Bill Bryson, bestselling author of A Short History of Nearly Everything, takes us on a head-to-toe tour of the marvel that is the human body. As addictive as it is comprehensive, this is Bryson at his very best, a must-read owner’s manual for everybody.
Bill Bryson once again proves himself to be an incomparable companion as he guides us through the human body–how it functions, its remarkable ability to heal itself, and (unfortunately) the ways it can fail. Full of extraordinary facts (your body made a million red blood cells since you started reading this) and irresistible Bryson-esque anecdotes, The Body will lead you to a deeper understanding of the miracle that is life in general and you in particular. As Bill Bryson writes, “We pass our existence within this wobble of flesh and yet take it almost entirely for granted.” The Body will cure that indifference with generous doses of wondrous, compulsively readable facts and information.
A preeminent music historian and critic presents a global history of music from the bottom up Histories of music overwhelmingly suppress stories of the outsiders and rebels who created musical revolutions and instead celebrate the mainstream assimilators who borrowed innovations, diluted their impact, and disguised their sources. In Music: A Subversive History, historian Ted Gioia reclaims the story of music for the riffraff, insurgents, and provocateurs. Gioia tells a four-thousand-year history of music as a global source of power, change, and upheaval. He shows how social outcasts have repeatedly become trailblazers of musical expression: slaves and their descendants, for instance, have repeatedly reinvented music, from ancient times all the way to the jazz, reggae, and hip-hop sounds of the current day. Music: A Subversive History is essential reading for anyone interested in the meaning of music, from Sappho to the Sex Pistols to Spotify.
Amaryllis Fox’s riveting memoir tells the story of her ten years in the most elite clandestine ops unit of the CIA, hunting the world’s most dangerous terrorists in sixteen countries while marrying and giving birth to a daughter
Amaryllis Fox was in her last year as an undergraduate at Oxford studying theology and international law when her writing mentor Daniel Pearl was captured and beheaded. Galvanized by this brutality, Fox applied to a master’s program in conflict and terrorism at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, where she created an algorithm that predicted, with uncanny certainty, the likelihood of a terrorist cell arising in any village around the world. At twenty-one, she was recruited by the CIA. Her first assignment was reading and analyzing hundreds of classified cables a day from foreign governments and synthesizing them into daily briefs for the president. Her next assignment was at the Iraq desk in the Counterterrorism center. At twenty-two, she was fast-tracked into advanced operations training, sent from Langley to “the Farm,” where she lived for six months in a simulated world learning how to use a Glock, how to get out of flexicuffs while locked in the trunk of a car, how to withstand torture, and the best ways to commit suicide in case of captivity. At the end of this training she was deployed as a spy under non-official cover–the most difficult and coveted job in the field as an art dealer specializing in tribal and indigenous art and sent to infiltrate terrorist networks in remote areas of the Middle East and Asia.
Life Undercover is exhilarating, intimate, fiercely intelligent–an impossible to put down record of an extraordinary life, and of Amaryllis Fox’s astonishing courage and passion.
A world-class oncologist’s devastating and deeply personal examination of cancer We have lost the war on cancer. We spend $150 billion each year treating it, yet — a few innovations notwithstanding — a patient with cancer is as likely to die of it as one was fifty years ago. Most new drugs add mere months to one’s life at agonizing physical and financial cost. In The First Cell, Azra Raza offers a searing account of how both medicine and our society (mis)treats cancer, how we can do better, and why we must. A lyrical journey from hope to despair and back again, The First Cell explores cancer from every angle: medical, scientific, cultural, and personal. Indeed, Raza describes how she bore the terrible burden of being her own husband’s oncologist as he succumbed to leukemia. Like When Breath Becomes Air, The First Cell is no ordinary book of medicine, but a book of wisdom and grace by an author who has devoted her life to making the unbearable easier to bear.
A meditation on race and identity from one of our most provocative cultural critics.
A reckoning with the way we choose to see and define ourselves, Self-Portrait in Black and White is the searching story of one American family’s multigenerational transformation from what is called black to what is assumed to be white. Thomas Chatterton Williams, the son of a “black” father from the segregated South and a “white” mother from the West, spent his whole life believing the dictum that a single drop of “black blood” makes a person black. This was so fundamental to his self-conception that he’d never rigorously reflected on its foundations—but the shock of his experience as the black father of two extremely white-looking children led him to question these long-held convictions.
