My Favorite Top 33 Pictures Books of 2017 for Young Readers by Angela Ferraris

The Top 33 Favorite 2017 Picture Books by Angela Ferraris

It takes me a little longer than most to put together my top picture books of 2017 for young readers. The books I review are from the library and are not sent to me from publishers. I have to wait for reserves to come in like everyone else. I did not purposely pick 33. I just went through my reviews and chose the books that still stand out to me, and ones I have bought for my own elementary school library. They are not in any order of preference.


Crown

1. Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes; illustrated by Gordon C. James. 2017. Published by Agate Bolden.

Brief summary: A young boy goes to the barber shop to get his hair cut. The barber is the man who will transform him to his highest potential of handsomeness.  The barber puts the cape on and starts his magical transformation of the boy that will enable him to do wondrous feats and be admired by all. The boy notices all the other men in the chairs imagining what greatness they behold. The finishing touch of the stinging alcohol completes the feat. The boy admires his sweet self in the mirror. The barber takes off his cape and brushes off any strays. The boy gives him the money and leaves the shop feeling invincible.

Comments: Derrick Barnes truly captures the feel of a great haircut with the humor and metaphorical descriptions of each step of the haircut. Although this book is through the perspective of a young boy, both boys and girls could relate and understand that magic that happens in the shop; the before and after feeling; the magical surge of self-esteem at the end.

There is a note from the author where Derrick Barnes shares his barber shop story when he was in sixth grade.

I love the illustrations and how they capture the energy and excitement of the barbershop. Combined with Derrick Barnes’ ode? A true homage to the barbershop culture. This is one of those books to add to your library.

Rapunzel

2.   Rapunzel by Bethan Woollvin; illustrated by Bethan Woolvin. 2017. Gouache on cartridge paper. Published by Peachtree.

Brief summary: Rapunzel lives in a tower all by herself except for the witch who visits and cuts bits of Rapunzel’s beautiful hair to buy riches. As the witch leaves, she warns Rapunzel that there will be a terrible curse upon her if she escapes. Rapunzel is not afraid and climbs out the tower using her golden hair as a rope. She secretly goes in and out of the tower with the help of a forest friend. The witch finds a leaf in Rapunzel’s hair and threatens the girl again as she climbs out the window for the last time.

Comments: Another great retelling of a fairy tale by Bethan Woollvin where the damsel is not helpless and is able to get out of the bad situation on her own. Illustrations are done in black, gray, and yellow. I look forward to this author doing more fairy tales.

This is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids from Around the World

3. This is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids From Around the World by Matt Lamothe; illustrated by Matt Lamothe. 2017. Illustrations are digitally. Published by Chronicle Books, LLC.

Brief summary: Seven kids from around the world(Russia, Peru, Japan, Uganda, Iran, Italy and India) share what their lives are like in an average weekday including meals, school, family, and home life.

Comments: Love this book!  It is set up to show the timeline of the day and then with each country’s traditional home, family, breakfast, school clothing, schools, meals, play, activities, and so forth.  The back has a photo of each family featured in the book. Glossary in the back. Front and back pages have a map with each child’s country pointed out.  This would be a great book to share and then to have students write and illustrate those same activities in their lives. Dewey is 305.23 but not a narrative nonfiction. This is a book that will help students understand others around the world and how we do things the same or differently.

Creepy Pair of Underwear!

4. Creepy Pair of Underwear! by Aaron Reynolds; illustrated by Peter Brown. 2017. Pencil on paper and digitally composited and colored. Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

Brief summary: Jasper Rabbit is in the underwear store with his mother and is about to buy three packages of Plain White when he notices a display of green creepy underwear. He begs his mother to buy them. She agrees to one pair. Jasper excitedly puts them on for the night and notices the creepy green glow. He keeps getting rid of them but they return. Jasper’s hate-love relationship results with hilarious situations and a surprising ending.

Comments: I read this to my students reminding them of Jasper Rabbit’s first appearance in Creepy Carrots!. They loved the creepy green glowing underwear just as much as the creepy orange carrots.   The white, gray, and black illustrations with only green as the color for the underwear worked just as well in the sequel as the orange carrots did in the first.  The endpapers of white undies with a green creepy underwear start the mood of the picture book right away.

This book was able to relay a spooky tone which had my students sitting frozen as I read some of the pages and then laughing out loud the next during the humorous situations that Jasper Rabbit experienced. They loved the ending and had several conversations about what it would be like to do that in their bedroom.

Silent Days, Silent Dreams

5. Silent Days, Silent Dreams by Allen Say; illustrated by Allen Say. 2017. Burnt matchsticks,  sharpened stick dipped in soot mixed with spit, wastepaper, cardboard, cotton wads, rags, Q-tips, big nails, toothpicks, brushes, and fingers. Published by Arthur A. Levine Books.

Brief summary: James Castle was deaf, mute, autistic, and believed to be dyslexic, and although he attended five years at the Idaho School for the Deaf and the Blind, he did not learn to write, read, speak or even use sign language. He created his own calligraphy and made hundreds of books and albums. Living in poverty, he drew on what paper was around and created over 15,000 pieces of artwork often using matchsticks and spit. Readers will learn about the harsh life this artist had endured from being different. The bullying. The isolation. The unkindness from his own relatives.

Comments: I suggest reading the author’s note in the back first. Allen Say’s friend, Cort Conley, asked him to create a portrait of a local Idaho artist. Mr. Say agreed to do a portrait drawing after receiving the artist’s photo and catalog of works.  Allen Say became intrigued by the artist and his unique style of drawings so researched him more. Many publications and relative interviews about Mr. Castle had conflicting stories.  Allen Say wrote this book and created the artwork in the same way James Castle created. The artist’s  portrait is in the back.  The tools Allen Say used are shown as well.  I was impressed that Mr. Say totally submerged himself into understanding Mr. Castle by experimenting and using the same tools as the artist.

I think this would be a superb read aloud not only to learn about this artist but to better understand empathy, perseverance, and uniqueness from another’s life. Can you imagine not being able to hear, speak or communicate with others? What do you think it was like for Mr. Castle to see his works in a gallery? Did the time period he lived in understand him? Did people understand autism more now or then? How did his relatives treat him? How would you feel if your family treated you the same way?

After the Fall

6. After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up by Dan Santat; illustrated by Dan Santat. 2017. Published by Roaring Book Press.

Brief summary: The story begins after Humpty Dumpty gets out of Kings County Hospital and has recovered from his fall, that is physically recovered.  Humpty Dumpty tells and shows the reader about his fear of heights that developed from the fall. He is unable to enjoy anything up high. He walks past where the accident happened and really wants to be up high where the birds are, but just can not. He watches the birds from the ground until one day a paper airplane flies by him piquing his interest in flying and being up high. After a lot of perseverance, he comes up with the perfect paper airplane and takes it to the wall to fly. It goes over. He nervously climbs the wall to retrieve it and discovers what his true self is afterall.

Comments: One of my all-time favorites! My students in all grades loved this book and especially the surprise ending.  As we checked in books, I had the nursery rhyme on the Smartboard when they came in.  (I never assume they know the nursery rhymes). I taught the book as a fractured nursery rhyme and before I read the book to them, explained what are the characteristics of fractured folklore. The students were mesmerized by the story and illustrations.  The younger ones had to think a bit more to get the ending and what happened. Afterwards, with the older students, this led to many conversations about their own fears and overcoming them. I could see this being shared by a counselor to talk about fear.

Writing. This could be the beginning of a writing exercise with nursery rhymes and what happened afterwards. What happened after the mouse ran down the clock? What happened to Baa Baa Black Sheep’s wool?

Art connection. Origami. The paper airplane books are now checked out all the time.  I had to put out extra paper and was amused how several students would gather in a circle to make airplanes.  New rule: No throwing paper airplanes in the library.

The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse

7. The Wolf, the Duck & the Mouse by Mac Barnett; illustrated by Jon Klassen. 2017. Mixed media. Published by Candlewick Press.

Brief summary: One morning, a mouse is eaten by a wolf and moans about his unexpected end as it sits in the beast’s belly. “Be quiet!” The mouse is surprised to find a duck in bed. They have breakfast together in which the rodent learns all about the duck’s life inside the belly of the wolf. The mouse asks if he can stay too where there is no worry. The duck agrees. They dance about causing the wolf’s tummy to hurt.  The duck suggests he knows how to cure his ache and lists a few supplies he would like the wolf to swallow. A hunter comes along and tries to shoot the wolf. Realizing their safe home is under attack, the goose and mouse come up with a plan scaring the hunter away. In return for saving his life, the wolf grants them a favor.

Comments: Has a fable feel. My favorite line is “I may have been swallowed,” says the duck, “but I have no intention of being eaten.” It made me think of what it would be like to live inside the belly of a beast that I was always being frightened by in my everyday life.

Jabari Jumps

8. Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall; illustrated by Gaia Cornwall. 2017. Pencil, watercolor and collage, then colored digitally. Published by Candlewick Press.

Brief summary: Jabari finished his swimming lessons and passed his test. With confidence, Jabari excitedly tells his dad that he is going to now jump off the diving board. He goes over and stands in line allowing other children to go ahead of him as he watches how high up they go. He begins to climb and decides that he needs to do some stretching first. His father picks his son up, places him on his shoulders, and tells the boy that maybe tomorrow would be a better day. The father shares how sometimes he is scared and what he does to overcome the fear. Jabari regains his courage and determination and goes back up that diving board, loving his new surprise.

Comments: The father is supportive of his son no matter if Jabari decides to dive or go home and try another day. The father does not push his son but stands back and lets the boy decide what to do. The father wisely shares a little advice of how he personally handles fear. I like that the father admits that sometimes he is afraid to do things too. I think THAT is important for children to hear. We all have fear.

Big Cat, Little Cat

9. Big Cat, Little Cat by Elisha Cooper; illustrated by Elisha Cooper. 2017. Black and white illustrations. Published by Roaring Brook Press.

