Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - Buffalo Bird Girl

Author/Illustrator: S. D. Nelson
Publisher:  Abrams Books for Young Children (October 1, 2012)
Source: Personal Copy
Read Aloud Level: 2nd to 5th grade
Independent Reading Level:  3rd to 6th grade
Biography * Native American History * Women's History

Description from GoodReads:
This fascinating picture book biography tells the childhood story of Buffalo Bird Woman, a Hidatsa Indian born around 1839. Through her true story, readers will learn what it was like to be part of this Native American community that lived along the Missouri River in the Dakotas, a society that depended more on agriculture for food and survival than on hunting. Children will relate to Buffalo Bird Girl’s routine of chores and playing with friends, and they will also be captivated by her lifestyle and the dangers that came with it.

Using as a resource the works of Gilbert L. Wilson, who met Buffalo Bird Woman and transcribed her life’s story in the early 20th century, award-winning author-illustrator S. D. Nelson has captured the spirit of Buffalo Bird Girl and her lost way of life. The book includes a historical timeline.

My thoughts on this book:
Over the past several years, I have discovered that many educators do not fully grasp picture books.  They may see them as something that could be used as a read aloud during a thirty minute library session with older students but may not grasp how a picture book can be used effectively as part of classroom instruction.  As I was reading Buffalo Bird Girl, I realized that this beautifully illustrated and written narrative biography of a Hidatsa girl would be overlooked by many teachers.  Whereas a teacher may give more attention to this book and Buffalo Bird Girl's story if it was formatted as a chapter book, the beauty of the illustrations are best conveyed in a picture book format. 

Nelson shares the story of Buffalo Bird Girl who was born in the 1830's into the Hidatsa tribe on the Great Plains.  The story is told from her perspective and describes her typical experiences growing up in a tribal community.  Children learn about the way the Hidatsa community members lived, the kinds of food that they ate, clothes they wore, the games that the children played, how the males of the tribe would protect women and children, and ways they celebrated.  Illustrations are compromised of acrylic paintings and black and white photos of Hidatsa tribe members from the early part of the twentieth century performing daily tasks or of items that would have been part of their lives.

Nelson provides extensive author notes at the end along with a timeline and select bibliography.  Buffalo Bird Girl is well written and would be an excellent resource for a classroom or school library.  Look for Buffalo Bird Girl at your local library or independent bookstore. 
About Stephen D. Nelson:  
S. D. Nelson is a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in the Dakotas. He is the award-winning author and illustrator of numerous children’s books, including Black Elk’s Vision, Gift Horse, Coyote Christmas, and The Star People. He lives in Flagstaff, Arizona. Visit him online at

Link up your nonfiction picture book reviews:

Monday, November 26, 2012

It's Monday! What are you reading? From Picture Books to YA (45)

It's Monday! What are you reading? is hosted by Sheila of Book Journey. Jen & Kellee from Teach Mentor Texts have adapted this to focus on Picture Books to Young Adult Books.

Some weeks I start a bunch of books but don't finish any or finish some and still are reading others.  This past week is one of those weeks.  I am juggling several books and a few I finished or am close to finishing.

Almost finished this past week:

Every Day by David Levithan (audiobook) - The audiobook for this one is really good.  And Levithan has proven to once again be a brilliant writer. 

Goblin Secrets by William Alexander - A very smartly written steampunk, fantasy for Middle Grade readers and the winner of the National Book Award for Young People's Literature.

Finished this past week:

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga - If you are looking for a well written mystery/thriller and don't mind such a serious and gruesome topic, then I would highly recommend this one.

A Certain October by Angela Johnson - I had never read anything by Johnson before and I can understand why she has been a three-time Coretta Scott King award winner.

Starting this week:

Endangered by Eliot Schrefer

I think I am in for some heavy reading over the next several weeks.  I want to finish all of the National Book Award Finalist books for Young People's literature.  Goblin Secrets won the category and Endangered was a finalist. Once I finish these two, then I will have 3 of the "heavier" (emotionally) books to tackle.

So what are you reading?

