Hispanic Heritage book list

For some reason, interlibrary loan has been very slow recently, so I’m low on books to read and review. Don’t worry, September is a big month for new books, so the good stuff is coming. In the meantime, I recently added a book list for Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15-October 15) that you might want to take a look at. You can find it under the Book Lists section on my blog (just move the cursor to Book Lists and you should get a drop-down menu of all the lists), or use this link.

Book lists

I wanted to let you know about a new feature on my blog: lists of books that I’ve reviewed over the years, arranged by topic. I think we can all agree that my blog has a certain amateurish charm, and I’m sure there’s a better way to make these lists accessible there. However, we all have to live with my limited tech skills, so for the moment, here’s how to find the lists: under the “A Kids Book a Day” title, you’ll see three links: Home, About me, and Book lists. If you move your cursor over the book lists one, a drop-down menu will appear with all the lists I’ve created so far.

The ones that are probably of most interest right now are: Back to school, Fall, Kindness and community (for building classroom communities), Labor Day, Persistence and grit, and September 11 (9/11). Other lists are: Book clubs for grades 2-4, Covid pandemic, Fables, and Food and eating.

I have lots of other ideas, and will be adding more as the year goes on; I’ll also update these lists as I review new books.

If you have suggestions of lists that would be helpful to you, please feel free to comment below or email me at akidsbookaday@gmail.com.

I’m hoping to put these on Pinterest, and am just starting to learn about the world of Pinterest and how to create pins. If anyone has any sort of Pinterest expertise, or WordPress expertise to improve the look of my blog, I’d love to talk to you.

Teachers Pay Teachers

I’m starting a little experiment: opening a Teachers Pay Teachers store. If you’re not familiar with this site, suffice it to say I have joined thousands of other educators selling products they’ve created to make other teachers’ lives a bit easier. You can visit my store to see the three products I have for sale. All were inspired by my experiences running first grade book clubs. TPT requires you to start with a free product, so I have a book club for Mr. Monkey Bakes a Cake by Jeff Mack. The other two products include discussion questions and activities for three books each: one is a general set of books for early readers and the other one has a summer theme. All are books I have reviewed on this blog.

I hope you will check it out, and even more, I hope you will let me know what you think of my products and if there are others you would like to see in my store. It turns out there is a lot to learn about Teachers Pay Teachers, and I feel like I’m still at the beginning of that learning curve. You can send me feedback at akidsbookaday@gmail.com. As always, thank you for any input you can offer!

On the road

I know it’s been quite a year for many of us, and I am no exception. As I wrote last spring, my job was eliminated due to budget cuts. I got that news on Monday, March 9, and the schools closed that Friday. A few months later, I was hired to be the librarian at Rebecca M. Johnson, an elementary school in Springfield, Massachusetts that hadn’t had a librarian in years. It’s been an interesting year of buying books, inventorying the collection, weeding, and trying to connect with students and teachers remotely.

On the home front, I recently sold my house and will be moving to another town in July, where I’ll go from solo home ownership to sharing an apartment with two housemates. I’m excited about the changes, and am looking to celebrate both them and my recent Covid vaccination (I received my second Pfizer shot on April 1) by traveling this summer.

Which brings me to the real reason for this post. I’m pretty flexible about my travel plans, and would enjoy meeting new people and doing some library consultation. Are you interested in chatting with me about your school, public, or classroom library? Send me an email at akidsbookaday@gmail.com to let me know what you have in mind, and I will see if I can come up with a travel itinerary to include meeting you.

P.S. – Someone just emailed me and asked me what kind of consultation I have in mind. Here’s how I replied: I don’t really have an agenda about consultations…just looking to travel and meet people.  I’ve worked in 11 school libraries over the years, and have helped teachers weed and reorganize classroom libraries, so I’d be happy to visit your library, talk to you about what’s working and not working, and possibly share ideas about changes, suggestions for the collection, etc.

Also, this is definitely unpaid consulting. Although if you want to take me to lunch, I won’t say no.

Ten books to read on Zoom

Like many of you, I’ve been reading to kids on Zoom this year. I discovered that my favorite way to share books is by turning them into Google slideshows. I’ve done about 200 books, so I’ve had a chance to perfect the process! There’s been a lot of trial and error, but I’m happy to share what I’ve learned if you want to contact me (jkdawson115@gmail.com). It’s a strange feeling to read this way, though, as often the kids are muted, and I can’t see all–or sometimes any–of their faces.

I’ve found that the books that the kids and I have enjoyed the most are the ones that are most interactive. There’s a bit of a learning curve to figure out how to read the book and also be able to see the kids, but it’s worth it to be able to have a conversation with your students. (I know many teachers use more than one screen to facilitate this, but so far I’ve just been on my laptop.) I’ve put together this list of the ten books that have worked the best for me and have brought me some much-needed joy in this crazy year of remote education.