Brief summary: There is a white cat living alone in a house until a black kitten arrives learning all about how to live the house through the white cat’s teachings. The black cat grows to be the same size as his new friend. They spend many years together until the white cat gets older and does not come back. Then one day, a white kitten joins the black cat who shows the new kitten how to live in the house.

Comments: This cat picture book continues in the mind of the reader. The life cycle. This would be a good story for the school counselor to read when a student’s pet dies. One could share this book to help explain death and dying and how we go on.

Lost and Found Cat: The True Story of Kunkush's Incredible Journey

10. Lost and Found Cat: The True Story of Kunkush’s Incredible Journey by Doug Kuntz, and Amy Shrodes; illustrated by SueCornelison. 2017. Published by Crown Books for Young Readers.

Brief summary: Kunkush, a beautiful white cat, and his family must leave Iraq to find a safe place to live. Sura and her four daughters and son pay smugglers to get them out of the country only being permitted to take food and water. Kunkush is concealed in a basket. The cat stays hidden as they go to one country to another. They arrive in Greece and must all get on a small rubber boat. Once they land though the frightened cat flees into the woods. After searching for hours, the family has to leave. Two volunteers, Amy and Ashley, notice a white cat living with a colony of cats on the island and take it to the vet to get help and cleaned up. They rename him Dias. Amy keeps the cat in her apartment. The two volunteers are determined to find the owner and put up a Facebook page. Amy’s time in Lesbos has ended. She takes Dias back to Germany where some of the refugees traveled. A British couple keeps him. Soon Dias is found by his family who is living in Norway. Doug, a photographer, take Dias to Norway to reunite the cat with his family.

Comments: This is a story that can be shared with students by showing the cat’s journey on Google maps and learning about countries the family traveled through on their journey.  Refugees and immigrants can be discussed. What causes someone to flee their country? How would you feel only being able to take food and water with you? This story could be used to discuss feelings. How do you think Sura felt when her husband was killed and she had to flee? What did she think was going to happen to her and her family? How did the family feel while being smuggled? What about when they could not find Kunkush? How did they feel when they were reunited in Norway? There are photos of the cat and map of his journey. This is a  picture book that could have several discussions and lessons not only for elementary schoolers but for older students as well. Warning: Kunkush dies in 2016 from a feline virus


Caring For Your Lion

11. Caring for Your Lion by Tammi Sauer; illustrated by Troy Cummings. 2017. Artworks was created digitally.  Published by Sterling Children’s Books.

Brief summary: A boy has been waiting for almost a month for his new kitty to arrive. He has all of the pet supplies ready. The pet delivery truck arrives with a giant wooden crate with a note on it. “Congratulations on your new lion! We know you ordered a kitten, but we ran out of those.” There is an instruction sheet of ludicrous fourteen steps to follow.

Comments: Be sure to look the front end pages where the story begins. Troy Cummings’ hilarious 50s/60s cartoon style brings the story alive with one humorous step to the next. I would use this book as a writing exercise. Students could think of a wild animal that they would receive in the mail and what steps they would need to take to care for it. Drawings could be included.

The Lost Kitten

12. The Lost Kitten by Lee Sakai; illustrated by  Komako Sakai. 2017(translation).  Arylic colors and oil pencils. Published by Gecko Press.

Brief summary: Hina and her mother open the front door to find a sickly kitten with a mama cat and her other kittens standing aside. The mother cat meows and nods her head as to ask for them to take care of her baby before leaving. Hina’s mother agrees to keep the kitten and brings it inside. She gently wipes the goo from the kitten’s eyes explaining to her daughter that they will take it to the vet tomorrow to make sure the little feline is okay. Hina learns how to take care of the tiny kitten as it explores the house. Her mother must go to buy cat food leaving Hina with her sleeping Grandmother. Hina tries to come up with a name for the new family addition and realizes the kitten is no longer in her sight. She searches all over the house becoming very upset recalling the time she was lost in a store and wanted her mother. She felt the little kitten must have felt the same way and must be found immediately. Not seeing it anywhere inside, Hina concludes the kitten must have slipped outside when her mother left to go for food. The girl opens the closet door and starts to put on her coat when she looks down finding the kitten on the bottom of the closet floor safe and sleeping. The little girl begins to cry relieved to have found her new lost baby. Her mother comes home learning Hina has come up with the name for the newest member of the family.

Comments: This book was originally printed in Japan in 2015. The unique illustrations of  Komako Sakai stand out with this book through her soft and muted brushstrokes and black pencil. I could not find a lot of information about this author and illustrator but hope to have more books translated in the future.

Little i

13.   Little i   by Michael Hall; illustrated by Michael Hall. 2017. Digitally combined collages of painted and cut paper. Published by Greenwillow Books.

Brief summary: Little i’s dot fell off, rolled down a hill, over a cliff and into the sea. Little i swims across the sea to an island where he discovers !s, *s, and ,s. He finds the dot but is confused about why it does not fit anymore and goes home without it to tell his alphabet friends how the journey has changed the letter.

Comments: So stinking cute! The ending is adorable. I plan to pause a lot while reading this book to my students to make sure they see how the letters are on the page and get the little puns and play on words and punctuation. The letters spell out their words and conversations several times as well, so I suggest that the young reader is able to see the pages.

Read! Read! Read!

14. Read! Read! Read! by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater; illustrated by Ryan O’Rourke. 2017. Created in Adobe Photoshop. Published by Word Song: An Imprint of Highlights.

Brief summary: Twenty-three rhyming poems sharing the various ways and places we read in our lives.

Comments: Loved this book!  The poetry has rhythm and rhyme. Some are short; some are longer. The author wrote a poem each of the many things we read in our every day lives: a magazine, a birthday card,  a cereal box, sports page, road signs and so on. The illustrations fill the pages with several two-page spreads.

Princess and the Peas

15. Princess and the Peas by Rachel Himes; illustrated by Rachel Himes. 2017. Acrylic, pencil, watercolor, collage, ink. Published by Charlesbridge

Brief summary: Ma Sally cooks the best black-eyed peas in South Carolina. She says anyone can marry her son if the woman can cook as well as she. John wants to decide on who he will marry. She ignores that. Ma Sally decides to spread gossip that her son is ready to marry and for any interested women to come to her house that Sunday. Three women show up but do not like that Ma Sally wants them to cook. A fourth arrives later named Princess who says she heard there was a competition and would like to try. She cooks black-eyed peas well enough that the mother approves. Princess is not so sure if she wants John though and challenges him to wash the pots and pans. Will they marry?

Comments: This is a  Princess and the Pea variant that takes place in the 1950s.  There is an author’s note and a black-eyed peas recipe in the back of the book. There are several double-paged illustrations. I feel like I really want to try those black-eyed peas they are cooking.

Drop by Drop

16. Drop by Drop: A Story of Rabbi Akiva by Jacqueline Jules; Illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg. 2017. Published by Kar-Ben.

Brief summary: Akiva, a poor shepherd, takes care of a wealthy man’s sheep. Rachel, the daughter of the wealthy man, notices how kind Akiva is to the sheep. Although Akiva cannot read or write, Rachel sees that he is smart. The two marry without the blessing of Rachel’s father. After many years, Rachel lovingly encourages her husband to learn how to read and write. Akiva protests that at forty, it is too late to learn. She does not share his doubt. He decides to try by sitting with the children in a classroom and begins to learn to read a little at a time just like the drops of water he notices making a hole through the stone he saw next to the stream.  His wife, once again, encourages her husband to further his education by going to study the Torah where he excels and becomes famous for his wisdom. Meanwhile, Rachel, works hard to keep a home for them upon his return.

Comment: What a wonderful story to teach perseverance, growth mindset, and sacrifice to reach a goal that may seem unattainable. This book is based on Rabbi Akiva, a great sage of the first century.

All Kinds of Friends

17. All Kinds of Friends by Shelley Rotner and Sheila M. Kelly. 2017. Photography. Published by Millbrook Press.

Brief summary: Through simple text, this book explores all kinds of friends one can have.

Comments:  This teaches how there are different types of friends. It talks about the characters a friend could have like funny or tall. The book talks about where you may have different friends like at school or in a family. It explores the fun activities friends like to do like dress up or pretend. I liked that it explained that sometimes we can be sad or mad at our friends. I will definitely be buying this book to share with my elementary students. The photographs really caught the true facial expressions of the friends.

If Sharks Disappeared

18. If Sharks Disappeared by Lily Williams; illustrated by Lily Williams. 2017. Published by Roaring Book Press.

Brief summary: This book explains how if the sharks, apex predators, were eliminated, the ocean would become unbalanced. Sharks typically eat the weak. This allows the healthier animals to reproduce. But if sharks become extinct, then many other marine life will have higher populations, causing them to eat all the fish. Those fish eat plankton, but if  there is too much plankton, the water would be a thick sludge. Many land animals rely on the ocean for food, and they would start to starve and die too. This cause and effect pattern could continue spreading across the globe.

Comments: This narrative nonfiction book did a great job of explaining trophic cascade with simple terms and illustrations. I recommend this book for science units as well as teaching the importance we, as humans,  have to  keep the earth balanced. There is a glossary, Sharks Are In Trouble, How You Can Help Save Sharks, and Author’s Note. The end pages have drawings of various sharks. There is one fold out.

Diana's White House Garden

19. Diana’s White House Garden by Elisa Carbone; illustrated by Jen Hill. 2017. Pencil, gouache, and digital. Published by Viking.

Brief summary: Diana Hopkins lived in the White House with her father, Harry Hopkins, who was the chief advisor to President Roosevelt. This ten-year-old girl wanted to do her part for her country during the second war and was trying to figure out a way to do so. Diana did get into a lot of mischief while living in the White House often accompanied by the Roosevelts’ black Scottish terrier, Fala. Diana heard the President tell her father that he wanted the food our farmers grew to go straight to the soldiers to make sure they were fit and for civilians to start growing gardens for their own food in their yards and empty lots.  Diana volunteered to help. The President wanted to be an example for others to follow, so Mrs. Roosevelt, Diana, and George (the groundskeeper) planted a garden in the lawn of the White House with all three tending to it. Diana felt good being able to sit at the table with her father and the Roosevelts knowing they were eating food from the garden.

