2016 Medal Predictions

2015 is coming to a close and new book releases are trickling down so it’s time to start thinking about Medal Season! Woo. 2015 produced some amazing books. If you look at the bottom of my blog, I have a word cloud for most frequently used “tags”. Click “2015” to see the books from this year that I enjoyed. I also highly recommend taking a look at this excellent book list.

In case you don’t already know, the Caldecott is a medal for the best illustrations by an author/illustrator with an American citizenship or residence for the year. The Newbery is a medal for the best work of children’s literature by an author with an American citizenship or residence for the year. There’s only one “Medal Winner” (gold) for each award though “Honor Medals” (silver) can be given. All medal and honor recipients are selected by fancy schmancy committees.

I’m still deciding on my Newbery pick because I have a few books to read/re-read but I’m certain about my Caldecott pick. I’m partial to the Caldecott anyway because I love picture books, art and illustration SO much!  Without further ado…

My 2016 Caldecott pick is:


Image Credit: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Daniel Miyares

Float by Daniel Miyares

It’s simple and powerful all at the same time. Float is excellence in illustration and storytelling and is perfect for children, exactly what the Caldecott is awarded for. It’s a gorgeous story conveyed through gorgeous illustrations that deserves to win it all! Win it all I say! You can read my full review for Float here. Good luck, Daniel!


A Lasting Taste…

“Because when I read, I don’t really read; I pop a beautiful sentence into my mouth and suck it like a fruit drop, or I sip it like a liqueur until the thought dissolves in me like alcohol, infusing brain and heart and coursing on through the veins to the root of each blood vessel.”

-Bohumil Hrabal, Too Loud a Solitude

Thanksgiving PSA


My Korean students’ hand turkeys. Assignment was to write what they were most thankful for. 🙂 Click image to view more closely, then click again to zoom! 


Well, it’s that time of year when teachers and parents look for books that celebrate Thanksgiving. Ultimately, Thanksgiving in the United States is a holiday to give thanks, eat copious amounts of food and spend time with family. The history of the holiday however is very much sugar coated and this is evident in a lot of Thanksgiving children’s literature…

If diverse literature is necessary for our children’s growth, we must be sure to let diverse voices speak, and speak clearly and true.

Most people don’t even know that the Pilgrims interacted with Wampanoag Indians. People just know about “Pilgrims and Indians.” There is rarely any discussion about what happened after the sharing of food (broken treaties, take-over of land, violence and disease). Some people think that children are too young to know the real history but I beg to differ; almost any topic can be brought to a level that children can understand and handle. The relationship between the Pilgrims and Wampanoag involved understanding and protection. There were treaties, agreements and opportunities for celebration. The Wampanoag taught the Pilgrims how to harvest and survive on their land. The first “Thanksgiving” as we’ve come to call it, happened in 1621 and was a result of the Pilgrims shooting off guns to celebrate a successful harvest. Wampanoag leader Massasoit sent warriors to check out the ruckus but realized they were just celebrating, so he and his men joined in on the celebrations, hunted and brought food.

Perhaps many teachers are anxiously waiting to see their students dressed up as Pilgrims and Indians but please keep in mind that 1) There is a long and problematic history of “playing Indian” and cultural appropriation in our country’s history 2) dressing up as Native peoples reinforces the idea that Native people are only in the past; most people in the U.S. can’t name any contemporary Native American activists, musicians, writers, actors, lawmakers, etc. Also, many children’s books don’t bother to accurately illustrate the regalia (not costumes) of Wampanoag people; any old “Indian outfit” will do as long as it is cute. Representation is important.

Listed below is one really cool book and several GREAT links and resources for your consideration this Thanksgiving season.

Happy Thanksgiving! Gobble Gobble!


