The Horn Book » Lolly’s Classroom http://www.hbook.com Publications about books for children and young adults Thu, 02 Jul 2015 15:08:45 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 Brain-bending books http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/blogs/lollys-classroom/brain-bending-books/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/blogs/lollys-classroom/brain-bending-books/#respond Wed, 01 Jul 2015 10:01:33 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=50318 Lately, I’ve read several books that blew me away with their beautiful and sometimes anarchic originality. I’ve written before about the creepy dreaminess of the almost-song We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, and I was equally bowled over by the lyrical oddity of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton, which […]

The post Brain-bending books appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
Lately, I’ve read several books that blew me away with their beautiful and sometimes anarchic originality. I’ve written before about the creepy dreaminess of the almost-song We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, and I was equally bowled over by the lyrical oddity of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton, which seems to be part magical realism, part historical fiction, and part myth.

I sank into Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang (who always overwhelms me with his creativity), as I went over the beautiful panels showing Little Bao and Four-Girl on either side of the Boxer Rebellion in China. And I still have no idea what to think about the coming-of-age meets praying mantis science cautionary comedy Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith, except that it was unlike anything I’ve ever read before.

I loved the experience of each of these, but I was dismayed to find myself having the same knee-jerk reaction, thinking I had no idea how I’d teach with these texts. I found myself thinking that I wouldn’t know where to put them in terms of genre because they don’t totally conform. Or that it could be tricky to figure out how to handle a two-volume piece like Yang’s. Or that I wasn’t sure where a science-like tale might fit in my typical ELA classroom.

After some thought though, I’ve decided it was totally uncreative of me to react that way. Maybe it is these books’ originality that makes them exactly the ones I should find places for, either with full classes, small groups, or individuals. If I’m teaching genre conventions, an example that pushes the boundaries could be just as useful as one that meets all of the typical criteria. Or maybe a topic we don’t usually cover could give us a new insight into literary analysis or I could use two volumes to contrast different perspectives in some fun way I haven’t tried before.

Maybe my typical teacher categories have caused me to react too narrowly to these very cool and interesting books. So I’m on a mission to be more creative myself — I’m going to stop reacting that way and see what opportunities books like these offer to teach new and interesting ways of thinking about text. So, I’m wondering how other folks have thought about this. What genre-benders and other tough-to-classify books have people found to use in classrooms, and how did students react?

 

The post Brain-bending books appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
http://www.hbook.com/2015/07/blogs/lollys-classroom/brain-bending-books/feed/ 0
The value of the graphic novel http://www.hbook.com/2015/06/blogs/lollys-classroom/the-value-of-the-graphic-novel/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/06/blogs/lollys-classroom/the-value-of-the-graphic-novel/#comments Wed, 24 Jun 2015 10:01:12 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=50310 This year, I’ve really pushed my students to embrace graphic novels. It’s helped my low readers to access the same information as their peers, and although some students read it because it’s “easier,” they’re reading. What I find myself conflicted with now is that my school is part of the Accelerated Reader (AR) program, where […]

The post The value of the graphic novel appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
This year, I’ve really pushed my students to embrace graphic novels. It’s helped my low readers to access the same information as their peers, and although some students read it because it’s “easier,” they’re reading. What I find myself conflicted with now is that my school is part of the Accelerated Reader (AR) program, where students are awarded points for taking quizzes about books they read. I think it’s a great incentive for strong readers, and I like the concept of the program.

What’s difficult for me is that the graphic novels I’m offering and encouraging are worth no more than 3 points on AR. Online, the program says it determines points based on the difficulty and length of the book. Text based books like Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (12 points), Holes (7 points), and The Lightning Thief (13 points) fare well. Popular graphic novels for children like Diary of a Wimpy Kid (3 points), El Deafo (2 points), and Smile (1 point) are valued less. However, books like Maus (2 points) and Persepolis (2 points) cover complex topics…so shouldn’t that be worth more than 2-3 points?

AR tries to address in this in their FAQ’s, saying some books are “longer and provide more reading practice time.” I’m not sure if I’m convinced by this statement. Their goal is to have kids read for long stretches of time and be rewarded for their comprehension. Yes, that’s all good but what about the depth of content?

