Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Nikki Grimes' poetry resonates with Berkeley students (ages 13-18)

Nikki Grimes visited three schools in Berkeley last week, sharing her powerful poetry and celebrating the poets of the Harlem Renaissance. She read from One Last Word, her newest book which combines poems from the Harlem Renaissance with her own original poems.

Her voice was rich and resonate, passionate and purposeful as she spoke with students at Willard Middle School, Longfellow Middle School and Maybeck High School. Nikki connected with them right away, talking about the importance of honoring women's achievements. Just as the movie Hidden Figures shows, historians and the press have often downplayed the significant accomplishments of women.
Students in Berkeley care deeply about social justice issues, and Nikki's poems resonated with them. Grimes tackles difficult issues head-on. She read her poem "Crucible of Champions," in which her character Jamal speaks directly about the violence and brutality that has led to the "Black Lives Matter" campaign:
"The evening news never spares us. Tune in and we
hear: if you're a boy and you're black, you live
with a target on your back. We each take it in and
shiver, one sharp-bladed question hanging overhead: how
long do I get to walk on this earth? The smell of death is too intense,
And so we bury the thought, because the future is
ours, right? We get to choose? Well, we choose life."
Bill Webb, director of the Maybeck High School, remarked how impressed he was by Nikki's "frank, wise bearing." She didn't give easy answers as she responded to students' questions. When aspiring poets asked about how she found inspiration, she told students not to wait for inspiration to strike, but rather to read as much as they could. Look at how other people write, she suggested, and try writing poems in response. As she told students,
"The power you seek is in sight."
It was truly an honor to spend the day with Ms. Grimes. We appreciate the wisdom, the kindness and the time she took to share with us. Thanks also to Bloomsbury Publishing for sponsoring this visit, and to Mrs. Dalloway's Books for arranging it.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, February 27, 2017

Pathfinders: the Journeys of 16 Extraordinary Black Souls, by Tonya Bolden (ages 10-14)

In her outstanding new book Pathfinders, Tonya Bolden shares the remarkable stories of sixteen African Americans who pursued their dreams, excelling in careers ranging from entrepreneur to race car driver, bank founder to spy.
Pathfinders: the Journeys of 16 Extraordinary Black Souls
by Tonya Bolden
Abrams, 2017
preview on Google Books
Amazon / your local library
ages 10-14
*best new book*
This collection of short biographical sketches will inspire today's young people to go after their dreams. Bolden profiles a wide range of leaders from math and science, business, the arts and legal fields. With each profile, she helps readers understand both the achievements and the challenges:
"Over the centuries countless blacks in America have done amazing things against the odds. Had big, bold dreams, pursued passions. Caught up with their callings. Charted courses to success. Pathfinders."--preface to Pathfinders
Bolden's short biographical sketches are engaging and quick to read; timelines and background information help round out the overall picture. This would be terrific to read aloud at home or in class, highlighting different career paths these remarkable individuals pursued.
Jackie Ormes, cartoonist

These fascinating figures will light a fire in today's young readers, helping them think about what careers they might want to pursue. Some may love the artistic career of cartoonist Jackie Ormes, while others will be drawn to Paul R. Williams' journey to become the "Architect to the Stars" in Hollywood.

Other young readers may want to seek adventure like Eugene Bullard, who stowed away on a boat bound for Europe--anywhere new was good for him. He was resourceful and determined, eventually finding home in Paris. When World War I broke out, he joined the French army and fought courageously first in the infantry and then as a combat pilot.
Eugene Bullard, combat pilot in France during WWI
While the overall length might make some 5th graders reluctant to try this book, the short chapters and lively writing make this easy to dip into. As Kirkus Review states, "The colorful volume uses photographs, advertisements, fliers, theater posters, engravings, and cartoons to great effect, each well captioned and complemented by sidebars that add historical context."

As we celebrate Black History Month, it is important to honor many, many individuals who strove to reach their goals, who overcame the many obstacles that society threw their way. I want to make sure I'm giving my students a wide range of positive role models. This is truly an inspiring collection of real life stories.

The review copy came from my local library, using Hoopla Digital. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Let’s Clap, Jump, Sing & Shout; Dance, Spin & Turn It Out! Games, Songs & Stories from an African American Childhood by Patricia C. McKissack (ages 2-10)

Music brings people together, not only giving us joy but also creating a shared experience. Let’s Clap, Jump, Sing & Shout; Dance, Spin & Turn It Out! is an inspiring and impressive collection of African American songs, games and stories -- perfect for a home or school library.
Let’s Clap, Jump, Sing & Shout; Dance, Spin & Turn It Out!
Games, Songs & Stories from an African American Childhood
by Patricia C. McKissack
illustrated by Brian Pinkney
Schwartz & Wade / Random House, 2017
Preview on Google Books
Amazon / Your local library
ages 2 - 10
*best new book*
Veteran storyteller and author Patricia McKissack draws on her own childhood and adds substantial research to provide a comprehensive collection of songs, rhymes and stories. Explaining that “our earliest toys are our hands, feet, and voices,” McKissack encourages readers to try these songs for themselves.
"Turn around.
Touch the ground.
Wiggle your nose.
Touch your toes."
The book begins with hand games and claps for the youngest children, and then it moves onto the jump-rope rhymes and circle games school kids love. Chapters with poignant songs and stories inspired by the Underground Railroad and gospel music are especially important for their place in African American history.

Brian Pinkney's illustrations dance and twirl across the page, full of movement and joy. They add a light playful touch in this heavy book (at 184 pages, it's a substantial volume!).

