Disappointment runneth over.

So, nearly six weeks ago the Caldecott and Newbery awards were announced and I was completely wrong on all predictions. And quite disappointed by the awarded books, to be honest. I felt like the committee for the 2016 year’s selection was pretty off-the-mark.

I felt like certain books were far and away better than the awardees, actually. Here are some of my favorites from 2016:

Ida, Always by Caron Levis. See previous post from oh so long ago. I finished out the year of 2016 still considering this book as one of the best of the year.

Nobody Likes a Goblin by Ben Hatke. I read this book several times to school groups and it was a hit each time. It’s a great story and well illustrated.

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown. WHY DIDN’T THIS GET ANY SORT OF RECOGNITION BY THE NEWBERY SELECTION COMMITTEE? This was fantastic. Well-written, great illustrations, simply amazing story line, and just a really beautiful children’s chapter book. If this isn’t turned into a movie, I would be shocked.

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas. I thought the illustrations in this book were far and away the most beautiful of all the 2016 releases. The story was gentle and sort of sad, but also sweet. It didn’t really get a great reception from the kids, but I think it’s one of those books adults buy for themselves (or, is it just me?).

 

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Mock Caldecott 2016

It’s less than a month until the Caldecott 2016 Award will be announced. The committee doesn’t do a shortlist for the Caldecott or Newbery that I’ve ever been able to find. It’s all sort of hushed up, which leaves us children’s librarians to our own devices. Throughout the year, I’ve been processing the new books with an eye toward the illustrations and a wonder at which of these artists will be given the coveted Caldecott Award for best illustration in an American Picture Book come January. Well, I don’t know. Unfortunately, being immersed in the world of picture books and storytimes and preschoolers doesn’t make me inherently knowledgeable about what the committee is looking for when picking their winners for the children’s book awards.

But, if I were to choose a set of nominees, here would be mine. I can highly recommend all of these books if you’re still looking for a beautiful picture book to give away this Christmas:

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The Last Stop on Market Street
written by Matt de la Pena, illustrated by Christian Robinson.
I liked this book so much last summer that I wrote a blog post dedicated to it. I still love it. My preschoolers loved the illustrations. Plus, I feel like the story is set in the reality that my community confronts every day, and that’s good for my kids to see. It’s good that there is a story that reflects the beauty of their community, even when that community includes things like homelessness and graffiti and is not the typical storybook setting.

 
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Boats for Papa written & illustrated by Jessixa Bagley.
This is it for me. This might be my top choice for Caldecott. The problem for the committee might be the topic that it deals with, but the illustrations are beautiful and I really really love this book. This is the exact type of book that I look for when recommending titles to parents who are searching for books dealing with major issues and how to explain things to children when the parents themselves are struggling to find the words. This book deals with loss and grieving in the most beautifully loving way. No judging the ways in which someone grieves, no time limits for grieving, nothing. Love and understanding and patience are what shine in this beautiful and gentle story. The illustrations are so well done and very detailed. You see the details in the boats and the emotions on the faces of Mama and little Buckley. It’s just…great. If this book isn’t even a nominee for Caldecott 2016, I will be sad.

 

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Sidewalk Flowers “written” by Jon Arno Lawson; illustrated by Sydney Smith
This is a wordless book, so the entire story is told by the illustrations alone and Smith does a fantastic job. It’s really a beautifully written piece of art. The father and daughter are out for a stroll and the father is pre-occupied while the little girl collects wildflowers she finds along the route and she gives them to people as they go. The illustrator uses black and white at first, and as the story progresses and the girl gives away more and more flowers, the pages become beautifully colorful. She lights up the world with her generosity. It’s gonna give you a big case of the happies. I haven’t really heard much buzz about this book, so I don’t know if it’s even on people’s radar, but I’m putting it out there as one of the best wordless books I’ve seen this year.