I’m pressured to have all my students meet a certain goal for AR points, and I see my low readers struggling to meet this expectation. I want to give more quality graphic novels but it will not help them much in AR. I’m certainly not saying AR is a bad program; I think it has many merits. I’m feeling conflicted with this small part of how they grade graphic novels.

I wish graphic novels were valued more in this case.

(Information for parents: http://doc.renlearn.com/KMNet/R003985016GG79F2.pdf)

The post The value of the graphic novel appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
http://www.hbook.com/2015/06/blogs/lollys-classroom/the-value-of-the-graphic-novel/feed/ 2
Why schools still need libraries (and librarians) http://www.hbook.com/2015/06/blogs/lollys-classroom/why-schools-still-need-libraries-and-librarians/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/06/blogs/lollys-classroom/why-schools-still-need-libraries-and-librarians/#comments Thu, 18 Jun 2015 10:01:21 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=50303 I felt like a scavenger. There I was, in a prestigious private school’s library, picking through books they were getting rid of in order to make space for a new tech area. The staff was extremely kind, but I still resented what their students had and mine didn’t. As I’ve explained in previous posts, the […]

The post Why schools still need libraries (and librarians) appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
I felt like a scavenger. There I was, in a prestigious private school’s library, picking through books they were getting rid of in order to make space for a new tech area. The staff was extremely kind, but I still resented what their students had and mine didn’t.

As I’ve explained in previous posts, the high school where I teach does not have a library. Since we’re housed in a renovated church from the 19th century in West Philadelphia, we literally do not have the space. Our solution is to create small classroom libraries within each teacher’s room to make books available for students to borrow.

Meanwhile, that private school’s library is vast, filled with natural light spilling through expansive windows. It is overflowing with books. It is staffed with four librarians. It will soon have a new technology area.

ribay_whyneedlibraries

Photo: Randy Ribay

While we’re making do with what we have, I think it’s to the detriment of our school and our students’ education not to have a library or a single librarian. Even in the Age of the Internet, I have no doubt in my mind all schools still need libraries. Here are some simple reasons why:

  1. It is difficult to track and maintain books. To someone who’s never done it before, it sounds simple enough: students take books and put them back when they’re done. In practice, it’s insanely hard to keep track of who’s checked out what, to track down missing books, to repair them when they become ragged, to organize and shelve and re-shelve, and to order new ones. Trying to do this on top of your teaching duties is insane. It’s almost like it should be a full time job — oh, wait…
  2. Students need a quiet, safe space. While the image of the surly librarian with a shushing finger pressed to her lips has become a cliché, the fierce defense of a silent space is important. Students need a shared quiet space where they can go in order to read, study, research, collaborate, decompress, or just find sanctuary from the noisy world.
  3. We need book experts. Every time I’m faced with a reluctant reader, I feel like my challenge is to find THE BOOK that will turn that kid into a reader. This requires a vast knowledge of what’s out there, and certainly this varies from teacher to teacher. I believe I’m more well-read in YA than your average English teacher, but I’m limited mostly to my own tastes. So an in-house expert would simply increase the probability that a reader would end up with the right books in his hands.

For now, we’ll keep doing our best with our little classroom libraries. But if you’re a super-wealthy philanthropist who wants to build my school a library, let me know. To revise Cicero’s famous quote, a school without a library is like a body without a soul.

The post Why schools still need libraries (and librarians) appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
http://www.hbook.com/2015/06/blogs/lollys-classroom/why-schools-still-need-libraries-and-librarians/feed/ 5
A sense of place http://www.hbook.com/2015/06/featured/a-sense-of-place/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/06/featured/a-sense-of-place/#respond Tue, 16 Jun 2015 10:01:14 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=49626 “Doesn’t this book make you think of Rockport, of being down at the beach and feeling the waves?” one of my students asks me, holding up our classroom’s copy of Andre by Fran Hodgkins. “It does remind me of that,” I tell my student. “Why don’t you read what is says on the seal’s collar […]

The post A sense of place appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
“Doesn’t this book make you think of Rockport, of being down at the beach and feeling the waves?” one of my students asks me, holding up our classroom’s copy of Andre by Fran Hodgkins.

