My Final Newbery and Caldecott Predictions, 2020

It’s the most exciting time of the year for #kidlit readers — the ALA Youth Media Awards, including Newbery and Caldecott, will be announced on Monday, January 25th, and I AM READY! Honestly, with the 2020 pandemic and virtual school, I wasn’t able to share books with students like I had in previous years, and I don’t have students’ insights into the picks this year. I have been thinking about which books I want to win medals and honors, though. Best wishes to ALL the creators who gave us books in 2020 — I’m sorry it was such a weird year in publishing, but you all deserve to be recognized anyway. Here are my final picks, just 2 days before the big day:

My choice for the Newbery Medal: King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender (Scholastic Press, 2020).

Talk about “distinguished!” I read this book back in February 2020 when it was published, and then listened to the audio version on Libro.fm. It won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, and I’m sure it will come away with at least one more award by Monday. Hopefully it’s the Newbery Medal.

My choices for Newbery Honors: Show Me a Sign, by Ann Clare LeZotte (Scholastic Press, 2020) and When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed (Dial Books for Young Readers).

Both of these titles scored at the top of my “distinguished” list, as well. Either one could grab a medal, but I think they will come away with honors. I can’t wait to hear the announcements!

My choice for Caldecott Medal: We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom and Michaela Goade (Roaring Brook Press, 2020).

In my opinion, this gorgeous picture book is special in many ways, and I hope that Michaela Goade wins the medal. The illustrations add to the text in such a way that children understand the significance of the message AND enjoy the book AND appreciate the art — this title has “Caldecott Award” written all over it.

My choice for Caldecott Honors: I have a whole list here. I cannot decide! I’m glad I don’t have to — the Caldecott committee had their hands full of excellent choices this year. I’ll just wait to see the outcome…

All Because You Matter by Tami Charles and Bryan Collier (Orchard Books, 2020), Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera by Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann (Neal Porter Books, 2020), and I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James (Nancy Paulsen Books, 2020).

Now we wait. What are YOUR choices for book awards this year? Tune into the Youth Media Awards (ALA Youth Media Awards) live webcast on Monday morning (8 am CT). Visit ALA’s streaming platform at http://ala.unikron.com or follow on social media.

IMWAYR: In the Wild Light

Cash Pruitt is a hard-working 17-year-old from Sawyer, Tennessee, who has a hard past. Now living with his grandparents, Cash mows lawns, attends Sawyer High School, and hangs out with his best friend, Delaney Doyle. The two share heartbreaks (Cash’s mom died of an opioid addiction and Delaney’s mom is headed down the same path) and adventures (traveling on the river and digging in caves). Delaney’s adventures include discovering a new medicine in those caves, a medical science breakthrough that leads to an invitation. Middleford Academy in Connecticut offers Delaney a scholarship to the prestigious private high school, but she says she won’t go unless Cash joins her.

How does a teenager just pick up and leave the only home he’s ever known? What will happen to Papaw if he isn’t home to take care of him? Papaw will surely die from emphysema if Cash leaves. Mamaw cannot handle working night shifts and taking care of her husband all by herself. Cash’s decision to stay might just mean he’s stuck in the little Appalachian town forever, with little hope of a better future. Delaney’s decision to leave might just mean Cash loses his best friend…forever. 

Packed with references to commonly recognized settings (Dairy Queen, Little Ceasar’s Pizza, the Greyhound Bus Station, New York City…), readers will relate to Cash and Delaney and their story, eagerly following the two friends to their new home at Middleford Academy. The gorgeous language of Zentner’s storytelling, especially the details of scenes and scents, make the reader stop and appreciate nature, especially the river and how it nourishes the soul. Readers will also cheer for minor characters, other students who ascend on the school from everywhere in the world, who connect with Cash and Delaney and provide a family away from home.

In a welcome surprise, references to another Zentner title will help readers reminisce — a throwback that brings one forward to hope and renewed love of story.  Follow Cash Pruitt’s path from small town boy to boarding school poet, living his dreams with him. Appreciate the intelligence of a strong female character with attitude, who can kick your butt, then give you a hug in the same scene, while all along working in the science lab to save the future. Grieve your losses alongside each of the characters, and lift your head back up to see the “wild light” that is waiting for you at the end.

Thank you to Net Galley for providing this digital ARC, and to Jeff Zentner for writing yet another wonderful book that celebrates nature, family, and friendships. In the Wild Light has an expected publishing date of August 10, 2021.

NerdCampMI – another year of fabulous fun!

“What is Nerd Camp?” Wow! Fun-filled, exhausting days of learning, reading books, writing, meeting #kidlit authors in real life, reuniting with like-minded people, and visiting with fellow campers until the wee hours of the morning. #NerdCampJr was awesome this year, and those 3rd graders were amazing! THANK YOU to Alaina Sharp, Colby Sharp and family for hosting (again) the BEST summer PD EVER! Don’t forget, if you need books, order from Kathy at The Brain Lair Bookstore. One year with dreams of many more to come! I can’t tag everyone, or this post would be pages long, but please know that it was nice to see each and every one of you and I can’t wait until next year! ❤️

Sunday Snippet: A Bit of Thinking

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Maintaining the Motivation –

     Last week students at my middle school were lucky to hear author Sarah Aronson talk about her writing process and share information about her upcoming picture book biography, Just Like Rube Goldberg. I went home that night with renewed interest in researching and reading…and writing.

     Four days later, I struggled to sit my “butt in the chair” today and write anything of substance. Why is that? How can we maintain the motivation for reading and writing after a big literacy event?

IMWAYR: Do Over!

Do Over! (Sometimes we need a “Reset” button.)

