Category Archives: Childrens

Five for Friday

Five for Friday

Last night was the last book group meeting of the year that I facilitate through a local cooperative. With the size of the group and timing, we can usually share 1-3 books each, but I realized I’ve read so many fantastic books lately that I had a hard time choosing. So, it’s perfect for a five for Friday (and the last Friday of the school year with only one more school day left)!


Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Shamblers aka zombies are being made out of the Civil War dead in an alternative history where African Americans are still oppressed. Jane is at a combat school for African American girls where she will learn to use the tools of combat to keep people safe from shamblers. But her cheeky attitude to “remaining in her place” gets her into trouble with the powerful leaders and she’s sent away to a town out west that is off. It’s her job, along with a band of others, to discover the truth and take down these leaders while searching for answers about her mother and Red Jack. It’s an adventurous, action-oriented, imaginative story that is as intense as it is funny, ambitious, and unique.

Illegal by Eoin Colfer with Andrew Donkin and Giovanni Rigano (illustrator)

The graphic novel format does justice to the story of a fictional boy, Ebo, who along with his brother leave their homeland to cross the desert and eventually the Mediterranean to find their sister and peace. Colfer and Donkin’s storytelling and Rigano’s artwork create an emotional platform for sharing an immigrant’s journey with several scenes eliciting the same response I had to several scenes in Don Brown’s Drowned City about Hurricane Katrina. Multiple copies on order for it’s future release.

Be Prepared by Vera Brogsol

So, quick story: I’m currently doing the Book Riot Riotgrams challenge for June and Thursday’s post needed to be “ice cream/sweet treat”. Literally the day before, I read and adored Brogsol’s new graphic memoir, Be Prepared, in which she includes the Stewart’s Shops sign as she’s driving to summer camp. Stewart’s is a community-minded convenience store in our area that has amazing ice cream. So, what was a librarian to do?

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Go to Stewart’s, get a seasonal flavor (Mounds of Coconut) ice cream cone, and ask a Stewart’s employee to take a picture of me with the ice cream, Brogsol’s book, and the Stewart’s logo in the background. Mission accomplished (and the ice cream was delicious). But the book itself is everything that is right with sharing the universal experiences of tweendom. The awkwardness of making friends. The prospect of not having them and how we earn them, and who is worth our time, all while sharing pieces of her Russian culture as a Russian summer camp. The olive-toned colors bring out the story in a way that makes the expressive characters pop and readers enjoy the beauty of nature.

Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka

Hearing him speak this past week about the experience of writing his life’s story and turning it into a graphic novel was powerful. And while I have yet to watch the TED talk that inspired the graphic novel, it details his upbringing with his grandparents after they took him from his heroin-addicted mother (he never knew his father until later) and how he became an artist with their often tumultuous support. Yet, my favorite scene is when he pays homage to Jack Gantos (who I adore and we had the pleasure of hosting in our schools) as an impetus for his own craft. It’s raw and really real.

Teen Trailblazers: 30 Fearless Girls Who Changed the World Before They Were 20 by Jennifer Calvert and Vesna Asanovic (illustrator)

Add this to the stack of new informational nonfiction that highlight the stories of women who have accomplished something great in their lives in order to recognize the value of women throughout history. While some of them are starting to blend together, Calvert’s focuses on women who accomplished this even before they turned twenty years old is themed. The easy-to-read format features little-known and well-known women that inspire the next generation of kids to take charge in changing the culture when and where it’s needed. And it’s currency cannot be neglected since one of the women featured is Emma Gonzalez from Parkland High School in the aftermath of the school shooting in her school just several months ago.

Which one are you picking up first?





Yesterday was a good day. An early morning run, then a walk with the dog. A new dress for a presentation with a group of fabulous ladies: two school library system directors, one reading specialist and professor, and two school librarians (me included). It was a day designed to discuss books and empowering our readers at every level.

With a keynote that shared how our varying perspectives of how we interpret what we read and what we seek out is usually a very conscious decision. We bring an experience to any book we read that is different from the person sitting next to us and we should be conscious of that and respect the reader. And the message of her keynote led perfectly into my presentation that went next about young adult books since I chose to focus on names: who we are as individuals and striking up a conversation simply by getting to know someone by asking their name.

I covered names of my author crushes (James L. Swanson, Caitlin Doughty, Rae Carson to name a few), fabulous names for books (The Hate U Give, Dumplin’, Puddin’), moms (Allegedly, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter), dads (The Inexplicable Logic of My Life, My Brother’s Husband), girls (The Nowhere Girls, What Girls Are Made Of), boys (The Prince and the Dressmaker, Words on Bathroom Walls), and a whole lot of series, niche student readers, and popular titles with my students. Could I have talked the whole day away? Of course, but there were wonderful conversations interspersed in my my presentation about topics and challenges presented in books, getting books in the hands of readers using their subtopics as a way to diversify their options, and why series books are magic. You can find my presentation and the booklist here.