1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving (I Am American) by Catherine O’Neil Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac, 2004 National Geographic Children’s Books, ISBN: 9780792261391

American Indian Perspectives on Thanksgiving– Really great resource from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian

The Real History of Thanksgiving Teacher’s Guide– History Channel Resource

Best Thanksgiving Books for Children– Good list of books

Are You Teaching the Real Story of the “First Thanksgiving?”– Great Education World article

What Really Happened on the First Thanksgiving? -Indian Country Today Media Network Article

Oyate.com Thanksgiving article and book list

The Art of the Recommendation


2NE1, YG Entertainment

Recommending books is like a dance; you give a little, they give a little, you try to figure out what it is they want and why.

Sometimes people don’t really want recommendations, they just want someone to brainstorm with and then they pick what they want. Some people come in with open arms, and take ALL THE BOOKS because they simply want to be done with THIS BOOK GIFT THING. Others listen intently, they seem excited about all the books you give them, and half an hour later you find all your awesome books hidden in a corner. Ah, that one always hurts…Amirite booksellers? Haha

We booksellers have the ability to effectively use our book knowledge to give you what you need; you generally trust us, so thanks for that. 😉 The perfect recommendation is when you see how happy the customer is with the books you place in their hands; it’s in their faces and body language (they keep smiling down at the books). You know that you did well; that they’re leaving store with EXACTLY what they came in for and that’s a great feeling!

Who Holds the Power?

“I want to get this book!”
“I don’t think that’s a good one for you. Try this one.”

After reading author Cynthia Lord’s thoughtful blog post about the importance of positive reinforcement when a child chooses a book, I started to reflect on my experiences as a bookseller. I observed SO many  instances where a child happily ran up to their parents with their book choice and the parents shot it down quickly; not because the book was expensive but because they didn’t think the book was a good choice. During the bustling holiday season at our store, I helped grandparents looking for book recommendations for their grandchildren (“Where are your girl books?”). These experiences showed me just how much influence adults have on what children read, especially at a bookstore, where a purchase will be made.

Adults bring preconceived notions, biases, wishes and expectations for what they believe the child they’re shopping for, should be reading. Countless times I heard “Meh…I don’t think he/she’d like that.” Of course they knew the child better than I did but…I just needed a bit of their trust. Occasionally I had the pleasure of actually helping a child find a good book and though it was often really tough, it was the best! I also recognize that as a bookseller, I brought to every recommendation, my idea of what a “good book” is; this is why I read broadly, diversely and kept an open mind. Booksellers have some power in this way…what a big responsibility! Phew  >_<

So parents, please trust your kids a bit and if they pick up a book that may be a little above their reading level, talk about it and if you still see a twinkle in their eye, encourage that reading spirit! 🙂


It’s Picture Book Month!

Image Credit: picturebookmonth.com, Joyce Wan

Image Credit: picturebookmonth.com, Joyce Wan

A whole month to celebrate picture books?? I’m on it!  🙂

In case you didn’t know, Picture Book Month is an international effort founded by author and storyteller Dianne de Las Casas. Every day on picturebookmonth.com, an illustrator and/or author will post an essay about the importance of picture books! Picture books help spark creativity in children, encourage storytelling and they are beautiful.

Check out this awesome post by LeUyen Pham:  Why Picture Books Are Important by LeUyen Pham

In addition to this site, I also recommend the book Show Me A Story: Why Picture Books Matter. Leonard S. Marcus interviews 21 amazing picture book authors/ illustrators. I’ll most likely formally review this book in the near future.

Happy Reading!

Exciting News! Diverse Book Flyer

I woke up this morning to some super exciting news. We Need Diverse Books is teaming up with Scholastic Reading Club to produce a special book club flyer featuring more than 75 diverse books!!   🙂 🙂

This is more of what we need. Book fairs and book clubs are the first opportunity for many kids to own books; especially if they are from low income neighborhoods. Many people don’t realize how going to a bookstore can be a luxury for many families. This collaboration is a big step towards getting these books into the hands of children who need them!  I’m extremely excited about the potential this collaboration has to spread awareness of the diverse titles that are already out there.

I also really hope the list of books includes good Native American books because that demographic is largely overlooked and underrepresented. I can already think of two good ones for the target age of this project (4th-8th grade): Eagle Song and On This Long Journey, the Journal of Jesse Smoke, a Cherokee Boy, the Trail of Tears, 1838, by Joseph Bruchac.

