Tales of an Elementary School Librarian

Mock Caldecott prediction

Every year, I read a group of books to my 2nd-5th grade students. I pick the books that I think have the best shot to win the Caldecott medal that year. This year, I chose 9 titles.

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After we read each book, we talk about them. The kids tell me what they liked about them and what they didn’t like about them. We talk about what makes illustrations in a book “distinguished” and whether or not these books hit the mark.

A few weeks later, after we’ve read them all, the kids vote on which book they think most deserves the Caldecott award that year.

Here’s what our 2020 ballot looks like.

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Our Mock Caldecott has kind of become just as exciting for me as the real Caldecott. I love the discussions and the insights my students have. To a certain extent, I’ve become better at predicting the real Caldecott than our Mock. Maybe it’s because I think more like an adult than a kid. I dunno, but they NEVER pick the book I think they will.

I thought it would be fun to try, though.

Now that the books have all been read, and I’ve heard all of their feedback, I’m going to try to predict what my students are going to pick, before any votes have been cast. (Voting begins this afternoon and ends on Friday)

It’s tough. There are two. possibly three, that they seemed to like more than the others. Which one will they choose though?


I’m probably wrong, but here’s my best guess.

I think that my students will pick Another as our 2020 Mock Caldecott winner.


They loved the illustrations and how they told the whole story without help from any text. They loved trying to guess what actually happened in the book. (That pesky blue mouse at the end destroys the dream theory.) I think this is the book that will get the most votes.

This isn’t the one that I would have voted for, if I had a vote, (I’m on team Saturday) but honestly, I would love to see it win the real Caldecott. I love Christian Robinson, and he should have a Caldecott Medal on his mantle by now.



Is the Old Lady Actually Afraid or Not?

One of my favorite Halloween picture books is the Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything.


I read this 80’s classic to students evert year. It’s one of my Halloween staples, and the kids love it, even though they’ve heard it countless times.

This year, two first graders got into an argument after I finished reading the book as to whether the little old Lady was actually not afraid of anything.

It went something like this.

1st grade boy: She actually was scared. That’s why she ran away from the pumpkin head.

Sensing an opportunity for a class discussion, I flipped the book back to the page where she was running away.


The kid had a point. She certainly did look afraid in the illustration. 

One of his classmates disagreed.

1st grade girl: Nuh uh. The book said she wasn’t afraid of anything. If she was afraid, why did she open the door, even though she knew it was the pumpkin and the clothes knocking?

I flipped to that page.


She had a point, as well. The lady looks calm and confident in that illustration.

A third classmate hit the nail on the head, in my opinion.

Different 1st grade girl: I think maybe she was scared at first, but then she decided to be brave and then she wan’t scared.

I thought it was impressive that this little girl had such a good grasp of what courage really is. It’s not the absence of fear, but not letting the fear get in your way.

So what do you think? Are we supposed to think that the little old lady was afraid or not?


New, simplified OPAC

I thought of a brilliant way to save my school tons of money.

What if we got rid of the OPAC  ( the online library catalog) and just taped this on the computer screen?


I think it would serve the same purpose as what we’re already paying for.

I just need to remember to bring it up at our next faculty meeting.

A Few of My Favorite Book Trailers

One of my favorite tools to help generate some kid reader interest is a good book trailer. Paired with a decent book talk, an awesome trailer has kids rushing to see who can get to the book first in order to check it out.

I thought it would be fun to share a few of the book trailers that I really like. These guys have never let me down. Every time I’ve shown one, someone has checked out and loved the book.

The Ivy+ Bean Series

I showed this video to one single third grade class, and they single-handedly emptied my shelves of the entire series.

Dory Fantasmagory

This one might be my favorite book trailer, ever. After showing it, the kids and I always have a good discussion on what the opposite of a sandwich would be. (My best guess is an empty stomach?) Same as with Ivy + Bean, I showed this trailer to a 2nd grade class and then all my Dory books were gone. Poof. Like magic

Also,  I thought my oldest daughter would love this book, but she was reluctant  to read it because she’s on a graphic novel kick.  I showed her the trailer, and she was hooked. She’s on book two right now.

