Thursday, January 19, 2017

Anticipating Newbery and Caldecott Awards ~ by Patricia Toht

I LOVE this time of year! It's the week before the American Library Association's Midwinter meeting, and I'm filled with...

ALA Midwinter is where and when the winners of the Caldecott and Newbery Medals are announced, the two most prestigious honors in American children's literature.

My store from 1988-1995
Perhaps my anticipation hearkens back to my days as a bookseller. For most small, independent bookstores, if you do not have the winning titles on hand, there's a great likelihood that you'll be out of stock for quite awhile. Current stock is immediately snatched up and further copies require a reprint. So each January, I played the guessing game of which titles would win.

As a reminder, the Randolph Caldecott Medal is awarded to the best illustrated children's book of the year. The winner is usually a picture book. But sometimes a novel wins, like in 2008 when Brian Selznick's THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET took the prize. 

The John Newbery Medal is awarded to the best written children's book of the year. The winner is usually a novel. But sometimes a picture book wins, like in 2016, when Matt de la Peña's LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET won. 

Nowadays, I work in a middle school library. But I still try to guess at the winners, with the goal of having added those books to our collection before the announcement. 

An educated guess is so much better than a wild one, so here is how I go about it:
Nearly 22,000 children's books are traditionally published each year, and I'm a slow reader. To narrow the list, I rely on these sources:

1) Reviews (especially starred ones) from School Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus, Horn Book, and Publishers' Weekly.

2) Blogs like Fuse #8, 100 Scope Notes, Nerdy Book Club, Pragmatic Mom, Brightly.

3) Bookstores, like our local Anderson's Bookshop, which holds a Mock Newbery vote for participants. They have great taste in books, so I try to read all of them.

4) Librarians and writing friends, who also have impeccable taste in books.

And then I read.

        And read.

                And read some more.

So what are my "educated" guesses?

For the Caldecott gold medal, I would love for the winner to be SOME WRITER!: THE STORY OF E.B. WHITE, written and illustrated by Melissa Sweet. In this biography of the CHARLOTTE'S WEB author, the illustrations are integral and seamlessly woven with the text, and I found myself lingering on every page to soak up the details.

For Caldecott honors, I choose two books. THEY ALL SAW A CAT, written and illustrated by Brendan Wenzel, is a brilliant take on how different creatures uniquely view a cat.  

[Confession: While I would love for SOME WRITER to win, I really think THEY ALL SAW A CAT will win.] 

BEFORE MORNING, written by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Beth Krommes, is a lyrical wish for a snow day. (I do have a creative crush on Joyce Sidman, so I confess to my bias.)

For the Newbery gold medal, I choose THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON, by Kelly Barnhill. The language in this book is luscious! And the drawing together of the individual story threads into a knot of tension before the conclusion had me reading late into the night.

For Newbery honors, I'll choose two as well. WOLF HOLLOW by Lauren Wolk, the story of a girl, a war veteran, and a bully, and how kindness and honesty triumphs amid sorrow. Lovely "sense of place" to this one. 

THE WILD ROBOT by Peter Brown maroons a robot in the wilderness and asks her to survive. I was very moved by this tussle between technology and nature, rooting for the robot with all my heart.

The awards will be announced on Monday, January 23, 2017, at 8 am ET. If you'd like to watch it live, the awards will be streamed on the I Love Libraries Facebook page.

I'm hoping my guesses are as good as the Mock Caldecott results in Colby Sharp's third grade classroom last year:

What are YOUR picks this year, readers??? 


Monday, January 16, 2017

Part 2 - Library Visit from a Writer's POV - by Kathy Halsey

Today we'll focus in on one area of the school library program that most directly connects to the writer/author/illustrator to the librarian and school the author visit. In the district from which I retired, author visits have always been big celebrations that are planned almost a year ahead with the school librarian being the point person. (If your school library does not have a certified librarian, the point person may be a reading teacher, English teacher, or even a parent group such as the PTO/PTA.)

