Monthly Archives: September 2013

6 Apps and eBooks for Middle-Grade Readers

by Cameron Crane

Story by Jerry Spinelli

Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Ages: 8 to 12
Description: Beloved Newbery Medalist Jerry Spinelli, author of Maniac Magee and Wringer,addresses issues of identity, belonging, family, and bullying in this humorous and heartfelt novel about twins.
Jake and Lily are twins. Despite their slightly different interests and temperaments, they feel exactly the same—like two halves of one person. But the year they turn eleven, everything changes. Their parents announce it’s time for separate bedrooms. Jake starts hanging out with a pack of boys on the block. And Lily is devastated, not to mention angry. Who is she without Jake? And as her brother falls under the influence of the neighborhood bully, he also must ask himself—who is the real Jake?

This is an often funny, poignant, and profound story of growing up, growing apart, and the difficult process of figuring out who you really are.

Story and Illustrations by Debbie Fong

Developer: Debbie Fong
Ages: 5 to 7

Description: B.B. Wolf is an animated and interactive storybook for the iPad. This fresh take on the classic fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood is written in a light-hearted tone and takes some unexpected twists and turns! In this ebook, 17 pages of text and hand-drawn images work together to illustrate the story. While there are elements of animation and motion, you can still move at your own pace through the book, controlling the page turns and fun interactive elements which help to move the story along.
Story by Carl Hiaasen

Publisher: Random House
Ages: 10 & Up

Description: Wahoo Cray lives in a zoo. His father is an animal wrangler, so he’s grown up with all manner of gators, snakes, parrots, rats, monkeys, snappers, and more in his backyard. The critters he can handle.  His father is the unpredictable one.
Story by Natalie Dias Lorenzi

Publisher: Charlesbridge
Ages: 8 to 12
Description: Flying the Dragon tells the story of two cousins in alternating chapters. American-born Skye is a good student and a star soccer player who never really gives any thought to the fact that her father is Japanese. Her cousin, Hiroshi, lives in Japan, and never really gives a thought to his uncle’s family living in the U.S. Their lives are thrown together when Hiroshi’s family, with his grandfather (who is also his best friend), have to move to the U.S. suddenly. Skye resents that she is now “not Japanese enough,” and yet the friends she’s known forever abruptly realize she is “other.” Hiroshi has a hard time adjusting to life in a new culture, and resents Skye’s intrusions on his time with Grandfather. Through all of this is woven Hiroshi’s expertise, and Skye’s growing interest in, kite making and competitive kite flying, culminating in a contest at the annual Washington Cherry Blossom Festival.

Story by Michael Northrop

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Ages: 8 & up

Description: Sixth grader Jack Mogens has it all figured out: He’s got his batting routine down, and his outfielding earns him a starting spot alongside his best friend Andy on their Little League team, the Tall Pines Braves. He even manages to have a not-totally-embarrassing conversation with Katie, the team’s killer shortstop. But in the first game of the season, a powerful stray pitch brings everything Jack’s worked so hard for crashing down around his ears. How can he explain to his parents and friends why he WON’T be playing? Readers will root for Jack as he finds the courage to step back up to the plate.
Story by Amy de La Haye, Illustrations by Emily Sutton


Developer: MAPP Editions

Ages: 4 to 12

Description: Clara Button loves hats, and when her older brother Ollie breaks her favourite, Mum takes them on a magical day out – to visit the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Join Clara on an exciting journey of discovery through the museum, to discover magical hats, mechanical tigers, ancient silk dresses and lots more! Beautifully illustrated by award-winning artist Emily Sutton, this app is bursting with interactive elements, hats that appear or change with a pop, and buttons that sparkle at every touch. The app encourages constant interaction for all, inviting children to read along, and to touch and move the iPad to follow Clara on her journey.

6 Apps and eBooks for Middle-Grade Readers

by Cameron Crane

Story by Jerry Spinelli

Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Ages: 8 to 12
Description: Beloved Newbery Medalist Jerry Spinelli, author of Maniac Magee and Wringer,addresses issues of identity, belonging, family, and bullying in this humorous and heartfelt novel about twins.
Jake and Lily are twins. Despite their slightly different interests and temperaments, they feel exactly the same—like two halves of one person. But the year they turn eleven, everything changes. Their parents announce it’s time for separate bedrooms. Jake starts hanging out with a pack of boys on the block. And Lily is devastated, not to mention angry. Who is she without Jake? And as her brother falls under the influence of the neighborhood bully, he also must ask himself—who is the real Jake?

This is an often funny, poignant, and profound story of growing up, growing apart, and the difficult process of figuring out who you really are.

Story and Illustrations by Debbie Fong

Developer: Debbie Fong
Ages: 5 to 7

Description: B.B. Wolf is an animated and interactive storybook for the iPad. This fresh take on the classic fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood is written in a light-hearted tone and takes some unexpected twists and turns! In this ebook, 17 pages of text and hand-drawn images work together to illustrate the story. While there are elements of animation and motion, you can still move at your own pace through the book, controlling the page turns and fun interactive elements which help to move the story along.
Story by Carl Hiaasen

Publisher: Random House
Ages: 10 & Up

Description: Wahoo Cray lives in a zoo. His father is an animal wrangler, so he’s grown up with all manner of gators, snakes, parrots, rats, monkeys, snappers, and more in his backyard. The critters he can handle.  His father is the unpredictable one.
Story by Natalie Dias Lorenzi

Publisher: Charlesbridge
Ages: 8 to 12
Description: Flying the Dragon tells the story of two cousins in alternating chapters. American-born Skye is a good student and a star soccer player who never really gives any thought to the fact that her father is Japanese. Her cousin, Hiroshi, lives in Japan, and never really gives a thought to his uncle’s family living in the U.S. Their lives are thrown together when Hiroshi’s family, with his grandfather (who is also his best friend), have to move to the U.S. suddenly. Skye resents that she is now “not Japanese enough,” and yet the friends she’s known forever abruptly realize she is “other.” Hiroshi has a hard time adjusting to life in a new culture, and resents Skye’s intrusions on his time with Grandfather. Through all of this is woven Hiroshi’s expertise, and Skye’s growing interest in, kite making and competitive kite flying, culminating in a contest at the annual Washington Cherry Blossom Festival.

Story by Michael Northrop

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Ages: 8 & up

Description: Sixth grader Jack Mogens has it all figured out: He’s got his batting routine down, and his outfielding earns him a starting spot alongside his best friend Andy on their Little League team, the Tall Pines Braves. He even manages to have a not-totally-embarrassing conversation with Katie, the team’s killer shortstop. But in the first game of the season, a powerful stray pitch brings everything Jack’s worked so hard for crashing down around his ears. How can he explain to his parents and friends why he WON’T be playing? Readers will root for Jack as he finds the courage to step back up to the plate.
Story by Amy de La Haye, Illustrations by Emily Sutton


Developer: MAPP Editions

Ages: 4 to 12

Description: Clara Button loves hats, and when her older brother Ollie breaks her favourite, Mum takes them on a magical day out – to visit the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. Join Clara on an exciting journey of discovery through the museum, to discover magical hats, mechanical tigers, ancient silk dresses and lots more! Beautifully illustrated by award-winning artist Emily Sutton, this app is bursting with interactive elements, hats that appear or change with a pop, and buttons that sparkle at every touch. The app encourages constant interaction for all, inviting children to read along, and to touch and move the iPad to follow Clara on her journey.

