Big Nate, by Lincoln Peirce

Published June 30, 2015 by Dagmar

The Big Nate series shares three things in common with Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Dork Diaries: it flies off the library shelf, it appeals to all Big nate 4types of readers and is written with text and pictures.

Nate Wright is a sixth grader.  He’s not the best student.  In fact, he’s trying to avoid having to go to summer school. He has two best friends and a crush on a girl.  Sounds like he’s 12, right?  Wait until you hear Nate talk about his teachers!  Mrs. Godfrey, his social studies teacher, is the worst. “When a teacher snaps and starts screaming, it’s called a Full Godfrey. (When Mrs. Godfrey does it, it’s called Monday.)”

The day Nate gets a fortune cookie that says he “will surpass all others”, turns out to be the worst day ever.  He tries lots of different things to “surpass all others.” Whether it’s getting caught trying to set the world record in speed-eating green beans (from the school cafeteria – ick!) or wearing Coach John’s shorts stuffed with paper towels (long story), everything seems to earn Nate detention – everything.

Big Nate hits home with so many of my students.  My son read six Big Nate books on one trip.  I think it’s because Lincoln Peirce captures a 12 year old’s snarky voice so well.  It’s sure to be a hit.

If your students like Big Nate, they’ll also love Lincoln Pierce’s Big Nate comic books.

Dork Diaries, by Rachel Renee Russell

Published June 30, 2015 by Dagmar

This fiction series is always in demand in my school library.  I finally sat down to read the first book in the series this summer, right after I replaced all the missing copies from my library shelves and pre-ordered the 9th book in the series, due out on June 2, 2015dork diaries. Dork Diaries has that magic that began with Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Humor + drawings = appeal to just about every kind of reader.  I didn’t think I’d like it, but I loved it.

Dork Diaries is the story of Nikki Maxwell, eighth grader at Westchester Country Day.  She is the daughter of the school’s exterminator, there on scholarship. Nikki is having a tough time. New to the school, she is trying to fit in with the “CCP” (Cute, Cool & Popular) group at school.  The group, led by the impossibly mean and snobby Mackenzie Hollister, has all the best clothes, cell phones and get invited to the best parties.

At first, I worried that I wouldn’t like Dork Diaries.  In the beginning, as Russell sets the scene, the CCP’s mean girl talk is a little much for me.  It is actually really mean.  I didn’t want to read a book where the humor was all self-deprecating and the mean girl has all the power.  Russell seems to know just how far to go, because then Nikki’s humor kicks in.

There are lots of funny parts in the book.  I thought it was funny when Nikki’s parents try to cheer her up by putting positive messages around the house, saying things like “Be you OWN best friend.” and “Invite YOURSELF for a sleepover.”  Unfortunately, those two notes were put in the toaster slot and ended up starting a small kitchen fire. The best part of the book, I think, is when Nikki writes about her interactions with people in her diary. As she describes a scene, she’ll “say” something that makes you say to yourself…”OMG, she did NOT just say that out loud…”. Then, it’s followed immediately by “But I just said that inside my head, so no one else heard it but me.” Those moments totally cracked me up, because even though they happened throughout the book, they always surprised me.

Nikki goes through a lot of trials during her first year at Westchester, but ends up ending the year with grace and with Mackenzie jealous of her.  Go Nikki.

This book is most popular with my tweens and so could fit in an elementary school or middle school library.

Sisters, by Raina Telgemeier

Published June 28, 2015 by Dagmar

Sisters, Telegemeier’s third graphic novel in her autobiographic series that begins with Smile and Drama.  Fans of the graphic novels Smile (click the link to see my review) and Drama, won’t be surprised that Raina Telgemeier has another huge success on her hands.

I had the feeling this would be the case, after loving Smile and Drama, myself, and made sure I had no less than three copies on the shelves when I started the school year.   All three books were, in fact, checked out for the entire year (I replaced lost cosisterspies, twice), leaving me waiting with anticipation for my turn to read the book. When I closed the library on May 15th to finally retrieve all the missing books from my students and take inventory, I was able to check out all the books I’d been wanting to read all year. It was my chance to finally read Sisters.

So, here I sit, curled up on a couch in beautiful Lake Tahoe on summer vacation with a big stack of my students’ recommended books on my end table.  This moment encapsulates one of the best parts of being a school librarian – catching up on a big pile of books that your students have urged you to read.

I just finished Sisters.  What a great read.  Raina Telgemeier takes me right back to middle school, my own relationship with my sister, that middle school feeling of not fitting in – but wanting to – and feeling scared thinking that my parents were going to break up (they did).  Raina Telgemeier writes in an authentic voice that students (from 4th-middle school) can really hear and appreciate.  She touches on real issues, in just the right way.

So, if you’re looking for a sure fire hit, and you’ve managed to find a child that hasn’t already read this book, pick it up.  It’s a great summer read.  You won’t regret it.

