Middle School September 2018

August 1st, 2018 | Posted by schliesman in 2018-2019 | 2018-2019 Middle School | September | Middle School - (Comments Off on Middle School September 2018)

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Jamieson, Victoria.
All’s Faire in Middle School. Dial, 2017. 248 pages (978–0–525–42998–2)

Ages 8-12

Imogene has been home-schooled her entire life and has also spent eight weeks every year with her family at the Renaissance Faire in her Florida community. Now she’s finally getting the chance to play a part in the Faire as a squire to her dad’s villainous knight. Imogene is also starting public school—her own choice—for the first time. Imogene’s trials and tribulations as she navigates middle school are framed in terms of a Medieval drama at the start of every chapter of this graphic novel. (“Our heroine’s journey through the halls of middle school winds through unknown lands and uncharted territories.”) The false face and slings and arrows of one popular girl in particular are a challenge, but not as painful as discovering she, herself, is not above treachery as she tries to position herself in the social strata. Her behavior isn’t very noble at home, either. Luckily her family is marvelously grounded, not to mention wonderfully realistic. Life isn’t all Faires and fun, after all: Her dad sells pools and spas as his day job while everyone pitches in at home, whether helping make crafts for the shop her mom runs at the Faire, or watching her little brother. Imogene’s dad is brown-skinned, her mom white, in this entertaining and highly relatable quest in which Imogene emerges the hero of her own story—what every kid can be. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Intermediate September 2018

August 1st, 2018 | Posted by schliesman in 2018-2019 | 2018-2019 Intermediate | September | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) - (Comments Off on Intermediate September 2018)

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Barnes, Derrick. Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut. Illustrated by Gordon C. James. A Denene Millner Book / Bolden, 2017. 32 pages (978–1–57284–224–3)

Ages 6-10

A distinctive second-person narrative speaks directly to readers to honor an everyday experience—going to the barbershop for a haircut, a universal experience for boys, but specific here to African American boys. Barnes deftly uses hyperbole, exaggeration, and metaphor to instill the story with a sense of pride and a good deal of humor. It truly is an ode in the traditional sense, but so modern, too. Fresh and original turns of phrase appear on every page, celebrating an experience of joy and confidence, while the descriptions of other men (and their specific haircuts) in the shop place the boy firmly at the center of a community that pulls together as a strong extended family. Bold colors and broad brush strokes capture both the individuality of the men and boys in the shop, as well as the protagonist’s pride in his own fresh cut. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Primary September 2018

August 1st, 2018 | Posted by schliesman in 2018-2019 | 2018-2019 Primary | September | Primary (Grades K-2) - (Comments Off on Primary September 2018)

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Derby, Sally.
A New School Year: Stories in Six Voices. Illustrated by Mika Song. Charlesbridge, 2017. 48 pages (978–1–58089–730–3)

Ages 5-10

Six children ranging in age from kindergarten through fifth grade walk us through the excitement, jitters, and small pleasures that accompany the first day of a new school year. Divided into four time periods—The Night Before, In the Morning, At School, and After School—each child voices four poems. Dimensions of identity, economics, ability, and experience are seamlessly integrated into the poems. Fourth-grader Carlos, for example, notices that there are not many other black-haired, brown-skinned students like him—but he notes that his teacher, Mr. Liu, seems fine, even though no one else looks like him either. Third-grader Jackie goes to school early, because her mom has a long bus ride to work every day. Fifth-grader Mia wears hearing aids and is pleased to be assigned a seat near the front of the classroom, where she’ll be able to hear her teacher. Such details ensure that each child remains a distinct individual, even as their poems reflect the familiar emotions of so many children on such a momentous day. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

BTP September 2018 (2)

August 1st, 2018 | Posted by schliesman in 2018-2019 | 2018-2019 Babies, Toddlers & Preschoolers | Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers | September - (Comments Off on BTP September 2018 (2))

My Autumn Book book cover
My Autumn Book
by Wong Herbert Yee. Christy Ottaviano Books / Henry Holt, 2015

Ages 3-5


“The air turns crisp. / The sky turns gray. / Is autumn really on the way?” In the fourth lovely, season-related picture book about the same small Asian girl, autumn is indeed arriving. It comes with swirling and twirling leaves, busy squirrels, flying geese, cocooning caterpillars, and more. As in past books featuring this girl and her father, author/illustrator Wong Herbert Yee’s rhyming text is paired with soft color illustrations full of warmth and appealing details. The book’s trim size makes it perfect for small hands to hold.  © 2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

BTP September 2018 (1)