Friday, November 23, 2012

Ebook/Book App Review - Animal SnApp Farm

App Developer: Nosy Crow
Category: Books * Farm Animals * Rhyming
Price:  $3.99 - Currently on sale for $ .99 until November 26, 2012
Source: App was provided for a review
Updated: November 7, 2012
Version: 1.0.1
Language: English
Illustrator: Axel Scheffler
Features: Matching Game with Embedded Stories; Read and Play; Read by Myself (with varying levels); Six rhymes narrated by children
Available for iPhone & iPad on iTunes.

Description from Nosy Crow:
Young readers swipe the screen to solve a simple visual puzzle. Then they tap to explore the adventures of Lucky Lamb, Portly Pig, Gobbly Goat, Higgly Hen, Diggedy Dog, Cuddly Cow and friends. With music, animations, and silly sound effects, the first app in the Animal SnApp series delivers hours of fun for children aged 2 and above. Illustrated by Axel Scheffler. This app includes 6 separate stories.

What I like about this app:
Nosy Crow has several book apps that I have purchased and explored.  The Cinderella app and The Three Little Pigs app continue to be favorites of my six year old niece resulting in both maintaining a regular presence on my iPad.  When I was asked to review Animal SnApp Farm, I accepted hoping that this app would feature some of the things I have come to expect from Nosy Crow.

First, I love that Nosy Crow uses children to narrate the stories for their apps.  There are six rhymes featuring six of the farm animals and each is narrated by children. To select a story, the reader matches the top half and the bottom half of the animal by swiping the screen.

The story specifically tied to that animal then begins.  Second, there is a nice balance between text and interaction with each page of the story.  One of the reasons I tend to like this is that some book apps have so many interactive features that younger readers especially get lost in touching the screen to make things work that the story is ignored.  The arrow on the lower right hand corner will flash "blue" after the reader has explored all of the interactive components and it is time to turn the page but you can over ride this by tapping on the arrow twice. 

After about six pages, the story comes to an end and the reader is returned to the screen to swipe the animal parts and begin a new story.  By double clicking on the "home" icon, the reader is taken to the main screen where he or she can change a setting or move from Read & Play to Read by Myself.
Overall, I was pleased with the app and would share it with young children and recommend it to others looking for an animal related book app. 

What I would like to see in future versions:

* Option to turn off music during the Read by Myself feature
*  Help feature on the individual pages of the story in case a reader has a question
* More visible prompt feature if readers have missed an interactive feature

 Official Trailer:

Interview with Axel Scheffler:

For more information about Nosy Crow:
 Website | Twitter | Facebook

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - George Bellows: Painter With a Punch

Author/Illustrator: Robert Burleigh
Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers (June 1, 2012)
Pages: 48
Read Aloud Level: Grades 2nd to 5th
Independent Reading Level: 3rd to 6th
Source: Personal Copy
Nonfiction * Biographical * Art

Description from GoodReads:
No punches are pulled in this fascinating biography that covers the life and work of the prolific artist George Bellows. Having spent most of his adult life in New York City, Bellows left behind an extraordinary body of work that captures life in this dynamic city: bustling street scenes, ringside views of boxing matches, and boys diving and swimming in the East River. Art reproductions and photographs from his youth round out the book.

My thoughts on the book:
Robert Burleigh has written and illustrated over 40 children's picture books.  One of his most recent books is George Bellows: Painter With a Punch.  In this narrative style biography, Burleigh provides young readers with information about the life and work of George Bellows.  Bellows was born in 1882 in Columbus, Ohio. As a young boy and teen, Bellows was both athletic and artistic.  However, it was his interest in art that led him from Ohio to New York despite his father's desire to see him complete college and a degree in business.

Bellows adopted New York as his home and it is the people and places of New York that feature prominently in his artwork.  Burleigh uses Bellows' paintings and photographs of the artist to compliment the text.  Through Burleigh's words readers catch a glimpse of Bellows and what motivated him to paint.  Rather than focus on what may have been more acceptable topics for painting, Bellows portrays all sides of life in New York including the dark and less attractive aspects of the city.

