Sunday, February 11, 2018

#nf10for10 Event: My Top Ten Favorite Contenders for the Robert F. Sibert Award

I'm participating in this fantastic #nf10for10 event,  hosted by Cathy Mere and Mandy Robek.!  I'm a day late, but better late than never!

Since the ALA Youth Media Awards are tomorrow, I thought I'd list my Top Ten Favorite Contenders for the Robert F. Sibert Award!  These are in no particular order of favorites...


A Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider--The Story of E. B. White

We're so lucky to have TWO amazing picture books about E.B. White - 2016's Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet, and now this one, which is more geared toward younger children.  I love how Barbara Herkert and Lauren Castillo captured the sweetness of the barn and E.B. White's love of animals.  I'm a huge fan of E.B. White, and this book did him justice.



Jess Keating's "The World of Weird Animals" series has enormous kid appeal, and I would love to see the ALA Youth Awards honor her!  Like Pink is for Blobfish, this book features weird and wonderful animals with quirky and humorous illustrations by David DeGrand.  This is children's nonfiction at its finest - start with a great topic and watch kids want to delve further into research of their own!



Wow!  Like Roy's 2015's Sibert Honor book, Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great White's of California's Farallon Islands, this promises to be another award winner.  I mean, look at the cover!!!  I love the circular structure, fascinating facts about elephants, and beautiful art.  Plus, who doesn't like elephants?!


Before She Was Harriet

The creative structure of this book (backwards chronological structure), the inspirational text in verse, and gorgeous art make this a winner.  I would love to use it with kids as a mentor text for their own memoirs or biographies.  I'm amazed when authors can give us a fresh look at a well-known person so that we learn new things - Lesa Cline-Ransome did just that!  Innovation at its finest!



I always enjoy stories about Frida Kahlo - she's fascinating! This is another one that shows us a well-known person from a different perspective - a snippet from her childhood and love for animals. Already an award winner (a 2017 NYT Best Illustrated Children's Book) - this pick may be in for another! Beautiful colors, lots of energy, and captures the spirit of Kahlo's art.



I seem to be choosing several biographies!  I didn't know much about Muddy Waters before I picked up this book - another 2017 NYT Best Illustrated Children's Book - so I was glad I read it!  Besides learning a lot about him, I loved how the illustrations seemed to mirror Muddy's invincible and wild spirit!  The theme of this book, to pursue your passions and never let anyone tell you that you can't do something, will inspire kids!



I would love to see Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal win a Sibert for this third installment in the "Over and Under" series.  I love how each one not only introduces us to the rich diversity and hidden worlds of nature, but also to wonderful family interactions between parent and child and the peaceful quiet of the outdoors.


Grand Canyon

Just look at the 3-D effect Jason Chin creates for the cover of this captivating book about the Grand Canyon!  I feel like I'm part of the illustration.  There is an amazing amount of information about this landmark in Chin's book, and the illustrations continue to add to this astounding landform.  If kids have already been there, it will enrich their experiences, and if they haven't, they will certainly want to visit someday!



I thought this was a stunning informational book about an unusual subject: medieval falconry.  I loved learning about falconry through the mix of poetry and facts.  Absolutely beautiful illustrations.  Very engaging and could lead to kids wanting to know more.  



Another fantastic biography in my picks.  I enjoyed reading about Grace Hopper, who revolutionized computer coding. She had such a zest for learning and problem solving.  Perfect to share during STEM and STEAM projects.

I have to cheat a bit and include ONE chapter book that I think has a good chance of winning a Sibert Award!

Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers

This is an extensively researched and amazing account of Vincent Van Gogh and his brother, Theo. I was able to visit the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam several years back; I wish this book had been published before that - I would have had an even more deeper appreciation of his art. I loved learning about his close relationship with Theo throughout a very troubled life. Heiligman wrote a compelling biography that read more like a novel than a nonfiction read. Excellent! I highly recommend the audio version, although I'd like to see a print version.