Follow this link to read more about this announcement! Parents and teachers, keep an eye out for the book flyer coming to your schools soon.

Update: Click here for a PDF of the book flyer! Check out all the great titles!

Respect My Canon! (Please)

Image Credit: American Girl

Image Credit: American Girl, http://www.americangirl.com

I didn’t grow up reading classics that may be a part of your personal canon. I wasn’t very interested in books like Little House on the Prairie or Ramona the Brave because I had my trusty Berenstain Bears books AND several books that featured little black girls. I connected to those images unconsciously. Naturally, content was the most important thing to me in a book, but how could I not want to see someone like me? A black girl doing cool things?! Yeah, let’s read about that! [Shout out to the American Girl, Addy]

Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters was one of my favorites growing up and still is; click here to read my post about it. My father was very Afrocentric, so I had many books about Africa and Black History on my bookshelf. I went to a mostly African-American Catholic elementary school and was lucky enough to have as my second grade teacher Mrs. Reid, who taught us about Black History. I distinctly remember the day we learned “We Shall Overcome.” This is where I come from. So I often wonder why it’s “expected” that I’ve read certain western children’s classics, especially in my personal reading time, as a child. I respect the western children’s classics but I don’t necessarily relate to them.

I’m just asking you to respect my canon. It is powerful too. More importantly, respect the fact that many children of color have a hard time connecting to what they read. Every child is different. Some kids, you throw any book at them and they’ll devour it. Other kids have to find that one perfect book they can relate to, that lights a spark for them. These kids might see a positive representation of themselves in a book and think quietly, “Oh hey, I can do that too?” and then they’re off. That’s all it takes. So guess what we need? MORE of these books. Let’s encourage these books in order to support these authors to get these stories out there for our children.

Remembering Through Books

IMG_2368 (1)

A small but mighty collection of books

Back in August, we took time to reflect on ten years since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. So many lives were lost and many communities are still coping with the aftermath of the hurricane. Hearing about the tenth anniversary made me think about how I can connect the people of my community to this important anniversary, as a bookseller. I gathered these books and made a simple display. In this way, a casual bookstore-browser, especially children, can be exposed and introduced to important social events. My table also got a seal of approval by author Renee Watson (A Place Where Hurricanes Happen, Harlem’s Little Blackbird, This Side of Home)!! 🙂 The titles I used are listed below and click here for information about Hurricane Katrina.

Scholastic Discover More Reader Level 2: Hurricane Katrina (9780545829540)

Scholastic Discover More: Hurricane Katrina (9780545829564)

Trombone Shorty by Troy Andrews (9781419714658)

Giada de Laurentiis’s Recipe for Adventure: New Orleans (9780448462592)

Zane and the Hurricane: A Story of Katrina by Rodman Philbrick (9780545342391)

Another Kind of Hurricane by Tamara Ellis Smith (9780553511932)

Ninth Ward by Jewell Parker Rhodes (9780316043083)

A Place Where Hurricanes Happen by Renee Watson (9780385376686)

What Was Hurricane Katrina? by Robin Koontz (9780448486628)

I Survived Hurricane Katrina by Lauren Tarshis (9780545206969)

Finding Someplace by Denise Lewis Patrick (9780805047165)

National Geographic Kids, Extreme Weather: Surviving Tornadoes, Sandstorms, Hailstorms, Blizzards, Hurricanes and More (9781426318115)

All the Picture Books!

happy cat

When I see all the lovely picture books!

A little about me: I’m definitely a picture book girl but I’ll be highlighting great middle grade and YA as well. What is it about picture books?? Well it takes skill and finesse to match a great story with great illustrations. The picture book industry is BOOMING right now but does that mean every book is quality? Oh no, it doesn’t. As a former children’s bookseller, I can assure you that every New Book Tuesday was full of hits and misses. But nevertheless, you could never pull me away from the picture books…

Happy Reading