Second Grade: Thumbs Up for "The Incredible Book Eating Boy"

Another June, another school year coming to a close. Up here in New England we keep 'em in class until almost the end of the month. I've been a volunteer classroom reader for a while now, and I love it, even the unpredictable nature of the last few weeks of the academic year. I read in the afternoon, and sometimes the second graders are almost sleeping, exhausted from the heat (no a.c. at this school) and other times they are buzzing around the room like bees in a hive. They are always ready to listen to a read-aloud, though.

Earlier this week I shared Oliver Jeffers' picture book The Incredible Book Eating Boy because the kids asked to hear something funny. Until it dawns on him to read books, the protagonist, Henry, eats them. Things get out of hand, naturally, before Henry's epiphany. The back cover and last few pages are missing a bit-sized chunk, and we readers talked a lot about that. I had to walk around the room and show everyone. Henry really bit it! Or did he? I'm going to buy one for the class so that the kids can pore over all the fun details. (I had to return my copy to the library.)

Other books that the group enjoyed include Harry Allard and James Marshall's Miss Nelson Is Missing!, Meg Medina and Claudio Muñoz's Tia Isa Wants a Car, Adam Rubin and Daniel Salmieri's Dragons Love Tacos, and Dav Pilkey's wacky Dogzilla and Kat Kong. Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin's Giggle, Giggle, Quack garnered the most guffaws.

I run into alumni—third, fourth, fifth graders—all the time at the school. "Remember when you used to read with us?" they ask. The kids grow up so quickly. What a gift I've been given to be able to spend time with them and talk about books.

June 26, 2014. Edited to add: I forgot to mention Peter Brown's subversive Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, another big favorite.


Chicken Spaghetti's Best Kids' Books 2013: A List of Lists and Awards

6a00d834516d9569e200e550070a188834-150wiYippee! It's "best books of the year" season. Once again I'll be gathering the online lists of best kids' books right here. The Chicken Spaghetti compilation features books published in 2013, no matter when the list or awards are announced. Readers can expect to see this post amended many times, especially over the next few months.

Looking for older titles? Since this blog has been around a while, you'll find more Chicken Spaghetti lists at the following links: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012.

Don't miss Largehearted Boy's amazing annual roundup of all the best-book lists.

And please do give me a holler if you see any I've overlooked, via Susan_Thomsen on Twitter or c_spaghetti AT yahoo DOT com.

*****

AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books: Finalists and winners

Air & Space magazine/Smithsonian: Aviation- and space-themed children's books

Alex Awards

Amazon: Ages 0-2 (board books)
Amazon: Ages 3-5
Amazon: Ages 6-8
Amazon: Ages 9-12
Amazon: Editors' picks, including teen and young adults

Amelia Bloomer Project (feminist books for children)

American Indian Youth Literature Award

Arthur Ellis Awards. Presented by the Crime Writers of Canada, prizes include a children's/YA category.

Asian Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA) Awards

Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC): Tween Recommended Reads (PDF file; books from 2012 and 2013)

Band of Thebes. 92 writers recommend best LGBT books of the year, including a couple of YA titles. (Some older books on this list, too.)

Bank Street Children's Book Committee Awards

Bank Street College: Best Children's Books

Barnes and Noble

Batchelder Award (for books in translation)

Bellingham (WA) Herald

Belmont (MA) Public Library Children's Room

Blue Peter Book Awards shortlist (UK)

Boing Boing Gift Guide: Books (some YA and kids' titles in a longer list)

Book Diaries: Picture books

Bookie Woogie

Booklist: Arts
Booklist: Audiobooks
Booklist: Black history
Booklist: Crafts and gardening
Booklist: Religion and spirituality
Booklist: Science and health
Booklist: Sports

BookPage

Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards. Titles from 2013 and 2014.

Brain Pickings

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. Annual gift guide (PDF) includes 2013 titles and older books. Also, Blue Ribbons (best-of-the-year books).

