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Last year was my first year taking part in a mock award when my lunch book club did the Mock Newbery. I loved the process and the conversations, but I really wanted to move to a less stressful book club and make the process more focused and to get more students involved, so I decided to do a mock award with my class; however, I knew that doing the Newbery well is a very long process, so I thought the Caldecott would be interesting to try with middle schoolers. And I was right!

When I decided to do a Mock Caldecott unit, I didn’t really know what I was doing, so I turned to my friends on Twitter who have done Mock Caldecott lessons before. I also turned to good-ole Google. With all of this help and a bit of hard work, I felt pretty good to start.

Choosing Books

To pick books, I completely trusted my PLN and myself, and I chose 20 books that blew them and/or me away. The books were:

A Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider by Barbara Herkert, Ill. by Lauren Castillo
After the Fall by Dan Santat
All the Way to Havana by Margarita Engle, Ill. by Mike Curato
Blue Sky, White Stars by Sarvinder Naberhaus, Ill. by Kadir Nelson
Claymates by Dev Petty, Ill. by Lauren Eldridge
Come with Me by Holly M. McGhee, Ill. by Pascal Lemaitre
Flashlight Night by Matt Forrest Esenwine, Ill. by Fred Koehler
Grand Canyon by Jason Chin
How to Be an Elephant by Katherine Roy
La La La by Kate DiCamillo, Ill. by Jaime Kim
Little Fox in the Forest by Stephanie Graegin
Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Water by Michael Mahin, Ill. by Evan Turk
Red & Lulu by Matt Tavares
The Antlered Ship by Dashka Slater, Ill. by The Fan Brothers
The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken
The Rooster Who Would Not be Quiet! by Carmen Agra Deedy, Ill. by Eugene Yelchin
The Wolf, The Duck, & The Mouse by Mac Barnett, Ill.by Jon Klassen
When’s My Birthday? by Julie Fogliano, Ill. by Christian Robinson
Windows by Julia Denos, Ill. By E.B. Goodale
Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell

Standards and Learning Goals

To justify a Caldecott Unit, I needed to tie it to middle school standards, and I chose to focus on the standards of citing textual evidence to support analysis and presenting claims and findings with relevant evidence. There were also five secondary standards that fit the unit.

LAFS.8.RL.1.1 2 Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
LAFS.8.SL.2.4 3 Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with relevant evidence, sound valid reasoning, and well-chosen details; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.
LAFS.8.SL.1.1d Acknowledge new information expressed by others, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views in light of the evidence presented.
LAFS.8.RL.1.2 3 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to the characters, setting, and plot; provide an objective summary of the text.
LAFS.8.RL.1.3 3 Analyze how particular lines of dialogue or incidents in a story or drama propel the action, reveal aspects of a character, or provoke a decision.
LAFS.8.RL.2.5 3 Compare and contrast the structure of two or more texts and analyze how the differing structure of each text contributes to its meaning and style.
LAFS.8.RL.2.6 3 Analyze how differences in the points of view of the characters and the audience or reader (e.g., created through the use of dramatic irony) create such effects as suspense or humor.

Timeline

After determining the standards, I created a scale to help plan my timeline. I knew I needed to start with the students understanding the Caldecott criteria and end with students presenting claims and evidence supporting their claim.

Level Target Evidence
4 I can do level 3 plus I have appropriate eye contact, volume, and clear pronunciation and can think on my feet during a discussion. Mock Caldecott discussion
3 I can present claims and findings with sound reasoning, relevance, and cite evidence from the text that supports my analysis. Choose which potential winners they believe will be honored and present this claim using evidence from the text.
2 I can cite evidence from a text that supports my analysis (using a set of criteria). Analyze past winners for criteria.

Analyze potential winners for criteria.

1 I understand the criteria I will be using to analyze a text. Caldecott criteria presentation

Example Beekle analysis

The next step, in my Google searching, I found a wonderful Slideshare by librarian Steven Engelfried from Portland, Oregon. Over about 40 minutes in two days we went through all of the criteria. We also talked about some art elements vocabulary that they would need to know and use during the unit (and I found Quizlets on Elements of Art and Art Mediums!)

