Sunday, September 28, 2014

Leroy Ninker Saddles Up, by Kate DiCamillo and Chris Van Dusen (ages 5-9)

Our first and second graders are crazy about Mercy Watson, the adorable, butter-loving pig from Kate DiCamillo's series of early chapter books. And they're going to love, love, love Leroy Ninker Saddles Up, the first in DiCamillo's companion series Tales from Deckawoo Drive. Sequels and spinoffs are no sure thing; but DiCamillo had me smiling and laughing all the way through this new adventure.
Leroy Ninker Saddles Up
by Kate DiCamillo
illustrated by Chris Van Dusen
Candlewick, 2014
Google Books preview
Your local library
Amazonages 5-9
*best new book*
Leroy may be a small man, but he has big dreams of being a cowboy--a real cowboy like he sees in the movies. But--as his coworker at the drive-in movie theater tells him--every cowboy needs a horse. He's got to "take fate in (his) hands and wrestle it to the ground." And with this inspiration, Leroy sets out to find himself a horse and a loyal friend.
When Leroy finds Maybelline, we wonder if she's the right horse for him. We can certainly see in Van Dusen's drawings that she doesn't look like an ideal horse. And yet, Leroy understands exactly what she wants: plenty of compliments, lots of food and loyal companionship. That isn't too much for anyone to ask, is it?

Leroy and Maybelline's mishaps, from a tiny apartment balcony to a rain-sodden chase scene, will bring lots of laughter from listeners and readers alike. But it's Leroy's devotion and Maybelline's happiness that will stick with readers. Just look at him bounding over this fence as he races to find her:
Leroy Ninker Saddles Up is a longer chapter book than the Mercy Watson series. It will make a great read-aloud to first graders who are reading Mercy Watson on their own. Second and third graders who loved Mercy last year will get a hoot reading Leroy Ninker now. There's definitely more text, fewer illustrations and more challenging words.

If you want to explore, read some of Leroy Ninker Saddles Up in the Google Books preview:


The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Candlewick Books, but I've already purchased three more copies to share with teachers and families. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Celebrating the wonderful RAIN in California: Rain, by Linda Ashman & Christian Robinson (ages 4-8)

I woke up to the sound of soft rain this morning and savored the small moment. It made me think of a lovely book that all our Berkeley school libraries have: Rain, by Linda Ashman, illustrated by Christian Robinson. I absolutely adore this book, especially for the way both author and illustrator notice small moments.
Rain
by Linda Ashman
illustrated by Christian Robinson
Houghton Mifflin, 2013
Your local library
Amazon
ages 4-8
Rain tells the story of two very different people’s reaction to a rainy day. The illustrations are full of details that kids notice and can talk about. A happy little boy and a grumpy old man wake up to a rainy morning, and each immediately react to the prospect of putting on their rain gear. The old man says, “Nasty galoshes. Blasted overcoat.” The little guy, on the other hand, tells his mom, “It’s raining frogs and pollywogs!”
interior from Rain, by Linda Ashman & Christian Robinson
They each go their own way until they meet in a cafe. Kids will love noticing what happens when the little boy offers his cookie to the old man. Will the grumpy old man refuse, or will the young boy’s enthusiasm win the day?

I loved talking with students about how the author noticed small moment details in the dialog and how the artist noticed small moment details in his illustrations. Students are talking about "small moments" as they craft their own stories, as a way to flesh out details in creative writing. Our 2nd graders noticed so many details, from the emotions of other customers in the cafe, to the interactions between the boy and the shop keeper.
Christian Robinson at Emerson, May 2014
The illustrator Christian Robinson visited all Berkeley elementary schools last year, thanks to a grant from the Berkeley Public Schools Fund, and so many students will be able to remember the story and meeting the artist. He is absolutely delightful.

For a bit of fun, check out his website: theartoffun.com and notice how small moments can be captured in words as well as pictures. This image (from Robinson’s Fall 2014 Publisher’s Weekly cover) is not from the book, but it is a small moment that has me smiling this morning.

