Thursday, November 6, 2014


I first listened to “Josephine” on audiobook and then took a gander at the illustrations.  The text as read to me was fabulous but the illustrations truly knocked my socks off.  I think Josephine would like that.  Throughout her early years and out on the road making her own way, Jospehine seems so resilient.  And yet, as she aged and her popularity declined, it seems she was unable to manage what money she had.  Or maybe she was surrounded by people who never advised her to stop spending as if there was no tomorrow.  Regardless of those types of details, the life of Josephine Baker is fascinating.  From her diamond collared leopard to her days spent as a spy during World War II to her brood of 12 children adopted from around the world, Josephine never had a dull moment.  

Author: Patricia Hruby Powell
Illustrator: Christian Robinson
ISBN: 978-1-4521-0314-3
Published 2014 by Chronicle Books

I borrowed this copy from my public library to review.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Water Can Be

I’m not a big follower of astrological signs and horoscopes, but I do know from reading Teen Magazine growing up that mine is a “water” sign and I have always felt calmed by water.  Being immersed and floating weightlessly, feeling running water on my hands, or dipping my feet into a pool are all appealing to me.  Likewise, I love pretty much every poem I’ve ever read by Laura Purdie Salas and this series including “A Leaf Can Be” and I’m hoping many more to come.  So, as you might expect…I’m a big fan of “Water Can Be.”  

On a technical front, the inclusion of a further explanation of each descriptive passage helps to extend this book beyond our youngest readers.  A glossary and suggestions for further reading helps students to learn more independently or teachers to craft a unit of study with other texts as well.  

Violaeta Dabija’s illustrations complement the text beautifully.  The color scheme and soft lines are soothing.  I think my personal favorite is that of an otter hugging a fish (presumably one he is about to ingest) by moonlight.  And, I know a high school classmate of mine who carves fantastic ice sculptures will appreciate the final illustrated spread showing what I assume might be an ice carving competition.

Water can take on so many lovely forms, and this book expresses that so well.  Enjoy “Water Can Be.”  Perhaps with a tall glass of water.

Water Can Be
Author: Laura Purdie Salas
Illustrator: Violeta Dabija
ISBN: 978-1-4677-05912
Published 2014 by Millbrook Press

I borrowed this copy from my public library to review.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Viva Frida

Viva Frida.  So.  Some people may have difficulty with Viva Frida classified as nonfiction.  I don’t.  Though, admittedly, I am not all that stringent with such labels.  Does this make more sense in the “picture book” section.  Maybe.  But Frida was a real person.  And everything stated in the sparse text is true.  So there’s that.

Now that that’s out of the way.

I like the way the visuals flow through Frida’s boisterous life and into a dreamlike state.  Much like the wounded deer she often painted with her own head, Frida was a beautiful creature who was wounded early in life by polio.  But without being restricted to a hospital bed, would she have discovered her passion for painting?  Much of this backmatter was gleaned from Yuyi Morales’ afterword “My Frida.”  Looking closely at the illustration on the photographed puppet in this section, we see Frida painting her own heart, not on her sleeve.  But close.  So true.


Viva Frida
Author: Yuyi Morales
ISBN: 978-1-59643-603-9
Published 2014 by Roaring Brook Press

I borrowed this copy from my public library to review.

Monday, November 3, 2014

A Home for Mr. Emerson

The amazing team of Kerley and Fotheringham have done it again with “A Home For Mr. Emerson.”  Together, they brought us “What to Do About Alice”, “The Extraordinary Mark Twain”, and “Those Rebels, John and Tom.”  I love the endpapers with various of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quotes, including the simple but powerful “Scatter Joy.”  

Following Emerson on his journey, explaining that he moved around often as a young boy and longed for a place to call home.  I love that “he wondered: Could he build a life around these things he loved?”  The answer, of course, yes.  

