Jillicious Reading: Creating Book Buzz

Creating Book Buzz

JILLICIOUS VEGGIES
Creating Book Buzz

Hey, librarians!  Use displays and bulletin boards to create book buzz in your library and increase your circulation. 

The following are ideas from my middle school library but can easily be adapted for other levels:   

Spotlight reading lists such as the Texas Lone Star Reading List so students can easily find these recommended titles. 
Display the Teens’ Top Ten nominees before voting takes place during Teen Read Week.  After the voting, display the winning titles.
Let students see what other students are reading.  Showcase the top circulating “bestsellers” in your library.
Chick Picks!   A display of “girl” books gives ladies a great place to browse.
And don’t forget the guys!
  
Spotlight favorite genres such as horror and fantasy.

Highlight different sections such as sports, ….

…  poetry,
… and audio books!
  

A genre bulletin board allows you to spotlight a different type of book each month.  A great way to introduce students to new genres or to help them find titles & authors within their favorite.

Bulletin boards are the perfect place to highlight the current “buzz” books“Team Edward,” “Team Jacob” or “Team Who Cares” before the release of New Moon.  🙂  

A hallway bulletin board advertises library programs, upcoming events, and book clubs.
Use display cases throughout the year to advertise summer reading, newly aquired books….   
…or books centered on a theme, season or holiday.

Clear, bold signage creates convenience for library visitors.

 

Dewey signs help readers find nonfiction sections easily.

Reference “cheat sheets” hanging from shelves or computers help readers find library sections and online resources easily.

2 comments:

  1. Love this! Your library looks like a lot of fun. 🙂

    ReplyDelete

  2. Wow, great displays. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete

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Jillicious Reading: SNACKS

SNACKS

JILLICIOUS SNACKS

(AKA Picture Books)

Looking for a good picture book?  Here are some of my favorites that can be enjoyed by readers of all ages:  
  
(Note:  These are a few favorites.  I continue to spotlight other stand-out JILLICIOUS SNACKS in regular posts.) 

** indicates picture books that I loved as a child and still love as an adult!

Alice the Fairy by David Shannon
Alice is a fairy-in-training trying to perfect her “magic.”

 Boss Baby by Marla Frazee
The baby has arrived, and it’s clear he is completely in charge! 

Bread and Jam for Frances** by Russell Hoban
All she wants to eat is bread and jam, so her mother gives Frances her wish. 

Bubba and Beau Meet the Relatives by Kathi Appelt
Bubba and Beau are in for a surprise when all the kin show up in Bubbaville for a visit.

George and Martha** by James Marshall
The stories of the friendship between hippos George and Martha are full of lessons and laughter.

Julius, the Baby of the World by Kevin Henkes
Lilly is so excited about her little brother ….until he arrives.

Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems
Trixie’s adventure to the laundromat takes a terrible turn when she realizes she’s left her beloved Knuffle Bunny behind. 

Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus
His anxious parents wonder if Leo will ever bloom.

Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen
A lion visits the library and is allowed to stay as long as he follows the rules.

Make Way for Ducklings** by Robert McCloskey
Mr. and Mrs. Mallard love Boston’s Public Garden, but is the city the best place to raise a family?

Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann

Officer Buckle’s many safety tips become much more interesting when his dog Gloria helps present them.

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
A young boy takes a magical train ride to the North Pole.
The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant
What an experience it is when the relatives come!  

Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt
Scaredy Squirrel is afraid of everything, so he prefers to stay comfortably secure in his tree.

Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schaschner
Skippyjon is a Siamese cat but wishes he were a chihuahua. 

Spoon by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Spoon is feeling a bit jealous of his friends Knife, Fork and Chopsticks because he cannot do what they can do.
The Story of Ferdinand** by Munro Leaf

Ferdinand would much prefer sitting under trees smelling flowers than butting heads with the other bulls.
Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester
Tacky is not at all like the other penguins.

Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco

Ms. Polacco tells the autobiographical story of the teacher who helped her overcome her reading disability.