And once I was finished, the day was just warming up because then it moved on to middle grade titles and then elementary titles. But I’m at the high school, why would I need to hear about middle grade and elementary titles? Librarians should always know what’s new, popular, and discuss-able at every level in part because librarianship means finding the right book for the right reader or the reader’s needs. It might be a teenager wanting a book to read with their cousin, it could be a teacher wanting to use a picture book in their middle school classroom, and any host of possibilities in between.

It’s no secret that readers advisory is my favorite part of librarianship so a day like yesterday was just as good as spending the day booktalking. The next opportunity to share about books to professionals will be with the effervescent Stacey Rattner, my partner-in-crime aka The Leaping Librarian, in July and our theme is #getbooked.


Booktopia in Hudson


I couldn’t have asked for a more sun-filled day to spend with my kids at the Hudson Children’s Book Festival in Hudson, New York. And so close to home! I really can’t believe in its 10-year history this was my first time but it was the perfect time with my nine year old boys.

Two weeks ago when I asked whether they’d be interested in attending, I don’t even think there was a two-second pause before they answered yes. So off we went, making quick work of the drive and getting to park right at the school, though barely.

I had a few assignments, namely to meet a few authors for my librarian friend Stacey Rattner, reacquaint with authors who have visited our school (I see you Jason Reynolds, Eric Devine, and Jack Gantos), and have my kids scan the books and chat with the superstars of the printed and illustrated world– they even sat for a story time with Hudson Talbott who wrote Wolf to Woof: The Story of Dogs.

So what did we purchase? Two books by Nancy Castaldo: Back from the Brink: Saving Animals from Extinction and Sniffer Dogs: How Dogs (And Their Noses) Save the World. Then, Writing Radar and Jack On The Tracks by Jack Gantos. Plus, a picture book for their cousin for her upcoming birthday (but shhh, we can’t spoil the gift).  Could I have walked out of the Festival without the money needed to put flooring in our new addition to the house? Yes, but I’m a responsible book nerd. The impulse was there, but we kept it in check.

HCBF2018It was an inspiring event with all levels of amazing authors. The vibe is absolutely incredible and filled with book love. But I wasn’t done yet. I have never spent time in Hudson so I couldn’t not stop at The Spotty Dog Books & Ale and have a beer at the bar while we perused books and book paraphernalia.

I was not disappointed.

I ordered myself a porter while my kids explored the art supplies. Both felt it necessary to purchase a fountain pen exactly like Jack Gantos’ one. While Gantos’ was purchased in Japan and was red, the boys found their own “waterfall” version. Could I have purchased a few book t-shirts and socks, enamel pins, and totes? Absolutely. Give me all the things. But I indulged instead in the ambiance. And it was magical.

A day well spent.

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Posted by on May 5, 2018 in Authors, Childrens, Events


Speaking volumes


I love a good quote. When I come across one on Pinterest or Instagram, I usually save them to reflect on and in this case write about as I’ve done in past posts.

Rick Holland, poet, shared this gem with the world that was then made beautiful when superimposed on the world touched with gold.


How else could I learn about a war I wasn’t alive for or empathize with someone from a different culture? Learning from books is equally as important as being transported by them be it in fantasy and science fiction. So why did this quote strike a chord with me?

Probably because I understand the significance and weight of why reading is integral to our development as human beings and why I chose a profession that values continual learning. I’ve spent the last decade (and will continue) to demonstrate to teenagers the power of reading for their own learning and understanding. It can be an escape when life is difficult, it can be an instructional manual for how someone rose above a particularly trying life event, it can be entertainment of the most basic kind. I know I get screen exhaustion and reading a book with the paper in your hand can cure that. (It might also be why puzzles and card games have made a comeback in a big way in our library).

And I’m also seeing it in my own kids. As third graders, my boys are obsessive– and possessive– of their books. We make trips to our library at least once a week, they read daily, and I’ve caught them plenty of times with a book and a flashlight past bedtime. I want there to be plenty of opportunities to engage with others who have the same feelings too. And while I’ve been involved in planning book festivals and author visits, I’ve never visited the Hudson Children’s Book Festival, so I’ll be making the drive with my kids there this Saturday to bask in the excitement of the printed book. I’ll post a followup after Saturday to share how it all went.

But be reminded, as Holland’s quote speaks to me, that the world truly does belong to readers. It’s evident in our vocabulary. It’s a cheap vacation when there isn’t money to go on a physical one. Food and beverage feels more indulgent with one in front of you. It is the aha moment when you learn something new. It’s the mirror, the window, or the sliding glass door. So if it’s been a while since you picked up a book, try again. Make it a priority. If it already is, you’re in good company.


A case for reading picture books


This post was originally published on the Times Union Books Blog on March 24, 2018

Every reader has their preferences, yes, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with sticking with them. Children know what they like, teens, and adults alike. But I want to make the case for adults (even after their children have grown, like the excuse that the grandchildren are coming over to buy chocolate milk when you’re the one that wants the taste) to read picture books.


