Year of the Book Kick-Off Event! – September 15, 2015

Newport Town School students waiting for presentation by CLiF Executive Director Duncan McDougall.
Mrs. McDougall, Duncan, NTS Librarian Jennifer Johnson, and CLiF Communications Director Tracy Goldfine.
The NTS library is set up for the first book giveaway of the year!
First-graders Danyka Moulton, Eliana Brasseur, and Kaitlyn Derouchie look at giveaway books with their teacher Nikki Ste. Marie.
Third-graders Mackenzy Larocque and Madison Verdon peruse the giveaway books.

P.K. Pinkerton and the Pistol-Packing Widows by Caroline Lawrence

I really like P.K. Pinkerton and the Pistol-Packing Widows. The boy was 12 years old and his name is P.K. Pinkerton (private eye.) In the beginning of the book he was mugged and abducted by a lady named Opal Blossom who had found out he was a private eye. She asked P.K. to spy on her fiance who was P.K.’s best friend, Poker Face Jace. Jace had taught him everything there was to know about poker. I shouldn’t tell too much about the book. Hope you like it!

5 out of 5 stars

Review by Lillian, 4th Grader

Math Night in the Library

Last night was Math Night at my school, and although I wasn’t on the committee I wanted to do something in the library to show my support. Of course, I chose a book display!

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Here is a list of the books I displayed, as well as some that were in bins by the rocking chair that we used for “Rocking Chair Reading” (kids spend 15 minutes in the chair reading math books.)

  • Sir Cumference and the Sword in the Cone by Cindy Neuschwander (and other books in the Sir Cumference series!)
  • One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale by Demi
  • Magic Numbers by Patrick George
  • Mathemagic!: Number Tricks by Lynda Colgan
  • Eating Fractions by Bruce McMillan
  • My One Book by Jane Belk Moncure (and the rest of the books in the My Number Book series!)
  • Millions to Measure by David M. Schwartz
  • Action Math series by Ivan Bullock (including Shapes, Games, Patterns, & Measure)
  • G is for Googol: A Math Alphabet Book by David M. Schwartz
  • The Icky Bug Counting Book by Jerry Pallotta
  • Greg Tang books (Math for All Seasons, The Grapes of Math, and more!)
  • Among the Odds & Evens: A Tale of Adventure by Priscilla Turner
  • Anno’s Mysterious Multiplying Jar by Masaichiro Anno

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On another table I provided a print out of this list so that parents could go to their local library if they chose and check some of them out. On the same table I provided information about Bedtime Math, an organization that posts a math problem on their website daily (they also have an app!) The best part about their problems is that while the set-up and background information is the same, there are three to four different questions that can be answered that are tiered–one is for beginning mathematicians, and the rest get increasingly more difficult. They also have a great afterschool program kit (for free!) called the Crazy 8s Club. I provided some small sheets with website information so that parents could do the daily problem at home!

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You can also have a table with some fun math games to play when people stop in.

I have the special circumstance of having a cousin who is a mathematician, so I was able to create a wall display about him, his work, and how much reading there is in math! I focused on equations, graphs, and symbols, and how they each convey information that needs to be “read”, just like a book or a magazine! The equation and graph example are actually from a paper that my cousin has had published!

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It is easy to make connections across the curriculum and make it fun too!

2015 DCF Conference

On May 1, I attended the 2015 Dorothy Canfield Fisher (DCF) Award Conference at Lake Morey Resort in Fairlee, Vermont. It was an absolutely gorgeous day and the resort is truly stunning.

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The DCF Award is one of three book awards in Vermont whose winner is chosen by Vermont students. The Red Clover Book Award features picture books, and the Green Mountain Book Award is for books appropriate for high school students.

The DCF Award is the lovely middle child, and grades 4-8 are invited to read at least five of thirty nominated books (selected by a special committee) to be eligible to vote for their favorite title. This year’s winner was Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein.


I serve grades K-6, so I have Red Clover and DCF books in my library. I tend to focus more of my energy on DCF books because grades 4-6 are perfectly poised to embrace the competitive side of the award, challenging themselves and each other to read as many books as possible. Nominated books span a variety of genres, including non-fiction, so almost any reader can find something on the list to interest them!

The conference is organized by the Vermont Department of Libraries, and this year they brought two incredible speakers for the keynote and endnote addresses. The first activity in the morning was the keynote address, and it was given by Steve Sheinkin, author of several historical non-fiction books for children. His newest book, The Port Chicago 50, is on the 2015-2016 DCF list, and he spoke to us about how that project came to be.


