Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Dreams for my daughter: Build your dream and soar!

How do you bundle all of a parent's dreams and love for a child together in one book? How do you help children see all their potential? Two new picture books do a lovely job of just this, and I'll be bringing them with me this weekend to celebrate my daughter Katy's college graduation.

by Carole Boston Weatherford
illustrated by Brian Pinkney
Atheneum / Simon & Schuster, 2021
ages 4-adult

This love letter from mother to daughter captures a mother's love and hopes, inspiring her daughter to follow her dreams, no matter what challenges life may bring. "Your voice is my heart song... I look on as you hit your stride... I marvel as you follow your own compass." Carol Boston Weatherford's words speak to me, reaching right into my heart. I'll be reading this to Katy this weekend, for sure! "In the stands, I cheer.. You are my champion and I am yours. / You are braver than you think. / From writing rhymes and painting rainbows to building robots, / your gifts amaze me." Brian Pinkney's illustrations overflow with joy, love and warmth, drawing on a young Black girls' experiences and connecting to universal feelings.

Someone Builds the Dream
by Lisa Wheeler
illustrated by Loren Long
Dial / Penguin, 2021
ages 4-8

Building homes, bridges, any project starts with an idea, but it takes so many different people to make them actually happen. This picture book celebrates all of those people, from the designers to the scientists to the carpenters and welders. We need to recognize not just the folks who dream up the plan, but also those who put it in action. "Someone needs to raise the tower. / Someone has to build the dream." This picture book will appeal to all the kids out there who love building things, but it will also pull in the dreamers and designers. 

Lisa Wheeler's text is a joy to read aloud, flowing with natural rhythm and delightful rhymes. Loren Long's illustrations honor so many types of workers, and I especially appreciate how diverse (in so many ways) the workers are. I'll read it this weekend, and think about how "it takes a team to build a dream, / a skilled, hard-working crew." And I hope my daughters find a place to dream, to work with a team, to be their best selves.

Reading with Molly & Katy
Katy's college graduation has me thinking over the past 22 years (gasp) and how much I'm holding her in my heart. Throughout Katy's life, books have brought us together and shaped many of our memories. 

As a tiny infant, Katy spent time in the NICU and my best friend read Winnie the Pooh stories, making us all smile and bringing us hope and strength. That silly old bear has always made me feel like things would work out okay, no matter how much we bumble about. 

We loved reading together, whether it was Sandra Boynton's fabulous board books (Hippos Go Berserk! is her definite favorite) or Silly Sally (which I think I still have memorized). 

Here's to Katy, a wish that she follows her dreams, surrounds herself with friends, and celebrates her best self. She's an amazing young woman!

Katy, class of 2021

The review copies are 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. 

 ©2021 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Saturday, September 25, 2021

In My Feed: interesting articles & blogs to share (September 2021)

 As the fall weather starts changing (yes, we do have seasons here in California!), some "best of the year" lists are starting to show up in my feed. I always have fun seeing what books other folks highlight as their favorites. We've got the longest for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature, and different Mock Newbery lists. Want to get in on the fun yourself? Nominations for the CYBILS Awards start on October 1st.

image credit: SLJ

Longlist for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature

The National Book Foundation has announced the 2021 longlist for its Young People’s Literature award. Five finalists will be named on October 5th, and the winner will be announced during the awards ceremony on November 17th. I love the diverse range of books included in this year's longlist. I'm particularly excited to see The Legend of Auntie Po. You can read reviews of the nominated books in School Library Journal or in Kirkus.

Mock Newbery lists: a quick roundup

The Newbery Award creates excitement every year, and bookclubs throughout the US sponsor Mock Newbery groups. I have fun seeing what different groups nominate as their picks for the best of the year. Check out Berkeley schools Mock Newbery, SLJ's Heavy Medal blog (here are their early favorites), and Anderson's Bookshops Mock Newbery list. Remember that to be eligible for the Newbery, a book must have been published in the US during the 2021 calendar year, and must have been written by an American author. 

New Latinx books

As you know, I'm always seeking out new book recommendations. Rich in Color gives great recs -- I'm looking forward to checking out these four new Latinx books they are loving this year. Blogs like this help me keep my eye on what other readers, writers, teachers and librarians are suggesting, and give a balance to more traditional reviews from SLJ and Kirkus. I'm especially looking forward to reading Fat Chance Charlie Vega ("a sensitive, funny, and painful coming-of-age story with a wry voice and tons of chisme") and Fire with Fire (with two sisters who "will do whatever it takes to save the other... (but) are playing with magic that is more dangerous than they know").

