Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Picture books are for everyone - sharing and celebrating with all readers

Picture books have a wonderful way of drawing children into their stories. Children of all ages love listening to stories read aloud, looking at pictures, reading picture books themselves or with their parents. Some parents might think that kids grow out of picture books, but I really see 13 and 14 year olds loving picture books as much as 6 and 7 year olds.

“Picture books are the connective tissue between a parent and a child. …you stop everything, snuggle up on the couch or the floor and share a story.” – John Rocco, 2012 Caldecott Honor Winner, from his Picture Book Month essay

This month marks the 2nd annual Picture Book Month. Cosponsored by many national literacy organizations, this celebration has caught the imagination of schools, libraries, booksellers, and book lovers across the globe as they come together to celebrate the print picture book. Read more about how librarians across the country are celebrating in this School Library Journal article.

At our school, we are taking time to focus on reading picture books with our older readers in 3rd, 4th and 5th grade. So often by the time kids become proficient readers around 3rd grade, they feel that they've moved beyond picture books. But there are powerful, moving picture books just right for these older students.

We are reading the California Young Reader Medal nominees for picture books for older readers with our 3rd graders They are having fun participating in an election where their vote counts. So far, they have loved reading Marissa Moss's Nurse, Soldier, Spy: The Story of Sarah Edmonds, a Civil War Hero and Brian Dennis's Nubs: The True Story of a Mutt, a Marine & a Miracle. We're talking about what makes a good picture book for older readers - not just illustrations, but how the illustrations and book design add to the story, creating movement, emotion and interest. We've talked about character development and story tension - all elements they're looking for in good stories, no matter the length.

We are focusing on Jacqueline Woodson's amazing picture books with our 4th and 5th graders. My students are completely drawn into her stories, appreciating the language, character development and emotions. I'm also really appreciating how many elements of the Common Core State Standards can be incorporated into these discussions.

For example, when we read Visiting Day, students were able to practice referring to specific details in the text and illustrations as they inferred that Maya's father was in prison (a fact the text does not explicitly state). Because of their spare language, picture books often require readers to infer meaning. We practice these skills with a meaningful picture book as a group, and then we can talk about them in reading workshop conferences one on one with students as they apply these skills to longer books they're reading.

What picture books do you like to read with your children? Do you find that your older children still enjoy reading picture books? How has their taste changed as they have gotten older?

I'm looking forward to visiting the Picture Book Month website throughout the month of November. Each day will feature a new essay by a range of amazing authors, illustrators and librarians. As founder Dianne de Las Casas said, “Not only are picture books alive and well, they are thriving. Picture books are not just an early childhood step to literacy, they are little pieces of emotion and childhood wrapped in a beautiful, page-turning package. November is Picture Book Month. Read * Share * Celebrate!”

The books shared here are from our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, October 29, 2012

Scary books for struggling readers (ages 9 - 12)

Do you know a kid who bounces from book to book, never really settling into a story? Several of my students struggle with picking books. They can't find ones that interest them that are at their reading level. One of my 5th graders, Carl, has tried out a new series and loves it: Return to the Library of Doom. He's sharing it with his friends, and it's spreading through his class.

Return to the Library of Doom, by Michael Dahl, is a series designed for older students who still struggle with reading. The sentences are short, direct and clear. The action moves at a fast pace, with little distracting descriptions. There is plenty of spacing between lines, so kids can track the words easily. Best of all, from their point of view, the stories are creepy and exciting, filled with bold illustrations that remind them of the comic books they love.
Killer App
Return to the Library of Doom
by Michael Dahl
illustrated by Bradford Kendall
Capstone / Stone Arch, 2012
ages 9 - 12
available on Amazon and your local library
Google Book preview
My favorite in the series is Killer App. When Carl first read this, he said to his teacher that it's the best book he's ever read. That's saying a whole lot from Carl, a whole lot.
Four teens are driving along a desert highway when one shows his girlfriend an app that sends him "really FREAKY horror stories." When they start to download one, they notice a black cloud of ravens headed toward them.
"The dark cloud grows larger and larger. Savage screams pierce the air."
This type of direct writing pulls in students who want a suspenseful story, but who cannot wade through long descriptions. The design of the book also draws in my 5th graders. They love the illustrations, the drawings on the words, the whole look and feel of the books is "cool." And that coolness factor counts a lot, especially for kids who don't think reading is very cool. Take a look at one of the pages from the Google Preview:

In the next chapter, a group of motorcyclists find the phone next to the abandoned car covered with scratches. The mystery builds as these kids try to escape the ravens and hide in an deserted gas station. I enjoyed its inventive twist of modern technology, the frightening gore of attacking birds, and the references to classic movies and books. I laughed when the Librarian saved the day, saying, "Only horror can defeat horror."

