The Horn Book » Lolly’s Classroom http://www.hbook.com Publications about books for children and young adults Tue, 27 Jan 2015 17:00:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1 Books and stuff http://www.hbook.com/2015/01/blogs/lollys-classroom/books-stuff/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/01/blogs/lollys-classroom/books-stuff/#comments Mon, 26 Jan 2015 11:01:40 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=43711 It’s that time of year again. Book fair time. “Miss Hewes! Look at the figurines I bought! Aren’t the polar bear and the penguin so cute?” I’ll be honest – yes, little rubberized figurines in the likenesses of polar bears are cute. I understand the appeal of such items to young children. However, I am […]

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It’s that time of year again. Book fair time.

“Miss Hewes! Look at the figurines I bought! Aren’t the polar bear and the penguin so cute?”

I’ll be honest – yes, little rubberized figurines in the likenesses of polar bears are cute. I understand the appeal of such items to young children. However, I am less sure that these proclamations should follow a trip to our school’s book fair.

Without fail, however, my students bound into my room following their trip to the library (home base of our commercial book fair) eager to show off their novelty erasers, pencils, figurines, and posters.

“Those are nice,” I always reply. “But what books did you see that excited you? What book did you choose to take home with you?”

Then, my students usually get quiet. “Well, I couldn’t get this eraser shaped like a cell phone and a book. I ran out of money.”

And there’s the rub. At the school where I teach, the bi-annual book fair is a big deal. My students get all jazzed up when they see the rolling metal carts and book boxes start to accumulate in our hallway prior to one of the sales. Their parents, many of whom feel a financial crunch, work hard to ensure that their children have a small amount of money to spend at the book fair. And yet, despite this excitement and noble intentions, too many students are leaving my school’s book fair with nothing but cell phone erasers and penguin figurines.

Despite the potential arguments that could be raised about school-sanctioned consumerism and the stress that this event may cause for already cash-strapped families, I am generally in favor of the book fair. I teach in a very rural area and the book fair is one of the only affordable alternatives to purchasing books at Walmart or the grocery store — and the titles available there are likely not the ones receiving rave reviews from The Horn Book.

This is not to say, however, that the offerings at the book fair are necessarily any better than those at Walmart. Publishers like Scholastic do publish extraordinarily rich, engaging, and substantial titles. But often, at our school’s book fair, even if kids look beyond the staggering assortment of novelties, their eyes land on a book about the latest pre-teen celebrity icon or the latest series that has more to do with the economics of churning out multiple volumes than about substance or quality.

I don’t think it has to be this way. Yes, commercial book fairs do raise money for schools, and yes, molded plastic does sell. But I think kids would still nag their parents to buy them things even if the book fair didn’t have the novelty items spilling over near the register. As educators, parents, and community members, we should demand more — particularly in communities where the budget for and access to books can restrict the quality of reading materials that kids have to explore.

I optimistically imagine a day when the engrossing and constructive books aren’t lurking in the shadows of a book fair and when the opportunities these events could provide are more fully leveraged to benefit children and their positive reading development.

 

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Lesser-known heroes http://www.hbook.com/2015/01/blogs/lollys-classroom/lesser-known-heroes/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/01/blogs/lollys-classroom/lesser-known-heroes/#respond Thu, 22 Jan 2015 11:01:53 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=43548 In my literature classroom, students must always be reading a book outside of the novel we’re reading as a class. Every now and then, a student will pull V for Vendetta or Watchmen or Maus or some other graphic novel* off of my shelf and ask if he can use it as his independent reading […]

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In my literature classroom, students must always be reading a book outside of the novel we’re reading as a class. Every now and then, a student will pull V for Vendetta or Watchmen or Maus or some other graphic novel* off of my shelf and ask if he can use it as his independent reading book. There’s always a tentativeness about the question, as if I’ll turn to him, adjust my monocle, and say, “Bah. That’s not real literature.”

So they tend to be surprised when I say, “Sure,” and leave my monocle as is.

I would hope that by now the debate about whether graphic novels are legitimate literature has fallen by the wayside. At their best, they have well-developed characters, complex narratives, and philosophical underpinnings. At their worst, they still have words that must be read, a narrative that must be unspooled.

