THE INVISIBLE BOY

Welcome to KidLit Gems!

Join us in a coffee style conversation about favorite children’s books and the elements that make them shine.

This month’s theme: Empowering Youth

NameplateLousGemITHE INVISIBLE BOY
Text © 2013, Trudy Ludwig
Illustrations © 2013, Patrice Barton

THEINVISIBLEBOYPicture
Book

Fiction

Age Range:
6-9 years

Grade Level:
First- Fourth
Grade

Alfred A.
Knopf
Books,
for Young
Readers
an imprint of
Random House
Kids

AWARDS

  • 2013 Junior Library Guild Selection
  • Starred Review, School Library Journal
  • School Library Journal Best Picture Books 2013 Selection
  • Scholastic Instructor Recommended Back-to-School Picks 2013
  • USA Today Recommended Back-to-School Picks 2013
  • 2013 NAPPA Gold Medal Winner
  • The Children’s Book Review Best Picture Books 2013 Selection
  • Missourian October Book Buzz Pick 2013
  • Winter 2013-2014 Kids’ Indie Next List Selection
  • Oregon Spirit Book Awards 2013 Short List Selection
  • International Reading Association Teachers’ Choices 2014 Selection
  • Kentucky Bluegrass Award 2015 Master List Selection

MrsCarlotti

When the bell rings for recess, Micah and J.T. take turns choosing kids for their kickball teams. The best players get picked first. Then the best friends of the best players. Then the friends of the best friends. Only Brian is left, still waiting and hoping.
~ The Invisible Boy

I admit it: As a teacher, I sometimes lecture. I preach. I cajole. And in doing so, I risk losing my audience. Trudy Ludwig, however, spins a sweet story to sneak in her lesson of inclusiveness. In The Invisible Boy, Brian always seems to fly under the radar: Never picked for group work, never invited to parties, never really noticed despite his artistic talent and friendliness. It takes a new student’s arrival to change the class dynamics so Brian finally stops being so—invisible.

I’m normally a text-focused reviewer, but Patrice Barton’s illustrations really step up to enhance this story. When Brian feels sidelined, he’s drawn in black and white, contrasting wonderfully next to his colorful classmates. Each time he’s actually noticed or interacts with others, color starts to blossom on his cheeks. It’s a simple but effective technique to catch our eye and evoke sympathy for Brian. The ending is that much more satisfying when we finally get to see Brian in full, blessed color like the other kids.

Whether you’re hoping to teach inclusiveness, celebrate quiet talents, or just enjoy a story with heart, check out The Invisible Boy and feel your own color start to blossom.

~ Lou

Bulgogi

 ___________________________________________________________________

Brian looks at the floor, wishing he could draw a hole right there to swallow him up.
~ The Invisible Boy

Everyone wants to be noticed. That’s why Nathan talks in his outside voice, why Sophie is a drama queen, and why the teacher can’t see past Nathan and Sophie. All of them are competing to be heard. But Brian has a bigger problem. He’s too introverted to demand attention. He’s the invisible boy.

Haven’t we all felt invisible?

Author Tracy Ludwig offers a solution, but it requires a risk. This risk entails looking outside of ourselves. Ludwig reminds young readers, old readers, introverts, and extroverts that happiness is accessible when we share the good that is within.

Illustrator Patrice Barton makes kids like Brian visible with humor and gentleness. She doesn’t hit any character over the head with a ruler and she doesn’t embarrass with pity or condescension. I like to imagine that her other tenderly-drawn characters, like those in Mine and I Like Old Clothes are the family members of Brian and his class.

The Invisible Boy and Ludwig’s other psychologically smart stories, like Confessions of a Former Bully and Gifts From the Enemy offer creative resources to replace isolation, exclusion, and aggression with companionship, empathy, and kindness. Children love Ludwig’s stories, because she understands. Parents and teachers, and counselors love Ludwig’s stories, because she gives them the tools to understand and empower.

Who’s invisible in your life? Is it you? You’ll find a friend in The Invisible Boy.

~ Anna

DrawAHole

KEM Diamond

Watch for my gem next week!

We want to hear from you!
What empowering children’s book do you recommend?

A LONG WALK TO WATER

Welcome to KidLit Gems!

Join us in a coffee-style chat about favorite children’s books and the elements that make them shine.

August’s theme: Survivor Stories

NameplateKristisGemI

A LONG WALK TO WATER
Text & Illustrations © 2010, Linda Sue Park

ALONGWALKTOWATER450Middle
Grade

Fiction

Age
Range:
10-12
years

Grade
Level:
Fifth-
Seventh

Clarion
Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

New York Times Bestseller

Booklist Starred Review

Awards:

  • 2011 Jane Addams Children’s Book Award (NY)
  • 2012 Black-Eyed Susan Award Nominee (MA)
  • 2012 Flicker Tale Children’s Book Award (ND)
  • 2012 Great Lakes Book Award Nominee (MI)
  • 2012 Kentucky Blue Grass Award Nominee
  • 2012 Maine Student Book Award Nominee
  • 2013 Golden Sower Award Nominee (NE)
  • 2013 South Carolina Association of School Librarians Award Nominee
  • 2013 Young Hoosier Book Award Nominee (IN)

Later, he would learn that at least a thousand people had died trying to cross the river that day, drowned or shot or attacked by crocodiles.