A Visit With Author Elizabeth O. Dulemba

By Audrey Lintner

Image courtesy of Elizabeth O. Dulemba

One of the big perks of working for a publishing company is the excitement of meeting new and interesting authors. One of those authors is Elizabeth O. Dulemba, who recently signed with Little Pickle Press to produce a very special book. Please welcome our guest as she tells us a bit about that book and herself.


1. Why writing instead of another form of expression, like drawing or music? Actually, I am an illustrator first! I started drawing at an advanced level at 18 months old. Of course, I was always illustrating the stories that filled my head, but I didn’t know how to write those yet. By the time I did, I’d been pegged as an artist and had lessons most of my life.

            
However, creativity doesn’t really segment itself. When you’re an artist, anything and everything creative seems to flow to some degree. I took ten years of piano lessons, sang in my school chorus (Got some solos!), do sculpture, and I still do a ton of illustrating, including my free coloring pages which I’ve been giving away on my blog each week for over five years now!
    
2. What are the easiest and hardest parts of writing? The easiest part is when the idea initially comes to you. Your brain is on fire and you’re certain you’ve invented the best thing since Swiss cheese or sliced bread. You are BRILLIANT, your idea is BRILLIANT, and the world is going to LOVE it!
             
Then for the hard part. You have to actually create it …
             

Writing is hardperiod. I can spend hours noodling out the exactly right way to write one sentence. Keeping a plot and all those invented ideas straight in your head in a way that makes sense and is engaging … that’s hard, too. Or when you have to make yourself keep going even when your story seems more like a bottomless swamp you’ve fallen into. THAT is the hardest part. 

3. Your upcoming book about a mining community promises to raise as many questions as it answers. What kind of dialogue to do you hope to open? Oh good! I sincerely hope my book inspires dialogue, not just with teachers and students, but with adults and communities as well. I couldn’t completely keep my bias out of the story—it’s the same as Jack’s after all—but I did try. I interviewed so many people with very differing opinions (some people loved the Red Hills without any trees or wildlife or bugs). I wanted to give readers as much information as possible so they can form their own opinions. I want people to think about what we’re doing to our environment and our communities and discuss how we can make things better now.

4. Can you tell us a little bit about the story? The official blurb took a while to noodle out, so I’ll use it here: A Bird on Water Street is a coming-of-age story about Jack, the son of a miner growing up in a Southern Appalachian town environmentally devastated by a century of poor copper-mining practices. After a tragic accident and a massive company layoff, the miners go on strike. When nature begins to flourish as a result, Jack fights to protect it, but the cost could be the ruin of everything he loves.
             

The story came out of some very real-life experiences. I attended a meeting where the mining company was talking about opening a scenic railway and shipping one load of sulfuric acid out per week to fund it. The miners at that meeting stood up and told the most heart-breaking stories about losing friends and family to cancers thought to be related to the sulfuric acid production/mining. They also made thinly veiled threats that the plan would not be allowed to move forward through whatever means necessary. Later, my dear friend Grace Postelle told me the story of Helen McCay and how she saw a bird on Water Street back in the 1920’svery similar to how I describe it in the book. I got chill bumps and knew I had my title. It’s an unusual piece of history that needs to be shared. I just happen to be a voice for it.

5. What’s next for you? I stay pretty busy. I’ll be speaking at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville in October. And I help organize my local SCBWI chapter conferences and illustrator activities (I’m the Illustrator Coordinator). I’m writing another novela mid-grade fantasy this time. And I just finished up a series of four picture books (I wrote and illustrated) for a major children’s hospital. I’m also looking forward to teaching again in the MFA in Writing and Illustrating for Children at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia. It’s a crazy career, but I love it!

6. Any special advice or closing words for would-be authors? Read and write. There’s no easy way around it, no short-cut, no brilliant insight that can push you past where you are right now other than reading and writing. Nobody can do it for you. Yes, you can take courses, go to conferences, get to know the biz, and I do recommend all of that. But at some point, you have to do the work. Your first attempts will probably not be very good, but that’s okay; you’ll be learning. It’s important to think forward in this business. Realize that every single writer you’ve heard of started at Day 1, as an unknown. I remember my first day vividly, the day I decided to make children’s books my career. The publishing stats can really get you down. But if you are dedicated, if you keep going, you will persevere and things will happen. Maybe not exactly what you expect, but you will be a writer. 
Thank you, Elizabeth! Okay, all of you readers and writers out there. Do you have a question for our guest? An interesting story to share about what inspires you? Please leave a comment and join the discussion, and don’t forget to check out Elizabeth’s website for lots of neat information.

A Visit With Author Elizabeth O. Dulemba

By Audrey Lintner

Image courtesy of Elizabeth O. Dulemba

One of the big perks of working for a publishing company is the excitement of meeting new and interesting authors. One of those authors is Elizabeth O. Dulemba, who recently signed with Little Pickle Press to produce a very special book. Please welcome our guest as she tells us a bit about that book and herself.


1. Why writing instead of another form of expression, like drawing or music? Actually, I am an illustrator first! I started drawing at an advanced level at 18 months old. Of course, I was always illustrating the stories that filled my head, but I didn’t know how to write those yet. By the time I did, I’d been pegged as an artist and had lessons most of my life.

            
However, creativity doesn’t really segment itself. When you’re an artist, anything and everything creative seems to flow to some degree. I took ten years of piano lessons, sang in my school chorus (Got some solos!), do sculpture, and I still do a ton of illustrating, including my free coloring pages which I’ve been giving away on my blog each week for over five years now!
    
2. What are the easiest and hardest parts of writing? The easiest part is when the idea initially comes to you. Your brain is on fire and you’re certain you’ve invented the best thing since Swiss cheese or sliced bread. You are BRILLIANT, your idea is BRILLIANT, and the world is going to LOVE it!
             
Then for the hard part. You have to actually create it …
             

Writing is hardperiod. I can spend hours noodling out the exactly right way to write one sentence. Keeping a plot and all those invented ideas straight in your head in a way that makes sense and is engaging … that’s hard, too. Or when you have to make yourself keep going even when your story seems more like a bottomless swamp you’ve fallen into. THAT is the hardest part. 

3. Your upcoming book about a mining community promises to raise as many questions as it answers. What kind of dialogue to do you hope to open? Oh good! I sincerely hope my book inspires dialogue, not just with teachers and students, but with adults and communities as well. I couldn’t completely keep my bias out of the story—it’s the same as Jack’s after all—but I did try. I interviewed so many people with very differing opinions (some people loved the Red Hills without any trees or wildlife or bugs). I wanted to give readers as much information as possible so they can form their own opinions. I want people to think about what we’re doing to our environment and our communities and discuss how we can make things better now.

4. Can you tell us a little bit about the story? The official blurb took a while to noodle out, so I’ll use it here: A Bird on Water Street is a coming-of-age story about Jack, the son of a miner growing up in a Southern Appalachian town environmentally devastated by a century of poor copper-mining practices. After a tragic accident and a massive company layoff, the miners go on strike. When nature begins to flourish as a result, Jack fights to protect it, but the cost could be the ruin of everything he loves.
             