But as appealing as they are, it can be intimidating for students — and teachers — to enter the world of comics, given the endless reiterations and reboots, or simply the vast selection of titles. With that in mind, I wanted to share a list of some of my favorites. These are stories that I believe represent the genre at its best and which I’m comfortable recommending to high school kids. And just to give you a heads up, I’m staying away from the ones that have already entered the mainstream — like V for Vendetta, Watchmen, Maus, Persepolis, Hellboy, and The Walking Dead.

SandmanBoneRunaways
Y last manInvinciblemanifest destinyUnwritten

Sandman, written by Neil Gaiman (Vertigo)
After escaping from captivity for a number of years, Dream returns to his kingdom only to find that things have fallen apart in his absence. He then sets out to restore order to the world of sleepers.

Bone, written by Jeff Smith
Three exiled cousins wander a fantasy landscape where they are pursued by giant rats and evil locusts. A strange mixture of goofiness and darkness.

Runaways, written by Brian K. Vaughan (Marvel)
A group of kids discover that their parents are super-villains. Just as they happen to do so, they begin to develop their own unique powers and abilities which they use to try to stop their parents.

Y: The Last Man, written by Brian K. Vaughn (Vertigo)
A sudden plague sweeps the earth, killing every male on the planet, except for one guy and his (literal) monkey.

Invincible, written by Robert Kirkman (Image)
In a send-up of the DC universe, the teenage son of the world’s strongest superhero discovers he has powers of his own. Of course, this complicates things. For everyone.

Manifest Destiny, written by Chris Dingess (Image)
Lewis and Clark travel west to explore the continent—and clear it of monsters. This is a fairly new series with a lot of potential.

The Unwritten, written by Mike Carey and Peter Gross (Vertigo)
The grown-up son of a missing novelist may actually be transforming into the fictional boy-wizard from his father’s popular books. Kind of. An interesting exploration into the significance of story, which blurs the lines between fiction and reality.

•    •    •

Since there’s obviously a lot more out there (and especially considering that I’m looking over my recommendations and realizing how male-centric it is…), let me know in the comments what you would add to the list.

* “Graphic novel” and “comic” are sometimes used interchangeably and sometimes not. Personally, I tend to use the former to refer to a collection of comics bound together in a trade paperback or hardcover that form a complete story arc. I use the latter to refer to a single issue, a series, or the genre.

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Metacognitive books: How early should they be introduced? http://www.hbook.com/2015/01/blogs/lollys-classroom/meta-books-early-start/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/01/blogs/lollys-classroom/meta-books-early-start/#comments Tue, 20 Jan 2015 11:01:11 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=42797 During the last few months I’ve encountered a number of children’s picture books with a self-reflective or metacognitive approach. The texts encourage readers not just to reflect or think (cognitive) but to think about their thinking (metacognitive). Since the books’ illustrations were eye-catching and the topics were relatable, I read them to some three-year old […]

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During the last few months I’ve encountered a number of children’s picture books with a self-reflective or metacognitive approach. The texts encourage readers not just to reflect or think (cognitive) but to think about their thinking (metacognitive). Since the books’ illustrations were eye-catching and the topics were relatable, I read them to some three-year old children. Some really enjoyed them while others got lost and disengaged easily.

Ernest, the Moose Who Doesn't FitAll of these books are creative. In Ernest, the Moose Who Doesn’t Fit by Catherine Rayner, the reader follows a moose who doesn’t fit onto the page as he tries to squeeze different body parts into view, leaving others out. Finally, his nameless squirrel friend has an idea. Take masking tape and extra sheets of paper and build out a page so the reader can fold out the final sheet, quadrupling its size to show all of Ernest. The children, silent, seemed mesmerized by Ernest on every page.