It is not that he has come to believe that he is no longer black or that his kids are white, Williams notes. It is that these categories cannot adequately capture either of them—or anyone else, for that matter. Beautifully written and bound to upset received opinions on race, Self-Portrait in Black and White is an urgent work for our time.
From New York Times bestselling author and beloved Today show co-host Hoda Kotb comes an inspiring collection of quotes–drawn from her own personal favorites featured on her enormously popular Instagram account–that offer wisdom, courage, and hope.
Several years ago, Today show co-host Hoda Kotb began posting a variety of quotes on her Instagram page. Some were penned by a favorite writer; others offered a dose of love or laughter. She thought the quotes were meaningful only to her, but soon a funny thing started happening – reactions poured in from thousands of people who were just as moved. The quotes weren’t only providing inspiration to Hoda, they were comforting and connecting people. So many of their comments read, “I really needed this today,” a phrase that inspired the book’s title.
In I Really Needed This Today, Hoda not only shares 365 sayings and quotes, she writes about the people and experiences that have pushed her to challenge boundaries, embrace change, and explore relationships to their fullest. Written with her signature wit and warmth, this book is the ideal companion to tuck beside your bed or to bring with you on-the-go to keep you motivated, recharged, and inspired each day.
Told in two distinct and irresistible voices, Junauda Petrus’s bold and lyrical debut is the story of two black girls from very different backgrounds finding love and happiness in a world that seems determined to deny them both.
Trinidad. Sixteen-year-old Audre is despondent, having just found out she’s going to be sent to live in America with her father because her strictly religious mother caught her with her secret girlfriend, the pastor’s daughter. Audre’s grandmother Queenie (a former dancer who drives a white convertible Cadillac and who has a few secrets of her own) tries to reassure her granddaughter that she won’t lose her roots, not even in some place called Minneapolis. “America have dey spirits too, believe me,” she tells Audre.
Minneapolis. Sixteen-year-old Mabel is lying on her bed, staring at the ceiling and trying to figure out why she feels the way she feels–about her ex Terrell, about her girl Jada and that moment they had in the woods, and about the vague feeling of illness that’s plagued her all summer. Mabel’s reverie is cut short when her father announces that his best friend and his just-arrived-from-Trinidad daughter are coming for dinner.
Mabel quickly falls hard for Audre and is determined to take care of her as she tries to navigate an American high school. But their romance takes a turn when test results reveal exactly why Mabel has been feeling low-key sick all summer and suddenly it’s Audre who is caring for Mabel as she faces a deeply uncertain future.
Junauda Petrus’s debut brilliantly captures the distinctly lush and lyrical voices of Mabel and Audre as they conjure a love that is stronger than hatred, prison, and death and as vast as the blackness between the stars.
A powerful and haunting debut novel about friendship, acceptance, and learning to let go as the balance between the living and the dead is upended, perfect for fans of We Were Liars.
It’s been more than 50 years since a tornado tore through a drive-in movie theater in tiny Mercer, Illinois, leaving dozens of teens — a whole generation of Mercerites — dead in its wake. So when another tornado touches down in the exact same spot on the anniversary of this small-town tragedy, the town is shaken. For Brenna Ortiz, Joshua Calloway, and Callie Keller, the apprehension is more than just a feeling. Though they seem to share nothing more than a struggle to belong, the teens’ paths continue to intersect, bringing them together when they least expect it, and perhaps, when they need it most. Both the living and the dead have secrets and unresolved problems, but they may be able to find peace and move forward–if only they work together.
A beautifully told, haunting yet hopeful novel about pushing past the pain, facing the world, and finding yourself.
Secret lives and new loves emerge in the bright Caribbean sunlight, in the follow-up to national bestseller Winter in Paradise
A year ago, Irene Steele had the shock of her life: her loving husband, father to their grown sons and successful businessman, was killed in a helicopter crash. But that wasn’t Irene’s only shattering news: he’d also been leading a double life on the island of St. John, where another woman loved him, too.
Now Irene and her sons are back on St. John, determined to learn the truth about the mysterious life -and death – of a man they thought they knew. Along the way, they’re about to learn some surprising truths about their own lives, and their futures.
