Monday, June 17, 2013

Guest Blogger - View from the School Library

Janet Hutchinson is a colleague and kindred spirit when it comes to children's literature.  She also works a day and half in the library in the school which her children have or are attending here in Calgary.  Her experiences there provide her (and me by extension) the opportunity to see what teachers and kids do with the books we promote.

(PS.** IMHO = in my humble opinion :  I didn't know this particular 'txting' short cut.  LOL, I'm such a Luddite.)

These are a few of my favourite…….books 

It’s clean-up time at the school and all the books that have been under students’ beds, in their desks and at the back of their locker, underneath the sweaty gym gear and the forgotten lunch from January, are starting to make their way back to the library. As they get checked in, and as I do the inventory, I am amazed anew at the books that I have not seen on the shelf since September. As fast as they come in, they have gone out again, or been renewed and requested over and over.

Two books in particular are ones that I really like and it gives me a small quiet thrill to see that, in these cases, I have selected books that resonate so strongly with students. As I inventory, I notice the number of excellent (**IMHO) books that have not been taken out much, or at all, this year, so I am slowly developing a plan to display and promote some of them more prominently, in hopes that, maybe next year, there will be new favourites.

But back to the book titles:

The first book is Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick. I love the combination graphic(ish) novel and prose. The book tells the story of two youngsters – Ben, whose story is told in words – and Rose, whose story is told in pictures. Both children are involved in quest to find that which is missing in their lives. For Ben, it’s his father, his only surviving parent since his mother was killed in a car accident. For Rose, it’s her mother – she has left her daughter and remarried.  Selznick takes these two plot lines and beautifully weaves them together, alternating between the past and the present and between words and pictures culminating in a very satisfying and lovely conclusion.

If the reader has weak reading skills, this is still a story they can consume easily (although the thickness of the book might be daunting. But the last student to take it out shyly admitted that she had had it out several times so far this year, but that she had to take it out “one more time” before school ended.

The second book that has not stayed in the library is the book Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg. Intended as a picture book (or at least presented in that format) the book is a life lesson contained in about 15 pages. Each page presents a spill or a blob or a tear that the author then turns into a great piece of art.  The message can be read in several ways: From mistakes come things of beauty; Creativity can come from messes; mistakes are just opportunities reshaped. A torn page? Becomes an alligator’s smile. A blob of paint? Becomes a goofy looking animal. What I loved about this book is that it removes the need for perfection and can be inspirational to anyone who reads it. And although lots of the “little kids” took it out – lots of the “big” kids did too.  Proving (at least to me) that good picture book crosses ages, stages and grades.

I hope that with active promotion and more involvement with each grade that this list is longer next year. But it’s still a pretty good list. I think.


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