Monday, July 9, 2018

One Brave Soul

I can't stop thinking about Jarrett and how brave he is. I'm also extremely sad that I am #NotAtnErDCampMI and will have to wait even longer for a hug...

Hey, Kiddo: How I Lost My Mother, Found My Father and Dealt with Family Addiction

Current teens who spent their elementary years reading and re-reading Jarrett Krosoczka's Lunch Lady books are going to be thrilled to know that Jarrett is back.  This time he's the one donning the heroic yellow gloves as he lets the readers peep into his young childhood through courageous and heart wrenching words and images in his new graphic memoir.

Keep tissues handy and make sure you have a few hours set aside.  You won't want to stop reading.  This graphic novel is filled with love, hope, strength, the search for family, and words and images that will make you wonder, "What is a mother? Who is a mother?" Warning: You will continue to keep Jarrett in your thoughts days and days after finishing. As an outsider, I have always viewed Jarrett as a success story, the famous graphic novelist, the one whose books are torn and are forever checked out of my library.  Now he's offering us a raw glimpse into his struggles, his bravery, his family and sharing how his art became his first line of therapy. Maybe I won't stop thinking about him till I see him again for a big hug and the opportunity to say, "Thank you."

March 2013 with my then 6 year old Zack
In 2013, Jarrett visited my school right before the launch of the first Platypus Police Squad book. We were the first to serve him root beer floats.  At the time, my son was in first grade and fell hard, so hard that he began to set his sights on RISD for college.  Then we became Jarrett groupies, going to see him as often as we could, traveling the nearly two hours to events. Every time Jarrett saw Zack, he would embrace him as if we had been lifelong friends.  Zack is a bit older now and has sadly veered off the graphic novelist path a bit but he will always be a fan of Jarrett's. And I guess the same goes for Jarrett as when I finally ran into him and Gina before the Caldecott-Newbery-Legacy Banquet, the first thing Jarrett said was, "How is Zack? How old is he now?" This short memory is bringing tears to my eyes.  Here we are in a room filling up with the best of the best and the most talented authors and illustrators and publishers and librarians and Jarrett is asking me about my son.  Wow. He is a brave soul with a heck of a huge heart. 💕 But we didn't need his book to tell us that.

Me with Jarrett and Gina before the banquet last month

And I found this Twitter thread so fascinating and inspiring:

Monday, July 2, 2018

You Make House Calls?

I told my mom that I was going to be seeing some of my students today.  "I didn't know you made house calls," she said jokingly.  Not exactly.

More like farm and ice cream calls.

The Farm Call

Zach will be the fourth generation farmer at Dutch Hollow Farms.  He was one of my fifth grade Reading Ambassador stars last year and his favorite thing was to surprise his siblings as the guest reader. During Picture Book Month in November, Zach fell hard for the then unknown, Crown. It was always his first choice book to share with the younger classes.  I distinctly remember him exclaiming in the library,  to no one in particular, "I LOVE this book!"

In not so many words, I was able to share Zach's story and pictures to Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James last week. They loved it.  Proof that the book speaks to anyone and everyone.
7th from the left in the striped shirt is Zach.  Holding the book is another great Reading Ambassador, Olivia

Today I met Zach and his family on his farm.  I got a special tour of the beautiful Jersey cows, and even one that was only hours old. It was so fascinating! I learned so much.  My husband had to hear all about it at dinner.  Being there really gave me a further appreciation of farming, the farm industry and where our food comes from. There's gotta be a picture book in this somewhere.

Then I handed out my goodies. Pure joy.  Yes, I was happy to make a farm call, even in this weather!

PS-They each got #Caldetatts, too!  Jonathan was in the second grade class that did Mock Caldecott with me and remembered all the books!

Ice Cream Call

This morning I read this tweet:

My immediate thought was, "I gotta tell Chase!" So, I text his Mom and we begin our plan to get out the reinforcements.  Next thing you know, it's 7pm and we are outside of our local soft ice cream place, literally melting, lacrosse, Magic Tree House, Japan, aquariums, 4H (how ironic I was at a farm today), wrestling, John Deere, football, and HILO.  If you haven't followed the Judd Winick/Hilo mission real quick--Rising fourth grader Chase, is a big fan.  He skips into the library frequently to send Judd mini videos begging him to come to Castleton.  Now the launch date for Book 5 is official.  Time to find out Judd's snow boot size and book his flight to the north east.

Here you go, Judd.  Just because it's summer, doesn't mean the #presidentoftheJuddWinickFanClub is on vacation.


And just some farm photos I could leave out:

The brand new baby calf

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Close Encounters of #alaac18

It's been so long since I wrote my own blog post that I almost feel like I have forgotten how.  I hope this will get me back in the swing of things for the summer. There are many great books I want to share! In the meantime, I found myself in New Orleans last weekend to celebrate libraries, librarians, illustrators, authors, publishers, books, book promoters, narrators...

