Jan 16, 2020

Tick-Tock: (Not that one)- FIVE MINUTES!

How can half a month disappear while my back was turned? I was busy, sure, but where did the time go?
It seems like I just posted my enthusiastic celebration of our Cybils Nonfiction Finalists for Elementary and Middle Grade titles, but that was TWO WEEKS AGO! 

Isn't it strange that in some circumstances time flies past and in others it drags along in a dreary slog? (Although I can confirm from personal experience that the older one becomes, the more the speedy-where-did-the-time-go reaction is much more common.)

G. P. Putnam and Sons, 2019
Even so, kids will be the first to point out that any given segment of time is not a mathematically defined span of Earth's rotation. Take, for example, "five minutes", as authors Liz Garton Scanlon and Audrey Vernick did in their recent picture book, FIVE MINUTES (That's a lot of time) (No, it's not) (Yes, it is). With perfectly paced text cuing recognizable situations that prompt grins, giggles, and groans, illustrator Olivier Tallec interprets this familiar family with every conceivable attitude about just exactly how variable "five minutes" can be. 
Not "seem", but actually BE, in the life of a child, at least. 
Together the text and images  reveal "five minutes" dragging on during painfully boring w-a-i-t-i-n-g, or zipping past when savoring something special.  Speaking of painful, what about those five minutes in a dentist's chair, or when a bathroom stall isn't available- yet. 
There are layers of laughter and love throughout, as the parents and kiddo experience time in different ways, including the heartwarming last minutes of this book. 
Years ago my neighbor-friends had a delightfully precocious tot who began talking early. Some of the first words little Tracy learned were "When?" and "How soon?" Before long she added "It is time yet?'
To all of the above, Mom's gentle response was typically, "Not quite yet."
That was effective for a few weeks. 
But then, when asked/told to do something, Tracy began answering, in a calm and charming tone, "Not quite yet."
I thought of that relationship as I read this book and know that readers of any age will recall their own experiences with that sense of the flexibility and frustrations of time. I can't imagine anyone reading this book and not wanting to tell someone about it, before or after reading it several times more.

Holiday House, 2019
As we all well know, time (on the clock) is anything BUT flexible. Since that is a sad but challenging fact, you may want to check out a recent book by the prolific and kid-friendly author, David A. Adler. His nonfiction picture book, TELLING TIME, is illustrated by Edward Miller and does an impressive job of answering the important question: WHAT IS TIME?
with simple direct address, multiple familiar scenes, and important time-related vocabulary, this book states numerical facts, compares time-measures, establishes relative references for time spans, considers tools and technology, and allows for practice in telling time. 
The diverse characters, speech bubbles, and cartoonish scenes make complex content feel friendly and approachable. A short glossary and author note at the back are also helpful. 
This is intended for instruction, but has lots more appeal than an academic text, making it a great way to return to the book time after time. (<

In many years of teaching, my students and I would often discuss the question, "What superpower would you choose?"
My choice was always control over time, with more examples than I will list here. Suffice it to say, I never developed such powers. Instead I do my best to make the turning of the Earth and the hands on the clock as meaningful and productive and kind as possible. 
When I occasionally manage to succeed at that, I guess it feels pretty super after all. 

Jan 1, 2020

2019 Round Up ... of LINKS to Recommendations!

As a kid, I found waiting for Christmas morning painful. Then, as an adult, waiting for New Year's chimes was nerve-wracking. At this stage of life my wait-stress comes from books-for-kids-award-announcements. The first excitement of each new year comes at noon on January First when the CYBILS AWARDS release the shortlists for all the categories. 
I'm anxious to share the news about the finalists for the two categories I helped judge, but I am also craving the results in other categories-- so MANY categories!

I've prepared this post while waiting for the announcements and timed it to provide the direct link HERE once the news is official. Feel free to stop reading and go check out the lists! Please come back eventually, though, because there are more links to follow.

Welcome back, or, if you stayed with me, I hope you'll take time today, or bookmark this page to return to, when shopping for books for home, classrooms, gifts, library requests, or simply to read and enjoy. Congratulations to all, and best of luck to the panel of judges to narrow these down to eventual winners (to be announced on Valentine's Day, February 14). 

As is always the case, our panel struggled to narrow down an outstanding field of nominees to these few, making the decisions about an eventual winner very challenging. 

Those decisions are subjective and never easy, as is clear from the VARIED posts sharing opinions about "BEST OF 2019" titles in each category. I'm including some links to a few of my favorite posts sharing such opinions. 
Can you imagine why I chose these? Naturally, it's because I respect their opinions greatly, and also because they have included so many titles with which I agree. They also tend to find and feature at least a few titles that are unknown to me. I have the luxury (and joy) to actively pursue reading as many new releases each year as possible. When a calendar turns over a new year and outstanding titles have missed my attention, they are quickly added to my library hold list. 