BuzzFeed Books

CONTINUED AFTER BREAK

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Reading with Second Graders: A Squirrelly Story

Eastern Grey Squirrel

 

School has started and with it my volunteer gig as a classroom reader in a city school. After a year with third graders, I am back with the second grade. I follow the same teacher wherever she goes. If Ms. B. heads to kindergarten next year, I'll tag along.

I'm finding that I need to readjust to a younger group; some of my picture-book selections so far have been too wordy. And too big-wordy at that. But Earl the Squirrel? Perfect! It's one of my favorites anyway. Published in 2005 (fifty years after it was written), the book is by Don Freeman, of Corduroy fame. The young Earl gains some independence after discovering an unusual way to find acorns. The plot involves a bull who sees red.

Since taking a workshop at the Eric Carle Museum, I've spent more class time with the art, talking about a book's cover, end pages, and so on. Actually I try to get the kids talking and thinking about the book's art. They are great observers and always notice things that I didn't. Freeman used scratchboard for Earl the Squirrel, which features only three colors: black, white, and a very important red. The students got a real kick of the different ways the red color was employed.

The story of how the Earl manuscript was re-discovered in Don Freeman's papers can be found here. 

Photograph by BirdPhotos.com (BirdPhotos.com) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Third Grade Picture Book Read-Alouds

The last school year was a good one for reading aloud with third graders. After participating in an online class on the Caldecott Medal and a workshop on the "whole book approach" at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, I feel like both our class discussions and my book choices improved. 

Here are the best of the books I read aloud in 2012-2013. The children were great about drawing connections and seeing parallels, often coming up with things I had not noticed.

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs, by Mo Willems (Balzer & Bray, 2012) and The Three Bears, by Paul Galdone (Clarion, 1972). Willems' spin on the classic tale tickled me, but the kids especially appreciated the Galdone version and even laughed more at it. The exact opposite of what I expected—which is one reason I love reading with a group like this. You just never know.

Veronica, by Roger Duvoisin (Knopf, 1961, 2006).  A hippo with a big behind at sea in the big city, where she is most definitely "conspicuous." Fun way to teach everyone a new word. As a big fan of Duvoisin's Petunia books, I want to track down Our Veronica Goes to Petunia's Farm. I didn't realize that the two had ever met.

The Funny Little Woman, written by Arlene Mosel and illustrated by Blair Lent (Dutton, 1972). Winner of the 1973 Caldecott, this Japanese folk tale and another, The Furry-Legged Teapot (Marshall Cavendish, 2007),  provoked long, on-topic conversations. Tim Myers wrote the latter, and Robert McGuire illustrated it. The class loved the oni (ogres) in The Funny Little Woman and the tanuki (raccoon dog) in the other. 

Library Lion, written by Michelle Knudsen and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes (Candlewick, 2006). The kids pointed out that I favored books about animals who don't fit in at first. Hmm. Little therapists in the making?

Dragons Love Tacos, written by Adam Rubin and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri (Dial, 2012). Wonderfully funny.

National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry: 200 Poems That Squeak, Soar, and Roar, edited by J. Patrick Lewis (National Geographic, 2012). I read five or six short poems, then left it in the classroom for a few weeks so that everyone got a chance to read as much as he or she wanted. Very popular. Large color photographs of animals enhance the book's appeal. 

Me and Momma and Big John, written by Mara Rockliff and illustrated by William Low (Candlewick, 2012). Momma is a stone cutter at New York's unfinished Cathedral of St. John the Divine. I chose this one because it was an honor book for the Charlotte Zolotow Award, which recognizes picture book text. The Zolotow winner, Each Kindness (written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E.B. Lewis), was also on our list. There was not a huge conversation about it the day I read the book. Months later, though, someone brought it up in regard to another story, and several kids chimed in with details. They really remembered this picture book and its lessons on inclusion well. Each Kindness (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin, 2012) also won a Coretta Scott King Award author honor.

