books, picture books

My Favorite Books of 2018

Another fantastic year of reading and yet I know there are so many books I have probably missed on this list. In the hundreds of books I got to experience this year, these are the ones that stood out. These are the ones that I hope others get to experience. While many were published in 2018, some were not and I am so glad I finally got to read them.

Picture Books Fiction

Image result for the very last castle
Image result for forever or a day
Image result for i am loved nikki giovanni
Image result for the rabbit listened
Image result for dear girl
Image result for what if picturebook

Picture Book Non-Fiction

between the lines.jpg
cute.jpg

Chapter Books – Middle Grade or Younger

Lu by Jason Reynolds

Wicked Nix by Lena Coakley and illustrated by Jaime Zollars

Stella Diaz Has Something to Say by Angela Dominguez

Meet Yasmin! by Saadia Faruqi  (Author), Hatem Aly (Illustrator)

Wonderland by Barbara O’Connor (Author)

The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden  (Author)

Courage by Barbara Binns

Minrs 3 by Kevin Sylvester (Final book of the Minrs trilogy)

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker by Shelley Johannes

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes 

Greetings from Witness Protection by Jake Burt

The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani

Rebound by Kwame Alexander

The Wild Robot Escapes by Peter Brown

Enginerds by Jarrett Lerner

Winnie’s Great War by Lindsay Mattick and Josh Greenhut, art by Sophie Blackall

The Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller

Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake

Small Spaces by Catherine Arden

Lions and Liars by Kate Beasley

Tight by Torrey Maldonado

Mac B. Kid Spy  by Mac Barnett illustrated by Mike Lowery

Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo

Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson

The Unicorn Rescue Society by Adam Gidwitz, illustrated by Hatem Aly

The Endling by Katherine Applegate 

Front Desk by Kelly Yang

Graphic Novels

Undocumented – A Worker’s Fight by Duncan Tonatiuh

7 Generations – A Plains Cree Saga by David Alexander Robertson and drawn by Scott A. Henderson

Ms. Marvel Vol. 1: No Normal (Ms. Marvel Series) by [Wilson, G.]

Ms. Marvel by G. Wilson and drawn by Adrian Alphona

Last Pick by Jason Walz

Escape from Syria by Samya Kullab and Jackie Roche

Mary’s Monster by Lita Judge

Speak – The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

Click by Kayla Miller

All Summer Long by Hope Larson

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol

Dog Man: Lord of the Fleas by Dav Pilkey

The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees

Chapter Books – Young Adult

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

Odd One Out by Nic Stone

Internment by Samira Ahmed – won’t release until March 2019 – must pre-order

Dry by Jarrod Shusterman and Neal Shusterman

The Skin I’m In by Sharon Flake

Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram  (Author)

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

Dread Nation by Justina Ireland NOTE – Debbie Reese has an excellent discussion of the Native portrayal in this book (or lack of) that made me think through the book in a different way.

Image result for one of us is lying

One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus

Love, Hate, and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake

You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

The Wicked Deep

The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

Tradition by Brendan Kiely

Day of Tears by Julius Lester

The Fandom by Anna Day

Give Me Some Truth by Eric Gansworth

Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles

#Murdertrending by Gretchen McNeilTrail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

Non-Fiction


(Don’t )Call Me Crazy – 33 Voices Start the Conversation about Mental Health edited by Kelly Jensen

Fault Lines in the Constitution by Cynthia Levinson & Sanford Levinson

Unpresidented by Martha Brockenbrough

We Rise, We Resist, We Raise our Voices edited by Wade Hudson & Cheryl Willis Hudson

First Generation by Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace, illustrated by Agata Nowicka

Dog Days of History by Sarah Albee

#NotYourPrincess – Voices of Native American Women edited by Lisa Charlieboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale

Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Two Truths and a Lie – Histories and Mysteries by Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson

Which books did you love in 2018?