“It does remind me of that,” I tell my student. “Why don’t you read what is says on the seal’s collar on the cover?”

“Rockport Harbor Master” my student reads. “Wait, did this really happen? Is this the same Rockport that I was talking about?” he exclaims, his enthusiasm palpable.

“You’ll have to read it to find out,” I say, as he settles into our book nook to explore this new title about a familiar place.

In my classroom practice, I definitely lean toward using books to expose my students to ideas and places that they may never encounter otherwise. Books about far-off places and diverse people appeal to me and never fail to lead to rich discussions with my students. However, exchanges like the one above remind me that while it is important to use books as an opportunity to introduce students to content and places that they can’t experience firsthand, it is equally important to have kids read about places they know and to discover someone else’s perspective on the familiar.

I teach in Maine and while the town I work in doesn’t feature prominently in any picture books, I have found that there are a number of books that revolve around places with which my students have at least tangential familiarity. Seeing these places in books excites them and validates their experiences. Additionally, they have the opportunity to make the connection that while they spend time reading about people in far-off places, other people may be reading about them and where they live.

For those Maine teachers who may be reading this post, here are some books about Maine that my students have particularly enjoyed:

Blueberries_for_Sal  Andre Harbor Seal  Miss Rumphius  Charlotte's Web

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey (many of McCloskey’s other works also take place in  Maine including One Morning in Maine and Time of Wonder)

Andre: The Famous Harbor Seal by Fran Hodgkins

Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney (Island Boy is also set in Maine)

Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White is rumored to based in part on Maine’s Blue Hill Fair and White’s experiences living in rural Maine

While searching for books set in Maine, I was impressed by the lists of books sorted according to geographic setting that I could find with a simple Internet search. Search for yourself and you might be surprised by what you discover. If you already have favorite books set in your area, please share them in the comments below!

The post A sense of place appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
http://www.hbook.com/2015/06/featured/a-sense-of-place/feed/ 0
Teaching and reading in a YA movie world http://www.hbook.com/2015/06/blogs/lollys-classroom/teaching-and-reading-in-a-ya-movie-world/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/06/blogs/lollys-classroom/teaching-and-reading-in-a-ya-movie-world/#comments Thu, 11 Jun 2015 10:01:41 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=50065 The first time I read The Giver, I was astounded. I got to the last page, sat for a moment in wonder, and then flipped back to page 1 to begin again, in the hopes I could hold that moment for just a little longer. The images that the book conjured for me were permanent, even today, many years and reads later.

The post Teaching and reading in a YA movie world appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
Editor’s note: Christina wrote this last August before The Giver movie opened but we couldn’t post it then. We offer it now at the start of this summer’s book-to-movie season.

giverThe first time I read The Giver, I was astounded. I got to the last page, sat for a moment in wonder, and then flipped back to page 1 to begin again, in the hopes I could hold that moment for just a little longer. The images that the book conjured for me were permanent, even today, many years and reads later.

I’ve had three separate conversations recently about whether I’ll see the movie, and in each, I’ve also been asked how I feel about all of the YA books being made into movies nowadays. Some askers imply that the spate of movies isn’t so great because it will make the kids “just see the movies” instead of actually reading the books. But I haven’t been thinking that at all.

As a teacher, I see my undergrads obsessing about the movie adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars, carefully dissecting every small difference between page and screen as they re-watch and reread over and over. The Giver movie posterMotivation to read the book is definitely not their problem. And I see my summer school students having a conversation about who we would cast in a movie version of He Said, She Said and what would be changed by losing the two different points of view we get in the book. It strikes me that these are rich and deep ways of thinking about story, and I think those moments are full of possibility for teaching about deep comprehension and craft.

The MA Standards ask that students be able to consider material presented through a variety of different media, and I think many movie/book pairings afford interesting opportunities to do this type of analytic work. We do this with adult titles, so I think it makes sense to work with YA books in this way as well.

I am not in a position these days to teach The Giver, but if I had my own classroom, I would likely consider using scenes from the movie to help push students to think critically about the craft of presenting a story. Ultimately, I’m not sure if I’ll see The Giver. But, if I do see it, I’m not so worried about seeing someone else’s vision. My Giver is indelible in my memory. It grows with me and reveals new things at times, but it could never be replaced.

