Last week I had the pleasure of witnessing an innovative use for a web cam—book discussion! Spotsylvania school librarians at Chancellor, Freedom, Post Oak, Spotsylvania and Thornburg Middle Schools combined forces, and their own excitement, to virtually bring students together in a way that otherwise would require buses and permission slips. The event, “Cookies and Conversation,” allowed students to discuss books with participants at other schools while eating cookies in the comfort of their home library.
I love reading biographies. Perhaps its sheer nosiness, but I am fascinated by the stories of how someone famous came to be. Unfortunately, finding time to read a 400 page adult biography and keep up with children and teen literature is practically impossible. Luckily, I can combine the two, especially when the biography is a picture book!
Although it captures only one small part of their lives, Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney with illustrations by Brian Pinkney, is a biography of sorts. At a Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, David, Joseph, Franklin and Ezell sat waiting to be served. The law, you see, had a recipe for segregation, but these “kids had a recipe, too. A new brew called integration.” This husband-wife team always does stellar work, but this is one of my favorites from recent years. The lyrical prose flows so well into the movement filled illustrations. You can almost see the teens shaking with fear as they sit waiting and as the protest grows so does the lunch counter in the illustrations. People sit waiting to be acknowledged at a counter curving around the two-page spread and off into the distance. The final counter spans three pages, with one huge difference. This time there’s, “a doughnut and coffee, with cream on the side” for them all.
Today might be Valentine’s Day, but every day is perfect for sharing a love of reading with your child or teen. There’s nothing quite like settling down, cozying up and sharing a great book.
Way back, when my son was a toddler, his favorite book was
It was a tough decision, but after a semester of reading from twenty different titles, the Drew Middle School seventh and eighth grade Cafe Book participants had to choose their favorites. Here are their picks:
The Top Picks:
The Enemy by Charlie Higson
After a disease turns everyone over sixteen into brainless, decomposing, flesh-eating creatures, a group of teenagers leave their shelter and set out of a harrowing journey across London to the safe haven of Buckingham Palace.
Malice by Chris Wooding
Once you get into the story, there's no way out. Everyone's heard the rumors.
If you gather the right things and say the right words, you'll be taken to Malice, a world that exists inside a horrifying comic book. It's a world that few kids know about ... and even fewer survive. Seth and Kady think it's all a silly myth. But then their friend, Luke, disappears and suddenly the rumors don't seem silly after all. Malice is real. Malice is deadly. And Seth and Kady are about to be trapped inside.
Bruiser by Neal Shusterman
Inexplicable events start to occur when sixteen-year-old twins Tennyson and Brontë befriend a troubled and misunderstood outcast, aptly nicknamed Bruiser, and his little brother, Cody.
Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
When Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, she is exiled to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.
I have hope for spring! Every year, I reach a point where I can’t bear another minute of cold, ice or snow, let alone the barren, brown landscape. Then February and my first harbinger of spring arrives, the Maymont Flower & Garden Show. Despite it all, I am filled with hope. If the weather is wearing you down, a book full of spring may be just what you need to keep trudging along!
Black History Month begins tomorrow and the library has recently updated the bibliography, “Our Stories: The African-American Experience,” recommending many wonderful recently published titles. Here are just a few of the historical picture books that made the list.
Two titles are Caldecott Honor winners. Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad, by Ellen Levine and illustrated by Kadir Nelson, tells the true story of Henry “Box” Brown. When his wife and children are sold to pay for their master’s debts, Henry can stand it no longer. With the help of a white doctor, he hides inside a wooden crate and mails himself to an abolitionist in Philadelphia. Travelling by train and boat he at last arrives to freedom.
The details painted on every character’s face are a powerful complement to the text. Henry’s joy in his family and the pain at their loss are beautifully conveyed. The picture of Henry upside down in his box is my favorite. One hand is splayed, reaching towards the reader as he struggles to hold himself up just a little, attempting to relieve some of the pressure on his head, neck and shoulders.
Since March, Capitol Choices, a group of public and school librarians, booksellers and children’s literature specialists have been attending meetings monthly to find the one hundred best books of 2010 for young people. Members take their charge seriously, committing to read everything nominated in a specific age group.
I am thrilled to share my first column with Caroline’s readers. Through the years, I have helped many of you find the titles Caroline recommended so I know how enthusiastically the column was embraced and will endeavor to continue her tradition of sharing great books for children of all ages. Luckily, children’s literature is in my blood. I began shelving books in the Headquarters Library children’s department while still in high school.
Every January the children and teen services departments of libraries across the country are abuzz with anticipation. Somewhere in the United States, select groups of librarians are attending closed door meetings to decide which books deserve a variety of awards, from the Caldecott for illustration to the Printz for best book for teens.
For City of Bones, I would recommend,
Lament (and its sequel Ballad) by Maggie Stiefvater.
On the day of an important music competition, talented but painfully introverted and nervous Deirdre Monaghan is helped to perform by the compelling and enigmatic Luke Dillon and finds herself inexorably drawn into the mysteries and dangers of the faerie world.
Wicked Lovely (and its sequels Ink Exchange and Fragile Eternity) by Melissa Marr .