Open Very CarefullyAnother favorite is Open Very Carefully: A Book with Bite by Nick Bromley and illustrated by Nicola O’Byrne. The story begins as that of the Ugly Duckling and is narrated by one of the ducklings. The expected story is quickly interrupted by a crocodile who climbs into the book and eats letters and words. Later, the narrator asks the reader to shake the book and rock it from side to side so the crocodile will leave the pages. The rocking just puts the crocodile to sleep, but this allows the duckling to draw on him. Waking suddenly, the crocodile tries to run out of the page and hits his head. Finally, he chews a hole — literally — in the back cover and climbs out.

monster end of bookOther examples include David Wiesner’s The Three Pigs, the Sesame Street book The Monster at the End of this Book, and the new social media sensation by B. J. Novak, The Book with No Pictures.

These texts demand more active thinking from readers while they listen to the stories. I was a bit hesitant to read these books to small children, but after doing so have come to the conclusion that they in fact help to “wire” their reading habits and other skills such as problem solving and perspective thinking.

What do you think?

 

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Behind the book http://www.hbook.com/2015/01/blogs/lollys-classroom/behind-book/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/01/blogs/lollys-classroom/behind-book/#respond Thu, 15 Jan 2015 11:01:27 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=43376 Back on October 10th, I had the privilege of attending the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award ceremony. During the celebration, honorees and winners came to the podium to receive their awards and address the audience. Needless to say, I was star struck to be in the room with the likes of Steve Jenkins, Gene Luen Yang, […]

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Back on October 10th, I had the privilege of attending the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award ceremony. During the celebration, honorees and winners came to the podium to receive their awards and address the audience. Needless to say, I was star struck to be in the room with the likes of Steve Jenkins, Gene Luen Yang, Peter Brown, and Steve Sheinkin, among others.

Once I managed to regain my composure, I listened carefully to the content of their speeches. Patricia Hruby Powell, spoke to the power of dance in her own life as one of the connections that led her to craft the beautiful Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker. Andrew Smith shocked us all when he told us that Grasshopper Jungle was written the summer he decided to “quit being a writer.” Nevertheless, he completed it because the manuscript helped him strengthen his connection to his son who had recently left for college. Peter Brown made us laugh as he joked about managing to slip nudity into a picture book (see the centerfold page where Mr. Tiger returns to his birthday suit!) in partial protest of the fact that Babar the elephant, a favorite character from childhood, walks naked into a department store only to emerge one page later inexplicably dressed in a suit walking upright!

Port ChicagoBut the speech that resonated most profoundly with me was the one given by Steve Sheinkin who talked about his book, The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny and the Fight for Civil Rights. He told us that his brother-in-law (I believe) piqued his interest by mentioning the Port Chicago disaster several years earlier. Once he heard about it, Sheinkin simply could not let it go. His desire to understand what had happened to the 50 African American navy sailors charged with mutiny for refusing to work under extraordinarily dangerous conditions became an exciting mystery he had to unravel. He spoke of the thrill of meeting the only other author who had ever written about the incident and sharing his source material. He described the exhilaration of traveling to interview those sailors who were still living and ready to share their story five decades later. You could not sit in the audience that night and not feel Sheinkin’s excitement. It was clear that the pursuit of this mystery, the unlocking of the clues one by one, moved him deeply.

As I listened to Sheinkin and the other authors speak that night, I was reminded how exciting it can be to consider the writer behind the text. There is no doubt that the texts alone merit attention. But understanding that authors are driven by the same goals, hopes and humor as regular humans is a really powerful lesson for kids.

In my years as a teacher and a coach, I have often spoken of author study — where we read multiple texts by a single author in an effort to understand craft, theme, style, etc. We generally supplement our author study with biographical information about the author. I would never want to give that up as teacher.

But imagine highlighting for our students the writers’ stories behind the stories. What an amazing way to draw kids into their own writing. These authors’ stories went beyond simple topics of interest. They revealed how essential elements of who they were as people drove them into and through their writing — Brown’s humor, Sheinkin’s need to uncover, Smith’s desire for connection. I want all my students to know that who they are can propel their writing.

As an educator, I am eager to explore authentic ways to let my students listen behind the book. But, I’m not sure entirely how. Any thoughts about how to bring writer’s voices regularly into our writing workshops?

