Worth Reading: Round 3

As you know, we are living in contentious times. Marches and protests abound, as do accusations of fake news. How does the library fit into this world?

Teen Librarian Toolbox tweeted several suggestions, all of which are posted here. Included are purchase diverse books and create source analysis documents for users.

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The University of Minnesota put together an immigration syllabus that “seeks to provide historical context to current debates over immigration reform, integration, and citizenship.”

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I created a book review article for our county’s local paper about immigration stories, ranging from current Somali and Hmong immigrant/refugee stories to the Swedish immigration stories of the 1800s. Encouraging our users to read outside of their comfort zone is important.

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Many organizations have crafted infographics detailing how to tell if a news source is accurate, biased or fake. IFLA has a nice blog post summarizing the issue and including some resources for libraries.

Mock Caldecott

I attended my very first Mock Caldecott discussion on the 8th (this really delayed, I know). Fortunately, I’d read most of the titles in my rush to read all the Goodreads best of picture books, and in my perusal of other “best of” lists. It’s interesting, however, to note that the actual winner (and only one of the four official honor books was included) was not discussed at all in our meeting. The titles discussed are as follows:

Medal winner: Erin E. Stead for The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas

Honor: Brendan Wenzel for The All Saw a Cat

Honor: Beth Krommes for Before Morning by Joyce Sidman

Honor: Nick Wroblewski for Wake Up, Island by Mary Casanova

Honor: Yuyi Morales for Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie

Honor: Christian Robinson for School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex

Tessa Blackham for Monday is Wash Day by Maryann Sundby

The Fan Brothers for The Midnight Gardner

Dan Santant for Are we There Yet?

Evan Turk for The Storyteller

While I don’t agree with the winner (I liked Before Morning and School’s First Day of School) much more, the process was fascinating! We each voted for four titles, with a weighted vote (our first choice gets more points etc), so there’s less of a chance for ties. We also discussed in great detail, the gutters, continuity (in School’s First Day of School a little girl draws a picture and on the next page, when it is hung up on the teacher’s bulletin board, the sun has changed locations), and whitespace. Many things I have to admit, I had not looked at before.

Hopefully next year, I can also participate in the Mock Newbery! I hope to be more on top of things this year, read the books as they come out.

And the Winner is….

Today is the day! The Youth Media Awards (YMA) were announced this morning at the ALA Midwinter Conference in Atlanta. For more information on the awards themselves and the various honor books, check out School Library Journal, The Horn Book and The American Library Association.

The Newbery goes to… 

Kelly Barnhill for The Girl Who Drank the Moon

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(Goodreads summary)

Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the forest, Xan, is kind and gentle. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster named Glerk and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon, Fyrian. Xan rescues the abandoned children and deliver them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey.

One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this enmagicked girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. To keep young Luna safe from her own unwieldy power, Xan locks her magic deep inside her. When Luna approaches her thirteenth birthday, her magic begins to emerge on schedule–but Xan is far away. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Soon, it is up to Luna to protect those who have protected her–even if it means the end of the loving, safe world she’s always known.

The acclaimed author of The Witch’s Boy has created another epic coming-of-age fairy tale destined to become a modern classic.

The Caldecott goes to…

Javaka Steptoe for Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat

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(Goodreads summary)

Jean-Michael Basquiat and his unique, collage-style paintings rocked to fame in the 1980s as a cultural phenomenon unlike anything the art work had ever seen. But before that, he was a little boy who saw art everywhere: in poetry books and museums, in games and in the words that we speak, and in the pulsing energy of New York City. Now, award-winning illustrator Javaka Steptoe’s vivid text and bold artwork echoing Basquiat’s own introduce young readers to the powerful message and art doesn’t always have to be neat or clean–and definitely not inside the lines–to be beautiful.

The Printz AND the

Correta Scott King Award go to

John Lewis and Andrew Aydin for March: Book Three

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(Goodreads summary)

Welcome to the stunning conclusion of the award-winning and best-selling MARCH trilogy. Congressman John Lewis, an American icon and one of the key figures of the civil rights movement, joins co-writer Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell to bring the lessons of history to vivid life for a new generation, urgently relevant for today’s world.