To see all of our favorites through the years, go here

being a teacher, Literacy, picture books, Reading

Our Mock Caldecott List 2019

After winter break, we welcome our students back with one of our favorite units of the year; our Mock Caldecott unit.  And while I have blogged about the process before, I see this as a great opportunity for students to not only immerse themselves in incredible works of art but also to think about how to read complex imagery while building community.  But to do this incredible work, we need to have the books whose images will draw us on, hopefully, mesmerize us, move us, and make us invested when the awards are broadcast live on Monday, January 28th.

Here is my lesson plan for the unit

In no particular order, here are the books (I think) our students will judge this year.

Limitless: 24 Remarkable American Women of Vision, Grit, and Guts by Leah Tinari (Author, Illustrator)

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales 

The Stuff of Stars by Marion Dane Bauer illustrated by Ekua Holmes

Drawn Together by Minh Le and illustrated by Dan Santat 

A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin 

What Do You Do With a Voice Like That? By Chris Barton and illustrated by Ekua Holmes

Otis and Will Discover the Deep by Barb Rosenstock and illustrated by Katherine Roy

The Prince and the Dressmaker by [Wang, Jen]

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

Heartbeat by Evan Turk

Let the Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson and illustrated by Frank Morrison

Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal

They Say Blue by Jillian Tamaki

What Can A Citizen Do by Dave Eggers and Shawn Harris

Image result for the day you begin

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by Rafael Lopez

Thank you, Omu! by Oge Mora

What If…by Samantha Berger and illustrated by Mike Curato

Possible Additions that I am Still Pondering:

Imagine by Juan Felipe Herrera illustrated by Lauren Castillo

Love by Matt de la Pena and illustrated by Loren Long

Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

Adrian Simcox Does Not Have a Horse by Marcy Campbell and Corinna Luyken

being a teacher, picture books

Contest Closed – Win A Copy of All Are Welcome

With more than 400 entries, I pulled 5 random entries to win a copy.  Congratulations to the following five winners

Courtney Sears,  Kristy – literacy coach for Fort Mill Schools,  Kayla Bains, Rebekah Underwood, and Ashley Brown

 

One of the picture books that has been traveling the most with me this summer is All Are Welcome written by Alexandra Penfold and illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman.  Within its pages is a simple, yet powerful story, of a community where every child is welcomed no matter their heritage, religion, or life story.  What an important message to read aloud to all of your students as you set the tone for the year ahead.

Well, did you know that there is a kit that comes along with the book?  It can be requested right here to help you use the book.  But in even better news; I get to give five copies away!   The giveaway ends Sunday evening, is only for US addresses (sorry!), and I will pull five winners at random.  All you have to do is enter on this form to be in the running for this book.

being a teacher, books, picture books

Our Favorite First Week of School Picture Books

For the past many years, our first day of school has included a read-aloud of a picture book.  This central part of our classroom journey starts us off right, inviting students in to share a moment of wonder, of laughter.  It starts discussions and sets the tone for the year to come.  This is why selecting the first picture book to read aloud is such a big deal for me; what tone do I want to set?  Which book will help students gain an ounce of trust when it comes to the experience we are about to embark on?  Usually, I have students choose the book they want me to read aloud to them, sometimes I choose for them, but in case you need a few ideas, here are the picture books I love choosing from.

All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanna Kaufman

We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins

I Walk With Vanessa by Kerascoet

Mixed – A Colorful Story by Arree Chung

Drawn Together by Minh Le and Dan Santat

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael Lopez

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal

Image result for what if picturebook

What if by Samantha Berger and Mike Curato

 

Happy Dreamer by Peter H. Reynolds

Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller and Jen Hill

Welcome: A Mo Willems Guide for New Arrivals

You Hold Me Up by Monique Gray Smith and Danielle Daniel

My Teacher is a Monster (No, I am Not) by Peter Brown

After the Fall by Dan Santat

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall

School’s First Day of School written by Adam Rex and illustrated by Christian Robinson

Baa Baa Smart Sheep created by Mark and Rowan Sommerset

 Let Me Finish written by Minh Le illustrated by Isabel Roxas.

