Fall 2015 School Visit Booktalks

We’ve been lucky enough to dramatically expand our school outreach at my library this year. I’ve been behind on blogging everything, but here’s a list of the books I booktalked to 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders in the fall (if you click on the book’s title, it will take you to my full Goodreads review). Coming soon: a blog post talking about how we set up these outreach trips, and how great they’ve been for us!

Nest, by Esther Ehrlich (5th). This was also a This Book is My Jam pick, because I absolutely loved this book. I was happy the kids asked about this, and I hope they loved it as much as I did.


Smek for President, by Adam Rex (4th & 5th). A lot of the kids didn’t realize the movie Home was based on a book, so they were excited to learn that this was the sequel.

One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia (5th). I always feel like historical fiction is a tough sell for kids, but the combination of funny sisters, the Black Panther Party, and a complex relationship with the girls’ mother make this an irresistible choice to booktalk.

starry river

Starry River of the Sky, by Grace Lin (5th). This one was recommended to me by a patron and her daughter, who listened to it on audio and loved it. I loved it too, and sold it to the kids as a magical, mythical book. They were definitely excited.

Echo, by Pam Muñoz Ryan (5th). Another beautiful, magical book, and while some of the kids seemed a little intimidated by the length, they loved the plot summary and seemed really intrigued.

terrible two

The Terrible Two, by Mac Barnett & Jory John (4th & 5th). Not surprisingly, this was a hugely popular book. The kids loved the cover, loved the description, and were clamoring to get their hands on it.

The Imaginary, by A. F. Harrold (4th and 5th). Creepy books are always a big sell. I opened the book to a particularly creepy picture which made a lot of the kids shriek with horror and delight. Definitely a book the kids wanted to read!

Continue reading

School Visits and Books We Booktalked

I previously blogged about how our summer reading promotion school visits work, and the books we brought to read to K-2nd graders. For grades 3-5, we bring books to booktalk. We brought a lot of books this year, and most were successful. Here are the books we talked about, and the reactions to them:

snicker of magicA Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd. This was asked about by pretty much every class, and was one of the most popular books we bought. And obviously the booktalk worked–I just had to buy another copy of this for the library because we had so many holds on it! A fun cover, a magical town, and a girl who moves super often were all elements that intrigued the kids.

drizzleDrizzle by Kathleen Van Cleeve. This was also asked about by every class, which surprised me. I didn’t realize how compelling that cover was! And even though booktalking this book shows how strange it is (a magical rhubarb farm?!?!), it’s another one that has so many holds on it I just bought another copy for the library. So obviously a successful booktalk!

treatires trenchesTreaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood by Nathan Hale. Another very popular cover–it was asked about in every class we had it out for. This series continues to be popular in our library (our graphic novel collection is generally just insanely popular, as I assume it is everywhere), and this was no exception. It was the only book where after our presentation, a child actually asked me to write down the title so he wouldn’t forget it.

Tricky Vic by Greg Pizzoli. I think what always surprises me the most about booktalking to classrooms is which covers the kids are interested in hearing more about. This one got asked about a lot, and I have had a few kids come in the library since and ask “what was that book about the conman, again?” This is a great picture book nonfiction, that I loved, but I didn’t expect it to be as popular with the kids as it was.

absolutely almostAbsolutely Almost by Lisa Graff. Another cover that surprised me–it was asked about a lot. I LOVED this book, but realized it’s actually kind of tricky to booktalk. I think my booktalk rambled on a bit the first time I tried to booktalk it, so I ended up just reading a chapter from the book, which seemed to work better.

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick. This book reminded me that I can’t wait for The Marvels to come out soon. I love Selznick! A lot of the kids had already read this one, and they loved sharing with us that it was a great book. It is 🙂

greenglass houseGreenglass House by Kate Milford. I love the cover of this, but it always seemed a little adult to me, and I wasn’t sure it would appeal to kids. I was TOTALLY wrong about this. This one got asked about a lot, and I still have kids coming into the library wanting to put holds on it.

Waiting for the Magic by Patricia MacLachlan. The animals on the cover of this made it a big draw. And the kids all liked the fact that this was about a family that owned a lot of animals.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. Another book that both my coworker and I loved, but found somewhat difficult to booktalk without rambling. We brought the audiobook, rather than the physical book, which meant we couldn’t just read from it. But it was asked about a lot, and the kids definitely seemed intrigued by it, and our copies aren’t staying on the shelf, so I think this will be a summer hit! Continue reading

School Visits and What We Read This Year

It’s the craziest time of year to be a children’s librarian! Summer reading is almost here! In the past few weeks, I’ve spent a significant amount of time on school visits, promoting our library’s summer reading program and getting kids excited about reading over the summer. I love school visits, and it has been great to meet with kids, and have them come into the library later and say, “You were at my school!”

