IMWAYR – September 19, 2016

ItsMondayGraphicHappy Monday!  This past week I really got into a couple of books.  I mean, they were so good that I couldn’t put them down.  Interested?  Let’s check them out…..

First up, we have Shannon Hale and Dean Hale’s story of an awesome, crime-fighting princess, Princess in Black.  In this one we are introduced to our superhero princess, Princess Magnolia.  She has the nosy Duchess Wigtower over for hot cocoa.  Just then, the secret monster alarm goes off.  Magnolia excuses herself and takes on her ninja-like crime fighting identity – the Princess in Black!  The Princess in Black goes to save the goat herd and send the invading monster back to his land.

With gorgeous illustrations, fast moving plot, and engaging action, Princess in Black is a must read for children of all ages!

I then went in a different direction and read an amazing YA novel.  Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson, tells the story of Melinda.  Melinda is a high school freshman who is suddenly outcast from her group of friends.  As the novel progresses, Melinda speaks less and less.  The reader discovers why she is not speaking, and the events surrounding the night that changed her life forever.

This powerful novel was a tough one to put down.  It is written without much dialogue, but rather, as a stream of consciousness type narrative.  Laurie Halse Anderson has said that she woke up one night from a nightmare to hear a girl screaming.  That inner girl is the character who became Melinda.  I loved the writing and totally relate to Melinda’s feelings of being lost within oneself.

Finally, I went back to one of the books on my TBR from last fall’s Children’s Lit class.  The Poet Slave of Cuba, by Margarita Engle, tells the story of Juan Francisco Manzano.  Juan was a slave in Havanna who is incredibly talented at reciting and creating poems and songs.  This biographical tale, adapted from Juan’s own autobiography, explores the confusion, frustration, and growth of this amazing poet.

I loved the verse writing style!  She truly attempted to keep close to the essence of Manzano.  His story is one of heartbreak, joy, pain, and love.  This was a true “book-a-day” read as I started and finished it in an afternoon!

Well, that’s what is up for this past week!  I am currently reading a twisted Sleeping Beauty tale and anxiously awaiting the arrival of Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige.  My Amazon account estimates I’ll get that one by Friday – a full 2 1/2 days post publication day.  I guess I have to survive though!


Six Things You Should Know About Children’s Lit

Hello Kid Lit Lovers,

We are now at the tail end of the semester and this is my final, final official post for ENG 235:  Children’s Literature.  Don’t worry, this blog won’t end!

In the meantime, I wanted to wrap up things with a look back that the top ideas and concepts I have learned about Children’s Literature.  This is a collection of the most important, interesting, and exciting things that I have learned this semester.

1.  Public libraries, and their amazing children’s librarians, are an invaluable resource.

I learned this in week two or so.  I needed 50 Caldecott books to read and I had no idea how to gather all 50.  I went through the Caldecott list and reserved a number of the winners.  Yet, I still needed help finding more.

Enter my new favorite friend – our children’s librarian.  I showed up to the library and said I needed help.  She was so quick to start looking and really wanted me to read all the “good” Caldecott books.  We crawled around the floor in the picture book stacks and found all 50 books that I read.  It was amazing for her to spend an hour (or more…) looking for and checking out Caldecotts.

Our relationship didn’t end there.  She was always ready to find a book to meet my theme for the week and to suggest others that might fit.  She also asked how the books that I read were and if I would suggest them to others.

2.  Children’s Lit awards really do point you to amazing books.

We spent quite a bit of time exploring the various book awards (most of them sponsored by the ALA).  The committees who read and analyze the various contenders have a big job to do when it comes to selecting the winners.  However, they do an amazing job.  I learned that any book that is an award winner or honor is going to be a quality work.  I may not have liked all of them, but they are all quality books.

3.  There are a lot of nonfiction picture  books – and they are great!

This is something that I did not know before this class.  Reading the various picture books and finding a collection of nonfiction books was a surprise.  These books are a combination of illustrated picture books and books that have photos covering a wide array of topics.  They are also very well written and very informative.  If you want to read a nonfiction book on a specific topic, look up the children’s literature book!

4.  There is an amazing world of Kid Lit bloggers, authors, and websites.

This has been one of the coolest, most surprising aspects of Children’s Literature.  I have enjoyed discovering the social media accounts of my new favorite authors (I’m talking J.K. Rowling here).  There are also amazing bloggers who review books and share the fun things they have found.

Finally, my classmates have had wonderful blogs too.  The process of reading their blogs and commenting have made this distance, online learning course feel a little more connected.  Looking back on my list of comments, I found that there are 4 or 5 people I regularly commented with.  In my imaginary Kid Lit world, we are a collection of friends who read and share books together.

5.  Everyone loves to talk about Kid Lit books.

As I read throughout this course, there were times that I needed to find a book that wasn’t available in my library.  So, what did I do?  I put out a plea and asked my friends, neighbors, and colleagues requesting  help finding the books.  People came out in droves – offering books, reviews, suggestions, and always wanting to talk.