This series will hook readers, it will keep them glued to the pages. Dahl's writing does not provide much character development, but his stories can provide the structure for students to practice active reading skills. Watching my 5th graders pass them from friend to friend makes this Librarian smile.

Carl and I nominated Killer App for the Cybils Early Chapter Book Award. The Lexile level of this book is 380, and the Guided Reading Level is an L. While the reading level is appropriate for students reading at a 2nd grade level, it is designed for 4th through 8th graders.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Capstone / Stone Arch Books. We so appreciate their supporting our readers as they seek out new, exciting series to share with their friends. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Last Laughs: Animal Epitaphs, by J. Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen - Dark humor for Halloween (ages 8-12)

I enjoy sweet, funny picture books, but every so often I love wickedly funny books that make me laugh and cringe at the same time. If you're looking for something a little different for kids ages 8 to 12, check out Last Laughs: Animal Epitaphs. Kids who like puns and dark humor will have fun with these gruesome poems, marking the unfortunate ends of all types of animals.

Last Laughs: Animal Epitaphs
illustrated by Jeffrey Stewart Timmins
Charlesbridge, 2012
ages 8 - 12
available on Amazon and at your local library
This collection of epitaphs mourns animals from the chicken who doesn't quite make it across the road to the cow who has been "cream-ated." Lewis and Yolen fill their poems with word play, rhymes and visual puns. It certainly isn't for everyone - but I'm certain there's a group of kids who will love it. Here are some fun examples:
Good-bye to a Rowdy Rooster
Too cocky by far,
he head-butted a car.

Hen's Last Cluck
The end of her day
was in fowl play.

Jeffrey Stewart Timmins' illustrations add to the dark humor, with visual puns, a smoky pallet and plenty of blood and guts. My students loved seeing how animals from these early poems show up as ghosts or apparitions in later pictures.

I laughed and snorted my way though this. The macabre humor will be just perfect for some, but it will definitely turn others off. Third grade boys loved it. My 13 year old daughter thought I was nuts. But then, that's nothing new.

But best of all, I like the way these poems make students stop and think. For kids who like this sort of dark humor, they'll come back to this collection again and again, dipping in and enjoying a bit more each time. This isn't a collection that you'll read in one sitting from cover to cover, but it's perfect for sampling its wicked humor and choosing your favorite poem.

J. Patrick Lewis is the U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate and the Winner of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) 2011 Excellence in Children's Poetry Award. Yolen is one of my favorite authors, from her novels to picture books. They both have a keen ear for language and a vital sense of what makes kids laugh.

The review copy came from our school library collection. All images shared above are copyright ©2012 by Jeffrey Stewart Timmins, shared with permission from the publisher. The poems are copyright ©2012 by J. Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Monsters' Monster by Patrick McDonnell - great monster fun with a twist (ages 4 - 8)

Do you have any little monsters in your house? They could be kids who love pretending to stomp and gnash and growl. Or they could be little terrors who fight and kick and scream. I love Patrick McDonnell's new book, The Monsters' Monster, for the way it takes both of these types of monsters, and then throws in a twist! This fun picture book will make kids laugh, think and want to read it again and again - what a perfect combination.
The Monsters' Monster
by Patrick McDonnell
NY: Little, Brown Books, 2012
ages 4 - 8
available on Amazon or your local library
enhanced ebook available at the iTunes & Nook stores
Once upon a time, there were three little monsters who thought they were the toughest, grouchiest, loudest monsters around. In fact, they spent all their time trying to out-monster each other.