I’ll be honest, I really didn’t know where to go from here… Luckily, there is an amazing teacher from Illinois named Jessica Lifshitz who teaches 5th grade and wrote such a brilliant post about the Mock Caldecott unit in her classroom, and I finally felt like I could proceed with this unit and do it well–all because of this post! I’ve emailed Jessica to thank her, but I also want to publicly do it here–thank you, Jessica!

The next step was sharing books that already won or were honored for the Caldecott. We started with Beekle by Dan Santat as a whole class. Then, my students, in partners, got to browse a huge pile of Caldecott books, and I asked them to answer for each book: “Why did this book win over the others? How did it meet the Caldecott criteria?” I also had them rotate partners to make sure they were hearing different opinions and voices. Here are some examples of student answers:

Du Iz Tak? I think this book was honored over other picture books in the year it was published because the story is fun and in a made-up language which made us think about what they were talking about and try to translate it to English. She uses lots of space and colors. Some pages there are no words which make the pictures necessary to understand it. The medium she uses are gouache and ink.
Journey This book was honored over the others because the illustrations had such good creativity and were very unique. There was no writing, so you had to rely on the pictures to tell the story. The bird found the girl after she set him free, and led him to a friend. The story has a very good meaning, and a good purpose. It had a variety of contrasting colors, and showed the most important stuff in bright colors. It had a very powerful visual experience. It showed the plot, setting, and characters in illustrations. Her world was bland in the beginning, but after she came into the new world, everything explodes with color.
King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub I think that this book was honored because all of the illustrations in the book are very detailed and tell the story without words. If you were to remove the words from the book you would still know what was going because all the pictures are very detailed and have a lot of different colors on every page.
Where the Wild Things Are I think this book was honored by how realistic the illustrations are and for how fun the story is. I love the leading lines the illustrator uses how there are no words over the illustrations giving the book plenty of white space. All the spreads have plenty of  happy colors which for me makes the book very appropriate for kids.
Swimmy The book was drawn with watercolors. The illustrator was very meticulous and detailed when he was painting the pictures. It actually felt like some objects had a texture  that you could feel. It was very entertaining. Younger children would be fascinated with the drawings and would love the story. This was a great book in all aspects.
Interrupting Chicken I think this book was honored because it included other famous stories but with a plot twist. They included little red riding hood and she was on her way to go to her grandma when she met a stranger and the chicken said don’t talk to strangers. Then the story ended so fast. The style of the chicken’s drawing of his own story was like a child’s actual drawing. It was very kiddy and I liked that the story was kind of based off of what the dad was trying to do to the chicken. He kept telling him stories but he never fell asleep. Now the chicken told him a story about his dad not falling asleep but in real life the dad fell asleep before the story ended. The illustrations look like they are painted and the colors are very warm to make the room seem cozy.

Now that they were experts on the criteria and saw example of winners/honors, it was time to jump into our Mock Caldecott titles. To evaluate these books, I had them look specifically at each part of the Caldecott Criteria, and they had to answer how the book fit or didn’t fit the criteria. I set up a pretty clear close reading process for them to follow:

  • First read: Just read the book and enjoy!
  • Second read: Focus on the illustrations. How do they meet Caldecott criteria? What does the author excel at? Use Post-Its to annotate your thoughts.
  • Third read: Focus on the narrative elements of the story. Use Post-Its to annotate your thoughts on how the illustrations enhanced the narrative.

Students started in pairs again then we scaffolded off to working independently. I also had them leave the Post-Its in the books, so the students were seeing thoughts across classes. Students were asked to get to at least ten of the mock books. We did this for over a week to allow them time to read as many as they can and also time to evaluate properly.

At the end of the unit and the Thursday and Friday before the ALA Youth Media Awards, it was time to start making predictions. First, I had them rank the books they read from favorite for the Caldecott to least favorite. Using these predictions, I gave books numerical scores and figured out average scores. I also had students get together in groups of three to five to pick their collaborative four favorite books and awarded bonus points. With all of these scores, I was able determine the winners for each class as well as for all of my classes.