Lush with the tropical details, romance, and drama that made Winter in Paradise a national bestseller, What Happens in Paradise is another immensely satisfying page-turner from one of American’s most beloved and engaging storytellers.
American antique dealer Kate Hamilton’s Christmastime jaunt to a charming English village leads to an investigation of a missing ruby…and a chain of murders.
It’s Christmastime and antiques dealer Kate Hamilton is off to visit her daughter, Christine, in the quaint English village of Long Barston. Christine and her boyfriend, Tristan, work at stately-but-crumbling Finchley Hall. Touring the Elizabethan house and grounds, Kate is intrigued by the docent’s tales of the Finchley Hoard, and the strange deaths surrounding the renowned treasure trove. But next to a small lake, Kate spies the body of a young woman, killed by a garden spade.
Nearly blind Lady Barbara, who lives at Finchley with her loyal butler, Mugg, persuades Kate to take over the murdered woman’s work. Kate finds that a Burmese ruby has vanished from the legendary Blood-Red Ring, replaced by a lesser garnet. Were the theft and the woman’s death connected?
Kate learns that Lady Barbara’s son fled to Venezuela years before, suspected of murdering another young woman. The murder weapon belonged to an old gardener, who becomes the leading suspect. But is Lady Barbara’s son back to kill again? When another body is found, the clues point toward Christine. It’s up to Kate to clear her daughter’s name in Connie Berry’s second Kate Hamilton mystery, a treasure for fans of traditional British mysteries.
From the acclaimed author of the “marvel of a novel” (Entertainment Weekly) Finn comes a masterful reimagining of Charles Dickens’s classic A Christmas Carol with this darkly entertaining and moving exploration of the twisted relationship between Ebenezer Scrooge and Jacob Marley.
“Marley was dead, to begin with,” Charles Dickens tells us at the beginning of A Christmas Carol. But in Jon Clinch’s ingenious novel, Jacob Marley, business partner to Ebenezer Scrooge, is very much alive: a rapacious and cunning boy who grows up to be a forger, a scoundrel, and the man who will be both the making and the undoing of Scrooge.
They meet as youths in the gloomy confines of Professor Drabb’s Academy for Boys, where Marley begins their twisted friendship by initiating the innocent Scrooge into the gentle art of extortion. Years later, in the dank heart of London, their shared ambition manifests itself in a fledgling shipping empire. Between Marley’s genius for deception and Scrooge’s brilliance with numbers, they amass a considerable fortune of dubious legality, all rooted in a pitiless commitment to the soon-to-be-outlawed slave trade.
As Marley toys with the affections of Scrooge’s sister, Fan, Scrooge falls under the spell of Fan’s best friend, Belle Fairchild. Now, for the first time, Scrooge and Marley find themselves at cross-purposes. With their business interests inextricably bound together and instincts for secrecy and greed bred in their very bones, the two men engage in a shadowy war of deception, false identities, forged documents, theft, and cold-blooded murder. Marley and Scrooge are destined to clash in an unforgettable reckoning that will echo into the future and set the stage for Marley’s ghostly return.
Meticulously crafted and beguilingly told, Marley revisits and illuminates one of Charles Dickens’s most cherished works to spellbinding effect.
Miden is a society built from the ground up. Commissions dedicated to fairness, equality, and mindful living have been created following “the Crash,” and Miden, an island apart from the wreckage, has risen from the ashes of society as we know it. While on vacation in this oasis, a seemingly aimless woman meets an attractive man, and soon after she moves to the island to start a new life with him.
Six months pregnant and just beginning to feel comfortable in her lover’s space, she feels as though she may have finally found ownership of her life – until the day the girl arrives. Slight and pretty, the girl discloses a drawn out and violent affair she’s had with her professor, the father of the woman’s child. In alternating perspectives, the professor and his pregnant girlfriend reflect upon their own lives, each other, and their interloper. As the powers that be gather testimony and consider the case, the couple is forced to confront their own paranoia, fetishes, and transgressions in light of the student’s accusations.
As their idyllic society grapples with the scandal, boundaries blur and alliances shift as reputation, truth, and self-preservation threaten to upend their relationship. Provocative and unnerving, The Girl at the Door explores the bureaucracy of a scandal, and the thin line between lust and possession. In an age in which blunt power and fickle nuance take turns upon the stage, Raimo has delivered an unflinching exploration of the politics and power of sex.