 

Ferocious Fluffity written by Erica S. Perl and illustrated by Henry Cole

A Hungry Lion or A Dwindling Assortment of Animals by Lucy Ruth Cummins

books, picture books, Reading

My Favorite Picture Books of 2018 (So Far)

Every year I post an end of the year favorite book list but I thought this year, inspired by Colby Sharp, I thought it would be fun to add the titles as I discovered them.  Now, these may have come out in 2018 or simply have been read by me in 2018.  So here you are, in no particular order, my favorite picture books of 2018.  To follow along with these live follow me on Instagram.

The list of favorite chapter books for 2018, can be found here.

To see all of our favorite books through the years, go here.

Fiction

Image result for the very last castle

 

Image result for forever or a day

Image result for i am loved nikki giovanni

Image result for the rabbit listened

Image result for dear girl

Image result for what if picturebook

Non-Fiction

between the lines.jpg

cute.jpg

being a teacher, Literacy, picture books, Reading

Using Picture Books With Older Students – A How-to Guide

I have written extensively about the use of picture books within our classroom and yet there are still questions that keep coming up.  No worries as I realized that I had yet to make a central blog post about picture books and how I use them with older students and so while this post may be long, I hope it is helpful.  Note that really everything I write here about using picture books with older students also goes for using them with younger kids because as we all know there no is no too old for picture books.

I have written before of why I use picture books with my middle school students, the changes it has created for us as we build our community of readers.  I have shared lists upon lists of our favorite books as well, hoping to help others find the very best value in the books they bring in, hoping to inspire others to make them an integral part of their classroom.

How Do I Know Which Books to Get?

I am connected.  I am a proud member of the Nerdy Book Club and through Twitter  I am connected to many picture book loving people; teachers, librarians, parents, and all of the other amazing people out there.  I follow hashtags like #WeNeedDiverseBooks  #Titletalk, #pb10for10 #classroombookaday and #nerdybookclub to stay in the know.  And I tweet out asking for recommendations all of the time.

I keep a written list handy.  I have a journal book with me at all times, and while I often add books to my wishlist on Amazon, I like having the list in my bag.  I am always adding to it and will cross out as I either purchase or reject.  This also makes it easy for me to recommend books to others that they may not know about.

I read them beforehand, most of the time.  Many times we will wander to the nearest bookstore so that I can browse the books before purchasing them.  How do I know that this will be a great one for our room, well there are few things I look for…

Do I react to it in any way?  A picture book doesn’t always have to have a deep message for me to react to it; was it funny, did it make me think, did it leave me with questions?  All of these are things that I look for.

Is it easy to follow?  Sometimes it takes more than one read to really get a book and while I love those books too, most of the time, I am looking for a book that my students will get rather quickly.  At least most of them.  However, I do purchase picture books to use with smaller groups that have layers we can peel away.

Is the language accessible?  Yes, I teach 7th graders but their reading development levels range from 2nd grade to high school, so can all students access the text or will I need to “translate” it?

What purpose does it have?  I often look for picture books that can be used as community builders, self-connections, or conversation starters.  We also use them as mentor texts as we develop as readers and writers throughout the year.  But I also look for picture books that will make my students laugh, make them reconnect with being a little kid again, or help them get out of a bad mood.  I try to get a balance of all of these types of books in the hands of students.

Will we read it more than once?  Because I buy most of the picture books in my classroom, I look for enduring books that we will return to again and again.  Different things make books repeat reads; the illustrations, the phrasing, the story.  Bottom-line: it is a gut feeling most of the time.

Do we have other works by the author?  My students feel closely connected to the picture book authors and illustrators whose books we love so I try to expand our favorite collections as often as possible.  Some of our favorites are Jackie Woodson, Julie Flett, Peter Brown, Mo Willems, Peter H. Reynolds, Ame Dyckman, Jon Klassen, and Amy Krouse Rosenthal.

How Do I Organize our Picture Books?

Every hardcover picture book is stamped on the inside with a custom-made stamp from Amazon, which has been easily one of the best purchases I have ever made.