We have been lucky enough this year to meet individually with different grade levels at most of the schools we visited. This makes for a long day (at least 3 hours at the school, sometimes most of the day), but means we can tailor our presentations to each grade level. For grades K-2, we read a story and talk about the summer reading program. For grades 3-5, we talk about the summer reading program and bring a bunch of books to booktalk. I’m planning on posting our booktalk books next week, but wanted to share the books we chose to read aloud this year.

A question that comes up a lot on Facebook groups of children’s librarians is: “What picture books can I read to school age children?” I’m going to make a list sometime soon with all my favorite school age readalouds, but here’s a short one with what worked this year:

snip snapSnip Snap, What’s That? by Mara Bergman. We read this to kindergarteners on most of our visits. They loved it! It’s the perfect amount of suspense for kindies. All the classes picked up on the “You bet they were” refrain very quickly and loved yelling it with me. I also love reading this book in storytime with preschoolers, and it was fun to see that it worked with a slightly older age, as well.

I'm boredI’m Bored by Michael Ian Black. This was a great pick for 1st grade classes. They thought it was hilarious. There were so many giggles during most of this book. This is another book that I’ve read with preschoolers before (and they’ve liked it), but I think the ending works better with the older kiddos. Preschoolers are sometimes a little confused by the ending, but on the school visits, they thought it was so funny.

extra yarnExtra Yarn by Mac Barnett. I love this book. I love the gentle fairy tale feel of it. This was another great 1st grade book. They were entranced by the story, loved watching the colors change, and loved predicting what was going to happen. I always like to ask if they would sell the yarn to the archduke, and it’s wonderful how many kids yell, “NO!!!!” There’s just something magical and timeless and lovely about this story. Continue reading

Mock Caldecott Program: Wrap Up

Now that we know the winners of the ALA Youth Media Awards, I wanted to talk about what worked and what didn’t for the Caldecott book club program we tried over the month of January at my library. You can read weekly wrap ups of the program here.

caldecott-medalHere’s how it worked: We had a book club every Thursday afternoon in January (4 total) where we read 4 different contenders. The attendees voted on their favorite books. Then we put the books out on display and allowed all library patrons to vote on their favorites for the week. Before the next book club, we counted the votes and picked the finalist for the week. The last week (in theory–more on that later), we put out the finalists from the last weeks of voting and our winner was selected from those. The winners were selected by having the most votes–we didn’t have patrons rank the books from 1-4 and give different points values based on those rankings. As I talked about here, our mock Caldecott winner was the winner of the actual Caldecott: The Adventures of Beekle by Dan Santat. That was super exciting and unexpected.

What worked:

  • The passive portion of the program. This was incredibly fun to watch. Patrons loved coming in and reading the books and voting on them. It wasn’t unusual to see families reading them together, talking about them, discussing their relative merits–so cool!
  • Reading the books in the book club with the kids. This was so eye-opening for me. Most of the books we chose are too long for regular storytime, so it was really fun to be able to read longer books with older kids. Seeing how they reacted to the books was fascinating–I learned that wordless books didn’t seem to grab them in the way that more traditional picture books did (of course, it was a really small group, so an obviously limited sample size). But just seeing what they loved and what they were less interested in changed my own personal opinion about a lot of these books.
  • Picking a good combination of books every week. We tried to have at least one wordless book, a nonfiction book, and a traditional picture book every week. The mix was nice and exposed our patrons to a lot of different books over the course of the program.

Continue reading

Mock Caldecott Results! (In Which I am Surprised and Excited!)

I’m so excited to announce that my library’s Mock Caldecott results and the actual Caldecott results are the SAME BOOK! I honestly did not expect this, and am BEYOND THRILLED. I’m sorry but I can’t stop typing in ALL CAPS!

And the winner is (I’m assuming everyone who reads this blog knows this already but just in case)…

The Adventures of Beekle! An awesome choice for Caldecott.

The Adventures of Beekle! An awesome choice for Caldecott.

As I mentioned in my post about the first week of our Caldecott book club, The Adventures of Beekle had an amazing amount of kid appeal. The kids loved it, and every single person in the book club that day voted for it to win. I know our patrons will be thrilled that they picked the same book as the Caldecott committee!

Mock Caldecott: Week 3 and Finalists!

I talked about our Mock Caldecott program set up here, so it’s time to talk about our week 3 books and the three finalists for our library!