I also asked friends, family, and colleagues for suggestions for my independent learning project (Kid Lit Readers – check it out!).  Again, people came out in droves.  They offered book ideas, their favorite books from childhood, and their children’s (or grandchildren’s) favorites.  Essentially, everyone is is a Kid Lit lover.

6.  Children’s Literature is not just for children!

This is one of the most exciting pieces of knowledge I have gained.  I have really loved reading all of these books written for children.  They are not only informative (nonfiction) or fun, but they are well written, quality works of literature.  I have no qualms about reading picture books and short chapter books and books from my childhood.  There is no need to defend myself when reading these books.  Rather, I have learned to share them, tell others, and enjoy reading these books.

What six things did you learn this semester?  Which of the things on my list did you also learn?  Let’s talk below…

Top Ten Tuesday: The Best of the Semester

I cannot believe that this semester is over!  I’ve read 84 Children’s Lit books in just over 15 weeks.  I’ve read books that I have loved, and books that I have loved to hate.

For this re-cap post, I have borrowed from another KidLit meme and have created a list of my Top Ten Books of the semester.

How did I choose?

I rifled through my GoodReads shelf for Children’s Lit and realized I read a lot of amazing books.  I had no idea how to narrow this list to just ten,.  I started by sorting my GoodReads shelf by my rating.  I apparently found over 20 books 5 star worthy.

I then decided that since I have read a wonderful collection of picture books and novels, I wanted to highlight five of my favorites from each group.  I chose books that I have not stopped talking about, that I have shared with others and that I have bought for others.  I’ve also included some I knew I had to have a copy of for my classroom.

And here they are……

The Picture Books

  • The Adventures of Beekle:  An Unimaginary Friend, by Dan Santat

This is my hands down favorite picture book of the semester.  Beekle’s art style, different take on the story of an imaginary friend, and the many layers to the story make Beekle a #1 in my book.  I ended up checking it out 3 times from my local library before I bought it.  I have shared my copy with students, family friends, and other teachers.  I also have purchased this book for more than one person too!

  • The Day The Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt, Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

I had heard a lot about this book from many of my classmates’ blogs.  Everyone said it was an original book with excellent illustrations.  Well, they were right!  I checked this out from my local library and shared it with a 5th grader I was tutoring.  We both really enjoyed the illustrations that mix drawn images with photos.  The story of the crayons, and the demands they make, is a new thing to me too.  This is a great book and sparks discussion and enjoyment. 

  • Press Here, by Herve Tullett

press herePress Here is a fairly simple picture book with a simple premise.  You follow the directions and literally “press here”.  The interactive nature of the book was something I had not really experienced before.  There is no book I read that was so effective in creating reader-book interactions.  I loved the primary colors of the illustrations and the fun actions you do as you interact with the book.  This was such a fun book that my nephew will be Pressing Here all day on Christmas! 

  • So You Want to Be President?, by Judith St. George and David Small

SoYouWantToBePresidentThis is one for my history nerd self.  This book has amazing illustrations, especially some very creative images of our presidents.  This nonfiction picture book gives us all some amazing facts about the presidents of our country.  These include some of the “normal” facts as well as the crazy, unknown facts.  This book is in the top ten because it shares information and shows that history does not have to be boring!

  • Separate Is Never Equal:  Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation, by Duncan Tonatiuh

SeparateIsNeverEqual-SibertThe final picture book on the list is another nonfiction picture book.  I have to say I had never heard the story of Sylvia Mendez and her fight for inclusion.  The artist’s style of illustrations were amazing.  I honestly first chose this book based on its cover!  Tonatiuh’s telling of the Mendez family’s fight for education is poignant, simply explained, and thought provoking.  This is one I will have for my classroom and one that everyone should read.

The Novels

  • The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate

IvanThe One and Only “required” novel this term was The One and Only Ivan – a Newbery winner.  This is probably my number 1 new novel I read this semester.  I laughed with Ivan and his friends, I cried with them, and I was stirred to share this amazing work with others.  I read a couple of chapters to a classroom of 8th graders and they were silent and paid attention.  If a novel can bring a group of 8th grade students to a stand still and have them be quiet for an extended period of time, it deserves a honored place in every classroom.

  • Crenshaw, by Katherine Applegate

b7214-crenshaw_finalThe week we read Ivan I was surfing the KidLit-o-sphere for more information about Katherine Applegate and stumbled across reviews, interviews, and lots of praise for her new novel Crenshaw.  This story delves into the mind of its main character just as much as Ivan did.  Katherine Applegate is the master of making me cry with just a few simple words.  This book also deals with issues of poverty and homelessness.  One thing I have found interesting is the Crenshaw food drives that have been spurred by the book across the nation.  Read Crenshaw. 

