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Tales of an Elementary School Librarian

10 Picture Books with Main Characters of Color

The other day I made a quick post about three books that discuss or have a theme of racism and police brutality in America. The response to that post has been great. Lots of friends ordered one  or more of those three books and were excited to read them.

I’ve also been getting quite a few Facebook messages from parents of younger kids asking me for recommendations for good picture books with main characters that aren’t white. My heart is very heavy right now, but these requests have brought me a little joy because I have rarely gotten those types of questions when I wasn’t physically in the library working. To me, that’s a sign that some people are trying to do better about sharing stories with their kids about characters who don’t look like them or have the same experiences that they do.

Anyways, here is a list of a ten books that I personally love and read to my students pretty often. There are so many out there, but these are some of my favorites. They are in no particular order,

 

That is only ten of so, so many, but it’s a starting point. Feel free to comment some of your favorites as well. I want to give a special thank you for those of you asking, Our kids are the future.

 

Three Books to Read with your Kid about Racism and Police Brutality in America

#1. The Hate U Give 

hate

Three years ago, this book was so relevant and so powerful. Today it’s even more so, which frankly makes me sad and angry at the same time. How are we going backwards? This is one of the best works of fiction about this issue. There are a few situations in the book that maybe make it unsuitable for younger audiences, but it is an amazing book for teens and adults. If you have a kid that’s maybe too young for it, see this next book.

#2. Ghost Boys

ghostboys

I’ve sold this book as “The Hate U Give for middle-grade readers” before. In it, twelve year old Jerome is killed by a police officer for having a toy gun and meets fellow ghost, Emmet Till. Emmet helps him process what happened and walks him through the historical racism that lead to his death. Jerome also meets Sarah, the daughter of the officer who killed him. Yeah, I know. …..heavy. This book is great read for your eight-fourteen year old who is struggling to understand what’s happening in the news right now.

#3. Stamped

stamped

There’s an adult version of this book, but I haven’t read it, so I can’t speak to it. The remix version for young readers, though. Man. This book…… I wish I could download this title into the brains of everyone in this country, There’s so much here I didn’t ever know or ever think about. For example, did you know that racism started as a marketing scheme for slave trading companies? The Portuguese traders spun the lie that their African slave trade was better than other European slave trade because it was moral. The Africans were not civilized and by kidnapping them and enslaving them, the Europeans were bringing them culture, civilization and Christianity. The marketing lie worked. Soon, other countries abandoned European slave trade, and focused only on Africa. To justify what was so obviously an abhorrent practice, the traders continued the lie. It wasn’t wrong. They were making these slaves better people. They were less than human anyways. It’s just crazy to me that the most successful, widely believed marketing spin in history is racism and that people are still buying it today.

Read this book. Have your kids read this book. If you aren’t readers, listen to the audio book together. It’s important.

Note:

I know this is a difficult conversation for white people to have with our kids. It’s time to stop pretending like black people aren’t being murdered by police officers, though. Our kids aren’t dumb and if they don’t get the honest truth about what’s happening, then they’re going to grow up and find themselves in the same world that we live in, nothing changed.

Also, please encourage your kids read books with stories about people of color. This “our stories/their stories” culture that we live in is not a healthy one. Our kids are the future. This world can be better. It starts with sharing stories and experiences.

 

#ukulelesongFriday Air Guitar!

IMG_1305

Hi friends!

It’s been a long while since I’ve done one of these, mainly because I had already shared all of the songs I regularly use for my story times. However, I’ve been on the hunt lately, and I’ve discovered a few that I’m pretty excited to share.

This one is by a band that plays pop punk songs for kids called Sparrow Sleeps. As soon as I heard it, I immediately imagined my preschoolers and kindergartners flailing around playing their air guitars.

Here is a video of me playing it on the ukulele.

And here are the chords.

