Author Visit with Traci Sorell Recap + Resources

Posted & filed under Blog, Youth & Teen.

We were honored to host a collaborative author visit with Evanston Public Library to virtually welcome Cherokee Nation citizen and award-winning author Traci Sorell to our libraries! Traci shared an informative and insightful talk about her works such as We Are Grateful: Ostaliheliga and We Are Still Here! Native American Truths Everyone Should Know, her writing process, where she gets her ideas, and inspiration. I love how Tracy began our evening by asking our audience for their words to describe books for kids, which sparked an excellent discussion about how books can be “life-changing, eye-opening, formative, good, awesome, and great,” which is especially affirming to hear from young people attending. Traci shared how books for children now are “simply the best writing that’s out there” – and we couldn’t agree more, especially about Traci’s books 🙂

It was fascinating to learn about the background process of creating each of her books and why she wrote them. We especially appreciated learning more about Native Sovereignty. As Traci shared, “everyone in this country needs to know this information to be informed community members.”

Traci answered our many questions and we all learned so much from our time with her. I loved learning about Traci’s experience casting the narrators and producing the brilliant audiobook of We are Still Here!: Native American Truths Everyone Should Know, which you can even buy from the Cherokee Nation shop! You can also borrow our copy that includes the CD with the book!

We were so engaged in our conversation, we didn’t want our visit to end!

Please purchase Traci’s books from Booked in Evanston or your local independent bookstore.

Check out this booklist of books that Traci has written, anthologies she has contributed to, and readalikes. You can place holds at our libraries or stop by to check them out.

We are eager to learn more, so make sure to sign up for this incredible webinar on November 3 at 12:00 PM: Rethinking Thanksgiving: History, Holidays, and Gratitude – A Virtual Author Visit with Kate Messner & Traci Sorell.This webinar is designed for readers in grades 3-7 learning with teachers at school or with caregivers at home. We’re really excited to attend this webinar here at the library.

Thank you so much to Traci Sorell for visiting our virtual library and sharing your stories, knowledge, and heart! We loved hosting you! Traci also graciously sent us several giveaway books including the We Are Grateful: Ostaliheliga board book, Wonderful Women of the World, and One Land: Many Nations: Vol 1, to raffle off to our participants – so thank you for these amazing books! We also raffled off a copy of Classified: The Secret Career of Mary Golda Ross, Cherokee Aerospace Engineer and a copy of We Are Still Here! Native American Truths Everyone Should audiobook.


We provided Grab & Go Kits for this program that could be picked up at Lincolnwood Library. Based on popular demand, I’m also sharing the resources we included in the physical kit, so you can print them out and access these incredible resources.

Traci Sorell’s website

Listen to the readalong audiobook from Live Oak Media of We Are Grateful Otsaliheliga on Hoopla with your library card.

Traci shared the data and infographic of Diversity in Children’s Books in 2018. You can stop by the library for a print postcard with this infographic.

We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga Teacher’s Guide

We Are Still Here! Native American Truths Everyone Should Know Educator Resources

At The Mountain’s Base Poster in Cherokee & Educator Resources, created by Disrupt Texts

Indian No More Teacher’s Guide

Classified: The Secret Career of Mary Golda Ross, Cherokee Aerospace Engineer Educator’s Guide

Listen to the Dial a Story recording of Classified, read by Eti by calling our Dial-a-Story line at 847-999-7600 and press 5.

Check out the Indigenous Peoples’ Day Toolkit from Illuminative.

A huge thank you to Mr. Brian from Evanston Public Library for collaborating with us for this visit. Thank you so much to everyone who joined us for this wonderful author visit with Traci Sorell! We hope you will join us for future events are our libraries. Please feel free to share your feedback about this experience – we love hearing from you! Feel free to fill out our evaluation form here and get entered to our monthly prize drawing.

Author Visit with Cozbi A. Cabrera Community Quilt Project

Posted & filed under Blog, Youth & Teen.

Join award-winning author, illustrator, & artist Cozbi A. Cabrera for this unique program that blends story, reflection, & making.

Youth & Teen Librarian Eti shares what to expect at our virtual visit with Cozbi A. Cabrera in this video:

Check out our recording (edited) of our visited with Cozbi A. Cabrera!

We are so excited to invite our community to participate in an incredibly special experience. In collaboration with Evanston Public Library, we are honored to host award-winning author/illustrator Cozbi A. Cabrera, creator of books such as My Hair Is a Garden, Me & Mama and Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks (written by Suzanne Slade). She will join us virtually on Sunday, October 24 at 3:00pm – 4:00pm CT. Enjoy a chance to hear Cozbi talk about her art, read from her stories, lead a writing activity, and share her love for quilting and crafts. We recommend inviting friends, grandparents, grandchildren, & neighbors to this accessible, intergenerational program. Cozbi will lead participants through a special craft project that is perfect for the whole family! Register here!

Please visit Booked, Evanston’s very own independent bookstore, to order books by Cozbi A. Cabrera! You can order Cozbi’s books here

Stitching Time with Cozbi Project 

We will work together to create a community quilt that we’ll display in the library. During our virtual visit, Cozbi will guide us how to reconstruct a meaningful personal memory onto the quilt square.

We are grateful to Sally and Linda at Evanston Public Library who taught us how to make the Program Kits and supported us through this process, and Cozbi who kindly donated the fabric and will teach us all how to make our quilt squares.

We will provide program kits that have mostly everything you need to participate.

Each Program Kit includes: 2 quilt squares, fabric scraps, needle, thread, craft glue, a response form, and instructions. PLEASE NOTE: Kit contains a sharp needle and thread. Please supervise children. You will also need a pair of scissors that can cut fabric; these have not been provided.

Register for our author visit with Cozbi A. Cabrera and then we’ll contact you to come pick up your program kit at the library.

You can also check out our display Cozbi’s books and readalikes. You can also put books on hold here.

Project Directions

Think about a memory that’s important to you and using these materials, reconstruct it on the quilt square.

You can plan your design using the template we’ve provided.

During our visit, Cozbi offered these prompts to get us thinking about our memories:

  • Your earliest childhood memory
  • the memory that tickles your funny bone
  • the memory that stings or aches
  • the dream memory
  • that awkward moment you tried to fit in
  • the memory that’s travelled a generation or two

You can also create a paper quilt square using your own drawing supplies. 

Use the fabric scraps we’ve provided to depict your memory. You can sew them on using the needle and thread or use the fabric glue to attach them. You can also use your own fabric scraps you may have at home. 

Once you’re finished creating your quilt square, return it, plus your enclosed response form, to the library at the Youth and Teen Services desk to add to our community quilt by November 1 (or as soon as possible afterwards). You can also email a picture of your square to our librarians to be added to our digital quilt at

A huge thank you to Brian, Sally, and Linda at Evanston Public Library for all of their support and guidance to join them in this special visit and project. Special thanks to St. Mary’s Quilters for their assistance. Thank you to Ann and Lisa at Lincolnwood Library, and our community partner, Carey Petersen, who will be helping us make our quilt. And of course, to Cozbi A. Cabrera, for bringing us all together to share in this wonderful experience!

Please contact Eti at with any questions.

We can’t wait to see you at our author visit with Cozbi A. Cabrera!!!

We love collaborating with our friends at Evanston Public Library!

Curious to learn more about Cozbi A. Cabrera? Here are a bunch of resources we recommend to prepare for our visit and continue learning.