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They are then also labeled with the first letter of the author’s last name on their spine.  That way as long as I know the author’s last name, I can quickly pull the book from that section.

shelving pbs.jpeg

Picture books are typically not checked out by students as they are easy to lose, however, others teachers borrow them freely.

Picture books are shelved together in our classroom but not organized by theme or author.  I simply do not have room for splitting up the groups, so I try to display the picture books by theme in our classroom instead.  For example, whenever it is a new month or after a break, our display is always changed out.  I want students to want to read them as much as possible and a fresh new display helps entice them.pbs on display.jpeg

How Do I Select the Book to Use?

I first identify the purpose of the lesson of course and then go through either my lists of picture books or simply flip through our stacks.  As our collection has grown, I have started keeping a better eye on picture books that can be used for more than one purpose.

Which book I choose to share depends on the lesson.  I treat it much like a short story in what I want students to get out of it so it has to suit the very purpose we are trying to understand. I introduce the concept by sharing a story and then I ask my students to come as close as they can to the rocking chair in our corner.  Once settled, whether on the floor, on balls or on chairs, I  read it aloud.  We stop and talk throughout as needed but not on every page, it should not take more than 10 minutes at most to get through an average size picture book.  If it is a brand new concept I may just have students listen, while other times they might engage in a turn-and-talk.   I have an easel right next to me and at times we write our thoughts on that.  Sometimes we make an anchor chart, it really just depends on the purpose of the lesson.  Often a picture book is used as one type of media on a topic and we can then branch into excerpts from text, video, or audio that relates to the topic.

Because I teach the same class multiple times in a row, I often switch out the picture books I use with the different classes.  There are some that you can still love reading after 4 times, while others get to be a bit tedious, so I adjust as needed.  This is why having a lot of great picture books to choose from is something I am committed to.

I do not have multiple copies of really any picture books, I don’t see it as needed.  Instead, I pick the picture book to read aloud and then find “companion books,” other picture books that share the same concept, for example easily identifiable themes. These are spread out on tables, waiting for the students to select them. This way, when I ask students to work with them they are truly testing out the skill and not just whether they can spot the same things that we just practiced together.  Often times, students can choose to work with a partner as they explore their self-selected books.

What Are Different Concepts You Can Use Picture Books to Teach?

Thematic statements

Using a picture book as an example, we read one aloud and work through the example together.  While many of my students can easily pick up on the theme “word” (Death, love, freedom), they have a much harder stretching that into an actual thematic statement.  So rather than just death, they have to write something along the lines of “In the picture book, Ida Always, the text is used to illustrate that the fear of death should not stand in the way of creating lasting bonds.”  While this may seem hard at first, the idea of doing this work with a picture book, rather than a longer book, alleviates some of the stress that my students have with the analytical work being done.  After we write our thematic statement and turn it into a full paragraph, the students are then given a stack of picture books to choose from to practice on their own.  This is, therefore, a way to assess their understanding without having to use a common text.  Students can then either hand in their thoughts as a written piece of work or choose to discuss it with me or record it using their device.

Writers Craft

The writing skills used in a great picture book are worthy of our close analysis.  I love finding a stack of small moment picture books and then having students really take the writing apart.  How did the author move the story along with such few pages?  If we were to remove the images would the story still stand on its own?  Why?  Other questions can be:

  • How does the author transition time or setting?
  • How does the author situate us?
  • How is the character described?
  • How are the words further explained through the illustrations?
  • How does the illustrator deepen the message?
  • How are words repeated?
  • How do we pick out symbolism and what does it signify?
  • How can we introduce all of the Notice and Note signposts through picture books?

These are just a few examples of separate lessons that can be done through a lense of writer’s craft.

Plot and Small Moment Stories

While my students can write stories, they do not always write good stories.  Sometimes they get bogged down in too many details, other times they have too few or their story is simply not interesting.  Using picture books we can study the art of plot, as well as how to encapsulate an entire story in very little language.  These are great primers for students to think of their own story craft.