I Really Like Slop

I’ never really got the point of book trailers for picture books and easy readers. I guess my view was, “Why not just read them the book? It takes about the same amount of time.” Then I saw this video, and I got it. It’s hilarious and my students love it.


The One and Only Ivan

Maybe it’s the music, but every time I show this one, my students all look like they want to cry. And read the book.

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes

This is a high quality book trailer, right here.


Those are some of my favorites.What are some of yours? I’m always looking for more good, book trailers.

An Abundance of Graphic Novel Blessings

In the last few weeks the publishing gods have been extremely generous to us and have rained down many blessings in graphic novel form.

We should pause and take a moment to just be thankful.


They’ve been particularly generous with sequels.

I mean, just look at this:


Each one of these comes from a very popular series. The student demand is huge, and my waiting lists are long.

I still have a copy of Guts out there that was snatched off of my desk before I could do anything with it and it was never properly processed into the library.

The only thing missing to make this list complete is a brand new Amulet book. (I saw on Instagram yesterday that it is in the works)

A new Hilo would be cool, too.

The publishing gods didn’t stop with just sequels, though. They saw fit to bless us with this beauty:

queen of the sea

My son made fun of me on my third day of reading this book, “Dad! How long does it take you to read a graphic novel?!”

What he didn’t know is that I was taking my time and strolling through it. You don’t sprint through the Louvre, right? You don’t rush though a wonderful work like this, either.

I don’t know if I’ve ever finished a graphic novel before and immediately missed the characters as soon as I closed the book.

I am hoping that next year, I can write a graphic novel post and include this series in the sequel section. There’s got to be more.

This one is also really good.


We need to remember to be thankful, so the gods will remember to send us more.

We are waiting with open hands ready to receive.


A Perplexing Pastry Puzzle

One day last week, I was sitting there minding my own business and having a normal work day, when my wife sent me a message.

It said, “How many of these do you know?” and was accompanied by the following photo.

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If you know me, you know that my temptation was to drop everything I was doing and to not stop working on this until I had every single one figured out. At first glance, I knew fourteen out of twenty, for sure, and there were a few that I recognized the illustrator or character, but wasn’t sure which exact book they were from.

I had too much to do, though, so I  reluctantly put it out of my mind until my lunch break.

During lunch, I revisited the photo. I found out that it was a bunch of cookies created by the amazingly talented Murrah Rodriguez.   I also found out that the first person to correctly identify all twenty picture book titles would win the cookies. I envisioned myself coming home one day with a bag of kid lit cookies for my kids, transformed from librarian dad into a cookie-providing-hero.

I hit the stacks furiously, pulling picture book suspects and flying through the illustrations fo find matches.  This brought my total up to eighteen, but there were still two books I could not get.

With a little more work I got one more title, but unfortunately, I did not win the cookies. That little prairie-dog-looking-guy on cookie nine proved to be my downfall.

What about you? How many picture books can you name?

If you want to see the answers, click here and here. No cheating, though! Give it an honest shot before you click!

Also, if you want to order some cookies or other beautiful desserts, give Murrah a call. Her stuff looks amazing.

A Quick Update

Hi guys! I’m still around! We started school back in early August, and this being the third week of school, we’ve gotten into the rhythm of things.

I just haven’t found a good time in my new schedule for blogging more frequently. I hope to get all of that figured out though, and hopefully I’ll be blogging again soon, at least once a week.

It’s been tough, time-wise. I’m teaching more kids to play the ukulele this semester than I ever thought would be possible and I had to open up two new time slots for lessons.  At home we have a new puppy and that is taking a lot of my time and energy as well.

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Things are going great in the library, though. We’re off to a great start, and I can tell we are all going to be reading some great books this school year. I excited to see what is in store for us. To close, here are some fantastic new books that I am loving at the moment.

Most Circulated Books of the 2018-2019 School Year

The school year is over and has been for three weeks or so, but I got busy at the end of the year and never did one of these most circulated books of the year lists.