Comments: This is based on a true story. Diana Hopkins’ photo is in the back holding hands with Mrs. Roosevelt. There is an author’s note and illustrator’s note explaining why Victory Gardens were needed. I did not realize that there was not enough steel and tin for fighter planes and to be used for canned vegetables. Classes were being offered to teach canning with glass jars so that people had food during the winter. The gardens were growing everywhere: city parks, apartment rooftops, urban yards, and suburban yards.

This book could be used for science units of study and also for teaching how if we all work together, we can make a difference as a whole.

Apex Predators

20. Apex Predators: The World’s Deadliest Hunters, Past and Present by Steve Jenkins; illustrated by Steve Jenkins. 2017. Torn- and cut- paper collage. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Brief summary: Apex predators are “creatures too tough, too big, or too well-armed to be hunted by other animals.” The reader will be wowed going through this book learning about the mightiest hunters of the past and present day. Steve Jenkins explains how each of the hunters were/are the top of their food chain with no natural enemies.

Comments: This is one of those nonfiction books that one student checks out and sits down with a circle of friends sharing and pointing facts about each page.  Not only are there interesting facts of why the apex predator was the best but a chart comparing the beast’s height to a man. The tab on the upper part of the page tells the reader when the creature exists or existed.  Steve Jenkins never lets me down. This is a must for every library–home, public, or school. He is one of the best torn/cut paper artists able to make the illustrations pop off the pages

Transportation!: How People Get Around

21. Transportation!: How People Get Around by Gail Gibbons; illustrated by Gail Gibbons. 2017. Holiday House. Mixed media.

Brief summary: This is a nonfiction transportation book with all the traffic heading to the right as the reader learns about various modes of transportation. All vehicles are labeled, and there is informational text on the bottom of the pages. The categories are cars and other vehicles, trains, aircraft, and boats. There is an “important signs, signals and navigational aids” page in the back.

Comments: This is another one of Gail Gibbons’ gems to add to any library’s collection. This was classified for the 388 section, but it could go in the 620 area as well where I have the other engineering  books. I think it may be missed in the 300s. The boys are always going to the 629s for car books in my elementary library.

Home in the Rain

22. Home in the Rain by Bob Graham; illustrated by Bob Graham. 2016 (Walker Books Ltd; London, UK). 2017 (Candlewick Press Mass. USA). Ink and watercolors.

Brief summary: It is pouring rain as Francie and her pregnant mother leave Grandma’s house and drive away in a little red car. The window wipers are going back and forth with rain coming straight down as the car moves along the crowded highway. Francie notices the farmland on either side. Wildlife live on both sides of the highway up in the hills and along the coast. The car windows are fogging up. Francie writes her name on one window, Mom on another, and Dad on another with just one window left blank. Her mother pulls over so that they can eat lunch inside the car. Francie asks what her baby sister’s name will be so she add it to the back window. Her mother is not sure yet.  They pull back into the traffic with the relentless rain still pelting the car. Her mother pulls into a gas station where there are several other cars and people. Francie splashes in a rainbow-colored puddle. Her mother realizes the name of the baby sister and gives Francie a big hug as they head back towards home now with the back window displaying the baby’s name.

Comments: I liked the quietness of this story that matched the quietness of the rain coming down. Although Bob Graham is Australian and the book was first published in the U.K. before making it to the US, there are no language differences that would hinder with the story and characters. This would be great to read aloud to young students during one of those days when it is raining all day.

Seven at nine

23. 7 Ate 9: The Untold Story by Tara Lazar; illustrated by Ross MacDonald. 2017. Colored pencils, watercolor, and 19th-century wood type with all composed digitally using Photoshop. Published by Disney Hyperion.

Brief summary: Detective  I is waiting for his next case when 6 comes into his office nervously explaining he is worried about 9 going after him.  I takes the case and goes around town asking letters and numbers about 9. The case is solved by Detective I with all becoming friends at the conclusion.

Comments: Based on the old riddle: Why is 6 afraid of 7? Because 7, 8, 9(seven ate nine). Hilarious puns about numbers and letters. A great book to read to all ages especially though to intermediate students who will get all the jokes and homonyms. Told in the first person narrative mode like an old detective movie. This is one of my new favorites.

This may be confused with an earlier book with a similar title: Seven Ate Nine (2012) by Stan Resnicoff.

The Three Billy Goats Gruff

24. The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Jerry Pinkney; illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. 2017. Watercolor. Published by Little, Brown and Company.

Brief summary: (Traditional version). A small billy-goat wants to get over the bridge to the grassy hills on the other side of the bridge. A troll living under the bridge hears TRIP, TRAP! TRIP TRAP! and jumps out from underneath threatening to eat the little goat. The troll decides to let him go, because the next goat would be a bigger and better meal according to the little goat. The middle-sized goat is in the same situation and tells the troll to let him go and eat the biggest goat. The greedy troll lets him go too and shortly meets the largest billy-goat. The largest goat rams the bridge’s gate open. The troll yells that he is going to eat the goat right up. The goat dares him. The troll is charged and rammed over the bridge in which it encounters a surprise.  The goats and herd go back and forth on the bridge eating the wild, green grass.

Comments: I have never been disappointed with any folklore Jerry Pinkney retells and illustrates. His watercolor illustrations are superb and so detailed. There is an artist’s note in the back of this book and a left hand/ right-hand foldout. I urge new librarians to try to purchase all of his folklore books as an excellent addition to the library’s collection: The Lion and the Mouse, The Tortoise and the Hare, The Grasshopper and the Ants, Puss in Boots, Three Little Kittens, Little Red Riding Hood, The Little Red Hen, The Ugly Duckling, and many more. Everything he touches is gold. One of my favorite illustrators.

Dad and the dinosaur

25. Dad and the Dinosaur by Gennifer Choldenko; illustated by Dan Santat. 2017. Pencil, watercolor, ink, acrylic, Photoshop. Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers.

Brief summary: Nicholas is afraid of many things while his dad is not. The boy carries around a toy dinosaur in his pocket for courage to whatever activity he does. Nick has the toy plastic dinosaur with him even when he swims, tying it to his swim shorts. That evening, Nicholas takes it to his soccer game tucking the dinosaur in his sock. He scores a goal but loses his toy. His mother asks what he is doing walking all over the grass,  but he does not tell her as they drive back home. He sleeps with the light on. His father comes home from work  and asks if Nick is having a nightmare. His father tells him it’s okay to be afraid. Nick tells his dad about losing the dinosaur. His understanding father takes him out to the soccer field that night, and they find the dinosaur. Nicholas regains his bravery and is glad his father agrees not to tell his mom.

Comments: Wow. I can’t imagine my father going out of the house at night after working all day and actually go looking in the dark  for a small toy dinosaur on a soccer field. This gesture tells the reader that the father really gets the urgency to find his son’s charm. I could see this book being shared at the beginning of the school year or when a child needs to do something a little scary or challenging. I have students show me their good luck charms a lot at the beginning of the school year. Sometimes they show me a photo of their mom all crumbled up having been hidden deep in a pocket.  I show them the photos of my family and cats on my desk. We can all learn that there are different things/events that we may need a little extra reassurance.

Make the Earth Your Companion26. Make the Earth Your Companion by J. Patrick Lewis; illustrated by Anna and Elena Balbusso. 2017. Published by Creative Editions.

Brief summary:  A gentle poem advises the reader how earth elements can teach about life; how nature can teach mankind to live in harmony with life and one another. “Let the River remind you that everything will pass.”

Comments: One of my new favorite poems of J. Patrick Lewis. The rhythm of the poem and softness of the words with the beautiful illustrations of the Balbusso sisters  are both aesthetically pleasing to hear and see.  This would be an excellent addition to any library. I would use it in the school setting for Earth Day and to teach imagery.  Very well done.

Ice Boy

27. Ice Boy by David Ezra Stein; illustrated by David Ezra Stein. 2017. Mixed media on watercolor paper. Published by Candlewick Press.

Brief summary: Ice Boy has a normal ice cube life in the freezer with his family and friends. Sometimes, someone goes to a person’s drink which is considered an honor. Although his parents warn him not to go outside, he leaves the freezer. Ice Boy goes to the beach and even surfs on the waves. He sinks to the bottom of the ocean becoming Water Boy. He is later knocked out of the sea landing on someone’s beach towel becoming vapor in the hot sun. Vapor Boy plays in the clouds until he becomes Ice Boy again falling to the earth and landing in someone’s drink where he meets his parents. The person throws them into the yard leaving the reader with the hint of what will happen next.

Comments: What a fun and imaginative way to explain the water cycle!  Teachers will love to use this book paired with a nonfiction water cycle book. There are many laugh-out-loud situations. This is a good edition to any elementary library.

Little Wolf's First Howling

28. Little Wolf’s First Howling by Laura McGee Kvasnosky; illustrated by Kate Harvey Mcgee. 2017. “Color work in Photoshop with a digital palette and brushes.” Published by Candlewick Press.

Brief summary: Little Wolf is excited as he and his father climb up the hill. It will be his first howling when the full moon rises. His father calmly demonstrates the “proper howling form.” Little Wolf has his turn but does not quite sound like his father’s howl. Big Wolf praises but also gives some constructive criticism to his son. Little Wolf tries again adding his own special touches. His father kindly tells his son all of the things he is proud of about him but ends with that he does not have “proper howling form.”  He demonstrates for his son again. Little Wolf listens and howls again knowing it was not the form but really wants to howl with his heart. His father joins now in his son’s howling form.

Comments: Big Wolf realizes that this form of howling was something that Little Wolf wanted to be creative with and make his own style. The father wolf does not yell at him or tell him he is not listening. He does not berate him. His father lets him howl in the way that is unique to his son and stops demonstrating the proper technique.

This would be a good book for the art teacher to read   that would encourage students to do art with their hearts and not always with the “proper form.” It is important for children to know how to do something properly, but is also good to let them do some things their own way.

Graduation Day

29. Graduation Day by Piotr Parda; illustrated by Piotr  Parda. 2017. Watercolor, monoprint. Published by Ripple Grove Press.

