Books We Love: Draw the Line

Books We Love

Have you ever thought about the power we give to lines? We use them to connect, and we use them to divide. They make up paths from place to place, as well as borders that separate. In Draw the Line, two boys are each drawing their own lines when they discover that some magical things can happen if they team up. In order to create something amazing, they’re going to have to let go of the things that stand between them.

The fact that this book is wordless creates so many possibilities for its use in the classroom. It will inspire countless conversations on friendship, community, and communication. Younger readers can use the book to discuss how they connect with others, while readers through high school age can connect this story to current events. Readers of all ages can imagine the thoughts and conversations of the two artists. How might words help them achieve their goal? How might words stand in their way?

I can only imagine the impact this book would have if it were put in the hands of every child and adult. This is a book that is desperately needed in today’s world. Draw the Line will inspire us all to live our lives drawing lines of connection.


Draw the Line will be released in October 2017 by Roaring Brook Press.

Thanks to Roaring Brook Press for making an Advanced Review Copy of this book available at the International Literacy Association conference.

Diverse Books Club: September 2017 Picture Books

#DiverseKidLit, Diverse Books Club

For those of you who saw my friend Madeleine’s post over at Top Shelf Text yesterday, you know that I’m thrilled to be taking on the role of Children’s Lit Moderator for the Diverse Books Club. More than ever, we need diverse books. The members of the Diverse Books Club are dedicated to learning about the world and our fellow humans. We value diversity in all its forms. Our mission is to be those worthy role models that our children deserve.

As an educator, I have a responsibility to expand my horizons and guide my students as they do the same. If you follow me on Instagram, you know that socioeconomic diversity and diversity in ability are near and dear to my heart. While I’m coming from that lense, our membership of over 300 readers comes from many different perspectives. I’m thrilled to be on this journey alongside you all. I’m looking forward to conversations that will challenge me, and reading experiences that will broaden my understanding of the world.

Whether you are an educator or a parent, you may be looking for ways to address themes of diversity with young people. Each month, I’ll be bringing you a curated list of picture books to share with the littles in your life. You’ll then have an opportunity to discuss these books with fellow readers in our Goodreads group. We’re hoping that these books serve as a jumping off point for you and your littles as you explore our monthly themes!


September Theme

As Madeleine announced on Saturday, given recent events, our theme for September will be books about race, the history of racial oppression in America, and current civil rights events.

September Picture Book Selections

I am so excited to share this month’s picture book selections with you. While there are so many different books that could fit into this month’s theme, I’m hoping the selections below are a start.


Henry’s Freedom Box
Written by Ellen Levine
Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

This is a book that came highly recommended by a DBC member. (If you’re a part of DBC, you can recommend picture books here!) Goodreads describes it as “a stirring, dramatic story of a slave who mails himself to freedom by a Jane Addams Peace Award-winning author and a Coretta Scott King Award-winning artist.”  The starred Kirkus review said that “this is a story of pride and ingenuity that will leave readers profoundly moved.”

 

Minty: A Story of Young Harriet Tubman
Written by Alan Schroeder
Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

Continuing with representations of slavery in children’s literature, this speculative story about Harriet Tubman’s childhood was published in 1996. It appeared on many book lists and received the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award in 1997.

 

Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave
Written by Laban Carrick Hill
Illustrated by Bryan Collier

I recently took a course on children’s nonfiction in which we discussed at length representations of slavery in children’s literature. What can make this category so problematic is that children’s books on slavery are most often about enslaved people who escaped to freedom. This can leave children assuming that most enslaved people escaped, or that it was the norm to make an escape attempt. This month, we wanted to include a text about the man known as Dave the Potter, who lived and died a slave in South Carolina. Dave’s opportunity to learn a trade was unique, and adds to the conversations we have with children around slavery in picture books.

 

A is for Activist
Written and Illustrated by Innosanto Nagara

This board book was described by the School Library Journal as “an unusual offering that may plant the seeds for and spark discussions about activism.” We’re excited to hear your thoughts on how this book blends a format for our youngest readers with topics that older children are just starting to explore.

 

Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Written by Doreen Rappaport
Illustrated by Bryan Collier

While this book often appears in classrooms during Black History Month, we believe it deserves a place on your bookshelves year round. Author Doreen Rappaport’s inclusion of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s own words makes this book incredibly powerful.

 

Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Méndez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation
By Duncan Tonatiuh

Seven years before Brown v. Board of Ed, Sylvia Méndez won in her legal fight to desegregate her local school. While Méndez’s case is little-known, this book reminds us that when we fight for justice for one group, it can sometimes pave the way towards justice for another. Kirkus reviews called this book “a compelling story told with impeccable care,” and it received a Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Honor in 2015.

 

Blue Sky, White Stars
Written by Sarvinder Naberhaus
Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

I first read this book over the summer, and I instantly sent it out as a recommendation to fellow educators, activists, readers, and Americans. In a time where we can feel so divided, this book celebrates American diversity as an asset. A tribute to our multiculturalism and unity, this book may be exactly what we need right now. I hope you and your littles enjoy it as much as I did!


I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on this month’s picture book selections. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below as well as on our Goodreads group. I’m so excited to chat with you all soon. Thanks for joining us on this journey of learning and discovery!

Diverse Children’s Literature

#DiverseKidLit

Note: You may have noticed a new link on my menu bar called “Diverse Children’s Literature.” This will be a constantly evolving place for me to collect resources and share recommendations. After compiling my initial list, I’ve decided to share the page in it’s current state with you below. As the page evolves, you can find the latest updates at this link. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Feel free to share additional resources and suggestions, and thank you  for joining me on this journey!


“The mind of an adult begins in the imagination of a child.”
-Kwame Alexander

As an educator, it is my responsibility to teach my students the skill of empathy. By the time my students leave my classroom, it is my hope that they feel a little bit more connected to the world around them. In order to reach that goal, I need to provide reading material that can serve as a window into the lives of others. I also need to provide reading material that can serve as a mirror to reflect students’ own lives. It is my responsibility to add diverse literature to my classroom.

We Need Diverse Books (a fantastic resource for teachers, parents, and readers of all ages) seeks to define diversity with the following statement:

We recognize all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, Native, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities.

Below, you’ll find resources to help you in your journey to read diverse children’s literature and provide it to your students. You’ll also find links to the diverse books I’ve recommended on Miss Magee’s Reads. Please feel free to leave comments below with your own resources and recommendations.

Thank you for joining me on this journey towards diversifying our reading and connecting with each other. As author Kwame Alexander has written, “We are at a crossroads, trying to figure out what’s next, and in order to get to the other side, we have to wade in the water.” Thank you for wading in the water with me.


Articles & Editorials

New York Times: On Children’s Books and the Color of Characters by Kwame Alexander

New York Times: Mirrors for My Daughter’s Bookshelf by Sara Ackerman


Online Resources

#ReadingWithoutWalls Challenge

Reading Without Walls is a challenge led by National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Gene Luen Yang. It asks readers to do three different things: 1. Read a book about a character who doesn’t live like you or look like you.
2. Read a book about a topic you don’t know much about.
3. Read a book in a format that you don’t usually read for fun (a chapter book, a graphic novel, a book in verse or an audio book)

#WeNeedDiverseBooksClub

More than ever, we need diverse books. The Diverse Books Club is a group of readers dedicated to learning about the world and our fellow humans. The group values diversity in all its forms. This Goodreads group has selections for each month, and you can follow along on Instagram using #WeNeedDiverseBooksClub.

 

#DiverseKidLit Linkup

Every month, book bloggers come together to share diverse children’s literature surrounding a theme. You can find this linkup at this link. Feel free to add your own posts to the linkup, or just enjoy the posts of others.


My #DiverseKidLit Reviews and Recommendations

Books We Love: Dazzle Ships

Books We Love

Have you ever heard a fascinating fact about history and wondered why you didn’t learn it in school? That’s exactly what happened to me when I first read Dazzle Ships by Chris Barton.

As we learned during high school history classes, British and American ships were under attack by German U-boats during World War I. I didn’t learn, however, that the ships were painted in “crazy” colors and patterns to create confusion for German submarine officers looking through periscopes. The boats were camouflaged so that submarine officers might miscalculate where a torpedo should hit.

Particular attention is given to the women who painted many of the ships, which may go against assumptions when we think about key players in World War I. Barton explains in his author’s note that he didn’t want his readers to assume the staff was all male.

Barton’s words give a quick overview of World War I, but delve into detail when it comes to the dazzle ships and their history. The explanation of why and how the ships were painted is easy to understand, and Ngai’s incredible illustrations are dazzling in and of themselves.

