Tales of an Elementary School Librarian

2019 Newbery and Caldecott predictions

This is the first year in a while that I am allowed to publicly give my predictions for the Youth Media Awards. I did so well with my Caldecott predictions the last two years, guys.  You’re just going to have to believe me. You can ask my friends who were on notables with me. I got the winner right both years, and most of the honors.

I didn’t do so good with Newbery last year. I had read them all, but didn’t pick the winners correctly. I don’t really feel any more confident this year.

I’ll start with my 2019 Caldecott predictions since I feel better about those.



I love this book so much. I originally had it as my winner, and that would still make me very happy, but after discussing the books with my students, and weighing the merits, I feel like a different book is a tiny bit more deserving.


This one could win it all. It’s the right book at the right time. It’s a beautiful book, too.


This one is solidly in my honors column.


My students loved this one. I like it an awful lot, too.



What a terrifically well-done book. The grandfather and grandson, can’t communicate with words, so the illustrations carry most of the weight of the storytelling, and what a phenomenal job they do! Santat illustrates in two different styles (one for the grandfather and one for the son) and both are terrific.

And on to the Newbery!

Like I said, I don’t feel so confident about predicting this year’s Newbery winner. Right after notables I was in a reading funk for a few weeks, so I didn’t read quite as much as usual. What I’m going to do is show you 8 books that I read and loved that I feel are Newbery-worthy. If any of them get an honor or the medal, I will consider it a win.

2019 Newbery prediction (Hopefully it’s one of these): 

Out of all of these, it would make me happiest if Auxier won it for Sweep, so I guess I’ll say that is my prediction for the winner.

You can watch the awards next Monday at 11:00 eastern, here. I will have a class, so for the first time in years, I won’t be able to watch live, but I will be celebrating with everyone a few hours later. Don’t text me or message me with spoilers!


Our Mock Caldecott Results

A few weeks ago, we finished up our Mock Caldecott. We read all of the books, spent a class period discussing them, weighing their merits and possible flaws and then all of the 2nd-5th graders voted..

Happy Friday, everyone, and congrats to Islandborn!

Cybils Fiction Picture Books and Board Books

This year I am returning to the Cybils Awards (The Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers Literary Awards) as a round 2  fiction picture book and board book judge. (Last year, the Notable Children’s Books  Committee got a little bit too intense for me to participate.) That means that my fellow round 2 judges and I get to examine and discuss some great picture books and board books and ultimately chose 1 winner from both categories.

Here are the picture books the round 1 judges selected for us to look at:


and here are the board books:


There are so many great books! The round 1 judges knocked it out of the park, for sure. It’s going to be quite a task for us to pick just one winner from both categories, and I am  looking forward to the discussion. It’s been a lot of fun in the past, and I know it will be this year, too.


A Parenting Failure

Let me start out by saying that I have four kids. Three of them love to be read to. One, the three year old, does not. This could change, of course, but right now, any time we sit for a story time, she wiggles out of my lap and runs off to play with her toys. She has always done this, since she was old enough to squirm out of my lap, at least.

This past weekend, I was reading her younger sister some Elephant and Piggie books, and I noticed her hanging around, kind of listening in. I invited her to join us, and she did for half a book, but eventually wiggled away like she usually does.

Last night, my alma matter was playing in a very big sporting event. It was the kind of game that some schools never have the opportunity to play in. My school has been lucky enough to have played in quite a few of these games in recent years, but it was still a big one.

In the middle of the 1st quarter, my daughter, the three year old who was supposed to be in bed, came up to me and asked me to read an Elephant and Piggie book to her. It was Should I Share my Ice Cream. This was a moment I had been hoping and waiting for. Any other time, I would have scooped her up right then and there, delighted that she asked. This was in the middle of the big game though, and my school was losing.

“Not right now, Sweetie. Go back to bed.”  I told her.

She tried again, “But, Dad! Look at the silly elephant!” and showed me an illustration.

“Not now, Baby. “You really need to go to bed.”

So she did.

The moment passed, forgotten. My team got slaughtered. It was the worst defeat for them since 1998. I was disappointed, but it is just a game after all, and I headed off to bed.

I found myself unable to sleep. An hour passed by, and I stared at the ceiling. I had never lost sleep over a football game before. Was it really bothering me that much?

After thinking about it, I realized that what was bothering me was how I had rejected my daughter. I’ve been wanting her to fall in love with books for a while, and I had passed up a perfect opportunity, and had probably been a jerk about it.

I found myself feeling really bad for how I had acted. Alabama will play in big games again, but my kids are only going to want to sit in my lap and spend some time with me and a good book for a few more years.

i blew it

Yeah, Gerald. Me too.