Owl Moon, written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by John Schoenherr (Philomel, 1987), is a beautiful book; in fact, it won the Caldecott Medal. This selection was the biggest surprise to me in that the class did not respond to it much. Too quiet? Too outdoorsy for the screen-time generation? Maybe it works better one-on-one. I remember my own kiddo liking it.

It Jes' Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw (Lee & Low, 2012). I wrote about our delightful experience with Don Tate and R. Gregory Christie's book earlier back in January.

Broken Beaks, written by Nathaniel Lachenmeyer and illustrated by Robert R. Ingpen (Michelle Anderson, 2003) A touching story about a homeless man and an injured sparrow who befriend each other. It provides an gentle opening for talking about mental illness, too.

Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team, written by Audrey Vernick and illustrated by Steven Salerno (Clarion, 2012), made a fun start to spring. The boys and girls had just read Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates (written by Jonah Winter, with art by Raul Colon; Atheneum, 2005) in class, so they had a lot to say.

Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing, written by Judi Barrett and drawn by Ron Barrett (Atheneum, 1970). I brought something really fun and silly for the last reading of the year, and told the third graders that this was the kind of book they could read to younger siblings, cousins, or friends. After all, it contains many hilarious visual jokes. I reminded the students that they were role models. We talked about what that meant, and everyone piped up with an idea of whom he or she could read to over the summer.


For Picture Book Fans: Charlotte Zolotow Award 2013

9780399246524HThe Cooperative Children's Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison announced the winner of the 2013 Charlotte Zolotow Award, which honors picture book text: Each Kindness, written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E.B. Lewis. 

CCBC also named some honor books: Flabbersmashed About You, written by Rachel Vail and illustrated by Yumi Heo; Me and Momma and Big John, written by Mara Rockliff and illustrated by William Low; and Sleep Like a Tiger, written by Mary Logue and illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski. Nine additional titles were "highly commended." That's a lot of good reading ahead for all of us picture book aficionados.

I plan to share Each Kindness with the third graders and maybe with a couple of fourth-grade friends whose class is having troubles getting along. Monica Edinger, a fourth grade teacher in New York, reviewed the picture book at her blog, Educating Alice, citing its "exquisitely spare and poetic prose."


Bill Traylor & the Third Graders


MainAt the start of the school year in September, I found out that Ms. B. had moved up from 2nd grade to 3rd. Ms. B. was the teacher in the public school classroom where I read picture books aloud for the last two years, and I insisted on following her she invited me along to Grade 3. I happily made the switch. Ms. B. runs an efficient class in which the children seem happy, and she treats her students with respect. There are 30 kids in this year's group, much too big a contingent for the reading rug, which is both good and bad. No more elbow wars among the back-row listeners, but harder for everyone to see the pictures in the book. I try to walk around alot.

Because of weather and consequent half days, delayed report-card conferences, and so on, I've been lucky to read once or twice a month. (As a volunteer, I aim for weekly.) But we've still had a good time. Well, except for the day I read Mrs. McTats and Her Houseful of Cats, a Seussian tale of stray felines, when guffaw-inducing descriptions of dog house-training challenges (completely unrelated to the book) overtook the post-reading discussion. It happens.

Several weeks before, the class and I had had the most fantastic conversation about It Jes' Happened, Don Tate's picture-book biography of Bill Traylor. A self-taught artist and former slave, Traylor (1854-1949) began creating his art in his eighties, drawing from his memories of the Alabama farm where he had grown up and lived. The kids were intrigued, and had lots to say about the book. Since they're citified Northeasterners, I explained what a mule was; the donkey-horse crosses and other animals were some of Traylor's favorite subjects. Ms. B. turned to the computer-connected Smart Board projection system and showed some examples of Traylor's work. 

One boy wanted to know about Traylor's wife: "Is she dead?" (A very third-grade response. I remember my 13-year-old at the same age.) Others wondered what happened to Traylor's children. Were author Don Tate and illustrator Gregory Christie his sons? (No, but wouldn't that be cool?) They puzzled over Traylor's living circumstances; he was homeless at times in Montgomery, AL, and sometimes bedded down in a funeral parlor. Many seemed amazed (and relieved) that museums now held many pieces of Traylor's art.