From award-winning poet Margarita Engle comes Dreams from Many Rivers, an middle grade verse history of Latinos in the United States, told through many voices, and featuring illustrations by Beatriz Gutierrez Hernandez.
From Juana Briones and Juan Ponce de León, to eighteenth century slaves and modern-day sixth graders, the many and varied people depicted in this moving narrative speak to the experiences and contributions of Latinos throughout the history of the United States, from the earliest known stories up to present day. It’s a portrait of a great, enormously varied, and enduring heritage. A compelling treatment of an important topic.
The Thing About Jellyfish meets Raymie Nightingale in this tender middle grade novel from Lisa Jenn Bigelow, acclaimed author of Drum Roll, Please.
Hazel knows a lot about the world. That’s because when she’s not hanging with her best friend, taking care of her dog, or helping care for the goats on her family’s farm, she loves reading through dusty encyclopedias.
But even Hazel doesn’t have answers for the questions awaiting her as she enters eighth grade. What if no one at her new school gets her, and she doesn’t make any friends? What’s going to happen to one of her moms, who’s pregnant again after having two miscarriages? Why does everything have to change when life was already perfectly fine?
As Hazel struggles to cope, she’ll come to realize that sometimes you have to look within yourself—instead of the pages of a book—to find the answer to life’s most important questions.
Blood Sugar by Daniel Kraus
From the dark imagination of New York Times bestselling novelist Daniel Kraus and former Lincolnwood Library Author Visitor – co-author with Guillermo del Toro of THE SHAPE OF WATER (which as a film won the Academy Award for Best Picture) – comes a Halloween crime story that’s like nothing you’ve ever read before.
In a ruined house at the end of Yellow Street, an angry outcast hatches a scheme to take revenge for all the wrongs he has suffered. With the help of three alienated kids, he plans to hide razor blades, poison, and broken glass in Halloween candy, maiming or killing dozens of innocent children. But as the clock ticks closer to sundown, will one of his helpers – an innocent himself, in his own streetwise way – carry out or defeat the plan?
Told from the child’s point of view, in a voice as unforgettable as A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, Kraus’ novel is at once frightening and emotional, thought-provoking and laugh-out-loud funny. It’ll make you rethink your concepts of family, loyalty, and justice – and will leave you double-checking the wrappers on your Halloween candy for the rest of your days.
Hi! I’m Miss Eti, one of the Youth & Teen Services librarians. This year marks our THIRD Caldecott Club, which we began during my first year at Lincolnwood Library, inspired by the fantastic program that Brian Wilson created at Evanston Public Library in 2016. Every year I learn more from our young readers about the ways to structure this program to engage in thoughtful conversations about picture books. I am so grateful for the chance to offer this program again with some of the young people who joined us last year, as well as new friends. We designed this program to be open to kids from around 3rd grade through 8th grade because picture books are for everybody and everyone can learn from each other. [I guess this is the place I should put a spoiler alert for all the books we’re discussing…]
What’s a Caldecott?
So what is the Caldecott Award? It is the award for the most distinguished American picture book for children, given out each year by the Association for Library Service to Children. I shared a poster from Baker & Taylor of previous award winners, so the kids could spot some familiar faces and find connections between them. S. instantly noticed The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gerstein and shared how much she loved it. I informed her about the sad news that he had passed away recently, and she instantly declared that she’d like to write a tribute to him. I will always remember the powerful conversations we had during our first Caldecott Club series discussing The Boy and The Whale, which our group selected as an Honor book during our 2017 Caldecott Club.
We discussed what makes a good picture book, enabling the kids to create the language we used to evaluate the books. Ya. declared that memories make a good picture book. Others said it should be easy to understand. S. said that the pictures should speak to you. I also gave them a fantastic kid-friendly evaluation guide, thanks to Holly Jin at Skokie Public Library (who was on the 2017 Caldecott Committee) who shared this resource with me.
Once we established our criteria, we were ready to explore the books. I had put them in a cardboard box and taped it up, so the kids could dramatically open up the box just like the adult committee members do when books arrive in the mail. Brian did this at his Caldecott Club session and the kids were filled with anticipation every time. Each group received a copy of the book, so they could look more closely at the books. R. helped me open the box and distribute our first book.