I can't wait to see what happens tomorrow!  Watch it live here:

Tuesday, January 2, 2018


It's time to make a new list.  A 2018 reading list!  A new year full of possibilities and lots of great reads...thanks, Carrie Gelson, for helping us make goals for our reading lives!  I've been in a bit of a reading slump lately and look forward to revitalizing my book list. I don't feel like myself if I'm not enjoying a bunch of good reads, so here we go...

Empower: What Happens When Student Own Their Learning

This is going to be my first book of the year.  I just joined the online book study led by John Spencer, and one of the districts where I work will be using it as a gifted professional development book study.


Launch: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student

Another John Spencer book!  I'm reading it with my colleagues as a book study.

Little Fires Everywhere

I've heard great things about this book in several places, including my book club friend and former colleague, Becky, so I'm putting it on the list!  It'll be a February read for our book club!

The Creativity Project: An Awesometastic Story Collection

Excited about Colby's first book!

You Don't Have to Say You Love Me

I have this waiting on my Overdrive to listen to - it's next up!


I'm currently listening to this charming middle grade novel, so it will definitely get read!

Beyond the Bright Sea

I loved Wolf Hollow so much that I can't wait to read this new Wolk title!

Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers

This is another one waiting for me on Overdrive.  I listened to most of it, then had to return it because it had holds.  I'll be getting back to it soon.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (Harold Fry, #1)

My friend, Annie, loved this book and recommended it.

The Story of Arthur Truluv

I haven't read an Elizabeth Berg novel for a while; this one looks good!

The Stars Are Fire

A new Anita Shreve book and one recommended by my friend, Megan - it's waiting on my Overdrive.


I thought this looked like a good possibility for my high school girls' book club!

Girl Rising: Changing the World One Girl at a Time

I've had this in my book bag for a while - I love Tanya Lee Stone's books, and this looks like a powerful one!

Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass, #2)

I read Throne of Glass over the summer and would love to continue the series!

Passionate Readers: The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child

I'd love to read this new one by Pernille Ripp!


Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver

I love Mary Oliver!

The Lake House

Targeting this one for summer!

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry

I've had this on  my shelf for a while; I bought it after loving A Man Called Ove.

Lilac Girls

I've heard lots of great things about this one!

Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder

This one is on the NYT Best 10 2017 Books - I'm a huge fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder!

Sing, Unburied, Sing

Also on the 2017 NYT list, this title appealed to me.

The Shadow Cipher (York, #1)

Looks like an exciting beginning to a new middle grade series!

The Way to Bea

This was on the Nerdies Middle Grade Fiction list.  Looks good - the premise intrigued me.

Another one on the Nerdie Middle Grade Fiction list!

Advancing Differentiation: Thinking and Learning for the 21st Century

I am involved in a district book study for gifted professional development with this one.

Far from the Tree

I saw this title on a couple recommended YA lists.  I love the cover!

It Ends with Us

Every reading list needs a good romance, right?  This recommendation came from one of my book club friends, Becky.

Saints for All Occasions

A recommendation from my mom!

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

I always enjoy Lisa See's books.  My friend, Megan, recommended this one.

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

My friend, Annie, loved this one, and I gave it to my daughter, Libby, for Christmas.  She thought it was incredible!

Britt-Marie Was Here

Another Backman book!  My colleague, Karen, and friend Kim recommended it.

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body

This one looks fascinating and showed up on several "Best Of" lists.

Scythe (Arc of a Scythe, #1)

I've been wanting to read this young adult novel since it won the 2017 Printz Honor.


I enjoyed Ungifted and look forward to this sequel!


The Book That Matters Most

This was recommended by a friend and former colleague, Mel.  It looks really good!

Whew!  Wow.  I could probably go on, but this is plenty!  Can't wait to start reading!

Monday, January 1, 2018

#MustReadin2017 Update and Favorite Books of the Year

 Thank you, Carrie Gelson, for encouraging us to make these lists.  Research tells us lifelong readers make reading plans, so here were my plans for 2017!!



Salt to the Sea Cover
READ 4/11/17
Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
My girls' book club read this one.  It was a heavy read!