Non-Fiction Focus

We have written nonfiction picture books in the past and one of my greatest joys is to get students read some of the incredible nonfiction picture books we have in our collection.  I think of books like Pink is for BlobfishGrowing Up Pedro, GorillasGiant Squid, or How to Be an Elephant.  These authors breathe life into their nonfiction texts and so I ask my students to study their craft.  How did they take all of this research and create something so accessible yet information-filled?  It is wondrous to see the lightbulb go off for my students when they can see what I mean right in the text.

Fluency and Expression

One of our favorite units of the year is when all of our students perform plays based on Mo Willem’s Elephant & Piggie books.  It is incredible to see these sometimes very cool 7th graders, truly connect with their silly side and go for it in their performance.  Reading aloud picture books, performing them, and putting your heart into it helps with all public speaking skills.

Introductory texts. 

In order for us to go deeper with text analysis and discussion, I need my students to sometimes gain some confidence.  Picture books are not scary.  They are inviting to kids.  So as we begin the year with an introduction or reminder of the signposts as discussed in the book Notice and Note, I use picture books to introduce every single signpost.  (To see the lists go here).  It helps me break it down simply for kids, to give them confidence, and then also to be able to transfer it into their own reading.

Inferring.

One of my biggest tools for boosting inference skills is to use wordless picture books.  After all, it is hard to read books like Unspoken or The Whale and not have an opinion on what just happened.  Another reason I love wordless picture books is that it levels the playing field for a lot of our kids.  They don’t have to decode the words to get to the story but instead have to decode the images.  I have found that some of my most vulnerable readers are incredibly good at this as this is one of the reading survival strategies they use daily.

Introducing Hard Content

There are incredible picture books that discuss topics such as death, jail, suicide, war, and even drug abuse and so we use these picture books to broach harder topics with students.  Seeing their stories or stories that are incredible foreign to them played out within the pages of a short book really allows for us to open up a discussion as well as connections to the pages.

As you can see, picture books are not just for show, and yet, even if they were, I would be ok with that.  After all, how many times does a child just need to fall into the pages of a picture book to remember the magic that reading itself?  What an incredible gift all of these authors and illustrators give us when they decide to spill their ideas into a picture book.

How Do you Assess Skills and Strategies Through a Picture Book?

Because we are a classroom driven by self-selected reading, it can be hard to figure out what students really know.  Picture books are again a central tenet of this.  Whether I have introduced a brand new skill or simply done a review, I can quickly assess students’ knowledge and use of the skill through the pages of a picture book.  All I have to do is gather up the picture books that all have the skill in them such as character development and then have students read them.  After that, they can either write, discuss, or record a response to show me their understanding.  That way I do not have to know the independent book they are reading but I can still see what they can do.

What Comes After the Reading?

Picture books are not just something we read, we write them ourselves in our epic nonfiction picture book project.  We study them.  We speak about them.   We get ideas and inspiration from them.  We carefully protect the time we have to read them.  They are the mentor texts we shape our instruction around.

What Are Some Current Favorites?

And because I cannot write a blog post about picture books and then not share a few favorites, here are some that I love at the moment.  For “live” recommendations follow my Instagram account. 

Drawn Together by Minh Le and Dan Santat

Heartbeat by Evan Turk

I’m Sad by Michael Ian Black and Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Prince & Knight by Daniel Haack and Stevie Lewis

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael Lopez

 

So there you have it, a little further explanation of how picture books are used in our classroom.  They become part of the tapestry of our room and something the students search out for solace when they need to feel like they are readers again. As one child told me after I had shared our very first picture book, “Picture books make you remember your imagination again.”  And I knew that these kids got it.  That they knew that this wasn’t just me having some fun, but that picture books will teach us some of the largest lesson this year.  That picture books are not just for little kids and laughter.  They are for readers of all ages, and in particular, those who have gotten lost.

If you like what you read here, consider reading my newest book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child  Also consider joining our book club study of it, kicking off June 17th.  This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block.  If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.      Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.