My takeaways from #alaac18 here in the form of ten memorable encounters of the conference. Not in any particular order and certainly not all inclusive:

Pura Belpre winner, Ruth Behar's parents:  The moment after the beautiful Pura Belpre Celebration where I ran up to Ruth Behar's parents and exclaimed, "I'm from Briarwood!  I went to PS 117!" We are family!

Caldecott honor winner, Elisha Cooper:  Leaping with Elisha Cooper at the Macmillan Dessert Party on Friday night.  My second graders were fans of Big Cat, Little Cat since the beginning so this was a thrill for me!  Best part about this encounter?  I found out his newest book is about a canoe trip on the Hudson River.  I screamed! Book birthday at Schodack Island State Park, right?  Stay tuned.  ALSO--One of Mrs. Warland's favorite books is Elisha's Homer! She loves sharing it when she is a guest reader.  After that book birthday event, you know where dinner will be! Note to self: Send Elisha some good upstate honey when you get a chance.

MATT CORDELL con familia:  From seeing the Caldecott medalist at the Macmillan Dessert Party in his spiffy vintage red jacket (and not dipping our fingers into Elisha's honey), to hanging with his kids (and chatting about Simpsonville with his mom) atop of New Orleans, I had to be pinched multiple times that I was actually living in reality. And then the speech.  Matt hit every emotion and just nailed it.  I couldn't leap fast enough to an ovation when he finished his final words.


Mover and Shaker, Rocco Staino: Did you know that I want to be Rocco when I grow up?  Lucky me, we were seated next to each other at an Abrams breakfast so I took some notes on how to work on making that happen. Here we are with author, Ellen Potter, who currently lives in Maine but will be a New Yorker soon!

2017 Geisel winner, Laurie Keller: My "date" for the banquet was Laurie Keller (Arnie the Doughnut, We Are Growing, Scrambled States of America, Do Unto Otters...and her newest book, Potato Pants).  I am really glad I put my star-struckedness aside and was just able to hang out, talk about hotmail, where she lives in Michigan, the call, her awesome jewelry from Israel...And then, bonus, on the other side of me was her editor extraordinaire, Christy Octtaviano. We talked picture book biographies (one of my favorite genres), Junior Library Guild, teenagers, the college process...Yeah, I had a pretty darn good seat that night. Thank you, Lucy and the Macmillan family!

Nancy Paulsen:  I have admired editor extraordinaire, Nancy Paulsen's work for many years and I always get a thrill when she likes, comments or retweets my tweets (just happened this morning).  And there she was! Don't be shy, Stacey, I said to myself and a few minutes later we were chatting.

Old and new friends: Powdered-sugar-everywhere-Beignets with Texas rockstar Becky Calzada.  Just screaming and hugging, Texan 2018 Caldecott Committee member, Sylvia Vardell.  Walking the exhibit hall with Coloradan and former Geisel Committee member, Amy Seto-Forrester.  Literally sharing a delicious dinner with Californian #TeamKwame member and old friend, MaryAnn Scheuer.  Squeezing into a phone booth with virtual (and now IRL) Floridian school librarian, Jennifer Underhill at the super hip Penguin event at the Art Garage. Riding a rickshaw with New York friend, Sue Kowalski.

Crown creators, Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James:  Listening to their speeches at the CSK breakfast was one thing but then getting a book signed for my rising sixth grade upstate New York farmer boy and telling them all about how Crown is Zach's favorite book was something even better.  I'm delivering it to Zach at the farm tomorrow morning.

Laurel Snyder with Jonathan Auxier:  I was sitting waiting for a session when my eyes drifted to the name tags of  Laurel and Jonathan. "OMG! OMG!" This Orphan Island and Night Gardener fan was beside herself. And then we got to hang out for a bit...

Dion Graham and Kirsten Cappy: To myself I was trying to strategize what to do next after the banquet on Sunday when my eyes recognized the name, Kirsten Cappy of Curiosity City on her badge.  "I get your emails!" Kirsten was hanging with her friend, Dion, who just won the Odyssey Award for his narration of Trombone Shorty. We saw Trombone Shorty at the opening session.  I got a great big bear hug from Bryan Collier at the banquet so this was a perfect end to memorable evening and an unforgettable conference.

Who else? Feeling like you were eavesdropping on Michelle Obama and Carla Hayden in their living room.  A hug from Kwame, two photo ops with Mr. Schu, almost a "wave" from editor, Grace Kendall, a leap with Nathan Hale, a boomerang with Rafael Lopez, Juana, Pablo, Celia, book reviewer Barb Langridge, Trevor, Jenny, the Rosen family, everyone-knows-Barbara Moon, catching nonfiction rockstar, a hug from Sophie Blackall, salutations with Melissa Stewart for one second or two...