 As I was leaving the class, one of the girls pulled me aside, and quietly asked, "Are mules really real?" "Yes, " I whispered back. "They are." I loved the idea that someone thought that the hardworking farm animals were in the same magical realm as unicorns and dragons. Maybe Traylor thought so, too.

Books

Mrs. McTats and Her Houseful of Cats
Written by Alyssa Satin Capucilli; illustrated by Joan Rankin
Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, 2001
(from our personal library of favorite picture books)

It Jes' Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw
Written by Don Tate; illustrated by R. Gregory Christie
Lee & Low Books, 2012
(review copy)

For additional information, see  "Guest Post: Don Tate on 'It Jes' Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw," at the blog Cynsations, and "Jes' a Hit: An Interview with Don Tate," at The Brown Bookshelf.


Best Books Season Begins! Book Lists Galore

Let it snow! For those of us who love a good list, the last two months of the year bring a flurry of online "best of the year" roundups of books. Starting in 2008, I've been collecting the lists for children's books, including links to various newspapers, magazines, journals, and blogs, as well as different literature prizes and awards given out. I update the big list often.

Here is a link to this year's page:

The Best Children's Books of 2012: A List of Lists and Awards

Also, David Gutowski collects all the "best of" lists for books (for grown-ups and kids alike) at his blog, Largehearted Boy.

Meanwhile, speaking of snow, don't miss Kids' Science Books for Stormy Weather, at Scientific American's Budding Scientist blog.


2012 Australian Children's Book Awards

The blog of Boomerang Books, an Australian bookstore, brings news of the Aussie children's books of the year, announced today.

Bob Graham's A Bus Called Heaven is the picture book of the year; it's available here in the US, too. I could live in a Bob Graham book and be perfectly happy—humor and generosity abound.

The website of the Children's Book Council of Australia, sponsor of the prizes, seems to be down at the moment. When it's fixed, I will link it here.

Added later: Children's Book Council of Australia: Book of the Year 2012 Winners


2012 "Growing Good Kids" Book Awards

GGK-seal-for-web

The Junior Master Gardener Program and the American Horticultural Society announced the winners of the "Growing Good Kids" Book Awards on July 20th. This year's blue-ribbon crop is as follows:

The Mangrove Tree: Planting Trees to Feed Families, by Susan L. Roth & Cindy Trumbore (Lee & Low)

Meadowlands: A Wetlands Survival Story, by Thomas F. Yerzerski (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Planting the Wild Garden, written by Kathryn O. Galbraith and illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin (Peachtree)

For more information about the prizes, which honor "engaging, inspiring works of plant, garden, and ecology-themed children's literature," go to the Junior Master Gardener website. Don't miss the list of classics, which includes Miss Rumphius, The Lorax, Too Many Pumpkins, among many others.


Second-Grade Read-Aloud Resource: 50 Multicultural Books...

This summer I'm spending some time thinking about the picture books I will read to next year's second-grade class. My volunteer gig at an ethnically and economically diverse city public school is an all-time favorite activity of mine, but I'm always looking for ways to improve the experience for the children. When fall rolls around, I'd like to be better prepared with a strong list of books and additional background reading of my own.

Keeping in mind prior classes will help, too. For example, when we talk about "fiction" and "nonfiction," I'm going to put the words out on index cards so the children can see them written out. In lovely and heartfelt thank-you notes from the last group, a couple of the spellers-by-ear thought I was saying "fishin" and "nonfishin," which is adorable, but note cards will go a ways to clearing that up.

In terms of selecting books, this terrific list, among others, will come in handy: "50 Multicultural Books Every Child Should Know,"  from the Cooperative Children's Book Center, at the University of Wisconsin. It offers a good selection of titles, broken down into age groups ( "Preschool," "Ages 5-7," etc.). I wish I'd remembered to read Uncle Peter's Amazing Chinese Wedding to the 2011-2012 students. Reading through these books this summer should be fun!