How was it that he was not one of the thousand? Why was he one of the lucky ones?
A LONG WALK TO WATER

A Long Walk to Water cleverly alternates two points of view in the third person, as both main characters, “walk to water” in Southern Sudan. Tween readers’ will anxiously flip to the next chapter as Nya endures her daily routine and Salva faces lions, soldiers and travels abroad. Both Nya and Salva are BRAVE warriors, the kind that keep going when faced with adversity. Park herself bravely narrated this true story about Salva’s Dut of Lou-Ariik’s experience during Sudan’s civil war using objective tone, simplistic vocabulary and a rich setting. I can’t wait for my children to join Salva on his journey from Southern Sudan to America, and to learn what hope and generosity can accomplish.

~ Kristi
____________________________________________________________________

The walking began again. Walking–but to where?

No one knew anything for sure. Where was Salva supposed to go?

Not home. There is still war everywhere in Sudan. Not back to Ethiopia. The soldiers would shoot us. Kenya. There are supposed to be refugee camps in Kenya.
A LONG WALK TO WATER

Nothing stops Salva Dut. Not starvation. Not lions. Not crocodiles. Not bullets. In A Long Walk to Water, based on Dut’s experience as the leader of almost 1500 “Lost Boys of Sudan,” Linda Sue Park shares Dut’s story of perseverance and triumph through two sets of adolescent eyes, over a decade apart. Salva, an 11-year-old boy from 1985 Sudan walks to escape death. Nya, an 11-year-old girl from 2008 Sudan walks to find life. The two converge at the base of what Nya calls “the iron giraffe”–a life-giving deep-water well. United by hardship, Salva’s hardship brings empathy. Nya’s hardship brings gratitude.

This well will quench more than thirst. It will bring forth new crops and opportunities for education and work. This gut-wrenching and significant account makes me want to grow up to be like Salva. Or, more fittingly, like Linda Sue Park, telling the stories of other Salva Duts so more people, like me, can be inspired to greater heights of empathy, gratitude, and giving.

~ Anna

How we can help: Water For South Sudan

KEM Sapphire

Watch for Lou’s gem next week!

We want to hear from you!
What is your favorite survivor story for youth?

INSIDE OUT & BACK AGAIN

Welcome to KidLit Gems!

About favorite children’s books and the elements that make them shine.

August’s theme: Survivor Stories

NameplateAnnasGemIINSIDE OUT AND BACK AGAIN
Text © 2011, (Reprint Edition 2013) Thanhha Lai

INSIDEOUTANDBACKAGAIN450Middle
Grade
Novel

Fiction

Age
Range:
8-12
Years

Grade
Level:
Third-
Seventh

Harper, an imprint of Harper-
Collins

New York Times Bestseller

 

 

 

Awards:

  • National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, 2011
  • Newbery Honor, 2012
  • Jane Addams Children’s Book Award Honor for Older Children, 2012
  • ALA Notable Children ‘s Book 2012, Middle;
  • Booklist 2011 Editors’ Choice, Books for Youth, Fiction, Middle Reader
  • Kirkus Reviews Best Children’s Books of 2011
  • Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Books 2011, Fiction
  • SLJ Best Books of 2011, Fiction
  • Booklist Lasting Connections of 2012, Social Studies
  • Notable Children’s Book in the English Language Arts, 2012
  • CCBC Choices, 2012
  • Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People 2012, World History & Culture

 Current News

Every Friday
in Miss Zinh’s class
we talk about
current news.

But when we keep talking about
how close the Communists
have gotten to Saigon
how much prices have gone up
since American soldiers left,
how many distant bombs
were heard the previous night,
Miss Xinh finally says no more.

From now on
Fridays
will be for
happy news.

No one has anything
to say.

March 21

~ INSIDE OUT & BACK AGAIN

This loosely autobiographical middle grade masterpiece ranks right up there with  Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood; Sold; A Long Walk to Water; and The One and Only Ivan. Like the aforementioned stories, Inside Out & Back Again offers readers an opportunity to live another’s real life experiences in different skin in different cultures and different parts of the world. And these stories aren’t your run of the mill grind–but encounters with tribulation, hope, and survival. And, like Sold and The One and Only Ivan, the experiences are delivered through intimate first person, present tense verse.

War leaves Thannha Lai’s ten-year-old protagonist, Hà, and her three older brothers fatherless. Through Hà, Thannha brings us into parts of her own world as a citizen of Saigon, then a boat refugee, and an immigrant to Guam, Florida, and Alabama. In her homeland Hà feels smart, secure, and fearless. In America Hà feels dumb, lonely, and afraid.

Her discoveries made me laugh out loud:

. . .

I look up

Jane: not listed

sees: to eyeball something

Spot: a stain

run: to move really fast

Meaning: ______ eyeballs stain move.

