Friday, November 17, 2017

thinking about the movie WONDER & the portrayal of disability

I have not seen the movie adaptation of Wonder yet (release date is Friday 11/17), but I know that many many of our students will see this movie and talk about it. Reading the book continues to be a powerful experience for many kids (read here about our experience). I am looking forward to seeing the movie, but I want to think carefully about the way it portrays disability.

Here are a few resources you might be interested in reading:
The crux of the question that critics are raising is the choice surrounding the visual portrayal Auggie's disability, which author Palacio never specifically described in the book. What is the impact of the choices made? Does the portrayal accurately represent the experience of disabled people? Or does it soften the experience to make it more palatable for mainstream audiences?

In particular, critics are question the choice to use makeup to change actor Jacob Tremblay's appearance to represent Auggie's disability. Betsy Bird contrasts this with the decision made by the directors of Wonderstruck to cast Millicent Simmonds, a child actor who is deaf.

Does using makeup portray Auggie's disability as a costume that one can put on and take off? In my own viewing of the trailer, the movie does not match my imagination as I read the book; I had imagined Auggie's face as looking more impacted by his disability. But I'm not sure that matters.

Regardless, I truly believe these are important questions to ask our children as they watch and talk about the movie and the book.

An excellent resource to follow is Disability in Kid Lit. This blog "is dedicated to discussing the portrayal of disability in middle grade and young adult literature... from the disabled perspective." Their most recent review looks at the portrayal of autism in A Boy Called Bat, a book that many students throughout Berkeley are reading as part of our Mock Newbery Book Clubs.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

#Road2Reading suggestions for beginning readers & chapter books (ages 6-9)

Our panel discussion at AASL was fascinating. As Fran Manushkin noted, series provide her with friends for life as a young reader. She loved the Betsy, Tacy and Tib stories:
"Because there was more than one book about Betsy, Tacy and Tib, they became my friends! I got to know so much about them, and I could revisit these stories whenever I needed the comfort of an alternate family. I was mastering reading and I was finding a great source of continuity and comfort.

To me, this is the glory of series books for beginning readers: as the boys and girls build reading confidence, these new readers also find a new collection of friends, and these friends keep them reading. Reading confidence an a bunch of new friends: this is a double whammy of joy!"
I especially loved the range of ideas that panelists and the audience suggested for books to share with beginning readers. Below I have embedded the Padlet that we created during this session. Feel free to add other suggestions if you'd like.
Made with Padlet
If you want to keep exploring books for beginning readers, definitely check out these resources:
©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Reading on my own! Beginning reader series @AASL17 (ages 6-9)

Today I’m moderating a panel: Reading On My Own! Beginning Reader Series. We will talk with Megan McDonald (Judy Moody), Fran Manushkin (Katie Woo), Dori Butler (Kayla & King) and Richard Haynes (Slingshot & Burp) about writing for kids who are just beginning their reading journeys.
These authors sparkling with humor and wit, and they create books that are accessible and supportive for new readers. For these readers, a series helps create a comfortable, predictable story environment, but these authors' fresh, funny stories keep readers coming back wanting to read more.

Please add to this padlet (padlet.com/greatkidbooks/aasl17) and share ideas on terrific books to share with developing readers. Our readers at this stage need to read such a volume of books, that we need to help our developing readers find more to read. I like to think of them as book friends.

Follow along the tweets to hear all about the conversation: #AASL17 #Road2Reading.


©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

#AASL17: School librarians leading, teaching and learning together

This week, school librarians from across the US are coming to Phoenix for the National Conference of the Association of American School Librarians. As conference co-chair, I've worked over the past two years with an amazing committee and staff to help plan this event that brings together the leaders in our profession.

I'm excited to see friends, to meet new librarians, and stretch my thinking about how we can meet the needs of students and teachers. I also want to encourage librarians who aren't able to come to join the #NOTATAASL conversation -- see all about it on Joyce Valenza's blog The Neverending Search.

This is the only nationwide conference that focus specifically on our unique roles as teachers and librarians. As a school librarian, I have one foot firmly in the world of books and literacy development, and the other foot in the world of technology and information. This conference helps me think more deeply about both worlds.

As a co-chair of AASL’s National Conference, I’ve tried to ensure that our programs meet the diverse needs of our members as they support students and teachers across the nation. Whether you’re interested in diversity and equity issues, technology and digital literacy, or research and inquiry, I hope the conference will help you think more deeply about your practice.

On Saturday, I’m moderating a panel: Reading On My Own! Beginning Reader Series. We will talk with Megan McDonald (Judy Moody), Fran Manushkin (Katie Woo), Dori Butler (Kayla & King) and Richard Haynes (Slingshot & Burp) about writing for kids who are just beginning their reading journeys. These authors sparkling with humor and wit, and they create books that are accessible and supportive for new readers. For these readers, a series helps create a comfortable, predictable story environment, but these authors' fresh, funny stories keep readers coming back wanting to read more.