In essence, he worked with an eminent African-American history scholar at Berkeley to recreate the story of fifty African-American sailors in the US Navy who were tried for mutiny in 1944 when they refused to return to work after a ship exploded on their base. The scholar had shared the story in his own book, but Sheinkin worked hard to share the sailors’ stories and make the story accessible to children. Shenkin calls this refusal to work by the sailors an early step in the Civil Rights movement, because the sailors were acknowledging that they were given such an unnecessarily dangerous job because of their skin color. Seeing as how they weren’t even allowed on ships because of segregation…well, they weren’t wrong.

I enjoyed Sheinkin’s talk so much, especially because he shared the archival work he did to prepare to write. I am an archives nerd! 🙂 And, he signed my school’s copy of The Port Chicago 50!

After Sheinkin’s talk I attended a session during which members of the DCF selection committee shared the nominees from the 2015-2016 list by giving a quick book talk. You can find that list here on the Vermont Department of Libraries’s website. Right now I am reading one of the books from this list, The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy. Featuring two gay fathers and their four adopted children, the family dynamics are unique but the characters are completely familiar and relatable. I am throughly enjoying it!


After lunch I participated in a session in which I learned about some activities that I could do with students that centered around the books on the 2015-2016 list. Those “Rapid To-Dos” will be on the Vermont Department of Libraries site soon, and I will share that when it is posted! I have a paper copy available for anyone who is interested.

Finally, the endnote speaker! Tim Federle, the author of Better Nate than Ever (on the 2014-2015 DCF list) and a few other books for children (and one for adults called Tequila Mockingbird) was absolutely AMAZING. Hilarious, insightful, entertaining–everything you could want. He shared eight key pieces of advice with us, all along telling us about his past as a dancer and choreographer and his journey to become a writer. Here are those pieces of advice:

1. The setbacks of your life become the most interesting part of your story.

2. Being nice is better than being the best (or even talented!)

3. Perfectionism is overrated in performance; pushing through is underrated.

4. There’s no anti-bully zone in life.

5. Follow your whims as much as you follow your dreams.

6. Confidence is overrated; courage is underrated.

7. Everyone is always starting over.

8. You never know when you’ll meet the person- or the book- that’ll change your life.

He cited The Right to Write by Julia Cameron and Mindset by Carol Dweck as extremely influential to him. He also said something that has stuck with me for the past couple of days (I even made it a Facebook status!)—

“We don’t just need diverse books, we need diverse book-keepers.”

As I build my library’s inventory and do activities with my students, I hope to live up to this!

I learned so much at this conference and I cannot wait to share these new books with my students. Contact me if you would like to know more about what I learned!

Poetry Month!

April is National Poetry Month! You can find out more about this important month here!

To celebrate, I will be reading poetry books with students during library class as well as working with them to complete at least one poem to potentially be shared at our Poetry Slam (sometime during the last week of April.) We will also be celebrating Poem in Your Pocket Day on April 30, where students carry a slip of paper with a poem on it in their pocket during the school day. This can be shared with friends and teachers whenever there’s time!

I wanted to share some of the amazing poetry books we have in our library that you can use for story time or lessons. Of course, we have Shel Silverstein’s and Dr. Seuss’ books available, but I am going to highlight some lesser known titles. I will indicate the books I am using during library class with asterisks. Most of these titles will be available in the plastic bin on the book return cube! Happy Poetry Month!

  • ***Mammalabilia by Douglas Florian ——- Poems and paintings of mammals in their natural habitats!
  • Button Up! by Alice Schertle ——— Poems and paintings of animals getting dressed!
  • This is the Dream by Diane Z. Shore & Jessica Alexander ——- A book-length poem about the Civil Rights Movement.
  • All We Needed to Say: Poems about School from Tanya and Sophie by Marilyn Singer
  • The Great Frog Race and Other Poems by Kristine O’ Connell George ———- Poems about farm life.
  • ***Canto Familiar by Gary Soto ——– Poems about Mexican culture and family life.
  • Poetry for Young People series ———– We have Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost.
  • ***Rainbow Soup: Adventures in Poetry by Brian P. Cleary
  • Several books written and edited by Bruce Lansky (If Pigs Could Fly and Other Deep Thoughts, Kids Pick the Funniest Poems: Poems That Make Kids Laugh, Rolling in the Aisles: A Collection of Laugh-Out-Loud Poems, and My Dog Ate My Homework!)
  • Blue Lipstick: Concrete Poems by John Grandits
  • ***The Book of Pigericks by Arnold Lobel ———- Limericks about pigs around the United States!
  • Rhyolite: The True Story of a Ghost Town by Diane Siebert ———— The rise and fall of a mining town in the west.
  • Asana and the Animals: A Book of Pet Poems by Grace Nichols
  • Awful Ogre’s Awful Day by Jack Prelutsky
  • ***If Not For the Cat by Jack Prelutsky ————— Haikus!
  • Novels in verse by Helen Frost — Diamond Willow, Hidden, and Salt (one of this year’s DCF books)
  • A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms selected by Paul B. Janeczko