The story came out of some very real-life experiences. I attended a meeting where the mining company was talking about opening a scenic railway and shipping one load of sulfuric acid out per week to fund it. The miners at that meeting stood up and told the most heart-breaking stories about losing friends and family to cancers thought to be related to the sulfuric acid production/mining. They also made thinly veiled threats that the plan would not be allowed to move forward through whatever means necessary. Later, my dear friend Grace Postelle told me the story of Helen McCay and how she saw a bird on Water Street back in the 1920’svery similar to how I describe it in the book. I got chill bumps and knew I had my title. It’s an unusual piece of history that needs to be shared. I just happen to be a voice for it.

5. What’s next for you? I stay pretty busy. I’ll be speaking at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville in October. And I help organize my local SCBWI chapter conferences and illustrator activities (I’m the Illustrator Coordinator). I’m writing another novela mid-grade fantasy this time. And I just finished up a series of four picture books (I wrote and illustrated) for a major children’s hospital. I’m also looking forward to teaching again in the MFA in Writing and Illustrating for Children at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia. It’s a crazy career, but I love it!

6. Any special advice or closing words for would-be authors? Read and write. There’s no easy way around it, no short-cut, no brilliant insight that can push you past where you are right now other than reading and writing. Nobody can do it for you. Yes, you can take courses, go to conferences, get to know the biz, and I do recommend all of that. But at some point, you have to do the work. Your first attempts will probably not be very good, but that’s okay; you’ll be learning. It’s important to think forward in this business. Realize that every single writer you’ve heard of started at Day 1, as an unknown. I remember my first day vividly, the day I decided to make children’s books my career. The publishing stats can really get you down. But if you are dedicated, if you keep going, you will persevere and things will happen. Maybe not exactly what you expect, but you will be a writer. 
Thank you, Elizabeth! Okay, all of you readers and writers out there. Do you have a question for our guest? An interesting story to share about what inspires you? Please leave a comment and join the discussion, and don’t forget to check out Elizabeth’s website for lots of neat information.

Celebrating B Corps

By Cameron Crane

Last week, I had the extraordinary pleasure of attending the B Corp Champions Retreat in Boulder, CO. The Champions Retreat is a gathering of leaders of like-minded companies, all working to improve the way that the world does business. We have a collective vision that the businesses of the future will strive not only to be the best in the world, but the best for the world. And we are paving the way for that to happen, by using the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.

It isn’t easy to be a B Corporation. We are measured by rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. And that often means taking the long way around, ensuring that our practices match our values.

No, it isn’t easy to be a B Corporation– but it IS important, and it IS worth it. I was reminded of that this week, when the B Lab team unveiled this empowering new video:

Interested in becoming a B Corporation? Start with step one now.

Brain Development: An Interview with Adolescents

By Kelly Wickham


Image Credit: weteachwelearn.org
Late last week I mentioned to friends on Facebook that I had to have one of those delicate conversations with one of my students (and this happens quite often) that had to do with personal hygiene or lack thereof. It humorously morphed into a discussion of farting and pooping. Did I mention that I work with pre-teens and teenagers who aren’t afraid to talk about bodily functions, and that it endlessly amuses me? I do and it does.
Adolescents, a category in which both pre-teens and teenagers fall, are my favorite age group with which to work. They don’t have that crucial “speed bump” that stops all of their thoughts from becoming words that fall from their lips, which means that they will say anything that comes to mind. When a teacher recently asked for my input on a classroom discussion that dealt with some data tables they were reading from an infographic, I found myself in my favorite territory. Even though it was a difficult discussion to have because it dealt with the statistics from the juvenile justice system, I was fascinated with what they read into it. For instance, when one of the statistics told them that Illinois is made up of only 19% African American males, it noted that 69% of them made up the juvenile detention center. For Black students, then, this was hard to read. Why is this important? What is this supposed to tell us about Black males?

By the end of the discussion I noted the few Black students who were visibly upset by this information, and I got a chance to talk with them during their lunch period and on the playground. Naturally, they wanted to vent about how hard it is to talk about race, but then we discussed what their brains were doing at this age.

Our brains? They wondered. What does that have to do with anything?

That’s when we talked about their inexplicable behavior, mood swings, and how hormones react in their bodies. We also talked a lot about sleep. Goodness, but these adolescents can sleep. The wiring of their brains makes their teen behavior all the more incomprehensible to parents and teachers. In fact, much of this is discussed in the Frontline documentary series Inside the Teenage Brain. [http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/teenbrain/]

I interviewed these teens, and would like to share a few of their adolescent thoughts about the growth of their brains:

Jessie: I didn’t think my brain was still changing all that much. I thought that once I got to a certain age, everything would stop.

Antoine: My dad talks about how crazy teenagers are. Maybe our brains are wired to be crazy. I just know that sometimes I can’t control my thoughts and it feels like it’s buzzing.

Nadia: I think that data we looked at in class showed us that being 16 and 17 can be dangerous ages because those were the ages of most of the teens in jail. I just don’t know why it’s dangerous. Is it because we can drive then?

Cortez: My sister is 17 right now and she is the moodiest person I know. She cries a lot and then gets happy right after. I think teenage girls are just cry-babies. Their brains are more emotional.

Rachel: I just want to be with my friends all the time. My brain gets along better with people my age. I get aggravated with hearing my parents tell me that I don’t listen. I do but they say the same thing all the time.

Teens are known for having dramatic mood changes so much that I use the word “drama” to discuss them. When things are bad they are the worst thing that ever happened to me in my whole life, and when things are great, they are so happy they can barely contain their bodies.

Sad, lonely, happy, confusing, extremely giggly – these are the teens I have both lived with and worked with. Their brains are constantly changing and the chemicals in them make for a puzzle that parents often have to help put together so they fit. Teens aren’t always confident,and often put on a show for their peers and their parents. It’s a “fake it till you make it” mentality that all pre-teens and teenagers have to go through.

Here’s hoping parents out there have the patience to make it through until their adolescents’ brains are fully developed. By the way, that age is 25. Think you can make it until then?

*All names were changed in this interview

Brain Development: An Interview with Adolescents

By Kelly Wickham


Image Credit: weteachwelearn.org
Late last week I mentioned to friends on Facebook that I had to have one of those delicate conversations with one of my students (and this happens quite often) that had to do with personal hygiene or lack thereof. It humorously morphed into a discussion of farting and pooping. Did I mention that I work with pre-teens and teenagers who aren’t afraid to talk about bodily functions, and that it endlessly amuses me? I do and it does.
Adolescents, a category in which both pre-teens and teenagers fall, are my favorite age group with which to work. They don’t have that crucial “speed bump” that stops all of their thoughts from becoming words that fall from their lips, which means that they will say anything that comes to mind. When a teacher recently asked for my input on a classroom discussion that dealt with some data tables they were reading from an infographic, I found myself in my favorite territory. Even though it was a difficult discussion to have because it dealt with the statistics from the juvenile justice system, I was fascinated with what they read into it. For instance, when one of the statistics told them that Illinois is made up of only 19% African American males, it noted that 69% of them made up the juvenile detention center. For Black students, then, this was hard to read. Why is this important? What is this supposed to tell us about Black males?

By the end of the discussion I noted the few Black students who were visibly upset by this information, and I got a chance to talk with them during their lunch period and on the playground. Naturally, they wanted to vent about how hard it is to talk about race, but then we discussed what their brains were doing at this age.

Our brains? They wondered. What does that have to do with anything?

