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Award Winning Books for KidsPragmaticMom : PragmaticMom

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#BlackHistoryMonth by Carole Boston Weatherford

#BlackHistoryMonth by Carole Boston Weatherford

I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Carole Boston Weatherford in Roxbury, Massachusetts last year. I was struck by her quiet elegance and dignity. Her books reflect that too.

Carole Boston Weatherford and Ekua Holmes with Mia Wenjen

Carole Boston Weatherford is on the left. Ekua Holmes is on the right.

I didn’t realize how many #BlackHistoryMonth stories that would have remained largely untold if not for Carole’s work. Today, I wanted to share with you her books in honor of #BlackHistoryMonth.

#BlackHistoryMonth by Carole Boston Weatherford

The Legendary Miss Lena Horne by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon

Lena Horne

Lena Horne, image from Wikipedia

Lena Horne was both an legendary actress and activist, born into a well educated and high achieving family. During the Great Depression, Lena started her career at the Cotton Club as a dancer in the chorus line. Her career catapulted from there, to Broadway, headlining an all-white band, to Hollywood. During WWII, her activist side emerged in full force, which resulted in being blacklisted during McCarthy’s Red Scare. Still, Lena persisted. With a new husband, she was able to further her career to become an international star, and use her fame in the fight for civil rights. [picture book, ages 4 and up]

Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

Congo Square New Orleans

Congo Square, U.S. National Register of Historic Places, image from Wikipedia

“Slavery was no ways fair. Six more days to Congo Square.” The back story of the birth of jazz in New Orleans: because Louisiana was a French colony, then a Spanish colony, even slaves had Sunday off from work. In most states, African drums and music were banned. But once a week at Congo Square in New Orleans, hundreds of slaves and free blacks would congregate, play music, and dance. Told in simple rollicking rhyme, this picture book is exuberant as it is informational about a little known story that expresses a human’s capacity to find hope and joy even in the most difficult circumstances. And this resulted in the birth of jazz, America’s only original art form. Carole Boston Weatherford’s books are all exceptional. Both she and illustrator R. Gregory Christie are Coretta Scott King Honorees. Freedom in Congo Square is one of my (accurate) Caldecott picks. [picture book, ages 2 and up]

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2017 Caldecott Award Winners

2017 Caldecott, Newbery Winners and More!

The 2016 Youth Media Awards will be announced at 8 a.m. Eastern time today during the ALA Midwinter Meeting & Exhibition!

My predictions for the Caldecott are here and Newbery are here.

Caldecott Medal and Honor Books 2017

The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It honors the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.

2017 Caldecott Award Winners

2017 Caldecott Winner

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe

2017 Caldecott Honor Books

Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis

Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

Leave Me Alone by Vera Brosgol

They All Saw A Cat by Brendan Wenzel

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50 MUST READ Diversity Picture Books

50 MUST READ Diversity Picture Books

I’ve chosen fifty of my favorite diversity picture books and wrote book descriptions in the style of a Haiku poem. It’s not exactly a Haiku exactly, but I’m following for form of 5-7-5.  I’ve broken the picture books into five categories:

  • 10 Diversity Picture Books Teaching Kindness
  • 10 Diversity Immigration Picture Books
  • 10 Diversity Picture Books to Encourage Empathy
  • 10 Diversity Picture Books About Unsung Heroes
  • 10 Diversity Picture Books about Amazing Artists

Let me know if you like this [weird] format because I have fifty more picture books in mind for a second version if requested. Thanks so much!

10 Diversity Picture Books Teaching Kindness
10 Diversity Picture Books Teaching Kindness

Finding the Music/En Pos de la Música by Jennifer Torres, illustrated by Renato Alarcão

breaking his guitar

helps to find abuelito

in everyone’s hearts

[bilingual Spanish picture book, ages 4 and up]

Mama, I’ll Give You the World by Roni Schotter, illustrated by S. Saelig Gallagher

at her hair salon

luisa plans a surprise

for her single mom

[picture book, ages 4 and up]

The Girl with a Brave Heart by Rita Jahanforuz and Riotah, illustrated by Vali Mintzi

when kindness rewards

“Cinderella” in Iran

beauty revealed

[picture book, ages 6 and up]


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My 2017 Newbery Predictions

My 2017 Newbery Predictions

The Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.

Balderdash!: John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children’s Books by Michelle Markel, illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

This is the true story of how children’s books came to be, the brainchild of John Newbery, considered the father of children’s literature. In 1726, there were no children’s books at all. His first book, A Little Pretty Pocket-Book, was marketed as a book and a toy! It was a hit! For kids who appreciate Newbery books, have them read this engaging picture book biography, about the man whose name is a book award, but his own story largely unknown. [picture book, ages 4 and up]

I’ve been trying to pick Newbery winners for some time now, analyzing what pundits have picked and noting what books seem to be getting buzz all year. Sometimes this is a good predictor; sometimes not.