Best Books of 2016: Goodreads (picture books)

While voting on the Goodreads Best of 2016 lists this year, I realized I’ve read very few. Given that I noticed this in late November or early December there was not a lot I could do to alleviate the problem. The wait list for The Underground Railroad and Truly, Madly, Guilty and The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo are massive! I could, however, read all the picture books my library owned. And so I did.

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My thoughts are as follows. Starting with the winner:

The Thank You Book by Mo Willems

I love Elephant and Piggie, I really do. I’m so sad they are leaving us. And while I think The Thank You Book is a sweet tribute to the readers of the series, it’s not my favorite of the bunch. However, We are in a Book! Is pretty hard to top.

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel, illustrated by T. Ryder Smith

The concept is great– everyone sees the same thing a bit differently. The illustrations are also wonderful. But, for whatever reason, it didn’t wow me like it did my coworker.

Are We There Yet? By Dan Santat

This is a very clever story about boring car rides and the passage of time. I especially enjoyed the use of the book itself (having to turn the book itself upside down).

What do you do with a Problem? By Kobi Yamada, illustrated by Mae Besom

I’m torn, because I love the illustrations and the idea of facing problems is something kids should learn and discuss. I especially like that the problem is not named, so it can be anything.

However, it seems overly didactic to me. Not all problems affecting kids can be tackled as simply as this book implies.


Ida, Always
by Caron Levis, illustrated by Charles Santoso

An absolutely beautiful story about friendship and and the loss of said friend. I cried.

A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers, illustrated by Sam Winston

My library doesn’t carry this book and I apparently am awful about remembering to pick up holds at non-work libraries.

Nobody Likes a Goblin by Ben Hatke

A fun story about a goblin and other fairy tale villains. While not bad, it wasn’t anything special.

Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts

This is another my library doesn’t carry, which is unfortunate, because I’m already loving the female scientist.

Otter Goes to School by Sam Garton

How did I not know about Otter until now? She’s adorable! I want an otter! I love the clever humor that’s fun for adults but still accessible to children. Also, the illustrations are amazing! To me it reads very much like Winnie the Pooh (which makes sense, Garton is also British).

We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen

Not bad, but hard not to compare We Found a Hat to the previous I Want My Hat Back and This is Not My Hat, which are delightfully dark.

Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Yuyi Morales

I absolutely love Alexie’s YA novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, but this is the only other piece I’ve read by him. This picture book about a boy who doesn’t like his name is a fun, relatable read. However, there are some criticisms, which are worth mulling over.

When Green  Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Julie Morstad

I love the illustrations! Many of the poems are wonderful.

I especially like “December 29.”

“and I woke/ to a morning/ that was quiet/ and white/ the first snow/ (just like magic) came/ on tiptoes/ overnight.

Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian, illustrated by Mike Curato

When I first started reading I was bored. The words are simple and so are the illustrations. However, as I kept reading, it struck me. This book is deep! It also subtly promotes acceptance of different sexualites and orientations and differences in general, without being “a teaching book.” The worms are what they are.

Snappsy the Alligator by Julie Falatko, illustrated by Tim Miller

This was by far my least favorite of the  bunch. It felt like Falatko and Miller tried to be Mo Willems and failed. This type of humor is difficult to pull of successfully and breaking the fourth wall is oftentimes very confusing (unless you’re Mo Willems or William Goldman). Also, the illustrations were way too busy, with no clear focus.

School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex, illustrated by Christian Robinson

I’ve already written about this picture book, but it’s seriously one of my favorites. Almost makes me want to go back to school. Also, I adore Christian Robinson’s collage like illustrations.

A Hungry Lion, or a Dwindling Assortment of Animals by Lucy Ruth Cummins

The title alludes to it all. Gotta love a dark picture book when it’s so tongue in cheek.

Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley, illustrated by Lauren Castillo

This is a very sweet bed time story, but the best part is the diverse family. It’s just there. I love that it’s never mentioned because diverse families are everywhere and books with diverse families shouldn’t only be “issue books.”

Flora and the Peacocks by Molly Idle

Beautiful wordless picture book. The only issue I have (solely  from a library point of view), is that those poor pull out pages will get destroyed. Other than that, the illustrations and dance tell a lovely story about sharing and friendship.