Lily and Dunkin Cover
READ 1/10/17
Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart
While this book has received a lot of positive attention because of one character's transgender story (and rightfully so), I also think Norbert's (Duncan) battle with mental illness is an extremely important one, too. Both characters are endearing, honest, and brave. This is a journey of celebrating and embracing who one really is and a very special friendship. My favorite part is when Lily discovers what the therapist told her dad, and his response. I also loved the tree story! I listened to the audio, but I also bought the book.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon Cover
READ 1/14/17
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
Kelly Barnhill sure can spin a tale! Doesn't it have a BEAUTIFUL cover?! This one also won the 2017 Newbery.


The Inquisitor's Tale Cover
READ 1/19/17
The Inquisitor's Tale by Adam Gidwitz
This was quite the story! It's certainly unique - filled with adventure, some horror (reminiscent of A Tale Dark and Grimm), tall tales, intrigue, social injustices, intolerance, and faith. There is so much here, with such complex material, that I wonder how appealing it would be to most middle graders, but I do have a sixth grader who read it and liked it a lot. This book (which, by the way, is quite beautiful with the cover and illuminations) has a lot of relevance to today's political and social landscape (although, I'm sure you could say that about any time in history, actually).  We read this as a staff book club book, and it won a 2017 Newbery Honor.

The Lie Tree Cover

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
I didn't get to this one, unfortunately.


Snow White Cover
READ 1/24/17
Snow White by Matt Phelan
An interesting historical retelling of "Snow White". In order for kids to fully grasp it, they would need background knowledge of the 1920s/30s and would need to do a lot of inferring - it's not an easy graphic novel!

Cloud and Wallfish Cover

Cloud and Wallfish by Anne Nesbet

I didn't get to this one.

Full of Beans Cover
READ 2/15/17
Full of Beans by Jennifer L. Holm

This was such a unique historical fiction novel for middle graders since it was set in Key West during the Depression Era. I loved being immersed in that setting.

Some Kind of Happiness Cover

Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand

Not yet!


Falling Over Sideways Cover
READ 1/24/17
Falling Over Sideways by Jordan Sonnenblick
Sonnenblick's stories are poignant, tender, funny, and emotional, and this one is no exception. When Claire has to deal with a sudden and unexpected illness in her family, she struggles. She is, after all, a young teenager, so she has the typical problems and angst that many teens face at school. When you add a father who's had a stroke, her life becomes overwhelming at times. I loved how her older brother, Matthew, played an integral part in showing some tough love and making her realize how she needed to become less self-absorbed and to step up to the plate in caring for her father. Matthew also shows a tender side toward Claire toward the end. Beautiful finale. A wonderful study on family dynamics, how to handle illness and crises, and growing up.


Still a Work in Progress Cover

This has been on my list forever!  Why haven't I read it yet?!


Throne of Glass Cover
READ 6/17/17
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Wow! I can see why this series is so popular!! The world building and characterization is elaborate, and the twists and turns of the plot addictive!


Moo Cover
READ 2/15/17
Moo by Sharon Creech

Aw, this brought me back to my 4-H and Warren County Fair days. Loved this simple story of a city girl moving to Maine and discovering the magic of taking care of farm animals and showing them at the local fair. Charming.


The Sound of Gravel Cover
READ 1/29/17
The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner

A memoir about growing up in and escaping a polygamist cult. If it wasn't for a book club, I don't think I would have finished it. It was deeply disturbing. I also wish the writing would have been better. I did, however, get teary in a couple of parts because I did care about Ruth. It's unbelievable that people live like that. Thank God she had the courage to escape that life.


Born to Run Cover
READ 12/31/17
Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen
This audio book kind of acted like bookends to my 2017 reading life. I bought the CDs for my husband last Christmas (he's been a long-time Bruce fan) so we could listen to them on the way home from our holiday in Florida. We started it on New Year's Day 2017, but we didn't finish it. For some reason, I never finished it over the year, but that's okay because we finished it on the way home from our holiday in Florida this time. It is BRILLIANT. Although I'm sure the book is equally amazing, the audio is extra special because Bruce narrates it. He is an incredible writer -his musicality comes across in his story, every line sounding like poetry. I loved the emotion in his voice- I laughed, cried, and was riveted throughout. I was a fan before, but I'm even more of one after listening to his honest and incredible stories.