It felt like there was just something left undone, and I’ve had this unsettled feeling ever since, so I decided to just go ahead and pull the numbers, so it can finally feel like summer time.

For the last three years, the same book has won. I can’t really explain it, but the numbers don’t lie. We are in a Book, by Mo Willems has been the most popular book in our school for quite a while. Could 2019 be the year that we get a new champion? Let’s find out.

#10. Elephants Cannot Dance– 32 checkouts


#9. I Really Like Slop-33 checkouts


#8. I am Invited to a Party! – 33 checkouts


#7. Sofia the 1st: The Curse of Princess Ivy- 35 checkouts


#6. Amulet (book 1)– 38 checkouts


#5. My New Friend is so Fun!- 39 checkouts

new friend

#4. Dog Man: Lord of the Fleas- 48 checkouts

Lord of the fleas

#3. Smile– 56 checkouts


#2. We are in a Book!- 60 Checkouts


#1. Dog Man: A Tale of two Kitties- 61 checkouts

dogman tale

It’s official! Dog Man has dethroned Elephant and Piggie! And by one book checked out! Talk about a close one! Congrats to Dav Pilkey! Dethroning Elephant and Piggie is a tough thing to do in our school.

I hope you are all having a great summer!

Waning Crescents and Wild Things

This past week I read Where the Wild Things Are to my 2nd through 5th graders. We’ve been reading a lot of older classic picture books lately and examining them closely to determine if we think they are still classics. One of the questions that came up was, What really happened to Max in this book? 

That’s a tricky question. As a kid I always assumed that Max was pretending while he was in time-out. I had an active imagination as a kid, and this seemed like what was happening to me. Max had this imaginary world of wild things built up in his mind, and he could escape there whenever he wanted to. I loved that. I had my own worlds that I liked to visit when the real world got to be bit too much. That was one of the biggest reasons I loved (and still love) books.

Reading this book several years later as an adult, I changed my mind. It seemed clear to me that Max had fallen asleep and everything that happened in the world of the wild things was actually a dream. It made more sense that he woke up when he smelled the meal his mother had brought in. In this illustration, he very much looks like a kid just waking up from a crazy dream. sleepymax.JPG

My students were split on the two ideas. A lot of them seemed to think that Max was simply imagining, but more thought that it was a dream. One student asked me to see the before and after illustrations of Max’s bed again to see if it was messed up. I flipped through both pages and showed the kids.

The beds were pretty much the same. The kids who thought that Max was just imagining took this as a huge point in their favor, but I pointed out that he had probably fallen asleep on top of the covers.  While we were talking about this possibility, one of my students noticed something that will forever change how I view and discuss this book with kids.

“The moon!” she said. “Look at the moon! Why is it different?”

In the hundreds of times that I have read this book by myself, or with kids, I had never noticed that the moon was changing the whole time. It starts out as a waning crescent and ends up a full moon in the middle of the wild rumpus.

The text says that Max “sailed off through night and day and in and out of weeks and almost over a year.” It appears that all of the action did not happen in one night like I had always believed. It takes time for the moon to grow like that.

Whatever we think happened in this book, whether Max is imagining all of the action, whether he is dreaming or whatever, Sendak purposefully threw a wrench in our theory.

My students had a few more adjusted theories to account for the moon. One boy thought that maybe this is a recurring incident and that Max gets sent to his room without dinner all the time, and the illustrations are all from different incidents. I think that this is a pretty good theory.

Another student thought that Max was still in that place in-between sleeping and awake, and was still partly in the wild-thing-dream. I think that this is a good possibility as well.

In all honesty, I think that Sendak was a very clever man and wanted to make sure we would still be talking about this book 56 years after it was first published. That’s why he never showed Max on the bed and left the sheets alone. He put the moon in there to make sure there was no way for us to know for sure what happened to Max. Maybe his room really did change and he really did travel to a far away place. It’s a picture book. Anything can happen. Every reader has a unique experience with the land of the wild things and they can all come to their own conclusions.

I’ve always loved this book, but this week, I’m looking at it with new eyes. My appreciation for it has grown exponentially. It’s one of the best and always will be.

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