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>Well, what about Dick Sargent, then?

>The children’s librarians over at PUBYAC are discussing impossible homework assignments–like the kid who came in and needed a biography (it had to be a book) about Dick York, famous Indianan. I sympathize–I’m sure I’ve mentioned here before the hordes of kids who came into my little branch library needing copies of God Is My Co-Pilot. The YAC-kers, per usual, have lots of helpful suggestions, not for Dick York biographies, unfortunately, but how to effectively and tactfully communicate to schools just what kinds of resources are available at the local library–or on the planet.

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. >Let's settle for Sgt. York on DVD.

  2. Roger Sutton says:

    >or any number of Dicks.

  3. Anonymous says:

    >I am an author not a librarian, but I have many times been surprised at what looks like turf wars between teachers and school librarians. Weird.

  4. >I find this blog interesting. I'm a 4th grade teacher…not a librarian, but am currently in school for certification, and I'm about to enter my Biography Unit this month. We are just about finished with Nonfiction and I thought reading a biography would be great. Instead of a book, what do you suggest?

  5. Anonymous says:

    >Reading a biography is great. There are lots of great ones for fourth graders. Just make sure that there is enough leeway in the selections to allow for actually finding a book on the chosen person. Inform the students that they will not find a reasonable book on, for instance, Justin Bieber or other pop star, but that many very interesting biographies are available. Talking to a librarian at the library kids will be going to for books is a good idea. Get an idea of what is available in their collection.

  6. >Instead of picking people and then looking for books, ask the librarian to pull the best biographies they have on hand, no matter who the subject is and let the kids pick from those. There's no real rhyme or reason to who has a well written biography. Much better to read Kathleen Krull's great biography of Isaac Newton than a crap biography of Obama.

    And please, as the mother of a kid with a learning disability I have to say that if you can avoid it, don't lay on any rigid requirements such as "must be at least 100 pages." That just makes it hell for the librarian who is trying to steer a kid to an appropriate book when he is refusing to accept anything that won't meet the criteria announced to the whole class. Sure, he can go to the teacher for an exemption, but that's admitting he can't do what everyone else can. Instead, please try to say that the book has to be "appropriate" for their reading level and if they have any doubts, they should check. Or say that the books have to be approved by either you or the librarian. Good luck with the cert.

  7. >Amen to nixing page requirements. I can't tell you how many great 196 page books I've offered to kids only to be told that it has to be 200 pages or more. Ridiculous.

  8. Roger Sutton says:

    >Rebecca, I'm not sure what you are asking. Are you looking for biographies that are NOT books? There are plenty of biographical sources (even for Dick York 😉 on the web. Or if you are just looking for a great biography, I really enjoyed Steve Sheinkin's new The Notorious Benedict Arnold. It reads like an adventure story.

  9. >Roger,
    Looking back at the original post, I realize that I misunderstood what you stated. I thought you weren't happy with children coming in for "books" for biographies. Therefore, I was trying to figure out what other type of media you would suggest for this genre…oops! Do you have an answer for that?

    Thanks for the tip on having my librarian pull the books that she recommends. There's nothing worse than having to read through a boring biography. Lastly, I would never give strict requirements. I have an in class support teacher in the room for those who need it, and I am always conscious of how we present our assignments…there's always a choice.

  10. Roger Sutton says:

    >What I was unhappy with was the teacher assuming that particular books (like a biography of Dick York for children) even existed! In an ideal world, teachers would plan book report assignments in concert with the school and local public librarians. And if the focus of the project is to be something like "find out more about famous people from Indiana," then the teacher (again with the librarians) should be encouraging the students to think broadly about sources–magazines, databases, Youtube, etc. Sometimes you can't kill two birds with one stone.

  11. >I chuckled when I read this post. I know that Dick York has written a memoir, but it's not a YA or Children's book, and I have no idea how available it is at libraries. There would also most likely be some info. on him in Elizabeth Montgomery's biography, BUT. . .writing about a woman who played a witch on TV. . .that might be inviting controversy. 😉

  12. >My favorite assignment around here is that the 6th graders (all, or at least most of them) have to find a book about ancient China to check out. Because, you know, our public library has 60-80 books about ancient China, right? We've actually beefed up our collection in this area significantly and there's still not enough because there just aren't that many books on Ancient China written at a 6th grade level. Our last few kids to come in have been reduced to biographies of Marco Polo; we only came up with that through a co-worker's moment of brilliance.

    I'm also a big fan (note the sarcasm) of non-fiction for 5th graders over 200 pages. Knocks out almost the entire Sibert list.

    Our school liason has tried contacting some of these teachers with minimal sucess, but we keep trying to chip away at it. All we need is one teacher to listen and things could start to change.

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