  • The Watsons Go To Birmingham – 1963, by Christopher Paul Curtis

watsons go to birminghamI expected this historical fiction novel to be amazing.  My professor recommended it, so I bought it.  The day I cracked into it, I was transported into the world of the Crazy Watsons.  I was really surprised that this Newbery book did not spend the entire novel describing and delving into the Birmingham church bombing.  Rather, Curtis creates a family like any other family, and makes us care about each member of the family.  He then pushes us to explore senseless violence and how it impacts everyone.  It definitely gives you something to think about.

  • I Survived:  The Shark Attacks of 1916, by Lauren Tarshis

ISurvivedSharkAnother work of historical fiction, this is the second book in the I Survived series.  This tells a story that centers around New Jersey shark attacks in 1916.  These sharks strayed up the river into fresh water and attacked people during the summer of 1916.  I loved this book because it allowed me to get deeper into the mind of a young boy who wasn’t quite accepted by his peers.  This book also has suspense and action.  My 5th grader (see “Crayons”) recommended this to me and she picked a great one to share!

  • Maniac Magee, by Jerry Spinelli

This novel is one that has stayed in my mind.  Maniac Magee is a young boy who doesn’t belong on either side of town – the white side or the black side.  Spinelli crafts an intense story that examines the uneasiness we feel when faced with someone unlike ourselves  One thing that I really loved about this novel is that I often found myself forgetting what race Maniac was.  I know that sounds simple, but Spinelli crafted characters who were so true to life that their race did not matter.

There’s my list.  What did you put on your list?  Would you have picked something different off my list to highlight?  Let’s talk below….

Becoming Part of the KidLit-o-sphere…

Aside from all of my reading for Children’s Lit class, I have really, really, REALLY enjoyed getting involved in the KidLit-o-sphere.  Blogging about my reading has been so awesome.

So, for my independent learning project this semester I decided to create a book review site for kids.  I wanted to do something that was a combination of blogging, book recommendations, book reviews by real people, and a haven for news and information about some of my favorite authors.

 My Process

I took a few different journeys into Kid Lit to create my site.

  • I compiled lists of “best children’s books” from across the internet.  Of all the lists, I felt like the one with the most breadth was the list I chose for my challenge – Amazon’s Top 100 Children’s Books.  It featured books from the other lists I investigated (Time’s list is another for example).  I re-created the list on the Top Books Lists page of my site.
  • I created a page that explored the ALA medals for children’s literature.  The Honored Books page has a quick description of the award, an image of the medal, and a list of the most recent winner and honor books.
  • I made a list of my favorite authors.  I then did a web search about each of these authors and gave them their own Author Bio page.  I learned about authors from Dan Santat to J.K. Rowling to Dr. Seuss.  The Author Bio page includes a picture, some basic facts about the author, a selection of their books, and links to more information – including their websites and Twitter profiles.
  • Since I have experienced and found so many wonderful people on the KidLit-o-sphere, I decided that I needed a page to showcase these amazing people.  I created Kid Lit on the Web page that has links to some of my favorites.  I also discovered a class of 5th graders who give quick snippets of their book reviews on the web.  They were gracious enough to allow me to link to their amazing site!

The Review Piece

One of the best things about this Children’s Lit class has been the chance to read everyone’s reviews of books.  I’ve also delved into the review areas of sites like Goodreads and Amazon.

I wanted a place where kids (and Kid Lit Lovers) can give their real reviews.  I wanted many different people to give me reviews and I want real people to be able to add reviews.

Yet, I struggled with the issue of how to make a site that would protect people’s privacy.  I wanted everyone to be able to share their review – young or old – but I also didn’t want anybody to post all the time, making for a blog administration nightmare.  So, I came up with a plan.

I have created the Leave A Review page.  People are required to leave the name of the book and the review they would like to leave.  These will be sent to me and I will edit for clarity/suitability and then post it.

Finding Some Reviews

My final process and investigation was finding some real, actual reviews.  Well, how did I do this?  First, I sent out a Facebook plea – I asked family and friends to tell me their favorite book(s) and why.  Secondly, I started asking people I work with (an amazing group of teachers) what their favorite books were and why.  Finally, I asked anyone I know with children what books their kids like and why.

I took this information and created the In The Wild Reviews page.  This is where people’s reviews will go!  I hope that this page continues to grow.

What did I learn?

I learned so many things.  Guess it is time for another list!

  • I learned that creating a site for people to submit reviews was a bit of a challenge.  I had used Weebly to create a site for another class and I found it very difficult to navigate and create.  So, I created another WordPress site.  Since WordPress is built for blogging, it made it difficult to create static pages and links.  But, I did my best – creating something that seems like it will work.
  • People love to talk about their favorite books.  They especially like to talk about their favorite children’s books.
  • There is so much available online that it wasn’t necessary to re-create everything.  I found that author websites were an excellent place to learn about the authors and discover a bit about their personalities.
What are you waiting for?  Go explore KidLit Readers!  Submit your own reviews.  Share your favorite links.  Help me grow my site and help me to share my learning!