King Baby by Kate Beaton

Yet another (only three!) that I did not get my hands on.

Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell, illustrated by Rafael Lopez

I like that this book is based on true events, and the illustrations are very interesting (and very reminiscent of the original murals). However, the story is so-so.

The Ms. Elizabeth’s Libraryland winner? It’s hard to choose, because many are so wonderful. But, currently, my favorite is Ida, Always by Caron Levis, illustrated by Charles Santoso.

Best Books of 2016: Publishers Weekly

Picture Books

There are many repeat books on the various lists. Here are a few I read (and some that I enjoyed) that are not on School Library Journal’s list.

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Before Morning by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beth Krommes

I love the woodblock like illustrations. It reminds me a bit of Betsy Bowen’s picture books (which I love). However, the story itself is not my favorite. It’s not bad, but not mindblowing.

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The Journey by Francesca Sanna

The illustrations are breathtaking. As is the story. And it is so so so so relevant.

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Leave Me Alone by Vera Brosgol

A simple and clever story with folktale inspirations. Would make a fantastic storytime book.

Middle Grade

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Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

Not my favorite of Telgemeier’s. My review here.

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Ms. Bixby’s Last Day of School by John David Anderson

I haven’t read this yet, but I’m really excited about it! Just picked it up today.

Young Adult

The only one the list I read is Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys, but I already talked about that here and here.

I just picked up Unbecoming by Jenny Downham from the library today and I’ve heard great things about The Sun is Also a StarWhich is now officially added to my TBR list.

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Worth Reading: Kindness

As you know, we elected a new president on Tuesday. Given the turmoil surrounding the election and the violent hate crimes that are now on the rise, it is more important than ever for libraries to promote inclusiveness and be a safe space for our communities.

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One easy way I (and other libraries) are doing this is by promoting kindness through displays (mine shown above), passive programming and storytime. Below are links to various lists and blog posts and resources for promoting kindness and openness in your library.

The children’s literature community response to the 2016 Election Results.

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https://twitter.com/The_Pigeon

Children’s Books that Champion Kindness

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A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Philip C. Stead

ALSC’s “Unity. Kindness. Peace. Booklist”

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How To Heal a Broken Wing by Bob Graham

Graphic Novelist Rain Telgemeier’s #kidlitsafetypins coloring pages

Worth Reading

I’ve come across several fascinating blog posts and articles that relate to Library Land.

From Malinda Lo’s Blog:

“Should white people write about people of color?” It’s an oldie but goodie, and still so relevant, and a much needed discussion in the quest for Diverse Books.

This doesn’t mean that it’s okay to blithely write whatever the hell you want about a culture that isn’t yours. Writers who are writing outside of their culture do have to work extra hard to research that culture, because they have much farther to go to get to the kind of instinctual knowledge of it that allows someone to hear my Chinese name and feel that it sounds poetic.

From Mother Jones:

“The uncomfortable truth about children’s books”

Some diversity advocates fear that the vitriol of the internet attacks will give pause to skittish writers and publishers. “For me, the biggest issue is the chill on diversity that is happening because of the feeling that it is okay to destroy people on social media,” Taylor-Butler told me. “We have lost the perspective that these are books and they are going to be imperfect.”

This comment is particularly relevant in light of the Anti Semetic Twitter and Goodreads attacks author Laura Silverman* received for her, as of yet, unpublished book Girl Out of Water. Thankfully by now many of the comments are gone, but it sounds like Neo Nazis trolled her account spewing hateful comments and reviews and attacking authors who supported Silverman.

*It’s kind of buried at this point, but definitely worth finding.

In my Internet perusals I also came across this infographic, which I think really highlights the need for diverse books. I specifically remember reading in a storytime book for grad school about “children in animal costumes” or something to that effect. Basically, if the picture book was about a turtle or pig or mouse character (Franklin, Maisy, Olivia) children could better identify with the character as it could be anybody. While I personally don’t see a problem with animal protagonists in children’s stories (or adult for that matter) those characters should not be created at the expense of diversity. The fact that American Indians/First nations make up less than 1% of characters in children’s books is just sad.

From the BBC:

“The secret libraries of history”

This one is really cool. The history and importance of libraries is so fascinating to me (shocker, I know).