Brief summary: First scene. There is a student dressed in a graduation gown and mortar looking out of a school window smiling. The wordless story continues with the setting through a bird’s view of a city block all in gray with a schoolyard in the center. Closer look. There are cracks all over the school building and concrete grounds. Next is a large graduation day banner. Then we see where the plot begins. The student is a victim of a group of children jeering at her, and one shoots a sunflower seed through a straw hitting her in the neck. She picks up the seed. They all go to the graduation ceremony, hear the speech, and throw their hats in the air. Kids are happy and go home with family members.

She walks alone down the school’s gray halls to her locker one last time where there is a jar full of sunflower seeds revealing to the reader just what type of life this young lady endured. She takes the jar and goes about the empty school grounds planting sunflower seeds in the cracks creating a beautiful bright yellow space.

Comments: Wow. So many words and emotions for a story without words. Not the usual happiness on someone’s graduation day.  This is a story of a person who has been bullied many times made evident of all the sunflower seeds collected in her locker’s jar. She was able to take that hate and meanness and loneliness to create the only bright color in the book…a sunflower garden.  This is a resonating story without words that is not a preachy bullying message of “do not bully; it’s wrong.”  This is about a victim who, despite it all, is able to create hope and beauty where there must have been a lot of heartaches. The symbolism of the sunflowers can be understood by even younger readers.

thelegendofrockpaperscissors

30. The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors by Drew Daywalt; illustrated by Adam Rex. 2017. Published by Balzer & Bray.

Brief summary: Rock, from the Kingdom of Backyard, is a warrior without defeat and is looking for a worthy opponent. Paper, from the Empire of Mom’s Home Office, is also a warrior without defeat and looks in his empire for a worthy adversary. Scissors is from a small village from Junk Drawer and is also a warrior without an equal challenger. All are the best and bravest warrior in their land. The three slowly encounter each other, battling to see if they can be defeated thus creating the legend of Rock Paper Scissors.

Comments: This is a huge hit at my elementary school. I played the book trailer to build excitement and read the book the following week except for the kindergarteners. I had to read it right after the trailer. Next week seemed like a year to them.

The words and illustrations go so well together; one of the better pairs I have seen in a while. Drew Daywalt scored big time with the students bytaking thiss simple deciding game to a whole new level of imagination.

Adam Rex’s hilarious illustrations of Rock, Paper, and Scissors are a delight to the students’ funny bone.  The various fonts and sizes he uses capture the movement and energy of the warriors. Some words are half as large as the page to indicate shouting. Smaller sized words are read in a regular voice.   Readers–I suggest practicing various volumes and voices ahead of time. I practiced in front of my cat until he left the room, because I was shouting like the wrestling-match announcer voice indicated in the book with the large bolded words.

I brought in a pair of big scissors, a sheet of stock card paper, and a rock all with super-glued googly eyes on them. You  could also go as far as  bringing in all of the opponents that these three challenged.  Props  make the story even more fun to act out.

Children related to the humor and the personification. They all know the game but will play in the future with those three illustrated characters in mind.

Warning: You will hear students all over the library shouting “Rock paper scissors shoot!” “Rock paper scissors shoot!” “Rock paper scissors shoot!” until you feel like you have lost your mind, but well worth the joy of reading you just shared with future lifetime readers.

littlefoxintheforest

31. Little Fox in the Forest by Stephanie Graegin; illustrated by Stehani Graegin. 2017.  Published by Schwartz & Wade.

Brief summary:  A young girl takes her plush fox to school for show & tell. At the end of the day, she sets her fox down and swings. A real fox comes along taking it into the forest. She and her friend follow the fox but lose track of it. They come across several forest animals along the way and ask if they have seen the fox doll.  They come across a little village of animals. The girl shows the picture of her fox to several more animals finally leading them to where a little fox kit lives. The fox’s mother tells her daughter to give back the plush fox, but she is heartbroken. The little girls sees how much the fox wants the plush fox, so decides to give her doll as a gift.  The fox kit gives the human girl a unicorn plush in exchange. The two human friends leave the forest and go home. The last page shows each sleeping with their new stuffed dolls.

Comments: The colors are grays, whites, and blues  at the beginning and end of the story with brilliant colors when the two children discover the magical animal village. This is a story without words. Children will pore over this book delighted by the characters, plot, problem, and resolution. This will make a great addition to any elementary library.

poposluckychinesenewyear

32. PoPo’s Lucky Chinese New Year by Virginia Loh-Hagan; illustrated by Renne Benoit. 2017. Pencil and watercolor. Published by Sleeping Bear Press.

Brief summary: PoPo comes to visit her Chinese-American granddaughter to teach the little girl about Chinese New Year. The child learns the rules to prepare for a lucky year which means preparing for fifteen days and also celebrating for fifteen days.

Comments: Chinese New Year’s rules are written on the top or bottom of the pages as the story unfolds.  I learned many superstitions and traditions about the new year I was not aware of before reading this picture book. Each ritual’s symbolism is explained by the PoPo. The story is written with light humor as the little girl learns about the holiday’s customs. This is a great addition to any elementary library’s holiday and customs section.

Still a Family

33. Still a Family by Brenda Reeves Sturgis; illustrated Jo-Shin Lee. 2016. Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company.

Brief summary: A young homeless girl sleeps on a cot next to her mother in a shelter for women and children only. Her father is in a shelter for men.  Too young to attend school, she stays at the shelter and shares her doll, Molly, with the girl next to her. The parents take turns caring for their daughter while the other looks for work. They do things together like eating at the soup kitchen and playing in thepark.. Months go by. Even though they are in different shelters and under different roofs, they are still a family.

Comments: This is one of those books that will create great conversations and discussions with children about homelessness. How would you feel if you lived in a shelter? What would you miss the most? If you could only take one toy with you, what one would you choose? Although this is a difficult subject, the author wrote it in a way that the young reader of the story will get of a glimpse of children who live in homelessness and not be exposed to some of the harsher situations that could occur. This would be a good addition for elementary school library collections.

Celebrating National Cat Day with 2017 Cat Picture Books, My Favorite Cats in Children’s Literature, and a Few Cat Books for Adults by Angela Ferraris

Our beloved Lorenzo who recently went to Rainbow Bridge.

I haven’t been able to post for almost a week. I somehow hurt my back putting away the groceries last Sunday.  Seriously. Putting. Away. The. Groceries.  After the doctor told me that I should not go back to work until Monday, I found myself thinking, Nah, I can go back tomorrow. I did not know what I was talking about and  was stunned by how much pain I was in and for how long. I missed a week of work which was very hard for someone like me who has the attention span of a hummingbird. So, I told myself, Okay. Look. Let’s just take this time and post all of those picture book reviews, do the book fair fliers, author visit preparations, and lesson plans for November. The problem with that plan was that I did not have a full understanding of how steroids, muscle relaxers, and Tylenol with Codeine could turn me into a mindless blob. I became a couch potato only able to concentrate on mindless binge watching  and the occasional walkabout in my own home. It is what it is I told myself trying to see if I could squat and pet the cat that kept going around my legs. Could not do it. He was not going to go on his hind legs either for pets on the head.

I missed petting my cats and one in particular, Lorenzo, our old kitty who recently passed. He would have been sleeping beside me day and night. We think he was about 18-19 years old. It’s hard to tell with a rescue cat. When he was good, he was very good; but when he was bad…Well, we still have his tooth marks on the furniture and book corners. I dedicate this blog in remembrance of him on National Cat Day.

Some New 2017 Cat Picture Books

Mr. Fuzzbuster Knows He's the Favorite

Mr. Fuzzbuster Knows He’s the Favorite by Stacy McAnulty; illustrated by Edward Hemingway. Pencil, ink, and digital media. 2017. Published by Two Lions.

Brief summary: Mr. Fuzzbuster and Lily have been together since they were both tots sharing life events throughout the years. Mr. Fuzzbuster is concerned with the additional pets (Fish, Frog, Bird, and Dog) and that he may no longer be Lily’s favorite. He writes her a note asking what pet is the favorite. Lily walks through the house telling how each of her pets are her favorite in a certain category. Mr. Fuzzbuster gets the favoritism he seeks but then wonders…

Comments: Mr. Fuzzbuster is a true cat–always wanting to be the center of attention.

Buy here.Big Cat, Little Cat

Big Cat, Little Cat by Elisha Cooper; illustrated by Elisha Cooper. 2017. Black and white illustrations. Published by Roaring Brook Press.

Brief summary: There is a white cat living alone in a house until a black kitten arrives learning all about how to live the house through the white cat’s teachings. The black cat grows to be the same size as his new friend. They spend many years together until the white cat gets older and does not come back. Then one day, a white kitten joins the black cat who shows the new kitten how to live in the house.

Comments: This cat picture book continues in the mind of the reader. The life cycle. This would be a good story for the school counselor to read when a student’s pet dies. One could share this book to help explain death and dying and how we go on.

Buy here.

Lost and Found Cat: The True Story of Kunkush's Incredible Journey

Lost and Found Cat: The True Story of Kunkush’s Incredible Journey by Doug Kuntz, and Amy Shrodes; illustrated by SueCornelison. 2017. Published by Crown Books for Young Readers.

Brief summary: Kunkush, a beautiful white cat, and his family must leave Iraq to find a safe place to live. Sura and her four daughters and son  pay smugglers to get them out of the country only being permitted to take food and water. Kunkush is concealed in a basket. The cat stays hidden as they go to one country to another. They arrive in Greece and must all get on a small rubber boat. Once they land though the frightened cat flees into the woods. After searching for hours, the family has to leave. Two volunteers, Amy and Ashley, notice a white cat living with a colony of cats on the island and take it to the vet to get help and cleaned up. They rename him Dias. Amy keeps the cat in her apartment. The two volunteers are determined to find the owner and put up a Facebook page. Amy’s time in Lesbos has ended. She takes Dias back to Germany where some of the refugees traveled. A British couple keep him. Soon Dias is found by his family who are living in Norway. Doug, a photographer, take Dias to Norway to reunite the cat with his family.