How movement and gestures improve read alouds

Although reading may seem like a brain-centered activity, I've found it so helpful to encourage children to respond with movement and gestures when I'm reading aloud to them. This article in KQED's Mind/Shift clearly explains the importance of specifically asking learners to engage with physical movements during thinking and learning time. "Physical activity improves students' focus, retention, memory consolidation, creativity and mood." This includes movement breaks, but it also includes purposeful movement during learning time. When you're reading aloud to children, try asking them to incorporate specific gestures as they hear or think about certain things: use the ASL sign for empathy when they are connecting to how a character feels, use the ASL sign for movie if they're getting a movie in their head. or use the ASL sign for ask if they are thinking of a question they'd like to ask.

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

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Celebrating Latinx & Hispanic heritage with teens (ages 13 and up)

We're celebrating Latinx and Hispanic Heritage Month at Albany High School, and I'd love to share some of the books that the teens at our school are excited about. Check out the wide range of books below -- these are all ones that our students are checking out, sharing with each other and recommending. Definitely teen tested!

Realistic fiction
Furia, by Yamile Saied Méndez
Here the Whole Time, by Vitor Martins
Juliet Takes a Breath, by Gabby Rivera

Fantasy & Sci-Fi
Cemetery Boys, by Aidan Thomas
Dealing in Dreams, by Lilliam Rivera
Lobizona, by Romina Garber

Citizen Illegal: Poems, by José Olivarez
My Beloved World, by Sonia Sotomayor
My Corner of the Ring, by Jesselyn Silva

Graphic Novels
Juliet Takes a Breath, written by Gabby Rivera; illustrated & adapted for comics by Celia Moscote 
Suncatcher, by Jose Pimienta

I especially appreciate the wide range of experiences represented in these books. As David Bowles explains in his essay "Latinx Primer for Non-Latinx Folks," the terms Latinx and Hispanic are umbrella terms that include a broad range of experiences. Some students are specifically drawn to stories that represent experiences similar to their own -- one student was very excited to read Henry Barajas' graphic novel about his grandfather, an activist who co-founded the Mexican, American, Yaqui, and Others (M.A.Y.O.) organization in Arizona. Another student was particularly drawn to Here the Whole Time, a coming of age LGBTQ story set in Brazil.

Other students love the fantasy and sci-fi recommendations that draw on heritage from Latin America, but take us into our imaginations. I'm reading Lobizona right now, a werewolf story that draws on Argentinian folklore and is also questioning gender roles, and I'm loving it. 

Enjoy sharing these recommendations with your teens. All of the review copies are from the Albany High 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. 

©2021 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books 

Monday, September 20, 2021

2022 Berkeley Mock Newbery Book Clubs (ages 9-11)

Across Berkeley, students, teachers and families are joining this year's Berkeley Mock Newbery Book Clubs. Every elementary school has invited 4th & 5th graders to participate in these book clubs, talking about the best books published this year.

I'm so excited that the Berkeley Mock Newbery tradition is continuing. Each winter, the American Library Association awards the the Newbery Medal to the author of the most “distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” In Berkeley, 4th and 5th graders form their own Mock Newbery book clubs, considering some of the books which the actual Newbery Committee is likely to consider. 

Which book will the students pick this year? Here are the nominations:

2022 Berkeley Mock Newbery Nominations

Amari and the Night Brothers, by B.B. Alston
Egg Marks the Spot, by Amy Timberlake
Fast Pitch, by Nic Stone
The Legend of Auntie Po, by Shing Yin Khor
The Lion of Mars, by Jennifer L. Holms
The One Thing You'd Save, by Linda Sue Park
Sisters of the Neversea, by Cynthia Leitich Smith
Starfish, by Lisa Fipps
Stuntboy, In the Meantime, by Jason Reynolds
Too Bright to See, by Kyle Lukoff
Yusuf Azkeem Is Not a Hero, by Saadia Faruqi

The Newbery Award is given every year to an American author. The award specifically states that any type of literature may receive this award, as long as it is created specifically for children ages 0-14. The 2022 Newbery Award will be announced on January 24, 2022. The Berkeley Mock Newbery nominations are not an exhaustive list, but are selected by Berkeley's school librarians to "to reflect the diversity of our community and spark joy and a love of reading." 

Berkeley has held a Mock Newbery book clubs across the whole district every year since 2016. What a great tradition to keep going! Although I've moved to neighboring Albany High School, I'm excited to read some of their selections for this year. 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. 

©2021 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Wishes, by Mượn Thị Văn: Opening our readers' hearts

Personal stories, especially picture books, have an incredible power to open readers' hearts. In her beautiful new book Wishes, Mượn Thị Văn draws on her personal experience fleeing Vietnam with her family in search of a safer home. She prompts readers to ask, if you had to leave everything you knew and loved behind, what would you wish for?

by Mượn Thị Văn
illustrated by Victo Ngai
Orchard / Scholastic, 2021
Amazon / your local library / Overdrive
ages 6 and up

As a young girl and her family pack in the middle of the night, they say a tearful goodbye to her grandfather and others who will stay behind. They make their way to board a small boat, and then begin a dangerous journey across the ocean, searching for a new life. Văn structures the story as a series of wishes. As the family waits in line with other refugees, "the boat wished it was bigger." 