That’s when we talked about their inexplicable behavior, mood swings, and how hormones react in their bodies. We also talked a lot about sleep. Goodness, but these adolescents can sleep. The wiring of their brains makes their teen behavior all the more incomprehensible to parents and teachers. In fact, much of this is discussed in the Frontline documentary series Inside the Teenage Brain. [http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/teenbrain/]

I interviewed these teens, and would like to share a few of their adolescent thoughts about the growth of their brains:

Jessie: I didn’t think my brain was still changing all that much. I thought that once I got to a certain age, everything would stop.

Antoine: My dad talks about how crazy teenagers are. Maybe our brains are wired to be crazy. I just know that sometimes I can’t control my thoughts and it feels like it’s buzzing.

Nadia: I think that data we looked at in class showed us that being 16 and 17 can be dangerous ages because those were the ages of most of the teens in jail. I just don’t know why it’s dangerous. Is it because we can drive then?

Cortez: My sister is 17 right now and she is the moodiest person I know. She cries a lot and then gets happy right after. I think teenage girls are just cry-babies. Their brains are more emotional.

Rachel: I just want to be with my friends all the time. My brain gets along better with people my age. I get aggravated with hearing my parents tell me that I don’t listen. I do but they say the same thing all the time.

Teens are known for having dramatic mood changes so much that I use the word “drama” to discuss them. When things are bad they are the worst thing that ever happened to me in my whole life, and when things are great, they are so happy they can barely contain their bodies.

Sad, lonely, happy, confusing, extremely giggly – these are the teens I have both lived with and worked with. Their brains are constantly changing and the chemicals in them make for a puzzle that parents often have to help put together so they fit. Teens aren’t always confident,and often put on a show for their peers and their parents. It’s a “fake it till you make it” mentality that all pre-teens and teenagers have to go through.

Here’s hoping parents out there have the patience to make it through until their adolescents’ brains are fully developed. By the way, that age is 25. Think you can make it until then?

*All names were changed in this interview

Featured Customer of the Month: Boston Children’s Museum

By Audrey Lintner

Image courtesy of Boston Children’s Museum
Think a museum is just a bunch of stuffy halls and dusty bones? Think again! The Boston Children’s Museum proves that learning can (and should) be fun.

With engaging and innovative exhibits focusing on the Power of Play, The Boston Children’s Museum takes learning out of the staid and into the stellar. Over the past one hundred years, the museum has taken pride in its “firsts” and “foremosts,” including the world’s first hands-on exhibit and the first exhibit created especially for young children.

Investigate the principles of pre-school science in Peep’s World, follow the path to environmental stewardship with Our Green Trail, and build some lasting memories in the Construction Zone. Kids and caregivers alike will find facts and fun around every corner, proving that there truly is power in play.

But hey, you don’t have to take my word for it. Have a look!

Featured Customer of the Month: Boston Children’s Museum

By Audrey Lintner

Image courtesy of Boston Children’s Museum
Think a museum is just a bunch of stuffy halls and dusty bones? Think again! The Boston Children’s Museum proves that learning can (and should) be fun.

With engaging and innovative exhibits focusing on the Power of Play, The Boston Children’s Museum takes learning out of the staid and into the stellar. Over the past one hundred years, the museum has taken pride in its “firsts” and “foremosts,” including the world’s first hands-on exhibit and the first exhibit created especially for young children.

Investigate the principles of pre-school science in Peep’s World, follow the path to environmental stewardship with Our Green Trail, and build some lasting memories in the Construction Zone. Kids and caregivers alike will find facts and fun around every corner, proving that there truly is power in play.

But hey, you don’t have to take my word for it. Have a look!

What Brain Research Means for the Classroom

By Kelly Wickham
Educators are notorious for studying brain research, especially when it comes to figuring out the various types of learners in our classrooms and how we actually teach them things. As an undergrad, while I was studying to be a teacher, I read all the research from Jean Piaget and Howard Gardner as well as more current research by Betty Hart and Todd Risley. They’re all developmental psychologists whose research is used by teacher training programs to aid in making learning come alive for learners.

It wasn’t until I got to be a practitioner in the classroom, however, that I really put their theories to test, seeing how the process of learning occurs and what matters most to teaching. While I am just nerdy enough to enjoy reading research (But not so much the statistics part; that can put me to sleep!), I thoroughly enjoyed the practical applications for what brain research meant for me in the classroom setting.

Gardner’s work, outlined in Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, was published in 1983, just current (and interesting) enough for me because I am fascinated not only with learning, but knowing howI learn. The basic concept is this: we all use various modalities by which we learn, and we put them in motion when a new idea is presented. For instance, I am much better at visual-spatial intelligence than I am with bodily kinesthetic. Sometimes I need to physicallydo something to learn it. Think of a 5-year-old who watches an adult crack an egg. Many of them want to use their bodily kinesthetic resources to do it themselves. How hard to tap the egg on the side of the bowl isn’t easily explained to a child, but doing it for themselves helps them learn the delicacy required for such a task.

Reading brain research is foundational for educators, and here are three big ideas on brain research that informed my teaching to help me know just how amazing the brain is:

RESEARCH: The brain is designed to understand and produce patterns.

IMPLICATION FOR TEACHING: Learners begin to identify patterns and create their own context from past experiences in order to understand and make connections to new learning.

PRACTICAL CLASSROOM USE: Prior to teaching a difficult or foreign concept, teachers can use the background knowledge of their learners to show a continuation of a pattern. This works well in math and science as well as historical patterns. “Look at the past to help you understand the present” is a post that hung on my classroom wall for years. It’s true. This is how the brain helps us learn new information.

RESEARCH: Skills and facts go into the brain in neural pathways best when they involve spatial memory techniques.

IMPLICATION FOR TEACHING: Using the senses for natural occurrences helps learners integrate them into the brain.

PRACTICAL CLASSROOM USE: When you think about riding your bike from home to school each day, you first had to learn the directions to go, where to stop, where to walk the bike, etc. Learning is just like that. You ride over and over the same pathways until you have mastered something. When you’re learning a new skill, like reading, you have to practice and take the same path over and over again until you master it. Who knows how long it takes? Just keep riding that path! In LPP’s newest book, by Drs. JoAnn and Terrence Deak, we learn that “groups of neurons in one brain structure send their axons together to other brain structures, forming a neural pathway”.

RESEARCH: Brains are all different and unique.

IMPLICATION FOR TEACHING: The structure of the brain changes when students are learning so differentiating instruction for students helps them use auditory, tactile, and visual modes of learning.

PRACTICAL CLASSROOM USE: If I’m teaching a lesson in chemistry and I use cooking as an example to show how chemicals react, I might get more brain activity flowing from the learners as they connect what they know and understand about cooking and foods by using it as an example.

