Wednesday, July 28, 2021

In my feed: interesting articles & blogs to share (July 2021)

As I relaunch my blog, I'd like to share out interesting articles and blogs that catch my eye. These may be specifically about reading, literacy and books, but they may also be about other topics.

Summer Freedom Reading!
via the Jane Addams Peace Award newsletter

Summer Freedom Reading!
 (Jane Addams Peace Award newsletter). Explore this great themed list that focuses on different aspects of freedom. "Summer for some means more freedom, not having to follow a school schedule. For some this freedom may coexist with the stress of unstructured time. For some, summer means more reading time." 

Problem: Christian Robinson is Collaborating with Target and I Want to Buy Everything (100 Scope Notes blog) -- me too, Travis, me too!! I especially love the molecule PJs. Do they come in adult sizes?? In the meantime, you can download digital wallpapers designed by Christian Robinson. 

Great Books on the Outdoors for Curious Kids (Kirkus Perspectives) -- Vicky Smith, a longtime editor at Kirkus, shares a great suggestions of new books that encourage kids to explore the outdoors. I've just put several of these on hold at my public library. I can't wait to look through The Fungarium, a fascinating oversized book written by Ester Gaya and a team of mycologists from the Royal Botanic Gardens. 

#FactsMatter: Nonfiction Graphic Novel Series for Tweens and Teens (SLJ's Teen Librarian Toolbox) -- I love the way these comic books convey fascinating information. I definitely recommend the series highlighted in this blog post. My personal favorite is Maker Comics: Bake Like a Pro

Oh Flock! Clever Cockatoos Are More Culturally Complex Than We Thought (NPR) -- I'm fascinated by animal research, especially focusing on animal behavior. What's interesting about this discovery is that these cockatoos are teaching each other strategies for dumpster diving. Cockatoos that live near each other use different strategies than cockatoos in different neighborhoods. It's fascinating to explore the social nature of learning!

What's in your feed these days? Drop me a note, and let me know if you find any of these articles interesting.

©2021 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Reading tips & strategies: July 2021

 Each reader is different, but we all share a desire to explore, engage and discover stories around us. As part of relaunching my blog, I'd like to share quick suggestions of reading tips and strategies. I truly believe that we discover the magic of reading by getting recommendations from trusted friends in our lives. Think of me as your own personal librarian.

image from Reading Rockets

Comprehension: Understanding what you read

Comprehension is the real goal of reading -- it's understanding what we read, and connecting it to our broader understanding of the world. But how do strong readers do this? How can we help our children strengthen these skills? Reading Rockets sets out a few good tips in its series Reading 101: A Guide for Parents. Try these:

* Draw on prior knowledge: Before you read, do a picture walk and talk about what you know already. What connections can you make, just from looking at the title, cover and some of the pictures?

* Form mental images: Do you see a movie in your head as you read? Good readers often form mental pictures as they read, and this helps them put together the action or ideas in a story.

* Summarize & retell: Talk about what you see as the important parts of the story. Who are the main characters, and what problems are they facing? Talking through this will help your child learn to weed out unnecessary information.

Making Reading Relevant: Read, Learn and Do!

Reading can make our real-world experiences more meaningful, whether it's learning about something in our natural environment or getting inspired to draw & create artwork. Look at this short post from ColorĂ­n Colorado, a wonderful resource supporting families of English Language Learners. 

Are storms coming to your area this summer? Read a story like The Buffalo Storm, by Katherine Applegate. Pair it with a nonfiction book like Magic School Bus: Inside a Hurricane or National Geographic's Storms! Then get prepared for storms coming your way -- put together a storm kit with flashlights and extra batteries. Brainstorm a list of how to keep calm and be prepared -- maybe practice with stuffed animals who are scared of lightning.

Making reading meaningful and relevant will help children develop their confidence and comprehension skills. How do you help grow your readers? Send me a note, and let me know what works for you!

©2021 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Wonder Walkers & If You Come to Earth: Inspiring a sense of wonder about our world (ages 4-8)

Are you looking to inspire a sense of wonder about the world around us, tapping into children's innate sense of wonder? Two new picture books lead to wonderful musings about our world: Wonder Walkers, by Micha Archer, and If You Come to Earth, by Sophie Blackall. Both of these let you get away from your everyday world, and look with fresh eyes on everything around us.

Wonder Walkers
by Micha Archer
Nancy Paulsen Books/ Penguin Random House, 2021
Amazon / Your local library
ages 4-8

As two children head outside for a "wonder walk," they ask each other questions about the world around them, making connections to their own experiences. Together, readers will ponder with this pair questions such as: “Is the sun the world’s light bulb?” “Are trees the sky’s legs?” “Is dirt the world’s skin?” “Is the wind the world breathing?” Revel in the vibrant illustrations, and maybe venture out on your own wonder walk. 

"Do mountains have bones? Are forests the mountain's fur?"

I especially appreciate Archer's spare poetic language, letting readers (young and old) sit with these deep questions. This will make a lovely bedtime book, to end the day wondering about the world around us. Teachers can also use it as a springboard for exploring the power of personification, analogies and other literary devices. But really, it just makes me want take a walk with a young person and see what they notice in our world.

If You Come to Earth
by Sophie Blackall
Chronicle Books, 2021
Amazon / Your local library
ages 4-8

"If you come to Earth, there are a few things you need to know..." and so begins the young narrator's musings about how to describe our world to an alien from outer space. And yet, how do we really describe our whole world to someone? How do we capture all the different places in it, all the different ways people live and what they do every day? Quinn, the young narrator, writes of the great diversity of life on Earth. I especially love the detail in each page -- you'll spend time exploring faces full of expression, families of all shapes and sizes picnicking together, of children in class together and adults getting ready for work. 