The last thing my students did before finding out who had won was complete a written response answering:

  • What book do you feel best met the Caldecott criteria thus you feel should win?
  • What criteria did it most meet?
  • Share evidence supporting your claims.
    • Use RATE: Restate, Answer, Textual Evidence, Explain/Elaborate!

Some student responses:

  • I think that The Book Of Mistakes should win because it does appeal to kids because it is very colorful, with much space so they can focus on what is important. The rest of the book is white except for the illustrations, which I think is easier for the kids to understand what is important. Also, the illustrator used a lot of artistic medium, with paint, pen, and other things, she made very good illustrations that connected with the story. They really made a visual experience, because if you just had the story, you would not know what was going on at all, and so you had to depend on the pictures to tell the story. I think that this book should win the Mock Caldecott award because I think that it deserves it with beautiful illustrations that have a good meaning and theme, and I think that they really appeal to kids, and so therefore should win the Mock Caldecott Award. The illustrations were very nice, and they tell the characters, and other narrative elements. There was a lot of line, space, colors and other things that made the illustrations very unique among other illustrations by other illustrators. The colors did change depending on many things, and the color choices were very good. I think that The Book Of Mistakes should win the Mock Caldecott Award.
  • I think After the Fall would win the Caldecott. The reasoning in this is because with the amount of detail put into the text more specifically the illustrations. The illustrations in the book show a big part of the story. It shows the sequence of events with the illustrations now that the egg falls then he lives a sad life without being able to climb due to his fear. You can see the emotion and detail with everything he does not like being grey or showing sadness. Then, in the end, he made an invention to be able to fly again a mini plane even with him having bandages and being injured after the fall. He tests it out and then it gets stuck on where he fell he decides to go up and with the pictures you could see how stressed out he was. Then at the end, you can see the light and feathers cracking showing that he is becoming a bird. But that’s not the first reference throughout the book it shows birds on every page giving reference to the end of it. Then you see him fly away into the sky after he hatches. That is why After the Fall will win the Caldecott.
  • The book Little Fox In The Forest is going to win because of its unique illustrations. These illustrations such as when the Little girl lives in a colorless world and brings her colorless fox to show and tell. When the little girl is swinging on the swing she finds the orange fox stealing her colorless stuffed fox . Now the little girl and her best friend is chasing the fox and follows the fox in the forest. Then all the sudden you start to see little experts of color, and then there was a very colorful magical forest. This book was such a good using of artistic medium and a very good visual experience this book definitely deserves to be on top.
  • I think Wolf in the Snow should win the mock Caldecott because of the detail in the illustrations. It has a story in the illustrations which is about a wolf cub and a girl who help each other out. The detail in the wolves and every picture is great, for example, the wolves breath due to the cold environment they are in. This book really appeals to kids because of the illustrations they are showing like when the wolf stares at the girl holding the wolf cub, and it creates a questioning of what will happen next. This book does not need words at all because you can already see the story from the illustrations. This means there is a great visual experience in the book.
  • The book that I think will win the Caldecott is Flashlight Night by Fred Koehler the illustrator of this book. I think this book will win because it tells the story with the imaginations of kids and uses lots of colors and is told amazingly. I think this book appeals to kids because it shows how you imaginations can take you anywhere. The art to make this book was very detail from one illustration to the next. The illustrations work amazing with the story because depending on what the illustration was the story would match up perfectly with it. This are some of the reasons why I think that Flashlight Night should win the Mock Caldecott this year.

Our Winners

The ALA Youth Media Awards

On Monday, February 12th, my classes watch the ALA Youth Media Awards either live or recorded, and it was so much fun to watch their reactions when they saw books they read or their disappointment when their favorites didn’t win. We were so excited to see Grand Canyon and Wolf in the Snow honored with the Caldecott, and the students who put them high on their prediction felt so validated. There were three Caldecott honor books that we hadn’t had in our pile, so we have them coming from the public library, and I promised them that we’d have a conversation on why those titles may have won over the ones that we chose.