Journey by Aaron Becker

Published by Candlewick

Amazon.com: Journey (Aaron Becker's Wordless Trilogy) (9780763660536):  Becker, Aaron, Becker, Aaron: Books

I’m starting with the one book I haven’t actually tried on Zoom yet. I have it in my plans to do in a couple of weeks. Creating a story for this amazing wordless book has always been a popular activity. I start by having the kids come up with names for the girl, the boy, and the bird. I’m hoping to either write or type the story as the kids make it up, then go back and read it again with their words. I’ll be trying this out with second grade.

Du Iz Tak? by Carson Ellis

Published by Candlewick

Du Iz Tak? (E. B. White Read-Aloud Award. Picture Books): Ellis, Carson,  Ellis, Carson: 9780763665302: Amazon.com: Books

I’ve never felt an inclination to read this book in person, but it was perfect for Zoom. Together we puzzled out the insects’ language, and Zoom made it easier to see the illustrations up close and to flip back to past pages to see how different words had been used. Second grade.

Take Away the A by Michal Escoffier

Published by Enchanted Lion Press

Take Away the A: Escoffier, Michaël, Di Giacomo, Kris: 9781592701568: Amazon.com:  Books

I inserted my own slides to have the kids guess before showing the illustrations. So before the first page, I had a slide that said “Take the A away from BEAST” with all the letters in black except for two red A’s. The kids would figure out that it would be “best”, then I’d go to the next slide which had the word and the illustration. I got some positive teacher feedback on this one. Second grade.

Clothesline Clues to Jobs People Do by by Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook, illustrated by Andy Robert Davies

Published by Charlesbridge

Clothesline Clues to Jobs People Do: Heling, Kathryn, Hembrook, Deborah,  Davies, Andy Robert: 9781580892520: Amazon.com: Books

This cute book has rhyming text and a picture of different workers’ clothes on a clothesline. Kids guess who those clothes belong to, then you turn the page to see if they’re right. This team has also created similar books about sports and the first day of school. Kindergarten.

A Children’s Zoo by Tana Hoban

Published by Greenwillow Books

A Children's Zoo: Hoban, Tana, Hoban, Tana: 9780688052027: Amazon.com: Books

An oldie but a goodie that I’ve used for years. Each page has a photo of a zoo animal and three words that describe it. I give the three words and the kids have to guess the animal before I show the picture. I didn’t use Google Slides for this one, just held up the book to the camera, but if I had it to do again, I would. You could insert slides with the three word between the illustrations. If you have time, kids can make up their own when you’re done reading. First and second grades.

Biggest, Strongest, Fastest by Steve Jenkins

Published by HMH Books for Young Readers

Biggest, Strongest, Fastest: Jenkins, Steve: 0046442861366: Amazon.com:  Books

One of my all-time favorites, this book also required me to insert slides with the record for each animal (e.g., the strongest animal for its size), then have the kids guess before going to the slide with the book page (ant). Kids and teachers loved this; my assistant principal observed this lesson and said she was shouting the answers to her computer screen (fortunately, she was muted). First and second grades.

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

Published by Candlewick

Amazon.com: I Want My Hat Back (9780763655983): Klassen, Jon, Klassen, Jon:  Books

I’m happy to report that yes, readers’ theater is possible on Zoom. I typed up a script from this book and color-coded the different parts to help kids recognize their lines, then shared my screen so everyone could read from it. The book also has color-coded lines, and I read it before we did the play. It was a big hit with second graders!

Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons by Sara Levine, illustrated by T. S. Spookytooth

Published by Millbrook Press

Bone by Bone: Comparing Animal Skeletons: Levine, Sara, Spookytooth, T.S:  9780761384649: Amazon.com: Books

Another book that allows kids to guess before you turn the page. What kind of animal would you be if you had extra long leg bones and short arm bones? (A kangaroo or a rabbit). I got some positive teacher feedback on this one, as they had just completed a science unit on animal body parts. First grade.

Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar

Published by HarperCollins

Amazon.com: Sideways Stories from Wayside School: Louis Sachar, Adam  McCauley, Julie Brincklo: Books

One of my readers’ theater go-to books. I got the scripts from Aaron Shepard long ago, which I have edited and added to over the years Again, I created a color-coded script, and did four of the chapters with third grade enrichment groups.

Small in the City by Sydney Smith

Published by Neal Porter Books

Small in the City: Smith, Sydney: 9780823442614: Amazon.com: Books

This is a great book for inferencing and predicting. Zoom allowed the kids to get a close look at the illustrations which are key to figuring out what is going on in the story. First and second grades.

I still have seven more weeks of school, so I could use some more ideas! Feel free to share your best Zoom books in the comments.

It’s awards day!

