Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Award-winning books

The theme for the December 5th grade book report is award-winning books, specifically a "just right" book that won a medal or honor as part of an American Library Association award.

Links to the award websites are below. While the Newbery is perhaps the most famous of the ALA awards, there are several others that recognize truly outstanding works of fiction and nonfiction.

Parents should be aware that the intended audience may be older than 5th grade. Please read professional reviews of the book (e.g. on
KCLS) and help your student make an appropriate choice. Many of the awards cover books intended for a wide span of ages.

Each student must select a different book! When you have chosen your book, Ms. Russell must approve it and record the title. Let her know which award the book won.

Mildred L. Batchelder Award - Given to an outstanding book originally published in a language other than English.

Pura Belpré Award - Recognizes "a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth."

Coretta Scott King Book Award - Is for "outstanding books for young adults and children by African American authors and illustrators that reflect the African American experience."

John Newbery Medal - Awarded "to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children."

Michael L. Printz Award - Given to "a book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature."

Schneider Family Book Award - Is awarded to "honor an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences."

Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal - Honors "the most distinguished informational book published in English in the preceding year for its significant contribution to children’s literature."

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Snow days!

What are you all up to on these unexpected days off school? On Monday, my daughter and I walked to the library. Yesterday, when the library was closed due to icy roads, we walked to a bookstore. Today we’re making a gingerbread house using the directions from one of our library books!

All this chilly weather reminds me of one of my very favorite wintertime books, Snow by
Uri Shulevitz. The simplicity and beauty of this book perfectly evoke the wonder of the first winter snowfall. Shulevitz is a talented artist whose luminous paintings have graced many exquisite picture books.

While it is not a Thanksgiving holiday book, The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs by Betty G. Birney is an ideal read for this time of year. It's about a boy who chafes at spending his summer vacation stuck in his boring hometown. He yearns to take off for more exotic destinations and see the Seven Wonders of the World. His father makes a deal: if he can find seven wonders - one for each day of the week - right there at home, he'll get a train ticket out of town to visit relatives.

Birney is hugely popular for her Humphrey the hamster series, but this little gem of hers is sometimes overlooked. Try it out this Thanksgiving and start paying attention to the everyday wonders that surround us all.

Wishing you and your families a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Stress, sleep & wellness

As the mother of a middle school student, I knew sleep mattered, but was surprised to read about how greatly it can influence academic performance (not just how much sleep, but also when!) in Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman's thought provoking book, NurtureShock. I highly recommend this fascinating and very readable book that challenges many of the assumptions we "know" to be true about raising kids.

Next came this eye-opening article,
Late-Night Texting Can Negatively Impact Schoolwork, which talks about the potential negative side effects of use of electronic media during the evening before sleep.

Of course, our children lead busy and enriched lives, full of extracurriculars and homework and family fun too. How can we help our kids make the most of all these opportunities? By focusing on wellness too! Here are a few books that might help your family get started:

Don't Pop Your Cork on Mondays! The Children's Anti-stress Book by Adolph Moser
Real Spirit: Fun Ideas for Refreshing, Relaxing, and Staying Strong by Elizabeth Chobanian
Stress Can Really Get on Your Nerves! by Trevor Romain
What Would You Do? Quizzes about Real-Life Problems by Patti Kelley Criswell

Middle & high school
My Anxious Mind: A Teen's Guide to Managing Anxiety and Panic by Michael Tompkins
Stress Relief: The Ultimate Teen Guide by Mark Powell

Monday, November 8, 2010

Our visit with Phillip Hoose!

It was an absolute joy to welcome renowned author Phillip Hoose to Vista last Thursday morning!

He spoke with students about his National Book Award winning, Newbery Honor title, Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice, discussing not only this unsung young heroine of the civil rights movement, but also his research techniques, how a middle school teacher inspired him to become an author, and wise words of advice on how to use negative feedback to grow. What does he do when gets a bad review? He lets himself feel angry - but not act on his feelings - for a day, then he wakes up the following morning and asks himself, “Is there anything in this review that I can use to improve?”

He graciously remained after his talk to sign books and chat with students. Many students asked thoughtful and insightful questions that showed they were thinking deeply about the challenging topics raised in his book and imagining how it might have felt to have been in the shoes of some of these individuals.

Phillip Hoose is a man of many talents who, in addition to history, also writes books for adults and young people about natural history and sports. He is currently hard at work researching the red knot, a shorebird whose mind-boggling migratory habitats unfortunately place it at risk. If you have not yet had the pleasure of getting to know his thought-provoking books, be sure to check out some of his titles!

Friday, November 5, 2010


It is exciting to see that under Ms. Russell’s guidance more than half of our 5th graders are participating in NaNoWriMo, in which people everywhere set themselves the challenge of writing an entire novel during the month of November!

Despite their busy lives, our young authors are devoting many hours to this creative pursuit – some are even giving up recess to sit in the library and earnestly peck away on their laptops. I was happy to hear about one parent who has taken the challenge with his daughter!

If you hit writer’s block or otherwise need a boost of inspiration, these books may help:

Spilling Ink: A Young Writer’s Handbook by Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter
What's Your Story?: A Young Person's Guide to Writing Fiction by Marion Dane Bauer
Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly by Gail Carson Levine

And be sure to check out all the great
NaNoWriMo events at the public library this month! Here's something fun that goes to show that starting to write when you are young can lead to all sorts of adventures...

Recognize that name on the far right? Does Captain Underpants mean anything to you?

Now, go forth and write!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Boys and Comics: More Than Meets the Eye!

A recent study by the Canadian Council on Learning reinforces a lot of observations I've made over the years about the reading habits of many boys. The short version? Boys like reading comics. Boys who read comics also read more overall. Comics enhance literacy skills.

It's worth looking at the original article or at least the summary,
Comics Are Key to Promoting Literacy in Boys, Study Says. Both contain valuable information about gender differences in reading, common myths about the value of comics/graphic novels, and the many ways in which comics can be used to enhance education.

Wondering where to start looking?

Get Graphic Titles
Graphic Novel Reporter Reviews - Kids
Graphic Novel Reporter Reviews - Teens
Graphic Novels for Libraries: Recommended Titles for Children and Teens
Kids Love Comics Reading List
No Flying No Tights
...and my previous blog posts on this topic.

Grownups, don't get left out of the fun! Some of my favorite reads have been graphic novel memoirs such as Raymond Briggs' Ethel and Ernest, Craig Thompson's Blankets and David Small's Stitches.