Sunday, February 28, 2021

Missing my People

This week brought to the forefront of my mind that I miss my people. 

We taped our 40th (?) #AuthorFanFaceOff episode featuring an 8th grader from Illinois with the sweetest smile ever vs. the amazing and wonderful, Rita Williams-Garcia.  I look forward to seeing "my people" every Monday. Our show gives so much joy to both the young challengers (although sometimes it may be hard to tell), the authors and to us, the hosts. The line up continues to be stellar.  Shameless plug--please subscribe and share if you don't already. 

This week reminded me how much I miss sitting side by side with my people and getting wow-ed by a keynote speaker. We learned about Jacqueline Woodson in third grade.  We watched her read The Day You Begin, illustrated by our Castleton Elementary School friend, Rafael Lopez, and researched her from one of my favorite databases, FactCite.  I love her recitation of the book. It never got old, even on Friday.  Unrelated but related, the fifth grade ELA teacher was looking for a new read aloud.  I met up with her with a pile of amazing books in my hands (many AFF episodes and or authors: One Crazy Summer, The Crossover, 14th Goldfish, The Parker Inheritance) and some not. Coincidentally, she chose Woodson's Harbor Me. Who knows? Maybe someday she will move into the AFF category...

Tuesday I was on a virtual panel through School Library Connection with four AH-MAZING school librarians.  It really made me wonder how I landed there, honestly. But I reminded myself the message from Woodson's reading of The Day You Begin that we are all fabulous. So yeah, great to be with my people on the panel and "see" folks in the chat, too.  Don't worry if you missed it! Check it out here.

It's been a long while since I took my hair down with my fellow librarians.  Slight tangent here--Just on the topic of hair, one third grader told me this week that it is time for me to see my hairdresser. Indeed, my hair needs to be colored and the appointment was rescheduled twice but alas, Wednesday is the day! From the mouths of babes, eh? Thursday night, the New York Library Association sponsored a fundraiser with Big Ditch Brewing Company in Buffalo.  It was fun to see familiar faces, including a guy who was in my very first graduate school class. At the time, I wasn't sure I was ready to take the leap into librarianship.  He and the other cool, smart and kind folks in that class definitely had an impact on my new career path.

I miss book festivals and conferences with my people. About an hour before it was to begin, I registered for the "Anderson's Book Shop Children's Literature Breakfast" yesterday morning and am so glad I did.  I multi tasked and only missed about 15 minutes of the whole event. Kimberly Brubaker Bradley is amazing period. Dan Santat had me laughing out loud in my not-Prius while I was driving to not buy some quinoa. Gary Paulsen had us all in tears. And the conversation between Meena Harris and Andrea Beaty was inspiring. I plan to spend a lot of money on books later today.

Today is Sunday. I am looking forward to this week (and not just because I am planning to get my hair cut and colored with turquoise highlights).  We have two great AFFs scheduled Monday and Tuesday.  My second grade lesson plan is about Teresa Carreno, a Maragita Engle book illustrated by Rafael Lopez. My Newbery Navigators chose to begin reading one of my all time faves, Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead. So even though I may not be seeing my people in person, this week's virtual challenges alongside the written and illustrated pages of friends will definitely do for now.


The 38th Episode with Lisa Graff and three former students of mine:

The Day You Begin:

From Dan Santat's Twitter, a glimpse into A New Day by Brad Meltzer (book birthday Tuesday!):

Saturday, February 13, 2021


Author Lisa Fipps posted on Twitter the other day a picture of a jar with slips of paper in it.  "Every time someone says something good about STARFISH, I print it off and place it in the jar," she tweeted.  Perhaps this blog post will warrant a print out? 

There are so many things I love about this book in spite of the fact that I had a really hard time reading the bits about Ellie's brother and her mom. But that's what makes the book good, right?  When I fall hard (or don't fall, in this case) for my characters I love it. So many strong feelings one way or the other. Just ask my friend, Alicia. Ellie's mom does everything to get her to lose weight from posting things on the fridge to wanting her, at 12, to get bariatric surgery. And her brother is one of her worst bullies.  It's not that they were unbelievable, just hard for my heart to believe, you know? But, enough about them--Who do I love? Ellie, of course. Her dad. Ahhh...Her old BFF and her new BFF. Yes, the old adage, "make new friends but keep the old" totally fit here, drama free and it worked. Her Doc got a big heart in my notes. I even like her sister, who is trying.

Speaking of hearts, IπŸ’œ Julie Murphy and KA Holt and I feel like if you "shipped" (do they still use that term these days?) those two together, you would get Lisa Fipps.  Her verse is so en pointe, like Holt's. And she's got all the fabulous feels of all the Murphy novels I love. Plus all three write in Texas. Period. End of sentence.