Here are some more sessions I'm especially excited about:
If you're coming to conference, I hope to be able to say hi and learn more about your school library. If you aren't able to come, please reach out on Twitter using the hashtag #AASL17 and #NOTATAASL.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, November 6, 2017

The People Shall Continue, by Simon J. Ortiz -- powerful poetic celebration of the struggles of Native Americans (ages 9-12)

In honor of Native American Heritage Month, I am especially looking forward to sharing The People Shall Continue with our students. This powerful poetic tribute celebrates the struggles of Indigenous peoples in America. Simon J. Ortiz is a writer of the Acoma Pueblo tribe and originally published this picture book in 1977; Lee & Low has recently republished it in both English and Spanish.
The People Shall Continue / El Pueblo seguirá
by Simon J. Ortiz
illustrated by Sharol Graves
Children's Book Press / Lee & Low, reprint 2017
Amazon / Local libraryTeachers guide
ages 9-12
Ortiz uses the rhythms of traditional oral storytelling to share the history of Indigenous peoples of North America. He begins with Creation: "Many, many years ago, all things came to be." As the People were born, they came to live across the land. The leaders, healers and hunters all had special roles serving and caring for the People.
"The teachers and the elders of the People
all taught this important knowledge:
'The Earth is the source of all life.'"
Throughout, Ortiz recognizes that life has always been hard. This struggle is part of life, essential and yet not romanticized. Elders told the People: "We should not ever take anything for granted. / In order for our life to continue, / we must struggle very hard for it."

But soon, their lands were invaded by strange men seeking treasures, slaves and domination. In the South, the Spanish "caused destruction among the People." In the East, the English, French, and Dutch arrived, teaching about “a God whom all should obey” and taking over fertile land for their own crops. Ortiz powerfully recounts resistance from many tribes, from the Pueblo to the Shawnee. "Warriors who resisted and fought / to keep the American colonial power from taking their lands."

Ortiz shows how the People persisted and continue to keep their culture alive. They told their children, “You are Shawnee. You are Lakota. You are Pima. You Acoma. . . . You are all these Nations of the People.” Beliefs and customs formed the bedrock of the People's culture, as they reached out and found solidarity with other oppressed people.

In a new author's note, Ortiz reflects how this story is still relevant today, specifically connecting it to the Standing Rock tribal community of Sioux peoples in North Dakota and the struggle to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline.

This remarkable picture book balances hard truths with hopeful celebration. With his poetic voice, Ortiz recognizes the struggle and oppression, yet assures readers that by standing together and sharing our humanity, we can ensure that the People will continue.
“A healing introduction, respectful reflection, profound and poetic celebration of the drumbeat, the heartbeat of Native Nations–past, present and future.” — Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee), New York Times bestselling author
The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Lee & Low. 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.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, October 8, 2017

You Bring the Distant Near, by Mitali Perkins -- a shining intergenerational story of immigration and identity (ages 12-16)

Like Mitali Perkins' family, my own family's story spans continents and generations. This weekend, my father is at a ceremony honoring the oldest Jewish cemetery in Moravia, near his family's home in the Czech Republic. I know too well the gains and losses that come with immigration. You Bring the Distant Near, Mitali Perkins' outstanding new book, speaks to me deeply. This story spans three generations of Bengali women as they immigrate to America and create a home here.
You Bring the Distant Near
by Mitali Perkins
Farrar Straus Giroux / Macmillan, 2017
Amazon / public library / Google Books preview
ages 12-16
*best new book*
Inspired by her own experiences immigrating as a young teen in the 1970s, Mitali Perkins weaves together an intergenerational story of Ranee Das, her teenage daughters Sonia and Tara, and then later their own daughters. When Sonia and Tara move to New York as teenagers, they must navigate the possibilities that new opportunities might bring while they are acutely aware of the cultural expectations of their Bengali parents.

It's the small moments of these women's lives that make this book resonate so deeply with me. Recently, I heard Mitali speak about her story and these small moments came rushing back to me. Out of context, it's hard to capture them, but added all together, they give you a full sense of characters whose story arcs will stay with me for a long time.

The Horn Book asked Mitali what she hopes the Das family’s story shows today’s readers about family, love, culture, and country? Mitali answered:
"America inevitably “brings the distant near” because apart from members of the Native Nations, all of us originated in faraway places. Sadly, proximity within the United States doesn’t automatically generate friendship. But if we choose to cross borders that may at first bring discomfort and open our hearts to those who seem like strangers, I believe that we can be transformed and united as individuals, families, communities, and even as a country.

The title of this novel comes from a poem/prayer written by the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore. My sister recited it in both English and Bangla during my California wedding (to a “foreign” boy!) at the request of our grandfather in Calcutta, India. It translates like this: “You have made me known to friends whom I knew not. You have given me seats in homes not my own. You have brought the distant near and made a brother of the stranger…When one knows You, then there is no alien, and no door is shut.” I hope and pray that despite an unhealed past full of atrocities and deep divisions in the present, God can and will make “the distant near” and a “brother of the stranger” in America’s future."
This novel shines with strong sisterhood, humor and meaningful reflections on family, culture and identity. I came away from this story thinking more deeply about what connects us all, how our lives can bring us close to people in our communities, and how we must reach across borders to see each other as humans.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Macmillan, and I have already purchased many additional copies for friends and family. 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.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books