Comments: This is a story that can be shared with students by showing the cat’s journey on Google maps and learning about countries the family traveled through on their journey.  Refugees and immigrants can be discussed. What causes someone to flee their country? How would you feel only being able to take food and water with you? This story could be used to discuss feelings. How do you think Sura felt when her husband was killed and she had to flee? What did she think was going to happen to her and her family? How did the family feel while being smuggled? What about when they could not find Kunkush? How did they feel when they were reunited in Norway? There are  photos  of the cat and map of his journey. This is a  picture book that could have several discussions and lessons not only with elementary schoolers but for older students as well. Warning: Kunkush dies in 2016 from a feline virus.

Buy here.

Caring For Your Lion

Caring for Your Lion by Tammi Sauer; illustrated by Troy Cummings. 2017. Artworks was created digitally.  Published by Sterling Children’s Books.

Brief summary: A boy has been waiting for almost a month for his new kitty to arrive. He has all of the pet supplies ready. The pet delivery truck arrives with a giant wooden crate with a note on it. “Congratulations on your new lion! We know you ordered a kitten, but we ran out of those.” There is an instruction sheet of ludicrous fourteen steps to follow.

Comments: Be sure to look the front end pages where the story begins. Troy Cummings’ hilarious 50s/60s cartoon style brings the story alive with one humorous step to the next. I would use this book as a writing exercise. Students could think of a wild animal that they would receive in the mail and what steps they would need to take to care for it. Drawings could be included.

Buy here.

The Lost Kitten

The Lost Kitten by Lee Sakai; illustrated by  Komako Sakai. 2017(translation).  Arylic colors and oil pencils. Published by Gecko Press.

Brief summary: Hina and her mother open the front door to find a sickly kitten with a mama cat and her other kittens standing aside. The mother cat meows and nods her head as to ask for them to take care of her baby before leaving. Hina’s mother agrees to keep the kitten and brings it inside. She gently wipes the goo from the kitten’s eyes explaining to her daughter that they will take it to the vet tomorrow to make sure the little feline is okay. Hina learns how to take care of the tiny kitten as it explores the house. Her mother must go to buy cat food leaving Hina with her sleeping Grandmother. Hina tries to come up with a name for the new family addition and realizes the kitten is no longer in her sight. She  searches all over the house becoming very upset recalling the time she was lost in a store and wanted her mother. She felt the little kitten must have felt the same way and must be found immediately. Not seeing it anywhere inside, Hina concludes the kitten must have slipped outside when her mother left to go for food. The girl opens the closet door and starts to put on her coat when she looks down finding the kitten on the bottom of the closet floor safe and sleeping. The little girl begins to cry relieved to have found her new lost baby. Her mother comes home learning Hina has come up with the name for the newest member of the family.

Comments: This book was originally printed in Japan in 2015. The unique illustrations of  Komako Sakai stand out with this book through her soft and muted brushstrokes and black pencil. I could not find a lot of information about this author and illustrator but hope to have more books translated in the future.

Buy here.

Popular Cats in Children’s Literature

These are some of the cat books that are always circulating in my elementary library. Some are rarely in, and some cause a lot of arguing when they are in. I have to take out the big dice on my desk and see which child rolls the highest.

Pete the Cat  Splat the Cat

Bad Kitty

Kitten's First Full Moon

The Cat in the Hat

Puss in Boots

Mr. Pusskins

Rotten Ralph

Chester

I Must Have Bobo!

Cat the Cat, Who is That?

Cat Novels for Adults

I rarely have any time now to read fiction with cat characters, but there are several I have enjoyed.  I hear some of the older teachers talking about what they are going to do when they retire from teaching. I just smile inside. Librarians never retire from books. There are several interesting cat mystery books that I would like to read. These are two cat mystery series that I have started:

Cat in the Stacks Mystery

Cat in the Stacks Mystery Series

The Cat Who...

The Cat Who…series

I am ending with THE KITTY: Who Rescued Me After I Rescued Him by a new author, Shawn P. Flynn, who discovers for the first time what it is like to be loved by a cat and to love a cat. I wish him the best with his new kitty.

The Kitty Who Rescued Me After I Rescued Him

6 Reasons Why I Believe Labeling Reading Levels on Books for Young Readers is More Harmful Than Good by Angela Ferraris

(Commentary)

There are many reasons why I do not support labeling children’s books by reading levels in the school library. Although this is a commentary, I’m not stating my opinion without merit. I have been working in libraries for twenty-nine years  and with twenty in school libraries. I have seen children come into my library crying, because they were so worried about not finding a book that their teacher would approve. It broke my heart.  They were only six years old and already hated reading.

What Does the Score Mean? 

Well, first things first.  How do they get a reading level for a student? There are many different assessments that can be given, so I suggest you contact your child’s teacher for that information. Here is a Google search of the various correlation charts.  At that time in that child’s life, he/she scored this level. It does not tell if that child was having a bad day. It does not tell us what the child’s interests are or maturity level. It doesn’t tell us that Johnny loves origami and wants to take out origami books to learn how to fold just like his grandpa. It doesn’t tell us that Sally is taking out cookbooks to make dinner for her little brothers, since Mom is too tired to cook when she gets home late at night. The reading level is a temporary assessment of one part of the child; not the whole child. It doesn’t reflect the passion, the curiosity, and the dreams they are seeking. It is used as ground zero in which your children will need to improve upon.

And as obvious as this may be to us, several of my students do not realize that the score will change. Mary may be the highest leveled reader today in her class, but she may just be average when everyone else catches up (or not) in six months. When the next school year starts, she may not have read a single book over the summer, because now she hates reading. The pressure(real or imagined) to always be the best reader got to her. She went down the summer slide and is reading at a lower reading level now then at the end of last year. I’ve seen it happen.  I also have seen it when a child’s score has shot up over the summer.

1. Censorship  

In my opinion, visibility marking reading levels on books is a type of censorship. It narrows the child’s reading resources. It’s telling them they may only read these few books at this time in their life. When really, we should be fostering exploration of the many nonfiction topics and reading styles  that a student may not even be aware of in his/her world. Not all students have access to a public library. The school library is it and sadly, in some cases, only the classroom library.

Elementary children have this amazing curiosity of the world around them and should have  unrestricted access to those reading materials to expand their knowledge and promote critical thinking. “A minor’s right to access resources freely and without restriction has long been and continues to be the position of the American Library Association and the American Association of School Librarians.” I totally agree.

Think about it this way.   Imagine going to the public library’s check-out counter  with  books that took you an hour to gather.  Picture books that you are going to read to your children. A field guide to identify the tracks you are seeing in the mud behind your house. How to build your own backyard fairy garden. Fairy tale books to use to refer to for making a castle for that fairy garden. The latest recipe book for the Paleo diet. Several romance novels. A juvenile origami book with step-by-step illustrations so you can make animals as a table centerpiece for your son’s birthday party. Five current magazines that were just put out when you walked over to the periodical section.  Now. Imagine how excited you are to take these books home and can’t wait to start reading and learning. BUT. When you go to check out with the librarian, he/she sets all of your books aside. “Sorry, Mrs. Smith. These books are below your reading level. You will need to go back and only get those with Lexile number…(wait while I get the list out that has your level on it) Oh, here it is. Level 1200 on the spine. You may only read those in the textbook area over there.”

Seriously? Would you ever want to read again? Wouldn’t  you be embarrassed in front of your neighbors that you were reading above all of them or what if you were reading way, way below them? Would that excitement of finding a book treasure ever return? Reading would be a chore and not a pleasure.  You would have to read only  textbooks. You would   have limited access. Why should our children be limited?

2. Not Realizing That Books are More Than Just Words But  Can Be Shared Aesthetic Experiences 

Not all school libraries have primary and intermediate books on each topic. Keeping that in mind, one can learn so much from just looking at illustrations.  The Eyewitness Books(usually a middle school reading level) go out constantly in my library, because students learn from all of those great photos and charts. The Guinness Book of World Records or Ripley’s Believe it or Not always involve a circle of kids looking at the photos together and talking about math and comparison, and “Mrs. Ferraris! Look how long this person’s nails are!!!  Can you imagine having long nails like this?  Do we have any books on monsters? Do we have any books on cats? Do we have any…” The spark is lit. Please don’t put out the fire by limiting access.

3. Invades privacy 

Again, the ASLA states it brilliantly:  “Labeling and shelving a book with an assigned grade level on its spine allows other students to observe the reading level of peers, thus threatening the confidentiality of students’ reading levels.”  Peers should not know another student’s reading level. It  shames and labels those who are not reading at the “normal” grade’s reading level. I have seen students lose the desire to read, feel ashamed of reading lower than everyone else, and also, at the same time, being arrogant reading above everyone else’s. I have had some students not take out books each week. They leave them at home on purpose, so they would not have to go through the ordeal of picking out a book at the “proper” reading level.

4. Does not Allow the Development  of Browsing  and Choosing a “Good Fit” Book Skills 

Having books labeled in a school library does not allow children to develop the skills of picking “just right” books on their own. This is a skill that we develop to help us later successfully choose books as middle schoolers, high schoolers, college students, and adults. One way of learning how to pick our books is by the failure of doing it correctly. There will be too many hard words or the plot was too complicated. It’s been two weeks and only the first chapter has been read. Let them fail. Let them fall. They will get up and try again with our encouragement from the sidelines.

I have had children melt because they could not make a book choice. They have had their choices all made for them. There is  a time for making their choices but not in the library. They need to learn browsing skills and how to make good book choices now so that they will have them mastered later on in their higher academic life. THEY need to choose the books.

5. Instead of Putting Them On a Diet, Let’s Feed Their Minds with  Well-Balanced Meals

I want my students to come in and get new books each week when they visit.  My goal is to develop lifelong readers who enjoy reading. My goal is for them to be excited about finding information about topics they are interested in learning more about. My goal is for them to explore and love the library. I want them to find valid information on the internet. I want them to get excited about a book and stand around a table reading it together and wonder. I want THEM to find the treasures. I am providing the best books. The organic food. The good stuff.  I want them to fill their plates each visit. Their minds are rapidly developing and only eating celery  is not going to develop a strong mind.