 

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Waiting written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes
So, Henkes is sort of a King among children’s lit authors. He’s won this award before. He is revered in some circles. But, there’s a reason and this book is a great example of the genius of Henkes. He just gets it. It’s simple. It’s about waiting for something to happen. Seriously, that’s all it’s about. The book is about five friends who sit on a windowsill and wait. Each are waiting for something different and amazing to happen. The illustrations are gentle and pastel-y and beautiful. It’s just…adorable. That’s what it is. Adorable. I would be surprised if it’s not a big contender for the Caldecott, not just for the name recognition, but it is freaking adorable.

 

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Water is Water : A book about the Water Cycle written by Miranda Paul; illustrations by Jason Chin
Okay. This title is not good. I will give you that. It totally doesn’t scream ‘PICK ME UP AND READ ME. I’M AWESOME.’ Beautifully written and illustrated non-fiction picture books are somewhat rare, which is why, when one comes along, we all need to shout it out to the heavens. I’m shouting out because this book is excellent. It is written in a bit of a language pattern, showing the different states of being for water through liquid phase, gas phase, solid phases, which is great for kids. It hits water, fog, mist, rain, ice, snow, etc. The illustrations are out of this world, too. This should be a major contender for the Caldecott if the title doesn’t hurt it’s chances.

 

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The Whisper written and illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski
This is probably the big buzzy leader going into the final few weeks of the year. Zagarenski is an amazing artist, no doubt. The book is beautifully written and deals with librarians favorite topics: books and the power of imagination. I see what the fuss is about. It is for these reasons that I think it’s got a really strong chance at being named the top picture book of 2015. I think it’s a great book, but I wouldn’t read this to my preschoolers. This is the sort of book that I think adults love more than kids do. This is the book that you buy as an adult because you love books and you love to read and this book makes you feel all the feels about the power of reading. It’s good. But, as for best picture book of the year, I personally hope it goes to a book that kids would love to read as well. The story here is just a bit abstract, although the illustrations are beautifully detailed. Zagarenski has been a Caldecott honoree twice, so perhaps the third time is the charm this year?

 

Other possiblities:

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Yard Sale written by Eve Bunting; illustrations by Lauren Castillo
Another favorite book of mine because it deals with a difficult topic for kids and parents alike. The family is facing foreclosure and having to sell all their belongings and move into a small apartment. The yard sale is the final effort at making some money to begin anew in the little apartment. Bunting and Castillo handle this difficult topic so gently and beautifully. The struggle of the parents and the little girl to let go and accept what’s happening is so clear in the illustrations but the story with Eve Bunting at the helm (another giant of children’s lit) is so well done. It’s a really great book. Highly recommended. I don’t know if it will make it onto the committee’s nomination list or not, but it’s a fantastic book no matter what.

 

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A Fine Dessert : Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat written by Emily Jenkins; illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Another non-fiction picture book that knocks it out of the park! Hurraaaay! This one is about a simple recipe, but illustrates the progress of the culinary industry over the course of four hundred years. The illustrations are detailed and beautiful. The story is repetitive, but distinctly shows the differences in each century and each family’s living arrangements. I really liked this book. It has been on a few lists of the year’s best picture books, so it has a recognition base already. It might be a good sleeper choice for the Caldecott!

 

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The Day the Crayons Came Home written by Drew Daywalt; illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
This is the follow-up to the wonderful book “The Day the Crayons Quit”, which is a big hit with my preschoolers. This time, there are crayons who want to be rescued rather than quit their job as coloring tools. I like this book, but I am pulling for a picture book that’s original (not that this idea is old or anything, but these two did so well on the first book, I sort of wish they’d have just left it alone rather than trying to cash in again…but that’s sort of a petty reason to leave them excluded from a list like this.) It’s already won some awards based on popularity by readers. Whether or not that pulls the awards committee into giving the Caldecott to Jeffers, I don’t know. As I said, a great book, sure to please the kids and adults alike, but I’m hoping for the winner to be something more original this year.