Brain research is important to me as an educator for what it can tell us about how students learn. Listening to trends and psychologists about the workings of the brain makes for fascinating study. It’s one of the reasons I am so excited about one of our fall titles, The Owner’s Manual for Driving Your Adolescent Brain by JoAnn Deak, PhD. and Terrence Deak, PhD. It’s far more practical than most of the research I’ve read, especially for your adolescent readers. It’s illustrated beautifully by Freya Harrison and I can’t wait for you to read it, too. In fact, I’d say that adding this book to your collection would be a ‘no brainer.’
Sources:


“Understanding a Brain-Based Approach to Learning and Teaching” by R. N. Caine and G. Caine, October 1990, Educational Leadership, 48(2), pp. 66-70

Dr. Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences

Marzano, R. (1992). A different kind of classroom: Teaching with dimensions of learning. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

What Brain Research Means for the Classroom

By Kelly Wickham
Educators are notorious for studying brain research, especially when it comes to figuring out the various types of learners in our classrooms and how we actually teach them things. As an undergrad, while I was studying to be a teacher, I read all the research from Jean Piaget and Howard Gardner as well as more current research by Betty Hart and Todd Risley. They’re all developmental psychologists whose research is used by teacher training programs to aid in making learning come alive for learners.

It wasn’t until I got to be a practitioner in the classroom, however, that I really put their theories to test, seeing how the process of learning occurs and what matters most to teaching. While I am just nerdy enough to enjoy reading research (But not so much the statistics part; that can put me to sleep!), I thoroughly enjoyed the practical applications for what brain research meant for me in the classroom setting.

Gardner’s work, outlined in Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, was published in 1983, just current (and interesting) enough for me because I am fascinated not only with learning, but knowing howI learn. The basic concept is this: we all use various modalities by which we learn, and we put them in motion when a new idea is presented. For instance, I am much better at visual-spatial intelligence than I am with bodily kinesthetic. Sometimes I need to physicallydo something to learn it. Think of a 5-year-old who watches an adult crack an egg. Many of them want to use their bodily kinesthetic resources to do it themselves. How hard to tap the egg on the side of the bowl isn’t easily explained to a child, but doing it for themselves helps them learn the delicacy required for such a task.

Reading brain research is foundational for educators, and here are three big ideas on brain research that informed my teaching to help me know just how amazing the brain is:

RESEARCH: The brain is designed to understand and produce patterns.

IMPLICATION FOR TEACHING: Learners begin to identify patterns and create their own context from past experiences in order to understand and make connections to new learning.

PRACTICAL CLASSROOM USE: Prior to teaching a difficult or foreign concept, teachers can use the background knowledge of their learners to show a continuation of a pattern. This works well in math and science as well as historical patterns. “Look at the past to help you understand the present” is a post that hung on my classroom wall for years. It’s true. This is how the brain helps us learn new information.

RESEARCH: Skills and facts go into the brain in neural pathways best when they involve spatial memory techniques.

IMPLICATION FOR TEACHING: Using the senses for natural occurrences helps learners integrate them into the brain.

PRACTICAL CLASSROOM USE: When you think about riding your bike from home to school each day, you first had to learn the directions to go, where to stop, where to walk the bike, etc. Learning is just like that. You ride over and over the same pathways until you have mastered something. When you’re learning a new skill, like reading, you have to practice and take the same path over and over again until you master it. Who knows how long it takes? Just keep riding that path! In LPP’s newest book, by Drs. JoAnn and Terrence Deak, we learn that “groups of neurons in one brain structure send their axons together to other brain structures, forming a neural pathway”.

RESEARCH: Brains are all different and unique.

IMPLICATION FOR TEACHING: The structure of the brain changes when students are learning so differentiating instruction for students helps them use auditory, tactile, and visual modes of learning.

PRACTICAL CLASSROOM USE: If I’m teaching a lesson in chemistry and I use cooking as an example to show how chemicals react, I might get more brain activity flowing from the learners as they connect what they know and understand about cooking and foods by using it as an example.

Brain research is important to me as an educator for what it can tell us about how students learn. Listening to trends and psychologists about the workings of the brain makes for fascinating study. It’s one of the reasons I am so excited about one of our fall titles, The Owner’s Manual for Driving Your Adolescent Brain by JoAnn Deak, PhD. and Terrence Deak, PhD. It’s far more practical than most of the research I’ve read, especially for your adolescent readers. It’s illustrated beautifully by Freya Harrison and I can’t wait for you to read it, too. In fact, I’d say that adding this book to your collection would be a ‘no brainer.’
Sources:


“Understanding a Brain-Based Approach to Learning and Teaching” by R. N. Caine and G. Caine, October 1990, Educational Leadership, 48(2), pp. 66-70

Dr. Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences

Marzano, R. (1992). A different kind of classroom: Teaching with dimensions of learning. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Five Steps to Better Choices In Young Adult Books

By Audrey Lintner
Waiting For Harry 2
Photo courtesy of stock.xchng
I learned to crochet when I was eight years old. I came down with pneumonia and had to spend two weeks in the house, swathed in blankets and propped up on the couch.

Pity my mother.

After I had read basically everything in the house the first week, Mom was driven to great lengths to find something, anything, to keep me occupied. I eventually recovered from the pneumonia, but I never lost my love of reading. Or fiber crafts, for that matter.

For the most part, I was allowed to read just about anything that caught my eye. The first time I can remember one of my parents waving the “no way” sign was when I brought home a copy of The Color Purple. My mom read half a dozen pages and announced, “You’re not ready for this.”

I was twelve. When I got around to reading the book years later, I had to admit that she had been right. My younger self wouldn’t have been able to handle such an intense story.

Kids are, by and large, pretty sharp. They notice and understand a lot more than we often give them credit for, but those developing brains and emotions sometimes need a little help. The occasional caution flag, if you will. Here are a few ways to prevent overload and overexposure, without curbing your young adult reader’s enthusiasm.

Pay attention to trends. Check with your local library to find out what’s flying off the shelves this month. Zombies? Steamy romances? Treatises on the transplantation of maxillary palps in mosquitoes? Okay, maybe not that last one, but you get the idea. Know what’s out there.

Be clear in your expectations. Sweeping statements such as, “Stay away from books that are too old for you!” can leave young readers confused. Explain why a book isn’t suitable. Does it contain graphic descriptions of sex or violence? Is it full of four-letter words? Does it endorse ideas contrary to your family’s values? Forbidden fruit is often tempting, but frank discussions lead to better understanding.

Offer alternatives.Perhaps you’ve decided that your kiddo won’t be reading Fifty Shades, no matter what colors are available. Talk to your local librarian again and find something similar, but tamer. Remind your teen that half a loaf is better than none.

Get a second (or third) opinion. Not sure about the offerings to be found in the stacks? Try visiting commonsensemedia.org, a website that offers reviews of everything from books and movies to apps and video games. Entries are rated on things like violence, positive messages, and role models, among others.

Read it yourself.Even the most diligent parent won’t be able to filter everything before the kids pick up on it. If you have doubts about a particular book, go ahead and read it. If you’re really lucky, your teen will be willing to read it with you. If not, you can at least be prepared to answer any questions about the book.

These are mere serving suggestions in the buffet of choices. You know your kids best, and it’ll be up to you to help guide them toward positive choices. George Bernard Shaw put it in simple terms: “Make it a rule never to give a child a book you would not read yourself.”

Up for discussion: Have you ever forbidden your child to read a particular book? How do you decide what is or isn’t a good choice in reading material for your kids?

Five Steps to Better Choices In Young Adult Books

By Audrey Lintner
Waiting For Harry 2
Photo courtesy of stock.xchng
I learned to crochet when I was eight years old. I came down with pneumonia and had to spend two weeks in the house, swathed in blankets and propped up on the couch.

Pity my mother.

After I had read basically everything in the house the first week, Mom was driven to great lengths to find something, anything, to keep me occupied. I eventually recovered from the pneumonia, but I never lost my love of reading. Or fiber crafts, for that matter.

