Tag Archives: nonfiction

Picture Books and the Middle-Grade Reader

Think of picture books and often we envision a toddler on a parent’s lap, listening and pointing. Or a pack of preschoolers sitting criss-cross applesauce on a colorful rug, heads tipped up to see the pictures while their teacher reads aloud. Or maybe a first grader, sitting alone with a book, intently studying the words in a picture book, their eyes darting from picture to text and back again, making connections and feeling their confidence swell.

Oh, there’s usually no debate surrounding the place of picture books in the lives of the youngest readers and prereaders. But something often happens around second grade, somewhere around the time chapter books are mastered, and the role of the picture book is diminished, if not eliminated.

By the time readers reach the middle grades, picture books are often nonexistent or scoffed at. “You’re too old for that book,” I heard a parent tell a fifth or sixth grader at a bookstore. “You can read harder books than that.”

And, yes, I’m sure that young reader was perfectly capable of tackling longer texts, but picture books have so much to offer readers of all ages. Let’s take a look at some new picture books that middle-grade readers could not only enjoy, but that could spark a deeper level of learning and understanding.

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Picture Book Biographies Picture book biographies are everywhere and can serve as an excellent visual and literary introduction to someone middle-graders may never encounter anywhere else..

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The William Hoy Story: How a Deaf Baseball Player Changed the Game by Nancy Churnin, illustrated by Jez Tuya, Albert Whitman, 2016.

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To the Stars!: The First American Woman to Walk in Space by Carmella Van Vleet and Kathryn D. Sullivan, Illustrated by Nicole Wong, Charlesbridge, 2016.

Picture Books to Address Social Issues  Civil and human rights issues such as homelessness, poverty, equal opportunities, or segregation can be difficult for the middle-grader to grasp, and yet these problems exist in their communities, families, and in the ever-present media. Often a picture book can open the door to discuss more complex topics at an appropriate level.

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Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh, Abrams, 2014.

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Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans by Phil Bildner, Illustrated by John Parra, Chronicle, 2015.

Picture Book Origin Stories Older readers love to ask deep questions: Like where did doughnuts come from? and Who invented the super-soaker, and Why? Origin stories can inspire young inventors to dig deeper into science and become problem-solvers themselves.

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The Hole Story of the Doughnut by Pat Miller, Illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch, HMH Books for Young Readers, 2016.

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Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton, Illustrated by Don Tate, Charlesbridge, 2016.

Picture Books for Content Areas  Math class is probably the least likely place you’ll find middle-graders reading picture books, but there are some great reasons to put picture books into the hands of young mathematicians. And scientists. And paleontologists. And astrophysicists.

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The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos by Deborah Heiligman, Illustrated by LeUyen Pham,  Roaring Brook, 2013.

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Blockhead: The Life of Fibonacci by Joseph D’Agnese, Illustrated by John O’Brien, Henry Holt, 2010.

Picture Books to Address Environmental Issues Upper elementary and middle schoolers hear phrases such as “global warming” and “our carbon footprint,” but explaining just exactly what these mean can be challenging. It’s likely they are already a part of a “reduce, reuse, and recycle” initiative, at school or at home. Picture books can help them understand how they might do more.

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One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia by Miranda Paul, Illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon, Millbrook, 2015.

Picture Books as Art Study The youngest readers look at the pictures in a picture book. Older readers can study them. They can understand how illustration contributes to the story-telling, how a picture book is a visual experience as well as a literary one. Older students can discuss how the artist’s choice of style, media, and color palette create mood and pace. This can be done with every picture book, any picture, all picture books, fiction or non. But, I’ll leave you with one that makes me smile, and I think any middle-grader would smile after reading it, too.

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Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell, Illustrated by Rafael López, HMH Books for Young Readers, 2016.

Michelle Houts is the author of four books for middle-grade readers. Her first picture book, When Grandma Gatewood Took a Hike (Ohio University Press, September 2016) is the biography of Emma Gatewood, the first women to walk the Appalachian Trail alone in one continuous hike.

Happy Earth Day! Green Earth Book Award Winners Announced

Happy Earth Day!

My father was the organizer of our town’s Earth Day celebration the first year it was held in 1970, so it holds a very dear place in my heart. I was smack dab in the middle, too, at 10 years old. With that in mind, here is a news release from The Nature Generation. I wish these books had been available for 10-year-old me:

April 22, 2016 — The Nature Generation, a nonprofit that inspires environmental stewardship, announced today the national 2016 Green Earth Book Award winners. The literature award is recognition of authors and illustrators whose books best inspire young readers to care for the environment.  Second graders from Culbert Elementary School helped unveil the winners during a nature field trip at the Chapman DeMary Trail in Purcellville, Va.