August 1st, 2018 | Posted by schliesman in 2018-2019 | 2018-2019 Babies, Toddlers & Preschoolers | Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers | September - (Comments Off on BTP September 2018 (1))

Baby's First Words book cover

Baby’s First Words
by Stella Blackstone and Sunny Scribbens. Illustrated by Christiane Engel. Barefoot Books, 2017

Ages 6 months – 3 years

A toddler’s day provides the story arc of a board book that offers engagement, affirmation, and delight, showing a mixed-race, gay-parented family. “Good morning!” reads the primary text on the opening page spread. The colorful scene includes word labels for “baby” (the girl), “bed,” “blocks,” “clock,” “laugh” (she’s all smiles as she greets one of her dads), “woolly mammoth” (a stuffed animal), and more. Objects, actions, and feelings are labeled as the little girl gets dressed, plays outside, eats lunch, plays inside, and, over the course of the day, experiences a range of emotions, engages with a variety of vehicles, and encounters an array of animal toys before being given a bath and going to bed. The pleasing illustrations are punctuated by humor (e.g., the woolly mammoth is often shown doing something funny for a woolly mammoth—coloring with a crayon, brushing its teeth) and full of warmth. One dad, home with her throughout the day, is Black, the other is light-skinned, like the little girl. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

High School September 2018

August 1st, 2018 | Posted by schliesman in 2018-2019 | 2018-2019 High School | September | High School - (Comments Off on High School September 2018)

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Watson, Renée.
Piecing Me Together. Bloomsbury, 2017. 264 pages (978–1–68119–105–8)

Age 13 and older

Jade misses going to school with neighborhood friends but the private school she attends on scholarship offers an international volunteer opportunity. This year she hopes to be chosen. In the meantime, Jade’s school counselor encourages her to participate in a community-based mentoring program for African American girls. Jade is paired with Maxine, an African American alum of her school. Meanwhile Jade’s classmate Sam—whom she gets to know because they both ride the bus, a rarity—has never stepped foot in Jade’s neighborhood. It all has Jade thinking about how people perceive her, and her community. Then she isn’t chosen for the volunteer trip to Costa Rica, despite tutoring fellow students in Spanish. The reason? Jade already participates in the mentoring program and her teacher feels other students deserve opportunities, too. Jade’s frustration is further fueled by the assault of a young Black woman by police in a nearby community. For Jade, the beating is too close, too personal, intensifying her sense of disquiet and disconnect with her school community, including Sam. Why, she finally challenges her teacher, her counselor, her mentor, does everyone assume because she is poor and Black that she needs help and “opportunities” but has nothing to offer, something to give? This vivid, poignant novel features singular characters; complex, authentic relationships; and a young woman voicing a critical truth. ©2018 Cooperative Children’s Book Center


May 16th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2017-2018 Babies, Toddlers & Preschoolers | Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers | September | 2017-2018 - (Comments Off on SEPTEMBER (2))

Rudas: Niño’s Horrendous Hermanitas by Yuyi Morales. A Neal Porter Book / Roaring Brook Press, 2016

Niño’s back and this time he’s completely upstaged by las hermanitas—the lucha queens. In lucha libre there are two kinds of wrestlers—the Técnicos, those who play by the rules, and the Rudos, those who don’t. The toddler twins are definitely in the second category. First introduced at the end of the popular Niño Wrestles the World when they awakened from their nap, here the duo is wide awake and running the show. The genius here is that all the Rudas’ tactics are typical toddler behaviors. They defeat El Extraterrestre with the Poopy Bomb Blowout, and when the Olmec Head steps in to vanquish them with a diaper change, they go for the famous Nappy Freedom Break. They teethe on El Chamuco’s tail and then point to the Guanajuato Mummy as the culprit and, most hilariously, grab two of La Llorona’s children, saying “Gimme!” and “¡Mio!” In the end, only Niño can defeat them by employing a classic older sibling move—deflection. As with the first book, there is a playful blend of Spanish and English, and plenty to look at in the comic-style illustrations. (Ages 3–6)  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Try these early literacy activities with children:

  • Read: Some of the Spanish words from the book. What do these Spanish words mean. Talk about how people use different languages.
  • Talk: About what games you play with your brothers or sisters or friends. What do you like to pretend?
  • Sing: Make an instrument and then sing a song with it.
  • Write: Talk about the shape and style of speech bubbles and how the arrows point to which character is speaking. Have kids draw a character and a speech bubble with their own fun words.
  • Play: Play some classic “athletic” songs (The Final Countdown, Chariots of Fire, We Will Rock You, We are the Champions, etc.) and practice movements- marching, running in place, etc.
  • Math or Science: What kind of tools do the sisters use? How are they used? What tools do you use every day?




