This week I read the nominees for the 2013-2014 California Young Reader Medal for Primary Grades. Every year, a committee composed of members from four different reading and literacy organizations selects five books in five age categories: Primary (grades K-3), Intermediate (grades 3-6), Middle School/Junior High (grades 6-8), Young Adult (grades 9-12) and Picture Books for Older Readers (grades 4 and up). Kids all over the state have all year to read or listen to the books and vote for their favorite before the winning books are announced on May 1.
I had shared these books last week with two second grade classes, and was curious to see if I got the same result from my evening storytime group, which has a number of Kindergarteners. They enjoyed all the books, and they scrambled to check them all out at the end, but there was definitely a clear favorite.
The five books were:
Children Make Terrible Pets by Peter Brown
When a bear named Lucille finds a little boy in the woods, she names him Squeaker, and begs her Mom to let her keep him. But Squeaker proves to be a challenging pet, especially when he disappears. Although this one only got one vote, the kids enjoyed it thoroughly. I love the author’s note on the back jacket, where he says that as a kid he found a frog and asked his mom if he could keep it. She asked him if he would like it if some animal took him home to be it’s pet. His reply, “Absolutely!”
Bats at the Ballgame by Brian Lies
Great book for baseball fans. This is a rhyming story about a baseball game between two rival teams of bats. The illustrations of the bats are adorable, and the writing conveys the tension of watching a close game. This one didn’t get any votes from my storytime group, but a couple of the second graders chose it as their favorite.
Stars by Mary Lyn Ray, illustrated by Marla Frazee
This is a quiet book about the wonder of stars of all kinds: stars in the sky, stars in moss, snowflakes, pumpkin flowers. The illustrations are large and lovely, and the language is beautiful. I love the idea of keeping a star in your pocket, just to know it is there, for days when you don’t feel so shiny. It’s a different style of book from the other four, and even though none of the storytime kids chose it as their favorite, several of them clamored to check it out, and it did get a couple of votes from the second grade.
Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein
This one was the big winner with my storytime group, as well as with one of the second grade classes. It’s one of my favorite read-alouds. Little Chicken won’t go to bed without a story, and she promises her father not to interrupt. He caves, and reads her Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, and Chicken Little, but every time he gets to the most exciting part of the story, Little Chicken can’t help jumping in to save the main characters: “Out jumped a little red chicken and she said, ‘Don’t go in! She’s a witch!’ So Hansel and Gretel didn’t. The End!” This would be a great book for fairy tale units as well.
Press Here by Herve Tullet
This one surprised me. I had read it before, but never shared it with a group of kids. They LOVED it, especially in the second grade, where it was the overwhelming favorite with the first class, and a close contender in the second. It got a few votes from my storytime group too. It’s a simple, interactive book that reads a lot like an iPad app (and in fact, there is an app based on it). Each page shows a series of different colored dots, with instructions like “tap five times on the yellow dot,” or “turn the book to the left.” The instructions appear to change the dots in different ways, causing them to move, change color, or multiply. Towards the end, it instructs you to clap once. The dots get bigger. Clap twice. They get even bigger. In both the second grade classes, the kids were practically screaming each time I turned the page to show the bigger dots. They were so excited! It was astonishing and hilarious, and I had such a good time reading it with them. I could imagine lots of ways to use this book in a classroom, to accompany lessons on color, number, pattern, or direction. It would also be fun to have kids experiment with making their own dot books.
CRAFT: Star Wands
I have very forgiving coworkers. The storytime ended just before the library closed, and there was glitter everywhere! But it couldn’t be helped. We had to make the star wands described in the book Stars, because if you wave a magic wand, you might see a wish come true. Who could pass up that possibility?
I cut out stars on yellow card stock ahead of time, and gave each child a chopstick and some tape to make the wand. They decorated their stars with glitter (of course!), as well as stickers and markers. Each one was unique.
Which book would you vote for? This year’s California Young Medal Award winners won’t be announced until May, although the nominees for 2014-2015 will be revealed in February. To learn more about the award, visit: http://californiayoungreadermedal.org/