When I was a Little: A Four-Year-Old’s Memoir of Her Youth by Jamie Lee Curtis
A four-year-old reflects on how different she was when she was little.  

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Jillicious Reading: Review Policy

Review Policy

This blog is intended to give visitors new reading ideas.  I only write about the books that stand out to me in some way – strong characters, interesting plots, original ideas, smart writing … books that make me think, make me laugh out loud, stay with me long after the last page … books that are worth checking out and giving a try.

Because of the purpose of the blog, Jillicious Reading only includes positive reviews.  There is, of course, a range within the books I “like” – some just have a few redeeming qualities that make them worth a read while others are not-to-be-missed, “rock stars.”  But, all of the books spotlighted on the blog must have some literary merit and reader appeal. 

So, I do not review books by request.  I am afraid I would feel I must say something positive, and I can’t take the pressure!  🙂  It would also defeat the purpose of the blog and my original intent.  If you have a book you would like me to read, you are welcome to send it to me … but I can’t make any promises.  If I do read it and like it, I’ll write about it!  But, if I don’t, it won’t appear on the blog.  

Email me if you have a book you’d like to send, but please remember that it may not make it to my “to read” stack and/or to my “blog about” list.  Thank you for your understanding!         

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Jillicious Reading: Why YA Lit?

Why YA Lit?

Young adult literature is not just for young adults.  Due to the success of the Harry Potter and Twilight series, YA lit has received a lot of attention.  But, books about kids and teens have appealed to adult readers for years.  Classics such as To Kill a Mockingbird, Lord of the Flies, Catcher in the Rye, A Separate Peace, Jane Eyre, and Pride & Prejudice all feature young main characters.  These young adults, their perspectives and development, are what drive these beloved stories.
The teen years are such a unique time in one’s life.  So much is happening and changing as teens try to figure out who they are, who they want to be, and how to best express themselves in an adult-controlled world.  They can wake up in the morning as one person and go to bed someone completely different that night because of experiences that took place in one life-altering day.  It is a time of constant “firsts”…. first love, first broken heart, first view of the evils in the world, first taste of the beautiful possibilities ahead.  This tumultuous time provides the perfect canvas for strong character development and captivating plotlines. 

For some teens this time is exhilerating; for others it is a terrible battle of trying to fit in, trying to discover themselves while struggling with constant self-doubt and uncertainty.  Many others, sadly, are experiencing hardship and abuse from the adults in their lives.  Because of this, young adult fiction offers a wide variety of topics, some dark and troublesome, some lighter and happily-ever-after; this variety allows teens to find themselves and their troubled world within their reading or to completely escape to a different, better place.  It also builds empathy in readers as they see things through another’s perspective.   
If you are an adult and haven’t tried young adult literature, now is the time!  The YA sections of your local library or book store are overflowing with outstanding writing, compelling stories & settings, and characters that will stay with you long after the story ends.  And, they are not all about vampires!  Take a look!  You’ll be surprised at what you will find.  Young adult literature, today’s most exciting area of publishing, offers original, memorable novels in all genres by a cast of extremely talented authors.  YA fiction allows adults the opportunity to experience incredible stories of self-discovery, to revist the precarious but often delightful feelings of the teen years, and to be reminded that it’s never too late to become who you might have been.   

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Jillicious Reading: 5 Ways I Learned from the Caldecott Experience

3.08.2016

5 Ways I Learned from the Caldecott Experience

I have not been posting for many months as I have been immersed in reading, rereading and preparing for the Caldecott discussions that took place in January (as well as keeping up with the madness of the middle school library!).  After much sleep and an attempt to catch up on the rest of my life, I am returning to the blog!  For the first post back, I must begin with some thoughts on the incredible Caldecott experience.

Serving on the 2016 Caldecott Selection Committee was the fulfillment of a longtime dream.  As a young elementary school teacher, I vividly remember sharing the books bearing these special seals with my students. Together we enjoyed the stories, observed the art, and discussed what made each book special. So many times my readers and I were guilty of judging the book by its cover (I know! Gasp!), later to be delightfully surprised by what we discovered inside. Secretly, I pondered what it would be like to be part of THE committee that selected the winning books. Now, I have experienced this incredible privilege.  And what an honor and fantastic learning experience it was.