 

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“Rabid Rabbit Readers” —- try saying that five times fast http://www.hbook.com/2015/01/blogs/lollys-classroom/rabid-rabbit-readers/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/01/blogs/lollys-classroom/rabid-rabbit-readers/#respond Tue, 13 Jan 2015 11:01:38 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=43082 I’ve often heard the expression “teaching is a marathon, not a sprint,” an indication that teachers must allow time to pace themselves throughout the school year. But based on my experiences, that’s a whole lot easier said then done. First-year teachers are often thrown into a developed, engrained curriculum plan for a school’s reading program […]

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I’ve often heard the expression “teaching is a marathon, not a sprint,” an indication that teachers must allow time to pace themselves throughout the school year. But based on my experiences, that’s a whole lot easier said then done.

First-year teachers are often thrown into a developed, engrained curriculum plan for a school’s reading program and — just like that — are expected to know how to teach it the best way possible with the fewest questions asked.

Upon learning that the first reading unit at my new school would focus on texts with rabbits as the central characters, I came to a screeching halt. Frankly, the rabbit choice just seemed incredibly random. Yet, as is often my nature, I hopped right into the unit and gained some lasting insights along the way.

First, most young children absolutely adore animals. There’s something about having a furry friend by your side that immediately puts children at ease, and rabbits are no exception to this rule. Rabbits are rarely viewed in a negative light, but rather seen as furry creatures with pink ears and a pouffy backside. They can also convey a sense of magic and wonder: the notion of pulling a rabbit out of a hat; the beloved Easter bunny hiding treasures; or Bugs Bunny munching on his  carrot, saying “What’s up, Doc?”

I also believe that there is immense value in an entire grade level getting to explore the same theme or character while reading texts appropriate to their instructional reading levels. At my school, we’ve divided our students into four reading groups based on a variety of factors, from guided reading levels to instructional strengths and weaknesses. Fortunately, there is a lot of great reading material available on rabbits, and our students felt comfortable exchanging comments and reviews of what they were reading without having to worry about what level their group was reading in comparison to the others.

The fact that they were able to share a common link through a rabbit character allowed for some great discussion about personality similarities and differences, as well as fostering in-depth book talks amongst peers. We culminated our unit with a “Rabbit Day” celebration when every student wore rabbit ears, chomped on carrot cake, participated in a hopping relay race, and performed skits that introduced the themes of their respective stories.

Here are the books that the third grade students at my school loved. I would encourage other teachers to look into them as well.

harriets hare    bunnicula    velveteen    country bunny golden

Harriet’s Hare by Dick King-Smith is an engaging story about a young girl living on a farm in England whose life changes when a talking hare arrives from a far away planet.

Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe follows the exciting adventures of a vampire rabbit who sucks the juice out of vegetables!

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams is a classic tale based on a stuffed animal who becomes a real rabbit under the love of his young owner.

The Country Bunny and the Little Golden Shoes by Du Bose Heyward is a lovely story about a mother rabbit with lofty aspirations to become the revered Easter Bunny.

Good luck to all you rabid rabbit readers!

 

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Novels to supplement history | Part 1 http://www.hbook.com/2015/01/blogs/lollys-classroom/novels-supplement-history-part-1/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/01/blogs/lollys-classroom/novels-supplement-history-part-1/#comments Thu, 08 Jan 2015 11:01:20 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=42782 This year, I started a new role as the 8th grade Humanities teacher. I began the school year with an ambitious “Novels of the World” plan that would flawlessly integrate every Common Core standard in Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking along with the world history. Then reality hit me in the throat. I realized that […]

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This year, I started a new role as the 8th grade Humanities teacher. I began the school year with an ambitious “Novels of the World” plan that would flawlessly integrate every Common Core standard in Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking along with the world history.

Then reality hit me in the throat.

I realized that even though I’m technically teaching “English Language Arts,” the colorful demographics of my class means I am also unofficially teaching a lot of English Language Development. I started noticing that in the mushy realm of “middle school humanities,” history ends up getting the shorter end of the stick — probably because English is more heavily tested than history. In a perfect world, I wouldn’t have to choose which area to skimp, but this is reality.

So, to make sure that some history gets into each ELA lesson (and to provide yet another lens for students to learn history), I correlate the novels I teach with the history unit. There are also times when I can’t devote that much time or depth to the history unit. In those cases, I give book talks to let my students know about different leveled books available for their enjoyment.

Below are books in bold that I’ve personally used either in whole-class or small group instruction.* There are also books that I’ve included that I plan to use in the future. Also, as I compiled the list, I realized this post was getting too long, so I’ll have the second half up next month!


Anna of ByzantiumByzantine Empire

Anna of Byzantium by Tracy Barrett
To be honest, this book was difficult. I had to explain much context and there were not too many exciting plot jumps. My students were still curious, but I would say that this would be a more advanced reading level and probably not the best way to start the year. It was great, however, for teaching figurative language, point of view, and character development. Anna is also a great female protagonist, and there are many teachable moments throughout the book.

 


One Thousand and One Arabian NightsRise of Islam

One Thousand and One Arabian Nights by Geraldine McCaughrean
This is one of my favorite books. Although the reading level is a bit lower, the text is complex especially for students who do not have an understanding of the Arabian peninsula. This is a frame-tale narrative so students are able to practice looking at plot structure, setting, character development, theme, and figurative language. This book is full of similes and personification. I differentiated by reading some stories together as a class and expecting extra stories from more advanced readers. I have actually started 7th grade with this book twice now.


SundiataWest Africa

Sundiata: Lion King of Mali by David Wisniewski
So yes, according to the Horn Book Guide, this is meant for K-3. But this book is gorgeous, and I hope to use this and a few other Sundiata narratives to help my students grasp an understanding of the African narrative style and create their own historically accurate play.

 


The Ghost In the Tokaido InnMedieval Japan

The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler
This is a fun mystery that takes place in 18th century Japan. Students clearly enjoyed seeing what they learned about samurai, dishonorable samurai, and the Code of Bushido coming alive in this fast-paced chapter book. I focused on mainly covering suspense, setting, and characterization here.

 

The Samurai's TaleThe Samurai’s Tale by Erik Christian Haugaard
I have only read an excerpt and it seems a bit more high level. I could see this book being very engaging, however, as it starts with quite a lot of action, betrayal, and suspense in the first chapter.

 

•   •   •

In my next post, I will list the books I’ve used for China, South America, Feudal Europe, Renaissance, and the Age of Exploration. Have you used any of these books before? Am I missing some must-have gems? Let me know by commenting below!

*In California, middle school spends one year learning about medieval to modern world history. It usually consists of the fall of Rome, the Byzantine Empire’s rise, the Arabian Peninsula and Islam, West Africa, Medieval Japan and China, South America, and then Europe, Europe, and lots more Europe.

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Thinking about school as a privilege http://www.hbook.com/2015/01/blogs/lollys-classroom/thinking-school-privilege/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/01/blogs/lollys-classroom/thinking-school-privilege/#respond Tue, 06 Jan 2015 11:01:06 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=41466 As our year in second grade began last fall, my students and I spent some time thinking about why we go to school. In our first few weeks together, I tried to help my students understand that going to school is a privilege that has not always been (and is still not) available to everyone. […]

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As our year in second grade began last fall, my students and I spent some time thinking about why we go to school. In our first few weeks together, I tried to help my students understand that going to school is a privilege that has not always been (and is still not) available to everyone.

Because my students are growing up in rural Maine, they do not have a lot of exposure to racial, ethnic, or religious diversity and do not often have much of a sense of the broader world around them. During our unit called “Being Good Learners,” I am hoping to start to raise their awareness of their privileges in access to schooling and also of the responsibilities that come with those privileges.

During our studies about whether school is a privilege or a right, a number of books have been tremendously helpful at illuminating what education has looked like over time and in the diverse world in which we live.

Virgie Goes to School with Us BoysVirgie Goes to School with Us Boys by Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard, illus. by E. B. Lewis
In this story, based on true events and set not long after the Civil War, Virgie is an African-American girl who finally receives her parents’ permission to go to school. Readers learn much about school long ago through the narration of one of Virgie’s brothers – including that students had to walk to school, pack their own food, and stay there for the duration of the week. With its strong-willed main character, the story provides a great starting point for discussions of educational opportunity for both women and for people of color.

asim_fiftycents_178x30050 Cents and a Dream by Jabari Asim, illus. by Bryan Collier
This chronicling of the early days of Booker T. Washington reads like an ode to the value and purpose of education. Initially denied access to an education, young Booker fixates on the idea of enrolling at a school called Hampton Institute and perseveres in the face of numerous hardships to finally make his dream a reality. This book, which also has fantastic illustrations, prompted a great discussion amongst my students about what education and schooling is all about and how privileged they are to have access to a free, public education.

The Day of Ahmed's SecretThe Day of Ahmed’s Secret by Florence Parry Heide and Judith Heide Gilliland, illus. by Ted Lewin
On the surface, this story set in Cairo, Egypt may not seem to have much to do with school. It follows a day in the life of a young boy who must work delivering gas to city residents. Ahmed, however, has a big secret that he must keep all day long — he has learned how to write his name in Arabic. My students were quick to pick up on the fact that if Ahmed works all day, going to a traditional school is not a possibility for him. Additionally, the incorporation of Ahmed’s name in Arabic also began a conversation about world languages, communication, and education.

Our reading of these books culminated in an “Old Fashioned Day,” where we transformed our classroom into a “one-room schoolhouse.” The depth of conversation sparked by these books and by this activity indicates that my students are starting to be more aware of the power of education and some of the inequities present within it.

 

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New year, new leaf http://www.hbook.com/2015/01/blogs/lollys-classroom/new-year-new-leaf/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/01/blogs/lollys-classroom/new-year-new-leaf/#respond Fri, 02 Jan 2015 11:01:59 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=45035 The new year gives me a chance to turn over a new leaf (like this one, created for our January 2007 cover by Lois Ehlert) and get back to a more regular schedule with this blog. We have several posts ready to share with you, some of which have been waiting in the wings for […]

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jf07The new year gives me a chance to turn over a new leaf (like this one, created for our January 2007 cover by Lois Ehlert) and get back to a more regular schedule with this blog.

We have several posts ready to share with you, some of which have been waiting in the wings for a few months. Since I also work on the Calling Caldecott blog, we’ll try to alternate dates with them. If Calling Caldecott posts on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, then we will post on Tuesday and Thursday.

Calling Caldecott will sign off for the season about a week after the ALA award announcements in early February. Following close on its heels, we will launch the return of our Virtual History Exhibit celebrating the Horn Book’s long history starting with the opening of the Bookshop for Boys and Girls nearly 100 years ago. The VHE made its first appearance in 1999 for the Magazine‘s 75 anniversary, was revamped and expanded in 2005, and then disappeared in 2011 when our website moved over to a new platform.

In the past, teachers enjoyed using the VHE as an example of primary source material that would appeal to even the youngest students. We have original letters from Laura Ingalls Wilder, Beatrix Potter, Arna Bontemps, and others. Thanks to the WordPress platform of our current website, we will be able to reinstate the guestbook feature that was so popular in our first incarnation but too difficult to implement in 2005. Teachers used to send their students on an online treasure hunt of sorts, asking them to sign the guestbook on their way out to show what they had found.

Over the next few weeks I will be working hard on the VHE and preparing for the Children’s Literature class I teach in the spring. But I also aim to keep up with this blog more consistently than I have over the past few months.

The children’s lit class (Feb. 26 to April 9) will once again use this blog for its book discussion. There will be a mix of old and new books, and I will post our reading schedule sometime before the first class. As before, we find that our book discussions are greatly enriched by the participation of other readers of this blog. I’ll be sure to share those results here. I’m also planning something new: some mock awards sessions culminating in final deliberations and a vote during our last meeting on April 9. Depending on class size, we will have either two or three committees: Caldecott, Geisel, and possibly Sibert. We may ask for your input on those lists, too.

So watch for the return of regular posts here starting early next week.