This unit was one of my favorite lessons ever, and I was so impressed with my students and the quality of books! Thank you to everyone who helped me make this possible, and I hope that if you are reading this and never done a Mock Caldecott award that you now feel like you could because if I can, you can 🙂 

 

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Love, Mama
Author and Illustrator: Jeanette Bradley
Published January 9th, 2018

Summary: With a heartwarming story and tender illustrations, Jeanette Bradley’s debut picture book Love, Mama is perfect for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and any day when a child needs a reminder of the strength of a mother’s love.

When Mama leaves her young penguin Kipling, he knows she’ll return home soon—yet he still can’t help but miss her. After all, Pillow Mama won’t read, Picture Mama won’t laugh, and Snow Mama is too cold to cuddle.

But then Kipling receives a special delivery from Mama, including a note that reads:

My love for you stretches across the wide ocean, 
through day and night, 
from earth to sky 
and back again.

And Kipling knows that no matter where Mama is, he is loved. Soon, Mama comes home, and Kipling ends the day where he belongs—right in her arms.

Ricki’s Review: This is a charming book that is perfect for Valentine’s Day week. I was thinking of Kipling today when I walked into my son’s school, and he said, “Why did it take you so long to get here?” I remember always feeling like I was waiting interminably long for my parents to get to school. It’s very tricky for kids to understand a sense of time. This book is a great conversation starter between parents and kids. It might be particularly good for kids who are living across multiple houses due do a divorce. The note that Mama writes does a beautiful job capturing a mother’s love. 

Kellee’s Review: I am such a sucker for penguin books! And a penguin book about a son’s love for his mama? Melted my heart! And I can see so many different times this book will come in handy to read to Trent including when I have to leave for longer than a day, when he asks how much I love him, or if he asks why I need to leave. The author complimented her sweet text so nicely with soft, detailed illustrations that help support the mood of the story. Trent and I have already read this more than once, and I know there will be more reads in the future. 

Discussion Questions: 

  • What does Kipling do while he waits for Mama? Does it help? What does he learn?
  • What personification do you see in Mama’s note to Kipling? Other figurative language?
  • What is the message of the story? What does Mama’s return teach Kipling?
  • Have you ever waited for someone you love? What did that feel like?
  • Who do you think the other adult penguin in the book is?

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might ask students to write their own metaphor letters to family members to describe their love. This would be a great activity that teaches figurative language and also allows students to show their families their appreciation. Alternatively, teachers might ask students to compare and contrast the things that Kipling does to try to recreate Mama while she is gone. Then, they might think of other things that Kipling might do while he waits for Mama.

Flagged Passage:

Read This If You Love: Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney, The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn, And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, Love by Matt de la Peña, Forever by Emma Dodd, If I Were a Penguin by Anne Wilkinson,

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Heroes of Black History: Biographies of Four Great Americans
Author: The Editors of Times for Kids
Introduction by Charlayne Hunter-Gault
Published December 19th, 2017 by Times for Kids

Blog Tour Week 4’s Feature American:
Barack Obama

Summary: TIME for Kids Heroes of Black History presents the stories of four great American heroes every child should know about in one volume: Harriet Tubman, Jackie Robinson, Rosa Parks, and Barack Obama. Featuring an introduction by journalist and civil rights activist Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Heroes of Black History shines a light on the long fight for social justice in the United States as it highlights the accomplishments and personal histories of these four pivotal Americans.

Young readers learn about the life of Harriet Tubman—born a slave around 1820, she escaped to the North, but returned to the South nineteen times as a conductor on the Underground Railroad to lead 300 slaves to freedom. An incredibly gifted athlete, Jackie Robinson endured taunts, slurs, and death threats when he broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball in 1947. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on an Alabama bus in 1955 and paved the way for a Supreme Court decision that declared segregation on Alabama’s public buses was unconstitutional. On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama took the oath of office as our country’s first African American president. 