Burleigh provides readers with short commentary throughout the book about the paintings that are included.   At the end, readers can also look through the resources and documentation.  Though I was expecting the book to be focused more on Bellows' three boxing paintings, I was pleased with the whole book.  Definitely a book to be included in any classroom or school library.
Video: "The Art of Boxing"- - "George Bellows" at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

I found this video on YouTube and thought readers might be interested in seeing the 3 pieces of work shown in the book.  

Robert Burleigh: Official Website 

Link up you Nonfiction reviews: 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Gratitude Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the 3rd Annual Gratitude Giveaways Hop hosted by I am a Reader, Not a Writer. 
The Hop Runs from November 15 - November 25, 2012.

The Annual Gratitude Giveaways Hop is to thank followers of the Blog.  As a thank you, I am giving away a copy of Philip Pullman's Fairy Tales From the Brothers Grimm (courtesy of Viking Publishers), a copy of In A Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz (Penguin, September 2012), and a Fairy Tale revision of your choice ($15 or less on Amazon).

Simply enter below.  a Rafflecopter giveaway Don't forget to check all of the other blogs participating in this giveaway.

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - Bill The Boy Wonder

Author: Marc Tyler Nobleman
Illustrated:  Ty Templeton
Publisher: Charlesbridge (July 1, 2012)
Source: A copy for review
Independent Reading Level: Ages 9 to 12
Read Aloud: Ages 8 to 11
Nonfiction * Biographical

Description from Charlesbridge:
This is the true story of how Batman began.

Every Batman story is marked with the words "Batman created by Bob Kane." But that isn't the whole truth. A struggling writer named Bill Finger was involved from the beginning. Bill helped invent Batman, from concept to costume to character. He dreamed up Batman's haunting origins and his colorful nemeses. Despite his brilliance, Bill worked in obscurity. It was only after his death that fans went to bat for Bill, calling for acknowledgment that he was co-creator of Batman. Based on original research, Bill the Boy Wonder is the first-ever book about the unsung man behind the Dark Knight.

My thoughts on the book:
I honestly have to admit that as a child I never realized that there was such a powerful comic book connection for Batman.  Seriously, all I knew were the Batman TV show reruns. When the first Batman movies came out and then the Dark Knight movies, it was so different from what I expected.  It was then that I discovered the extensive comic book past.  Yet, even with that knowledge, I had never explored much of who or what was behind Batman.   Of course I figured that someone had to have created Batman and all of the characters connected with the story but I truly didn't give it much thought.

However, Marc Tyler Nobleman's  BILL THE BOY WONDER has provided me with much of the creative history behind the character of Batman and the mystery that shrouds who actually created it. Nobleman's story about Bill Finger, the "Secret Co-Creator of Batman", does a thorough job in helping young readers learn about Bob Kane, Bill Finger, and others who had a hand in creating Batman.   The endnotes/author notes are filled with tons of details and is a must read for both teachers and persistent readers. Nobleman has to work to fill in some of the details about Bill Finger and his life and career.  Yet, he does this by drawing heavily on his research and willingness to be tenacious in finding out about the life of Bill Finger.   

This book will appeal to a wide audience - the children and adults who are fascinated with Batman will be one group who is attracted to this picture book for older children.  Those who like biographies with a bit of mystery will enjoy it as well.  Ty Templeton's illustrations strongly support the text and make the story pop.  I would highly recommend the book to all readers ages 9 and up regardless of background knowledge about Batman.  This book would be great for a classroom or school library. 

Official Book Trailer:


Video from TED:

For More Information about Marc Tyler Nobleman:  Blog | Facebook | Twitter

Link up your nonfiction picture book reviews below:

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

THE READER - Blog Tour & Giveaway

Recently, I was offered the wonderful opportunity of interviewing both Amy Hest and Lauren Castillo.  I jumped at it.  I loved Amy's books Remember Mrs. Rossi and Letters to Leo and adored Lauren's book Melvin and the Boy

Hi Amy and Lauren, I have a few questions for both of you to get us started.

I know that many authors and illustrators don’t get to communicate much during the process so I wondered how the process was for this book. THE READER has a bit of an old-timey feel to it both in text and illustrations. Did you discuss this or did it just happen?

Amy: We did not discuss the old-timey feeling at all! My language is often old-timey (and not a bit hip) and very happily Lauren picked up on that.