 “This year’s Green Earth Book Award winners are particularly poignant, introducing young readers to the vulnerabilities of humanity in terms of our connection to the natural world.  In these winning books, the adversity and  the struggles to make sense out of life lead to hope and beauty and lay the foundation for stories that inspire us to greatness. They will motivate young readers to view their relationship with nature differently, and to become future stewards of the natural world we live in,” said lead review panelist Dr. Ernie Bond, professor at Salisbury University and leading specialist in children’s and young adult literature.

 Picture Book

The Stranded Whale, written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Melanie Cataldo (Candlewick Press)

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Honor winners:

Crane Boy, written by Diana Cohn and  illustrated by Youme (Cinco Puntos Press)

The Seeds of Friendship,  written and illustrated by Michael Foreman (Candlewick Press)

Young Adult Fiction

The Beast of Cretacea, written by Todd Strasser (Candlewick Press)

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Children’s Fiction

The Thing About Jellyfish, written by Ali Benjamin (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

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Honor winners:

Sydney & Simon Go Green!, written by Paul A. Reynolds and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds (Charlesbridge)

The Order of the Trees, by Katy Farber (Green Writers Press)

Children’s Nonfiction

Mission: Sea Turtle Rescue, written by Karen Romano Young and Daniel Raven-Ellison (National Geographic Society)

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Honor winners:

One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia, written by Miranda Paul and illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon (Millbrook Press)

Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall, written by Anita Silvey (National Geographic Society)

 

April New Releases

Happy April! While today may be the day to play tricks, these books on this list are the REAL DEAL!
I’m thrilled to announce some amazing titles that are being released this month including two from our very own Mixed-Up Files Members:

Hillary Homzie and Tricia Springstubb!!

 

 The Queen of Likes by Hillary Homzie (Aladdin)

A tween social media queen is forced to give up her phone and learn that there’s more to life than likes in this M X novel from the author of “The Hot List.”
Karma Cooper is a seventh grader with thousands of followers on SnappyPic. Before Karma became a social media celebrity, she wasn t part of the in-crowd at Merton Middle School. But thanks to one serendipitous photo, Karma has become a very popular poster on SnappyPic. Besides keeping up with all of her followers, like most kids at MMS, her smartphone a bejeweled pink number Karma nicknamed Floyd is like a body part she could never live without.
But after breaking some basic phone rules, Karma’s cruel, cruel parents take Floyd away, and for Karma, her world comes to a screeching halt. Can Karma who can text, post photos, play soccer, and chew gum all at the same time learn to go cold turkey and live her life fully unplugged?

 

cody 2 cover Cody and the Mysteries of the Universe by Tricia Springstubb  (Candlewick)

Not everything turns out to be as it first appears when Cody and her best friend, Spencer, navigate a neighborhood mystery and the start of a new school year.
Cody’s best friend, Spencer, and his parents are moving in with his grandmother right around the corner, and Cody can t wait. For one thing, Cody needs Spencer to help solve the mystery of the never-seen Mr. Meen, who lives on the other side of the porch with a skull-and-crossbones sign in the window and an extermination truck out front. How’s Cody to know that a yellow jacket would sting her, making her scream “Ow Ow ” just as they start spying? Or that the ominous window sign would change overnight to “Welcome home,” only deepening the mystery? In this second adventure, Spencer’s new-school jitters, an unexpected bonding with a teacher over Mozart, and turf-claiming kids next door with a reason for acting out are all part of Cody’s experiences as summer shifts into a new year at school.

CONGRATULATIONS Tricia and Hillary!!!

Keep going for some more fantastic books releasing this month:

Demigods & Magicians: Percy and Annabeth Meet the Kanes by Rick Riordan (Disney-Hyperion) Magic, monsters, and mayhem abound when Percy Jackson and Annabeth Chase meet Carter and Sadie Kane for the first time. Weird creatures are appearing in unexpected places, and the demigods and magicians have to team up to take them down. As they battle with Celestial Bronze and glowing hieroglyphs, the four heroes find that they have a lot in common–and more power than they ever thought possible. But will their combined forces be enough to foil an ancient enemy who is mixing Greek and Egyptian incantations for an evil purpose? Rick Riordan wields his usual storytelling magic in this adrenaline-fueled adventure.