"The boat wished it was bigger."

Mượn Thị Văn uses spare, poetic language and lets Victo Ngai's beautiful, cinematic imagery convey much of the story.  This combination encourages readers to pause and open their hearts, both to the fear this young family faces and their hope of finding a better life. This picture book helps readers hold profound loss, resilience and hope all at once.

Văn's family fled Vietnam when she was a baby -- her family's experiences as migrants and refugees is the inspiration for this story. As Văn says, "Every line of text is grounded in my family’s experience as refugees. I wanted the reader to be able to see, and feel, the story from the inside." This video introduces both author and artist, and conveys their personal connections to this story:

This is a picture book we'll be sharing in our high school. We'll use it to start a unit of study for Thi Bui's memoir, The Best We Could Do. Not only will this help our students start understanding the experiences of a refugee family, but it will do this by encouraging them to open their hearts. I would encourage you to share this widely, with children ages 6 and up. It is truly a picture book that will speak to a wide range.

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

©2021 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Red, White and Whole: Finding your path, caught in the middle (ages 10-14)

How do our children navigate feeling caught between two cultures, two groups of friends, two identities? In the new novel-in-verse Red, White and Whole, thirteen-year old Reha struggles to figure out her own path, acutely aware that she must juggle between her home life, filled with Indian family, friends and traditions, and her school life. When Reha's mother is diagnosed with advanced leukemia, Reha must figure out how to draw strength from both sides of her life and chart her own way forward.

Red, White and Whole
by Rajani LaRocca
Quill Tree / HarperCollins, 2021
Amazon / your local library / Overdrive
ages 10-14

Reha lives "two lives. One that is Indian, one that is not." At school, she studies hard, spends time with her best friend Rachel, and tries to blend in even though she feels like she's swimming "in a river of white skin." Weekends are filled with samosas and sabjis, family and her best friend Sunny. As she begins her story, she realizes that both places are filled with friends, laughter and music, "but only in one place do I have my parents." Even though she tries to be a dutiful daughter, Reha chafes at the differences between what her parents allow her to do and those of her friends.

But when her Amma becomes sick, diagnosed with leukemia, Reha doesn't know how to keep going, how to make sense of it all. Her mother's sister tries to be supportive, but sheis far away in India. Reha stays with family friends, but they live far away from her school. How can she and her father keep going with everyday life when Amma is barely hanging on?

I appreciate the way author Rajani LaRocca evocatively captures these struggles, conveying Reha's emotional journey and creating a real connection between the reader and her story. She infuses the story with hope and humor, and yet she also gives readers space to reflect on important issues. As Reha copes with her mother's illness, she ultimately grows and claims her own place in the world. I think this will appeal to a wide range of readers who are drawn to personal stories.

The review copies 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. 

©2021 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, September 6, 2021

Chronicling the events of 9/11: In the Shadow of the Fallen Towers, by Don Brown (ages 12 and up)

As we approach the 20th anniversary of 9/11, I wonder how the teens I work with think about it. The events of September 11, 2001 are certainly etched into my memory—but today's teens weren't even born when these attacked happened. Does 9/11 feel far away and removed to them? Do they wonder what it was like to live through those traumatic times? 

In the Shadow of the Fallen Towers brings readers right into the moment the towers were struck and the devastating, chaotic aftermath. Don Brown masterfully create an accessible and immersive chronicle that's presented in a graphic novel format. Powerful and riveting, this will appeal to teens wanting to know more about this tragedy.

In the Shadow of the Fallen Towers:
The Seconds, Minutes, Hours, Days, Weeks, Months, and Years after the 9/11 Attacks

by Don Brown
Etch / Clarion Books / HMH, 2021
Amazon / your local library / Overdrive
ages 12 and up

Beginning with the attack on the World Trade Center, readers are put right at ground zero. Brown bases his chronicle on firsthand accounts of survivors. Their direct words are used throughout the book, creating the sense that these people are talking directly to the reader. Moving quickly from the explosion, Brown captures the immediate aftermath, with claustrophobic images of survivors trapped in the rubble, exhausted first responders, and the immensity of the task. 

The Google Books preview below helps you see how effective the graphic novel style for conveying this information:

The story continues beyond the initial attacks, as Brown shows the American response to the attacks, including war in Afghanistan, interrogation of political prisoners, and a rise in Islamaphobic incidents in the US. He concludes with an informative afterward and extensive bibliography.

Hand this to fans of graphic novels, and show them how powerfully this format can be used to convey factual information. As with his other nonfiction, Don Brown masterfully captures the humanity and urgent fight for survival, bringing readers right into the scene.

The digital review copy came from the publishers, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 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. 

©2021 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books