At one of our first meetings, Viki Ash, our priority chair consultant, advised us to, “Come in as learners.”  This really struck me.  I am a learner by nature, but this was a reminder that it was perfectly all right not to come in with all of the answers.  That was not the expectation.  Nor should it be your attitude!  What a relief.  Because I certainly didn’t have all the answers.  But, I did have a passion for children’s literature and illustration, a dedication to the task I’d been given, a commitment to work hard, and a willingness to learn every step of the way! Here are five ways I learned and grew personally and professionally from this experience:

1. I learned from the books themselves. 
I am amazed at all the information I learned this year about the world by reading the 2015 picture books!  I learned about people who made a difference in their communities, about people who overcame incredible hardships to follow their dreams, and about people who are creating amazing art and music to bring beauty into the world.  I learned about the ocean, animals, nature, and natural disasters.  I laughed out loud at clever stories for the young (and the young at heart) and cried at stories of tragedy and loss.  I experienced beautiful poetic verse and was moved to view the world around me in new ways.  What a testament to the high quality of books that are being published every year for young readers and to the rich education that is available through books!  And what a reminder of what picture books have to offer to readers of all ages.

2.  I learned from my students. 
This year I formed a Caldecott Club to solicit input from readers. Each month a brought a big stack books to our after school meeting; then, our club, a small group of committed, opinionated 😉 students, a few teachers, and my co-librarian Katherine, read, explored, observed, and shared their thoughts.  My students are in grades 5 – 8, so they came at the task as readers, but also as art appreciators and critics. Most took it very seriously and had a lot to say about the books and the artwork.  We didn’t have a formal Mock Caldecott, but I gleaned a great deal from their observations and opinions at each meeting.  They were thoughtful and articulate.  They noticed things I did not. They often liked books I didn’t think they would and vice versa.  In short, they reminded me of how smart they are, how important it is that the books recognize this intelligence, and how delightful it is to experience literature through the eyes of younger readers!

A few members of the Caldecott Club diligently evaluating  

3.  I learned from my committee members. 
In preparation for our discussions, I read, reread, observed, reread again, and took careful notes on the many, many eligible books.  But, when we came together and began discussing each title, members of the committee pointed out things I NEVER noticed.  The discussion of each book was greatly enriched because of what each member brought to the table.  My fellow committee members broadened my experience of every title by noticing, questioning, and adding more.  They challenged me to think differently and made me a deeper reader.  I am forever thankful for what I learned from each member.  This truly was the the deepest, richest, most exhausting, and most rewarding book discussion I have ever been a part of.  And, I am a better literary professional because of it.

One of our very official photos 

4. I learned from the process.
From Day One, the advice given to ALSC selection committee members is, “Trust the process.”  Our process is confidential, but I will say that I did come to trust this valuable system.  Without going into specifics, I will say that for me “trusting the process” came to mean …

  • Thankfulness for a committee.  As I mentioned above working with a committee of readers who are passionate about children’s literature and committed to the task at hand means that we all have strong opinions.  But, those strong opinions made us challenge each other and led to stronger, more thoughtful decisions in the end.  
  • Thankfulness for the Caldecott Medal criteria.  The specific criteria guided us throughout the process.  We went back to them again and again, making sure we were staying true to our charge and that the books on the table were meeting or exceeding these criteria – not our personal criteria, the Caldecott criteria. They were our beacon and navigated us throughout the process.  
  • Thankfulness for the system.  There is a system in place for the nominating, discussing, and voting.  And it works.  Each year is different. There is a whole new bounty of amazing books to enjoy, explore, and evaluate.  The selection committee brings new opinions and perspectives.  There is passionate debate.  But, the criteria and the system stay the same. And in the end, it all works and the most distinguished American picture book for children (and honors?) is named and children’s literature is celebrated! 