Last night is over. I’ll never have that moment back, but there’s great news. I have today, and I’m at work gathering up a stack of books to take home to try to tempt my three year old into letting me read to her. Hopefully, her asking me was a good sign, and she’ll be receptive. 🙂

The Top 10 Books of October and November

I realized about halfway through November that I never pulled the circulation stats for October for a post about which books were the most popular in our library. At that point, it was kind of too late, so I just decided to do October and November together. November was a shorter month anyways since we were off a week for Thanksgiving, and we also had a week-long book fair. For some reason, I don’t check out quite as many books during book fair week. I guess it’s because a lot of the kids are reading the books they purchased.

Without any further ado, here are the top ten!

1. Dog Man- A Tale of Two Kitties– 13 checkouts

dogman tale

2. We Are in A Book! – 11 checkouts


3. Minecraft: Redstone Handbook-10 checkouts


This book has been on this list a few times, I’ve even played Minecraft once or twice, before, but I still have no clue what a redstone is.

4. Dog Man: Lord of the Fleas– 9 checkouts

Lord of the fleas

This one had a waiting list for most of October. If every kid who wanted to read it, got it right away, it would have been number one on the list, hands down.

5. My New Friend is so Fun– 9 checkouts

new friend

6. I am Going– 8 Checkouts


7. Amulet book 8- Supernova- 8 checkouts


8. 91-Story Treehouse- 8 checkouts

91 story

9. Cardboard Kingdom- 7 checkouts


Please, welcome this fantastic graphic novel to the list for the first time.

10. Creepy Carrots– 7 checkouts


This book has always been really popular among my students. Then, tragedy struck. A student took it home and lost it. I waited it out for a while, but eventually ordered a new copy. The students rejoiced at its return. Then, something great happened. The student found the book and brought it back. Now we have two copies! (I mean, we have two in the system. We don’t ever have both copies available at the same time.) Needless to say, when kids are deprived of Creepy Carrots for a while, they’re going to go crazy when they’re back. It also helps that it was Halloween time. This book is perfect for that time of year.

That’s it. What books are the kids in your life enjoying?  It’s hard to believe that we are almost finished with half of the school year. It really seems like we just started.


Sam and Dave Dig a Conundrum


4 years ago last month, a picture book came out. This picture book would soon become an obsession of mine. When I first read it, I was very impressed by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen’s teamwork, the humor and tone of the book, and the overriding theme of looking for and finding something spectacular. Most importantly, I was very intrigued by the questions the book raised. What exactly happened to Sam and Dave? Where were they at the end of the story? Why was everything slightly different?

My students and I compiled a list of theories. Mac Barnett was coming in the spring for a visit, and we hoped to present him with our list, and get some definitive answers.

Well, Mac came and we got no such answers. I hounded him all day and then again that evening at dinner, and got nothing. He was elusive, evasive, and seemed to be enjoying my frustration very much. He did however accidentally leave me with a clue (or maybe it was on purpose?) that would help me confirm the accuracy of the answer when I would eventually find it later.

A year passed. I pretty much moved on with my life, but the question of Sam and Dave was still there smoldering in the back of my mind. Through my librarian adventures, I happened to meet someone who is very close to Mac and Mac’s editor, and he or she gave me the missing pieces I needed to solve the puzzle. He or she asked to remain anonymous, and I have respected that wish.  As I said, Mac had accidentally left me with a clue that confirmed it for me. Because of that, I was 100% sure that the answer was the correct one.

Fast forward a few more years, to an exhibit hall at an ALA conference (I’m not really sure if it was Orlando, Atlanta or Chicago. It was one of those places, though) and Mac was signing copies of his new book Triangle. He didn’t remember my name, but he did remember my face and that I hounded him all day about Sam and Dave. I took him to the side provided him with my evidence, and he smiled and quietly acknowledged that I had solved the puzzle. He made me promise that I would never tell a child. They had to come to their own conclusions about the story.

Sam and Dave has sat quietly on my shelf  for a while now. I will pull them off and read them to kids again soon. We read it A LOT for a few years, there. I’m kind of waiting for a new group of kids to grow up, so I can read it them to them. Even my daughter who was 2 when the book first came out, remembers it, vaguely.

Why am I bringing this all up again today? Well, I received an email this past weekend that I wanted to share with you.

First, a little more backstory. Two years ago today, a group of three middle school boys came to shadow me for career day. They helped me out with the book fair, they read to a few classes (I was very impressed with their enthusiasm) and during our downtime, we read and discussed Sam and Dave. They loved the book, and asked if I knew what really happened to Sam and Dave. I smiled, and that was enough of an answer for the them. They immediately started hounding me with an intensity that matched my own when Mac was here. I refused to tell them the answer and said that had to wait until they were adults.