Christian Robinson at Emerson School, May 2014
The review copy comes from our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, September 22, 2014

Libraries champion our freedom! Helping our students understand their freedom to read (ages 8-12)

Freedom is an essential element of democracy, and the freedom to read is a cornerstone of American democracy. And yet how do we help our children understand the importance of this fundamental right? Abstract declarations are pretty hard for kids to grasp, but they will get immediately involved if they start considering a concrete example that relates to them.

When I explained today that many schools ban Captain Underpants because it uses offensive language, our 5th graders were outraged! They told me that was just awful, and that kids should definitely be able to read Captain Underpants. They were incredulous that Harry Potter had been banned in schools and libraries. Pretty quickly, they could see why it is so important to stand up for our freedom to read what we want.

Libraries across the US champion our freedom each and every day. This week, we band together to defend that freedom and celebrate Banned Books Week. If you want more information, I'd highly recommend looking at these resources:
Our overall right is important to me, but I care most about how books impact individual kids. We need a wide range of books in our libraries because we need to connect so many different kids with books that make a difference to each and every one of them.

Tim Federle talks about how librarians are fierce champions of the First Amendment. Better Nate than Ever, one of my favorite novels of the last few years, tells the story of a kid who loves, loves, loves Broadway shows and takes a daring overnight trip to New York to audition for a Broadway musical. Tim won both a Stonewall Honor Award (portraying GLBT experience) and the Odyssey Honor Award (audiobook) for Nate. Tonight, Tim posted on Twitter this letter he's received from a fan:
Here's a section from the letter:
"It was so amazing to read books where the main character was like me when I was that age. His borderline-obsession with musical theater and his difficulty accepting his feelings was so relatable and to see such a character be front and center in a book easily available to kids is something I'm just so grateful for. It was the first time I'd ever seen myself in book pages, and I just wanted to say thank you very much."
As we celebrate Banned Books Week, I just want to pause for a moment to think about what this young man said. Not only was he able to relate to this story, but it was readily available for kids. That's the thing -- we need to provide these opportunities for our students to discover themselves in our shelves, with books that are available and easy to find.

Take a moment to share with your kids why this is important to you. Make the idea of our freedom to read palpable and concrete for your kids. And next time you see your librarian, tell them that she or he is your favorite superhero: CHAMPION OF FREEDOM.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Friday, September 19, 2014

Tech access in our libraries: making an impact on a limited budget -- #ALSC14

As a school librarian, I love helping kids and teachers discover the opportunities that technology offers for learning, creating and engaging with the world. Whether it's through the power of creating a multimedia presentation about a book they've loved, or the fun of competing with friends while kids play math games online, technology offers our children opportunities to learn in new ways.

Many schools are offering "one-to-one" programs where each child has their own personal computing device, whether it's a laptop, iPad or Chromebook. But in California, we operate on a very limited budget. So my question has been: how can I make an impact as a school librarian by looking for smaller funding opportunities? How can I increase access to technology in smaller, incremental ways?
With this in mind, I am presenting at this year's ALSC Institute a session called "Tech Access on a Budget". This conference is for children's librarians across the United States, through a division of the American Library Association called ALSC: Association for Library Services to Children. I wanted to share our presentation here.

I am presenting with three other dynamic, smart, passionate women and have learned so much creating this presentation. Talk about the power of technology -- we had never met in person before we showed up 30 minutes before our presentation! All of our connections had been through email, Google video chats and conference calls.
Cen Campbell is the founder of LittleeLit.com, "a crowd-sourced, grass-roots professional learning network that works to develop promising practices for the incorporation of new media into library collections, services and programs for families with young children." This is a terrific resource for librarians. I first reached out to Cen because of her work with young children in a public library setting, and I wanted to combine our school and public library perspectives. Cen was a member of ALSC's Children and Technology Committee and I'm a member of AASL's Best Apps Committee.

Suzanne Flint is a child development expert who works for the California State Library, helping administer the federal grants provided by the Library Services and Technology Act. She has provided an invaluable perspective both as a funder and as a child development expert. Suzanne and Cen have worked together developing the initiative: Early Learning with Families 2.0.