I loved revisiting songs I knew and learning new versions--I couldn't help singing along while I read this! McKissack gives just the right amount of background information--never overshadowing the real joy of this book, the songs and games. She explains the roots of different songs, the ways they were adapted in African American communities, and how she played these games in her own childhood.
"Very often we made up hand claps based on popular songs."
Singing with your child is not only fun, it helps young children’s brain development. Hand movements, clapping and dancing all help children remember songs and reinforce the rhythm and beat. Like stories, songs build children’s vocabulary and help them hear that words are made of different sounds.

Parents, teachers and children will want to dip into this volume time and time again. While the length makes this more of a parent or teacher resource, older children (ages 8-10) will have fun reading and trying out many of the songs and games.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Random House. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, February 20, 2017

Racing Cars & Driving Trucks on the #Road2Reading (ages 4-7)

My kindergarten & first grade nephews love-love-love racing cars, playing with Hot Wheels and driving trucks. Their play is full of imagination and fun. I want to bring these passions into their reading, so I'm constantly on the hunt for great books about things that go fast!

Their favorite new book is the really big book: DK's The Big Book of Things That Go. This is full of pictures and information--but this works as a read-aloud for my nephews. What books might encourage them on the road to reading?

Here's a collection of books just right for beginning readers. They are levels C through F, which are typical levels for kindergarten through first grade. All are available in paperback, perfect for home or classroom libraries.
These books are a mix of fiction and nonfiction; some have stories, while others talk about features of different cars and trucks. If you like one, check for others in the same series (listed next to the title).
Here are three samples of what these books look like on the inside. Notice the large print, simple sentences and pictures that help readers figure out key words.
interior of Indy Cars (Seedlings)
interior of Race Day (National Geographic)
interior of Test Drive (Robot & Rico)
Do you want to find more books to support your kids on the road to reading? Check out the great series of blog posts by my friends Alyson (at KidLit Frenzy) and Michelle (at Mrs. Knott's Book Nook).
The review copies came from my personal library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Friday, February 17, 2017

Celebrating World Read Aloud Day across Berkeley with #WRAD17

We had a terrific time celebrating World Read Aloud Day (#WRAD17) across Berkeley Unified School District. Our kids were inspired; our guests shared their passion for stories; our smiles and laughter lit up every room. In Berkeley, it is indeed the Year of the Reader!
This year's event was particularly inspired by Anna Dewdney, the author of the wonderful Llama Llama picture books. Dewdney was a strong supporter for reading aloud, writing in a Wall Street Journal commentary: “Reading with children makes an intimate, human connection that teaches that child what it means to be alive as one of many beings on the planet.” Dewdney died last year at age 50 after a battle with brain cancer.
“When we read a book with children, then children — no matter how stressed, no matter how challenged — are drawn out of themselves to bond with other human beings, and to see and feel the experiences of others. I believe that it is this moment that makes us human. In this sense, reading makes us human.” -- Anna Dewdney
Our preschools celebrated with guest readers from the community reading Llama Llama Red Pajama in every classroom. As part of its commitment to honoring Dewdney's legacy, Penguin Young Readers donated books to every preschool classroom in Berkeley Unified. We are so appreciative. Find out more about the Anna Dewdney Read Together Award, another way that Penguin is teaming with national organizations to honor Dewdney's legacy.
Superintendent Donald Evans with preschoolers
Our elementary schools celebrated with visits from three of their favorite authors: Annie Barrows, Laura Shovan and Kelly Barnhill.  Wow-oh-wow, our students were excited to talk with writers about their work. Students asked thoughtful questions about how these authors get their ideas, they heard about how revision is hard work (even for professional authors!), they were inspired to read more books and try writing their own.
celebrating #WRAD17 across Berkeley schools
Annie Barrows, the author of the Ivy & Bean series, visited Cragmont School. Laura Shovan, whose novel in verse The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary was one of our Mock Newbery favorites, joined classes at Thousand Oaks and Emerson for video chats. And Newbery Medalist Kelly Barnhill had a terrific video chat with students at Rosa Parks. Have fun watching kids from across Berkeley celebrating World Read Aloud Day:
World Read Aloud Day "calls global attention to the importance of reading aloud and sharing stories." Founded by Pam Allyn and LitWorld, World Read Aloud Day motivates communities across the world to celebrate the power of words and stories, helping people take action to show the world that the right to literacy belongs to all people.

Many thanks to our outstanding leadership from Becca Todd, coordinator of BUSD Library Services, and to the inspiration and support from Lit. World and Penguin Young Readers.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Kwame Alexander is in the Bay Area this weekend

Kwame Alexander's newest book The Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in This Game Called Life publishes today and it is fantastic!! Kwame combines stories from his own life, photographs, and inspiring quotes--inspiring young readers to reach for their goals and give it all they’ve got.
Kwame will be in the San Francisco Bay Area this weekend, with two public events. Come see him, friends, and bring your kids! Saturday, come to Mrs. Dalloway's in Berkeley at 12:00 noon, for a fun, casual visit. He'll be signing books and visiting with his many fans in Berkeley.

On Sunday, come to the San Francisco Public Library main branch at 2pm, where he will be in conversation with SF Human Rights Commission Director Sheryl Evans Davis. This event is free and open to the public.

In the meantime, have fun watching this new music video, as Kwame sings about The Playbook with original music by Randy Preston:

The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, HMH Books for Young Readers, and I have already ordered many copies to give to friends and teachers. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books