Lauren: When I received THE READER manuscript, I immediately fell in love with the classic, timeless quality of Amy’s story. It was beautiful and poetic and I imagined the reader’s world right away. Because I was able to visualize so quickly how I would illustrate the story, I took it as a sign that this was definitely a project I should take on (And I’m so glad that I did!). I did not speak directly with Amy the whole time I worked on THE READER art, but we did have conversations through our editor Melanie. Amy saw my work at various stages, and gave input here and there, and even tweaked the text based on what she was seeing in the illustrations. So, even though we were kept pretty separate during the creative process, I think there was great teamwork between author, editor and illustrator!

What are your writing or illustrating days like? Do you have a specific routine? Play music or certain snacks?

Amy: I always keep good, strong coffee within reach. And ice cream. COFFEE ice cream!

Lauren: My days vary, depending on the stage of the project I am in, but when I am working on final art for a book (like right now) they are LONG ones. I usually spend most of my morning responding to emails and all other internet related things (of course you know that this is code for Facebook and Twitter!). Then after the coffee kicks in, I jump in to the art-making part of my day. I’ll usually work till dinner. But, when a book deadline is approaching, I could be at the desk till midnight (or much later). I sometimes listen to podcasts while I draw, but most of the time it’s Pandora internet radio. I have created probably 100 different stations on there, and like to bounce around depending on my mood. Today I’m feeling a little bit country (must be the Nashville ( influence…) :)

November is Picture Book Month - I find that I receive a lot of resistance from upper grade teachers in using picture books as part of their curriculum. Any suggestions for how I can convince them that picture books have a role in classes even at the High School level? 

Amy: I’ve always thought that a good picture book is a poem. A poem set to pictures. Because I’m a writer and NOT in any way capable of illustrating my own books, I need to be very precise with my language. To set the stage, in a way. And in the end, a story is a story. A memorable picture book rings true with kids AND grownups. Good writing is good writing and that’s all there is to it!

Lauren: I absolutely believe that picture books are for all ages. I think the pairing of words and pictures has a greater emotional impact on a reader, big or small. Picture books encourage creativity and imagination—something that should not be left behind as we grow older. This question reminded me of a fellow author’s blog post on the subject that I read a while back. It is much too good not to share:

Here are a few questions specifically for Amy:
I know that you have written quite a few picture books; however, I fell in love with Remembering Mrs. Rossi and the sequel Letters to Leo this summer. (And I have shared both with several students.) How is the process of writing a picture book different from writing a chapter book?

Thank you for liking REMEMBERING MRS. ROSSI and LETTERS TO LEO! The process of writing a novel is pretty much the same as writing a picture book for me. Only, longer. Much, much longer! (It took me 4 years or maybe 5 to write REMEMBERING MRS. ROSSI!) I go sentence by sentence. Very slowly. Then I go back and start all over again. And over again. And over again. Picture book, novel . . . it’s all the same. Getting just the right word, just the right tone, just the right voice, making all the bits and pieces come together somehow, like a puzzle. It’s a miracle that I EVER finish a book!

When did you decide you wanted to write books? Do you write a lot of stories as a child? 

Second grade. That’s when I decided to become a writer. It took me a while to get going, however . . . maybe 25 or 30 years! (I didn’t actually think I had anything to write about: boring, boring, boring was my childhood! All I did was GO TO SCHOOL. COME HOME AND WALK THE DOG. HAVE A FIGHT WITH MY BROTHER. GO TO SCHOOL. WALK THE DOG. FIGHT WITH MY BROTHER ... and so forth!) And no, I didn’t do too much writing on my own in the 1950’s, when I was growing up. I was storing it all up, I suppose.

What was your inspiration for writing THE READER?

Billy! That’s my daughter’s dog (Wheaten Terrier and he was the runt of the litter so he’s half the size of most Wheaties) and he is QUITE an inspiration. We spend a lot of time together, Billy and I, and snowy days are our favorites. Most days he sleeps at my feet while I write.

Here are a few questions specifically for Lauren:
In the case of The READER you illustrated the text written by Amy. In MELVIN AND THE BOY, you wrote and illustrated the book. How is the process different when you are writing and illustrating the book vs. illustrating for someone else’s work? Is one easier than the other? 