One day, these trouble makers decide to build a MONSTER monster of their own: “the biggest, baddest monster EVER!” But they are in for a surprise. It turns out he isn’t exactly the monster that the little guys were expecting. Instead, their big, giant monster is happy. He giggles. He hugs them (with a crushing monster squeeze). And he isn’t grouchy at all. In fact, he’s thankful. The little monsters who created him are indeed perplexed by this, even stunned into speechless quiet.

Patrick McDonnell’s artwork combines the humor of cartoon figures with watercolor and ink backgrounds, skillfully creating the tone of the story. The ending will bring smiles and contented sighs to adults and children alike, as the monsters realize they all are thankful for their new friend.

Little, Brown has also released this as an enhanced ebook on the iTunes Book store and Nook Kids Read and Play store. These enhanced ebooks combine audio narration with the picture book, along with some basic, limited interactions. Kids in my library have loved listening to the pitch-perfect narrator for The Monsters' Monster. They were a little unsure when to tap images and when to just read and listen. But the more limited interactivity kept the focus squarely on enjoying the story. It's definitely one they gave two thumbs up (and plenty of laughs - even from 8 year old boys).

So if you're looking for a Halloween book, or something to bring a smile and a quiet moment to your own monster, definitely give this a try. Take a look at these other delightful reviews and a fascinating interview:
  • Tasha at Waking Brain Cells says, "McDonnell’s writing is perfect for reading aloud, setting the right pace and tone to make it a wild rumpus of a read."
  • Over on Goodreads, my friend Alyson Beecher writes, "We could all use some reminders of the need for simple gratitude. Done with humor but really sweet."
  • Pamela Paul writes in the New York Times, "Alas, as Victor Frankenstein found out long ago, monsters rarely conform to their creators’ intentions. In this case, there’s nothing scary about him. He’s actually quite endearing."
  • Jenny Brown's interview with Patrick McDonnell over at the Kirkus Reviews blog. McDonnell tells us that as he started to work on this story and think about the three little monsters, "I began to think: 'What makes a monster a monster?' The answer I came up with was—his thoughts."
All images shared above are copyright ©Patrick McDonnell, 2012 shared with permission from the publisher. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Sharing about the presidential election (ages 6 - 11)

Are you talking about the presidential election with your children? How do you share about these grownup debates with kids? I try to convey the importance of the country's decision, how we all have a part to play. It's also important to introduce some of the basic terms of the election process with kids. After all, they hear grown ups talking about it all the time.

Here are three favorite books to share that help inform kids about what's going on:
If I Ran for President
by Catherine Stier
illustrated by Lynne Avril
IL: Albert Whitman, 2007
ages 6 - 9
available on Amazon and at your local library
What would it be like to run for president? I enjoyed sharing this book with students, helping them imagine what it would be like to be a candidate. The pictures show all sorts of kids asking questions like, "Am I the best person for the job? Am I ready to work VERY, VERY, VERY hard for my country? Do lots of people believe in me, and will they help me run for office?” My students appreciated Avril's multicultural cast of kids. Stier writes in a fun, personal way while integrating some key election terms ranging from primaries and caucuses to the Electoral College and presidential debates.
Grace for President
by Kelly DiPucchio
illustrated by LeUyen Pham
NY: Disney / Hyperion, 2008
ages 6 - 10
available on Amazon and at your local library
One morning, Mrs. Barrington shows her class pictures of the presidents. Grace, a lively African American girl, asks her teacher, "Where are the girls?" Grace is stunned when she finds out that no girls have ever been elected president. Not one to take things sitting down, Grace declares, "I've been thinking it over, and I'd like to be president!" Mrs. Barrington seizes on this idea and hold a school election, with each student voting in the Electoral College for a different state. Pham's illustrations are full of joy, energy and emotions. Kids love the division of kids along gender lines. While Grace is African American, race is never an issue. This is a fun story kids love to read again and again.
Madam President:
The Extraordinary, True (and Evolving) Story of Women in Politics
by Catherine Thimmesh
illustrated by Douglas B. Jones
MA: Houghton Mifflin, 2004
revised and reissued, 2008
ages 8 - 11
available on Amazon and at your local library
With a great combination of facts, humor and pizazz, Catherine Thimmesh shares short two-page profiles on dozens of women who have made their mark, "a lasting footprint-whether it be pointy-toed and spike-heeled or rubber-soled and loosely laced-on the very bedrock of America" and the world. Starting with first ladies who found ways to influence and shape political policies and the nation's discourse, Thimmesh shows young readers how these women affected the world around them. She balances the information and humor perfectly, providing background context, interesting details, and primary source quotations without ever sounding like a textbook. Originally published in 2004, this revised 2008 edition has updated information on Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, and Condoleezza Rice.