I’ve received sporadic emails from them since then, the latest coming Sunday night at 11 pm.


I absolutely love this.

“If I am old enough to drive an automobile, I believe I’m ready to be told the meaning behind a picture book.” He included an attachment with a photo of his Michigan driver’s license (I guess he moved)  That cracked me up.

Here’s how I responded this morning:

“Haha! Your email totally made my weekend. Thanks for that. Hmm you are getting older… how about you compile a list of your best theories, with supporting evidence from the text and illustrations, and I’ll let you know if the answer is on your list?

I hope all three of you are doing well.
Mr. Martin”
I can’t wait to see what they send me.


2019 Mock Caldecott

It has been a few years since we’ve done a Mock Caldecott here at STJ. My committee work made it to where I couldn’t talk publicly about current books the past few years, and I thought it best to play it on the safe side, and not have a Mock Caldecott during that time. It’s back, though, and I’m excited.

Over the next few weeks I will be reading eight 2018 picture books to 2nd-5th grade, and we will be weighing the merits and discussing how the books, specifically the illustrations, fit the Caldecott criteria. When we are finished, the students will vote, and in the end, there will be one winner. Here are the books I’ve selected for our Mock Caldecott discussions.


I’m really interested to see which book they choose, and whether it will be one the actual Caldecott committee honors.

May the best book win!

The Hallo-Wiener Song

I have an obsession with a picture book. Every year, on the week of Halloween, I read it to every student in my preschool/elementary school. Next year, when the current 4th grade class is in 5th grade, a lot of them will have heard it eight years in a row.

They don’t complain, though. Quite the opposite. They love is as much as I do. Last week, when I read Space Case to a 3rd grade class, one of the students complained because she thought I wasn’t reading The Hallo-Wiener this year. Pssssh. As if.

I wrote a song about The Hallo-Wiener. I hope you like it.

Ukulele Games!


I’ve mentioned a few times, probably more, that I’m giving ukulele lessons to kids this school year. It’s been great, we learn lots of chords and songs, but I’m always trying to come up with ways to keep it fresh and fun.

One of the things I’ve recently kind of become obsessed with is finding games that we can play during ukulele lessons. I am looking for games that will help my students improve as players, but will also keep them having fun and looking forward to their lessons. So far, I’ve found three games that the kids and I love. I hope to come across more soon.

Here are three three we play:

Simon Says

Ages: 5 and up

The leader asks the group to play a certain chord. “Simon says play ‘C’. Great job! Now Simon says play ‘G.” This game gives the group a chance to review the chords they have learned so far, and gives the leader a chance to gently help them correct errant chord shapes if there’s a need for it. The group has to pay attention to make sure the leader says “Simon says” first. It’s always funny when I don’t say “Simon Says” and they okay it anyways. I like to trick them.

Once the group is more confident with playing, you can take turns letting the students be the leaders. They love doing trying to trick everyone.

Soft and Loud (Hot and Cold)

Ages: 5 and up

One of the group goes out of the room. The rest of the group hides a stuffed animal (or some other object) somewhere in the room. The group decides together what chord progression they will play. (This will vary based on the age/skill level of the group. For very young students, I’ve had them simply play one chord over and over again. For older students, we usually play a simple progression like C Am F G.) The student in the hallway comes back in the room and starts walking around. As they get closer to the hidden object, the group plays louder. As they get farther away, the group plays softer. This continues until the object is found. No one is allowed to talk about or give hints about where the object is. They must “tell” with their ukuleles.

This one has been the crowd favorite so far. They almost always ask to play it as soon as they get into the classroom. It gets them playing chord progressions, but it also helps them realize they they don’t have to hammer on their ukulele all the time. They can control the volume with how hard or softly they strum.


Ages: 1st grade and up

The group sits in a circle. The first person plays a chord and announces what chord they are playing. The second person repeats the chord, and adds one of their own. The third person must remember the first two chords and add another. This keeps going around the circle. Whenever someone forgets the order or plays the chords out of order, they are out. This keeps going until there is one player left who is crowned the winner.

I just started using this one this week, but it’s been a lot of fun so far. It gets pretty crazy once the chord progression gets long. I struggle myself, sometimes, to remember the order.

This one is good for chord review (the older students always want to trip everyone up by throwing a Bb or something like that in there) but it also helps develop their memory for remembering chord order, which will come in handy, as they become talented little musicians.

That’s what I’ve developed/discovered so far. If you know of any ukulele games, or music games that are adaptable for ukulele lessons, PLEASE SEND THEM MY WAY! I AM HUNGRY FOR MORE!

Thanks, and happy uking!



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