Cozbi’s website

Suzanne Slade and Cozbi A. Cabrera on Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks

The Picture Book Buzz – Interview with Cozbi A. Cabrera and Review of Me & Mama

Author Talk for Kids: Cozbi Cabrera (Me and Mama) PBS Books

Process Piece Podcast Episode 31: Cozbi A. Cabrera – Living Enriches the Art, and the Entry Point is the Heart

Spring Break Staycation Kit

Posted & filed under Blog, Early Literacy, Youth & Teen.

Our Youth & Teen librarians have created a special Staycation Kit which includes yarn, DIY Tic Tac Toe, DIY puzzle, a Take a Break with a Book list for the whole family, books, and more to help you spend time with family and create new, special memories together.  You can also request DVD and book bundles to help with your spring break entertainment.

Lincolnwood residents can sign up for a Staycation Kit (pictured above). Fill out this form to request a kit – while supplies last. One kit per family, please.

The Lincolnwood Public Library is brimming with resources to help our community celebrate traditions, create memories, learn new skills, express gratitude, and spend time with family. Here are a few ideas compiled by our librarians to help everyone enjoy time together!

Finger Knitting Kit 

Artists and crafters of all skill levels can find thousands of classes on CreativeBug. To access CreativeBug on our library’s website, go to Research & Learning, select Quick Links, then CreativeBug and log in with your library card. You can access the Finger Knitting class here. Use the yarn we’ve provided to make something fun! 

DIY Tic Tac Toe 

Cut two long strips and two shorter ones from your scrap fabric to use as the lines on your tic-tac-toe ‘board.’
Glue down strips of fabric in the shape of the # sign.
Decorate your game pieces with either the traditional ‘x’s and ‘o’s or something more creative.
You’ll need five of each design.
Introduce your child(ren) to the simple rules of the game and then you’re ready to play!
If you used a fabric bag as your ‘board,’ when you’re done playing, you can store the game pieces inside for easy clean-up.


You can create special family time by working together to color your own puzzle in the style of your choice. Feel free to share pictures of your finished products with us!

Host a Movie Night

Use our Movie Night Guide to plan a memorable movie night at home. Check out our suggestions of movies that can be fun for the whole family to watch together.


There’s nothing like a good book to enjoy inside while it’s cold outside – or to bring outside with you while spring begins. Our librarians have curated this Take a Break with a Book Booklist to offer suggestions for exploring places, experiences, and stories all from the comfort of home. This is just a list to get started. You can put these books on hold here. You can also always call or email our librarians to get personalized recommendations just for you or submit a Book Bundle request form at We have included two FREE books you can read and keep.

Ty’s Travels: All Aboard! by Kelly Starling Lyons, Illustrated by Nina Mata

Ty’s Travels: All Aboard! is a fantastic read aloud for families – and a marvelous first independent read for beginning readers. Use the activity sheets in the Kit to continue sharing Ty’s world. You can access more resources here. Explore the power of imagination together by creating your own cardboard train and setting off on incredible adventures together. You can even upcycle the Staycation Kit box! 

Twelve Kinds of Ice by Ellen Bryan Obed, Illustrated by Barbara McClintock

This book is an enjoyable read aloud for all ages, capturing the joy of winter in its poetic prose. Work together to create a collaborative piece (ex: poem, comic, drawings) about twelve kinds of a natural feature, object, person or experience. Use this book as a mentor text to write or talk about a family memory of winter or spring. 

The library has many activities to explore on our YouTube channel and Facebook page, including storytimes, youth activities and crafts, author visits, program recordings, technology tutorials, book talks, and much more. There’s truly something for everybody!

Which activities are you excited to do over spring break? Feel free to share your suggestions with us!


We are eager to get feedback from our community about our Grab & Go Kits. We rely on your input to help us develop future kits. Tell us what you and your kids think by competing our quick feedback form & you’ll be entered into a gift card raffle! You can access it at

Lincolnwood Reads: Outside, Inside by LeUyen Pham

Posted & filed under Blog, Book Discussions, Early Literacy, Youth & Teen.

Our youth librarians chose Outside, Inside by LeUyen Pham as our youth Lincolnwood Reads selection. Participate in Lincolnwood Reads on Beanstack by creating an account.

Our youth librarians chose Outside, Inside as our youth Lincolnwood Reads selection, recognizing as Kirkus noted, that this book is “a powerful ode to community [delivering] a timeless message of humility, perseverance, and hope.” With her signature gorgeous and affirming style that reflects her deep, empathetic understanding of young readers, LeUyen Pham uses the concepts of inside/outside to help offer support, care, and insight to both document this moment in time – and also show how caring for each other is timeless.

As a book about the past year, please note Outside, Inside does discuss and show loss related to COVID-19. It is a beautiful book that deals with hard things in a hopeful, compassionate way. We wanted to share some resources to help you take care of yourselves and express any feelings you’re feeling.

Watch our archived Lunch Break Storytime: Feelings. You can also download our Storytime Handout.

How To Recognize and Respond To Big Feelings (Sesame Street Communities)

How Big Is Your Scary Feeling? (Sesame Street Communities)

Our community also has a variety of mental heath resources available:

Turning Point Mental Health Services

JCFS Chicago Response for Teens

No Shame On U

Metropolitan Family Services

Outside, Inside Grab & Go Kit

Our Youth Librarians have created a special Grab & Go Kit to explore Outside, Inside by LeUyen Pham together and extend the literacy experience with a variety of reading, writing, crafting, and connecting activities. Several of the activities in the kit are Beanstack tasks you can complete, check off, and win prizes! We’d love to see what you create so feel free to share pictures or videos with us at You can pick up a free Grab & Go Kit in our Great Green Box while supplies last. You can also use all of the ideas and resources available in this digital kit.

*Please note that several activities come from the activity guide created by Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group..


Read Outside, Inside by LeUyen Pham. You can put a copy on hold at our library. You can share it by asking open-ended questions. This is a technique called ‘dialogic reading,’ and research shows that it helps children increase their reading comprehension and critical thinking skills. Some suggested questions: Where is the cat? What do you notice? What do you wonder? How does this spread make you feel?


Call our Dial-a-Story line at 847-999-7600 to listen to a Read Aloud of Outside, Inside, read by Ms. Ann. This is a wonderful activity you can do as a family.

Join our Outside, Inside Book Discussion/Storytime

Attend our family book discussion/storytime on Wednesday, April 7 at 6–7pm CST! Register here. You can even share what you’ve created using this kit during our program! We will make the paper house together in the program.

Write a Thank You Note*

Every day nurses, doctors, grocery-store workers, post-office employees, teachers, and many others help make a world a better place. Write a thank you note to someone who has made a difference in your community. You can use the card, worksheet and envelope. Sesame Street Communities has resources to provide ways for everyone to say thank you. You can even create this Mail a Hug craft.

Interview Someone You Love*

Is there someone you miss seeing every day? Call them on the phone or set up a video call and interview them! You can use the worksheet for ideas for questions. You can even interview them for My Lincolnwood Story!

Shop Local

Support our local independent bookstore partner, Booked in Evanston, by purchasing a copy of our Lincolnwood Reads selections here. You can also email them at to request any of our readalike titles – or any book you desire! They are the best!!


Draw a picture of your favorite thing to do outside.

Draw a picture of your favorite thing to do inside.

We have also included some activity pages from the readalike book, Why Are You So Quiet? by Jaclyn Desforges & illustrated by Risa Hugo.

Make a Memory Jar

Inspired by In a Jar by Deborah Marcero and Memory Jars by Vera Brosgol, create your own memory jar. A memory jar can be a time capsule of an hour, a day, an event, or an entire season/year. Use the scrapbook paper and your own art supplies to draw or write down words that remind you of moments or feelings you want to capture. You can even put little objects into the jar. This is an activity you can do with the whole family. You could even make the jar to share with a friend or family member.