Why? You can usually take the pulse on what’s important socially. Which are getting awards and which are in store fronts? I guarantee they’re part of a national dialogue.

Why? Because they’re just so damn good. Visually, creatively, organizationally. Why scroll Pinterest when you can borrow a picture book? Need to present in a few weeks at work? Look at how a children’s book author can write a standard 32-page book with precision over and over and over again. It’s a science. And so are great presentations (if you’ve never seen this TED talk, it’s worth a look).

Why? They make great gifts for any age. We’re all a bit exhausted purchasing copies of Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go in bulk for graduation gifts only because there librarians are waiting to recommend a few alternatives. Yet, the concept remains the same- picture books are elemental. Their dual simplicity and complexity astound us.

Of course I’m sharing this because I’m going to recommend a few that hit all the right buttons. So whether you’re 2 or 72, stop by your local independent bookstore to page through them, buy them to gift, or purchase to remind yourself of something from your own childhood worth remembering.

Du Iz Tak? By Carson Ellis

Focused on two damselflies with a language of its own, it’s an adventure of the natural world where readers can create their own annunciations to entertain young readers.


Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes and illustrated by Gordon C. James

Who doesn’t feel like they’re ready for the spotlight after a trip to the barber? It brings you right back or leaves you pulling at your own hair figuring that you’re overdue for one yourself.


Giant Squid by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Eric Rohmann

The ocean’s depths are always fascinating but when you spotlight an equally mysterious creature and share little-known facts with vivid illustrations, anyone would wish to dive deep.


I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy and illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley

She’s certainly kept all of America captivated through her tenure on the Supreme Court. This just brings it to the littlest of people and demonstrates that healthy discourse isn’t something to fear.


Love by Matt de la Pena and illustrated by Loren Long

This needs no introduction and if you didn’t read it after the last time I recommended it, consider yourself warned that you’d be missing out on a spiritual experience.


My Pet Wants a Pet by Elise Broach and illustrated by Eric Barclay

C’mon! Every pet needs a pet and our main character is just trying to be sure that each creature has some other creature to care for because how awesome it is to feel needed and loved.


Penguin Problems by Jory John and illustrated by Lane Smith

Nobody likes cranky people and that goes double for penguins. This hilarious romp might point out that you need to work on your growth mindset.


She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger

A brief paragraph with a powerful image of each woman who persisted along with a quote showing their perseverance from Nellie Bly to Virginia Apgar is a reminder to anyone to persist.

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Posted by on March 25, 2018 in Childrens, Cover Love, Fiction




It wasn’t a secret, but it wasn’t something that I readily discussed- being on a selection committee through the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) arm of the American Library Association (ALA) for 2017. I sat on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens committee with an amazing group of public, school, and academic librarians from across the country deciding on the best graphic novels. And from that list, selecting the top ten. You can see the final list here, just announced last week as part of the yearly celebration of books at the Youth Media Awards. You’ll notice looking back at 2017 that I rarely shared and definitely didn’t review graphic novels because of this appointment but was immersed in this world (no complaints here!)

The midwinter ALA conference is smaller in comparison to the annual conference but it packs the biggest punch because of the Youth Media Awards. That’s where winners of awards like the Coretta Scott King and Caldecott Medal are announced. Committees hunker down and make those final decisions and in one hour, people across the country stream it and hundreds sit in person to hear them spoken aloud with the gleaming medal proudly shared on a big screen. There is applause and some exclamations, dancing in the aisles and gasps. All drama and and sparkles.

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There’s an added bonus because for some committees naming their top picks, the authors are at the conference to speak about their books and bask in the glory of literature lovers and book pushers after the ceremony itself. I got to listen to some finalists and award winners of the William C. Morris Award and the Nonfiction Award.

It’s an inspiring way to end the conference on the highs of excellence in literature…. on a Monday morning at 8am. I hope it inspires authors to keep writing and contributing to the shaping of young minds and inspires the students who sit in their classrooms and libraries across the country streaming it to one day want to be like them.


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Posted by on February 23, 2018 in Authors, Childrens, Events


The word gap

As part of the #edublogclub year-long challenge to blog on education. While the official club has ended, they have shared posts to continue the journey through 2017. This week’s prompt was to share a statistic and my interpretation of it.

The word gap.

That students in low socioeconomic households hear 30 million fewer words by age five than their peers in higher-income households as documented in articles like this one from The Atlantic in 2014. Initiatives were created, more interventions thought up, and a push for a flood of information so that all kids in their formative years could be ready to learn. The deprivation of words was only one factor but it contributed to an inability to function in grade school, led to higher dropout rates by high school, and earning less as adults.

This literacy crisis is not something that will solve itself nor will it go away. Society must work hard to engage young children in face-to-face activities. Read aloud, read to a dog, read to me. Read on a bus, on a train, on the couch before bed. Read, read, read. It’s like Dr. Seuss said

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

And the best place to start is at your local library. Let’s close the word gap.

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Posted by on December 11, 2017 in Blogging, Childrens, edublogsclub