For the most part, I was allowed to read just about anything that caught my eye. The first time I can remember one of my parents waving the “no way” sign was when I brought home a copy of The Color Purple. My mom read half a dozen pages and announced, “You’re not ready for this.”

I was twelve. When I got around to reading the book years later, I had to admit that she had been right. My younger self wouldn’t have been able to handle such an intense story.

Kids are, by and large, pretty sharp. They notice and understand a lot more than we often give them credit for, but those developing brains and emotions sometimes need a little help. The occasional caution flag, if you will. Here are a few ways to prevent overload and overexposure, without curbing your young adult reader’s enthusiasm.

Pay attention to trends. Check with your local library to find out what’s flying off the shelves this month. Zombies? Steamy romances? Treatises on the transplantation of maxillary palps in mosquitoes? Okay, maybe not that last one, but you get the idea. Know what’s out there.

Be clear in your expectations. Sweeping statements such as, “Stay away from books that are too old for you!” can leave young readers confused. Explain why a book isn’t suitable. Does it contain graphic descriptions of sex or violence? Is it full of four-letter words? Does it endorse ideas contrary to your family’s values? Forbidden fruit is often tempting, but frank discussions lead to better understanding.

Offer alternatives.Perhaps you’ve decided that your kiddo won’t be reading Fifty Shades, no matter what colors are available. Talk to your local librarian again and find something similar, but tamer. Remind your teen that half a loaf is better than none.

Get a second (or third) opinion. Not sure about the offerings to be found in the stacks? Try visiting commonsensemedia.org, a website that offers reviews of everything from books and movies to apps and video games. Entries are rated on things like violence, positive messages, and role models, among others.

Read it yourself.Even the most diligent parent won’t be able to filter everything before the kids pick up on it. If you have doubts about a particular book, go ahead and read it. If you’re really lucky, your teen will be willing to read it with you. If not, you can at least be prepared to answer any questions about the book.

These are mere serving suggestions in the buffet of choices. You know your kids best, and it’ll be up to you to help guide them toward positive choices. George Bernard Shaw put it in simple terms: “Make it a rule never to give a child a book you would not read yourself.”

Up for discussion: Have you ever forbidden your child to read a particular book? How do you decide what is or isn’t a good choice in reading material for your kids?

The Benefits of Reading Fairy Tales to Your Child

Today, Little Pickle Press welcomes a guest post from Maria L. Hughes a children’s book enthusiast who offers wise words on reading fairy tales to your child. Welcome Maria! Our readers will surely enjoy this perspective.

Recently there has been a lot of discussion about whether fairy tales are appropriate for children to be reading or listening to anymore. Especially older fairy tales like those from Perrault or even the Grimm Brothers. This largely comes from some studies that had been done on the effects of fiction and children’s books on child development. We discovered that the stories a child is exposed to young can often influence their view of the world later in life.

As with reading fairy tales to children, this brings up a few issues. The first of which is that many of the older tales incorporated rather dark themes devoted to death, suffering and children being murdered. But then there is also a second incorporation that has to do with later Disney movies of these fairy tales and them being too happy and can result in parents thinking their child will be deluded with ideas that the world will just work for them and things will be good.

Benefits of Reading

With that said there are still initial benefits for reading to your child when they are young. It will improve their vocabulary, enhance verbal communication and understanding and if you do it regularly you’ll even find your kids can interact and say what they want to more often. You also enhance the child’s imagination and creative process, which is a huge benefit to any child. There is also the added benefit of making the reading enjoyable since the stories are often fantastical ones that the child wants to hear which means they will probably grow to want to read on their own. And this is all not even considering the bonding potential of spending every night to read with your child. But there still remains the issue of picking the right stories that will express the views you want your child to encounter.

Choosing Your Tales

The real benefits to reading fairy tales come with the personalization of what stories you choose to read to your child, or have them read. When selecting your stories, the first thing you need to always do is read the stories on your own first. If you go into it blind, you may start reading the story then realize this is not something you want to read to your child at all. It may take a little extra time, but it will also provide a means of bonding with your child since you’ll have taken the time to read the story and not just read it out loud to them and not absorb the information. This also allows you to pick fairy tales that you think will be productive for your child, whether you focus on things they love to do or talk about; or just finding morals and ideas that are shown in the story that you want your child to carry on.

The decisions you make will end up affecting your child, so they are always important, even when you aren’t thinking about it. So if you are okay with showing your child some of the darker fairy tales, or letting them watch Disney movies that present girls unable to do anything for themselves until a man comes along then be ready for the adult you create from that. But in turn, picking stories that promote the empowerment of your child, or their dreams can be even more beautiful in the end. And this rests with all stories, fiction or not.

So remember, a fairy tale will affect your child, but you also get a choice as to what story and what affect will occur; so choose your stories carefully!

Maria L Hughes is a children’s book enthusiast, parent, and online publisher for Children’s Bookstore. She enjoys blogging about reading and bedtime stories for kids. 

The Benefits of Reading Fairy Tales to Your Child

Today, Little Pickle Press welcomes a guest post from Maria L. Hughes a children’s book enthusiast who offers wise words on reading fairy tales to your child. Welcome Maria! Our readers will surely enjoy this perspective.

Recently there has been a lot of discussion about whether fairy tales are appropriate for children to be reading or listening to anymore. Especially older fairy tales like those from Perrault or even the Grimm Brothers. This largely comes from some studies that had been done on the effects of fiction and children’s books on child development. We discovered that the stories a child is exposed to young can often influence their view of the world later in life.
As with reading fairy tales to children, this brings up a few issues. The first of which is that many of the older tales incorporated rather dark themes devoted to death, suffering and children being murdered. But then there is also a second incorporation that has to do with later Disney movies of these fairy tales and them being too happy and can result in parents thinking their child will be deluded with ideas that the world will just work for them and things will be good.

Benefits of Reading

With that said there are still initial benefits for reading to your child when they are young. It will improve their vocabulary, enhance verbal communication and understanding and if you do it regularly you’ll even find your kids can interact and say what they want to more often. You also enhance the child’s imagination and creative process, which is a huge benefit to any child. There is also the added benefit of making the reading enjoyable since the stories are often fantastical ones that the child wants to hear which means they will probably grow to want to read on their own. And this is all not even considering the bonding potential of spending every night to read with your child. But there still remains the issue of picking the right stories that will express the views you want your child to encounter.

Choosing Your Tales

The real benefits to reading fairy tales come with the personalization of what stories you choose to read to your child, or have them read. When selecting your stories, the first thing you need to always do is read the stories on your own first. If you go into it blind, you may start reading the story then realize this is not something you want to read to your child at all. It may take a little extra time, but it will also provide a means of bonding with your child since you’ll have taken the time to read the story and not just read it out loud to them and not absorb the information. This also allows you to pick fairy tales that you think will be productive for your child, whether you focus on things they love to do or talk about; or just finding morals and ideas that are shown in the story that you want your child to carry on.
The decisions you make will end up affecting your child, so they are always important, even when you aren’t thinking about it. So if you are okay with showing your child some of the darker fairy tales, or letting them watch Disney movies that present girls unable to do anything for themselves until a man comes along then be ready for the adult you create from that. But in turn, picking stories that promote the empowerment of your child, or their dreams can be even more beautiful in the end. And this rests with all stories, fiction or not.
So remember, a fairy tale will affect your child, but you also get a choice as to what story and what affect will occur; so choose your stories carefully!
Maria L Hughes is a children’s book enthusiast, parent, and online publisher for Children’s Bookstore. She enjoys blogging about reading and bedtime stories for kids. 