Host a Dance Party

Host a family dance party with your favorite music and dance moves. We have created a fun playlist of music we love to help you get moving and get everyone at home involved in creating your epic playlist. You can use speakers or a computer for quality sound. You can even dim the lights and set up some string lights or color-changing led lights to make it fancy. We’ve provided a glow stick bracelet and connector to add to the fun, which are recommended for ages 3 years old and up.

Paper House

Make a paper house using the provided template from the Eric Carle Museum. Watch the tutorial video with LeUyen Pham to learn how to make the paper house. The project starts at around 16 minutes.

Speaking of the Carle Museum, check out ART in PLACE: Social Distancing in the Studio, “an exhibition featuring inspiring artworks created by more than 20 of today’s leading picture-book artists during the global pandemic. Each illustrator shares one artwork, a self-portrait taken in their studio, and a statement about their selection.”

Mentor Text

The pairing of opposites of outside/inside offer an opportunity to use this book as a powerful mentor text for writers of all ages. Use the format of Outside, Inside as a prompt for a creative writing response after reading this book.


Watch virtual author visits and storytimes with LeUyen Pham talking about creating Outside, Inside.

LeUyen Pham launch Event from An Unlikely Story Bookstore

We recommend attending OUTSIDE, INSIDE: Teaching, Learning, and Reflecting on Life During the Pandemic on Monday, March 15 at 5:30 CST. All author proceeds will benefit the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank.

“Using Outside, Inside, rich conversation, and multimodal activities, author/illustrator LeUyen Pham and educator Kass Minor will help caregivers and educators develop a foundational landscape for engaging kids in authentic conversation and reflective practice grounded in and connected to the 2020-21/Global Pandemic teaching and learning experience. Kids, teachers, and caregivers have few opportunities to talk about how COVID-19 has shaped their lives, and many have become desensitized to its omnipresent force. LeUyen Pham’s newest book Outside, Inside offers a gentle touchstone for initiating and/or continuing these conversations.” This session is recorded so you can always register and watch it at your convenience.

Explore Readalikes

Check out readalike books that explore similar themes, such as community, kindness, family, creativity, various emotions, and resilience. Picture books are for everybody!

You can also pair Outside, Inside with other kinds of media such as poetry performances, art, comics, and film. Watch National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman read her poem, ‘The Miracle of Morning (presented in April 2020). You can access a performance video here.

We’d love to hear what you think about our Grab & Go Kit! Fill out our survey with your input and you’ll be entered into a prize raffle.


A librarian always shares their sources 🙂 Here are some of the awesome learning resources we’ve found and used to create this Grab & Go Kit and Lincolnwood Reads programs:

KidLit These Days Podcast: Stay Safe

Strength as One (Librarian’s Quest)

Asian Lit for Kids Review

Sondra Eklund Review

In a Jar + Memory Jar Craft (This Picture Book Life)

Outside, Inside: The LeUyen Pham Interview and Trailer Reveal (Fuse #8)

LeUyen Pham: Evidence of love in a most difficult year (BookPage interview by Julie Danielson)

Teachers Books Reads Blog

Bookends Blog

‘Outside, Inside’ Is a Time Capsule That Helps Kids and Adults Reflect on Pandemic Life by Kara Newhouse (Mindshift)

Get Out the Vote 2021

Posted & filed under Blog, Youth & Teen.

For several years, Lincolnwood Public Library’s Junior Justice League, our community activism program for young people, has participated in Get Out the Vote projects to inspire our community to vote, which included posting signs and/or sending out postcards for the 2018 midterm elections, village, school and library elections, the 2020 spring primaries and the 2020 fall election.

Civic engagement and participation in our democracy is something we’re passionate about all the time! This spring our library will support our community in voting on April 6 for the 2021 consolidated elections for mayor, school board, library board, etc. Local elections often do not get as much attention as national or state elections – but they are incredibly important to every community.

Join Lincolnwood Library’s youth Junior Justice League, our virtual community activism program seeking to make a difference in our world while staying connected to our community, for our Get Out the Vote initiative to promote voting in the upcoming local elections. This program will take place on March 16 at 3:30pm CST on Zoom. This is a fantastic activity to do together as a family. You can register here

You can pick up a free Get Out the Vote Grab & Go Postcard Kit at the library on our Voting Displays and in our Great Green Box to participate in this activity on your own time, while supplies last. Our all-ages Get Out the Vote Postcard Kit (with art made by Kate) can offer a fun, engaging opportunity for families and friends to come together to talk about civic engagement and democracy, whether in person or virtually. You could even host your own postcard writing activity on Zoom! You can also use your own postcards. All you need are some basic art supplies. Middle school and high school friends, you can even get service hours for making and sending out postcards!

Get Out the Vote Postcards Directions

Using your own style, decorate the postcard and write a personal message to inspire others to vote, such as “Raise your Voice,” “Every Vote Matters,” “Make a Plan to Vote.” You can watch the video above for inspiration from our JJL kids!

Address the postcard on the right side of the postcard. You can attach a stamp or if you bring the postcard to the Youth & Teen Librarians, we can mail the postcard for you. Make sure to mail your postcards before the election. 

Treat yourself to a Voting sticker for a job well done.  

Make a plan with your family to vote this spring. Remember you can always register to vote by mail.

You can access our Get Out the Vote Postcard templates and directions here.

Voting Resources

Lincolnwood Library provides lots of resources about voting to help you find the information you need about registering, researching candidates, finding your polling place, and more.

You can check our Informed Voter page at

School District 74 Candidate Videos

Niles Township Government Voter Information, which includes information about early voting, your polling place, vote by mail, the advisory referendum on the ballot, and lots more!

Check out our Voting display in the library & borrow some fantastic books to learn more about raising your voice for all ages. You can also easily put them on hold to get through curbside pick-up.

Magic by Randy Show and Teaching Program

Posted & filed under Blog, Uncategorized, Youth & Teen.

If you missed out on our Magic by Randy show and magic teaching program, you can visit his website. Here’s some highlights of what you missed in both programs!

Some magic cards Randy showed participants how to use in his magic teaching program
  1. In the teaching program Randy showed everyone how to use math in a magic trick that will get the same number every time
  2. How to make cards move in mysterious ways
  3. how to craft your own magic trick

in the performance, Randy

  1. moved objects and made objects move inside a glass (Without touching it)
  2. Pulled all sorts of objects from his mouth
  3. Did card tricks with the help of audience participation

You can also check out some of his videos from other performances on his website.

The library has other magic books for all ages and skill levels that you can check out to build upon Randy’s teaching program.

Mathemagic: Number Tricks – Lynda Colgan

Magic Tricks with Coins, Cards, and Everyday Objects by Jake Banfield

Simple Slight of Hand by Paul Zenon

OEB Magic Handbook: Paper Tricks by Jon Tremaine

Author Visit with Next Wave Muslim Initiative writers, Sasa and Fatima

Posted & filed under Blog, Book Discussions, Youth & Teen.

We are SO excited and honored to welcome Next Wave Muslim Initiative writers and contributors of I Am the Night Sky & Other Reflections by Muslim American Youth anthology, Salihah “Sasa” Aakil & Fatima Rafie, to our virtual library on Tuesday, February 2nd at 6pm CST!

Sasa and Fatima will present and discuss their important works. Attendees will gain insights from these incredible young creators about their creative process to make the anthology, offering learning opportunities for young people who are interested in expressing themselves. Attendees will ALSO be entered into a raffle to win a free copy of I Am the Night Sky. You can also purchase copies from Shout Mouse Press.

Are you curious about how young people (just like you!) wrote and published a book?