And Kerley and Fotheringham built a book that focuses in on Emerson’s home, both the building, and the town and community.  The final return home reminds me of the reality television show “Extreme Home Makeover.”  I imagine Ty Pennington obnoxiously yelling, “MOVE THAT BUS!” as Ralph Waldo Emerson and his daughter, Ellen, returned home from their trip abroad.  I particularly enjoyed the Author’s Note as that fleshed out more details of Emerson’s personal life.  And, to conclude: “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”
A Home for Mr. Emerson
Author: Barbara Kerley
Illustrator: Edwin Fotheringham
ISBN: 978-0-545-35088-4
Published2014  by Scholastic Press

I borrowed this copy from my public library to read and review.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Grandfather Gandhi

Evan Turk’s illustrations in this, his first published, book are awesome.  His palette is perfect to transport the reader to Sevagram, Mohandas Gandhi’s ashram, in India.  And as we walk the dusty road along with Arun, co-author and main character, we can imagine his struggle.  To share his grandfather, such a huge figure to so many people who revered him, but also, to Arun, Grandfather.  And to conduct his own behavior in a way he felt lived up to his family name.  Quite a load for young shoulders to carry to be sure.  And when he lashed out in anger, the lesson that followed proved to be a lifelong one.  A simile, comparing anger to electricity.  Like lightning, it can strike and destroy, or can be transformed to “shed light like a lamp.”  Arun recollects the elder Gandhi’s words: “…anger can illuminate.  It can turn darkness into light.”

Much like R.J. Palacio’s book, Wonder, inspired many to “Choose Kind” and pledge to do so, so too have Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus.  Check out There you will find the “Live Your Life as Light” Pledge for students to take as well as many other awesome resources for readers, teachers, and parents.  Bethany Hegedus created a “Readers Theater”, and educator’s guide, a hands on spinning wheel activity, a book trailer, and a “meet the creators” video.  I can easily see this as a “One School, One Book” program selection in future years.  It is a story that can inspire people at any age to “Live your Life as Light.”


Grandfather Gandhi
Author: Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus
Illustrator: Evan Turk
ISBN: 978-1-4424-2365-7

Published 2014 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Boy and A Jaguar

With testimonials from the illustrious Sy Montgomery and Temple Grandin, Alan Rabinowitz’s “A Boy and A Jaguar” delivers a story unlike any other I have read before.  In the opening of the story, young Alan explains his own experience in school as a stutterer.  My heart breaks for him.  I know him.  (Not Alan, but children who have difficulty for any number of reasons expressing themselves).  But animals, he can talk to animals.  Without stuttering or struggling.  And he promises that he will speak for them if he gets the opportunity.  

As an adult, Dr. Rabinowitz works to preserve land for wildlife, and jaguars in Belize specifically.  There is a beautiful spread with illustrations from Catia Chien that literally takes my breath away.  It reads: “In this animals eyes are strength and power and sureness of purpose.  We are both whole.  We are both at home.”

In the About the Author section, we learn more about Dr. Rabinowitz and his work with Panthera, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting wildcats.  He is also an advocate for stutterers and states that “he feels lucky to have been given the gift of stuttering and believes that had he not stuttered, he would not be on the path of his passion…”  I love that.

Check out A Boy and a Jaguar and be inspired to take the time to be quiet and observe and find your own passion and pursue it wholeheartedly.


A Boy and A Jaguar
Author: Alan Rabinowitz
Illustrator: Catia Chien
ISBN: 978-0-547-87507-1
Published 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

I borrowed this copy from my public library to review.

Monday, September 15, 2014


Frank! is the US debut book from Aussie author, Connah Brecon.  Frank is always late, and always has an excuse.  In this about face to "the boy who cried wolf tale," Connah Brecon does a brilliant job of illustrating and bringing to life each of the outlandish (but true!) scenarios that Frank encounters as he TRIES to get to school on time, but ultimately fails again and again and again.

This book will not fail to entertain readers and spark some imaginative new excuses for Frank.