6. Does not Foster the Joy of Reading 

Sometimes, it’s not about picking out a book that is a good fit.   Judi  Moreillon says, “Sometimes the easier text is just what readers need to maintain their confidence or reignite their enjoyment.” Reading just for the joy of it.  Do you do that? It is essential for them to have access to all of the books in a professionally developed library collection where a certified, full-time librarian is there all day for the children to come and explore. A library that is always opened. A library that has books representing everyone. A library where students(and teachers) have access to informational texts for curricular assignments. A place where we can feed our minds!  Where we can have fun learning!

Having students only reading their reading level makes reading boring. It defeats the whole purpose of creating “lifelong learners” or other terms like “forever readers” or “book lovers” by making reading a chore, boring, and not relevant to their lives. Example: I found out that during recess students discovered a large caterpillar on one of the trees.  They were still talking about it when they came into library class, so I showed them the field guide books in the reference section. I helped them figure out what the caterpillar was and going to be. They were ecstatic by that. It was relevant to them. It did not matter that they could not read that field guide. They were able to look at the photos. I taught World Book Online the next week and saw that they were looking up all types of topics they had questions about. I showed them how to have the text read to them. Do you think I showed them how to narrow down their search by reading level? Yes, I confess, I did. Anyone do it? No. They just wanted to explore and share with their neighbors what exciting topics they found.

How I Meet in the Middle

My school’s online library catalog can search and print a list of books at a certain reading level that are available in the library if teachers or parents want to narrow a child’s book choices.  My library policy for grades 1-5 is to  allow students to take out what they want and  learn from their mistakes. I tell them to pick a good fit book to read for the classroom’s silent reading or assignments, but allow them to get a “just for fun” book too. I teach a book selection class at the beginning of the year where they  learn how to figure out if a book is too easy, too hard or just right with the Five Finger Rule and  I Pick methods.

They are shown where the books are located  that are good for their grade levels. I explain that this is the time they can explore the collection and figure out what they like or dislike. “Don’t like spiders? Well, have you seen these books about spiders? You may change your mind. Keep an open mind so new facts, new likes can be explored.”  We go over how they need to pick out a book for reading at school or researching for school assignments. I define a  “for fun” book to be something they enjoy just looking at the amazing illustrations, maybe  how-to books, or books a little too easy or hard. Many students take out chapter books for their parents to read to them at bedtime. Some take out easy picture books to read to their younger siblings. It’s all good with me. I don’t care what their reading levels are. I just want them to enjoy reading and learning fun library lessons. I am building a library foundation with them that will support them for a lifetime. I want it to be strong with the love and joy of reading.

(You may have noticed that I did not include kindergarten. They browse in the picture book area of the library, and I place nonfiction books for them on a table  to choose from instead of letting them go into the stacks where there are many reading levels. When they can read a bit more, like in first grade, they will have the full reign of the library).

What Should We Really Be Focusing On?  

Each school should have a certified, full-time librarian. Librarians are trained in library school how to develop collections without bias. We constantly are reading and examining books. We breath children’s books. They are our worlds.  We strive to have libraries that represent all students, have a wide range of topics, have all reading levels, and I could go on all day. We seek out books for curriculum. We talk to students about books. We book talk with teachers and other librarians. We go to workshops where we talk about books all day long and LOVE IT. We teach reading literacy, technology literacy, information literacy, and media literacy. Kids will want to read harder and more complicated books if they enjoy reading, have the freedom to choose, and have access to a wide range of books. We let them do that. We are the book people. We are the information people. You are living in the age of the librarian.

Bottom line: Invest in a school librarian.  They are one of those teachers who wears the most hats in your school. They teach all of the students (and teachers). They are ever-changing and reinventing. A good certified full-time librarian per school can put your reading and technology climate   on FIRE!  Recognize that librarians are feeding the brains of the future.  Recognize this. We take that very seriously. You should too.

Suggested Reading:

*Baraboo School District. “Choosing a “Just Right” Book.” Youtube. N.p., 22 Nov. 2013. Web. 15 July 2017. <https://youtu.be/XxoF-FDQ6Qo>.
*Cregar, Elyse. “Browsing by Numbers and Reading for Points.” Knowledge Quest, vol. 39, no. 4, Mar/Apr2011, pp. 40-45. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=tfh&AN=60127371&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
*”Does Labeling Children’s Books Constitute Censorship?.” Reference & User Services Quarterly, vol. 52, no. 2, Winter2012, pp. 90-92. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=tfh&AN=84747597&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
*Eaglen, A. “Labeling the Dummies.” School Library Journal, vol. 36, no. 6, June 1990, p. 68. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=tfh&AN=9008061198&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
*Greene, Peter. “Librarians Take Reading Level Stand.” CURMUDGUCATION. N.p., 14 July 2017. Web. 15 July 2017. <http://curmudgucation.blogspot.com/2017/07/librarians-take-reading-level-stand.html?spref=fb>.
*Grigsby, Susan K. S. “The Story Is More Important Than the Words.” Knowledge Quest, vol. 43, no. 1, Sep/Oct2014, pp. 22-28. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=tfh&AN=97937359&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
*MOREILLON, JUDI. “Policy Challenge: Leveling the Library Collection.” School Library Monthly, vol. 29, no. 5, Feb. 2013, pp. 28-29. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=tfh&AN=86739754&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
*Admin. “Position Statement on Labeling Books with Reading Levels.” American Association of School Librarians (AASL). N.p., 04 Mar. 2016. Web. 15 July 2017.<http://www.ala.org/aasl/advocacy/resources/statements/labeling>.
*Admin. “Questions and Answers on Labeling and Rating Systems.” Advocacy, Legislation & Issues. N.p., 10 Jan. 2012. Web. 15 July 2017. <http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/librarybill/interpretations/qa-labeling>.
*Tanyareads. “How to Choose a Good Fit Book.” YouTube. YouTube, 14 Sept. 2013. Web. 15 July 2017. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwtHGh0PVHo>.

What I Learned From Failing the Google Certified Educator Level 1 Online Test by Angela Ferraris

fail

I woke up extra early today so I would not feel rushed as I made a medium-sized breakfast without coffee.  I thought the coffee would make me jittery or have to go to the bathroom. This was the day I was taking the three-hour long Google Certified Educator Level 1 Online Test.

Test Preparation study

Weeks before, I searched online for advice from other educators who took the test; noticing that several  people had failed and were surprised they failed.  That concerned me.   I had been studying the online training classes for three weeks now at the training center.    I knew that I had to make sure I knew everything that was taught in those fundamentals training courses, so I looked further online for more advice.

I had gone over the skill checklist that Eric Curts had put together. I read Sylvia Duckworth’s blog How to pass the Google Certification Exams.  I viewed several of Brett Petrillo’s prep sessions  on Youtube when I wasn’t sure about an app.  I checked through the topics on the Google for Education Help Forum and even made a set of study flashcards on Quizlet. 

I have been using some of the apps for years. The others, I practiced being sure to explore all of the features.  I was confident this morning. I put in the hours. I felt like I knew those apps inside and out; even the new updates.

Equipment and Room Preparation 

I had done my hair and makeup for the camera that was going to watch me during the test to make sure I was not letting someone else take the test for me.  I had a backup Chromebook all updated and ready to go just in case something happened to the first one.  The cats were fed and sleeping. My husband had the TV on mute. I had my notes beside me. I  had gum, cookies, and water nearby. The fan was on across the room just in case it got warm. I went to the bathroom beforehand. I had my mindset in positive mode and ready to pass this test somewhere in the 90s percentile.

I logged in with the special website, username and password. My camera came on showing my smiling face with the closed blinds behind me and all the lights on in the room to prevent the glare that happened yesterday during the trial run. I took a deep yoga breath. I wiped my hands on my skort, and  I clicked to start the exam.

Taking the Test  

I began the test checking each multiple choice question and answers twice. I went on to the tasks.  I had no idea that I was being a snail. I just went along at my normal speed. I was not aware of the time passing until my husband sneaked up the steps and waved that he was leaving. That was when I realized that two hours had gone by.  I was never going to make it! I remained calm not really sure just how much of the test I had to go. “Just focus on what is on hand. Stay calm. You know this,” I told myself. The cat jumped up on the table and startled me. I gently pushed him down.

I continued and after a while I  noticed for the first time that there was a clock on above my camera image. Had it always been there?  I was down to my last fifteen minutes. I knew I wasn’t going to make it. I watched in defeat as the clock’s last few seconds ran out, and the screen changed.

The Results      

I think I was 3/4ths of the way finished. I waited for verification. I failed. All the air was released from my body. My shoulders slumped.  I felt a kick in the gut. I had not failed a test in many decades. I forgot that feeling.  The sudden blow of mixed emotions. I felt like screaming and crying. I know this stuff!  I was just too slow. Too slow. I closed the Chromebook and went downstairs to make lunch. I was so depressed that I did not want to eat.

The test results e-mail listed three topics that it thought I should work on. I smiled at that e-mail, because I was just starting to do those when the time ran out. It wasn’t that I did not know them. I knew them. I was just too slow. I felt old. I felt frustrated. I knew my short attention span had something to do with it.  I realized then just how much emotion my students must have felt when they had to take long tests. I can barely remember having this feeling of defeat before when taking a test. I was the student who worked really hard and got the A. Not this time.

Acknowledging and Self-Talk 

What would I have told a student if this happened to her or him? Growth mindset. “Okay. Yes, you failed this test, but you are not a failure.  It’s going to be okay. Let’s move past the failure.  What do you know? What do you not know? What can  you do to pass in two weeks? You can do this.” I started to make a to-do list and realized that I had to practice getting faster. Faster with the apps that I had already been using for years. I would just have to become so familiar with them that I would not need to think where a feature was located. I would just move the cursor right to it in a second.  I could do this. I am not too old for technology. I use it all the time. I use these apps at work and in my personal life. I just need to move faster. I can adapt. I’ll set off a timer every half hour. I got myself back on track. I had a plan.