Illustrated with a dynamic mix of photographs and illustrations, the biographies of these Americans delve deeper than their accomplishments to reveal details on their childhoods, early experiences, schooling, family life, and more. Sidebars about related topics—Underground Railroad routes, sports firsts, the Harlem Renaissance, and more—give context and additional insights for young readers. Heroes of Black History also gives readers a timeline overview of three centuries of African American history, beginning with the slave trade, touching upon the formation of the NAACP, the civil rights movement, the March on Washington, and other pivotal events, up through the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement. Brief profiles of more than twenty additional heroes of black history, a glossary of key terms, and a detailed index are also included in this comprehensive book.

ReviewWhen I was asked to take part in this blog tour, I knew right away that I wanted to be part of week 4 of the tour to focus on Barack Obama for a few reasons: 1) I need a reminder of modern heroism; 2) I’ve featured the other three Americans on Unleashing Readers before (Harriet Tubman, Jackie Robinson, Rosa Parks); 3) The Obamas, in my opinion, are the perfect couple to feature on a Valentine’s Day post.

Obama’s biography within this text reminded me that hard work, high ethics, kindness, love, and intelligence can lead to success and that being cutthroat or brutal are not the key features in heroes of mine. The biography, overall, was quite simple and focused on the main points of Obama’s life and presidency; however, it is a wonderful introduction to his life thus far and really ensures that readers understand how he got to where he is and how he changed history. It was so refreshing to read about a person that faced discrimination and resistance with such grace and resilience.

I also got to glimpse into the upbringing of Obama which I ended up knowing less about than I thought. I hadn’t realized he hardly knew his father nor that he lived in Indonesia for a while before returning to live with his grandparents in Hawaii. All of this lead to Michelle and him meeting while he was completing an internship–her stability appealed to him. And that was the beginning of a beautiful romance. And the beginning of a journey that neither of them probably saw coming.

The other sections in this text follow similar suits in that they are wonderful introductions of each historically significant American.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: This four-stories-in-one biography from Time has so many applicable uses in classrooms! The publisher created teaching guide shares discussion questions, topics for writing, a scavenger hunt, more heroes of Black history, activities for students for each biography, a cloze read book review, and fast facts for each hero.

The teaching guide can be accessed here.

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Biographies, History

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall closereadinganalysisbuttonsmall 

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**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for hosting the blog tour and providing a copy for review!**

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Pandamonia
Author: Chris Owen
Illustrator: Chris Nixon
Published 2017 by Kane Miller Books

Summary: Here’s something to remember: when visiting the zoo, whatever you do, DON’T WAKE THE PANDA!

Join in the fantastic fun of Chris Owen and Chris Nixon’s Pandamonia, as one could-be-grumpy-if-woken-up sleeping panda sets off a frenzy of wild partying.

There’s grunting and growling and prancing and prowling and … so much more in this rollicking, rhyming text. It is so filled with energetic art and action and noise and alliteration that it just begs to be read aloud.

There is a playfulness, a rhythm and an energy to both the text and the illustrations, a cumulative growing and building of words and pictures, plus a whole bunch of animals you might never have seen in a picture book before. And the hilarity will have listeners and readers on their feet!

This is one for story time, or anytime!

ReviewThis picture book quickly became a regular in our reading because my son is just a bit obsessed with animals and there is such a wide variety introduced and shared in this title. Sometimes we read all the way through and just have fun with it while other times we look up the animals and find them in the pictures and find videos of the sounds they make. A different experience each time. And with the party-filled pages and colorful illustrations, every experience is fun.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book will be such a fun read aloud! The illustrations are really colorful, the text is alliterative with a ton of onomatopoeias, and there’s lots of fun to be had! In addition to alliteration and sound words, it can also be a way to talk about animals or zoos.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How did the author use the word pandemonium and panda as a premise to his book?
  • What animals did the author include that you didn’t know?
  • What type of medium do you think the illustrator used to make the illustration?
  • How did the author use onomatopoeias and alliteration in the story?
  • What do you think will happen if the panda gets woken up?!?!