Some notable illustrations include a spread featuring not one, but 3 watch shops (on "time square") and a school bus just pulling away.

The one with the tree "leaving"...get it?!

And what I can only imagine (dare I say hope) is a sneak peek of Frank!'s sequel.

Yes, please.

ISBN: 978-0-7624-5423-5
Published 2014 by Running Press Kids
I received an advance copy of Frank from the publisher to read and review.
Follow @connahbrecon on Twitter
Follow @connah on Instagram 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Revolving Door

On twitter, a PLN friend asked for suggestions on implementing a 6 day rotation in the library.  When I started in my position, it was the first year of a 6 year rotation.  Previously, if a student came on a Monday, they always came on a Monday.  Moving forward, they would come on A day.  This can be pretty confusing for 5 year olds.  Then again, Monday can be tricky too.  Anywho, it was a good time to make some changes being mindful of how exactly we might keep things running smoothly in our library.  We did a few things.

1) I got these rolling carts.
I got six of them, one per grade level.  In the end, we only really use them now for grades K-2 (so we only need 3) who have classes in the afternoon.  This is something that would be tweaked for each school's needs.  

The concept is for book return.  But it has served other purposes, including a reminder to the class that they have library on the next school day.  It also cuts back on students forgetting their book in their classroom and having to trek back to get it, though not entirely.  

Each grade level cart has its own signage.  There is a stack of card stock labelled KA, KB, KC etc. for Kindergarten, 1A/2A for First and Second Grades respectively.  I hole punched the top corners and used binder rings to attach the signs to the front of each cart. On the back of each page, I attached a post-it with the teacher's name that had library on that day.  So, for the KA sign, the post-it on the back had the name of the Kindergarten teacher whose class came to the library on A day.  

After lunch, the cart would sit outside of the classroom which would indicate to the class (and their teacher) that they have library the next school day, so if this class had library on B day and B day was on Tuesday, the cart would come to their classroom on Monday afternoon and sit in the hallway right outside the door.  

As part of the morning routine on Tuesday/B day, the students in this class will put their library books to return into the cart.  {When I first did this, I included a pencil and a post-it note pad with each cart and asked students to post it the word renew if they wanted to renew their book.  This didn't always work out, so now we ask students to bring the book with them if they would like to renew, though most K-2 students are ready to check out a new book anyway.}

During morning classes, the carts are picked up and brought to the library when there is more time to check books in and shelve them.  Currently, our library assistant retrieves the book carts.  Also, students from older classes can be assigned to pick up books or the teachers in the younger classes can assign book return as a class job, much like students might bring notes to the office.  With this procedure, books are checked in before K-2 classes come to the library in the afternoon so you are aware of any students that you might need to follow up with about overdue books and if students are waiting on a book, it can more readily be sent to the next student or placed on the hold shelf for the next student.  When there are holds placed on a book in K-2, we find it is most often within the same class where excitement has built for a particular title.

If you try a system like this or do something similar, please comment below to share!

2) I made up bookmarks as reminders for books that need to be returned.  In the past, a summary was printed for each student with the title of the book.  That's a lot of paper!  Often, parents (and students) just need a reminder that their book is still out and they already know what it is and exactly where it is and just need to remember to put it in a school bag.  Or, as sometimes happens, take it out of their school bag upon arrival at school.  These bookmarks served as that reminder.  The bookmarks also have a link to our school library catalog which students can log into from home and check their own account to see the title of the book checked out if they are drawing a blank.  When a student has a book still checked out, they can put a book on hold.  When they return their book with the bookmark in it, it signals to us that they have a book on hold and we can send it up to the class for the student.  They can still utilize the book return cart too!  It is in their grade level hallway, just outside of the next class' door.

These strategies cut down on students missing instructional time in the classroom and maximizes their time in the library.  Our schedule is tight with six classes per day.  It truly is a revolving door in the library, and we wouldn't have it any other way

Thursday, February 20, 2014