The post Teaching and reading in a YA movie world appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
http://www.hbook.com/2015/06/blogs/lollys-classroom/teaching-and-reading-in-a-ya-movie-world/feed/ 1
Picture books under the sea http://www.hbook.com/2015/06/blogs/lollys-classroom/picture-books-under-the-sea/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/06/blogs/lollys-classroom/picture-books-under-the-sea/#comments Tue, 09 Jun 2015 10:01:24 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=48142 With water covering around 70% of the world’s surface and playing home to some of the most fascinating creatures on earth, it is not surprising that it is a perennially popular topic for young children. And, this ongoing popularity means that there are plenty of books available on this topic to encourage students to pursue […]

The post Picture books under the sea appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
With water covering around 70% of the world’s surface and playing home to some of the most fascinating creatures on earth, it is not surprising that it is a perennially popular topic for young children. And, this ongoing popularity means that there are plenty of books available on this topic to encourage students to pursue their interest in oceanography and sea life generally. Here are some of the best options to foster this interest and to bring the creatures of the ocean to your storytimes:

Ocean SunlightOcean Sunlight: How Tiny Plants Feed the Seas by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm, illustrated by Molly Bang
This book by the incomparable Molly Bang and MIT scientist and professor Penny Chisholm is a perfect introduction to the science of the sea and underwater food chains. Bang’s artwork is predictably wonderful and the description of the process by which underwater plant life keeps the rest of the sea alive is a great way of starting a conversation about food chains more generally. This book is a nice addition to science lessons for kindergarten through second grade.

Fantastic Undersea LifeThe Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino
Combining retro illustrations with the fascinating life of Jacques Cousteau, this book is a good option for introducing students to Cousteau’s work and life on the ocean in general. The book includes quotes directly from Cousteau, which helps to bring him to life even more. It also includes a list of suggested reading and a timeline of Cousteau’s life for those who want to learn more about him.

SwimmySwimmy by Leo Lionni
This classic Caldecott Honor book follows a little fish named Swimmy who bands together with the other fish in his school to fight against the dangers of the open sea and the large fish that is bullying them. The story is wonderful for young children who are fascinated by fish and the artwork brings Swimmy’s world to life beautifully. Great for children from preschool through second grade.

This Is Not My HatThis Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen
This 2013 Caldecott Winner follows a small fish as he swims away from the scene of his crime — the theft of a larger fish’s hat. The text of the story tells a very different tale than the visual narrative, which makes this not only a funny read but also one that gives children a chance to explore the meaning of this conflict and the subjectivity of the small fish’s perspective. The illustrations perfectly fit the story making this a great choice for storytimes, particularly for the preschool through first grade crowd.

Life in the Ocean

Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle by Claire A. Nivola
Focused on the life and underwater exploration of oceanographer Sylvia Earle, this picture book combines the inspiring story of how Earle followed her dream from childhood through to a successful life as an expert in underwater exploration with beautiful watercolors of nature and underwater scenes. This would be a great read-aloud book for budding marine biologists or K-3 classrooms learning about the ocean. The book also includes an author’s note about the negative environmental impact humans have had on the ocean and a bibliography of other sources on the topic.

I hope these books will help you to bring the world of the sea to your classroom or story time. Let me know in the comments if there are others that you like to use to introduce oceanography and the underwater world to your students.


 

Editor’s note: I feel compelled to add a plug for Katherine Roy’s roy_neighborhood-sharks_170x218Neighborhood Sharks. We debated its status as a picture book over at Calling Caldecott earlier this year. I think it is absolutely a picture book!

 

The post Picture books under the sea appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
http://www.hbook.com/2015/06/blogs/lollys-classroom/picture-books-under-the-sea/feed/ 1
We need (more) diverse authors http://www.hbook.com/2015/06/blogs/lollys-classroom/we-need-more-diverse-authors/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/06/blogs/lollys-classroom/we-need-more-diverse-authors/#comments Thu, 04 Jun 2015 16:19:09 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=48187 In the Age of Testing, it seems creativity is often left by the wayside. Professional development for teachers these days focuses on practices that supposedly raise test scores. Practice questions. Test-prep software. Data analysis. Incentives. To make room for these practices, it seems that many high schools no longer teach creative writing. We teach reading […]

The post We need (more) diverse authors appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
In the Age of Testing, it seems creativity is often left by the wayside. Professional development for teachers these days focuses on practices that supposedly raise test scores. Practice questions. Test-prep software. Data analysis. Incentives.