Are you passionate about the power of stories to help young people “show their true selves, to build connection, and to create more inclusive and welcoming communities for all”? 

Are you interested in telling your own story? 

Then, this is THE program for you! Please register here to join our live Zoom with your email. You don’t have to read the book beforehand to enjoy our authors’ presentation; we hope it will inspire you to check it out or get your own copy. All are welcome to join us!

UPDATE: You can NOW watch the recording of our program on our YouTube Channel below.

Curious to know more about their book?

I Am the Night Sky & Other Reflections by Muslim American Youth is an essential addition to your home, classroom, and library collections! It received a Starred review in Kirkus and was named a Best Book of 2019. It is highly recommended from the Rich in Color blog. It was included on the 2020 Rise: A Feminist Book Project List for Ages 0-18. It was also on the In the Margins Book Awards Recommended Non-fiction list.

We have created a special Grab & Go Kit to accompany our upcoming virtual author visit that you can pick up from our Great Green Box! We have collected excellent resources to help celebrate and enjoy this visit! 


We’ve provided you with a writer’s notebook to help you express yourself. Use it to respond to any of the Shout In Place Prompts, which was Shout Mouse Press’s initiative this past spring “to collect stories from young people during the pandemic and help young people process and capture their unique experience of this historic time.” We have included a couple examples in the kit. You can see all the prompts here, which also includes young authors’ writing, art, and reflections. You can also submit your own response or share them with us. You can also use the I Am the Night Sky Writing Prompts developed by Kathy Crutcher, Shout Mouse Story Coach to inspire you.


Get inspired to write by watching the powerful compilation video of Shout Mouse Press authors’ responses to the “Who Am I?” #ShoutInPlace prompt!

Try the Shout in Place prompt from Week 18: The #WhoAmIChallenge. Being as creative as possible, you are challenged to describe who you are. Using the #WhoAmIChallenge Template as your script, answer the question Who Am I? 5 times. Make sure to add details that show us how unique you are.


Fatima Rafie created an incredible series of collages for this anthology. Using the collage materials provided, as well as your own craft supplies, magazines, or upcycled books, create a collage that explores the theme of identity. You can even use the I Am the Night Sky Writing Prompts to help inspire your art. We have also included some pictures of Fatima Rafie’s artwork to serve as mentor texts to help you get started. Feel free to share what you create with us!


Read and reflect on Salihah “Sasa” Aakil’s piece, “I am the Night Sky,” which became the title of the anthology. As Sasa writes in the introduction:

“In the end, the title we chose came from a piece in this collection, a line that speaks to the power we all felt while writing. The power to declare who we are. To reframe and reclaim. To tell our own stories, when all you’d heard was theirs.

We know who we are. We are intelligent, athletic and energetic, funny and strange, young and alive, writers and artists. We are boundless. We do not fit in anyone’s box. We are the night sky, and we wrote these stories, reflections, and reminders so that you can know us for us. Not for what they declared us to be…

This collection, like us, contains multitudes… We wrote our truths here, all in the hopes that you will remember us for who we are. We are. And we are here.”

The entire anthology is an incredible work of art! You definitely will want to check it out from the library and get your own copy, too!

We have included some amazing articles to learn more! 

“Book Launch: I Am the Night Sky” by Salihah Aakil (7/26/19)

“All the Ways I Learned to Become the Night Sky as a Muslim Teen” by Salihah Aakil (5/4/20)

“This D.C. press helps diverse young writers express themselves ‘from a place of power’” by Avery J.C. Kleinman (10/17/20)

Meet the Bright Muslim Writers and Artists Giving Life to the American Muslim Experience by Nadamousa 

You can check out Salihah Aakil’s official bio.

You can check out Fatima Rafie’s official bio.

Learn more about the Next Wave Muslim Initiative.

Learn more about Shout Mouse Press.

You can learn more about Shout Mouse Press in the videos below:

Caldecott Club Voting Party 2021

Posted & filed under Blog, Book Discussions, Early Literacy, Youth & Teen.

Welcome back to our 2021 Caldecott Club! I’m Miss Eti, one of the Youth & Teen Services librarians at Lincolnwood Library. We have come full circle during this, our 4th Caldecott Club, inspired by the fantastic program that Brian Wilson created at Evanston Public Library in 2016. This year we are hosting a collaborative virtual Caldecott Club WITH Mr. Brian and Evanston Public Library. We have been learning so much about how to host this program virtually – and it’s been so fun to join together across our community to geek out about gorgeous picture books!

We met together on Zoom on January 19, 2021 with a group of wonderful readers, their families, and friends to talk about all things picture books. We designed this program to be open to kids from around 1st grade through 8th grade and up because picture books are for everybody and everyone can learn from each other. I’ve tried to recap their brilliance in this post. (You can read the recaps from Session #1 here, Session #2 here, and Session #3 here.) We reached the culmination of our hard work picture walking and evaluating picture books for months: The Voting Party! We were joined by our program buddy, Ann, and our Evanston Library buddy, Laura. We also were joined by a special guest, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast blogger, author, and librarian, Julie Danielson!

During this program series, different kids have attended a variety of sessions so it was pretty exciting to have most of our regular attendees – and some new friends attend our culminating program. The wonderful thing about picture books is their accessibility for engagement, whether you’re a first timer at Caldecott Club or a longtime fan. 

We began our session by reviewing what the Caldecott award is, which is “most distinguished American picture book for children awarded by the Association for Library Service to Children.” Mr. Brian, as usual, revealed the books we’d discuss and helped get us excited! He also encouraged us to listen to each other and approach each book with an open mind. We then jumped into our discussion. We started the conversation about each book with a quick booktalk/picture walk to ensure everyone was familiar with the books. (The summaries below are from the descriptions from the publishers’ pages.) During our discussion, we asked the kids to share what they liked about the art, starting with the positive things first, as per the CCBC Book Discussion Guidelines, and then share what didn’t work for them about the art. A reoccurring theme throughout our discussion that the kids brought up was comparing the books to each other, which is a helpful strategy for all committees.

Our essential questions were:

  • What did you like about the art?
  • How well did the art express the themes/ideas/story? 
  • Why should it win our Caldecott Club Award? 
  • What could have been done better? Why shouldn’t it win our Caldecott Club Award?

Lift by Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat


Iris loves to push the elevator buttons in her apartment building, but when it’s time to share the fun with a new member of the family, she’s pretty put out. That is, until the sudden appearance of a mysterious new button opens up entire realms of possibility, places where she can escape and explore on her own. But when she’s forced to choose between going at it alone or letting her little brother tag along, Iris finds that sharing a discovery with the people you love can be the most wonderful experience of all.

Brian led our discussion about Lift. He started with a fantastic booktalk to recap Iris’s whirlwind adventures with the magical elevator button. He pointed out the unique features of the art in the comic-book style, the evocative facial expressions and body language, the use of humor, the dramatic page turns and double-page spreads, and use of perspective.

One reader shared how the art showed the girl’s emotions and how mad she got each time she didn’t get to press the button. Mr. Brian affirmed, “you could feel what she was feeling.” M. shared, “I love Lift because it’s drawn super well with all the little details.. and how every time [she] goes to a different place…” This led us into a discussion of the medium of Lift, which is usually found on the copyright page, but not in this book. The art is so fantastic and seems like it could be oil painting. We looked back at our notes and determined that it was made using Photoshop and Procreate. I have linked a video from Politics & Prose with Minh Lê and Dan Santat where Dan shows his process illustrating the book, including many of the things he changed between drafts (yay for the magical places inspirations)! A. shared that “every page has a special detail.” It was interesting how the comic book style worked for some readers and others did not prefer the format. Readers did share how they liked how it really showed emotion. L., shared, “I like it just fine. I actually love it. It’s one of my favorites.”