G                  C         D
Air guitar, air guitar

Em7                     D                         G D C D
Man, I love to play the air guitar

Em7                                          D               C
I wiggle my fingers and I swing my arms

C             D                        G
When I play the air guitar

Em7 C D C D      Em7  D

G                    C      D
Air guitar, air guitar

Em7                     D                       G D C D
Man, I love to play the air guitar

Em7                                       D          C
I jump all around and I flail my arms

C              D                        G
When I play the air guitar

Em7 C D C D      Em7  D

G                    C     D
Air guitar, air guitar

Em7                         D             G
Man, I love to play the air guitar

G                      C        D
Air guitar, air guitar

Em7                   D                       G
Man, I love to play the air guitar

That’s it! We’ve had a lot of fun with this song this week. I hope some of you can use it, too!

For those of you that prefer to play a recording for your story times, here is the original song. You can just hit play and let your story timers go wild.

Previous #ukuleleSongFridays

Baby Shark

The Wheels on the Bus

Everybody Stand Up (original)

Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed

Apples and Bananas

The Washing Machine Song

Head and Shoulders Knees and Toes

There’s a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea

Elephant Song (original)

Bumping up and Down in my Little Red Wagon

Ants on the Ground (original) 

Bop Till You Drop

The Hokey Pokey

Brush Your Teeth

The Silly Dance Contest

Shake My Sillies Out

Hands are For Clapping

Graphic Novel Reading is Real Reading! (and now we have a Newbery winner to back it up!)

My wife and I just finished watching though all of Boy Meets World again on Disney Plus. It was a good time. I really loved that show as a kid, and it was good to reconnect with the characters I hung with every Friday night for like eight years.

 

feeny

It’s funny. I don’t know why, but I used to think that Mr. Feeny was such a good teacher. Maybe it’s because the characters on the show said that he was over and over again, but in my head, he was always the model of what a good teacher looks like. (Can we stop and talk about how creepy it is to follow one class of kids through every grade from  kindergarten to college, though? ) He was certainly caring. He was very invested in their lives, and he never gave up on them.

Watching it through as an adult, though, something bothered me. He was always telling his students to “pick up a book” and while that’s a mantra I can get behind, he also shamed Cory and Sean several times throughout the show for reading comic books instead of “real books.”

I didn’t catch that as a nine year old. It would have confused me. As a kid, I read everything I could get my hands on, including lots of comic books and graphic novels, but because I was very good at reading, no one ever tried to stop me. They let me read what I wanted. It’s usually only the struggling readers that get shamed for reading graphic novels.

The reason Mr. Fenny’s attitude towards comic books wouldn’t have made sense to me is because, well, it just doesn’t make sense. Why does reading some words count for less than reading others, just because someone took the time to create some illustrations as well?

I think, (well, honestly, I know) that the thought process is, if a child is reading graphic novels all the time, it’s going to make it harder for them to read “real books.”  I’ve encountered parents throughout my career that believe this. I’ve met parents that have told their children that graphic novels will make them dumber. (I kid you not) But like I tell my students: Reading certain words won’t make you worse at reading other words just because they come with illustrations.

A few years ago, I had another librarian visit me at work to see how I run things. When she saw that I had a section just for graphic novels, she asked “Why do you have them separate?”

I told her that it was because I wanted my students to be able to find them easily.

She looked at me with what she thought was understanding. “Ooooooh. You want your struggling readers to be able to find books that they can read!”

I hope I wasn’t rude when I replied, “No. I want all of my students to be able to find them. Anyone can read graphic novels. They aren’t just for ‘struggling readers.’ ” I may have made air quotation marks with my fingers.  I don’t remember.

It blew me away that another school librarian, someone who spends every day with elementary aged children, like I do, could have this attitude. I wondered how she could not see how beneficial, well-loved and wonderful graphic novels are?

I guess what it comes down to is this:  If we want our children to be life-long readers, we HAVE to let them read books that they enjoy.

The only was to get your kid to read a lot, forever, is to get them to love reading.

The only way to get them to love reading is to give them books that they love.

And let me tell you, My students LOVE graphic novels. That section is the busiest section in my library every day. I have to straighten the shelves several times a day, and I enjoy doing it. My students have found books that they love, and I am over the moon about it.

This has kind of become one of my soap-box issues over the last few years. I was so happy when New Kid by Jerry Kraft became the first graphic novel to ever win the Newbery award, Monday.  It feels validating. Empowering. I know it won’t change every mind, but I know that there are lots of kids’ librarians who agree with me, and here’s the concrete proof!  Fifteen members of a very respected committee read everything that came out this year for children and picked a graphic novel as the most distinguished. I love it.