Back to mom...there are good mom memories. "I guess I cling to those moments/like a drowning girl to a life preserver/whenever Mom's words/gut me like a fish." Wow. I just wish Ellie didn't have to endure it for so long. Eventually, with the help of Doc she stands up for herself beginning with tossing the family scale. "Untrue, negative thought:/The higher my weight,/the lower my value./True, positive thought:/A scale does not/determine my worth." All I wanted to do was yell, "You got this, Ellie!"

I highlighted a lot more quotes from the book. Trust me they are good.  Take the time you would have read them here to preorder STARFISH now.  I say it's a strong Newbery 2022 contender. Now, the big question: Will my words leap into your jar, Lisa? πŸ˜‰ 🀞


Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Snow Day Book Birthdays

The Mysterious Disappearance of Aidan S (as told by his brother)

Last weekend everything came to a stop. All I did was read David Levithan's first middle grade novel, The Mysterious Disappearance of Aidan S. (as told by his brother). Nothing else got done.  Don't tell me I didn't warn you. I also could not stop talking about it. I'm glad my 18 year old daughter was still home from college and humored me as I filled her in on Lucas and Aidan's story.  "Did you find out any more details?" "What do you think happened?" She was as much into it as I was. I even told my 5th and 6th grade "Newbery Navigators" about it and they were hooked. I'm happy it is out in the world today.

As you can imagine, the search parties are out in full force when 7th grader Aidan disappears. Day after day, they keep looking.  He reappears on Day 6 with an unbelievable story. Page after page, I wondered. Is it true? Could this happen? I seriously questioned reality. I tried to genrify the book. Is it fantasy? Realistic fiction? I needed to know and therefore could not stop reading.  And to this day, I am still wondering.

It's a story about brothers, believing the impossible (or the possible), family, accepting who you are and what you have. I wish it the happiest of book birthdays and promise me if you read it that you will get in touch with asap so we can talk.

HILO: Gina the Girl Who Broke the World

It is so sad to have a HILO book birthday without a party.  But dear, Judd Winick, know that I was thinking of you and Chase today and cannot wait for your "Author Fan Face-off" next month! YES! The 7th HILO comes out into the world today and as always, we welcome it with big open arms. Hooray! Stay tuned for mid-March when Chase's challenge will be up on our AFF YouTube channel.  I already know it will be a good one. Go Chase! πŸ˜‰

Ground Zero: A Novel of 9/11

I know little about this book except that because it is by Alan Gratz, it will be gripping and one that kids will devour.  It's hard to find a middle grade reader (and librarian) who doesn't love anything that Alan writes.  While you are waiting for it to arrive in your mailbox or SORA shelf, check out our Author Fan Face-off with Alan vs. 8th grader Evan, a former student of mine.  Evan was a huge fan of Alan's since, I believe 4th grade.  I knew when we got Alan confirmed that Evan had to be his challenger.  You won't see it in the video, but I actually cried during our filming because it was so cool to connect Evan to his favorite author. (See above: I will have Kleenex nearby for Chase's challenge, too).

ICYMI here the Grenade challenge:

And a few more that I am either completely intrigued about from social media (Red, White and Whole by Rajani LaRocca), love the duo (Milo Imagines the World by Matt de la Pena and Christian Robinson), always want to support the author (EngiNerds Strike Back by Jarrett Lerner) and ANOTHER Yasmin book to add to the already fabulous collection (Give it a Try, Yasmin! by Saadia Faruqi and Hatem Aly). Yay! Happy Book Birthday all!

Saturday, January 30, 2021

YMA 2021 version

Mrs. Warland was featured prominently in my dream last night. I'm sure it was because I was missing her being by my side this week. Monday wasn't the same without her keeping me sane cutting cake, leaping, screaming, crying and just sharing in the pure joy and excitement of Youth Media Awards.

But alas this was, and continues to be, a different year. There was a little applause, some shrieks but nothing like the past and no cake. The only Newbery book Mrs. Warland read was Rita Williams-Garcia's One Crazy Summer and that was this summer when she had to call me to tell me that it is SO good and deserves the Newbery. "Ummm...Doe? Do you see the stickers on the cover?" It did win! IN 2011! But honestly if it wasn’t for her reminding me how great that book was I wouldn’t have reached out to Rita to appear on Author Fan Face-off, so really nothing is lost. (Her filming is in a couple of weeks. I should probably reach out to Doe for some questions...)