The Old Truck by Jerome Pumphrey & Jarrett Pumphrey

When is an old truck something more? On a small, bustling farm, a resilient and steadfast pickup works tirelessly alongside the family that lives there, and becomes a part of the dreams and ambitions of the family’s young daughter. After long days and years of hard work leave the old truck rusting in the weeds, it’s time for the girl to roll up her sleeves. Soon she is running her own busy farm, and in the midst of all the repairing and restoring, it may be time to bring her faithful childhood companion back to life.

Julie led our discussion about The Old Truck. She shared an excellent booktalk about the little girl growing up on the farm with the old truck as the constant in her life, and eventually she fixes up the old truck. Julie pointed out how it’s made with a mixture of traditional stamps and digital art, the limited color palette, simple shapes and patterns that express big ideas about working hard and family, inspired by the women in the creators’ family who worked really hard. Julie also pointed out how the truck stays in the same place in each spread. Y. shared that “this story is kind of unique. Most people end up buying different vehicles, but they keep this one, like it’s just as special as their family.” S. added, “I like how you could see the time passing.” R. said, “it’s kind of interesting to see how she grows up on every page.” M. added, “I really liked how the whole stamp thing. It looked really cool and I loved the color scheme – and I could see myself painting my walls using it.” Jules helped us think critically about the use of earth tones to convey meaning in The Old Truck – and how fitting it was for the themes of the story. Lu. shared how when we flipped through the book, it felt like a movie seeing the truck in the same place with everything changing. (10 points to us for making digital versions of the books available!)

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade

Inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements across North America, We Are Water Protectors issues an urgent rallying cry to safeguard the Earth’s water from harm and corruption–a bold and lyrical picture book written by Carole Lindstrom and vibrantly illustrated by Michaela Goade.

Water is the first medicine.
It affects and connects us all . . .

When a black snake threatens to destroy the Earth
And poison her people’s water, one young water protector
Takes a stand to defend Earth’s most sacred resource. 

I (Eti) led the discussion for We are Water Protectors. I reminded our group that it was illustrated by Michaela Goade, using watercolors, which is absolutely fitting and perfect for this book. I talked about how this book focuses on our relationship to water, and when the black snake/oil pipeline threatens the water, plants, animals, and people, the Indigenous-led resistance movement rises up to speak up and protect the water, which continues on today. H. shared, “I like this book because it teaches people how to treat the environment.” La. added, “I liked the watercolors. It really showed nature. I also liked why it was written and explained what was happening and why it’s bad.” You know I love good back-matter, too, my friend. Y. shared, “What I like about this is that they’re fighting for their water, just like some people right now during COVID, who don’t have water which is why they’re suffering so much.” (This powerful comment shows how incredible both this young reader is – and this gorgeous book that provokes this thoughtful comment. I can’t help but be reminded about the vital importance of access to clean water in Indian Country.) M. shared her favorite spreads when people are in a circle, declaring, “We stand/with our songs/and our drums./We are still here. She also really liked the spread that shows the negative impact of the pipeline on the wildlife, recognizing the creativity to express it.

The Ocean Calls by Tina Cho, illustrated by Jess X. Snow

A breathtaking picture book featuring a Korean girl and her haenyeo (free diving) grandmother about intergenerational bonds, finding courage in the face of fear, and connecting with our natural world. Dayeon wants to be a haenyeo just like Grandma. The haenyeo dive off the coast of Jeju Island to pluck treasures from the sea–generations of Korean women have done so for centuries. To Dayeon, the haenyeo are as strong and graceful as mermaids. To give her strength, Dayeon eats Grandma’s abalone porridge. She practices holding her breath while they do the dishes. And when Grandma suits up for her next dive, Dayeon grabs her suit, flippers, and goggles. A scary memory of the sea keeps Dayeon clinging to the shore, but with Grandma’s guidance, Dayeon comes to appreciate the ocean’s many gifts.

Julie led our discussion about The Ocean Calls. Julie talked about how Dayeon overcomes her fear of diving to join her grandmother, who is a haenyeo. Julie pointed out how the art was made digitally, pointing out the textures throughout the book, the mermaid imagery, playful perspectives, and magical purple. Julie also pointed out that Jess X. Snow worked really hard to accurately represent the haenyeo women in their culture. H. shared, “when they draw the ocean, if I were to do that, I would draw a straight line, but they drew waves, which is kind of cool.” Y. shared that he liked how Dayeon overcame her fear. M. shared how much she liked the backgrounds and surroundings with the colors, especially the ocean and the field. Lu. commented, “the ocean looks so real, you can almost feel it.” Julie talked about how the medium was really effective to express these ideas. Another reader added, “I like the way they draw everything. It makes it look super realistic and shows the expressions. Everything looks really fitting to the story.” B. shared, “I really like that they made the shadows into mermaid shapes. Also, I love mermaids. They’re one of my favorite things.” Julie shared that there’s a lot of mermaid imagery since the haenyeo are, as the author’s note states, “fondly known as Korea’s granny mermaids” and also “Indigenous marine biologists.” H. shared, “I think it should win since Dayeon had a fear of the water … and she went through it bravely and it tells the reader that fear is just another reason why you should try harder to do the things you’re afraid of.”

Our Little Kitchen by Jillian Tamaki 

Cover of Our Little Kitchen

In this lively, rousing picture book from Caldecott Honoree Jillian Tamaki, a crew of resourceful neighbors comes together to prepare a meal for their community. With a garden full of produce, a joyfully chaotic kitchen, and a friendly meal shared at the table, Our Little Kitchen is a celebration of full bellies and looking out for one another. Bonus materials include recipes and an author’s note about the volunteering experience that inspired the book.

Ann led our discussion of Our Little Kitchen. She shared a fantastic booktalk about community kitchen bringing everyone together. She pointed out how it was drawn with nib pens and colored digitally, with a comics art style. She also pointed out how the book uses onomatopoeia to visually show the sounds, immersing you in the kitchen noises and smells, with a mixture of realism and surrealism. Ms. Ann also pointed out the excellent author’s note and recipe endpapers. Y. shared, “I like how in the end, the kid says, ‘Ok, time to clean up!'” H. shared how she liked the use of onomatopoeia “to show the reader what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.” A. shared that she’s learning about onomatopoeia in school for writing, which is such a great personal connection. B. shared how she liked how there’s so much detail on all the pages. She also noticed the shape and size of the text. S. shared that she liked it because she likes graphic novels and also likes to cook and bake. R. pointed out how the book starts out quiet, gets loud and then gets quiet again. Ann pointed out how the use of white space helps communicate in the book. J. shared, “This is my favorite book. I like how the art is like a comic book.” Ann modeled a fantastic text-to-text comparison to reflect on the comics features between Our Little Kitchen and Lift. L. shared that the comics features felt stronger in Lift but liked Our Little Kitchen better because of the drawing style that feels like a page of well-drawn doodles. H. shared that “they’re making food to help people who don’t have it, so that’s nice to know . . . so it’s kind that they’re helping others.”

Swashby and the Sea by Beth Ferry, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

Captain Swashby loves the sea, his oldest friend. And he loves his life by the sea just as it is: salty and sandy and serene. One day, much to Swashby’s chagrin, a young girl and her granny commandeer the empty house next door. All Swashby wants is for his new neighbors to GO AWAY and take their ruckus with them. When Swashby begins to leave notes in the sand for his noisy neighbors, however, the beach interferes with the messages that are getting across. Could it be that the captain’s oldest friend, the sea, knows what Swashby needs even better than he knows himself?