Just watched the livestream of the announcements:


Honor books:

A Place Inside of Me by Zetta Elliott, illustrated by Noa Denmon

The Cat Man of Aleppo by Karim Shamsi-Basha and Irene Latham, illustrated by Yuko Shimuzo

Me and Mama by Cozbi A. Cabrera

Outside In by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Cindy Derby

Winner: We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade



All Thirteen: The Incredible Cave Rescue of the Boys’ Thai Soccer Team by Christina Soontornvat

Box: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Michele Wood

Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly

A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvart (two Newbery honors for her this year!)

Winner: When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller

Check out the ALA announcement of these and the many other awards announced this morning at their website.

What do you think of the winners? Answer in the comments!

Small Press Saturday

As you may or may not know, I have a certain schedule I follow each week with my reviews: Middle grade Monday, Third Grade Thursday (for early chapter books…not enough to do one every Thursday, unfortunately), Factual Friday, and Storytime Sunday. This year, I’m introducing a new one: Small Press Saturday. In an effort to celebrate the creativity and courage of small presses who go up against the Big Five publishing industry, I will review a book published by an independent press each Saturday. My biggest challenge here will be getting my hands on the books, which aren’t always available at my local library. I’ve reached out to a number of small presses, but if any of you has any connections, please feel free to let me know.

12 books of Christmas

Starting the day after Christmas, I’ll be posting my year-end lists of Caldecott and Newbery predictions and my favorite books in different categories. I found myself with an higher-than-usual number of books at the end of the year that I had wanted to review, but didn’t get to before time ran out. That number turned out to be twelve, so as a little Christmas gift, here is a list of my final dozen books for 2020.

Tani’s New Home: A Refugee Finds Hope and Kindness in America by Tanitoluwa Adewumi, illustrated by Courtney Dawson

Published by Thomas Nelson

Tani's New Home: A Refugee Finds Hope and Kindness in America: Adewumi,  Tanitoluwa, Dawson, Courtney: 9781400218288: Amazon.com: Books

The true story of Tani Adewumi, who moved to New York City as a Nigerian refugee at the age of 6. He discovered chess, and practiced it for hours in a homeless shelter. In less than a year, he was the New York State Chess Champion. I haven’t had a chance to see this book. The publisher, Thomas Nelson, is a Christian publisher, so I’m not sure if there is any religious content to the story. 32 pages; grades K-3.

Dear Earth…From Your Friends in Room 5 by Erin Dealey, illustrated by Louisa Uribe

Published by HarperCollins

Dear Earth…From Your Friends in Room 5: Dealey, Erin, Uribe, Luisa:  9780062915320: Amazon.com: Books

The kids in room 5 begin a correspondence with Earth, learning different ways to help the planet like recycling and energy conservation. Rhyming text, letter writing, and environmental tips make this an appealing choice for Earth Day or any time of year. 32 pages; grades K-3.

Saving Stella: A Dog’s Dramatic Escape from War by Bassel Abou Fakher and Deborah Blumenthal, illustrated by Nadine Kaadan

Published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Saving Stella: A Dog's Dramatic Escape from War: Fakher, Bassel Abou,  Blumenthal, Deborah, Kaadan, Nadine: 9781547601332: Amazon.com: Books

When Bassel was forced to flee Syria, he had to leave his beloved dog Stella behind. After settling in a new home in Belgium, he worked with friends back in Syria to create a daring plan to rescue Stella. 40 pages; grades K-5.

Rabbit, Raven, Deer by Sue Farrell Holler, illustrated by Jennifer Faria

Published by Pajama Press

Raven, Rabbit, Deer: Farrell Holler, Sue, Faria, Jennifer: 9781772781366:  Amazon.com: Books

There’s a copy of this book traveling to my library right now, but I haven’t gotten a chance to see it. A boy and his grandfather enjoy a winter’s day together, finding animal tracks and identifying the animals in both English and Ojibwemowin. Sounds like a cozy winter choice. 32 pages; ages 4-8.

When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller

Published by Random House Books for Young Readers

When You Trap a Tiger: Keller, Tae: 9781524715717: Amazon.com: Books

When Lily and her family move in with her sick grandmother, Lily meets a tiger straight out of the Korean folklore she’s grown up on. This book won a Boston Globe/Horn Book honor and received five starred reviews. Personally, I couldn’t really get into it and only read about the first third back in the beginning of the year. Everyone else loved it, though, and it could definitely be a contender for more awards. 304 pages; grades 4-7.

Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi, illustrations by Ashley Lukashevsky

Published by Kokila

Antiracist Baby Board Book: Kendi, Ibram X., Lukashevsky, Ashley:  9780593110416: Amazon.com: Books

Ibram X. Kendi’s book How to Be an Antiracist is #15 on Amazon’s list of 2020’s bestsellers. Here he offers nine tips for being (or raising) an antiracist baby, with a note to parents and teachers at the end. Available as both a board book and a regular picture book. 32 pages; ages 0-4.