* * *
Update, June 2016: We love this post, and are glad you do, too! Maria’s point about carefully choosing the stories you share with the young people in your life resonates for all of us at Little Pickle Press—we craft every title with loving care, wanting to put stories into the world that inspire kindness and meaningful conversations between young people and their adults. Like our What Does It Mean To Be…?® series that explores it means to be Global, Green, Safe, Present, Kind, and our latest growth-mindset picture book, What Does It Mean To Be An Entrepreneur?

covers for What Does It Mean To Be... Global, Green, Safe, Present, Kind and An Entrepreneur

9 Young Adult Picks for Growing Readers

By Julie Romeis Sanders

Today, we welcome Julie Romeis Sanders, the fabulous editor of our two newest books The Owner’s Manual for Driving your Adolescent Brain and The Cow in Patrick O’Shanahan’s Kitchen, to our blog. You may remember her from July, when she collected her 15 Top Picks for Summer Reading. That list was so fantastic, we asked her to collect another list of recommendations, targeted toward our older readers. So, without further ado, here are 9 Young Adult Picks for Growing Readers.

My top YA pick at this moment:

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell



Everything you could want in a young adult novel is wrapped up in this remarkable gem of a story: awkward first love, spine-tingling hand holding, and gut-wrenching challenges that seem insurmountable but help these characters figure out who they are and where they are going. This is one of the most authentic love stories I have read in years, but really this story is more than a romance. It is about feeling alone in the world and the power of finding just one person who makes all the difference.

Other YA recommendations:

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Absent by Katie Williams

Feed by MT Anderson

Great adult books for teens:

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
About Julie Romeis Sanders

Julie is a freelance editor based in San Francisco with more than twelve years of experience in children’s book publishing. During her time at acclaimed independent publishers Bloomsbury and Chronicle Books, she edited books for children of all ages and discovered award winning authors such as Rick Yancey (2010 Printz Honoree) and Aaron Reynolds (author of 2012 Caldecott Honor). Julie has also been a workshop instructor at the Columbia Publishing Course (2004-2011) and lectured at writers’ conferences around the world. Now, as a freelance editor, she offers a range of services for authors, agents, and publishers, including editorial development, project management, and consultations. Creative collaboration and constructive feedback is at the heart of her editorial philosophy. You can learn more about Julie and her work here.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Thank you, Julie, for helping us to get our two newest books across the finish line! 

We are excited to announce that The Owner’s Manual for Driving your Adolescent Brain and The Cow in Patrick O’Shanahan’s Kitchen went to press on Monday! Here is a sneak peek of our two newest titles:

9 Young Adult Picks for Growing Readers

By Julie Romeis Sanders

Today, we welcome Julie Romeis Sanders, the fabulous editor of our two newest books The Owner’s Manual for Driving your Adolescent Brain and The Cow in Patrick O’Shanahan’s Kitchen, to our blog. You may remember her from July, when she collected her 15 Top Picks for Summer Reading. That list was so fantastic, we asked her to collect another list of recommendations, targeted toward our older readers. So, without further ado, here are 9 Young Adult Picks for Growing Readers.

My top YA pick at this moment:

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell



Everything you could want in a young adult novel is wrapped up in this remarkable gem of a story: awkward first love, spine-tingling hand holding, and gut-wrenching challenges that seem insurmountable but help these characters figure out who they are and where they are going. This is one of the most authentic love stories I have read in years, but really this story is more than a romance. It is about feeling alone in the world and the power of finding just one person who makes all the difference.

Other YA recommendations:

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Absent by Katie Williams

Feed by MT Anderson

Great adult books for teens:

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
About Julie Romeis Sanders

Julie is a freelance editor based in San Francisco with more than twelve years of experience in children’s book publishing. During her time at acclaimed independent publishers Bloomsbury and Chronicle Books, she edited books for children of all ages and discovered award winning authors such as Rick Yancey (2010 Printz Honoree) and Aaron Reynolds (author of 2012 Caldecott Honor). Julie has also been a workshop instructor at the Columbia Publishing Course (2004-2011) and lectured at writers’ conferences around the world. Now, as a freelance editor, she offers a range of services for authors, agents, and publishers, including editorial development, project management, and consultations. Creative collaboration and constructive feedback is at the heart of her editorial philosophy. You can learn more about Julie and her work here.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Thank you, Julie, for helping us to get our two newest books across the finish line! 

We are excited to announce that The Owner’s Manual for Driving your Adolescent Brain and The Cow in Patrick O’Shanahan’s Kitchen went to press on Monday! Here is a sneak peek of our two newest titles:

Libraries We Love: Santa Monica Public Library

By Audrey Lintner
Logo courtesy of Santa Monica Public Library
How would you like to explore the world for only two dollars per year? Does it sound too good to be true? Well, in 1876, it’s exactly what the newly-formed Santa Monica Library Association was offering. The dues collected from each member went to buy books for the fledgling community; by 1888, the collection topped four hundred volumes.

Since those early days as a reading room attached to the local drug store, the Santa Monica Public Library has definitely “branched” out. Boasting one main and three (soon to be four) branch libraries, the staff of the SMPL is working hard to live up to their mission statement, “To provide resources, services, and a place to encourage the community to Read, Connect, Relax, and Learn.”

That learning doesn’t stop with the impressive media collection. The library takes the lessons found in What Does It Mean to be Green? (available here and in the SMPL stacks) and puts them into daily practice with sustainability features built right into the Main Library building. Awarded a Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED™) Gold Rating, based on standards from the US Green Building Council, the Main Library features elements that focus on water management, energy efficiency, and material conservation.

The library also awards a Green Prize for Sustainable Literature each year. It awarded this coveted honor to What Does It Mean To Be Green? in 2011 in the category of School Age Nonfiction. Rana DiOrio was present to accept the award and participated in a panel discussion with other honorees on the topic of sustainability in publishing. She subsequently returned to SMPL to do a presentation with local law enforcement about What Does It Mean To Be Safe? for children and their caregivers.

When you combine environmental stewardship, progressive and engaging programs, millions of visitors, and countless hours of dedicated community service, is it any wonder that the Santa Monica Public Library is on LPP’s list of libraries we love?

Up for discussion: What prompts you to head for your local library?

Libraries We Love: Santa Monica Public Library

By Audrey Lintner
Logo courtesy of Santa Monica Public Library
How would you like to explore the world for only two dollars per year? Does it sound too good to be true? Well, in 1876, it’s exactly what the newly-formed Santa Monica Library Association was offering. The dues collected from each member went to buy books for the fledgling community; by 1888, the collection topped four hundred volumes.

Since those early days as a reading room attached to the local drug store, the Santa Monica Public Library has definitely “branched” out. Boasting one main and three (soon to be four) branch libraries, the staff of the SMPL is working hard to live up to their mission statement, “To provide resources, services, and a place to encourage the community to Read, Connect, Relax, and Learn.”