Laura led our discussion of Swashby and the Sea. She framed it as a story of “eventual friendship,” which is such a perfect way of putting it. Laura helped point out how the art shows how the sea is another character in the book. She shared how the expressions are larger than life, especially noticing the character’s eyes, noting the muted colors to convey it’s a beach story. H. shared how she liked how it’s an unlikely friendship story, appreciating how the girl never gives up and keeps coming back. B. added how it’s funny and liked how the ocean didn’t wash all the letters out, but made different words from the letters. L. declared that, “it should be first. It’s a good book – it’s about friendship – and I’m all about friendship. And it’s very funny too.” Y. shared that it’s also a favorite, and like The Ocean Calls, the girl went into the ocean even though she didn’t want to.


After we had walked through each book in a whirlwind of color and conversation, we were ready to vote for the winner of our 2021 Caldecott Club. This year, since we met virtually, I created a google form for people to vote for their first, second, and third choice. (If you’re interested in the technical details, I downloaded the results into an spreadsheet, calculated the number (1st place gets 3 points, 2 gets 2, and 3rd place gets 1) and then added up the totals. I then was able to screenshare to show how we got our results for full transparency. Finally, the math was complete and we were ready to announce our winners!

The Winner of our Evanston Public Library and Lincolnwood Library 2021 Mock Caldecott is….

Lift by Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat


Our group selected 3 Honor Books:

Our Little Kitchen by Jillian Tamaki

Cover of Our Little Kitchen

Swashby and the Sea by Beth Ferry, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

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The Old Truck by Jerome Pumphrey & Jarrett Pumphrey

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But wait, there’s more!

We will have a live Youth Media Awards Viewing Party on Zoom on Monday, January 25 at 8:00am CST! You can even get a special Grab & Go Kit in Lincolnwood Library’s Great Green Box. Register here.

Then, in the evening, we’ll meet up together at our regular Caldecott Club time (Monday, January 25 at 7pm CST) to watch selections from the Youth Media Awards webcast and react to the winners.


You can put Caldecott Club books on hold at our libraries here.

I have created a RESOURCE GUIDE with activities, videos, podcasts, program kit supplies, handouts, and more to share the sources we’ve used and continue the learning! We hope it will be useful for you to explore these books at home!

Thank you to everyone who joined us for Caldecott Club! Thank you so much to Mr. Brian for this incredible collaboration! Thank you so much to Ann and Laura for being our awesome buddies and facilitators. Thank. you to our special guest, Julie Danielson, for joining our Caldecott Club community, leading two discussions, and sharing your notable picture book expertise! And of course, thank you to our friends, families, and young readers who are our Caldecott Club!

Author & Illustrator Visit with Alicia D. Williams & Jacqueline Alcántara

Posted & filed under Blog, Book Discussions, Early Literacy, Youth & Teen.

We are so grateful to host author Alicia D. Williams & illustrator Jacqueline Alcántara of Jump at the Sun: The True-Life Tale of Unstoppable Storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston, at an interactive presentation about the art and craft of making books, including a live drawing demonstration and a drawing activity. This event was offered in partnership with Winnetka-Northfield Public Library on January 14, 2021.

You can purchase your own copy of Jump at the Sun from our local independent bookstore partner, the Book Stall!

Jacqueline and Alicia prepared a wonderful multi-faceted event for our libraries that had our group engaged throughout the entire program!

It began with Alicia sharing an outstanding and captivating read aloud of Jump at the Sun: The True-Life Tale of Unstoppable Storycatcher Zora Neale Hurston that demonstrated her incredible skill as a storyteller, performer, and writer. (Seriously, I hope that they produce an audiobook of Jump at the Sun and hire Alicia as the narrator, with Live Oak Media producing it to help bring Zora’s story to life.) Alicia shared the beginning of the story with us – and left us intrigued to find out more. (Make sure to check out the recording to watch for yourself!) As Alicia pointed out, make sure to look for the wonderful hats and animals throughout the book.

Jacqueline then led us in a drawing activity to learn how to draw Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox in motion. You can see the finished illustration below and then our group’s creations! It was so helpful to have Jacqueline break down each step of the creation of these characters into smaller pieces. (And the good thing about the recording is that you can watch it and pause it if you want more time with your drawing, too.) I love when grown-ups and kids can draw together. Everyone did a fantastic job! Feel free to share your Brer Fox and Brer Rabbit drawings with us!

Alicia then shared a captivating folktale about Brer Rabbit getting thrown in the briar patch that had us all laughing out loud throughout the tale. Honestly, I could listen to Alicia tell stories all day. (Make sure to check out the recording only available for the next two weeks to watch for yourself. You don’t want to miss it.)

Finally, Jacqueline and Alicia kindly took questions from our audience. Our group had great questions about research, the art process, favorite animals, and more. It made me see the book in new ways after learning how Jacqueline “played compositionally with Zora, the sun and the horizon.” Alicia shared how she used jumping at the sun to create structure for the courageous moments when Zora jumped. As Alicia shared, make sure to check out the fantastic back-matter in Jump at the Sun. There was so much to learn from these creators! (I also just learned that you can buy beautiful original edition prints from Jump at the Sun from Jacqueline Alcántara!)

And of course, the time went by so quickly while we were having fun. Thank you to Anny from Winnetka-Northfield Public Library for collaborating on this event! Thank you to our program buddy Ann for all of your help!

Thank you SO much to Alicia D. Williams & Jacqueline Alcántara for visiting our virtual library and sharing your beautiful book with our communities! It was such a pleasure to host you – and we look forward to having you visit again in the future. We highly recommend inviting Alicia and Jacqueline to your school or library for an unforgettable visit!

You can check out the additional resources we’ve curated below to continue learning and sharing!

Program Recording

A recording of our author visit will be available here for 2 weeks (until February 3, 2021) after the program to watch and enjoy at your convenience.

Grab & Go Kit

Lincolnwood Library created Grab & Go Kits to celebrate these wonderful authors and their beautiful book! You can get them while supplies last from our Great Green Box outside the library. As always, they are free and available for everyone. You can also use the resources in this post to make your own kit. Here are some of our suggestions we included in the Kit to explore the book’s themes.

Create your own stories with the DIY Storytelling Discs.

Make your own book. Use the first page for our drawing/writing activity.

Watch the Zora Neale Hurston: Jump at the Sun documentary on Kanopy.

Get your own copy of Jump at the Sun: The True-Life Tale of Unstoppable StorycatcherZora Neale Hurston from The Book Stall.

Interview a family member or friend, facilitated by a library staff member for My Lincolnwood Story.

Have fun with the Jump at the Sun Coloring Sheet.

Learning Resources

We have collected lots of resources to prepare for our visit and learn more. Check them out below:

Alicia D. William’s Website

Jacqueline Alcántara’s Website

Interview with Alicia D. Williams & Jacqueline Alcántara with Mr. Schu

The Picture Book Buzz – Interview with Alicia D. Williams

Book Website (Simon & Schuster)

Publisher’s Weekly Review

Kirkus Review

Alicia D. Williams MFAC ’13 celebrates oral storytelling tradition in new picture book

Politics & Prose Live Event on Thursday, January 14, 2021 – 10 a.m.