I have a few theories about what I think makes a good Newbery pick, but, of course, the actual Newbery committee pays no mind to what I think and has their own criteria which may or may not change slightly from year to year. Who knows?

A Newbery Book Should Have Broad Age Appeal

There’s nothing worse, in my mind, with a Newbery winner that is too high such that only the most advanced elementary school readers can attempt it. The Westing Game is a good example of that for me. It won in 1978.

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90 Second Newbery Film Festival Competition

Enter 90-Second Newbery Film Festival

The deadline for 90-Second Newbery Film Festival entries is January 7, 2017 (special deadlines for San Antonio, TX (12/2/2016) and Asheville, NC (2/8/2017)).

The 90-Second Newbery Film Festival—an annual celebration of kids’ creativity in which young filmmakers create short movies telling the entire stories of Newbery Medal and Newbery Honor books in roughly 90 seconds—is now open for submissions for its sixth year. Read more…

12 Amazing NEW Diversity Picture Books

12 Amazing NEW Diversity Picture Books

I’ve been collecting piles of new picture books and these twelve diverse picks stood out to me. How about you? What new diversity, multicultural, and inclusive picture books are you enjoying? Thanks for sharing!

Diversity Picture Book Most Likely To Win a Caldecott

Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Yuyi Morales

Sherman Alexie’s first picture book reflects on his Spokane Native American tradition of getting a new name to mark the transition to adulthood. There are 500 federally recognized tribal nations in the United States, each with its own diversity of language, ceremonies, and naming. To respect the deeper meaning of the naming, classroom activities where kids pick their own Indian names are not recommended as it is not culturally sensitive. This is a delightful picture book sure to engage kids. The vibrant illustrations by Caldecott illustrator Yuyi Morales perfectly match the story. [picture book, ages 4 and up]


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5th Grade Book Recommendations from My 5th Grader

5th Grade Book Recommendations from My 5th Grader

My son has picked up the pace reading books this year in 5th grade. His book lists are now in three parts.

5th Grade Books from a 5th Grade Boy has books that he read as a rising 5th grader as well as book he read in the early part of the school year. You’ll notice his reluctance to read by all the graphic novels he read. This was also the turning point for novels in verse for him when he discovered The Crossover which lead to more novels in verse.

Best 5th Grade Books from My 5th Grade Son is part 2 of 3. You’ll notice that he likes FUNNY and ACTION ADVENTURE, preferably combined á la Rick Riordan. His 5th grade teacher has him reading historical fiction for the first time which he’s really enjoying. This set us up for more historical fiction and even historical fiction as a novel in verse!

How about you? What do you think he should add to his reading list? I am planning on having him read at least five books this summer.

5th Grade Chapter Books from a 5th Grade Boy

Brooklyn Bat Boy: the Story of the 1947 Season That Changed Baseball Forever by Geoff Griffin

I really liked learning about Jackie Robinson through the perspective of a Irish American bat boy.

Jackie Robinson’s first season with the Brooklyn Dodgers told from the point of view of the new batboy. My son and I loved this historical fiction early chapter book, complete with authentic slang. Pair it with a biography on Jackie Robinson if you  want to learn about this extraordinary man. [early chapter book, ages 8 and up]

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Great New Easy Readers

Great New Easy Readers

It just so happened that most of the diversity picks on the nominated easy readers for The Cybils made the short list. I personally was a champion of Don’t Throw It to Mo! by David Adler which also won the Geisel Award.

My fellow judges were mostly librarians and they needed something fresh to get excited about. I can relate; I think an award like The Cybils is helpful to highlight new authors rather than award a long running and popular series like Elephant and Piggie. In fact, the popularity of Elephant and Piggie spawned many knock offs which starts to become tiresome as well. And, my final gripe is that there is only so much rhyming you can pull off with fox/box, yet there were more books that you’d expect with this rhyming scheme.

The upshot is that new Easy Readers seem to be a pretty closed off group: books are either popular series that seem to spawn endless books, imitators of these popular series, or rhyming sequences involving “fox” and “box.” While most of the selections below fit into those three categories, they are the best of the pile and there are also a few that refreshingly don’t.

How about you? Are there any Easy Readers that you don’t mind reading over and over again? Please share! Thank you! Read more…

Fannie Mae Hamer Book event

Meeting Voices of Freedom: The Fannie Mae Hamer Author and Illustrator

It was an honor and a thrill to meet author Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrator Ekua Holmes of Voices of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement. Did you know that Voices of Freedom won:

  • 2016 Caldecott Honor Book
  • 2016 Robert F. Sibert Honor Book
  • 2016 John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award Winner

Meeting Voices of Freedom: The Fannie Mae Hamer Author and Illustrator

The book also won a silver medal at the Society of Illustrators Original Art Show, a Parent’s Choice Gold Medal, and the Flora Steiglitz Straus Award for nonfiction from Bank Street College of Education. Read more…