I don’t have a ton of author experience yet, but so far my process has been very similar illustrating another author’s story as it has been illustrating my own. Just as I would receive a typed up manuscript from an editor, I like to have the same starting off point for my own stories. It’s easier for me to begin breaking down the text into pages (even though I’ve already visualized much of the book while writing it). I think the biggest difference is that I can edit the text down in my own stories without asking. For example, when I was sketching out the storyboard for MELVIN AND THE BOY, there were some parts of the original manuscript that I was able to show in my images. So I cut out the words that weren’t necessary. Although, as I mentioned above, Amy actually edited her writing based on what I was showing in the pictures. So, in a lot of ways, working on THE READER felt very much like my process for MELVIN AND THE BOY. Hooray for great collaboration!

Did you have a favorite illustration in THE READER? If so which one?

Every page of THE READER was so much fun to create, that it’s hard to pick a favorite (There’s nothing I love to draw more than dogs, tiny kids, and snowscapes . . .and I got to illustrate 32 pages worth of that!). But if I have to choose, I think I’ll go with the most special moment in the story—the spread where the boy reads his favorite book “Two Good Friends” aloud to his dog on the top of the hill. This spread may have been the most difficult too. It’s such an important moment, and I wanted to make sure that the art exuded a sense of warmth and magic. And, the addition of subtle letters falling like snow made me happy as well :)

When did you know you wanted to be an illustrator of children’s books?  Have you always done this or did you get here from a different career? 

I went to art school (Maryland Institute College of Art), and knew that I wanted to be an illustrator, but it wasn’t till my junior year that I decided children’s books would be my focus. I took a picture book illustration class that year, and my awesome teacher Jeannie Turner was so encouraging. She worked in the field, so I witnessed how fantastic a career as a picture book illustrator could be. She even offered me an independent study where I put together my first ever children’s book (I sent it out to about a dozen publishers . .. though it did not get picked up [thankfully] . . .I had SO MUCH to learn still!). I ended up going to graduate school in New York City (School of Visual Arts) and it was there where I began to make some direct connections with editors and art directors in the publishing world. I shopped my portfolio around to all the NY publishing houses for two years while attending school—no job offers came yet, but lots of helpful feedback! Then, directly after graduation, I began working at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers as assistant to the art director. I was so fortunate to land that job, and learned a ton about the industry and the many hands it takes to put together a book. Just about 2 months in, I got offered my first picture book deal from Frances Foster at Farrar, Straus and Giroux! And it was a dream project too (WHAT HAPPENS ON WEDNESDAYS, by Emily Jenkins). But after juggling both the book illustration and the day job for about year, I decided it was time to take a leap of faith and begin illustrating full time. Happily, it was the absolute right decision :)

For More Information on Amy and Lauren:

Amy Hest's many acclaimed children's books include the New York Times bestseller Kiss Good Night. A three-time winner of the prestigious Christopher Award, she lives in New York City. She claims to have absolutely no hidden talents, unless you count an uncanny interest in coffee ice cream and certain dogs in the Wheaten Terrier or Airedale family. Amy likes to take long walks (in the city), ride a bike (in the city), and swim (also in the city). She likes movies and reading, of course! For more information, visit her website at

Lauren Castillo grew up in small town Maryland, but now spends her time in the bustling borough of Brooklyn, New York, writing and illustrating books for children. She likes exploring the city, daydreaming in parks, doodling in cafes, and spying cute dogs on the street. Visit her website at and her blog at You can follow her on twitter: @studiocastillo or on facebook. Drop by and say "hello" any time!

Thanks to Blueslip Media & Amazon Children's Publishing, I will be giving away one copy of THE READER to a lucky reader.  You must live in the United States or Canada to enter.  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, November 12, 2012

Author Event at Barnes & Noble in Pasadena!!!

Hey Pasadena and surrounding area - Don't miss this great author event on Wednesday night!!!

James Burks will be sharing his book Bird & Squirrel with children and adults at 6:30 p.m.  There will likely be some drawing and Q&A and definitely book signing.  

Gretchen McNeil will follow at 7:30 p.m. to talk about her latest YA book - TEN.  There will be more Q&A and book signing. 