The books we discussed in session 1 were:
The Very Impatient Caterpillar by Ross Burach How to Read a Book by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Melissa Sweet The Little Guys by Vera Brosgol Carl and the Meaning of Life by Deborah Freedman
Rather than doing a formal read aloud of each book, we did picture walks. Our participants were especially eager to help out with reading each book aloud, so we worked out a system to take turns. For the picture walk, we discussed each book’s visual features to examine the techniques the artists used and how they worked. Often I would prompt the group by asking them: How well does this book do what it’s trying to do? What did you notice? How does this page make you feel? What makes this art distinguished?
Our group instantly noticed the parallel end papers with the caterpillar at the beginning and butterflies at the end. They began making predictions about what would happen to our caterpillar friend. This hilarious book is perfect for read alouds, especially if you share it in two voices. S. read the Impatient Caterpillar’s speech bubbles, while I read the other caterpillar’s speech. Our group laughed throughout our picture walk.
They noticed many of the comic book features that convey information. Ya. pointed out the “white wind” that shows the Impatient Caterpillar is spinning, trying to make his chrysalis. Intrigued, Yu. asked how is the chrysalis formed, which stumped me. So here’s a great resource from The Kids Should See This that helps explain this magical process – and hopefully answers Yu.’s question. Our group pointed out the effective use of typography to contribute to the story, noticing how the font gets bigger as the caterpillars grow increasingly exasperated. We had a marvelous time chorally reading the dramatic line, “Shhh… we’re trying to metamorphosize!” R. had mastered how to say this tongue-twisting word and shared his knowledge with us.
When the Impatient Caterpillar went into his chrysalis surrounded by darkness, Ya. pointed out that “it looks like he’s dying.” When he comes out of the chrysalis half-finished, the group pointed out that he is not a butterfly yet and we talked about the movement on the page that shows his struggles. When he returns into his chrysalis and is screaming on a full page spread, S. pointed out that “he’s screaming a lot and everyone else is silent,” which shows the contrast in his reactions to change versus the other caterpillars. S. did an incredible job acting as the Impatient Caterpillar learning how to be patient and embrace change. We talked about how over time he becomes silent because he’s finally becoming a butterfly. We marveled at the dramatic page turn when he becomes a butterfly, complete with the purple markings that identify him as our Impatient friend. Yu. remarked that “he’s still impatient” at the end as he learns he has entirely new journey to join. We talked about dual transformation of the character who is both becoming a butterfly and learning to be patient. The group shared that it would be a good book to read to little kids. S. shared that she’d love to visit Todd Hall and read it to the little kids there. She also shared that it’s relatable “because there’s a lot of annoying people saying, “Are we there yet?” I have experience because I’m the younger sister and I do it.” I really appreciated her honestly. We’re all a lot like the impatient caterpillar and can learn a lot from his journey.
I began our picture walk through How to Read a Book by asking the group about how they read books. S. shared that it’s important “to understand a page before you move on.” Yu. predicted that this book wasn’t going to be a storybook narrative, which was spot on. I shared information from Kwame Alexander’s author’s note about how he wrote this poem for World Read Aloud Day in 2010, but it was not selected. Eventually it was published in Open a World of Possible from Scholastic. Kwame remarked that “I think writing the poem that became this book was my way of capturing our family reading experience on paper. Of painting a picture of the journey readers take each time they crack open a book, get lost in the pages, and wander through the wonder.” M. shared her experiences reading during DEAR (Drop Everything & Read) during social studies class this week and how loud it was initially, making it difficult to focus on the words. We talked about the importance of quiet spaces needed for reading. I shared how Melissa Sweet took Kwame’s poem and used her imagination to illustrate it. S. pointed out that “it’s the poem in her mind. It’s not exactly about books, but what’s in her mind.” Ya. pointed out that it’s more creative. Inspired just by the cover, S. suggested that we all make titles and make our own books, which we’ll definitely have to pursue at a future Caldecott Club.