I had a plan for last week’s reading that has turned into the plan for this week’s reading. I have Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime (2016) on my desk, and I still want to read On the Come Up by Angie Thomas (2019).

There are new children’s books out, too. I enjoyed reading What If…? Then we… by my local author/friend, Rebecca Kai Dotlitch,  (February 12th) and I am excited to help spread the word about the next title from Jarrett Lerner, Revenge of the Enginerds. (February  19th). Congratulations and Happy Book Birthday!

 

 

 

 

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…you just might discover your next “must-read” book!

Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and Jen Vincent, at Teach Mentor Texts decided to give It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit – join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

Graphic Novels are Books, Too! by Stacey DeCotis

I just completed an order for our school library — mostly graphic novels and picture books! If you’d like some help in how (and why) to use these books (yes, they are good books), please contact me.

Nerdy Book Club

Oh if I could count the times I’ve heard adults say that graphic novels are “too easy” or “not challenging enough” or “they don’t count as books”…

My 5th grade students this year are devouring graphic novels! Until I started reading them last year, I never understood why (I mean, yeah I got that there are colorful and interesting pictures, but what about the text?)

I fell in love with graphic novels! I started off with Raina Telgemeier’s Smile, Sisters, and Drama. Then I moved on to Ghost, then, El Deafo by Cece Bell.

Then the fantasy Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi came out. I. Was. In. Love. Just yesterday I had a student ask if I could place the rest of the series on hold at the library (I had purchased 2 and 3 over winter break). I immediately went on my library network website and…

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#NF10for10: Annual February Nonfiction Picture Books List

It’s February 10th, and that means the annual #nf10for10 (Nonfiction 10 for 10) book lists are posted today. Thanks to our hosts: Cathy Mere (Reflect and Refine) and Mandy Robeck (Enjoy and Embrace Learning).  I enjoy challenging myself to come up with meaningful lists to share with other readers.

 

As we prepare for standardized testing season in our schools, I resist “test prep” practices more than ever. I look on social media and look to my friends to drag me out of the muck of worksheets and “read-and-answer-questions” crud that is the traditional way of school life during testing. I LOVE to read, and what better way to spread love than honoring time to read and learning with books that inspire? Based on a personal need to see more creativity and thinking in our classrooms, I chose “Inventors/Inventions/Thinkers” for my “Nonfiction 10 for 10” theme. Here are ten books that inspire:
Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton (2016)
Now & Ben: The Modern Inventions of Benjamin Franklin by Gene Barretta (2013)
Honda: The Boy Who Dreamed of Cars by Mark Weston (2014)
Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum by Meghan McCarthy (2010)
The Hole Story of the Doughnut by Pat Miller (2016)
Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille by Jen Bryant (2016)
The World is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid by Jeannette Winter (2017)
Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines (Vietnam Veterans Memorial) by Jeanne Walker Harvey (2017)
Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code by Laurie Wallmark (2017)
Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist by Jess Keating (2017)
Thank you for reading. I hope I’ve inspired you to invent, create, and think. What ten picture books would you share with the world?
(All pictures from http://www.goodreads.com)

Book Review: How I Became a Spy by Deborah Hopkinson

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I think it would be cool, but I’ve never had the spirit or the smarts to be a spy, so when I read the advanced reader copy of Deborah Hopkinson’s newest book, How I Became I Spy: A Mystery of WWII London (coming February 12th, 2019), I felt that I had reached a new goal while following the story of Bertie Bradshaw, a young boy living in WWII London.

Summary: Penguin Random House states, “Bertie Bradshaw never set out to become a spy. He never imagined traipsing around war-torn London, solving ciphers, practicing surveillance, and searching for a traitor to the Allied forces.” This middle grade novel practically sells itself –“historical fiction by Deborah Hopkinson,” “WWII,” “mystery,” and “solving ciphers” are the book talk keywords here. Students are going to love this one!

What I Loved: I love that Deborah Hopkinson, once again, gives us a real-life peek into history. This time it’s explanations of ciphers and codes, the appearance of actual figures, such as Leo Marks and Dwight D. Eisenhower from WWII reality, and the Special Operations Executive (SOE) that make the story engaging and believable. The SOE organization, with headquarters at 64 Baker Street, trained men and women to become secret agents. In the story, Bertie, his dog Little Roo (LR), his Jewish-refugee-friend, David, and a mysterious American girl are all caught up in the action. There’s a young girl missing — an agent — and Bertie must hide her secret notebook, translate it, and inform the right people before a double agent ruins the Allies’ plans.

Why You Should Read This: How I Became a Spy is an action-packed spy thriller for middle schoolers, or anyone who likes puzzles, Sherlock Holmes, London’s crowded streets, war stories, or doggie heroes. And…

if you ever wanted to be a spy…this book might just help get you started.

IMWAYR: I-Love-To-Read February!

I’m still finishing my 2018 reading, as promised. On Saturday, I started Marshfield Memories: More Stories About Growing Up, by Ralph Fletcher. I love Ralph’s writing, and I’m happy to visit Marshfield again through his words.

February at school is Black History Month, and I spent the day preparing a display for my students. There are so many wonderful books to read!

When I got home, I tore open the package I received in the mail — my friend, Josh Funk has another book out in the world! It’s NOT Hansel and Gretel is almost as funny as when we all sat around and read it aloud at #NerdCampMI last year. It’s so beautiful, with glitter on the cover (provided by talented artist Edwardian Taylor)! Thanks for the continued fun, gentlemen.

 

 

 

I must go and read now. It’s Monday! What are YOU reading?

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…you just might discover your next “must-read” book!

Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and Jen Vincent, at Teach Mentor Texts decided to give It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit – join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.