If you're looking for fun, you've got to turn to our favorite comic book hero: Babymouse!
Babymouse for President
by Jennifer L. Holm
illustrated by Matthew Holm
NY: Random House, 2012
ages 8 - 11
available from Amazon or your local library
Kids at our school library love, love, love Babymouse. So this is a natural to share at this time of year. Babymouse decides she's going to run for student council president, going up against her arch-nemesis Felicia Furrypaws and even her own locker! Life is never smooth sailing for Babymouse (Typical!), and this election is no different. When Felicia promises that kids will have an ice cream sundae at school every day, Babymouse wonders how much she can promise. Holm introduces a few elements of campaigning, but keeps the emphasis on school humor and elections. If you've got Babymouse friends in your house, head over to the great Babymouse Website to check out the election coverage! There are campaign videos and online voting - very fun!

I haven't gotten a chance to see Michael Townsend's Where Do Presidents Come From? My students have had great fun reading his wacky take on the Greek myths in comic book form in Amazing Greek Myths of Wonder and Blunder. The publisher's description of this new book says, "It's full of insanely weird facts about our leaders (Did you know that President Coolidge had a pet pygmy hippo named Billy?), as well as the history and powers of the presidency, day-to-day life, and pros and cons of the job." Sounds like more wacky fun that my 4th and 5th graders will eat up!

The review copies for all of these came from our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Creepy Carrots, by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Peter Brown - Halloween fun for kids ages 4-8

Kids are full-swing in the Halloween mood. The weather is cooling off, fall is here and kids talk nonstop about their costumes. I love building on this excitement by sharing scary books. But little kids need books that are scary without being too frightening. For some Halloween fun, try out Creepy Carrots. Kids will laugh at the jokes, love the shivers, but know that it's all just pretend the whole time.
Creepy Carrots
by Aaron Reynolds
illustrated by Peter Brown
NY: Simon & Schuster
ages 4–8
available on Amazon and at your local library
Jasper Rabbit loves carrots. He eats them going to school, going to baseball practice and then on the way home again. Jasper pulls carrots up from the ground anywhere he can find them — especially in Crackenhopper Field. But soon, Jasper starts seeing maniacal, monster carrots stalking him at every turn.

“Monster carrots?” you say. Yes, indeed — creepy, monster carrots. Reynolds and Brown work together brilliantly, building suspense, eliciting laughter, creating a Twilight Zone–feel for this creepy tale of vegetable revenge. Is Jasper being stalked by snarling, angry carrots or is it his overactive imagination?

Young kids will delight in the spooky elements of this story, laughing at Jasper’s fear while completely understanding just how it happens. After all, kids know all about having to check the closet for monsters that might just be waiting to pounce. The ending brings the story right back to its humorous side, providing a satisfying lesson on greed through laughter instead of preaching. This is a great new book perfect for kids who like to shiver and laugh at the same time.

I loved this book trailer! It's also fascinating the way Peter Brown talks about his inspiration for the illustrations. It would be very interesting to show this to older students, and ask them about the illustrator's perspective.

The Creepy Carrots Zone from Peter Brown on Vimeo.

For other great Halloween reads, check out my monthly Bookshelf article at Parents Press: Monster Madness. I enjoyed reading other reviews on Five Minutes for Books and Fuse #8, as well as Julie Danielson's post on the Kirkus Blog.