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellie, Nothing Rhymes with Orange by Adam Rex, The Curious Case of the Missing Mammoth by Ellie HattieHello Hippo! Goodbye Bird! by Kristyn Crow, Can Aardvark Barkby Melissa Stewart, Other books about animals or zoos

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**Thank you to Lynn Kelly from Kane Miller for providing a copy for review!**

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Ellie Engineer
Author: Jackson Pearce
Published January 16th, 2018 by Bloomsbury USA

Summary: Ellie loves to build. She’s always engineering new creations with the help of her imagination and her best friend Kit. Unfortunately, with Kit’s birthday just around the corner, the French-braiding machine Ellie built turns out to be more of a hair-knotting machine. What’s Ellie going to do? Luckily, the girls overhear Kit’s mom talking about Kit’s surprise – it must be the dog she’s always wanted! Ellie is struck with inspiration: she’ll build Kit the best doghouse ever! The project quickly becomes more than just a present for Kit – it builds a bridge between Ellie and those bothersome neighbor boys, as well as the other handy girls in her class.

Designed to look like Ellie’s notepad, with pencil-on-graph-paper illustrations of her projects interspersed throughout the book, Ellie, Engineer inspires creative and crafty girls to get hands-on with their imagination. Ellie’s projects range from the simple (using a glass against a wall to amplify sounds), to the practical (the doghouse), to the fantastical (a bedroom security system featuring spikes) – encouraging readers to start small but think big. Ellie’s parents support her engineering experiments, with important safety tips sprinkled throughout, and her relationship with Kit is a glowing example of positive female friendship. They share their hobbies – Ellie likes to get her hands dirty, while Kit prefers ballet – reminding readers that there’s no wrong way to be a girl. Ellie’s hand-drawn tool guide at the end explains basic tools in accessible terms, rounding out this fun and funny adventure, and giving girls everything they need to be their own Ellie!

About the Author: Jackson Pearce lives in Atlanta, Georgia. She is the author of a series of teen retold fairy-tales, including Sisters RedSweetlyFathomless, and Cold Spell, as well as two stand-alones, As You Wish and Purity. As J. Nelle Patrick, she is the author of Tsarina. In addition to The Doublecross and The Inside Job, her middle grade novels include Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures, co-written with Maggie Stiefvater. Visit her at www.jacksonpearce.com and @JacksonPearce (Twitter and Instagram).

ReviewI so often hear stories from women my age that share that they loved science or nature or math when they were younger but that they were steered away from that those interests in little ways that they don’t even remember, but they do remember just not loving science anymore. This is exactly the scenario that has raised awareness in the need for STEM or STEAM books, programs, and role models for young girls. Ellie Bell is a perfect girl for this mission! Ellie wants to be an engineer when she grows up and even has her own workshop where her parents give her free reign to work on projects (with the safer tools–power tools require supervision). Pearce has even set up Ellie Engineer to include drawings and plans for Ellie’s projects to show readers how Ellie goes from an idea to a project. And Ellie’s story is one that all readers will connect with as well, so it is a win-win in narrative and STEM!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Books like Ellie need to first be found more in classrooms and libraries. That is step one! After that, I think that using Ellie’s process for keeping track of her projects and how she brainstorms and plans could be an amazing exemplar for a classroom of students who are embarking on project-based learning.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Which of Ellie’s projects would you build?
  • How has the way Ellie’s parents parented helped Ellie become the engineer she is?
  • How did Ellie’s assumptions about the boys in her neighborhood stop her from seeing their real personalities?
  • What does Toby teach us in the story? The Presidents? Kit?
  • Compare and contrast Kit’s mom and Ellie’s mom.

Flagged Passages: 

Ellie’s plan for building her friend a dog house:

Read This If You Love: Ellie Ultra by Gina Bellisario; Juana and Lucas by Juana Medina; Bea Garcia by Deborah Zemke; Cody and the Fountain of Happiness and Cody and the Mysteries of the Universe by Tricia Springstubb; Upside-Down Magic by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins; The Trouble With Ants by Claudia Mills;Lola series by Christine Pakkala; Salem Hyde series by Frank Cammuso; Here’s Hank series by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver; Bramble and Maggie series by Jessie HaasFlora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo; Eleanor series by Julie Sternberg

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Casey at Media Masters and to Bloomsbury for providing a copy for review!**

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What Do You Do with a Chance?
Author: Kobi Yamada
Illustrator: Mae Besom
Published: July 1, 2016 by Compendium Inc.