I’m exhausted from my week long YMA parties and celebrations. I watched the Caldecott awards 10x; Sibert 14x (we had Honeybee on our Caldecott list), CSK 10x (hooray for Magnificent Homespun Brown).  And unbelievably Newbery only twice: once live in the 5th grade class I had while it was going on and then later that afternoon with the Newbery Navigators. Coincidentally, though, a 5th grader in that class was reading The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez and pulled it out of his backpack just after the Pura Belpre announcement. Woohoo!

I also read the Geisel winner (thank you JLG) multiple times to K and 1, when I had time. It is perfect and well deserving of the award says kinder Lilly. 

These kids didn’t miss the cake they never knew existed but I did. Instead they enjoyed a little treat of a gold medal (aka gelt in my world) or a gold kiss (yes, they actually make them gold without almonds). Cupcake love in the form of cupcake holder medals (which surprisingly went over very well!) and a gold photo booth! One group of second graders loved the photo booth so much they came back again and again for silly shots.


So happy for all the winners but especially two time Newbery and Sibert honor Christina Soontornvat, (ICYMI we posted a special AFF on Tuesday in her honor), HONEYBEE, Mr. Cc’s We Dream of Space, my second graders Outside In (which we celebrated a book birthday for) and the gorgeous We are Water Protectors (which we also celebrated a book birthday). Oh and Sunday night I downloaded Welcome to the Pity Party after attending a Jewish Libraries midwinter event (I kind of want to join as a librarian who is Jewish but doesn't work in a Jewish library. Is that kosher?) and was literally late for work this week because I had to finish it. Speaking of Sydney Taylor, A Place at the Table got a notable. Woohoo! Check out their AFF, too.

Yay, Christina!

Yay, Saadia!  Yay, Laura!

All in all a good week. The kids seemed genuinely sad when I said it was the last meeting of our Caldecott Committee. Hmmm...maybe it doesn’t have to be? We’re already a month into book releases eligible for 2022...

A slide from our Sibert voting day last week. Both of these won stickers!

Definitely going to be a future blog post if I can get my act together! πŸ’“

Sunday, January 24, 2021

'Twas the Night Before YMA 2021 version

I still have all the feels of the night before the Youth Media Awards and so many other ones, too.  


The closest I came to my typical quarter long Newbery project was my after school Newbery Navigators club.  A handful of dedicated readers read a bunch of books.  One loves Echo Mountain.  Another Mananaland. Every single one of them When Stars Are Scattered.  We read Clean Getaway aloud so of course we'd be thrilled to see Scoob and G'ma get some love. Over the summer, 4th grade teacher Mr. C swore that he didn't have to read another 2021 book because he already read the winner, We Dream of Space. Maybe this is the year for nonfiction and we'll be placing a sticker on All Thirteen or The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh (too old?). 


My 2nd and 3rd graders were on the "Caldecott Committee." What a year for picture books!  We read and scored as many as we could but I'm afraid that I still missed a bunch.  The third graders LOVED A New Green Day and the second graders couldn't get enough of Lift.Forms response chart. Question title: What book should win the 2021 Caldecott Medal? Choose 1.. Number of responses: 71 responses.

I force the kids to make one choice, but not me. This is a good thing. There's no way I could pick my favorite. I love We are Water Protectors, Outside In, Hike, In a Jar, The Old Truck....honestly, I love them all.


And because this year I have a fixed schedule, I'll be celebrating all week long.  I bought gelt (gold coins) and gold Hershey's kisses (without almonds) as my treat and hope that is festive enough for our "party day." I also found a gold backdrop for photo ops and some gold balloons.  Happy Youth Media Day.


I was fortunate enough to run into 4th grade ELA teacher, Mrs. Roe, in the stairwell in November.  We chatted for about five minutes and came up with a Sibert Smackdown plan.  She would read books aloud and I would read others over Flipgrid.  4th graders read over a dozen Sibert Smackdown contenders. Considering that I didn't think they would read any, this is amazing!

With all but one class voting, the top two winners are Crossings and Your Place in the Universe.

If you can't sleep tonight or woke up early and want to watch a little preview before the announcements, feel free to check out their flipgrids:


Ugh. I love Geisel.  I've met some amazing people through the Geisel project including Stephen Savage, Anna Kang and Chris Weyant, Jonathan Fenske (who always makes me lol).  Even though I have only read a few of the Geisel contenders, Egg or Eyeball is my favorite with Baloney and Friends and Mo and his squished jelly doughnut as close seconds.

And that's my wrap.  Tomorrow will be nothing like any other year but I'm hopeful it will still be exciting. I'll be celebrating all week and really putting my acting skills to test.  Find me on Friday afternoon to see if I'm as surprised at the announcements as I am tomorrow.  But now it's time for me to hit my pillow.  See you on the other side.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Ice Cream, Black Eyed Peas and Collards

Hello January! Hello 2021! I welcome you into my life with arms so open that it hurts.