And my passing ship, roommate, Alicia Abdul.  It was fun experiencing the conference with you (sort of!).  No joke--we saw each other for enough seconds on Sunday so she could zip me up and button my clasp! We did have fun together on Friday night! I do believe she was shocked to see me actually tired for the first time in my life on Monday morning. But what do you expect when you get about 6-8 total hours of sleep over a three day period? Ahhhh...but I am completely caught up now. So when's the next event?

Wednesday, June 13, 2018


You can thank me if the next time you see Adam Gidwitz he dates your book. Just sayin.' And I'll say that many of the kids in the Maple Hill High School class of 2024, 25 and 26 will probably remember June 12, 2018, for a long time.

I have been a fan of Adam's since the first Grimm book.  Fast forward a few years to winter 2016-17 and we are all behind The Inquisitor's Tale. In fact, it won our Newbery Consensus Club and needless to say we were more than thrilled when it won Newbery Honor in 2017 that I lost my voice that morning.

Now 17 months later, Adam ran through our Castleton red carpet.

And even though he was only at school for two hours, it was worth every second. Students and faculty were all still buzzing about it today.  Which brings me to this post by Evan who chose to spend his lunch with me so he could dictate a mash up of The Inquisitor's Tale review and a recap of Adam's visit.  Enjoy...

"I have to say the Inquisitor's Tale is really good. I never read the author's note but I had to read the author's note because I had to read about how he came up with this book and the research he did.  And the author's note was really good.  He spent a year in Europe and he went to Paris and other parts of France.  Adam was at our school yesterday and I saw him in the hallway signing the posters we have up because it was Adam Gidwitz mania in our school and I saw him with my Newborn [2018] book group leader, Mrs. Warland, and I told Adam that he responded to my blog post.  He said he remembered me but just didn't know my name.  I thought that was so cool that a Newbery Honor author remembered me and responded to me.  
"He was just so nice and so good.  He was up. He was active and was happy to see all of us. He was happy to see all the kids.  He was happy to see all the sixth graders from last year.  You could tell from his expression on his face that he was just "wow."  And I think he really liked the atmosphere of our school. He seemed really excited to be here. I don't even know how many authors we have had our school, but I loved Adam Gidwitz.  He had to be my favorite author to come to my school yet.
"Give some credit, too, to Hatem Aly.  Because it said in the author's note that they would draw in the margins just random drawings and the most popular one they would draw is a guy getting shot in the butt with an arrow.  Pretty interesting, right?
"At the presentation, Adam told us that he actually went to one of the monasteries called Mont-Saint Michel and he had a guide with him because there is quicksand. That's included in The Inquisitor's Tale (read it to find out).  And there was quicksand and Adam had pull himself out of it, which would take a lot of strength! You are sinking and you are trying to pull yourself out.
"I read some of the Newbery books from last year and I think The Inquisitor's Tale should have won THE Newbery award, not just the honor. Whoever has not read this book, please do.  Just please.  It was SOOOOO good. And that's a wrap!"
And then it was time for recess....I'm cool, I know, but just not enough to miss recess....I understand.
Adam with Evan!

It's so intuitive of Evan--As you can see, Adam really does love the kids.

And you really can't leave Castleton without leaping...

And for your reading pleasure, previous blog posts featuring Adam's Inquisitor's Tale:
2017 Consensus Club

The review of 2017 ALA YMA

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Boy Bites Bug

Reviewer extraordinaire, Izzy, is back this time with a review of the new book, Boy Bites Bug by Rebecca Petruck. Izzy shared that as soon as she started reading it she could not stop.  She had to force her brain to say, "No more!" Otherwise, she was going to stay up too late reading it.  Here's her summary:

"This book is about a boy named, Will.  At the beginning he is in the library with some of his friends. He's reading a book called, Wrestling for Dummies, when his friend dares him to eat one of the stinkbugs that were crowded on the wall. And his 'so called' friend said, 'Make the Mexican eat it. They eat bugs all the time.' [That's not good to say stuff like that.] So the people were saying how racist that was and were stomping on all the stinkbugs and it was a huge mess.  Will ate one and threw up, adding to the chaos. 
"The library ended up being shut down for the rest of the year. Will started to doubt his friendship with Darryl. Then Will gets the class to eat grasshoppers for a class project to show that it's normal to eat bugs. Then his friend, Eloy, tries to tell Will that his project was making fun of his culture and so not a good thing. Will lost yet another friendship and feels really bad for making that project.  He struggles with his decision about the project because on the one hand, he thinks it was terrible but then the on the other he thinks it wasn't that bad. 
"Eventually, he visits Eloy's house to apologize and he does.  But his next idea still includes bugs.  If kids donate $1 to a charity they get a treat with bugs in it like 'chocolate covered ants' or 'wax worm cookies'. [There are actually recipes for them in the back of the book.] Will said that if he raised $250 he would eat a scorpion.  Does he earn the money?
"Will Will show the kids in his school that eating bugs is normal and cool? Will he regain his friendship with Darryl? Crawl into this page turner of a book today."
This book has been out in the world for a month now.  According to Izzy, it's definitely one to add to your collection!