We began our picture walk by exploring the bright neon pink endpapers with shelves of books. I then had our group pause to explore the powerful three-dimensional collage that Melissa Sweet states in her note, “[sets] the scene for Kwame’s lyrical text.” It was a revelation when I discovered the secrets on this gorgeous spread and I wanted our Caldecott Club to have the same experience. I projected a picture of the spread on the whiteboard and instructed the group to open the page in their books and look deeply. One said they saw the word “Caldecott.” Other saw the word “grateful,” which led others to indicate that the word was “grateful.” Gradually they worked together to decode the page, noticing the hidden line:
Poetry is motion
as a fawn
M. pointed out that she saw Bambi on this page. I shared the information from Sweet’s illustrator’s note where she had been using a copy of Bambi to make the art when she found a poem by renowned poet and educator (and Kwame’s teacher and mentor) Nikki Giovanni that began with the above line. “That was the perfect affirmation. The serendipity of using Bambi as part of the art made me trust the imagery was heading in the right direction.” Of course, I had the share the full poem by Nikki Giovanni. (And what perfect timing that Nikki Giovanni is coming to Chicago in November for the Chicago Humanities Festival! You can get tickets here.)
We then moved on the copyright page and S. pointed out that the information is formatted as an apple, which I had never noticed before. She was astounded by the craft needed to make the art. “This probably took years. Did she handmake it and handcut the letters?” I shared images from Melissa’s process to create the art and it truly is a marvel. We then jumped into the book, sharing photographs of the black tupelo and dawn redwood trees that Kwame references. We talked about how Sweet creates a feeling of a tree in her art in abstract ways. In reference to reading on a stoop like Langston Hughes, showed them a picture of the Langston Hughes House, which is now home to the I, Too, Arts Collective thanks to the hard work of founder and author Renée Watson. This also gave me the chance to introduce them to the poetry of Langston Hughes. There are so many riches within this book! S. shared that she just bought art supplies and she now planned on drawing pictures of trees and sharing her art next week, which is just the response you hope for after encountering this beautiful book.
We then talked about the metaphor that reading is like eating a clementine. S. shared that she’s very rough with clementines (which we eat all the time during our Books & Bites program). Our group noticed the Bambi passages throughout the book, noting the word “delicious” on the page about the clementine. S. remarked that the neon orange circle on the opposite page looks like a clementine. S. shared that like clementines, “maybe the outside [of a book] is not much but once you get inside, it’s delicious.” The butterflies spread inspired M. to share that “I keep trying to capture a butterfly and let it land on my hand,” expressing a wistful wonder that we’ve all experienced. S. blew me away with her artist eye, noticing the “book toaster” on the next page, popping out “Once upon a time” toast. On the wordless page of a girl reading while walking through the city, M. remarked that “that’s dangerous – reading and walking,” which made me think about the importance of audiobooks for safety alone! They noticed how the books are frequently neon, which make them stand out on the page. Their surprise was palpable as we opened the gatefold, revealing a magical book bus and struggled to choose our favorite window.
They pointed out on the next spread how the book is a tent that the reader is lying inside, actually reading Bambi. “She really likes Bambi,” M. pointed out. “You could probably read the whole book of Bambi reading this one,” S. added. We were practically speechless with wonder during the “bursts of orange” spread as the O in “Exploded” becomes the purple moon. M. pointed out that the dots surrounded the page must be hole punches. The next page made S. contemplative, expressing how much she liked the crescent moon and constellations. I recalled S.’s declaration for slow reading and how this spread encourages us to “don’t rush through” (even though I was rushing to finish our picture walk). This spread reminded me of the incredible TEDTalk by Jacqueline Woodson, “what reading slowly taught me about writing,” which is essential viewing.
The group noticed Bambi again in the child’s hair and face as they drift off to sleep at the end. They also wondered about the RFID tag on the end paper, which shows how they notice everything. They also noted the “Target logo” on the back cover, which was a good association for them. Yu. declared that How to Read a Book was very artistic. M. asked if it smelled like anything, which provoked me to share how Mr. Schu, Ambassador of School Libraries for Scholastic Book Fairs, talks about how books smell, so we had to smell this savory book. It smelled pretty great.
The moment I shared The Little Guys by Vera Brosgol, Yu. instantly declared that “I love her. She wrote Be Prepared and Anya’s Ghost.” I added that she also wrote Leave Me Alone, which won a Caldecott Honor in 2017. And I got to reminisce about our fabulous Skype visit with Vera last summer. Of course, we had to begin with the case cover secret, prompting the group to determine who the little guys are. I urged them to try to find the littlest little guy throughout the story. S. and Yu. took turns reading the pages as we went through our picture walk. Yu. stated, “they’re strong like ants working together.” M. commented on how they are a community.