To make room for these practices, it seems that many high schools no longer teach creative writing. We teach reading and writing to prepare students for college (and tests), which means argument, research, and analysis. Yet, stories remain an object of study, so there’s no denying they’ve retained their cultural value even if we’ve stopped writing them in the classroom.

Just imagine if we stopped going nuts about test proficiency and instead aimed to inspire children to love and value stories so much that they want to create them.

I think there’s a tremendous loss in that many (possibly most) schools do not have this mindset.

Writing fiction is instructive in itself. Writing a story helps one understand plot. Creating a symbol helps one analyze symbolism. Proofreading a piece in hopes of publication motivates one to master Standard English conventions. Writing a story gives context and meaning to skills that are often taught devoid of either.

Beyond the lost opportunity for instruction, I think a more insidious effect is that we lose potential authors. And since test prep reigns supreme in the inner-city, where test scores tend to be low but racial and socioeconomic diversity tends to be high, this equates to the loss of potential authors of color.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some amazing authors of color in the writing community today, both published and unpublished. Yet I don’t think anyone would claim that the publishing world — at any level — has arrived at a place where it accurately reflects the world we live in.

But if we push for more creative writing in schools — especially in schools with underrepresented populations — I think we will eventually see more diverse writers emerge. And more diverse writers will lead to more diverse stories in agents’ submission folders, in editors’ hands, and on bookshelves. And that, I believe, has far more potential to transform children’s lives than any standardized test.

The post We need (more) diverse authors appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
http://www.hbook.com/2015/06/blogs/lollys-classroom/we-need-more-diverse-authors/feed/ 1
Learning from mistakes http://www.hbook.com/2015/06/blogs/lollys-classroom/learning-from-mistakes/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/06/blogs/lollys-classroom/learning-from-mistakes/#respond Tue, 02 Jun 2015 14:38:37 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=48156 My second graders, like most kids, hate making mistakes. Often, when students begin the year with me, they see mistakes as something bad and rarely seem more embarrassed than when they make mistakes in class. Throughout the course of the year, I ask my students to work on honing a growth mindset and try to […]

The post Learning from mistakes appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
My second graders, like most kids, hate making mistakes. Often, when students begin the year with me, they see mistakes as something bad and rarely seem more embarrassed than when they make mistakes in class. Throughout the course of the year, I ask my students to work on honing a growth mindset and try to encourage them to see mistakes as opportunities for learning, rather than irreparable aberrations. Each week, I recognize students who have made Great Mistakes in an attempt to normalize and celebrate the bumps that inevitably happen as we try to master something new. In addition to championing smart mistakes, I also use and later revisit a number of picture books that emphasize the mistake- and challenge-filled reality of the learning process.

beautiful oopsBeautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg
This small book never fails to leave my students feeling inspired about the possibilities mistakes can offer us. The beautiful illustrations and clever construction of Beautiful Oops showcase the potential hidden in a ripped paper, dribbles of paint, stains, and holes. The book concludes with a powerful message that resonates with my young students: “When you think you have made a mistake, think of it as an opportunity to make something beautiful.”

stuckStuck by Oliver Jeffers
Stuck is a multipurpose book in my character lessons — it can be used to highlight creativity, determination, and the mistakes that we can make as we try to reach our goals. In this simple but effective narrative, Floyd tries a variety of strategies to retrieve his stuck kite from a tree…a process that leads to lots of mistakes on the way to an eye-of-the-beholder success.