Tiny Titans, by Art Baltazar

Published May 21, 2015 by Dagmar

I swore that my blog would be dedicated to books that I love and that my students loved too.  Well, here I sit telling you that if you hatiny titansve elementary school kids that love graphic novels, chances are they will LOVE the Tiny Titans series.  Adults may not see what the fuss is all about.

I cannot keep these books in stock, and I believe I have every book in the series on my shelves.  Wow, these books are popular.  Third to fifth graders, both reluctant readers and avid readers, are all reading Tiny Titans.  I’m sure 2nd graders would be too if I let them check out graphic novels. 🙂  As an fyi, the books are rated as a 1st-2nd grade reading level.

Tiny Titans are the children of Super Heroes.  They go on lots of adventures, get in trouble and have all sorts of fun.  The books are colorful and come in paperbacks and hardcover.

If you’re looking for some fun summer reading for your child or a fun addition to your school library, I think you’ll be very happy with the Tiny Titans series.

Wangari’s Trees of Peace, by Jeanette Winter

Published April 20, 2015 by Dagmar

In celebration of Earth Day on April 22nd, I highly recommend Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa.  I shared this book with my swangaritudents from first grade to fourth grade.  We started our discussion with things we could do to protect the earth. We talked a lot about litter clean up and the 4 R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot).  This book gave me the opportunity to introduce the importance of trees.

Each page in Wangari’s Trees of Peace has just a sentence or two accompanied by a colorful, simple picture.  The book’s simple format makes it accessible to students of all ages and leaves time for questions. The story shows students how deforestation hurt Wangari’s country of Kenya and the value of trees.  Trees not only provide oxygen for us to breathe, but also provide fertile soil, protected from erosion, firewood, and habitat for birds.

My favorite part of the book is the way it shows my students that one person can take action and make change.  Wangari’s determination, even going to jail to protect the trees, made a big impression on my students.  At the end of each class, students clapped for Wangari’s Trees of Peace.

Wangari Maathai was born in 1940 in Kenya.  After seeing the cost of deforestation in Kenya, she enlisted women to plant indigenous trees.  Her Green Belt Movement resulted in the planting of over 30 million trees by 2004.  Maathai won the Nobel Peace Price in 2004.

Happy Earth Day, everyone.  I hope we can all make an impression on children that the Earth needs our protection not only on Earth Day but everyday.

Rosa, by Nikki Giovanni

Published March 22, 2015 by Dagmar

There are so many incredible books to share during African-American History Month.  This compelling book made a real impression on me and on my fourth graders.

rosaRosa is a dramatic retelling of Rosa Parks’ story.  It begins with Rosa going to work at her job as a seamstress in the alterations department.  She is good spirits, and her supervisor has let her leave work early.  When Rosa gets on the bus, she sits in the neutral section, the area where both blacks and whites can sit.  As she sits, she thinking about the meal she’ll prepare for her husband that evening.  Suddenly, she hears the bus driver yell, “I said give me those seats!”.  This exclamation, coming after such a peaceful beginning to the story is a jolt, to the reader, to the listeners, and, you can imagine, to Mrs. Parks, daydreaming after a day’s work.  The other black people in the neutral section slip back to the crowded black section of the bus, trying to avoid trouble.  Mrs. Parks watches them go but decides that she will just sit.

Nikki Giovanni wraps the story of Rosa Parks in the history of the time: the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown vs. the Board of Education that stated that separate was “inherently unequal” and the death of Emmet Till, a fourteen-year-old boy who was lynched in Mississippi, shortly after the Brown vs. the Board of Education ruling.   It was these events and Mrs. Parks’ courageous action and arrest that led supporters band together with the Women’s Political Council, the NAACP and local churches.  The people gathered selected Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as their spokesman.  Together, they chose to stay off the buses of Montgomery.  They walked in every kind of weather, at all times of day, every day.  On November 13, 1956, a year after Rosa Parks’ arrest, the Supreme Court ruled that segregation on buses was also illegal.

“Rosa Parks said no so that the Supreme Court could remind the nation that the Constitution of the United States makes no provision for second-class citizenship.  We are all equal under the law and are all entitled to its protection.”

Giovanni’s retelling of this important moment in African-American history is presented with the incredible illustrations of Bryan Collier.  This book won the Caldecott Honor in 2006.

Please don’t miss this great book.  African-American history month is over now; but, as a friend of mine correctly said, sharing the messages of this book is important all year long.

The Case for Loving, by Selina Alko

Published March 16, 2015 by Dagmar

I love looking for new books to share with my students during African-American history month.  This year, I found quite a few that I really enjoyed for all ages.  This book really resonated with my the case for lovingfourth and fifth graders.