Presenting Buffalo Bill Cover
READ 6/17/17

It was so fun to read this book while traveling on a tour through South Dakota and Wyoming (we'll stop in Cody, WY tomorrow)! Candace Fleming is an expert at writing biographies like novels, and I loved learning more about Buffalo Bill. Also interesting is how Fleming had to figure out how to sift through myth and legend to get at the truth, and she did a great job melding it all. Loved the photographs throughout. Extensive bibliography, citations, and credits at the end. Kids would be amazed at the amount of research!


The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary Cover

Not yet...


Finding Perfect Cover

Finding Perfect by Elly Swartz

I didn't get to this one either.


Scar Island Cover
READ 9/17/17
Scar Island by Dan Gemeinhart
Loved listening to the audio - the librarian was my favorite - good quotes about past and future. I loved how the librarian would recommend books that went with what Jonathan was going through, including "Lord of the Flies". Lots of adventure that would make this a great read aloud like other Gemeinhart books. Lots to talk about with kids.


What Elephants Know Cover

What Elephants Know by Eric Dinerstein


Upstream Cover

Upstream by Mary Oliver

I lent this to my daughter, Libby, so I didn't get to read it.  She loved it, though!


Flying Lessons & Other Stories Cover
READ 4/19/17
Flying Lessons & Other Stories edited by Ellen Oh

Fabulous anthology of short stories by award-winning authors. I'm glad I bought this book because I want to use a few as read alouds. My favorites were Matt de la Pena's "How to Transform an Everyday, Ordinary Hoop Court into a Place of Higher Learning and You at the Podium" and Kwame Alexander's "Seventy-Six Dollars and Forty-Nine Cents". I also enjoyed Tim Federle's and Meg Medina's stories. They're ALL good, though!


Short Cover
READ 2/21/17
Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan
I liked the adult friendships Julia forged with her seamstress neighbor and fellow "Wizard of Oz" Munchkin cast members. This book would make a good companion to the Five, Six, Seven Nate by Tim Federle. The stream of consciousness narration made me wonder if Julia seemed younger than her actual age, however - which was not actually defined, I don't think. I'd like to hear more about what kids think of that. I marked a couple quotes about art since I've been talking about the definitions of art with my 6th graders.

Orphan Island Cover
READ 6/4/17
Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder

Allegory? Science fiction? Adventure? Magical realism? I don't even know what to call this book!! SO unique and captivating. So many questions! This would be an amazing small group book with 6th graders and up. I would LOVE to hear what kids would say about it, the questions that would be asked. I know they would want a sequel, but would that ruin the mystery and the metaphor? Is it a metaphor? Wow.

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life Cover
READ 7/25/17
The Inexplicable Logic of my Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz

So, so much in this book!! Of course, since it's a Benjamin Alire Saenz story, it's packed full of emotion. I didn't love it as much as Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, but it still had lots of beautiful moments. And lots of sad ones, too!
17 out of 25 - not too bad!
Favorite books of 2017:
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Middle Grade (three-way tie):
Orphan Island Hello, Universe Refugee
Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder and Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly and Refugee by Alan Gratz
Okay, maybe a 4-way tie...
Me and Marvin Gardens
Me and Marvin Gardens by A.S. King
Young Adult (couldn't decide, so it's a tie, too):
The Hate U Give Long Way Down
Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters
Disrupting Thinking by Kylene Beers and Bob Probst
Picture Book:
Come with Me
Come With Me by Holly McGhee
Nonfiction Adult:
Born to Run
Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen
Nonfiction Children's - Picture Book:
A Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider--The Story of E. B. White
A Boy, A Mouse and a Spider by Barbara Herkert
Nonfiction Young Adult:
Presenting Buffalo Bill: The Man Who Invented the Wild West
Presenting Buffalo Bill by Candace Fleming
In the next day or two, I'll make my list for 2018!