Come by and hang, buy gifts for the holiday, and donate a book to City of Hope's Children's Ward.  Look forward to seeing you there.

Fairy Tales From the Brothers Grimm - Philip Pullman

Author:  Philip Pullman
Publisher: Viking/Penguin, November 12, 2012
Source: A copy from the publisher
Audience: High School and Adult
Read Aloud: Stories can be read aloud or shared with children
Pair with:  Adam Gidwitz' A Tale Dark & Grimm or In a Glass Grimmly.

Description from the publisher:
This year marks the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Grimm’s fairy tales. To celebrate, Viking is thrilled to publish FAIRY TALES FROM THE BROTHERS GRIMM, a retelling of fifty beloved stories by Philip Pullman, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the His Dark Materials trilogy.

In 1812, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm published the first volume of Children’s and Household Tales. Now, two centuries later, fairy tales are once again all the rage with TV shows like Grimm and Once Upon a Time dominating ratings and two movie adaptations of “Snow White” out in the same year.  With FAIRY TALES FROM THE BROTHERS GRIMM, Philip Pullman brings these much-loved tales back to the page. 

From stories like “Cinderella” and “Hansel and Gretel” to lesser-known treasures like “The Girl With No Hands,” “The Three Snake Leaves,” and “Godfather Death,” Pullman retells fifty of Grimm’s timeless classics for the modern age in his lively, beguiling prose. He includes all the most familiar characters—Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, the Frog Prince, and Rapunzel—while also introducing readers to some they might not have met yet.

Pullman has consulted a variety of editions of the work to pull together a seamless version of each story that focuses on engaging readers and demonstrating exactly why these fairy tales have been told over and over again, remaining vibrant since their original publication in the early 19th century. With FAIRY TALES FROM THE BROTHERS GRIMM, Pullman pays homage to the tales of romance and villainy that inspired his unique creative vision—and that continue to cast their spell on the Western imagination.

My thoughts on this book:
In FAIRY TALES FROM THE BROTHERS GRIMM, author Philip Pullman retells 50 of the more well known fairy tales.  Each fairy tale is then accompanied by a half page to full page of notes providing more information about the text and similar stories.  Though many children are familiar with various renditions of the Grimm Fairy Tales, this is a book for the "student" of fairy tales.  The High School student or adult who is interested beyond just the retelling of the stories but to the background as well.  I found the notes section particularly fascinating and informative.  The information within the notes also reveals various aspects of the lessons meant to be learned by children as part of the original tales and which continue to hold true today.  

Teachers and parents may select specific stories to read aloud to children or to use in lesson that compare various retellings of a particular story.  This is a wonderful collection to maintain in a personal reference collection or for the serious reader of Grimm stories.     
Official Book Trailer:

About the author:
Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass) has sold more than fifteen million copies and been published in more than forty countries.  The first volume, The Golden Compass, was made into a major motion picture starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig.  Pullman is at work on a companion His Dark Materials novel The Book of Dust.  He lives in Oxford, England.

Links to check out:

Interview with Philip Pullman on the Telegraph

Excerpt in the Guardian

BBC Interview

The Golden Key (An e-book special)

Stop back on Thursday for a chance to win a copy of Pullman's FAIRY TALES FROM THE BROTHER'S GRIMM.

It's Monday! What are you reading? From Picture Books to YA (45)

It's Monday! What are you reading? is hosted by Sheila of Book Journey. Jen & Kellee from Teach Mentor Texts have adapted this to focus on Picture Books to Young Adult Books.

Here are a few of my favorites from this past week:

Squish #4: Captain Disaster by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm (Random House, September 2012)

The Other Side of Town by Jon Agee (Michael di Capua Books, November 1, 2012)

Some 2013 releases to keep an eye out for:

Bluebird by Bob Staake (Schwartz & Wade, April 2013)

Red Hat by Lita Judge (Simon & Schuster, March 2013)

Currently Reading:

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys (Penguin, February 2013)

Currently Listening to:

The Fire Chronicle (Books of the Beginning #2) by John Stephens, Narrated by Jim Dale (Random House, October 2012)

So, what are you reading....