Moving Past It  

I then heard my husband’s car coming up the drive. I knew he would ask. I had to tell him that I failed. I did not finish. I was too slow.  That was the hard part. He. My friends. Family. Knew how much I had studied. My choice was to acknowledge failure, figure out what I learned from it, and come up with a way to not let it happen again. Failing has taught me that I had to self-reflect with blatant honesty and learn how to succeed next time. Well, I sure hope I succeed next time. I can do this! I have two weeks to move from a technology sloth to a savvy, technology tiger.

11 Qualities I Look for That Make a Good Picture Book by Angela Ferraris

Ten Characteristics

How and Where

I was asked how I decided what picture books end up on my book review blog.  I do not review books on my blog in exchange for a free copy of that book. I look through several  book sources featuring the newest picture books being released and then reserve them at the public library. Ironic that I live on the same street as the library? Well…it was one of the attributes of buying the house.

I should add that I am fortunate to be in an area of the USA where several of the library systems are ranked highly in the nation. I often am able to add a reserve to books that are “on order” and not even released yet.  I appreciate the quickness that librarians in the  Central Library Consortium of Central Ohio Libraries catalog and process those books and get them into the libraries for people like me always hungry for the latest in picture book literacy.

Sorry. I digress.  Not a surprise. I have the attention span of a hummingbird. That could be why I prefer picture books over children’s chapter books? So, that is how and where I get the picture books. But, what is it that I think makes a picture book worthy of being reviewed on my blog? There are eleven qualities that I look for as I’m going through the large piles sitting on my dining room table.

11 Qualities

Because picture books really rely on the story being told with illustrations more than other types of books,  I have to admit that I look at the cover first and then flip through to look at the pictures. Do they match the spirit of the story? Are they unique? Do they vary with close-ups, double-page spreads, and  white space? Would another medium have worked better?

Title. Catchy title? Is it funny? Do the words rhyme? Is the font scary or silly in the title? Kids do judge a book by its cover and the title really can grab a child’s attention (and mine). Will it be remembered easily? Does it sound like another famous book?

I look at the type of font that is used. Is it in cursive? I have many students who sadly cannot read the cover’s title, because cursive writing is not taught until they are older (or even at all). Is the font large enough for a child to read?  A smaller font usually tells me that the picture book is one that an adult would read to a child.  Since I’m an elementary school librarian, I am looking for books that my students can read with a large font.  Does the font’s size vary with the actions and conversations in the book? Are there different fonts for different emotions?

The words. Does it have word patterns or words kids like to say? Does it have a repeating refrain that kids would like to say? Is there alliteration? “Fee Fi Fo Fum” Does it rhyme well, or is it too cliché? Are there words kids like to say aloud like “underwear” or “banana”? How is the rhythm of the book? Does it match the illustrations? Onomatopoeia?  Similes? Metaphors?

Is the theme of the book something children find interesting in their world? Can they relate to the story? Sometimes it is okay at the beginning if they have no idea what the theme is as long as they know it by the end of the book. Is the theme too mature or immature for the targeted age group?

Is it funny? Is it kid-friendly humor or hokey? Does it give a funny perspective to a common situation? Students are always asking me for funny books. If it is not funny, and let’s say, a serious story, is it told in a way that young readers can understand?

How does the story flow? How is the plot? Does the plot move along?  Is there a problem that needs to be solved?Are there so many characters that the reader cannot remember them? Can they identify with the characters? Is there a resolution? Are the readers able to relate to the problem and how it is solved? Is the story too long or wordy?

Is there any participation from the reader? Interactive? Do they have a role? Will it make the students think of comments or questions in their heads as they read? What if  it is a story without words? Will students be able to think of the story as they see the illustrations?

I look for  diversity, multiculturalism, and various relationships. Is this a book about children that are not usually represented? I want all children to find books in the library that are like them, but also books not like them as well. Will this book help them understand others like them and others NOT like them? Will this expand their world? Will this encourage connections with others? Will the book open their horizons to other worlds? Will they see themselves in the story for the first time? Will they understand a fellow student’s life a little more after reading the book?

Sometimes,  a book just stands out. Unique. No one has done anything like it before. The reader experiences a shared aesthetic experience with other readers. Do we think about the book after it is read? Do students talk to me about it a week later? Do they retell the story to Wolf Wolf, our library’s stuffed plush?

Curriculum. (I can hear the groans from here). Yes.  Sometimes I am actually thinking, “Wow. This book really explains a certain unit of study, or this book could be read first as a hook to a certain unit of study.” I know. I know. But, sometimes, a good picture book can make the topic more understandable for children. Fun.

Two Things I Avoid

I have had several teachers ask me to buy a book just because of the author. Well, that gets tricky. I don’t want to buy books by an author just because they received an award for a book written two decades ago. I expect the same quality.  If the book is not up to snuff, so to speak, I don’t review it. I do buy it though for the library if a teacher requests it  as part of their classroom author study. I am sort of a softy about teacher requests.

I do not write-up bad reviews for books.   I may read 30-40 picture books before I find one that I feel deserves to be in my blog. So, I do not want to write-up all those books I did not choose and why as well as those I think  stand out.  But, just because it is not in the blog does not mean I did read it. There are thousands and thousands of books these days. I’m so excited to see all of the Canadian, British, and Australian books now immigrating into the USA bookstores and libraries. So many new books each year. What an exciting time to live.  It would not be impossible for me to miss some great ones.

Why

My passion has always been picture books and now I can share that with more people through the internet as well as with my school’s staff and students. It makes me happy to be able to do this now and work as an elementary school librarian. It has also been a blessing to be on the same avenue as a public library. This is quite a convenience.  I go in several times a week and usually with my husband in tow to help me carry all the books. By the way, yes, at times, my house does look like an explosion of books and cat toys all over the place. I have a very patient and understanding husband with a great sense of humor.

 

Top Five St. Patrick’s Day Picture Books That I Like to Read by Angela Ferraris

stpatrick'sday

It’s almost that time again when there will be  a sea of little  green people walking down the hallways. Holidays are big with children. They plan, dream, and celebrate more than we do. We all should stop, and take more notice of the holidays. Teaching in an elementary school does that. Some holidays involve special foods. Some involve candy. St. Patrick’s Day is about color. Kids with green hair, painted green faces, or glittery shamrocks on their cheeks. Everyone wore green when I was a kid, and if you forgot, sneaky pinching was done to you. The teachers never saw it.  No pinching is allowed now.

It is this Friday; the last day before spring break. Oh, and yes, it’s hat day too. Could someone check to see if it will be the full moon as well? Oh, wait. That’s today. (Maybe that is why the Maine Coon keeps meowing in my face?) Daylight savings today. Tomorrow, we’re suppose to get snow. Oh, and don’t forget about that AIR testing this week. (Correction: They are actually AFTER spring break!) What a busy week. Thank heavens I was evaluated last week.

I hope I remember to wear green on Friday (and a hat; maybe a green hat). Last year, I forgot. I was asked a bazillion times by a bazillion elementary students why I didn’t wear green like everyone else. The green paper shamrock I pinned to my shirt was not cutting it with them. I’m not going through that again.

I somehow have digressed. Here are some of the St. Patrick’s Day picture books I enjoy sharing:

*(I may get a commission for purchases made through links in this post through the Amazon Affiliate Program.  Books reviewed were checked out of the public library and not sent to me free for review).

St. Patrick's Day Gail Gibbons

St. Patrick’s Day by Gail Gibbons 1994 Buy here.*

Green Shamrocks

Green Shamrocks by Eve Bunting 2011 Buy here.

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Clover by Lucille Colandro 2012 Buy here.*

 

Jamie O’Rourke and the Big Potatoe by Tomie dePaola 1997 Buy here.*

 

How to Catch a Leprechaun

How to Catch a Leprechaun by Adam Wallace. 2016 Buy here.*

When Did You First Meet Dr. Seuss? by Angela Ferraris

When Did you First Meet Dr. Seuss?

It was in first  grade when I first met the world of Seussville and not in the usual way a six year  old would be introduced to that world. I did not have a school library. My parents had not yet discovered the several public libraries in our area. I do not think it ever occurred to them to buy books as gifts.  No book fairs. No Scholastic Classroom Book Clubs. We lived way out in the middle of nowhere; in the middle of farm fields. Our stories were from our imaginations or from the cartoons shown on one of the three channels we had. No one our age was around  for miles. We were very limited when it came to stories.

My grandmother gave us one of the most important gifts ever. She had bought my sister and me a year’s long subscription of Dr. Seuss books. One would magically appear in the mailbox at the end of the long graveled driveway.  I never knew when the flat rectangular cardboard box would arrive. I had not put together they would arrive every month. My sister and I would race down the driveway after seeing the mailman move to the next house. Nope. Just letters. We would slowly walk back to the house. Next day. No. Again. Another walk back with the cats. Tails held high with a little crook. Rubbing around our legs as we handed our mom the long envelopes.

I would open the metal box and peer in day after day. Just grown-up mail. Then there were the magical days.  My heart would leap as I reached in pulling cardboard out. My sister and I would smile as we ran back up the driveway with the cats running after us. We would sit on the stoop while I tore open the box revealing another Dr. Seuss book. I would immediately read it aloud since my sister could not read yet. We would laugh and point at the crazy creatures and repeat the rhyming words. We bonded then. She learned how to read. I learned how to be a  librarian. The cats played with the boxes.

Then the books stopped coming. The mail was just letters that I had to get from the mailbox after the school bus released me at the end of the driveway.  We assumed that those were all the books he must have written as we looked at our books over and over. We had not yet been taken to a library. We had no idea what a library was or that a treasure trove of Dr. Seuss books waited inside.  That would not happen until second grade.

Ten Cool Bookmarks…Just for You…Not the Kids by Angela Ferraris

Just for YouIt is that time again when I see bookmarks sprinkled all over the library’s carpet–between the islands, under the table, and by the rocking chair. I am standing by the Smartboard that has the large infograph slide of the library’s time structure. I just finished the mini-lesson about World Book Kids. There was inside recess–again. The students are full of energy and ready to go to number 3–browse.