 

 

Okay, those are my picks. I hope I have at least a few honorees and maybe the medal winner on here. The choice is announced on Monday, January 11th at 8 am during the American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards in Boston. Happy reading!

Getting out there.

I’m the outreach person at my branch library and going out into the community is one of my favorite parts of my job. I always learn something, I get to meet people, I get to share information about the library, and I get to just hang out with other community organizations and learn what they offer. I always learn something and always meet interesting people and bring back new resources for community organizations to share in the library.

I’ve also started to do enough of these that I’m recognizing the outreach people for other organizations, which is kind of cool because we have pretty awesome conversations sometimes. Although, it can be a really depressing conversation. Usually the conversations are centered around the challenges of the community and we don’t usually come up with solutions, although we can use the other outreach participants as good sounding boards for odd occurrences in our own organizations.

Today I learned that there is an awesome organization in the city centered around helping children who are grieving. When a child loses someone close to them, usually a parent or sibling, this organization gives a place for them to go to be with peers who are going through a major loss as well. This is a fantastic organization! I had no idea they had something like this in town. It’s based upon a California organization, apparently. It’s for ages 5-25 and they actually even have a summer camp for kids who are grieving. Not focused on grief, necessarily, but just doing fun camp stuff. Trying to have a laugh and brighten the days of kids whose home lives are in major flux. I wish there’d been something like this for me. I think it’s hard to talk about grief with peers when you’re younger because not very many of your peers have dealt with that sort of loss, yet. Or rather, maybe there ARE peers around you but you just don’t know them or know they’re going through something similar. It’s a way for kids to work through the grieving process without being rushed by well-meaning friends who don’t really understand why you’re still sad after a few months. Why you haven’t snapped out of it. Why you can’t just move on. I’m going to remember this organization! It’s not centered exactly in my community, it’s on the other side of the city, but it would be of great benefit to the kids in my area, and I know of several families who might like to know about this right now.

It’s these sorts of organizations that I wouldn’t meet without being a part of these outreach events! It’s wonderful. When I became a librarian I didn’t give all that much thought to working out in the community. I thought of a librarian as a public service job, but mostly my thoughts were focused on inside the library. You know, just offering programs inside the library that I think people might enjoy. But a few years ago, I started to see the importance of being out in the community. Being visible. It’s less about bringing people in to the building and more about going outside the building and talking to people. Being visible in the community so that your library is quickly thought of when someone needs information. I think the library world as a whole is shifting more toward this idea. I like to think so, anyway. I see librarian jobs being advertised with titles now that are Community Engagement Librarian or Library Outreach Coordinator, etc. It’s a great shift in the right direction, I believe!

You are you. Now, isn’t that pleasant?

Each Wednesday morning I have a preschool storytime. I have a core group of families who tend to show up. It has fluctuated quite a bit over this summer. This was the first summer my library system elected to continue storytime after April. They used to always stop storytime for the summer and pick up again in August. They didn’t like to have the children’s librarians running the summer reading program and still doing storytimes at the same time, I guess. But, they decided that the community was in need of continuous storytimes, so here we are. Initially, my attendance stayed pretty high, but it’s steadily decreased. Today was the smallest storytime I’ve had since I started doing them last year. I had 5 preschoolers and 1 infant. I was doing a circus theme and they loved my “circus big top” (a white bed sheet, because the parachute I had asked to borrow from another library has never shown up.) They enjoyed the first book, Song of the Circus by Lois Duncan (Yep, that Lois Duncan! The same one who writes thrillers.). They enjoyed the songs and movement activities. And then, I tried something I’ve only tried one other time (another very small storytime crowd, come to think of it): I read them a Dr. Seuss book.

I like Dr. Seuss, but he has been troublesome for me in the world of storytimes. The first time I tried to read a Dr. Seuss book for storytime, it was MLK Jr. Day and I read the story of the Sneetches. I love that story. The few children who were at the storytime chimed in with their comments about how terribly treated some of the Sneetches were and how silly it all was that if you have a star on your belly you get to do things that others cannot. It worked as I had hoped it would for that particular theme.