"We live in all kinds of homes."

Blackall truly celebrates the diversity in our world, making each reader feel part of this special book. Spend time looking closely at all the different homes people make for themselves. Talk gently about what it means not to have a home. Blackall doesn't ignore difficult things in our world, but gently acknowledges that they are part of life too. 

I hope you enjoy spending time with these wonder-inspiring picture books. The review copies came from my public library. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases if you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site. 

©2021 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books 

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Firekeeper's Daughter, by Angeline Boulley: suspenseful mystery immersed with Ojibwe culture, setting and identity (ages 14+)

Do your teens crave an immersive mystery that also raises important social issues about identity, community and drug addiction? I highly recommend Firekeeper's Daughter, Angeline Boulley's groundbreaking debut novel. In this suspenseful mystery, Daunis Fontaine, an Ojibwe teen living in the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan, witnesses the shocking murder of her best friend and gets thrust into an FBI drug investigation. 

Firekeeper's Daughter
by Angeline Boulley
Henry Holt / Macmillan, 2021
ages 14+

Eighteen-year-old Daunis has always felt like an outsider--whether navigating the Ojibwe and the white sides of her family, or making a place for herself as a girl playing on the boys' hockey team.  When her best friend is murdered, Daunis reluctantly agrees to help the covert FBI operation investigating a series of drug-related deaths. At first, she's excited to be part of this investigation, but soon she realizes that the deceptions are striking close to home, and Daunis must decide how she can best protect her community and what it means to be a strong Anishinaabe Kwewag (Native American woman). 

I especially appreciate how skillfully Boulley weaves together rich character development, a brisk plot with plenty of twists and turns, and immersive cultural setting. I was immediately drawn into Daunis's character as a strong, hockey-playing teen who wants to combine traditional medicine with modern science, and who celebrates the Ojibwe traditions as well as challenges preconceived notions about Native people. 

One aspect that really stuck with me is how fiercely Daunis wants to protect her community. She talks several times about how decisions that Native communities make are taken looking forward for several generations, because they see themselves as stewards of their communities and the land, not just for right now but for future generations. Boulley deals with tough topics like drug use, rape, and murder, but she balances these dark topics with Daunis's strong determination and the support she gets from several different women in her family.

I'm excited that the Obama's production company, Higher Ground, will adapt Firekeeper's Daughter for a Netflix TV series.

The review copy came from my public library, via OverDrive. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases if you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site.

©2021 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Heartstopper series, by Alice Oseman: adorably sweet LGBT friendship & romance comics

High school friendships that have potentials for romance never progress in a straight, linear fashion -- they're full of twists and turns, uncertainty and exciting moments of connections. Alice Oseman captures this so well in her delightful graphic novel series Heartstopper -- one of my favorite reads this summer. This LGBTQIA+ graphic novel is a sweet coming-of-age story that explores friendship, love, and coming out. 

Heartstopper series (vol. 1, 2 & 3)
by Alice Oseman
Graphix / Scholastic, 2020
Amazon / your local library / OverDrive
ages 12 - 16

Charlie and Nick first meet when Charlie joins his school's rugby team -- even though his skinny and not the typical rugby lad, the team notices how fast he is running on the track team. Charlie's suffered intense bullying at his boy's school when he came out his first year. As the novel opens, Charlie is struggling in a relationship with an older boy who's just using him.

Nick and Charlie both start wondering if their feelings for each other might be more romantic, but neither is sure how to handle this. Charlie worries that he is just developing an unrequited crush, and will end up with the inevitable heartache of falling for a straight boy. Nick, on the other hand, is confused about what his feelings mean and how he identifies. 

Heartstopper interior, by Alice Osman

I especially appreciate how Alice Oseman captures Charlie & Nick's growing friendship and their tentative exploration of their feelings for one another. The pacing is masterful -- as soon as I finished the first volume, I wanted to immediately read the sequel.  I also appreciate how the images convey so much emotion, leaving the text spare and only focusing on the conversation. This helps me connect to the characters and hear the story in my head.

scene from Heartstopper, vol 2

Exciting news: Netflix is producing a live-action, half-hour series of Heartstopper, expected to be released sometime in 2022, although no official release dates have been announced. Read more about the cast and progress on Netflix Series ‘Heartstopper’: What We Know So Far.

The review copy came from my public library, via OverDrive. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases if you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site.

©2021 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Update: Hello old & new friends

Hello friends and readers -- it's been a long time since I've checked in. Three years ago I started a new job as the librarian at Albany High School in the Bay Area. Learning the ropes of a new job took all my energy, but I've missed sharing book love and reading recommendations. So, hello friends, old & new.
Photo by Artem Bryzgalov on Unsplash

Come visit this space if you'd like to explore reading recommendations for kids and teens, ages 4 to 14+. Since I'm now working in a high school, my reading has leaned more toward YA but my lens remains the same. What books speak to kids and teens? How will different readers respond to books?

One thing I'm having to figure out is updating my mailing service. FeedBurner is discontinuing its mailing service this month, so stay tuned for options for getting these posts in your inbox.

If you have particular readers you're seeking recommendations for, please reach out to me. One of my great pleasures is thinking through what books might interest different readers. Until then, be safe and keep reading!

©2021 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books