Alicia D Williams & Jacqueline Alcántara in conversation with Vanessa Brantley-Newton on Jan 30, 2021 at 11:00 AM ET (Park Road Books)

Teaching Guides/Coloring Sheets

Jump at the Sun Coloring Sheet

Alicia D. Williams – 2020 Newbery Honor Reaction

Meet the Author: Alicia D. Williams

Alicia D. Williams – Path to Publication The Yarn Podcast Series

Meet Jacqueline Alcántara (Voyage Chicago)

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #576: Featuring Up-and-Coming Illustrator, Jacqueline Alcántara

The Field: An Interview with Baptiste Paul & Jacqueline Alcántara (This Picture Book Life)

Check In on your Neighbors (Obama Foundation #OFCareChallenge art by Jacqueline Alcántara)

Upcoming Projects

I know we’re excited about the books that these incredible creators will publish in the future. Start counting down now for these amazing books!

Shirley Chisholm Dared: The Story of the First Black Woman in Congress by Alicia D. Williams & illustrated by April Harrison (Publication Date: June 01, 2021)

Your Mama by NoNieqa Ramos, illustrated by Jacqueline Alcántara (Publication Date: April 06, 2021)

Caldecott Club 2021: Session #3

Posted & filed under Blog, Youth & Teen.

Welcome back to our 2021 Caldecott Club! I’m Miss Eti, one of the Youth & Teen Services librarians at Lincolnwood Library. We have come full circle during this, our 4th Caldecott Club, inspired by the fantastic program that Brian Wilson created at Evanston Public Library in 2016. This year we are hosting a collaborative virtual Caldecott Club WITH Mr. Brian and Evanston Public Library. We have been learning so much about how to host this program virtually – and it’s been so fun to join together across our community to geek out about gorgeous picture books!

We met together on Zoom on January 4, 2021 with a group of wonderful readers, their families, and friends to talk about all things picture books. We were joined by our program buddy, Ann, and our Evanston Library buddy, Laura. We designed this program to be open to kids from around 1st grade through 8th grade and up because picture books are for everybody and everyone can learn from each other. I’ve tried to recap their brilliance in this post. (You can read the recaps from Session #1 here & Session #2 here.)

We began our program by Mr. Brian review the books that we’ve selected to go to our Voting Party and revealing the books we would discuss. With so much to do in so little time, we compressed our usual review to get to the books faster. But you can check out all of our resources to learn more about the Caldecott award and our books.

Mr. Brian put the books in a cardboard box, so he could dramatically open it just like the grown-up committee does when books arrive in the mail.

The books we discussed in session 3 were:

All Because You Matter by Tami Charles, illustrated by Bryan Collier

Our Little Kitchen by Jillian Tamaki 

Magnificent Homespun Brown: A Celebration by Samara Cole Doyon, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita

Swashby and the Sea by Beth Ferry, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

Picture Walk

Rather than doing a formal read aloud of each book, we did picture walks. For the picture walk, we discussed each book’s visual features to examine the techniques the artists used and how they worked. Often we would prompt the group by asking them: What did you notice? What does it make you wonder? How does this page make you feel? What makes this art distinguished? (Shout out to Megan Dowd Lambert’s Whole Book Approach. I highly recommend her book, Reading Picture Books with Children: How to Shake Up Storytime and Get Kids Talking about What They See.)

We added to our usual picture walk toolbox by encouraging participants to share and listen in lots of ways. People could unmute themselves and talk, raise their hands, use the chat, and use the reactions – and people did all of these things throughout the program, so ended up having a rich discussion in many places at the same time.

All Because You Matter by Tami Charles, illustrated by Bryan Collier

I (Eti) began our discussion by sharing research that I did about the origins of this extraordinary, beautiful book. As Tami Charles said in a Shelf Awareness interview, “This story was born from love and a deep desire to keep my son, Christopher, little forever, which I think most parents can relate to! I wanted to keep him shielded from the cruelties of the world. But as he grew older and had questions about injustices against people of color, I needed to do something. What better way than to write Christopher a love letter to remind him of all the reasons why he matters to me, and to the world?” I listened to the Children’s Book Podcast with Matthew Winner interview with Tami Charles many times and learned something new each time. I highly recommend checking out the amazing Books of Wonder author event with Tami Charles and her son, Christopher, moderated by Jason Reynolds! It’s such a gift to have these author events available to us at this time. I also shared information from Bryan Collier about the art, including information from his Illustrator’s Note, saying, “I was partially raised by grandmother who was a quilt maker. When you see the art, you see her influence, as join collage and petal shapes together to make a whole idea or image. To visually tell this story, I started with the shape of a single flower petal to build a blossoming effect in all backgrounds — like the night sky, interior wallpaper, and the child’s storybook. Faces appear on those petals, representing the voices of ancestors chanting: “You matter.” As our main character is faced with navigating today’s challenges of identity, self-worth, survival, and the ability to thrive, he is surrounded by a community of family.” I made sure to tell our group to pay attention to the petals and how they change throughout the book.

We began our journey by noticing the adorable photograph of the baby on the title page, literally at the center of the solar system mobile, the center of his family’s universe. I had to read the first page of this book, the language is just so powerful. “They say that matter is all things that make up the universe: energy, stars, space … if that’s the case, then you, dear child, matter.”

We talked about the importance of the faces of the ancestors in the petals, exploring how the illustrations express the ideas in the text that “long before you took your place in this world, you were dreamed of, like a knapsack full of wishes, carried on the backs of your ancestors as they created empires, pyramids, legacies.” People pointed out the textures and patterns on the petals. We talked about how from even the endpapers, it was anticipated that the child would be born using the shooting star in the sky.

As the child grows older, our group marveled at the scene reading a book with his mother. L. & S. shared, “the story seems to lift out of the book.” Our group expressed how the petals convey that experience of “like a mirror staring back at you, and really saw yourself… same hair, same skin, same dreams.” B. shared how they look like fire, clear and colorful. Our group really embraced pointing out wherever there were petals.

As our group discussed the school scene, they expressed how it made them feel, sharing “it makes us feel shy and lonely,” “stressed,” and “frustrated.”
R. pointed out that there were no petals in this spread itself, which surprised them. We talked about how when you “question your place in the universe,” you can feel disconnected from the ancestors and the things that remind you that you matter. Our group really connected to the next spread of the marked up math, responding to our discussion about how he is feeling, saying he’s “disappointed and frustrated because he got bad grades.” B. added, “like he is not good enough.” We definitely have all been there before. Our group did notice the petals on the floor, sparking the idea that he’s not alone.

We talked about the powerful image of the boy in front the Black Lives Matter mural, with rivers across his face with his eyes closed, connecting to the ancestors.

We then talked about the dramatic page turn as his eyes open, looking directly at the reader, surrounded by a garden of petals, enfolding him like a cape. Ms. Ann shared, “The leaves look like a throne now!” Our group noticed it is similar to the cover. D. added it “reminds me of a peacock which is very royal.” B. shared how this spread also uses the same red petals as the carpet in the school scene. Kids noticed things I never do! Our kids really appreciated the use of colors throughout the book. We noticed how the petals burst in the air as he’s embraced by his parents, supported by an entire community who love him. As S. & L, said, “it’s like everyone’s together and happy.” We close by reading the last page, with Christopher grinning at the reader, in Tami’s embrace, with the words, “You mattered. They mattered. We matter.. and always will.” I, of course, pointed out the excellent back-matter to delve deeper into these conversations. We also included the discussion guide for educators and caregivers, created Vera Ahiyya, known as the Tutu Teacher, in our resources and our Grab & Go Kit. It’s an invaluable learning resource.

Our Little Kitchen by Jillian Tamaki 

Mr. Brian shared how Jillian Tamaki often makes graphic novels and comics and has recently been making some wonderful picture books, especially informed by her understanding of sequential art. He also shared how this book is inspired by Jillian volunteering at a community kitchen in Brooklyn. He pointed out that this book mixes realism and surrealism.