Ya. pointed out that they’re always together, with the light on them even when it’s dark. Yu. shared how they team up. Things shifted for our group from seeing the little guys as an adorable collective as they began using their power in hurtful ways. When they oust the owl from its desk, Yu. declared, “that’s mean.” Turning the page to see how they treat the fox and its den of food, she added, “Look at what they did. They took the fox’s food; they’re stealing food and everyone is scared of them.” M. was visibly moved by the following spread of the little guys beating up the bear. “I’m surprised,” she said. “The bears aren’t doing anything to them and they’re [taking the fish] for no reason,” Yu. added.
“They’re kind of selfish,” S. remarked. Yu argued, “Because they’re the little guys, they can do anything. They took it way too far.” The drama escalated when the orientation of the book shifted. Ya. explained that “it demonstrates how tall [their stash of food] is and shows how much they are and it’s more than you can believe.” We talked about how this wealth of food shows their greed and gluttony.
We talked about how Vera used comics panels to show the process of taking the berry from the bird – and we all yelled “Ahhh!” together as it all comes crashing down. Yu. talked about the impact of their greed: “They have a lot of things and they just want to take a small berry from the bird.” Ya. pointed how how the other animals help save the little guys, even the fish. Yu. pointed out how this experience changed the little guys: “They saw how the other animals have empathy for them. They saved the little guys and they felt happy and grateful. They decided to give back and not be selfish.” I’d say the little guys had a big impact on our Caldecott Club.
We began our exploration of Carl and the Meaning of Life by Deborah Freedman with the case cover secret and predicting what this book would be about. I shared that Deborah Freedman used pencil, colored pencils, watercolor and assembled the art in Photoshop. They were excited that common art supplies that they use could result in such a beautiful book. We had a good conversation about the biology of earthworms, which made M. think about composting. We talked about how the text mirrors Carl’s movements, which contributes to the effectiveness of the picture book. They were curious about how the rabbit noticed a small earthworm, which led us into a discussion about the great distance between Carl and the rabbit, crossing the gutter between them, with the different lived experiences manifested in the art.
Yu. noticed the fox in the corner, saying “the fox might attack,” foreshadowing the next interaction Carl has. The next spread shows the rabbit leaping off the page as the fox dominates the scene. M. particularly liked the next spread with the green watercolor over the branches of the squirrel’s tree. Yu. began to ruminate about the themes of the book: “The meaning of life is people finding out what they want to do in life.. I heard it’s to do something you love and do something great and change the world. I think [Carl] changes the world by making the soil good.” To this, M. remarked, “there’s no meaning to life. You just do what you gotta do.” Picture books can spark some pretty heavy conversations. As we progressed through the story, they noticed how the environment had changed around Carl. S. pointed out, “He hasn’t been making fluffy soil. He’s been too busy asking people.” When Carl finally figures out his purpose to change the soil, we noticed how the colors and light change. Our group particularly loved the purples on the page with the mouse returning.
We made sure to read Deborah Freedman’s author’s note and think critically about the ways we are all connected.
S. reflected that “he was too busy thinking about stuff that others want for him,” connecting this narrative to the story of Are You My Mother? by P. D. Eastman. “It’s very inspirational because he helped every animal he talked to.”
VOTING! After we had walked through each book in a whirlwind of color and conversation, we were ready to ballot. Each child received a paper ballot to select their top 2 choices. M. helped with the math to make sure it was accurate. The top 2 books then are the winners of our session and go on the Voting Party on January 9.
And the Session 1 Winners Are…
The Little Guys by Vera Brosgol
Carl and the Meaning of Life by Deborah Freedman
Join Us Next Time!
Please join us for our next Caldecott Club session on Thursday, October 17 from 3:30-5:00pm! And don’t forget to bring your fancy lanyards! (And if you didn’t get one, make sure to join us so you can rock our Caldecott Club merch!)
Since you’ve spent all this time reading this post, I’ll even let you know which books we’ll be discussing:
Bear Came Along by Richard T. Morris, illustrated by LeUyen Pham
A Stone Sat Still by Brendan Wenzel
Another by Christian Robinson
Music for Mister Moon by Philip C. Stead and Erin E. Stead
Thanks for sticking all the way through this post… hope to see you next time!
A librarian always provides their sources – here are a series of resources I found while preparing for this program that you may want to check out: