It’s All About the Books is a book I wish I’d had when I had a classroom library (I still have a library for students to borrow books, but now it’s in my office and on a rolling cart I bring to class). Tammy and Clare write with clarity and wisdom about the need for classroom libraries and acknowledge the challenges of outfitting libraries that work for all students on the tiny budgets that so many schools now allocate for books. They share innovative ideas for design, organization, rotation, and display, and for those, like me, who really need visuals, there are many color photographs. What I especially like about their approach is that it’s not just about an individual’s classroom library but about making sure every classroom in the school has a library that works. I also appreciated their emphasis on featuring nonfiction titles and making sure that students seek books by interest, not by level. This would be a great book to give an administrator who still needs a little convincing as well as a great title for staff development (especially if a classroom libraries project was the next step!) My pre-service teachers are all obsessed with the practicalities of classroom libraries, so I’m pretty sure this is going to become one of the most checked out books on my PD shelf.
Front Desk is one of those novels that I like so much, I have a hard time writing about them. Mia and her parents are recent immigrants from China, and they’ve found work managing a motel. It will be a challenging story for many readers: Yang tackles poverty, prejudice, racism, even violence, and some of the characters are just plain mean. But it’s also a story that’s full of charm and heart, largely thanks to Mia and her family and some of the long-time residents of the motel, who are all richly developed characters. It’s impossible not to root for Mia. The book does have a happy ending, though not in the way that young readers will probably expect and hope for.
I was so excited when We Don’t Eat Our Classmates arrived that I had to read it aloud to my family, even though I don’t think anyone except the cats were paying attention. It’s so funny–and a great choice for a first-week-of-school read-aloud.
Misunderstood Shark also had me laughing out loud. Another winner from Ame Dyckman.
How did I miss Mango, Abuela, and Me?? A tender story about Mia and her grandmother, who don’t speak enough of each other’s languages to communicate very well but who slowly learn.
The Tree Lady was a reread, a book I thought about when I was walking through Balboa Park a few weeks ago, admiring the trees (and taking many photos of interesting tree trunks and limb formations) and feeling very grateful to Kate Sessions for the shade (this was during that insane July heat wave) and the beauty. Beautifully written and beautifully illustrated.
Nimoshom means grandfather in Cree, and it’s what all the children in this story call their beloved bus driver. This charming story details the warmth and humor of Nimoshom as he drives the children to and from school. Cree words are incorporated on each page, and there is a glossary in the back (I wish there had been a pronunciation guide as well.) An excellent choice for a back-to-school read-aloud. I also really liked the illustrations.