May 16th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in Babies, Toddlers and Preschoolers | September | 2017-2018 | 2017-2018 Babies, Toddlers & Preschoolers - (Comments Off on SEPTEMBER (1))

We Sang You Home by Richard Van Camp. Illustrated by Julie Flett. Orca, 2016

“ We sang you from a wish / We sang you from a prayer / We sang you home / and you sang back … ” The words in this board book are simple and yet sophisticated in their meaning as they communicate the unconditional love parents feel for their child. It’s as comforting as a lullaby, and the elegant illustrations by Cree/Métis artist Julie Flett complement Richard Van Camp’s text perfectly. They initially show a mom and dad sitting outside, singing up to the sky. Next they appear with a tiny baby in a carrier, watching a flock of birds move across the sky. Succeeding pages show the baby growing just a bit older until he or she is crawling. The final wordless page shows the parents in the same outdoor setting as the first page, this time the baby with them as they sing again to the sky. (Ages birth–2)  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Try these early literacy activities with children:

  • Read: The poem “To a Child” and listen to the accompanying song from CD.
  • Talk: About your first day at home or your first day with your family. Do you remember anything? What does your family remember?
  • Sing: What songs do you sing with your family? When do you sing them? Who do you sing them with? Sing one of your family songs.
  • Write: Together write a love “note” to each other.
  • Play: Learn American Sign Language signs for “family,” “love,” “together,” and “play.”
  • Math or Science: How many different animals can you find? Count them. Talk about daytime and nighttime. How can you tell the difference from picture to picture?




May 10th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in September | 2017-2018 | 2017-2018 Intermediate | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) - (Comments Off on SEPTEMBER (2))

Book Uncle and Me by Uma Krishnaswami. Illustrated by Julianna Swaney. Groundwood, 2016

Nine-year-old Yasmin visits Book Uncle’s Lending Library, located on a street corner near her apartment, every day. He calls her his Number One Patron. She usually borrows longer books, so the day Book Uncle suggests a picture book, she’s disappointed but politely accepts it. After she reads the story, about doves trapped in a hunter’s net working together to free themselves, she finds she can’t stop thinking about it. “How strange that such a skinny book can leave so many questions in my mind.” When Book Uncle is told by the city that he must shut down his library because he has no permit and can’t afford one, Yasmin is devastated. Then she’s determined. Together with her friends she draws attention to Book Uncle’s plight during the mayoral campaign, challenging the candidates to support Book Uncle and literacy, and finding out in the process that the current mayor was behind the lending library’s closure (he wanted to clean up the streets before his daughter’s marriage at a nearby fancy hotel). Engaging, child-centered, and often funny, this easy chapter book set in a large Indian city is also a primer in community activism for young children. ©2017 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What are some of the ways that Yasmin’s community is the same as yours? What are some of the ways that it is different?
  2. What lessons does Yasmin learn about politics, activism, and standing up for someone who is being unfairly treated?
  3. Yasmin has a goal of reading one book each day. What are your goals for reading this year? Where does Yasmin get her books to read? Where do you get your books to read?



May 10th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in September | 2017-2018 | Intermediate (Grades 3-5) | 2017-2018 Intermediate - (Comments Off on SEPTEMBER (1))

Juana & Lucas by Juana Medina. Candlewick Press, 2016

Juana is a little girl living in Bogotá, Colombia. Lucas is her beloved dog. In a spritely conversational tone, Juana chats about the things she loves (her city, her dog, her abuelo, her best friend, Juli) and the things she doesn’t (her school uniform). Each one of these is accompanied by a diagram-style illustration that points out key factors (Abuelo’s love for chocolate, for example, and her uniform’s itchy skirt). Overall, Juana is a bubbly, happy girl. Then she starts having to learn “the English” in school. And she hates it. She asks everyone she trusts to give her a good reason to study English, sure they won’t come up with any. They all do, but only one of them convinces Juana it’s worth the effort: an upcoming family trip to Spaceland in Florida, where she can meet her hero, Astroman. The charming narrative, somewhat autobiographical, integrates Spanish words into the English text and is accompanied by amusing color illustrations on every page. © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What are some of the ways that Juana’s community is the same as yours? What are some of the ways that it is different?
  2. How do the illustrations and text features (like the wrapped text, the bold words, and the labels on the character pages) add to the story?
  3. What are some of the challenges Juana faces and how does she overcome these challenges? What challenges have you faced?




