:00:16 +0000 Brown Girl Dreaming takes the top prize at the 2014 National Book Awards. Finalists in the young people’s literature category include Eliot Schrefer’s Threatened, Steve Sheinkin’s The Port Chicago 50 , John Corey Whaley’s Noggin, and Deborah Wiles’s Revolution.]]> browngirldreaming 198x300 Jacqueline Woodsons Brown Girl Dreaming Wins 2014 National Book AwardJacqueline Woodson’s book Brown Girl Dreaming (Nancy Paulsen Bks./Penguin) has won the National Book Award for young people’s literature.

Finalists in the young people’s literature category include Eliot Schrefer’s Threatened (Scholastic); Steve Sheinkin’s The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights (Roaring Brook/Macmillan); John Corey Whaley’s Noggin (Atheneum/S. & S.); and Deborah Wiles’s Revolution: The Sixties Trilogy, Book Two (Scholastic).

The judges in the young people’s literature category were Sharon M. Draper, Starr LaTronica, Dave Shallenberger, Sherri L. Smith, and Rebecca Stead.

Watch Jacqueline Woodson read from and discuss Brown Girl Dreaming at School Library Journal‘s 2014 Day of Dialog.

Read SLJ reviews of the winner and finalists.

Read the National Book Foundation press release announcing 2014 winners and finalists in all categories.

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