5.  I learned the joy of celebrating literature! 
This was more of a reminder…. a lesson I never grow weary of learning in new ways.  Celebrating literature is what I love to do; it’s why I became I librarian.  But, this experience allowed me some new celebrations.  First, we were able to join our wonderful committee chair Rachel Payne in making the early morning phone calls to the winning illustrators to share the good news before it was announced to the world.  What an incredible experience!  There were sleepy hellos, screams, yells, and many, many tears.  At not yet 7 am., I had cried away most of my makeup (Why wasn’t I wearing waterproof mascara??) and was absolutely exhausted!  But it was soooo worth it!

Then, it was onto the 2016 ALA Youth Media Awards.  I absolutely love these announcements each year.  There is not much better than cheering for the authors, illustrators, and publishers of books that engage, entertain, and inspire readers.  This year was so special, because I got to sit with my fellow committee members – and now dear friends – in our matching t-shirts 🙂 and cheer for the books we had selected.  We were celebrating these amazing illustrators, their art and stories, as well as the work we had done together.  We were also able to cheer for the other winning authors and illustrators (such a treat to see many of our books win additional awards!) and to cheer for the work of our fellow committees, the first time for many of us, truly understanding the time, work and commitment that went into their decisions.

After a celebratory breakfast, we went on the exhibit floor and got to visit the winning publishers’ booths and put the Caldecott Medal and Honor stickers on the winning books!!  Wow.  So much fun! We were videoed and tweeted by Little, Brown the publisher of Finding Winnie, and it was even posted on CNN.com. What??!

These celebrations are the big ones.  They are exhilarating and rejuvenating.  They allow us to cheer for the stars of children’s literature and to celebrate the impact these books make on the lives of young readers.  They also remind us of why we do what we do.  But, the small, daily celebrations are just as important.  My heart leaps as much (or more!) when a student comes running in after reading a book I’ve recommended, thanking me, and demanding another. 😉  And, that’s why it’s okay that some personal favorites are always left out of the big announcements and award lists.  That’s why it’s such a privilege to be a librarian.  I can continue to celebrate books all year long by making sure those favorites find their way into the hands of their readers in the months and years to come.

So …. Many, many boxes of books delivered to my doorstep.  A year of reading, rereading, and note-taking.  Hours and hours of intense, incredible book discussion. Several lessons learned.  Fourteen new friends made.  One gold medal winner, four honors. and a once-in-a-lifetime experience.


More …

For more about our selections and about spreading the love for your annual favorites, read this lovely guest post on the Calling Caldecott blog of The Horn Book website written by our committee chair, Rachel Payne.

For more about the Caldecott process, read this post by my fellow committee member, librarian and reviewer, the brilliant Karen MacPherson.

For a tug at your heart, watch this video from the lovely and talented Sophie Blackall about winning the medal.  I’ve watched it again and again!

 

For an interview with Sophie B and the other winning illustrators, visit the one and only Mr. Schu’s blog.  Mr. Schu is the ultimate Book Celebrator!!

It just keeps getting better and better!  Two very special treasures that recently arrived in the mail and will soon be added to my office walls!   I came sprinting into the house after each arrival jumping and screaming and basically had to be peeled off the ceiling!  🙂

A letter TO ME from Kevin Henkes! 

A painting FOR ME from Sophie Blackall with letter on the back! 

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3 reasons for a new blog – jillicious reading

3 reasons for a new blog

  1. Lists.   I love lists.  I love making them, and I love content delivered through them. The Buzz Feed-ish list posts are always my favorite on any blog and instantly draw me in.  So, why not give them a try on my own blog?  I think it will be a fun format that will allow me to think about books in new ways and write about more books more often.
  2. Change is good.  As George Couros says, “Change is an opportunity to do something amazing.”  No promises that this blog will be amazing, but change is exciting and inspiring.  I have a new perspective and passion in my work.  I believe strongly in literature’s power to broaden horizons, build empathy, and teach kindness. Literature touches and expands hearts. It can motivate people to take action and to make positive changes personally and in the world around them.  A freshly formatted blog allows me to share my passion for literature and its transformative power in a new way.
  3. Fresh starts.  And, who doesn’t love a fresh start?  A new school year, a crisp blank journal, a fresh box of crayons, a sassy fun haircut.  It’s a chance to take a deep breath and begin anew, hopeful for the journey ahead.  Will you join me?