When you visit your school library, look to see if there are clues that point to former author visits. Front and center at the Winchester Trail School library (3-5 building) is a wall that is signed by every author since 2004. 
How Are Authors Chosen?
Ask your librarian how they choose authors and how they plan to make the visit successful for the school, the author, and themselves.  Often, school librarians ask each other through social media if other librarians in their area have had a certain author for a visit or if another school/district would like to share an author and expenses. An author's reputation with school visits, his/her book titles and how they fit into the curriculum, as well as travel considerations are all factors in choosing authors. 
At Winchester Trail, librarian Janie Kantner has an interesting student population to consider, also: Third graders and fifth graders can be light years apart in reading and interest levels. This year an author who writes graphic novels is under consideration because his books are accessible to the youngest demographic and still "cool" enough for fifth graders. 

Other Considerations

 1. Librarians become super stars, too. With the right PR ahead of an author's visit, kids become enamored with the author and by association, the librarian. 
2. You may be surprised to learn that the school librarian's roll and visibility are heightened, too, with a successful author visit. Superintendents, school board members and local media are often invited by savvy librarians who need to build capacity and credibility in order to have funds for future author visits. 
3. Funds come from many sources: book fairs, grants,  and the book budget which keeps shrinking as book prices rise. As an author, think about how you can keep costs affordable. Could you stay at the librarian's house instead of a hotel the night before? Would a Skype visit be just as impactful? What value-added piece could you add without changing your price structure?
4. A vist begins long before an author sets foot in the door.  A librarian usually buys multiple copies of the author's books for the collection, reads them all, and book talks them through class visits. They create lesson plans that harried teachers swamped with tests and mandates can use before/after the author visit. Simple evaluation tools and feedback forms may be used to see if the visit was successful. Data talks these days. The school librarian becomes a "jobber" and secures books for students to buy and sends letters home to parents regarding the book buying procedure. 
If you have book flyers already created, evaluation sheets made up, a teachers' guide of your books, you have made the librarian's job much more efficient. Author Miranda Paul has great tools on her web site already in place. Check them out here to get ideas of your own. It is no coincidence that Miranda visited the Canal Winchester K-2 building last year. Miranda was traveling to an Ohio SCBWI convention, stayed at my house overnight, reduced her fee for a half day visit and sold a ton of books. (I was Miranda's escort to the SCBWI conference so this was a special circumstance, but Miranda's flexibility made this event possible.)

5. With a great visit, the author's impact is felt long after. As I shelved books this past Friday, many books by Blue Balliet were on the cart, They fly off the book shelves still because Blue was our featured author last year. Today when checking the library catalog, most of multiple copies of her many titles were on hold or checked out. ( I counted 36 books by Blue Balliet in the collection.) She did large group and small class visits. Students were inspired to write plays from her MG works, discover the writing process from a published author's point of view, and create word mobiles of their favorite words from her books.

Next Steps

1. Ask your local school librarian if you can visit and help out during the next author visit. You could organize the stacks of books to be signed, help set up an author luncheon, ferry the author to and from the school if the librarian is busy. 
2. Take your writer's notebook and shadow the author if possible, but be discreet. Note how the author introduces him/herself, how they interact with students and adults, how they personalize books, what added value they bring to the visit. 
3. Even if you are pre-published, you can interact with students in small ways now. Offer to read at story times periodically at your school library, help out during book fairs, suggest sharing how you conduct research as a "real" writer when the librarian conducts research units with teachers. Make sure to have permission from administrators and teachers before you plunge in. I've been lucky enough to interact in all these ways the past two years at Winchester Trail. 
4. If you have no real connection or feel shy about approaching a school librarian, maybe one of your published author friends will let you tag along on a visit. The more you can connect with schools, school librarians, and students before you conduct your own author visits, the more confident you'll feel when you make your debut. My very first pre-pub writer visit was with a middle school student writers' club after school. They treated me as a true author and even gave me roses. You never know what is possible unless you put yourself out there and create opportunities that benefit students, teachers and you!

If you have questions on visiting your school library that I haven't answered in Part 1 (here) or Part 2 of this series, leave them in the comments and I'll answer them or do another post. 


Thursday, January 12, 2017


By Janie Reinart
We thank the Sioux Native American veterans known as "Code Talkers" for their service. These veterans used their tribal language as an unbreakable secret code to transmit messages and help defeat the Japanese in WWII.