The Case for Loving is the story of the marriage of Richard Loving, a white man, and Mildred Jeter, an African-American woman.  The Lovings lived in Central Point, Virginia.  In 1959, interracial marriage was illegal in Virginia and 16 other states; so, the Lovings went to Washington, D.C. to get married.  Upon return to their home in Virginia, the Lovings were arrested for illegal cohabitation and sent to jail.  (I heard gasps from my students.  It does make you gasp, doesn’t it?)  They were told to move out of Virginia if they wanted to live together.  The Lovings moved to Washington, D.C. and had three children; but, they were not happy with their new urban life.  The Lovings wanted to return to Virginia where they could live in the countryside.  “By now it was 1966, and the times they were a changin’.”  The Lovings moved back to Central Point and filed a lawsuit, Loving v. Virginia.  The Loving case went all the way to the Supreme Court.  Richard and Mildred did not attend the Supreme Court hearings.  Their lawyers read Richard’s words to the justices, “Tell the Court I love my wife, and it is just unfair that I can’t live with her in Virginia.”  These words were so plain and so honest, they resonated with all my students.

The Lovings were victorious in their battle and nine years after marrying, they were able to legally move back to Virginia to live.

When I finished reading this book, my students all asked if this book was true.  I found the author’s note at the end of the book particularly poignant.  Selina Alko, a white, Jewish woman, married Sean Qualls, an African-American man and one of the illustrators of this book, in 2003,  having benefitted from the Lovings fight for justice so long ago.

How to Hide a Lion, Helen Stephens

Published February 5, 2015 by Dagmar

I love it when I find a great book for my preschool and TK students.  How to Hide a Lion is a sweet book with endearing illustrations.

how-to-hide-a-lionLion comes to town looking for a hat.  Everyone is scared of him, so he runs away.  He ends up in the backyard of a strong and very brave girl named Iris.  Iris finds Lion in  her playhouse.  Lion is much too big to hide in her playhouse.  So, Iris takes him inside her house.  First, she grooms him and puts a bandage on his hurt paw.  Then, she tries to hide him.  Iris succeeds for a while, but while reading a story to Lion, he falls fast asleep.  It happens that lions are very hard to wake up.  Lions that are hard to wake up are unable to hide quickly.  Needless to say, disaster strikes.  Iris’ mom discovers Lion, screams, and Lion is on the run again.  He decides to hide in plain site, sitting still, between two statues next to the Town Hall.  Unfortunately for two crooks, and fortunately for Iris’ town, Lion’s hiding place is the perfect place to catch crooks leaving the Town Hall with the mayor’s candlesticks.  The towns people, no longer scared of Lion, honor him and present him with a …hat.  Of course.

I was charmed by this book as were my students.  Please enjoy.

The Book with No Pictures, by B. J. Novak

Published January 3, 2015 by Dagmar

the book with no picturesThere have been a few books in my library that have made students laugh and roll on the floor.  Not polite little “I’m using my library voice” laughing and rolling on the floor…happy, loud laughing and rolling on the floor. And, really, why not?  If you can make your usually quiet librarian say things like, “My best friend is a hippo named Boo Boo Butt,” just by asking her to read this book, wouldn’t you do the same? Not since their favorite “Pigeon” books, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late by Mo Willems have my students found a book that is SO funny.  I wasn’t planning to read this book a second week in a row, but my students insisted. 🙂

Why is this book such a success?  Like Mo Willems Pigeon books, this book puts kids in control.  They get to tell you what to do, and they really love it.

I loved reading this book and seeing my students have a great time.

 

 

Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses, by Kimberly and James Dean

Published December 22, 2014 by Dagmar

Pete the Cat is one very cool dude.  He is a blue cat, and in this book, he is a blue cat with some “cool, blue, magic sunglasses”.  Wait and see what magic they can do.

Pete the CatPete is blue, and not just in color.  He’s a blue cat who is feeling blue.  Pete has “the blue cat blues”.  Walking down the street, he runs into Grumpy Toad, a toad that was never happy.  Bummer…not the kind of guy you want to run into when you’re feeling blue, yourself.  Today, though, Grumpy Toad has a smile on his face.  Why?  Grumpy Toad has a pair of “cool, blue, magic sunglasses,” that help him “see things in a whole new way.”  He gives the glasses to Pete.  When Pete puts on the glasses, all of a sudden he sees that, “The birds are singing. The sky is bright.  The sun is shining. I’m feeling ALRIGHT!”  Pete takes his trusty skateboard and continues on his way in a sunnier mood.

Pete runs into Squirrel, Turtle and Alligator.  All of them are having terrible days until Pete shares his cool, blue, magic sunglasses with them.  Once they put on the magic sunglasses, they see what Pete saw and are feeling ALRIGHT!”  Pete keeps cruising on his skateboard when ACK! …he falls off his skateboard and the cool sunglasses crack.  Luckily, a wise old owl is nearby and tells Pete that he actually doesn’t need those sunglasses.  He just needs to remember to “look for the good in every day.”

What a cool way to talk about times when you’re feeling grumpy, angry, frustrated or just plain blue.  I loved it; my kids loved it, and we’re feeling ALRIGHT!  So, be cool, and read this great book, too.