4 swoon-worthy summer romances – jillicious reading

4 swoon-worthy summer romances

  1. Summer is the perfect time to catch up on some romance reading while relaxing in the sun.  If you enjoy love stories, here are a few titles to add to your beach bag:

Once and for all

1.Once and for All by Sarah Dessen

The daughter of a wedding planner, Louna has grown up around love but doesn’t believe in the happily-ever-after herself.   Her own first love ended quite sadly and has left her very skeptical about fairy tale endings.  When she meets Ambrose – a carefree, wickedly handsome heart breaker – she detests him instantly.  But, he seems to turn everywhere she is and is proving to be much more than she first thought.

This novel is classic Dessen – a charming love story that also explores complex issues including loss, family relationships, and self-discovery.  It is a funny, honest, heartwarming tale of first loves and second chances.  You’ll race through and then lament having to wait for her next release.

always and forever

2. Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

In this final volume in the To All the Boys I Love Before trilogy, Lara Jean is enjoying her senior year, hopelessly in love with her boyfriend Peter and making plans for college in the fall.  But an unexpected turn of events sends Lara Jean on a new path she did not expect.

Jenny Han’s books are a delight.  The characters are interesting and well developed, and the relationships are authentic.  I just want to be part of the Song family, sitting in the kitchen, talking, laughing at Kitty, and smelling the delicious cookies that Lara Jean is baking.  Always and Forever, Lara Jean is the perfect end to the trilogy.

LS - love & gelato

3. Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

After her mother passes away, Lina travels to Italy for the summer to get to know the father she never knew.  There, she comes across her mother’s journal from when she lived in Italy.  As Lina reads and retraces her mother’s steps – with the help of the quite charming Ren , she learns a lot about her mother and herself.

Love & Gelato is a story of loss, love, adventure, and family.  It sweeps the reader away to the landscapes of Tuscany, heavenly smelling hidden bakeries, and colorful gelato stands. Che bello!

when dimple met rishi

4. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Dimple is elated her parents are allowing her to attend Insomnia Con the summer before college.  She dreams of being a web developer, and this will give her the jump start she needs.  What she doesn’t expect is meeting Rishi, a boy her parents have selected as a possible husband!  The summer is full of many more surprises, the biggest of which may be the boy who came to meet his future wife.

What a delightful rom-com!  Both smart and quirky, Dimple and Rishi are struggling, each in their own way, to figure how to balance their parents’ expectations with their personal dreams.  Their story is original, funny, and absolutely adorable.

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4 swoon-worthy summer romances – jillicious reading

4 swoon-worthy summer romances

  1. Summer is the perfect time to catch up on some romance reading while relaxing in the sun.  If you enjoy love stories, here are a few titles to add to your beach bag:

Once and for all

1.Once and for All by Sarah Dessen

The daughter of a wedding planner, Louna has grown up around love but doesn’t believe in the happily-ever-after herself.   Her own first love ended quite sadly and has left her very skeptical about fairy tale endings.  When she meets Ambrose – a carefree, wickedly handsome heart breaker – she detests him instantly.  But, he seems to turn everywhere she is and is proving to be much more than she first thought.

This novel is classic Dessen – a charming love story that also explores complex issues including loss, family relationships, and self-discovery.  It is a funny, honest, heartwarming tale of first loves and second chances.  You’ll race through and then lament having to wait for her next release.

always and forever

2. Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

In this final volume in the To All the Boys I Love Before trilogy, Lara Jean is enjoying her senior year, hopelessly in love with her boyfriend Peter and making plans for college in the fall.  But an unexpected turn of events sends Lara Jean on a new path she did not expect.

