Archive for the ‘Middle school books’ Category


Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, written and illustrated by Peter Brown

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, written and illustrated by Peter Brown

Journey, by Aaron Becker

Journey, by Aaron Becker

Nelson Mandela, words and paintings by Kadir Nelson

Nelson Mandela, words and paintings by Kadir Nelson

I was lucky to be invited to help as a facilitator today for the Mock Caldecott co-sponsored by The Lane Libraries (Butler County, Ohio) and the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. What’s a Mock Caldecott, you ask? It’s a lively and exciting discussion of books, resulting in a vote among participants as they predict the upcoming Caldecott Medal and Honor books. Many libraries, schools, bookstores, and other venues hold Mock Caldecotts– with varied predictions!

We were a group of maybe 80 librarians and educators, and we had received a list of 24 titles ahead of time so we could read and examine the art in preparation for today’s festivities (thanks to Gratia Banta, former Caldecott Committee Chair, and also to Sam Bloom of PLCH for selecting and organizing).  The Caldecott Medal is awarded for the best illustrated book of the year, and you can read more about terms and criteria for this award here.

We were divided into small groups, and we quickly discussed the artistic qualities of the books, one at a time. Each group voted for their three top choices, the votes were tallied, and the results are above! We decided Aaron Becker’s wordless fantasy Journey would receive the Caldecott Medal, with Kadir Nelson’s Nelson Mandela and Peter Brown’s Mr. Tiger Goes Wild receiving Honor designations.

Will these books actually receive the awards we predicted? Only the actual Caldecott Committee will determine that, and the results will be announced on the morning of January 27. If you can’t go to the ALA Midwinter meeting in Philadelphia for this event, find a link for the live streaming here.

Here is a real treat for you . . . go to this link to watch a series of video clips of illustrators discussing some of the books that might be currently under consideration by the 2014 Caldecott Committee (books published in 2013). It is possible one or more of these books could be selected for recognition, but that’s all hush-hush for now. We’ll just have to wait until January 27 to learn more.

What are your picks for the Caldecott?


If You Were a Chocolate Mustache, by J. Patrick Lewis and illustrated by Matthew Cordell

If You Were a Chocolate Mustache, by J. Patrick Lewis and illustrated by Matthew Cordell

April is National Poetry Month! If you haven’t observed National Poetry Month, there’s still time! I recommend you start with poems by J. Patrick Lewis, current Children’s Poet Laureate. Pat has written numerous poetry books for children, and one of his most recent is If You Were a Chocolate Mustache. There are numerous poems in this collection, all illustrated with line drawing by the talented Matthew Cordell. Some of the poems are short, such as “One Lost Sock.” Here it is: “Quandry?/Laundry./Try yer/Dryer.” Others are longer, such as “Bear One, Bear Two,” composed of four four-line rhyming stanzas. There are concrete poems, such as “The Longest Watermelon Seed Spit,” and other forms of poetry as well.

After you read this book, you will be on a poetry high, so find out more about Pat and children’s poetry by clicking on The Poetry Foundation website.

J. Patrick Lewis with his chocolate mustache.

J. Patrick Lewis with his chocolate mustache.

And since today is Earth Day, here’s Pat reading one of his poems most appropriate for today!

The House Baba Built:  An Artist's Childhood in China, written and illustrated by Ed Young

The House Baba Built: An Artist’s Childhood in China, written and illustrated by Ed Young

Ed Young was the inaugural speaker for the Butler Lecture at Dominican University’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science on February 22, and I was lucky enough to be there!

Young, widely known for his Caldecott Award winning book Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China and many other books, spoke about his recent The House Baba Built: An Artist’s Childhood in China. He showed slides and related how he went back to Shanghai to find that house, and while it took some looking because the street had been built up, he finally did pinpoint the four-family home his father built and where he grew up. His stories about the history of the house were engaging, such as how he was gracious to the current owner and was thus invited inside, why his father included a swimming pool inside the home, how a worker died building the home, and other childhood memories of a family haven during wartime. The book itself is a biography, a family history, a glimpse into this historical period in China, and is stunning with fold-out pages, drawings, collage art, and photos. The paper itself is a tactile treat, and the book encourages lingering.

Ed Young signs my books after the Butler Lecture at Dominican University

Ed Young signs my books after the Butler Lecture at Dominican University

Thank you Susan Roman, Thom Barthelmess, and others at Dominican for this delightful evening with Ed Young. I can’t wait until next year’s Butler Lecture when Jane Yolen is scheduled to be the speaker!