Mr FalkerThank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco
This autobiographical tale chronicles the struggles of a young girl named Trisha as she tries to learn how to read. Polacco’s rendering of the frustrations of feeling different and the embarrassment of being teased ring true and show that it is not always easy to keep trying when something is challenging.

everyone ride bicycleEveryone Can Learn to Ride a Bicycle by Chris Raschka
Raschka’s book, ideal for young students, illustrates the process and pitfalls of learning how to ride a bike. This simple story makes it explicit that everyone had to learn how to ride a bike and that it takes extensive practice to master this skill. My students and I follow up our reading of this book by discussing whether everyone can actually learn to ride a bike and then considering how it can take different amounts of time, effort, and modification for people to master skills.

dotThe Dot and Ish by Peter H. Reynolds
The Dot and Ish both tackle the insecurities that can arise when we fail to instantaneously master skills and don’t meet our own expectations for perfection. In both tales, young artists experience frustration or uncertainty about their skills that hinders their abilities to develop potential talents. These books always lead to lively follow-up conversations about how fear of failing can prevent us from trying, and thus, from learning and improving.

 

The post Learning from mistakes appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
http://www.hbook.com/2015/06/blogs/lollys-classroom/learning-from-mistakes/feed/ 0
Behind the Scenes of the Little House books http://www.hbook.com/2015/05/blogs/lollys-classroom/behind-the-scenes-of-the-little-house-books/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/05/blogs/lollys-classroom/behind-the-scenes-of-the-little-house-books/#respond Tue, 26 May 2015 10:01:34 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=47377 How much time do you devote to researching the books you give your students to read? If you have the time or are really interested in the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Pioneer Girl may be for you. This scholarly book with notes and appendices, edited by Pamela Smith Hill, is for true fans of […]

The post Behind the Scenes of the Little House books appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
pioneer girlHow much time do you devote to researching the books you give your students to read? If you have the time or are really interested in the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Pioneer Girl may be for you. This scholarly book with notes and appendices, edited by Pamela Smith Hill, is for true fans of the series and not necessarily for casual readers.

You may know that with the help of her daughter, writer Rose Wilder Lane, Laura Ingalls Wilder, wrote a book series to tell of her family’s days of trying to prosper on the American frontier. What you may not know is that the fictional children’s books series had its origins in a nonfiction manuscript for adults.

The editors have taken pains to verify and provide evidence that supports the facts surrounding the Ingalls family journey, using census records, newspapers accounts, etc. Wilder leaves out most of the family’s encounters with others (for example, when they stayed other families on their way to their next home) in order to shape a story of one family’s attempts to conquer the frontier. They actually had more contact with their extended family and neighbors than one would guess from reading the books.

Pioneer Girl shows how Wilder rearranged the details of her real life into a fictional series about one family’s determination. She shaped her parents into consistent characters, even if that meant changing details. Wilder also omitted many of the unsavory things she and her siblings were exposed to — such as public drunkenness, lecherous acquaintances, an aunt’s divorce, and love triangles among neighbors — because such things would not have been welcomed in children’s books in the 1930s when her books were first published.

To say that I was fond of Little House on the Prairie and the other books in the series is an understatement. I read them over and over. And now, after reading Pioneer Girl, I know that the feelings those books stirred were no accident: these are the very feelings Wilder intended to evoke.

However, while I loved the stories, there was much I didn’t understand. I felt confused when Laura’s father participated in a minstrel show. I wondered over an Indian breaking into the house. I did not know how to process the way people of color appeared in the books. When I was older and asked my mother why she didn’t tell me I would have been a slave if I had lived back then (something that may or may not have been true — I don’t know that all of my ancestors were slaves), she responded that she didn’t want to dampen my imagination.

As an adult, I don’t fault my child-self for the fascination nor adults for recommending these books. They have something to offer, even if I think I might have benefited from getting more historical context. If nothing else, someone might have told me just how difficult the pioneer life was (and that it was not as simple as the Oregon Trail computer game made it seem).

The post Behind the Scenes of the Little House books appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
http://www.hbook.com/2015/05/blogs/lollys-classroom/behind-the-scenes-of-the-little-house-books/feed/ 0
At the museum http://www.hbook.com/2015/05/blogs/lollys-classroom/at-the-museum/ http://www.hbook.com/2015/05/blogs/lollys-classroom/at-the-museum/#respond Thu, 21 May 2015 14:49:19 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=45182 Museums are great places to experience fun, learning, and often even hints of mystery. They spark the imagination and make us question things we have never considered before. As such, they make a great setting for stories that can inspire a love of museums, history, and art. Perhaps because the middle school years often include […]

The post At the museum appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
Museums are great places to experience fun, learning, and often even hints of mystery. They spark the imagination and make us question things we have never considered before. As such, they make a great setting for stories that can inspire a love of museums, history, and art. Perhaps because the middle school years often include museum field trips or perhaps simply because this is the perfect age for museums to catch a reader’s imagination, there are many great middle grade books set in museums. This list offers lots of options, particularly for art and history fans.

