Three Authors to Read This Summer

This month, for my teacher newsletter, I recommended three books that I thought would make good summer reading. But, since I don’t read a lot of adult fiction, I mostly took recommendations from other staff members. Which leads me to my list: three authors I’d like to give a try this summer.

13221570_10209714641681558_763693187109588805_nRoald Dahl — Well, this one is actually an “I have to read”, because I’m running a book group for 8-12 year olds reading his books this summer. But, it been a million years since I’ve read his work and so I’m looking forward to it. (I, unfortunately, will miss one for BFG due to a conference, but I’m still going to read it.)

9780062132581Dorthea Benton Frank – She’s coming to Wichita, and seeing her books around the store has got me curious. Seems like a good, light, beachy read. The question is: I don’t know where to start. Any of you read her? Any suggestions?

9780452296299Lev Grossman – The Magicians has been on my radar for years, but I just haven’t gotten around to it. I’ve heard a number of good things, and it seems right up my alley, so I don’t know why. Maybe this summer is a good time to start.

I don’t have a lot of extra time to read extra things (I wish I read faster/had more time!), but are there any other authors I should give a try?

Three Books for National Poetry Month

This month’s list was obvious: it’s an easy grab to find a few poetry books for teachers. I did pull the Cybils poetry winner because it’s such a great book. For the other two, I picked a novel in verse (which I’ve read and liked) and a poetry collection that I read had good crossover appeal. How did I do? What else could I have picked?

Here’s the list:


Flutter & Hum by Julie Paschkis


Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton


Aimless Love by Billy Collins

Three Books for Women’s History Month

In other news, before I begin: we’ve got a date, a theme, a logo, AND a hotel for KidlitCon. This being in charge thing isn’t half-bad. 99% of that reason is because I’ve got an excellent team cheering me on, giving me (indispensable) advice and basically helping me manage this. Now, if only I had someone to do the dishes.. (Wait a minute…)

You can check out all the KidlitCon goodies at the website.  I hope to see you there! (Or here…)

I centered this month’s three books (no surprise) on Women’s History month. And even though I didn’t have a choice for older teens, I really like these three books. A lot.

9780786851423Elizabeth Started All the Trouble by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Matt Faulkner- A history of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the suffrage movement. It’s not only fascinating, it’s fun to read! (It helps that Matt Faulkner illustrated my favorite Thanksgiving book: Thank You, Sarah!)

9780872866836Rad American Women by Kate Schatz and Miriam Klein Stahl – When I met the authors (and illustrator? I don’t remember) at KidlitCon back in Sacramento, I thought that this would be a good book. Now, it’s my go-to when people come in looking for a good feminist read for their kids (and surprisingly enough there are a few here in Wichita!). Nominally an alphabet book (“C is for Carol Burnett”), this book also has brief biographies as well as single-sentence statements on each woman, so it can be enjoyed by varying age levels. Be sure to check out the website as well!
978014751812550 Unbelievable Women and Their Fascinating (and True!) Stories by Saundra Mitchell – This one’s not out until the end of the month, but it’s an excellent collection of facts, art and biographies of 50 women from Catherine the Great to Ruth Bader Ginsberg and more. Great for upper elementary through middle school.
There are a ton of great books out there for women’s history month. What would you have chosen?


Three Books for African American History Month

I wrote this in my introduction to my newsletter:

I saw this video on Facebook a while back, and it got me thinking. Especially the part where they say that black history begins with slavery and ends with Martin Luther King, Jr. It helped that it came on the heels of the scandal surrounding A Birthday Cake for George Washington. I especially appreciated this post by author Mitali Perkins is definitely worth checking out. Both things together have made me more aware of the importance of diversity in children’s books, and made me more determined to search out more honest portrayals of black life.

I think that’s true, and as a result, I tried to find books that reflected the African American experience but didn’t have anything to do with slavery or civil rights. The three I came up with are these:

97808075301779780062342331 9781442459489

Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America by Carolyn Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Jamey Cristoph

The Magnificent Mya Tibbs: Spirit Week Showdown by Crystal Allen

When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds

A confession: I haven’t read any of these. But I think it’s definitely something I can rectify.