Summary: The award–winning creators of The New York Times best sellers What Do You Do With an Idea?and What Do You Do With a Problem? return with a captivating story about a child who isn’t sure what to make of a chance encounter and then discovers that when you have courage, take chances, and say yes to new experiences, amazing things can happen.

In this story, a child is visited by his first chance and unsure what to do with it, he lets it go. Later on, when a new chance arrives he reaches for it, but this time he misses and falls. Embarrassed and afraid, he begins ignoring each new chance that comes by, even though he still wants to take them. Then one day he realizes that he doesn’t need to be brave all the time, just at the right time, to find out what amazing things can happen when he takes a chance.

The final addition to the award-winning What Do You Do With…? picture book series created by New York Times best selling author Kobi Yamada and illustrator by Mae Besom, What Do You Do With a Chance? inspires kids of all ages and parents alike to find the courage to go for the opportunities that come their way. Because you never know when a chance, once taken, might be the one to change everything.

Ricki’s Review: There is something absolutely magical about these books. This author/illustrator team is simply remarkable in their ability to make the abstract come alive. Each semester, I read one of the books from this series aloud to my preservice teachers. They will be teaching in secondary schools, but this book series makes it obvious about how they can powerfully use picture books in their classrooms. After I read the book aloud, I don’t need to go through a long justification of why picture books work well in middle and high schools. What I like about this series is that each book is different from the other two. They overlap in their conceptualization and they all are remarkable choices for the instruction of symbolism and creating writing–but they all teach very different, big ideas. I can see each book pairing well with a different canonical or YA text. 

Kellee’s Review: I hope each and every one my students leave my class with is that life is about trying and working hard and being creative and kindness and so much more than just passing tests, and Yamada’s series teaches all of these things in such a beautiful, fun, and inspiring way! The newest book in the series looks at the fear that comes with new things, and I think this is something that is so important to talk to kids about, doing anything different or new can be scary for a bunch of different reasons. And this ranges from toddlers (Trent is afraid of fast rides) to teenagers (who may be afraid of doing something that may look uncool or are too busy to grab a chance when it comes by). I am so sad that this is the final installation of the series, but I am so glad that we have the three we do. 

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: In previous posts for this series, we have discussed how teachers might use this book to teach word choice, symbolism, and creative writing. Teachers might also consider reading all three books aloud to students and talking about the ways they are conceptually similar and different. Students might discuss the paratext of the novels and the marketing of the books. They might also compare and contrast how the books offer completely different, powerful illustrations of abstract ideas.

Discussion Questions: What do you do with a chance?; How do the author and illustrator work together to make the abstract concept of a “chance” more concrete?; What does the book teach about courage?; When have you taken a chance? Did it work out? What did it teach you? What famous people in history have taken chances? What do you think they learned?

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Read This If You Loved: What Do You Do with an Idea? by Kobi Yamada; What Do You Do With a Problem? by Kobi Yamada; The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires; The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds, The Noisy Paint Box by Barb Rosenstock, Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers, Journey by Aaron Becker

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Love
Author: Matt de la Peña
Illustrator: Loren Long
Published January 9th, 2018

Summary: From Newbery Medal-winning author Matt de la Peña and bestselling illustrator Loren Long comes a story about the strongest bond there is and the diverse and powerful ways it connects us all.

“In the beginning there is light
and two wide-eyed figures standing near the foot of your bed
and the sound of their voices is love.

A cab driver plays love softly on his radio
while you bounce in back with the bumps of the city
and everything smells new, and it smells like life.”