That learning doesn’t stop with the impressive media collection. The library takes the lessons found in What Does It Mean to be Green? (available here and in the SMPL stacks) and puts them into daily practice with sustainability features built right into the Main Library building. Awarded a Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED™) Gold Rating, based on standards from the US Green Building Council, the Main Library features elements that focus on water management, energy efficiency, and material conservation.

The library also awards a Green Prize for Sustainable Literature each year. It awarded this coveted honor to What Does It Mean To Be Green? in 2011 in the category of School Age Nonfiction. Rana DiOrio was present to accept the award and participated in a panel discussion with other honorees on the topic of sustainability in publishing. She subsequently returned to SMPL to do a presentation with local law enforcement about What Does It Mean To Be Safe? for children and their caregivers.

When you combine environmental stewardship, progressive and engaging programs, millions of visitors, and countless hours of dedicated community service, is it any wonder that the Santa Monica Public Library is on LPP’s list of libraries we love?

Up for discussion: What prompts you to head for your local library?

First Friday Book Review: Moon Over Manifest

By Cameron Crane



Age Range: 8 and up

Grade Level: 3 – 7

Paperback: 368 pages

Publisher: Yearling

ISBN-10: 0375858296

ISBN-13: 978-0375858291

When Rana DiOrio, our Chief Executive Pickle, returned from the SCBWI Summer Conference last August she was beaming. If you have ever been to an SCBWI Conference, you know that this is not unusual. She was refreshed, motivated by new ideas, and feeling a renewed confidence in some old ones. She had garnered insights and inspiration from Karen Cushman, Bryan Collier, Ruta Sepetys—and then there was Clare Vanderpool.

The Keynote of Clare Vanderpool, Newberry award-winning author, impressed Rana like no other. Her topic was Writing in the Crossroads—Where Craft & Creativity Meet. She talked about how writing had changed over the years; she talked about writing ruthlessly; she talked about teamwork; and she talked about peanut butter sandwiches.

“I made PB&J sandwiches, and I wrote. I read, and I wrote. I studied the craft, and I wrote. You have to put in the miles, the blood, sweat, and tears.”

This was something Rana, an author herself, could definitely relate to. She walked away with many gems that day, but one of the most powerful gems she left with was one she had tucked away in her suitcase—the product of the PB&J sandwiches—Clare Vanderpool’s Moon Over Manifest.

I am grateful that Clare inspired Rana to bring home her work that day, or it may never have fallen into my lap. And as an avid reader, that would have been a tragedy.

Moon Over Manifest is the powerful story of a brave girl named Abilene Tucker:

Abilene Tucker feels abandoned. Her father has put her on a train, sending her off to live with an old friend for the summer while he works a railroad job. Armed only with a few possessions and her list of universals, Abilene jumps off the train in Manifest, Kansas, aiming to learn about the boy her father once was.

Having heard stories about Manifest, Abilene is disappointed to find that it’s just a dried-up, worn-out old town. But her disappointment quickly turns to excitement when she discovers a hidden cigar box full of mementos, including some old letters that mention a spy known as the Rattler. These mysterious letters send Abilene and her new friends, Lettie and Ruthanne, on an honest-to-goodness spy hunt, even though they are warned to “leave well enough alone.”

Abilene throws all caution aside when she heads down the mysterious Path to Perdition to pay a debt to the reclusive Miss Sadie, a diviner who only tells stories from the past. It seems that Manifest’s history is full of colorful and shadowy characters — and long-held secrets. The more Abilene hears, the more determined she is to learn just what role her father played in that history. And as Manifest’s secrets are laid bare one by one, Abilene begins to weave her own story into the fabric of the town.

Let me start by saying I fell in love with this book both instantly and subtly. Instantly because I found Abilene to be so relatable, and the town of Manifest to be so nostalgically real, that I was living and breathing the story before I even understood it. Subtly because I found myself going deeper and deeper into each layer of Abilene’s story, and I didn’t even understand how profound it’s meaning was until I had time to put the book down and dig my way back to the surface.

I absolutely loved Moon Over Manifest, and the way that Manifest’s story cleverly renews Abilene’s confidence in her own. I recommend this book to all readers, parents and young adults alike. Buy Moon Over Manifest from Amazon, your local bookstore, or rent it from your local library to share with the readers in your life. 

First Friday Book Review: Moon Over Manifest

By Cameron Crane



Age Range: 8 and up

Grade Level: 3 – 7

Paperback: 368 pages

Publisher: Yearling

ISBN-10: 0375858296

ISBN-13: 978-0375858291

When Rana DiOrio, our Chief Executive Pickle, returned from the SCBWI Summer Conference last August she was beaming. If you have ever been to an SCBWI Conference, you know that this is not unusual. She was refreshed, motivated by new ideas, and feeling a renewed confidence in some old ones. She had garnered insights and inspiration from Karen Cushman, Bryan Collier, Ruta Sepetys—and then there was Clare Vanderpool.

The Keynote of Clare Vanderpool, Newberry award-winning author, impressed Rana like no other. Her topic was Writing in the Crossroads—Where Craft & Creativity Meet. She talked about how writing had changed over the years; she talked about writing ruthlessly; she talked about teamwork; and she talked about peanut butter sandwiches.

“I made PB&J sandwiches, and I wrote. I read, and I wrote. I studied the craft, and I wrote. You have to put in the miles, the blood, sweat, and tears.”

This was something Rana, an author herself, could definitely relate to. She walked away with many gems that day, but one of the most powerful gems she left with was one she had tucked away in her suitcase—the product of the PB&J sandwiches—Clare Vanderpool’s Moon Over Manifest.

I am grateful that Clare inspired Rana to bring home her work that day, or it may never have fallen into my lap. And as an avid reader, that would have been a tragedy.

Moon Over Manifest is the powerful story of a brave girl named Abilene Tucker:

Abilene Tucker feels abandoned. Her father has put her on a train, sending her off to live with an old friend for the summer while he works a railroad job. Armed only with a few possessions and her list of universals, Abilene jumps off the train in Manifest, Kansas, aiming to learn about the boy her father once was.

Having heard stories about Manifest, Abilene is disappointed to find that it’s just a dried-up, worn-out old town. But her disappointment quickly turns to excitement when she discovers a hidden cigar box full of mementos, including some old letters that mention a spy known as the Rattler. These mysterious letters send Abilene and her new friends, Lettie and Ruthanne, on an honest-to-goodness spy hunt, even though they are warned to “leave well enough alone.”

Abilene throws all caution aside when she heads down the mysterious Path to Perdition to pay a debt to the reclusive Miss Sadie, a diviner who only tells stories from the past. It seems that Manifest’s history is full of colorful and shadowy characters — and long-held secrets. The more Abilene hears, the more determined she is to learn just what role her father played in that history. And as Manifest’s secrets are laid bare one by one, Abilene begins to weave her own story into the fabric of the town.

Let me start by saying I fell in love with this book both instantly and subtly. Instantly because I found Abilene to be so relatable, and the town of Manifest to be so nostalgically real, that I was living and breathing the story before I even understood it. Subtly because I found myself going deeper and deeper into each layer of Abilene’s story, and I didn’t even understand how profound it’s meaning was until I had time to put the book down and dig my way back to the surface.

I absolutely loved Moon Over Manifest, and the way that Manifest’s story cleverly renews Abilene’s confidence in her own. I recommend this book to all readers, parents and young adults alike. Buy Moon Over Manifest from Amazon, your local bookstore, or rent it from your local library to share with the readers in your life.