Classroom Connections

The remarkable author’s note describes the research process that went along with writing the story. Barton explains how he had to chase the story by following some leads and leaving out others. Student researchers can learn many lessons from Barton’s experiences.

This book is all-around a dazzling read. It will be a great independent reading book for children interested in naval history or World War I. It can also be used as an interest activator for World War I discussion in middle and high school.


Dazzle Ships will be released in September 2017 by Millbrook/Lerner.

Note: I received a digital Advanced Review Copy of this book from Millbrook/Lerner in exchange for an honest review. All opinions in this review are my own. Thanks for reading!

Books We Love: One Proud Penny

Books We Love

I’m always looking to add more informational texts to my classroom library, so I was so excited to take a look at One Proud Penny! This inventive and engaging picture book follows a penny protagonist as he pops up in many different places. Readers will be rooting for the penny as he gets left behind and stuck in some precarious situations, and again as he makes his way out and fulfills his purpose. With hilarious narrative and great illustrations, One Proud Penny will draw readers in from the very first page. Throughout the story, the authors include informative tidbits and fun facts that will stick with readers. Infographic-like spreads with facts about pennies through the years give readers experience in interpreting data.

While the penny isn’t usually a go-to when naming fascinating objects, Siegel and Bloch bring the penny to life for readers everywhere! I know this will be a favorite in my classroom this year.

Books We Love: What Makes A Monster

#bookexcursion, Books We Love

This week marked a book birthday for Jess Keating’s What Makes a Monster?! After the success of her Pink is for Blobfish, my students became captivated by Keating’s writing. With fascinating facts and strong nonfiction text features, the World of Weird Animals series draws in many young readers. Keating’s website describes the series as “a must-read series for curious kids,” and I can’t think of a more accurate description.

What Makes a Monster pulls readers in to the respective worlds of the aye-aye, the vampire bat, the prairie dog, the tyrant leech king, and other scary animals. The book explores what makes the animals dangerous, as well as how many “monsters” contribute positively to our ecosystems.

Each two-page spread features a large photo of each animal, along with a vivid description and fast facts. Funny illustrations add humor to the pages and make this book a great fit for young readers.

One powerful section in the book talks about “misunderstood monsters:” the animals who are less likely to be included in conservation efforts because they aren’t cute or furry. This serves as a call-to-action for readers as they think about how ugly or scary animals can still add to our world. By the end of the book, readers will be questioning what it means to be a monster.


Huge thanks to Jess Keating for sharing a copy of What Makes a Monster? with our #bookexcursion group! #bookexcursion is a team of nine educators who read and share new children’s and middle grade titles. For more of my #bookexcursion reviews, click here!

 

10 Picture Books for Back to School

Books We Love

Every year, educators Cathy Mere and Mandy Robek run the #pb10for10 event to celebrate picture books. Educators can share their ten favorite picture books, or connect to a wider theme. What a great way to celebrate children’s literature!

This will be my first year participating in the #pb10for10 project. Below, I’ve shared ten picture books that I will be using in my classroom during the back to school season. Some are meant to celebrate community, while others give kids a reason to celebrate learning. Have any books to add to my list? Leave your favorite picture books in the comments below!


Books for Community Building

This charming book is a great catalyst for conversations about first day jitters. The story being told from the perspective of the school building keeps the story lighthearted, and kiddos are bound to connect with the dual emotions of nervouseness and excitement.

Young Sally McCabe teaches students what leadership looks like in this beautiful book illustrated by Christian Robinson. This book can be used to discuss kindness, compassion, and school culture.

Every year, my class celebrates International Dot Day by reading this book. The Dot asks students to make their mark and see where it takes them. Conversations surrounding this book will help you get to know your students and what matters most to them.

Talking about friendship can be tough! The language of sticks, stones, and pinecones can serve as placeholders for students to discuss friendship issues as the year gets going. We used Stick and Stone to generate a list of ways to be a “Perfect 10 Friend.”

While this book won’t be out in time for back to school this year, I can’t wait to use it with my students. A wordless picture book that explores both kindness and harm, it will serve as a conversation starter for many children. My review of this book is coming to the blog later this month!


Books for Kicking Off the Year in Math

Another title from Kathryn Otoshi, Zero explores how every person is one unique whole. Every person can add something to a community. The clever play with numbers in this story will get kids thinking about place value and number sense.


Books for Kicking Off the Year in Literacy

I can’t wait to use this book to introduce independent reading. This book paints a picture of reading as what it is: an opportunity for students to discover new things. It also reminds us that we may end a story with more questions than we had at the beginning, and that is a great thing.

This beautiful book of poetry includes poems that will resonate with any reader. I can’t decide if I’ll read this book to my students all at once, or save them to celebrate all year! Of course, we could always reread as students grow and change as readers. Read, Read, Read comes out this fall, and my review will be on the blog this September!


Books for Kicking Off the Year in Science and Social Studies

My students love anything by Andrea Beaty. Her books Ada Twist, Scientist; Rosie Revere, Engineer; and Iggy Peck, Architect inspire students to become scientists themselves. From learning to ask why to learning to persevere, the students at Blue River Creek Elementary School have many lessons to share with students.

While I often save this book for our weather engineering unit, it’s a great one to use in science or social studies at the beginning of the year to discuss how kids can change the world. By identifying an issue, brainstorming solutions, and putting them into action, kids can make a difference in their communities.


Have you made your own #pb10for10 list? Share the link in the comments below! If you haven’t made your own list, but would like to share a few titles in the comments, we’d love to hear them!

Books We Love: Genevieve’s War

Books We Love

If you’re a longtime reader of Miss Magee’s Reads, you know love historical fiction. From children’s books like Number the Stars and The Invention of Hugo Cabret to historical fiction novels like All the Light We Cannot See, I love being immersed in a different time and place. One of my favorite reads of the past year was Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s The War That Saved My Life, which explored the experiences of the evacuated children of London during World War II.

Genevieve’s War, from acclaimed children’s author Patricia Reilly Giff, explores World War II from the perspective of an American girl visiting her grandmother in France. When Genevieve has the chance to leave France and return to the safety of her home in America, she’s faced with a difficult decision: should she return home, or stay to support her grandmother? If she stays, will she be part of the resistance? Genevieve’s War explores themes of bravery, kindness, and courage in the face of adversity.

I highly recommend this book to upper middle grade readers who can’t get enough historical fiction. It’s a good fit for readers who are eagerly anticipating the release of The War I Finally Won this fall!

Building Family Connections: A Parent’s Guide to Nonfiction

Building Family Connections

This summer, I took an amazing graduate course on nonfiction children’s literature. It was incredible to discover how many nonfiction titles are out there for young readers! From picture book biographies to chapter books that answer big questions, there is so much out there for our students to explore.

I realized that in addition to reading more nonfiction in the classroom, students should be supported in nonfiction reading at home. After conducting a parent survey and hearing from over 80 families at my school, I created an FAQ guide for parents. Feel free to share the guide below with families as they navigate nonfiction reading at home!

Do you have any other advice for families as they incorporate nonfiction into their reading lives? Share your thoughts in the comments below, or reach out to missmageesreads@gmail.com. Thanks for reading!

MMR Nonfiction Parent's Guide

Books We Love: Moon Shadow

#bookexcursion, Books We Love

 

One of the things I love most about the middle grade genre is the tendency to ask big questions. Moon Shadow does just that. Almost-thirteen-year-old Lucia has had many changes in her life: her mom moved to Sweden, her strongest friendship has completely dissolved, and she just started middle school. When Lucia celebrates her thirteenth birthday on the night of a lunar eclipse, strange things start happening. People start telling Lucia she was out and about when she knows she was asleep. She wakes up with wet sneakers next to her bed, and with strange memory-like dreams floating through her head. Lucia has to put the pieces of the puzzle back together before something really strange happens.

This book finds its audience in middle grade readers who are still figuring themselves out. Lucia’s life isn’t perfect, and neither is she, but she finds ways to cope with her struggles and let her strengths shine through. Erin Downing’s storytelling will captivate readers. They will keep turning the pages in anticipation of each “Out of the Shadows” section, where the pages turn black, the print turns white, and Lucia’s “shadow” seems to take over. In addition to being suspenseful and action-packed, this book helps readers explore questions about what it means to be yourself. Moon Shadow is a great fit for middle school classrooms.


Moon Shadow was released on May 16th, 2017 by Simon & Schuster.

Huge thanks to Erin Downing and Simon & Schuster for sharing a copy of Moon Shadow with our #bookexcursion group! #bookexcursion is a group of ten educators who read and share new children’s and middle grade titles. For more of my #bookexcursion reviews, click here!