In this heartfelt celebration of love, Matt de la Peña and  illustrator Loren Long depict the many ways we experience this universal bond, which carries us from the day we are born throughout the years of our childhood and beyond. With a lyrical text that’s soothing and inspiring, this tender tale is a needed comfort and a new classic that will resonate with readers of every age.

Kellee’s Review: I sat here for a long time trying to figure out how to put into words how I feel about this book. I just can’t, but I will try. 

Let me give you some history. At ALAN in 2016, I believe, Matt was a speaker, and he shared how he’d written a poem about love to share with his daughter when the world didn’t seem so loving. Matt’s daughter is approximately Trent’s age and she’s his first just like Trent is, so I completely understood his feelings–the reality that we’ve brought children into this hard world. When Matt read his beautiful words, I cried. It was beautiful. At the end of the poem, he let us know it was going to be a book, and I had very high expectations.

Then at NCTE 2017, I heard that Penguin had a finished copy. I thought that there was no way that the book could live up to what I expected. But then I read it. And I cried again. I, probably rudely, found Matt right away, maybe interrupting a conversation he was having with someone else, to tell him what a beautiful book he and Loren had created. Matt’s poem had been about love, but the book is about LOVE. Love in the sense that every one needs to start thinking about–love between every person. Empathy. Understanding. Tolerance. Unity. Love for all humans.

And as I read it over and over (after I was lucky enough to receive a copy), I couldn’t think of a kid I didn’t want to share it with. I wanted to share it with my son to talk about how much I love him and how he should love all of human kind; I wanted to share it with my friend who is a 2nd grade teacher, so she could share it with all of her students; I wanted to share it with my students, so we can discuss about the love and acceptance found in each spread and each word; and I am so happy to be sharing it here with all of you so that it can be in every person’s life.

Also, please read this amazing article by Matt de la Peña: “Why We Shouldn’t Shield Children from Darkness” from Time and Kate DiCamillo’s follow-up “Why Children’s Books Should Be a Little Bit Sad” where she answers a question de la Peña posed in his article as well as this Twitter thread from Sayantani DasGupta where she explores the need for joy in the darkeness! It truly embodies my parenting and teaching philosophy: that although kids are kids, they are also humans and future adults; life should be about being real and about happiness.

In the end, I want to just thank these two amazing men for writing this phenomenal book that I so feel is needed so badly right now, and thank you for including nothing but truth within it including inclusion of all types of people and children and situations and cultures and races and ethnicities, etc.

Ricki’s Review: I am really looking forward to seeing Matt de la Peña next month during his tour! This book is absolutely stunning, and we will certainly be purchasing many copies to give as baby shower gifts. The entire text simply emanates love. It is honest, poetically, and it treats children as the intelligent people that they are. The illustrations are simply marvelous and the words dance across the page. I simply don’t have the words to share how absolutely beautiful this book is. When I think of this book, I think about a warm, cozy house and two little boys on my lap. And these little boys make me feel love, love, love.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I’ll talk about one scene specifically, which happens to be my favorite.

As soon as I saw this scene, I wanted to show it to students and have discussions with them. How does this scene make them feel? Who is the family? What are they watching? What clues did they use to answer these questions?

Then I would add in the word that accompany the scene:

“One day you find your family
nervously huddled around the TV,
but when you asked what happened,
they answer with silence
and shift between you and the screen.”

And I would ask them how these words change the inferences they made about the spread.

Lastly, I would ask them why this stanza would be in a poem about love, how it fits with the theme, and what it represents.

Another idea that I brainstormed with my friend Jennie Smith are:

  • Recreate my experience by sharing the poem first with the circumstances I shared above. Then reread the poem to them but with the illustrations.
    • After the first read, you can also have them make their own illustrations analyzing the words then compare/contrast the choices that Loren Long made with what they did.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why did the author and illustrator include tough scenes in their picture book about love?
  • Which scene represents love the most for you?
  • Which scene are you glad they included?
  • How does the poem differ with and without the illustrations?
  • What different purposes could this poem of love be perfect for?

Flagged Passages: *psst!* Matt may have told me this is (one of) his favorite spreads:

Read This If You Love: Love. (But seriously, read this. Period.)

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