From the first moment we explored the cover, our group was charmed, noticing how the people were cooking, flying, and jumping in the air. “I like this. It looks funny… there’s butter floating in the air,” one reader declared. (We agree!) When we turned to the endpapers, they gleefully said, “there’s the butter again.” I hereby declare the subtitle for Our Little Kitchen: An Ode to Butter (and Community). Ms. Ann shared, “Julia Child would love it!”

Mr. Brian told us to pay attention to the lettering and how it changes – and communicates information. He also helped us notice the white space on the pages – and how it’s used to show the energy of each scene. Ms. Ann shared how it reminds her of Lucy Knisley’s work, which we love. Our group pointed out how when more people arrive, it’s get louder. Ms. Ann shared, “It feels like everyone’s SO EXCITED to see one another.” S. shared, it’s “getting more hectic.” Mr. Brian shared how the scene with the beginnings of the garden leads the way to the next spread showing it in its glory. One reader pointed out how the spread shows a progression in the story as the person in the green apron looks thoughtfully at the oven, knowing they’re missing something, to then head into the garden to get it.

Mr. Brian showed how the action starts to speed up as they get to work – and the images start to become more surreal. Of course, one of our young readers noticed the apple balancing on the kid’s head. I love how kids shared that they have made an apple crumble in class. (We should all make our own for our party!) We then started to notice the kid throughout the book. We talked about how the surreal beans scene, as S. said, “it must be a lot of beans.”

Mr. Brian shared how Jillian’s use of lettering helps express the onomatopoeia of the sounds of the food preparation and cooking. Ms. Ann added, “they look like the action — the chop is sharp and clean, the sprinkle is light like really sprinkling.” Y. said they want to express (the idea). We talked about using perspective to show time’s almost up with the leader in front telling everyone they have 15 minutes. We then return to the realistic view with overhead shots showing the community coming together to eat. Ms. Ann said, “I love how they’re talking to one another — they are friends, a community.” This spread instantly inspired a reader to start reading the dialog aloud. S. shared, “I’m jealous of them.” This scene definitely makes us miss being together in person.

Mr. Brian then pointed out how we see the full little kitchen for the first time. He pointed out how the scene is revealed with the drawing of the building. Ms. Ann shared, “It’s like a dollhouse with the one wall open so you can see inside.” We talked about the contrast between the dining area and the kitchen in its size. L. shared, “it looks fun.” As time runs out, we talked about the panic tomato red background shows how it’s time to get started. Once they start sharing the meal, a reader said, “it makes me feel calm, like everything is now good.” Mr. Brian pointed out how Jillian uses pictures to convey the conversations with the community as they eat. (This gave me major Owly, the graphic novel series, feels.) L., said, “The food looks yummy.”

When our young friend we’ve been following talks for the first time, yelling, “Ok, time to clean up!,” our kids pointed out that the adults are trying to eat and relax, making this a funny scene. Mr. Brian then pointed out the excellent author’s note at the end.

Magnificent Homespun Brown: A Celebration by Samara Cole Doyon, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita

I (Eti) began our picture walk by sharing how Samara Cole Doyon wrote this gorgeous book for her daughter, Nadia. As she wrote in A Note from the Author, “My hope is that we will give all children the chance to embrace and celebrate the many vibrant pieces of themselves, joined together with the same fierce and unrelenting love that sews a cherished family heirloom.” We talked about noticing the different senses expressed in the book since it is a feast for all of them. I’m so grateful for the incredible conversation on the Children’s Book Podcast with Matthew Winner with Samara Cole Doyon & Kaylani Juanita, which was so vital to guiding our discussion and highlighting the breathtaking details from the text and pictures.

We talked about how the metaphor in Samara’s initial text connects to something beautiful about the next child on the next spread, who will be the protagonist in the following image. Our group, of course, noticed the puppy joining the girl and her Daddy on the mountain hike. They also noticed the shadows and layers on the trees, which is amazingly done digitally. We also noticed the bee motif throughout the book.

We talked about the image of the girl on the “radiant brown.. like my skin,” page jumps off the page. Our group noticed that “she has tons of protection just like me.” We then got to join her at the fall fair, with the text, “smooth, creamy brown. Like the flawless flow of caramel gloriously smothering my favorite fall fair delight.” The words are just delicious!

I love the personal connections the kids made throughout the book. When we got to “magnificent homespun brown,” we returned to the quilt from the title page, showcasing all the things we’ve experienced woven together. I then pointed out the fantastic Note from the Author to explore in more detail.

Swashby and the Sea by Beth Ferry, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

This book is illustrated in acrylics, colored pencils, and graphite on hand-textured paper by Juana Martinez-Neal. Mr. Brian told us to notice how she paints people and the body language, telling us, “no one paints people quite like Juana Martinez-Neal.” Mr. Brian started us out by thinking about the character of Swashby, which prompted these responses:

“He’s kind of scared and he thinks he should have brought somebody else.”

“He feels alone and lonely because he wasn’t born with a sister or brother.”

“He’s a hermit.”

L. noticed how he has a big beard, like he’s hiding behind it.

Mr. Brian showed how the neighbors are hidden initially with their backs to the reader, using illustrations to show details about them with their beach supplies and fun. We talked about Swashby’s reactions to his neighbors, spying out the window. Mr. Brian talked about the girl’s body language after the sea told her to Sing. This is a great book to make predictions about – and our group made excellent ones!

Mr. Brian shared how the page turns show the humor. During the PLAY scene, Mr. Brian asked what Swashby is doing. One reader shared, “he’s asking her to get in the hole and he’s gonna bury her under it.” We talked about how this scene shows he’s starting to play as he showed her how to dig for wet sand. Mr. Brian shared how he loves the way Juana draws the water dripping off of Swashby and the girl as he saves her. Afterwards. Mr. Brian asked us how Swashby feels at the end and our group declared happy.


After we had walked through each book in a whirlwind of color and conversation, we were ready to vote. This year, since we met virtually, I created a google form for people to vote for their first and second choice. (If you’re interested in the technical details, I downloaded the results into an spreadsheet, changed the 1s to 3s (since 1st place gets 3 points, 2 gets 2) and then added up the totals. I then was able to screenshare to show how we got our results for full transparency.

And the Session 3 Winners Are…

Our Little Kitchen by Jillian Tamaki 

Swashby and the Sea by Beth Ferry, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

Cover of Our Little Kitchen

Join Us Next Time!

It all comes down to this, friends: The Caldecott Club VOTING PARTY! We will meet on our new day, TUESDAY, January 19 at 7:00-8:15pm CST where we will pick the winner(s) of our Mock Caldecott. If you’ve missed our sessions so far, no worries. You can check out our recaps & put the books we’ll discuss on hold at our library. Just make sure to register.

To review, the books we will discuss at our Voting Party Are:

Lift by Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat

The Old Truck by Jerome Pumphrey & Jarrett Pumphrey

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade

The Ocean Calls by Tina Cho, illustrated by Jess X. Snow

Our Little Kitchen by Jillian Tamaki 

Swashby and the Sea by Beth Ferry, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

But wait, there’s more Caldecott Club fun! We’ll join together to watch selections from the Youth Media Awards on January 25!

You can still pick up a free Grab & Go Program Kit at Lincolnwood Library in our Great Green Box or contact our library to pick up a kit, while supplies last. You can also access our digital Grab & Go Kit at Check out what’s in our program kit in the video below!


You can put Caldecott Club books on hold at our libraries here.

I have created a RESOURCE GUIDE with activities, videos, podcasts, program kit supplies, handouts, and more to share the sources we’ve used and continue the learning! We hope it will be useful for you to explore these books at home!

Thanks for sticking all the way through this post… I hope to see you next time at Caldecott Club!

 – Eti