In the category of nonfiction books, and many others, check out the lists of recommendations from a favorite blog, NERDY BOOK CLUB. In particular, here's the link to the list of nonfiction picture books. Another link to explore is on the blog NONFICTION DETECTIVE. Finally, I encourage you to click on this post by the librarian/author/blogger/booster Betsy Bird. She posted "31 Best of" lists during the 31 days of December, with this link taking you to a page that includes links to each of the 31 category-lists of recommendations. Do the math. With ten or more titles in each list, that post alone provides more than three hundred titles across every audience and genre. Wow!

Since I am waiting to post this until after the Cybils Awards are announced, I am including here the results of the two categories in which I shared judging responsibilities. I urge you to find them, read them, and share them with others in the coming weeks and months. 

(Cover image are in no particular order.)

If you had other favorites, or authored other titles in these categories, please click on this link to posts written by author and wise woman, Kate Messner, nearly nine years ago. It is evergreen and true to this day, and on into infinity. Even if you never click on any of the above, please read her short but important poem here.

Dec 29, 2019

BOARD BOOKS Bring on the ART

A catchphrase I often use when writing about or speaking about (or thinking about) picture books is "You never outgrown your need for picture books". On the flip side, you're never too YOUNG for picture books. 
Or for ART. 
That's especially true when provided via quality, sturdy, thoughtfully designed board books. 

Board Books is a category that has blossomed far beyond PAT THE BUNNY (although that book remains a timeless classic) to explore high concepts and stimulating subjects. In 2018 I was a Cybils panelist for this category and posted several times (HERE, HERE, and HERE) about how amazed I was at the variety, creativity, and overall awesomeness of board books currently being published.Take a look if you're shopping for a new baby or for shower gifts.
Among the remarkable board books I examined in 2018 were several released by PHAIDON.com. The latest of their releases to land in my lap is another of their titles with a forward-looking-interactive approach to ART! 
PHAIDON Publishing

ART THIS WAY is the product of the creative couple Tamara Shopsin and Jason Fulford. 
Following my notes about this book, consider clicking on the links I'll provide about early infant brain development, related to language, visual perception, and also the impact of screen time in infant development.

The approach to this sturdy and little-finger-friendly book is to reproduce images (in very high resolution) of innovative and eye-popping art, inviting twists, turns, flaps, colors, and offering some basic informative text. The cover art looks the same upside down, and the authors' opening  directive is to 

"Walk around, open up, 
look down, and up 
and in and out, 
look close, 
look behind, 
and keep looking."

Each reproduction can be explored through lift pages, flaps, mirrors, shifts in dimensions, and brief text prompts.The works include sculptures, photography, mobiles, screeenprints, and compilation installations. The final double spread repeats miniature images of each piece of art with attribution to the modern artist and the media. All are from the Whitney Museum's collection, featuring art by Calder, Christa, Herrara, Levitt, Lichtenstein, Marison, Sherman, and Warhol. 
If you are skeptical about the appeal of such a topic to the youngest audiences, just flash back to the way infant eyes and hands love to explore curls of ribbon, empty boxes, and sticky labels during the recent holidays. The impulse to explore, examine, contort and consider the world around them is a universal fact of infancy. One that is welcomed by this board book.
One that, sadly, diminishes rapidly with age (and with obsessive screen time.
Think about it. 
Screens require interactivity, but it is all dictated by the machine, not the child! If a device is reoriented, it straightens itself. Random twists, turn, flips produce nothing meaningful. Only preprogrammed actions and responses are productive. 
The child in your lap and arms has unlimited potential to CREATE ART, to IMAGINE possibility, to view the world from every angle. Whether or not their work is ever displayed in a gallery is not the question at stake. The crucial question is: 
Are we encouraging (or limiting) their development of  individual insight into, appreciation of, and curiosity about the physical world, and their internal world, too. Books like this one are better than screens by any measure.

And here's my evidence for that claim, with clicks to the content I promised about some of the more recent science findings regarding early infant brain development:

First, this is a reader-friendly summary of the advice from America's pediatricians;
next, this is a summary of the value of reading aloud ANYTHING with young children;
and here are even more board books, new and classic, to replace those screens.

I recently wrapped up my work as a round one panelist for CYBILS AWARDS in the nonfiction categories for elementary and middle grades for 2019. Stay tuned, HERE, for the announcements and blurbs for ALL categories, coming on New Year's Day. You're gonna LOVE these finalists!

Picture books are as versatile and diverse as the readers who enjoy them. Join me to explore the wacky, wonderful, challenging and changing world of picture books.