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Tips for Developing a Classroom Library

Picture Courtesy of @heisereads
Recently, I was visiting a number of elementary schools.  As I walked through classrooms, I glanced around to check out the classroom library or reading corners.  To be honest, I was expecting that every class would have a library filled with books and the books would be well-tended and arranged in a manner that motivated children to read.  (Thanks Nerdy Book Club friends, you have spoiled me as to how a classroom library should look and be maintained.) However, that is far from what I discovered.  I was also, surprised to discover that the condition of the classroom libraries didn't seem to be related to the type of school (high performing vs. a struggling school) or the skill level classroom teachers or number of years that the teacher had been teaching.

Here are a few things I noticed:

* Classrooms with little to no library or book/reading corner - None, Zippo, Nada!

* Upper Grade Classrooms with little to no chapter books or novels - only picture books.

* Classroom libraries with no organization - books were displayed or shelved any which way.

This made me sad.  Really, really sad!  It seems that some teachers believe that a classroom library should be provided completely by the District. Others don't want to invest in a classroom library because the children won't take care of the books.  And others seem willing but maybe lack the understanding of how to organize books.

Here are a few tips for developing and organizing your classroom library:

1.  Develop your own classroom library. - You know your students and your curriculum and can do a more effective job at building your own classroom library.  Fill your shelves with books that will motivate your readers.   And don't forget to add a significant amount of nonfiction to your collection. 

Photo Courtesy of @frankisibberson

2.  Build your library slowly. - Don't expect to have 1000 books in your library overnight.  - When I was in the classroom full-time, I utilized things like Scholastic Book Clubs, and Book Fair Wishlists, and checking books out of the public library, and writing grants to develop my classroom library.  You will be surprised at how quickly your library will grow.

Photo Courtesy of @literacydocent

3.  Teach your students to care for the books in the classroom.  -  Many students are happy to come in during lunch or after school to help re-shelve books or to organize them.  By talking with students about the importance of caring for books, it will help you maintain books in good condition so that others can enjoy them too.

Photo Courtesy of @utalaniz

4.  Develop a system for organizing your classroom library.  - Bookshelves, baskets, bins, and more can be used to organize and display books.  Depending on the size and layout of your classroom, you might require several systems.

Photo Courtesy of @katsok

5.  Even Picture Books require organization. - Picture books belong in all classrooms from kindergarten on up.  However, it is important to organize them by genre, special interest, or author/illustrator in order to assist students in accessing the books that they may be interested in.   

Photo Courtesy of @katsok

6.  Classroom libraries need to span a wide range of readers. - In addition to picture books, classrooms require a variety of early readers, chapter books, and novels that will appeal to a wide range of students with various reading abilities.

Photo Courtesy of @utalaniz
7.   Access to books. - For some children, the only access to books will be the ones in your classroom.  If these students are going to develop into fluent and skilled readers, it is critical that they have books available to them to read. 
Photo Courtesy of @literacydocent

Since I am not currently a classroom teacher, I didn't have any classroom pictures of my own to share in this post.  I am forever thankful to @katsok, @heisereads, @frankisibberson, @literacydocent and @utalaniz for the contribution of pictures from their classrooms.  If there were any doubt, these are examples of what a classroom library school look like.    

Do you have tips to share about how to develop a classroom library?  Any helpful hints organizing the library?  Please leave a comment below. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Nonfiction Picture Book Releases - November

The Nonfiction Detectives and I are hosting a Non-Fiction Picture Book Challenge.  My goal has been to kick off the month with the new nonfiction picture book release titles.  Here are the November titles that I have found so far, but as usual, I know there are more.  Please share with me titles that you have found.

November 1, 2012

Meet Me at the Art Museum: A Whimsical Look Behind the Scenes by David Golden

November 8, 2012
Colorful Dreamer: The Story of Henri Matisse by Marjorie Blaine Parker; Illustrated by Holly Berry

The links for the above books will take you directly to the book page for purchasing information, unless otherwise noted.  Please note, I do not make anything off these links or profit in anyway from posting the links.   I know that I am still searching for November releases and will likely do an update later in the month. If you know of a book that should be included in this list, please include the title and author in the comments section and I will update the list.