However. There was a father who asked to see the Dr. Seuss book during craft time and then proceeded to tell me how Dr. Seuss was not a good role model for children because he was anti-Semetic and that he doesn’t read Dr. Seuss to his children and believed I should no longer read Dr. Seuss in storytimes.

Well… I’ve never found any reliable sources claiming that Dr. Seuss was anything other than supportive of Jews. In fact, during WWII, he criticized the US for its treatment of Jews and was very solidly anti-Hitler. He did agree with the Japanese internment camps during WWII, which was a moral blunder, but he later seemed to see the error of his ways in the writing of Horton Hears a Who, written about the occupation of Japan after WWII and which he dedicated to a close friend of his from Japan. At any rate, I don’t know where this father got his opinion. Certainly, everyone is entitled to decide whether to read certain books to their children or not, but he stopped bringing his kids to storytime after that. If I’m honest, it was not much of a loss. The fellow was rather off-putting in a general way, although his kids were great. Despite one parent’s problem with an author or a children’s book, I would not stop reading said author aloud to children. That’s not the point of a public library, those sorts of stipulations would be appropriate in a non-public library…like in your own home.

Still, I haven’t given Dr. Seuss a try in storytime since then and that was nearly six months ago. But, today I decided to give it another go because If I Ran the Circus  is SO good. It was a big, fat, flop. I think it was too long. Dr. Seuss is definitely wordy. My kids today ranged from about 2-5 and I think Dr. Seuss just dragged on a bit too much. It’s nonsense words went over a lot of their heads. There were a few giggles, but there was a lot more talking amongst themselves and not paying attention. Usually these kids pay attention. So, I was sort of disappointed. I asked them questions about the story when I finished and they could hardly tell me anything about it. It wasn’t good. Maybe it needs an older crowd. Maybe his books are just too long for this age group. Maybe it just wasn’t a day for Dr. Seuss and storytime. Or maybe Dr. Seuss and storytime are not that great of a match here. It’s a shame, really. I’ll probably try him again sometime, but I need to find a way to bring the kids into participating with the story more. Maybe just The Cat in the Hat (although, I really don’t like that one much), or something that they might have been introduced to previously. I don’t know. I’m afraid Dr. Seuss will just go back on the shelf for a while.

I’ll give him three chances, but not another chance for a while. Not only because of the reception he received, but also because it’s a lot of work to read a Dr. Seuss book aloud and not stumble over the nonsense words or the tongue twisters! I practiced reading this book three times before I actually read it to them this morning. It’s tough! I know some people think reading Seuss to kids isn’t good because of all his nonsense words, but I disagree. Even the two-year-old today laughed at some of the nonsense words. They know, even at that young age, that the words are goofy. They know ‘eyeses’ and ‘shouldsters’ aren’t the correct words for the body parts, even if they don’t know that there’s not a planet called “Foon”. It’s all good, but maybe not always the best for a storytime setting? Sigh. I don’t know. It’s a situation where I want it to work and don’t want to give up on it, but its a disappointment each time I try.

In the meanwhile, try reading this aloud without stuttering or stopping or having a brain-jolt at the tongue-twisting turning of phrases of old Theo Geisel:

“When beetles fight these battles in a bottle with their paddles
and the bottle’s on a poodle and the poodle’s eating noodles…
…they call this a muddle puddle tweetle poodle beetle noodle
bottle paddle battle.”
Dr. Seuss, Fox in Socks

I have one particular girl in storytime who loves to clap when the story is over. Several of the parents have taken to clapping when the story is over, too… I don’t know how to handle it, so I usually just sort of move quickly on to the next thing we’re doing. But today, after getting through all the tongue twisters without stumbling or messing up the Seussian rhythm I was all like:

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