May 10th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in September | 2017-2018 | High School | 2017-2018 High School - (Comments Off on SEPTEMBER)

March: The Trilogy by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin. Illustrated by Nate Powell. Top Shelf, 2013-2016

March: Book Three

The third and final volume of U.S. Congressman John Lewis’s graphic novel memoir opens with the Birmingham church bombing in September,1963,   in which four Black girls were murdered. At the time, Lewis was a leader in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and the tragedy, and additional violence that followed, fueled SNCC’s increased voting rights efforts. Details of those efforts, and the work of activists like Fannie Lou Hamer and Bob Moses, are the focus here as Lewis describes individuals whose skill and passion, and grief and anger, found purpose in activism to change our nation. The narrative’s climax is the signing of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Lewis states, “That day was the end of a very long road. It was the end of the movement as I knew it.” Lewis’s memories are again framed by the January, 2009, inauguration of Barack Obama. As in the two prior volumes, the conversational narrative is direct and powerful, and paired with black-and- white panel art and occasional full-page illustrations.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

March: Book Two

The second volume of this graphic novel memoir trilogy follows U.S. Congressman John Lewis’s activism and leadership in the Civil Rights Movement in the early 1960s. Beaten, jailed, but steadfast and further politicized and energized during the Freedom Rides, he emerged into a leadership role in the Student Nonviolent Coordinator Committee (SNCC) as protests heated up in Birmingham early in 1963. It was in his SNCC role that he was involved in planning the March on Washington that year and to speak at the event, only to be asked to make last-minute changes to lines in his speech questioned as too divisive and critical. The direct, powerful conversational narrative is paired with dramatic black-and-white panel art and occasional full-page illustrations, and includes Lewis’s account of other key figures and their role in the sweeping social change taking place. Like March: Book One , President Obama’s 2008 inauguration provides a framing device in a volume that ends, tragically and poignantly, with the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham that killed four girls in September, 1963. The original draft of Lewis’s March on Washington speech is included in the end matter.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

March: Book One

As he gets ready to join the distinguished guests at the January, 2009, inauguration of Barack Obama as the first African American president of the United States, Senator John Lewis recounts memories from his childhood and the early days of the Civil Rights Movement to a young family who stops by his office. Lewis, the son of Alabama sharecroppers, was hungry to learn as a child. He snuck away to his all-Black school on days when his help was needed in the fields. He started preaching as a boy and was attending divinity school in Nashville when he began training in nonviolent civil disobedience and participating in lunch counter sit-ins. The sense of unity in the face of racism and discrimination inspired and encouraged him, as did his fellow activists, many of them students like himself, and a preacher named Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. A powerful black-and-white graphic novel brings this first part of Lewis’s journey into vivid relief. Among the most powerful scenes is a series of panels in which the young activists must painfully hurl racist slurs and spit on one another as they prepare themselves to respond nonviolently to the hatred they will face.  © Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. How do protests today compare to those depicted in March? What are some similarities? What are some differences?
  2. Why was it so important for people fighting for Civil Rights to keep their protests nonviolent?
  3. What has been accomplished by the Civil Rights movement? What still needs to be accomplished today?
  4. What are the reasons that the authors chose the graphic novel format to tell John Lewis’s story?





May 9th, 2017 | Posted by etownsend in 2017-2018 | September | 2017-2018 Primary | Primary (Grades K-2) - (Comments Off on SEPTEMBER (2))

Excellent Ed by Stacy McAnulty. Illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach. Alfred A. Knopf, 2016

“All of the Ellis children were allowed to eat at the table and ride in the van and sit on the couch and use the indoor bathroom. Except Ed.” Ed is prohibited from these activities because he’s a dog, not that Ed himself makes any distinction between himself and his human family. But because each of the other Ellis children excels at something—Elaine at soccer, Emily and Elmer at math, Edith at ballet, and Ernie at baking cupcakes—Ed goes in search of what he’s best at. The search leads to answers that are satisfying for Ed and for readers and listeners, too. It’s hard to say which is more appealing in this sparkling picture book, Ed or the entire lively Ellis family, of which Ed is clearly a much-loved member. The wonderful narrative makes judicious use of repetition while the vivacious illustrations are full of humor and warmth. The Ellis family is Black, with children ranging from early-elementary-age to their teens, something typical for many families but not for many picture books. ©2016 Cooperative Children’s Book Center

Start some conversation with these discussion prompts:

  1. What are some things that Ed does well? What are some things that members of Ed’s family do well? Have you found what you are “excellent at”? Or, are you still looking?
  2. What does Ed do when someone in the family is better than he is? How do you remind yourself to keep trying your best even though someone else does something better than you?
  3. How does Ed finally find what he is “excellent at”? What do you do when you feel left out?
  4. How do the text and the illustrations work together to tell this story?
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