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Every Day, by David Levithan - fascinating realistic fantasy (ages 12+)

My teen years were filled with questioning. It's a time when you're thinking critically about the world around you and the way people interact. I just finished an amazing new book for teens that wove in so many of these questions, this pondering - and yet the plot was utterly absorbing. To say I loved reading Every Day, by David Levithan, is an understatement. I want to give this to every teen I know.
Every Day
by David Levithan
NY: Knopf / Random House, 2012
audiobook read by Alex McKenna
available on AmazonAudible and your local library
Every day, A wakes up in a different body. It's always been like that as long as he/she has known. A completely accepts this way of life; it's just the way it is. Each day is a new day, learning about a new person, living each day in the moment. As A explains,
"Every day I am someone else. I am myself - I know I am myself - but I am also someone else.
It has always been like this."
As you probably noticed, A is not a girl or a boy. A has an identity that isn't attached to a body or a physical gender. Sometimes A wakes up female, sometimes male. Alex McKenna embodies the A's perspective perfectly in the audiobook narration, bringing the listener into A's perspective, shifting voices just enough to give a sense of different characters A embodies but keeping a solid voice as A throughout. In my mind, I keep switching the pronoun I use to describe A, and will do so in the rest of this reflection.

A goes through life by respecting the body he is in for the day and not making any lasting connections. There is always today, but A can never have a tomorrow since tomorrow A will be in a different body. This existence is lonely, but it is also freeing - A is able to focus on herself. Until she meets Rhiannon. Then life completely changes for A. A falls deeply in love with Rhiannon, perhaps obsessively, and cannot stop thinking about her. The rules A has developed for himself cannot apply any more, because A realizes that Rhiannon is someone she wants to be with every day, no matter what body she inhabits.

David Levithan started this book by thinking about two questions. What would it be like going through life with no connections? And what would it be like to fall in love with someone who was physically different every day? At a recent book talk, Levithan described how this is the first novel he's written where he's started with questions and written without a detail plot outlined. He wanted each chapter, each character A wakes up as to be new for him, to be fresh. Levithan has created over 30 unique, interesting characters - and yet, he has also created a consistent voice for A throughout. It's absolutely riveting.

As the story progresses, A and Rhiannon develop a strong attachment - trying to keep connected as A changes every day. Rhiannon loves A, but she finds it very difficult to ignore his physical body. Sometimes A shows up in a girl's body, other times in a boy's body. Their relationship is fraught with complications that teens will identify with - acceptance, communication, jealousy.

The questions A wrestles with are authentic, organic to the story. They never overwhelm the story. Teens will be fascinated with Levithan's philosophical musings on love, identity, longing, gender and relationships, and yet they will ultimately be drawn to this love story. Can we overcome our physical identities and love someone for who they are on the inside?Can you truly love someone who cannot be there for you every day?

Could this really happen? Well, no - this is fantasy. And yet, this will appeal to teens who love realistic fiction because Levithan writes so well about the real life relationships between these teens. My own teen coined the term "realistic fantasy." What do you think of it?

Listen to David Levithan talk about Every Day and then read the first chapter:

Listen to a sample from Random House Audio.

Read these interesting reviews at Bookends and Heise Reads. I listened to the audiobook, purchased through Audible, and highly recommend it. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Nominate a BOOK APP for the Cybils Award TODAY!

Last year, the Cybils Awards launched the first BOOK APP AWARD for children and young adults. The Cybils Awards are given each year by bloggers for the year's best children's and young adult titles. Anyone can nominate a book between October 1st and October 15th. That means you have one more week to nominate your favorite book app that was published last year.

Head here to nominate a book for the Cybils Award!

Findability is a huge problem when it comes to book apps. What are the most recent apps published? What will appeal to my children? I often turn to the Kirkus Reviews site to explore their in-depth reviews of book apps. Here are some book apps that they have recommended this year. I have not read all of these apps, but I have read enough of Kirkus Reviews' recommendations to know they are worth exploring.

Check out these other wish lists from great bloggers and judges for the Cybils Book App Awards:
  • PinkMe's Electronic Thursday - Paula focuses specifically on some fascinating nonfiction book apps. My students are still fascinated by last year's finalist Bobo Explores Light, and so we will definitely be checking some of these out.
  • Masala Readers Cybils Wishlist - Lalitha has some great apps to recommend, with a focus on picture book apps ranging from sweet ones like Leah and the Owl to the funny The House that Went on Strike.