Jenny Han’s books are a delight.  The characters are interesting and well developed, and the relationships are authentic.  I just want to be part of the Song family, sitting in the kitchen, talking, laughing at Kitty, and smelling the delicious cookies that Lara Jean is baking.  Always and Forever, Lara Jean is the perfect end to the trilogy.

LS - love & gelato

3. Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

After her mother passes away, Lina travels to Italy for the summer to get to know the father she never knew.  There, she comes across her mother’s journal from when she lived in Italy.  As Lina reads and retraces her mother’s steps – with the help of the quite charming Ren , she learns a lot about her mother and herself.

Love & Gelato is a story of loss, love, adventure, and family.  It sweeps the reader away to the landscapes of Tuscany, heavenly smelling hidden bakeries, and colorful gelato stands. Che bello!

when dimple met rishi

4. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Dimple is elated her parents are allowing her to attend Insomnia Con the summer before college.  She dreams of being a web developer, and this will give her the jump start she needs.  What she doesn’t expect is meeting Rishi, a boy her parents have selected as a possible husband!  The summer is full of many more surprises, the biggest of which may be the boy who came to meet his future wife.

What a delightful rom-com!  Both smart and quirky, Dimple and Rishi are struggling, each in their own way, to figure how to balance their parents’ expectations with their personal dreams.  Their story is original, funny, and absolutely adorable.

One thought on “4 swoon-worthy summer romances

3 reasons to attend ala annual – jillicious reading

3 reasons to attend ala annual

For the last several years, I have attended ALA Annual Conference.  A few reasons why it’s worth the time and expense:

  1. Hearing about new books

The whole conference is abuzz about upcoming releases!  From the exhibit floor, booths, and Book Buzz Stage to the publisher previews and special events, it’s all about new books. Hearing about the upcoming titles allows you to start building your book order lists and to start imagining which readers will love each new book.  You may also be lucky enough to leave with a few ARCs and F&Gs to get a head start on your reading!

  1. Celebrating literature

Annual Conference is where the authors and illustrators who won the year’s literary awards are honored.  These gatherings are such uplifting celebrations of books, creators, and the impact literature makes on lives. For several years, I have had the honor of attending the Newbery Caldecott Wilder Banquet, and it is always an absolute joy.  Everyone is dressed up, the speeches are heartfelt and emotional, and each evening is unique.  It’s librarian prom!  This year was no different.  I particularly enjoyed Javaka Steptoe’s speech, his reference to Langston Hughes’s poem Genius Child, and his message about sharing the truth from children.

For the first time this year, I attended the Coretta Scott King Awards Breakfast.  It was absolutely unforgettable.  It started with a phenomenal prayer and singing, and then preceded with stirring speeches from today’s literary greats.  Luckily my friend April, a seasoned pro, came prepared with tissue!  I left with no make-up, but completely energized, invigorated, and so thankful to be somehow involved in the world of literature.  If only every day could start like that!

IMG_6069
Jason Reynolds accepts CSK Author Honor for As Brave as You.  Nicola Yoon, Congressman John Lewis and Andrew Aydin and the back of Roger Sutton’s head also pictured. ????
  1. Connecting

The first time I attended the annual conference I only knew a handful of Texas librarians who were also in attendance.  At several of the events I didn’t know a soul; but, I introduced myself, had some great conversations with new people, and joined committees.  Now, I am fortunate to  know librarians and people in the book business from all over the continent. Each summer I look forward to the conference as a time to reconnect and catch up.  And each year, I meet more lovely people and continue expanding my circle!

FullSizeRender (22)

4 books that will transport you to cuba or give you a taste of the rich culture – jillicious reading

4 books that will transport you to cuba or give you a taste of the rich culture

epic fail

  1. The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya

Arturo is looking forward to the summer … playing basketball and working at Abuela’s restaurant.  But, things turn out differently than he expects when cute Carmen arrives and the future of the restaurant is threatened by a greedy land developer.  As the weeks pass and he spends more time with Abuela, Arturo learns a lot about his Cuban roots and discovers the power of poetry and protest.