Give a warm welcome to the charming Andrea Page. Her new book Sioux Code Talkers of World War II (Nonfiction, ages 8-14) will be released on March 1, 2017 and tells the story of her great-uncle,John Bear King. 

There is a raffle (Rafflecopter will pick the winner) to win one hard copy of Sioux Code Talkers of World War II.

Andrea has graciously answered some interview questions.  

Who is your agent?  
Currently, I don’t have an agent.

How did you get the idea for your story?

Back in 1994, my mother received a newspaper article about an interview with an aging veteran.  He talked about his service as a Lakota (Sioux) Code Talker.   

At the time, I didn’t know what a code talker was, but my mom was excited to see her uncle John Bear King in the photo that accompanied the article.  She had no idea her uncle was a code talker in WWII.  Great-uncle John had died many years before, so we couldn’t ask questions.

I am the “family tree person” who collects the family history.  I set out to get a copy of a page or paragraph that could be placed in the family file.  I went to the library and found…nothing. I decide to search for something, anything…and my journey began.

How long did it take to write? Get to a publisher?

When we received the newspaper article and photo of my great-uncle John Bear King, I was pregnant with my youngest child. She’s 21 years old now. 
I started to think about writing a book, since there was virtually no information about my great-uncle’s unit. 

I signed up for some classes at Writers and Books, and joined a local writer’s group.  (RACWI- Rochester Area Children’s Writers and Illustrators)  I continued to read, take classes, go to conferences, and research.  I sent out my first round of submissions in 2005, and Pelican Publishing responded, asking me if I could double my word count. 

I wasn’t going to give up.  Unfortunately, shortly after that, I had a devastating loss.  My father became sick and passed away in months.  At that point, it was really hard to think, read, or write.  I bounced back and worked hard to double my word count. I resubmitted in 2013.  After several tasks and revisions, I received my contract in 2015!
What is your favorite part of the story?

My favorite part of the story gives me goosebumps when I think of it.  I found out that my uncle’s unit 
(302nd Reconnaissance Troop) broke through a stone wall at Santo Tomas University to rescue the prisoners of war held there by the Japanese.  

It was, and is, the most emotional part of my journey.  I remember the day when I received the evidence in the mail. I had suspected that my uncle was part of that event, but when I found out for sure, I cried.

What is your writing routine?
In the summer, I like to write in the morning.   

During the school year, I have to write at night.  

I like to use a very large, blank sketchbook to write in.(11 X14, 100 pages)  

I’ve been filling at least one a year. I carry a few smaller ones around with me in case thoughts come at other times.  Those are also blank sketchbooks (9X12, 30 pages) (11X14, 24 pages).   

The right pen is important too. I love paper-mate Ink Joy 700 RT white barrel or Signo uniball.

What is your favorite book on the craft of writing?

Picture book

How to Write a Children’s Picture Book Vol I, II, III by Eve Heidi Bine-Stock

Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul

Getting ideas on paper:        

Call of the Writer’s Craft by Tom Bird


Emotions Thesaurus by Angel Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

What inspires you to write?  

I’m inspired by inspiring people.  When I read about a special person and how they overcame the challenges in their life…it’s motivating.  I share these stories with my students.  Hopefully, these stories motivate them to do great things in our world.
What are you working on now?

I’m currently revising two picture books- one on a historical event having to do with veterans and the other one is about an important Native American hero.

Words of advice for writers:  

These are not my words, but I've used the quote in school and I think it is very appropriate here.

Trust yourself fully. Imagine wildly. Craft carefully. 
                      ~ Terry Black Hawk

(From Open the Door: How to Excite Young People about Poetry, Poetry Foundation, page 247)

Thank you, Andrea for an inspiring interview. Best wishes on your book launch. Pre-order Sioux Code Talkers of World War II  here.

Enter a Rafflecopter giveaway (US only). 

Andrea M. Page is a 6th grade ELA teacher and member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Andrea  has been an elementary teacher (science, math and/or ELA) for over 30 years in a public school in upstate New York. She reads books that inspire the important values of bravery, fortitude, generosity and shares stories with her students, inspiring curiosity and wisdom. Researching and writing her first book, and then achieving publication was a dream come true. Being an author helps her to motivate her students, to push them out of their comfort zone and reach for their own dreams.