Here are some apps I'm investigating from Kirkus reviews. All quotes and links are from the Kirkus Reviews site.
  • Franklin Frog, from the "Round" series, published by Nosy Crow. "This first installment in Nosy Crow’s new Rounds series of biology apps for preschoolers is actually a hybrid of sorts. The story offers plenty of frog facts... but there’s also fictional banter that gives the frogs a bit of character."
  • The Voyage of Ulysses, developed by Elastico SRL. "This slimmed, prose version of Homer’s epic can be read aloud by a lilting narrator, or it can be read silently. All of the characters Ulysses meets on his long journey home are here...with a suitable amount of smoothly written text material to flesh out their backgrounds and roles."
  • Dragon Brush, by Andy Hulling, developed by Small Planet Digital. "The story of a magical dragon brush that can bring painted objects to life casts its own spell. Bing-Wen, a slender rabbit from a poor family, loves to paint. His luck turns when he helps an old woman with an overturned cart and is awarded a paintbrush made from the whiskers of a dragon."
  • B.B. Wolf, by Debbie Fong. "A revised 'Little Red Riding Hood,' with unusually simple and effective illustrations and interactive features. Fong suspends small figures drawn in thin, scribbly lines... creating narrative movement for her retelling with one or two discreet spiral buttons in each scene."
  • Leonard, by Ink Robin. "A move from the city to the country leaves Leonard... (asking): Where are all the new friends? As readers join him in his search, Leonard’s imagination takes off full force, taking him into the jungle and soaring into outer space." (my review here)
  • The Artifacts, by Lynley Stace, developed by Slap Happy Larry. "This beautiful, resonant story about the way we leave behind childish things (but never really abandon them) delivers a specific, potent experience unusual even for the best iPad apps." (highly recommended by Cybils panelist Carisa Kluver - see her review here)

Please take the time to nominate a book app for the Cybils Awards. All nominations from the public must be received by October 15th!

©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Using Twitter to build a professional learning network - a report from #KidLitCon12

I have been astounded by the connections I've made through social media, connecting to authors, teachers, librarians and others who are passionate about helping children find books that speak to them. This past weekend, I attended KidLitCon in New York City - it's an annual conference for bloggers who write about children's literature. It was a weekend of goodness, and one highlight was listening to Teri Lesesne (rhymes with "insane") talk about using Twitter to build a professional learning network. Teri pulled together so much of what I've experienced over the past year with Twitter.

Teri Lesesne (@ProfessorNana on Twitter),  often known as "the Goddess of YA", is a professor of children’s and YA literature at Sam Houston University.  Teri was inspiring, informative and funny as she shared how social media, and Twitter in particular, has enriched her professional life.

At its essence, Twitter is about connecting people who share common interests and enabling quick, meaningful conversations. Through her extensive network, Lesesne is able to reach out to teachers, school librarians, authors, publishers, editors and more to learn about children’s books. These are educated stakeholders who share information, experience and advice on an informal, collegial manner.

Twitter continues to grow at astounding rates, attracting its largest demographic from women and from people ages 22-55 years old. Its usage has doubled within the last twelve months.

With more limits on professional development funds, it is essential that we invest time and effort in developing our professional network in ways that don’t rely on attending conferences.

Lesesne recommends finding a few trusted voices, following their conversations and exploring who they’re talking with. John Schumacher (@MrSchuReads), Donalyn Miller (@donalynbooks), Paul Hankins (@PaulWHankins) and Katherine Sokolowski (@katsok) all are excellent choices. Start by listening to their conversations and exploring links they share, but then try jumping in and adding your perspective.

Finally, Lesesne recommended checking out a regular Twitter chat such as #titletalk. Titletalk is a monthly chat hosted by Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp, held on the last Sunday of every month at 8pm Eastern time. Each month, teachers and librarians from across the US (and beyond) gather on Twitter to share their favorite children's books. Just last weekend, the Titletalk focused on book talking as a way to recommend books (archive available here). One great way to follow a Twitter chat such as this is using the website TweetChat.

Check out more of Lesesne's excellent points through her SlideShare presentation. Follow her on Twitter (@ProfessorNana) - she shares a wealth of information. And stop by her blog (Professor Nana) to get great reading recommendations.

I really enjoy using Twitter to connect with librarians, teachers and children's book lovers. It's a wonderful resource for when I'm trying to think of new titles to share with kids. And the best is connecting with others who are just as excited about sharing books. Come say hi to me on Twitter if you get a chance - I'm @MaryAnnScheuer.

©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books