Here is our copy of New Kid. It’s been very well loved. It’s about time to order a new one. The new one will come with a shiny gold sticker on the cover.

IMG_1271

 

 

How did I do?

I want to write a separate post, later, about how important it is that a graphic novel won the Newbery award, but for now, I wanted to take a look back and my Newbery/Caldecott/ Geisel predictions post and laugh at myself for being so bad at this.

Newbery:

Winner:

newkid

Honors:

undefeated

scary

home

genesis

How did I do? I got Genesis right as an honor, and I had New Kid as an honor, but I had a big feeling about it. I should have gone with my gut and picked it as the winner, but no Newbery committee had ever awarded  the medal to a graphic novel. I just didn’t go bold enough. 2 out of 5 isn’t bad for my standards, though. There is one I haven’t read, Scary Stories for Young Foxes, and I’m really looking forward to it. It looks like a book that’s really up my alley. (Goes to check the tracking of the package containing this book)

Caldecott: 

Winner:

undefeated

Honors:

Bear

doublebass

goingdownhome

How Did I do? Well………not well. I didn’t get any. These are all amazing books, though. Something I learned while serving on the Notable Children’s Books Committee: I should try to not criticize a group of people who have spent every waking moment of the past year reading and thinking about just about every book that was published in that year. They read and thought about the books that I loved. Someone saw something they didn’t like in them, or saw something better in these books. People have different perspectives.  It didn’t sit that well with me when people criticized or questioned our notables lists. I didn’t say anything out loud or publicly, but we worked so hard ….so very hard. The 2020 Caldecott committee did too. They didn’t pick Saturday, a book that I love, but that takes nothing away from the book. My students will be reading it for years, and I’ll be reading it to groups of kids. The Caldecott selections are outstanding. Thank you for your work, guys.

Geisel:

Winner:

stopbot

Honors:

smell

flubby

bookhog

How did I do?  I got one. I picked Chick and Brain as my winner. That’s still better that I did for Caldecott, right? 🙂 I was especially happy to see my pal, Greg Pizzoli get an honor.

I can’t believe another Youth Media Awards day has come and gone. Congrats to all of the winners! Kevin Henkes got the Legacy Award! How awesome is that?

Thanks to all of the committees. Your work is appreciated. Go catch up on all your favorite movies and TV shows now.

 

 

2020 Caldecott/Newbery/Geisel Award predictions

It’s time to predict the big winners in kid lit this year. Last year, I got one Caldecott honor correct and one Newbery honor. Let’s see if I can do any better this year.

2020 Caldecott predictions: 

Winner: 

Saturday

Honors:

vroom!

another

frybread

stonesatstill

2020 Newbery Predictions

Winner: 

coyote

Honors: 

queen of the sea

linetender

bridge

genesis

newkid

2020 Geisel Award Predictions:

Winner:

smell

Honors: 

Penny

boat

Now, don’t go betting any money with these predictions, because I am almost definitely completely wrong, but what can you do? It’s hard to get into the head of these committee members when everything is so hush hush.

Mock Caldecott 2020 Results

Last week, I predicted that Another would be the book that my students selected as our Mock Caldecott winner, and I’ll just say that my prediction was a little off. Ok, maybe a lot off. Out of none books, Another came in 6th place.

The actual winner was Truman.

truman

Usually, if the vote numbers are close, I’ll give out an honor or two, but this year, no other titles even came close. Truman was our resounding winner, by many votes.

 

The Next Big Adventure

Screen Shot 2019-12-09 at 9.36.09 AM

I guess I can talk about it now if it’s public on the ALSC site, right?

Anyways, if you see me around in the next two years and I have my headphones in, oblivious to everything around me, I’m not trying to shut the world out.  I’m just  attempting to stay afloat with all of the audio books, kids’ s music and other children’s recordings. 🙂

My 19 favorite books of 2019

Ok, so here are my 19 favorite books of 2019.

It was tough. I had to make a lot of cuts. There are  still a lot of books on my night stand that I haven’t read yet, but I don’t see myself getting to them all before the year ends. What were your favorites? Leave a comment!

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