 

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We need diverse books because of Ferguson http://www.hbook.com/2014/12/blogs/lollys-classroom/need-diverse-books-ferguson/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/12/blogs/lollys-classroom/need-diverse-books-ferguson/#comments Tue, 09 Dec 2014 16:09:39 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=44047 I have no idea what actually happened between Mike Brown and Darren Wilson in those unfortunate moments — and neither do you. Some people lie. Some cops lie. Evidence can be portrayed or interpreted in multiple ways. Let’s stop pretending that we (or our news sources) are the sole possessors of indisputable facts. But don’t let that cause you […]

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source: http://news.stlpublicradio.org/

source: http://news.stlpublicradio.org/

I have no idea what actually happened between Mike Brown and Darren Wilson in those unfortunate moments — and neither do you. Some people lie. Some cops lie. Evidence can be portrayed or interpreted in multiple ways. Let’s stop pretending that we (or our news sources) are the sole possessors of indisputable facts. But don’t let that cause you to simply walk away from this conversation because it’s too important.

As complex as this tragedy and its responses are, there is one simple truth I don’t think anyone can deny: we are deeply divided.

At the root of this inability to truly understand each other is the limited nature of our individual experiences. Many people have not changed skin color, economic status, sexual orientation, gender, nationality, etc. And I think it’s fair to say that the average person’s closest friends share similar demographics. Of course, there’s a wide range of individual experiences beyond those simple categories.

So the sad fact is that most of our knowledge of other peoples’ experiences comes from entertainment: TV, movies, news, and media. We learn about blackness from hip-hop, Asianness from kung-fu movies, middle-easternness from the coverage of the War of Terror, whiteness from — well, pretty much everywhere else.

Unfortunately, this is often false knowledge. These depictions are usually created to entertain, not to enlighten. When we’re kids, though, I doubt we realize this. We internalize what we see, and that subconsciously (or consciously) informs how we view and treat Others.

But in my opinion, books are different. Reading fiction forces you to inhabit another person’s consciousness. You see the world through her eyes. You walk in his shoes. You share in her triumphs and failures. While there are many other ways to cross that divide to a similar effect, I think fiction is one of the most simple, powerful, and practical ways to begin.

If we hope to understand each other and ourselves better, we need diverse books. As publisher Lee and Low has found, 37% of the U.S. population are people of color, but only 10% of published children’s books are about characters of color. If you think that number is as appalling as I do (one which doesn’t even account for differences beyond race), then do more than just talk about how much of a shame it is. Write, publish, represent, buy, sell, read, and recommend books by and about people with diverse experiences.

We need the power to see ourselves in others, to see others as ourselves. We need the ability to with identify Mike Brown AND Darren Wilson AND their families AND their friends AND…you get the idea.

We contain multitudes.

www.weneeddiversebooks.org

From http://blog.leeandlow.com/

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Last adolescent lit class http://www.hbook.com/2014/11/blogs/lollys-classroom/last-adolescent-lit-class/ http://www.hbook.com/2014/11/blogs/lollys-classroom/last-adolescent-lit-class/#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 11:01:13 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=43270 For our last class, students are reading The Fault in Our Stars, which I offer as a “dessert book” after their hard work this term, and also as a comparison love story to Eleanor and Park from our second week. The class will also read Katrina and Rachel’s take on “What Makes a Good Love […]

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The Fault in our StarsFor our last class, students are reading The Fault in Our Stars, which I offer as a “dessert book” after their hard work this term, and also as a comparison love story to Eleanor and Park from our second week. The class will also read Katrina and Rachel’s take on “What Makes a Good Love Story” (and their follow up post on Eleanor and Park). In their excellent round up, Katrina and Rachel ask, “What creates [the] magic” in a love story, the stuff that makes us “fall hopelessly in love alongside the characters”?

Hordes of adolescent (and adult) readers have fallen in love with TFIOS. What are the “magical” elements of this novel that make it so beloved? Does it share any with Eleanor and Park, or other great YA love stories? Or do the best love stories offer something unique? Feel free to add your own favorites to the conversation.

This week’s readings:

  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  • “What Makes a Good Love Story” by Katrina Hedeen and Rachel L. Smith from Horn Book Magazine, May/June 2013
  • and addendum on Eleanor and Park from Out of the Box blog, April 17, 2013

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