Monday, June 4, 2018

The Truth As Told By Mason Buttle

With tears in her eyes, Taylor came in this morning to share her thoughts about Leslie Connor's new book, The Truth As Told By Mason Buttle.

I started to write a tweet with Taylor's thoughts and then realized it was going to take up more characters than my allotted 280.  I have not read the book yet but am a big Leslie Connor fan.  After reading the jacket, I realized that Taylor may have missed a few details but she was eager to share her personal thoughts.
"This book was so sad. After his best friend died, there is no one for Mason to defend him and he gets bullied a lot. Sixth grader Mason has dyslexia and is in a special class for kids like him. The other middle schoolers bully him like put mean things in his locker.  Lucky for Mason, he has a teacher he trusts. Things look brighter for Mason when Calvin offers him a pretzel in Ms. Blinny's class and they become friends. Even though Mason is still bullied, Calvin stands up for him as best as he can. Will Mason survive the bullies with his new friend by his side and get through sixth grade and the summer after?
"I liked how the story was written because it was as if Mason was writing it.  Even though at times it wasn't grammatically correct, I felt it was easy to understand and made a lot of sense.  The title matched the book because it was Mason telling the story.
"My favorite character was Ms. Blinny because she was really exciting and fun.
"I would give this book an 8 out of 10 stars.  It wasn't the best book I ever read, but I definitely liked it!"


Thursday, May 31, 2018

Short & Skinny

Today's review of Short and Skinny a new graphic novel by Mark Tatulli is brought to you by Evan, Brianna, Olivia, Sophia, Taylor and Izzy!

Evan: This is a story about a kid who is short and skinny (cough-cough like me) and is super self conscious about it. Mark tries to use all these things to make him grow bigger and stronger like "miracle muscle."

Brianna: I liked how the author changed the name from "Star Wars" to "Star Bores."

Evan:  I thought this book was hilarious, but in the end it got kind of sad.

A little revolt erupted just now because no one else thought it was sad.

Izzy:  I don't think it got sad in the end.

Olivia:  How is it sad? He shows his movie to a bunch of people and he's happy.

(The sad/happy ending debate continued for a while...)

Evan:  Remember he throws his movie everywhere because he was mad?

Brianna: Remember at the roller skate arena and Alan said, "I don't like her as much as you do."

Was that sad?

Izzy:  It wasn't sad

Olivia:  I read the book three times.  It was SO good! I just liked the Star Wars/Star Bores part. 

Izzy:  And because of Star Wars he realizes being short and skinny isn't so bad!

Sophia:  The cover made me want to read the book because it made it look like it would be a funny Star Wars book.  And it sort of was because Mark was making a funny version of Star Wars.

Izzy:  To me the cover look confusing.  He was just randomly in the hallway with the mom, the dad and some kid filming them.

Olivia:  I wanted to read the book after looking at the cover because of all the little details.  It looked so interesting.

Taylor:  I didn't like that the cover was all yellow.  I like the illustration on the cover.  I just don't like the yellow.

Olivia:  I think the beginning should change because some people might pick it up and it might turn them off with the aliens.

Evan:  I like the illustrations.  They kind of showed how Mark was short and skinny.

Izzy:  And how he was struggling.

Evan:  Hashtag The Struggle is Real  #thestruggleisreal

All:  I would recommend it!

Brianna:  I would recommend it to everyone!

Olivia:  I would recommend it to people who like graphic novels.

Evan:  I would recommend it to people who are sappy (sad/happy).

Olivia:  YES! I would definitely read another book by this author.

Evan:  I think he should make another book and call it "Tall and Strong" and they would meet and become friends.

Sophia and Izzy:  There's was just a little too much romance in the book.

Brianna:  I think the author should make more graphic novels.

All:  The third book should be "Normal and Boring."

Olivia:  This book was great!

Brianna:  No, it wasn't a great book.  It was an awesome, amazing book!

Evan:  This wasn't a great book...This was an AWESOME book!

Izzy:  This book is great for people who are short and skinny, tall and strong and normal and boring!

The book comes out in September with full color illustrations! We can't wait to see it!