Week Three Books and Book Club: Sadly, no one showed up to our week 3 book club, so I can’t talk about how these books worked with the kids. I’ll do a mock Caldecott wrap up sometime next week, but suffice it to say that while the passive part of the program was a lot of fun and worked really well, the actual book club was less successful.

gravityGravity, written and illustrated by Jason Chin. There’s something fun and lovely in the illustrations here. There’s also some humor and wit in the illustrations that I really responded to. I also love books like this that explain science concepts to kids in an easy to understand way. I feel like this is a book kids will love and parents will love sharing with their kids. It’s great for younger kids and older kids alike, and it’s a nonfiction book that would work well in storytime.

dance like starlightA Dance Like Starlight, written by Kristy Dempsey, illustrated by Floyd Cooper. I really loved both the story of dreaming and dancing, and the beautiful, soft illustrations. They melded to create a wonderful reading experience. This is a great introduction to Janet Collins, the first black prima ballerina, and will be a lovely read for aspiring dancers everywhere.

viva fridaViva Frida, written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales. The arresting images here just need to be looked at. The book feels very surreal to me. My one concern with the book is that it didn’t make a lot of sense to me until I read the author’s note at the end. Once I did that, and reread the book, it all came together, but I do wonder how many kids are going to be familiar enough with Frida’s work, or will take the time to read the author’s note at the end in order to have the context to understand the book. I think either way that they will enjoy poring over the pictures.

rogetThe Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus, written by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet. This was my favorite picture book biography that I read this year. I love words, and thesauri, and just loved Roget’s story. The illustrations are just amazing–detailed and fascinating. You could spend hours looking at this book without getting bored. Melissa Sweet is on quite a roll this year–I’ve seen her mentioned for possible Caldecott contention for both this book and Firefly July. While I loved them both, to me the illustrations, and the look into Roget’s world, make this the stronger contender.

And the winner of week 3 is (drum roll please): Gravity! I can see why this fun and educational book won. It has tons of kid appeal, and is a great read.

And our 3 finalists are:

  • Gravity, written and illustrated by Jason Chin
  • Where’s Mommy? written by Beverly Donofrio and illustrated by Barbara McClintock
  • The Adventures of Beekle, written and illustrated by Dan Santat

We will be holding voting on our finalists over the weekend and will announce our winner with the actual Caldecott winner on Monday when the library opens! I’ll be curious to see how our patrons vote in comparison to the Caldecott committee.

Mock Caldecott Program: Week 2

I talked about the setup of our Mock Caldecott Program here, so let’s get down to the books and the winner of the week!

Week Two Books and Book Club:

farmer and the clownThe Farmer and the Clown, written and illustrated by Marla Frazee. I really love this gentle story of a clown baby and the farmer who finds him. And I think it’s an excellent example of a wordless book. The illustrations are simply beautiful. The kids weren’t as into this one, though. I think adults respond better to the poignancy of the story than kids do (or at least better than the kids who came to the book club did). They enjoyed telling the story as we read it together, but they just didn’t seem to be as into it as some of the other books we read with them.

mr ferris and his wheelMr. Ferris and His Wheel, written by Katherine Gibbs Davis, illustrated by Gilbert Ford. This one was a little long for a read-aloud. Although at the end I think the kids who came to the book club enjoyed listening to the story and the facts they learned from it, there was A LOT of restlessness during the story. This is one of the issues of doing this program both as a passive program and book club where we read the books together. Some of our choices are limited by what we can feasibly read out loud, which is of course not a consideration that the actual Caldecott committee has to take into account. So, while I love the illustrations here and think it’s an interesting book, the kids definitely saw it as the least exciting of the choices this week during book club.

where's mommyWhere’s Mommy? written by Beverly Donofrio, illustrated by Barbara McClintock. The beautiful, detailed illustrations make this better suited to poring over one-on-one, but it’s still a good read-aloud. The kids liked the story, especially the twist ending. They also really liked looking at the differences between the mouse family’s house and the human family’s house. A girl who comes with her older brothers, who is more preschool aged rather than school aged, especially seemed to connect with this. I love the sweet story, and think that the illustrations are amazing.

sam and daveSam and Dave Dig a Hole, written by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen. It’s probably no surprise to any librarian who has shared this book with kids that this was the hit of the week as a read-aloud. The kids loved it. All of the near misses where the boys almost find treasure made the kids exclaim out loud (“Oh, come ON!” one boy said as they narrowly missed the second jewel). It was really a fun one to read with them, and I loved how invested in the story they all were. Again, not a big shock that this was our winner of the week from the book club.

Passive Program: This part was actually a shock for me. I assumed that the voting over the week would go as it did in the book club–that Sam and Dave Dig a Hole would be the clear winner. In fact, I had assumed that it would be the winner of the entire Mock Caldecott at our library. I was wrong!

And the winner of week 2 is (drum roll please): Where’s Mommy? It joins The Adventures of Beekle as one of our finalists. I have really loved Where’s Mommy? since I first read it when it came out–I think the incredible detail in the illustrations, and the way the images mirror each other, is amazing, and it’s just a nice story that I can see parents sharing with their children for years to come. But I did not expect it to win at all in our Mock Caldecott–I’m glad to be proven wrong! On Friday I’ll post the results of weeks 3 & 4, and then post our winner next Monday when the actual Caldecott is announced. I can’t wait to see what it is!