Claudia Haines is a children's librarian at Homer Public Library in Homer, Alaska, in rural south-central Alaska. Integrating interactive digital media into offerings like storytime is part of Claudia’s efforts to inspire kids to use a variety of tools to create and explore at the library. Definitely check out Claudia's blog, Never Shushed.
We had our first presentation yesterday and are presenting again today. We know that many librarians cannot travel to the ALSC Institute -- please share this with librarians you think would be interested. And I know we would all be happy to answer any questions you have about our experiences increasing children's access to technology in developmentally appropriate ways.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Andrea Davis Pinkney to visit Berkeley students: Friday, September 19th

One of my great joys is connecting students with authors who inspire them. The moment I first read Andrea Davis Pinkney's Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America, her voice filled me with hope and song. I knew I wanted to share that same voice with students in Berkeley. And so I'm thrilled that she will be visiting this week, speaking at an elementary school, a middle school, and with families at a fireside chat.
A lot of work goes into arranging an author visit like this, but most important is getting the students excited about meeting her. I want to give students a sense of the author's work and what she's like as a person before they meet her. We're sharing this presentation throughout Berkeley schools:


I especially like sharing resources from TeachingBooks.net with my students -- listening to how authors pronounce their name, hearing their voice, and watching videos. My students really liked the variety of images I was able to share -- from pictures of Andrea with her family to illustrations from her books.

It's a busy week here in Berkeley, as we get ready to host several author visits -- Andrea Davis Pinkney, Rita Williams Garcia and Jacqueline Briggs Martin. They're all in town for the ALSC Institute. We feel incredibly lucky to be able to connect these inspiring authors with our students.

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

In the Rainforest, by Kate Duke (Let's Read and Find Out Science, stage 2) (ages 5-9)

Many kids love learning about different regions of the world. In fact, one of the real highlights of the perennially popular Magic Treehouse series is that Jack and Annie can visit so many places just by wishing. So I'm thrilled that there's a new volume in the terrific series Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science.
In the Rainforest
Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science, stage 2
by Kate Duke
HarperCollins, 2014
Your local library
Amazon
ages 5-9
Have you ever wanted to visit the tropical rainforest? Well, be sure to bring along your bug repellent, waterproof backpack and notebook. Duke draws kids right into her informative book by having a two kids join a guide as they explore a tropical rainforest. Speech bubbles keep the tone fun and casual, while the main text is more traditional informative nonfiction.
"Ready for a tour of a tropical rainforest? Come on--the trip starts here."
Readers learn about what a tropical rainforest is like, both in terms of its ecology as well as the animals and plants that live there. Throughout, Duke helps readers compare tropical rainforests to forests in temperate climates. For example, as you can see in the spread above, she illustrates that a tropical rainforest will typically get ten times as much rainfall as a temperate climate.

This book works well both as a read-aloud and as a book for young students to browse through themselves. The pictures, captions and dialog boxes are all very informative and easier to read because of their conversational tone. For example, in the picture below the young girl says, "Hey, my sneakers are still dry. I thought a rainforest would be like a swamp."
"The thick layer of leaves up above keeps a lot of the rain from getting down here, except during the rainiest months."
I wholeheartedly agree with the Kirkus review of In the Rainforest:
"Duke’s friendly cartoons effectively communicate the immense variety of plant and animal life found in rain forests and feature cutaway views and close-ups in several spreads."
My first and second graders at Emerson are going to love this book. Last year, we had a group of 2nd graders who formed a book club to learn all about rainforests together. They loved reading Afternoon on the Amazon (Magic Treehouse book #6) so much that they wanted to learn more about the Amazon rain forest. The teacher encouraged nonfiction book clubs so students could build their knowledge of different topics in a small group. It was a great success.

If you like this, I'd highly recommend another favorite nonfiction picture book: No Monkeys, No Chocolate, by Melissa Stewart and Allen Young. This book also uses colorful artwork with a cartoonish feel and a blend of conversational dialog and informational text. The authors take readers on a journey from cocoa pod, following the life cycle of the tree back to stems, roots and beans. Throughout, they weave in the concept of the interdependence of plants and animals.
The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, HarperCollins. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books