What would you have picked?

Three Books for National Mentoring Month

One of the things I do as part of my job is write a newsletter for teachers and librarians. It’s the thing I feel the most inadequately prepared for, not being a librarian OR an educator, so I did some asking around to find out what would be most helpful. One of the things was lists of books on a theme. That, I can do.  So, I started a new part of the newsletter where I highlight three books (new or backlist) on a certain theme. This month was Mentors, since I needed a place to start. If you have any theme ideas, I’d love to hear them as well!

I figured it would be a good idea to feature them here as well. Lists are always fun, anyway.

9780399257629 Thank You, Mr. Falker, Patricia Polacco. Believe it or not, I’ve never actually read this one. I do know it is loosely autobiographical and that people love it. But that’s all I know. What have I missed?




9780399162596Fish in a Tree, Lynda Mullaly Hunt. This one is like so many others: brilliant (male) teacher discovers previously unknown learning disability in a student and makes her shine. But, I enjoyed it anyway.





A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle. I’ll admit that this one didn’t readily come up when I was thinking about this list. But, doing some internet digging I came across two things: first, that there aren’t enough books with women mentors (no surprise) and second, that this was an excellent example of strong women mentors. From Meg’s mom to Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which, there are strong women guiding Meg in her journey. No, they’re not traditional teachers, but they count.


Any other books with good mentor/teacher figures that I forgot? Particularly ones with women?

The 2015 Cybils EMGSF Panel: The Ones That Got Away

One of the best things about the Cybils is that we have to agree on a shortlist. Sometimes this comes easily — like it did for our panel this year — sometimes, not so much. Even so, there are always ones that we really like (both individually and collectively) that don’t quite make it on to the list.

Here are five books that I really loved but that didn’t make the cut:


Circus Mirandus


Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer


The Forgotten Sisters

The Hollow Boy

The Hollow Boy



The Cybils: Why I Keep Coming Back

As I’ve been puttering along on my blog here for nearly 11 years, I’ve seen a lot of blogging communities come and go. I’ve been involved in quite a few of them as well. But none has captured my heart the way the Cybils has. I don’t remember how I became aware that a group of bloggers, many of whom I followed, were banding together to create this award. But, I did, and so when the call for judges came out in 2006, I applied. No one knew who I was, and my blog was super scattered back then, so I was turned down. I became determined then: I wanted to be a part of this. And so I worked hard connecting with the community so when the 2007 call went out, I was actually picked.

Over the years that I’ve been involved, I’ve often thought about what it is with the Cybils that keeps me coming back, year after year, to volunteer my time for this award. There are lots of reasons, but I’m going to try and just pick a few.

The people are fantastic. Some of my best blogger friends have come through the Cybils. I’ve served as both a (first-round) panelist and a (second-round) judge, and both offer unique opportunities to connect with other bloggers. Think of it as the best book group ever. It’s short-lived (2 1/2 months for first round, 6 weeks for second), but you’ll have in-depth discussions about great books, you’ll disagree, you’ll be passionate about books with other people who are passionate about books, and you will come out friends on the other end. (Then you need to come to KidlitCon to put faces to the names!)

It’s a unique opportunity to be really well-read in one area of Kidlit. For me, over the years, that has been middle grade books. I was on the Middle Grade Fiction panel for years before leaping over to Speculative Fiction. I’m not as “expert” in those areas as some others, but I am pretty dang knowledgeable. And it’s all because I read a whole bunch every year for the Cybils.

I like being a part of something bigger than myself. This is perhaps the most important reason. There’s just something about working with a team of people, all who have volunteered their time because they are passionate about kids books and kids in general, for a larger goal. In this case: to create a list, and pick the best, kid-friendly book.

I’ve already thrown my hat into the ring, in spite of my busy schedule this fall, to be a part of the 2015 Cybils. I hope to see you there!