February 20, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

What’s the Story?: Words Make the Tale | JLG’s Booktalks to Go

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The Right WordStorytellers are weavers of words. Their choice of what to say and how to say it binds listeners in a mesmerizing spell of letters. Sometimes, pictures are also part of the enchantment.  The following books for children, selected by the editors at Junior Library Guild, will work their way into the minds of young readers.

BRYANT, Jen. The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus. illus. by Melissa Sweet. Eerdmans, 2014. ISBN 9780802853851. JLG Level: BE : Biography Elementary (Grades 2–6).

As a young boy of eight, Peter Roget made lists―of plants and insects, of weather words and of similar words. If only there was a book that helped people find the right word. Roget decided to write it. By day he was a doctor. By night he worked on his lists. Finally, at age 65, Roget was ready to take a big step: becoming a published author. This is the story of how his dream became a reality.

Even today, we still use Roget’s thesaurus. After reading Bryant’s and Sweet’s end notes, check out their websites. You’ll find links to the word collectors’ brief biography, a discussion guide, and a book trailer on the author’s site. Learn more about the illustrator’s process in a post on “Seven Impossible Things.” Read interviews from Colby Sharp, John Schumacher, and The Nerdy Bookclub. Use a document camera to share the endpapers with readers, as Roget’s lists are prominently featured.

Any questionsGAY, Marie-Louise. Any Questions? illus. by author. Groundwood. 2014. ISBN 9781554983827. JLG Level: E : Easy Reading (Grades 1–3).

Where does a story start? Does it begin with pictures or words? A blank page can become any number of things. What if the paper were yellow? What if it were midnight black? What about the characters? Who are they? What happens to them? Writers and illustrators ask just as many questions as their readers. After all, “if you don’t ask questions, how on earth will you get any answers?”

The collaboration between readers and the author are well showcased in this work, and children will shout “Read it again” at the turn of the last page. Learn more about the Canadian author/illustrator on her website. She has several videos of her books in addition to educator’s guides for use in teaching her works.

Once upon an AlphabetJEFFERS, Oliver. Once upon an Alphabet: Short Stories for All the Letters. illus. by author. Philomel. 2014. ISBN 9780399167911. JLG Level: P+ : Primary (Grades K–1).

If words make up stories, and letters make up words, then stories are made of letters. Since each letter is then terribly important, by association it should each have its own story. And so they do, in Jeffers’s new book, Once upon an Alphabet. Though A is an astronaut, he’s afraid of heights. In later chapters, we find he’s made progress in overcoming his fears. Visit Jeffers’s website for answers to frequently asked questions, and check out Oliver Jeffers World for more on his illustrations or activities, such as coloring pages. You can follow him on Twitter, and don’t miss the The Guardian article, which traces some of the amazing steps in the author’s 10-year career and rise to stardom.

Book with no PicturesNOVAK, B.J. The Book With No Pictures. Dial. 2014. ISBN 9780803741713. JLG Level : HE : Humor Elementary (Grades 2-6).

Usually, a short, thin volume is called a picture book. But what do you call it if there are no pictures? Why would you read a short book with no pictures? How fun would that be? It might be a hilarious adventure.

Best known as a writer for the TV series The Office, Novak will delight listeners with his comedic timing in this begs-to-be-read-aloud title, though you’ll want to practice before your first performance. The book has its own website with resources for teachers, grownups, and kids. Don’t miss a video of the author reading to children, where you’ll see them laugh so hard, he has to pause for them to catch their breath. Want to know the backstory? Listen to Novak’s American Library Association Annual Meeting keynote. You can follow him on Twitter.

Nuts to YouPERKINS, Lynne Rae. Nuts to You. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. 2014. ISBN 9780060092757. JLG Level: A+ : Intermediate Readers (Grades 3–5).

Most squirrels speak squirrel. Some squirrels speak human―to humans. And in the case of a trade-off―peanut butter sandwich for a story, one squirrel won’t be able to resist communicating with a person. So begins Jed’s tale of how he learns the secret of the “buzzpaths” and what he discovers when he follows them.

The power of story is evident in Perkins’s new novel for intermediate readers. Visit her website to learn about her inspiration for the story. She also posts early drawings of the characters. If you’re looking for squirrel-related activities, she writes about those on her blog. You can even knit a hat like main character Chai’s. Check out Kit Lit Frenzy’s interview with the Newbery-winning author, where you’ll learn that she was an artist before she became a writer. Connect a read-aloud of the tale with the Wonderopolis lesson, “What Do Animals Squirrel Away for Winter?”

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 www.JuniorLibraryGuild.com. (NOTE: JLG is owned by Media Source, Inc., SLJ’s parent company.)


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Deborah B. Ford About Deborah B. Ford

Deborah is the Director of Library Outreach for Junior Library Guild. She is an award-winning teacher librarian with almost 30 years of experience as a classroom teacher and librarian in K–12 schools.

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  1. Thanks for linking my interview with Melissa!