Woodpecker Girl by Chingyen Liu and I-Tsun Chiang, illustrated by Heidi Doll

Published by Reycraft Books

Woodpecker Girl: Chiang, I-Tsun, Liu, Chingyen: 9781478869559: Amazon.com:  Books

A girl with cerebral palsy tells how she learned to paint with a brush strapped to her forehead. An amazing gallery of her work is included. Told in the first person, the story doesn’t shy away from the challenges she faces and the discouragement she feels, but also expresses her joy at sharing with others through her art. 40 pages; grades K-4.

Everything Comes Next: Collected and New Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye

Published by Greenwillow Books

Everything Comes Next: Collected and New Poems: Nye, Naomi Shihab:  9780063013452: Amazon.com: Books

I just got this book on December 23, so haven’t had a chance to read it. These 100 poems by Young People’s Poet Laureate Nye start with a section of poems on childhood, both her own and others. She also explores her Palestinian heritage and the need for peace, as well as an appreciation for the diversity of people in the world. 256 pages; grades 3-7.

Unstoppable by Adam Rex, illustrated by Laura Park

Published by Chronicle Books

Unstoppable: (Family Read-Aloud book, Silly Book About Cooperation) -  Kindle edition by Rex, Adam, Park, Laura. Children Kindle eBooks @ Amazon .com.

A crow being pursued by a hungry cat and a crab who dreams of flying work together to help one another. When they add a turtle and a bear, they become UNSTOPPABLE! At least until they see a bulldozer digging up the lakefront to build a mall. Then it’s off to see the President of the United States…and Congress…and things really get zany as only Adam Rex can imagine them. 56 pages; ages 4-8.

Chance: Escape from the Holocaust by Uri Shulevitz

Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Chance: Escape from the Holocaust: Memories of a Refugee Childhood  (9780374313715): Shulevitz, Uri: Books - Amazon.com

Caldecott Medalist Uri Shulevitz’s memoir covers his childhood from his days in Warsaw at the start of World War II to his family’s harrowing experiences in the Soviet Union during the war and their postwar years in Paris before emigrating to Paris when he was 14. Although it’s a thick book, the print is large and filled with Shulevitz’s illustrations, making it a quick and engaging read. 336 pages; grades 4-8.

A Gift for Amma: Market Day in India by Meera Sriram, illustrated by Mariona Cabassa

Published by Barefoot Books

A Gift for Amma: Market Day in India: Sriram, Meera, Cabassa, Mariona:  9781646860616: Amazon.com: Books

Another one I haven’t gotten to see, but I love the brilliant colors of the cover (and pictures I’ve seen of the illustrations). A girl shops in an Indian market to find the perfect gift for her mother. 32 pages; ages 4-7.

Desert Diary: Japanese American Kids Behind Barbed Wire by Michael O. Tunnell

Published by Charlesbridge

Desert Diary: Japanese American Kids Behind Barbed Wire: Tunnell, Michael  O.: 9781580897891: Amazon.com: Books

When Mae Yanagi was eight years old, she and her family were forced to move to Topaz Camp in Utah for the duration of World War II. She and her third-grade classmates created a diary of their daily lives in camp, filled with mundane details about school and family life, as well as descriptions of the difficulties of camp life. Michael Tunnell tells their story with plenty of photographs and excerpts from the diary. 144 pages; grades 4-7.

Donors Choose

As I wrote about in March, my position as the K-8 district librarian for the Hampden-Wilbraham school district was eliminated for the 2020-2021 school year. I was fortunate to get hired a few months later as the librarian for the Rebecca Johnson Elementary School in Springfield. It’s been an exciting challenge for me, because the school hasn’t had a librarian or new books for quite a few years, but the principal is committed to having an excellent library and has been generous with funding.

Springfield schools are remote through April 8, and I’ve been working hard to bring the library back to life so that students will be excited to visit when they return. Rebecca Johnson is one of the largest schools in Springfield, with almost 800 students, and is located in one of the lowest-income parts of the city.

Following the example of other teachers and librarians I’ve met in my new job, I’ve started two Donors Choose projects. Hooked on Books is to get funding for some of the books that I know will be in high demand by our students, and Bring Dr. Seuss to Our Library! will allow me to purchase a new set of books by Dr. Seuss, who is especially beloved by our students since he grew up in Springfield.

As readers of this blog, you know how much I love to promote books to kids, and I am excited to start reading and book talking the new books to Rebecca Johnson students. I admit to feeling quite uncomfortable asking for money, so please do not feel under any obligation to donate! I appreciate the support of all those who read and follow this blog, and thank you for reading and considering my requests.