His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg, by Louise Borden

I tend to favor books for younger readers, so here is a compelling history book that ends in mystery, for middle school readers and older. Photos, documents, and maps accompany this account of the man who assisted Hungarian Jews in avoiding concentration camps during World War II– Raoul Wallenberg. Wallenberg was a Swede, college educated in the U.S., and a diplomat. He created faux documentation– the schutzpass (“schutz for protection/ and pass for passport,” p. 66)– an official-looking document that protected thousands of Hungarian Jews. When it became too difficult to issue the individual passes, even with a staff of 115 people and passes sometimes issued in the field, Wallenberg devised a collective schutzpasse which was issued to more than one person. Wallenberg’s own story ends in mystery. He was arrested by the Soviets and taken to Lubianka Prison in Russia, where the story grows cold. He was reported to have died, but other first-person accounts claim differently. His fate has never been verified.

Louise Borden is known for meticulous research, and an Author’s Note including photos of Borden in Sweden and with people who knew Wallenberg supports her detailed investigations. The book is written in free verse– a somewhat unusual style for informational books– but I found the writing allowed me to savor each line and fostered comprehension. I recommend this book for middle school and up.

Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, with artwork by Yayoi Kusama

The Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll, originally published Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865. Dodgson himself sketched some illustrations for a manuscript of the story, and the first published edition was illustrated by John Tenniel. This tale has been selected by several artists over the years as a book to illustrate, such as Arthur Rackham, Salvador Dali, and many others, including a recent pop-up edition by Robert Sabuda.

Now there is yet another stunning edition of this classic work, illustrated by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. Kusama’s work as an artist is defined by polka dots, and these are evident on almost every page in the book, including the cover, endpapers, table of contents . . . everywhere. Full page illustrations, full-bleed double-page spreads, and spot art displaying Kusama’s repetitive patterns and dots also fill this children’s book/art book.

I recently saw a segment about Kusama–who became famous as an artist in New York in the late 1950s until 1973, and who influenced Andy Warhol–on the CBS Sunday Morning program (I saw this on September 16, 2012– you can see a gallery of images from Sunday Morning here). Kusama left New York in 1973, and now lives in her native Japan.

View images from Kusama’s version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland below, and also scroll down to find out more about her on YouTube (note: some of Kusama’s art as shown on the YouTube video might be considered “mature”).

The Secret of the Fortune Wookie, by Tom Angleberger

Combine the traditional Japanese art of paper folding with Star Wars and what do you get? Origami Yoda! Now add in some of the style of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and you have a first-person saga of life at the fictional McQuarrie Middle School that just couldn’t be interesting at all without mysteries to solve and origami characters. Actually, in this 3rd installment in the Origami Yoda series, Origami Yoda is unavailable at the beginning of the book, since Dwight was suspended from school. However, Dwight sends a fortune-telling origami Chewbacca to his friends– the Fortune Wookiee. Other origami characters include Han Foldo, and Darth Paper makes a return appearance (star of the 2nd book Darth Paper Strikes Back), and also there is Big Pink, not an origami character, but something that reminds me why I am a strict vegetarian. Directions for folding a Fortune Wookie and Han Foldo are included at the end of the book, but a plethora of information is available at the website of author Tom Angleberger, which you can find here. Doodles and drawings enhance the text, which is presented on a background that looks like it was found at the bottom of a middle-schooler’s locker. Begin with the 1st book in the series, The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, if you can!

The Year of the Book, by Andrea Cheng

Andrea Cheng’s middle-grade chapter book, The Year of the Book, was praised in an article in The New York Times on August 23, 2012. The author of the article, Veronica Chambers, discusses three books in the article entitled “Universal Struggles,” and states Cheng’s book is the “best” of them. The book’s main character, Anna Wang, experiences friendship issues, while using books as her friends at the same time. Readers may recognize familiar titles that Anna reads, so this is truly a literary treat in many ways. In the story, Anna Wang is Chinese-American, like Andrea Cheng’s own children, who are young adults now and who have Chinese heritage on their father’s side; Andrea herself is Hungarian-American. Her family’s heritage appears as a thread in many of Cheng’s books, weaving multicultural understandings into the stories. Read the full NYT article here, and read more about Andrea Cheng and her many books for children, adolescents, and young adults here. As a bonus, Cheng has prepared a teacher guide to accompany The Year of the Book, designed to meet Common Core standards, and it can be found on her website, or use this direct link to the guide and other information for teachers about using Andrea’s books.