Scar: A Revolutionary War Tale  by Jennifer Ann Mann (Candlewick) Sixteen-year-old Noah Daniels wants nothing more than to fight in George Washington’s Continental Army, but an accident as a child left him maimed and unable to enlist. He is forced to watch the Revolution from his family’s hard scrabble farm in Upstate New York—until a violent raid on his settlement thrusts him into one of the bloodiest battles of the American Revolution, and ultimately, face to face with the enemy. A riveting coming of age story, this book also includes an author’s note and bibliography.


 


The Pet and the Pendulum (The Misadventures of Edgar & Allan Poe) by Gordon McAlpine (Viking BFYR) In The Tell-Tale Start, twins Edgar and Allan Poe foiled the nefarious Professor Perry, who wanted to use them in his deadly quantum entanglement experiment. In Once Upon a Midnight Eerie, they took on his equally evil mother and daughter. Now, in The Pet and the Pendulum, it’s time for the real showdown, which takes place in an old mansion right outside Baltimore. As with the first two books, The Pet and the Pendulum is filled with codes, brain-teasers, smart (not snarky) humor, and cameos by the actual Edgar Allan Poe, who is watching over his great-great-great-nephews from the Great Beyond. Readers won’t want to miss the Misaventures’ end.

 

 


Evil Spy School  by Stuart Gibbs (Simon &Schuster BFYR) When Ben gets kicked out of the CIA’s spy school, he enrolls with the enemy. From “New York Times “bestselling author, Stuart Gibbs, this companion to the Edgar Award nominated “Spy School “and “Spy Camp “is rife with action, adventure, and espionage.

 

 


Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood By Liesl Shurtliff (Alfred A Knopf BFYR) “Red” is the most wonder-filled fairy tale of them all Chris Grabenstein, “New York Times” Bestselling author of “Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library.”
Red is not afraid of the big bad wolf.She’s not afraid of anything . . . except magic.
But when Red’s granny falls ill, it seems that only magic can save her, and fearless Red is forced to confront her one weakness.
With the help of a blond, porridge-sampling nuisance called Goldie, Red goes on a quest to cure Granny. Her journey takes her through dwarves caverns to a haunted well and a beast’s castle. All the while, Red and Goldie are followed by a wolf and a huntsman two mortal enemies who seek the girls help to defeat each other. And one of them just might have the magical solution Red is looking for. . .

 

War Dogs: Churchill and Rufus By Kathryn Selbert (Charlesbridge) Winston Churchill, the prime minister of England during World War II, was one of the greatest wartime leaders of the modern era. While he is often likened to the English bulldog due to his tenacious personality and even his physical resemblance to the breed, Mr. Churchill was actually a devoted poodle owner and held quite an affinity for his miniature poodle, Rufus, who withstood the trials of World War II by his owner’s side.
Readers follow Rufus and Winston’s friendship through major events in World War II from the bombings of London and the invasion of Normandy to post-war reconstruction. Secondary text includes quotes from Churchill himself taken from his rousing speeches to the people of England and to the world. Backmatter includes a timeline of World War II, an author’s note about Churchill’s pets, as well as a short biography, quote sources, and a list of recommended resources for further study.

This or That 4:Even More Wacky Choices to Reveal the Hidden You By Michelle Harris; Julie Beer (National Geographic Kids) Would you rather choose THIS: Join a Viking festrival, or THAT: Join a voodoo festival? Welcome to This or That?, a wacky book of choices where every answer brings you one step closer to discovering the hidden YOU. This fourth all-new book in the series features 10 awesome categories: outer space, amazing animals, festivals from around the world, amazing inventions, music, silly stats, and more Discover amazing stuff about the real-world and yourself, with fun facts about every option and insights about what your answers mean from the hilarious Dr. Matt Bellace at the end of every chapter.



Write Your Own Book by  DK (DK Publishing) Tell your own story with this unique book filled with creative writing prompts and activities. Young writers can build their skills, develop their confidence, and learn how to write a book in this unique format filled with creative writing ideas and exercises.

 


Do Fish Fart?Answers to Kids’ Questions about Lakes By Keltie Thomas (Firefly Books) This intriguing collection of questions and answers about our lakes and freshwater systems will fascinate, amaze and inform young readers and anyone who is curious about this world of water. The book answers questions submitted by youngsters curious about water and life in a watershed.