Thursday, December 28, 2017

Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen, by Debbi Michiko Florence -- a new feisty, playful chapter book (ages 6-9)

Jasmine Toguchi stars in a new chapter book series, perfect for fans of Ivy & Bean. Young readers will relate to Jasmine as she struggles to convince her family that she's old enough to help pound the mochi (soft, gooey rice cakes) this New Year's. Jasmine is feisty and playful, and Debbi Michiko Florence balances humor with empathy as she brings readers into Jasmine's world.

Bring the Japanese New Year's tradition of making and sharing mochi into your home or classroom this year. Learn more at the Asian Art Museum and the Japanese American National Museum. Make this microwave mochi and see other activies with Jasmine Toguchi.
Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen
by Debbi Michiko Florence ; illustrated by Elizabet Vukovic
Farrar, Straus and Giroux / Macmillan, 2017
Amazon / your local library / preview on Google Books
ages 6-9
*best new book*
Jasmine's Japanese-American family is preparing for their special New Year's Day mochi-tsuki, when they pound rice to make mochi (rice cakes) with their extended family. It's a cleaning frenzy, and now Jasmine has to take orders from her bossy big sister Sophie. It's hard enough having to follow in Sophie's footsteps, but Jasmine can't even take part in making mochi until she's ten years old. This is going to be Sophie's first time helping the women shape the mochi with the women.

Suddenly, Jasmine gets an idea -- she's going to help the boys and men pound the mochi, turning the cooked rice into sticky, gooey mochi by pounding it in a stone bowl. But will she be able to lift the huge wooden mallet? Is she strong enough?

I especially love how Debbi Michiko Florence combines food, family and fun showing Japanese traditions in a familiar, modern setting. Many of my students will relate to Jasmine's feelings, trying to prove herself and to convince her family that gender stereotypes shouldn't limit her opportunities.

This chapter book reminds me of the spunk and vitality of two of my favorite series: Ivy & Bean and Ruby Lu. As Michele Knott points out in her review, it supports developing readers with having one main storyline with a clear problem that Jasmine tries to solve. Short chapters with frequent illustrations move the plot along. Relatable situations help readers connect with Jasmine and understand her feelings and motivations.

Jasmine Toguchi is an outstanding new chapter book series; Jasmine Toguchi, Super Sleuth is already out and two more books come out this spring/summer. Look for other chapter books and early readers in the 2017 Nerdies: Early Readers & Chapter Books post.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Macmillan. 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

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Social media & engaging teen readers: Goodreads & Pinterest

It's no secret that many teens love social media. They want to know what their friends are doing, liking and sharing. At Berkeley High, we've been using Goodreads & Pinterest to engage our readers, encouraging them to find more books to read. Goodreads is a social media site for readers, letting you mark books you've read or want to read, add reviews and share them with friends.
BHS Library on Goodreads
While reading might be something you do alone in your own head, its true power comes from sharing the experience. What do our friends think of this? Have they read it, or does it remind them of something like it? If I liked this book, is there another one that I might like reading?

Key to this process is valuing all of the books our students are reading. The masterful teacher Donalyn Miller writes passionately about how we must value and encourage our students' choices in what they read.
Using Goodreads has let us honor and value our students' reading choices, whether they love horror graphic novels like Tokyo Ghoul, powerful nonfiction like The 57 Bus or contemporary YA like Libba Bray's The Diviners.  Each reader is different, with different tastes, preferences and interests. I have loved the conversations that come from learning more about what they like.

Yesterday, I was talking with a freshman who liked reading Nightfall, by Jake Halpern--an intense action-adventure story that kept him up all night reading. When I read his review, it made me think of how much I had liked reading Gary Paulsen's Hatchet. So I built a Pinterest board focusing on wilderness adventures. My student said to me, "Wait, you created this just because I liked Nightfall? Just for me?" It was a powerful moment--and he left the library with a new book to read: Trapped, by Michael Northrop.
Berkeley High Library's Pinterest page:
Survival & Wilderness Adventures @ BHS Library
The true power of using social media to engage teen readers is that it lets our students develop their own authentic voices. I have loved working with fellow Berkeley High librarian Meredith Irby to focus on how we can encourage teens to write authentically about their reading experiences. I so appreciate how thoughtful she is, helping teens develop their writing styles. This type of writing is actually a lot like the personal essays teens will write for college applications. As Donalyn Miller writes in Reading in the Wild:
“If we really want our students to become wild readers, independent of our support and oversight, sometimes the best thing we can do is get out of the way.”
Follow Berkeley High Library on Goodreads & Pinterest  to see what our teens are reading and what we love sharing with them.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sharing the love of stories & dance: the Nutcracker and beyond (ages 4-9)

Are you going to see the Nutcracker this a holiday? Introduce the magic of dance with these picture books, and let the power of the moment fill your child’s imagination.
The Nutcracker in Harlem
by T.E. McMorrow, illustrated by James Ransom
HarperCollins, 2017
Amazon / local library
ages 4-8
The vibrant Harlem Renaissance makes a grand setting for this charming reimagining of the classic Nutcracker story. Marie shyly watches as her beautiful Harlem home fills with music and dancing on Christmas Eve, but she can’t bring herself to perform. When she falls asleep and begins to dream, she finds her courage and her voice as she defends the Nutcracker from the army of uniformed mice. Ransome’s lyrical illustrations bring the Jazz Age to life.
Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova
by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Julie Morstad
Chronicle, 2015
Amazon / local library / Google Books preview
ages 5-9
With beautiful, graceful illustrations and poetic text, this book captures the spirit and charm of one of history’s prima ballerinas. Although Anna was born to a poor family in Czarist Russia, she was determined to become a ballerina. Young children will revel in this resolve, but it’s the imagery that will stay with them in their dreams.
Danza! Amalia Hern├índez and Mexico’s Folklorico Ballet
by Duncan Tonatiuh
Abrams, 2017
Amazon / local library / Google Books preview
ages 5-9
Amalia Hern├índez studied ballet and modern dance, and she blended these styles with “folkloric danzas” she saw as a child in Mexico City. Forming her own small company, she traveled throughout Mexico to research and create dances that intertwined Mexico’s many traditional and indigenous “danzas” with modern dance styles. A beautiful, stylistic picture book biography.
by Misty Copeland, illustrated by Christopher Myers
G.P. Putnam’s Sons / Penguin, 2014
Amazon / local library / Google Books preview
ages 6-10 
This moving picture book reassures young readers that they can pursue their dreams. When a discouraged African-American girl looks up to her idol--ballet star Misty Copeland--the older dancer reassures her saying, "darling child, don't you know / you're just where I started." Their imagined conversation develops as the young child takes center stage. the blend of soaring illustrations and inspiring words will encourage many young dancers.

The review copies were sent by the publishers and came from my public 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.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books