Flashback to ALA 2018. I was waiting in line to grab coffee, a muffin, some hard unripe melon for a seat for the Geisel/Sibert/Batchelder award ceremony when I met Jacquelyn from Alabama. We chatted a bit, sat together, exchanged cards and that was it.  I had no idea that we would keep in touch as strongly as we have and that she would be one of a few colleagues to get me through the past spring and beyond. The random personal connections gained from attending in person national conferences are so powerful and long lasting. Will we be able to meet again IRL in 2021? 

Flashback even farther to ALA 2015. Carole, from LA, had an empty seat at her table during a reception for Ashley Bryan. I sat down and the rest is really history. It was lovely to wish her a happy new year last night (and I won't complain that I got to admire a cloudless, blue sky behind her when we FaceTimed). It's Carole's Sabrina who will be competing against Trenton Lee Stewart on Monday in our Face-Off.

Today: Jacquelyn was wondering about our New Year's food traditions. Uhhh, ice cream? She eats black eyed peas for good luck, collards for money and cornbread for gold.  Since I can't resist luck, money and gold, I stopped at Hannaford on our way home from getting our annual sweet cream treat and I made the soup and corn muffins.  Because of our exchange today, my phone actually thought I was having dinner with Jacquelyn.  It was sort of right?

I chose The Lion of Mars as my first book of 2021. Perfect. Chocolate cake. Carrot cake. Ping Pong. Friendship. Family. First love. Grief. Toilet paper. A virus. Scrambled eggs. Mascara. Board games. Ahhh...Jenni Holm has yet to disappoint me.* Happy almost book birthday!

Took my first leap of the year at Schodack Island State Park on the banks of our beloved Hudson River. The sky doesn't look like Carole's did last night and the sun really wasn't shining, but that didn't stop us (and a whole lot of other people) from getting outside and taking our #ForestFriday #FirstDayHikes #AdventureNY of the year.  So with fresh air in my lungs and good luck in my belly, I'm ready for ya, 2021. Bring. it. on!

*ICYMI: Here's our Author Fan Face-Off with Jenni


Thursday, December 31, 2020

A New Year's Like No Other


Every NYE we hop on the Mass Pike and head east to my cousins' annual party. We are merry and happy as we catch up with the Watertown crowd. 

I always try and convince my husband to leave work early so my cousin and I can hop over to Zia's. There I will find super cool things like my favorite sweatshirt cape I love to leap in or that funky scarf I will still wear to dress things up a bit.

So what's happening this year? Instead of Zia's, I handed off Newbery 2021 contending books to some fifth and sixth graders who just couldn't wait till Monday to start reading.  I don't blame them. Who can refuse a guaranteed good read this NYE weekend? 

I'm finishing up Monday's "Author Fan Face-Off" challenge book, The Mysterious Benedict Society. Back when we first started our show, I reached out to my friend, Carole, in LA to see if she had any star students who would be up for the challenge.  Months later, we get to meet Sabrina "in person"! It will be then that I will thank her for giving me the opportunity to revisit the world of Reynie, Kate, Sticky and Constance.  Having not read the book in over 10 years, every detail except for maybe that the kids are gifted (and that is easily found on the back of the book), was completely erased from my memory. I'll be curious what Trenton Lee Stewart remembers. Stay tuned...

Back in the spring my friend, Dawn and I, walked 25-30 or more miles a week.  Every week.  We are still walking but since I'm closing my move and exercise ring with my .5 mile walk to and from school and pushing my library on wheels up and down the hallways, our walks are much shorter. But today we closed the ring and then some with a 6.5 mile walk reminiscent of March (and April and May and...)

And I'll probably eat some cheese, a few cookies, watch the ball drop and welcome the new year with open arms. Fantastic to meet you, 2021. We've all been waiting for this day for a long time!

My friend Alicia always posts about her last and first book of the year.  Mine? The last one could very well be Benedict Society, unless you count an essay, poem or conversation from Alone Together: Love, Grief, and Comfort in the Time of Covid-19 Edited by Jennifer Haupt. My first of 2021? It's a toss up--I could be catching up on my 2021 Newbery contenders (currently my students and I are intrigued by the Adrianna Cuevas's debut, The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez), looking ahead to 2022 (Jenni Holm has a new book coming out Tuesday!) or prepping for future Face-Offs.  Whatever it is, I will try not to be too sad to miss our annual New Year's Day send off back west of ice cream from Rancatores or JP Licks. I will swap ice cream for a soothing cup of tea (yes, you read that right, Alicia!) and escape to another world via the written word.  Happy New Year and HELLO 2021!