WonderstruckWonderstruck by Brian Selznick
This Schneider Family Book Award winner alternates between two stories set in two different time periods. Ben is a young boy growing up in the 1970’s. As the book opens, he loses his hearing in a lightning strike but nevertheless decides to set off alone for New York City to find his father, eventually ending up at the American Museum of Natural History. Interwoven with Ben’s story is Rose’s story, told entirely through pictures. Rose is growing up Deaf in 1920’s New York City and runs away to the American Museum of Natural History. Both this museum and another play a key role in this unique and engaging story of family and love.

mixedupfilesFrom the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
This Newbery Medal-winning classic tells the story of two young children who run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Hiding away until the museum closes in order to stay there at night and exploring with tour groups during the day, they manage to discover a mystery related to the latest exhibit. Their investigation takes them from the museum to the Connecticut home of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, an art collector with information that allows them to complete their search. This book has inspired a love of art, mysteries, and museums in generations of young readers and it is sure to continue to do so for years to come.

Under the EggUnder the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald
Theodora Tenpenny is an expert at finding things. For the most part, she finds free stuff on the streets of New York City, from books to a snowboard. But now she has even more pressure on her than usual — taking care of her mother without her grandfather’s help after his sudden death. Her grandfather left her with some perplexing words about a hidden treasure just before he died. When Theodora thinks she has discovered a valuable painting underneath a painting done by her grandfather, all her problems as well as the mystery surrounding her grandfather could be solved, until she starts to worry that her grandfather may have stolen it. Readers will love seeing New York City through her eyes as she tries to solve all of the mysteries her grandfather has left for her.

Moxie Rule BreakingMoxie and the Art of Rule Breaking by Erin Dionne
Set in Boston, this book uses the real life mystery of the burglary at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum as a jumping-off point for a suspenseful mystery that finds Moxie and her best friend Ollie tasked with finding the paintings to save their loved ones. Moxie’s grandfather may or may not have been involved in the robbery, but either way, his former associates in organized crime think that he has the paintings and they want Moxie to get them back. She and Ollie take off on a race through the city to find where the art has been hidden all these years. Whether readers already know about the heist before starting the book or not, they will love the tense race through real-life Boston locales and will definitely end up wanting to go to the museum.

Chasing VermeerChasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett; illustrated by Brett Helquist
Mysterious letters, coded messages, visions of figures from famous artwork, and pentominoes all come together in this mystery about a Vermeer painting stolen en route to the Art Institute of Chicago. When two middle schoolers at the University of Chicago Lab School get caught up in this disappearance, it is up to them to put together coincidences and clues to save both the painting and their teacher. The book also includes additional information on the code that is used throughout the story, which is sure to inspire an interest in cryptography amongst many readers. They will enjoy this tour through art history and Chicago’s Hyde Park and the twists of the plot are sure to keep them guessing until the very end of the book. Chasing Vermeer is the first in a series that introduces readers to other aspects of art history.

sixty-eight roomsThe Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone; illustrated by Greg Call
Also set at the Art Institute of Chicago, this mystery centers around the museum’s sixty-eight Thorne Miniature Rooms that display detailed interiors from various points in history. This book, the first in a series, starts with some children discovering a way to explore these rooms while on a school field trip to the museum. Once they find out that they can enter this world, Ruthie and Jack can’t wait to explore some more, leading them to sneak back into the museum where they get caught up in further adventures. Combining magic and mystery, it will capture the imagination of young readers and is sure to make them want to visit the Thorne Rooms for themselves.

Do you have other favorite books set at museums? Let me know in the comments!

 

The post At the museum appeared first on The Horn Book.

]]>
http://www.hbook.com/2015/05/blogs/lollys-classroom/at-the-museum/feed/ 0