“Fast five!” I firmly say raising my right hand with fingers spread. They raise their hand with fingers spread and mimic me as I slowly and silently count down to zero with my fingers and then flutter down to my side at the conclusion.

“Do you think when I see bookmarks on the floor that I want to buy more bookmarks for you or not buy more bookmarks?” I ask.

“Not buy more bookmarks,” a small voice answers.

Someone raises a hand and points out that the bookmark box is empty. “When are you going to put out more bookmarks?”

“I put them out each month. When they are gone; they are gone.”

“But there aren’t any in there now.”

“Yes. I put out four hundred on the first of each month. That is why you may only take one. If you have a bookmark that is in good condition and you no longer want it, you may put it in the bookmark box.”

“But I need a bookmark now. The box is empty.”

“Remember when we talked about if you do not have a bookmark that a piece of scrap paper could be used instead? The scrap paper is in the scrap paper box. You may make a bookmark after checking out your books. The crayons are in the crayon box.”

“But I want a REAL bookmark. The box is empty.”

“Well, the next group of bookmarks do not come out until March 1st. I suggest you look on the floor.”

Ten Cool Book Marks

(prices as of 2/08/17)

Chinese Style Metal Bookmarks 4 Pcs,JoyTong Golden Hollow Mini Creative Book Mark,Plum flower(mei),Orchid (lan),Bamboo(zhu),Chrysanthemum (ju)

4 Chinese Style Metal Bookmarks  
$8.99

Metal Bookmark Ruler Set of 4,JoyTong Creative Hollow Mini Cute Bookmarks Template (Carousel,Birdcage,Hot Air Balloon,Tub)

Metal Bookmark Ruler Set of 4, JoyTong Creative Hollow Mini Cute Bookmarks Template (Carousel,Birdcage,Hot Air Balloon,Tub)
$9.99

Long Magnetic Bookmarks - Longer Premium Beautiful Page Markers Chakra Colors Useful Info On Chakras No Scratch To Your Pages Or Metal Surfaces (Set of 8 Pieces, 1 x 3.2 inch Folded Size)

Long Magnetic Bookmarks – Longer Premium Beautiful Page Markers Chakra Colors Useful Info On Chakras No Scratch To Your Pages Or Metal Surfaces (Set of 8 Pieces, 1 x 3.2 inch Folded Size)
$12.98

D & B Mixed Designs of Antiqued Bronze Colour Elegant Metal Bookmark [Set of 14] $17.50

D & B Mixed Designs of Antiqued Bronze Colour Elegant Metal Bookmark [Set of 14]
$17.50

Harry Potter Crest Bookmark Collection

Harry Potter Crest Bookmark Collection
$39.50

wicked witch handmade bookmark

Wicked Witch Handmade Bookmark
$24.99

premium-quality-color-silicone-bookmark-6-pack

Premium Quality Color Silicone Bookmark – 6 Pack $5.99

Fred & Friends PAUSE Cassette Bookmarks, Set of 2 $7.13

Fred & Friends PAUSE Cassette Bookmarks, Set of 2
$7.13

Oriental Carpet Bookmarks - Authentic Woven Carpet (Set of 4) Assorted Designs $17.95

Oriental Carpet Bookmarks – Authentic Woven Carpet (Set of 4) Assorted Designs
$17.95

Serenity Beaded Bookmark

Serenity Beaded Bookmark
$2.95

(I may get a commission for purchases made through links in this post through the Amazon Affiliate Program.  Books reviewed were checked out of the public library and not sent to me free for review).

Love is All Around Us: 12 Valentine’s Day and Love Picture Books by Angela Ferraris

valentines-day-1955238_1920

Valentine’s Day. Do you remember your elementary valentine days? I still remember decades later.

Valentine Art

I recall learning how to make a large heart by cutting on the line the teacher had drawn on my folded-in-half red construction paper. Another year, we traced around heart stencils made of heavy stock paper.  Once, I thought I was so clever when I was able to cover a construction paper heart with tin foil and imprinted “I love you” on it with a small plastic knitting needle.

Penmanship

I was given a list of all the students in my class sometime before the week of the love holiday. It was always the rule that we had to give everyone a valentine whether you loved that person or not.  Thank heavens children’s valentines were very inexpensive or my parents would have made me make all of mine. Let’s just say I was not bad at art, but not good at it either.  I sat at the kitchen table printing my name on all of the valentines, sealed them, and wrote each child’s name on the envelope. Parents did not write out their child’s cards then. There really were not too many helicopter parents yet. Through practice, we developed our own handwriting style and recognized each other’s handwriting on those cards. Sometimes, there would be a student with signed valentines but with blank unaddressed envelopes. I remember wondering why.

The Day Has Arrived

In primary grades, we wrote our name across the top of a paper bag, decorated it with crayons,  and taped it  on the front of our desk with masking tape. In the intermediate grades, we were to make our own Valentine boxes at home and bring them in to set on our desk the day of the party. We passed out those little valentines in white envelopes early in the morning. We could not wait to open our valentines after lunch.  Heart-shaped frosted cookies. Red punch mustaches. Seeing who could withstand the most red hots at one time. Reading and eating little chalky hearts from a tiny box.

After the Big Party

I would get off the school bus and walk up the long driveway carrying my treasures.  Mom would share her large box of chocolates.  It was fun then, but things changed in middle school, high school, college and now. As adults, we do not have to pass out valentines to everyone, just to those we cherish. I still have some of those kept in a box somewhere in the back of a closet.

Picture Books

I never read a Valentine’s Day picture book before I went to library school. I do not recall any of my teachers reading one to us in the classroom. I did not have an elementary library where I could hunt for the red heart sticker on the spine. The only story about Valentine’s Day I remember was the special on TV that only aired once a year–“Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown.” I learned empathy towards others from that story.  My heart ached for poor Charlie Brown.

llamallamailoveyou

Llama Llama I Love You by Anna Dewdney

petethecatvalentinesdayiscool

Pete the Cat: Valentine’s Day is Cool by Kimberly and James Dean

lovefromtheveryhungrycaterpillar

Love from the Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

happyvalentinesdaycuriousgeorge

Happy Valentine’s Day, George! by H.A. Rey, N. Di Angelo, Mary O’ Keefe Young

thedayitrainedhearts

The Day It Rained Hearts by Felicia Bond

loveyouforever

Love You Forever by Robert Munsch and Sheila McGraw

guesshowmuchiloveyou

Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram

cliffordsfirstvalentinesday

Clifford’s First Valentine’s Day by Norman Bridwill

froggysfirstkiss

Froggy’s First Kiss by Jonathan London and Frank Remkiewicz

Here Come Valentine Cat by Deborah Underwood and Claudia Rueda

Here Come Valentine Cat by Deborah Underwood and Claudia Rueda

thebiggestvalentineever

The Biggest Valentine Ever by Steven Kroll and Jeni Bassett

lovesplat

Love, Splat by Rob Scotton

Preparing for Groundhog Day: Short Video Clips, Picture Books, and Nonfiction Books by Angela Ferraris

Preparing for Groundhog DayI have noticed that many of my little students do not know about animals like I did when I was a child. I first found this out when reading The Three Billy Goats Gruff. Over half the class had not seen or were familiar with goats. Learning from my students,  I often pair picture books and nonfiction books for my story times. I also found they love when I add short videos with the animals in their habitat.

Short Youtube Videos about Groundhogs

Groundhog Day by MOnature Kids (2:48) Short clip about groundhogs and Groundhog Day.

The History of Groundhog Day by WatchMojo.com (3:40) Short clip about the history of Groundhog’s Day

Fun Facts About Groundhogs by SciShow Kids (3:44) Jessi explains about groundhogs and some very special ones known around the nation.

Picture Books About Groundhogs or Groundhog Day

Groundhog Gets a Say

Groundhog Gets a Say by Pamela Curtis Swallow; illustrated by Denise Brunkus. 2005.

Grumpy Groundhog

Grumpy Groundhog by Maureen Wright; illustrated by Amanda Haley. 2014.

Punxsutawney Phyllis by Susanna Leonard Hill, illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler. 2005.

Punxsutawney Phyllis by Susanna Leonard Hill, illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler. 2005.

Gregory's Shadow

Gregory’s Shadow written and illustrated by Don Freeman. 2002.

whowillseetheirshadowsthisyear

Who Will See Their Shadows This Year? by Jerry Pallotta; illustrated by David Biedrzycki. 2011.

Groundhog Weather School by Joan Holub; illustrated by Kristin Sorra. 2009.

Groundhog Weather School by Joan Holub; illustrated by Kristin Sorra. 2009.

Groundhog's Runaway Shadow written and illustrated by David Biedrzycki. 2016.

Groundhog’s Runaway Shadow written and illustrated by David Biedrzycki. 2016.

Nonfiction Groundhog or Groundhog Day Books

Preparing for Groundhog's Day

Groundhogs by Chadwick Gillenwater. 2013. Capstone Press; Pebble Plus.  A primary nonfiction book with the very simple and basic information about groundhogs and their burrows.

Preparing for Groundhog's Day

Groundhogs: Woodchucks, Marmots, and Whistle Pigs by Adele D. Richardson. 2003. Capstone. Basic facts about groundhogs.

Preparing for Groundhog's Day

Groundhog Day by Julie Murray. 2014. ABCO Publishing Company. Discusses the European origin of Groundhog Day, the characteristics of groundhogs, and the famous groundhog Punxsutawney Phil.

groundhog day

Groundhog Day! by Gail Gibbons; illustrated by Gail Gibbons. 2006. Holiday House. Discusses about groundhogs and how Groundhog Day originated.

Groundhog's Burrow

Groundhog’s Burrow by Dee Phillips. 2012. Bearport Publishing. Colorful photos and diagrams discussing groundhogs, groundhog burrows, and the origins and traditions of Groundhog Day.

(I may get a commission for purchases made through links in this post through the Amazon Affiliate Program.  Books reviewed were checked out of the public library and not sent to me free for review).