As far as “how-to” books, I have How to Write Poetry (which is a Scholastic Guide by Paul B. Janeczko) and a teacher’s guide called Poetry Projects. Those will be behind my desk– just ask!

Happy Poetry Month! ❤

Family History: Supplementing Natalie Kinsey-Warnock’s Visit

Ms. Kinsey-Warnock is going to be bringing along a bevy of her own materials along with access to a number of incredible websites for her workshop “Storykeepers.” I am trying to gather some more materials that would be appropriate for younger students to be introduced to the idea of family history and genealogy and for older students to see some of the concepts in action.

Here is what I have in the library so far:

  • Seven Brave Women by Betsy Hearne.

This picture book tells the story of seven of the author’s ancestors, interesting and courageous women who had a variety of professions and experiences.

  • Strudel Stories by Joanne Rocklin

This is a longer book but would be great for read-aloud. This book tells the story of seven generations of one fictional Jewish family. The book has a family tree in the back and the author discusses her methods for writing the book and creating a family history.

  • Henry and Mudge in the Family Trees by Cynthia Rylant

I borrowed this book from Newport City Elementary and would be perfect for kindergarten. Henry and Mudge attend a family reunion and meet lots of new people- cousins, aunts, uncles, etc. This is perfect for talking about different types of family members and for kids to start creating a mental family tree.

  • Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

I also borrowed this from Newport City. This 2011 Newbery winner tells the story of Abilene, a girl sent to her father’s childhood town of Manifest, Kansas while he works on the railroad during the Great Depression. Abilene uses a box of mementos and other town sources to uncover her own family history and town history.

—Books I Will Buy or Borrow—

I am either going to borrow or buy the following books to have available in the library. I will let you know when they are here.

  • All the Mamas
  • Lucy’s Family Tree
  • Search for Shadowman

I will get others if I find they are relevant.

I do have some archival experience (that’s what my Master’s was going to be in) so let me know if you need any help with primary vs. secondary sources, reading old hand-writing, etc.

This is going to be a great program!

Women’s History Month: Some Suggestions for Younger Readers

Since 1987 there have been congressional and presidential proclamations every year that designate the month of March as “Women’s History Month.” There are numerous websites that deal with this very important celebration of women’s history, but these two are the most useful:

Just as I mentioned in my Black History Month post, you will inevitably get questions from students asking, “Why is there a Women’s History Month but no Men’s History Month?”

And just as you responded to them in February, tell them again that these special months are meant to highlight marginalized, underrepresented groups of people. Ask them who they usually see in their history books. Ask them who comes to mind when they think of a famous person from history. They will be surprised when white men are usually the people they see and name.

Tell them history was made by all types of people, and that their contributions were just as (and sometimes even more) important. Hence, Black History Month and Women’s History Month.

When you put together a list of books for Women’s History Month, make sure that you include books about all types of women that represent many races, religions, colors, ages, etc. If you have any books about transgender women, this would be a great opportunity to introduce them.

Here is a sample of list of books that are available in my library that you may find useful! Most of these are for younger students, as that is the population I serve. It is easy to find a chaptered biography in a library, but introducing these people to younger readers can be a challenge. Hopefully, these help!

  • When Marian Sang by Pam Muñoz Ryan — (Marian Anderson, jazz singer)
  • The Daring Nelly Bly by Bonnie Christensen — (Nellie Bly, reporter)
  • America’s Champion Swimmer by David A. Adler — (Gertrude Ederle, swimmer and activist)
  • Amelia Lost by Candace Fleming — (Amelia Earhart, pilot)
  • Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? by Tanya Lee Stone — (Elizabeth Blackwell, doctor)
  • Wilma Unlimited by Kathleen Krull — (Wilma Rudolph, Olympic runner)

Happy Women’s History Month!