From Arturo’s discovery of Jose Marti’s revolutionary poetry to the contagious passion of his civic minded cousin Vanessa, this novel is all about finding your voice and standing up for what you believe in – no matter your age!  I loved Arturo’s big noisy family, his funny friends, the times spent together around good food at Abuela’s restaurant, and the powerful message that everyone can make a difference.  The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora is an epic success!

brigadista year

  1. My Brigadista Year by Katherine Paterson

When Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba in 1960, he issued a bold literacy initiative – everyone in the country would learn to read and write in one year.  The government recruited more than 250,000 volunteers (most of them between the ages of 10 – 19!) to travel throughout the country and educate all.  This novel tells the story of Lora, a fictionalized character based on the true stories of many young Cubans who volunteered.  Like Arturo, Lora gleaned inspiration from the impassioned poems of Jose Marti’ and from her Abuela who supported her desire to make a change in the world.

This was a piece of history of which I was completely unaware … one of my favorite things to read!  The story is so powerful.  Lora, like many, traveled far from her home for the very first time, to live in a remote area with no modern conveniences.  I loved how the volunteers were trained to come with humility, ready to work alongside their students to gain their trust and respect.  And, what a joy to read of the farmer who had no education and could only sign his name with an’ X’, but worked so hard to learn to read and write so he could soon proudly sign his full name!  Castro was a ruthless dictator, yet his literacy imitative greatly impacted the Cuban country which still has one of the highest literacy rates in the world.  This is an unforgettable story of the power of education, courage, and service.

lucky broken girl

  1. Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar

After Fidel Castro took over, many Cubans fleed their homeland.  Young Ruthie Mizrahi went with her family to start a new life in New York City.  She struggled to learn English, was placed in remedial classes due to her lack of mastery of the language, and was very homesick for lush, warm Cuba.  Just as she started to gain confidence, she was in a horrible car accident that left her in a full body cast and in bed for months.  She and her family were forced to make major adjustments, but they also grew in unanticipated ways through Ruthie’s long bittersweet road to recovery.

This novel is based on the author’s true experience as a young girl in NYC who suffered a devastating accident.  Ruthie’s experience allows the reader to feel the struggle of moving to another nation on top of dealing with a traumatic, life-changing accident.  The novel explores her worries, her fears, her frustrations as well as her discoveries about herself and the world.  The reactions of the children and her family around her are honest and thought-provoking.  The characters throughout the novel – many who are immigrants from a variety of countries – are interesting and give the reader a view into the immigrant experience that is rich and authentic.   I cheered for Ruthie as she worked so hard to recover and was proud of the stronger girl who emerged on the other side.

Havana

  1. All the Way to Havana by Margarita Engle, illustrated by Mike Curato

For a vivid visual journey, travel All the Way to Havana with this young boy and his family.  They are on the way to celebrate his new baby cousin’s zero year birthday.  The family – and a lot of neighbors needing a ride – travel to the bustling city.  After a fun celebration that goes into the night, the family returns home in their trusty car that will one day be his.

Mike Curato’s illustrations bring the Cuban streets to life.  The perfectly rendered, colorful old cars zoom off the page, complete with the clucks, putts, and honks of Margarita Engle’s perfect, poetic word choice.  As author and illustrator mention in their notes, the book is a tribute to the ingenuity of the Cuban people in their care of their cars and also celebrates “classic beauty, perseverance, and family loyalty.”

martis_song_for_freedom_cover

Possible Pairing: 

Marti’s Song for Freedom by Emma Otheguy, illustrated by Beatriz Vidal

This recently released bilingual picture book biography looks to be a good partner for these titles to learn more about the poet activist ” who dedicated his life to the promotion of liberty, the abolishment of slavery, political independence for Cuba, and intellectual freedom.”  (-from description on Amazon).  I haven’t read it yet, but it’s on my list!