And clutch my chair:

. . .  Everyone knows the ship
could sink,
unable to hold
the piles of bodies
that keep crawling on
like raging ants
from a disrupted nest.

And cry:

. . . What if
father is really gone?

From the sad look
on their faces
I know
despite their brave guesses
They have begun to accept
what I said on a whim.

Capturing such a comprehensive, novel in so few words is an exceptional feat. Many people live harrowing lives that will go unnoticed. Cultures and parts of the world will go unshared. But thanks to the talent and dedication of author Thanhha Lai, we can experience a taste of her life–as one smart, young, female Vietnamese survivor, because she’s discovered the perfect formula for translation.

If you like this KidLit Gem, you’ll also love Thanhha’s newest New York Times sensation, Listen, Slowly.

~ Anna

Thanhha Lai, Inside Out & Back Again Reading, 2011 National Book Awards

GEM Ruby

Watch for Kristi’s pick next!

We want to hear from you!
What’s your favorite survivor story for children?

EIGHT DAYS: A STORY OF HAITI

Welcome to KidLit Gems!

Join us in a coffee-style chat about favorite children’s books and the elements that make them shine.

This month’s theme: Survivor Stories

NameplateLousGemIEIGHT DAYS: A STORY OF HAITI
Text © 2010, Edwidge Danticat
Illustrations © 2010, Alix Delinois

Eight-DaysPicture
Book

Fiction

Age Range:
4-8 years

Grade Level:
Preschool-
3rd Grade

Orchard
Books,
an imprint of Scholastic Inc.

Kirkus, starred review

 

.. when the earth shook again and again, I was afraid. And sometimes I cried, because I missed Manman and Papa and my little sister, Justine. But in my mind, I played.
~ Eight Days: A Story of Haiti

Haiti’s 2010 earthquake didn’t end happily ever after, yet it’s the subject of an inspiring picture book. In Eight Days: A Story of Haiti, author Edwidge Danticat introduces us to Haitian daily life through Junior, a fictional boy pulled from the rubble after eight long days.

As we wait for Junior’s rescue, day by day, the story focuses on pre-earthquake Haiti. We daydream with Junior about his favorite, wonderfully ordinary activities—flying kites, eating sweet mangos, and helping Papa sweep up at work. Through his eyes, we feel the simple joy of jumping in puddles, racing bicycles around statues, and singing in the church choir. The text resonates with a child’s voice and word choices, letting us peek into a far-away culture full of light and joy despite unimaginable challenges.

The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed or troubled, read Eight Days for a dose of hope, happiness, and humility.

~ Lou

EightDaysBeginningFourthDay ___________________________________________________________________

But then Oscar felt really tired and went to sleep. He never woke up. That was the day I cried. ~ Eight Days: A Story of Haiti

How often does news of natural disaster cause a knot in your stomach and a lump in your throat? Do you wonder how such global challenges affect children? Can you comprehend the anxiety felt by child survivors, like the Haitian children who worried for their families and loved ones after the January 12, 2010 earthquake? Edwidge Danticat could. Her own five-year-old had questions. Danticat wanted her daughter and other children to know that hope, memories, and imagination can survive disaster. That’s why she wrote Eight Days: A Story of Haiti.

Danticat wrote about struggle, determination, and loss through a small survivor named Junior. Through this creative format, kids can understand and accept, without feeling overwhelmed by sadness or despair. Alix Delinois’ beautiful, bright, colorful illustrations keep Haiti and its culture alive as it was and can be again.

Power in a picture book: If you want to assure children or yourself that it’s okay to talk about sad things–and that perseverance, empathy, and compassion can overcome tragic circumstances, look no further than Eight Days: A Story of Haiti.

~ Anna

FifthDaySeventhDay

KEM Diamond

Watch for my gem next!

We want to hear from you!
What’s you favorite survivor story for children?

THE BEST PET OF ALL

Welcome to KidLit Gems!

Join us in a coffee-style chat about favorite children’s books and the elements that make them shine.

This month’s theme: Reptilian Tales

NameplateLousGemITHE BEST PET OF ALL
Text © 2004, David LaRochelle
Illustrations © 2004, Hanako Wakiyama

THEBESTPETOFALLPicture
Book

Fiction

Age Range:
3-6 years

Grade Level:
Preschool-
2nd Grade

Dutton
Children’s
Books,
a division of Penguin Young Reader’s Group

Booklist,
Starred Review, American
Library Association

Publisher’s Weekly,
Starred Review

“Finally my mother got angry. She stomped her foot. She told the dragon to leave this minute OR ELSE. The dragon just shook his head. He went back to eating spaghetti in the bathtub.”

How to convince a reluctant mother to adopt a dog? First get an ill-behaved dragon, of course! In The Best Pet of All, Minnesota author David LaRochelle spins a new twist on a child asking for a pet. Cool retro illustrations by Hanako Wakiyama perfectly match this classic theme.

So what author’s technique makes this book shine? In my opinion, it’s LaRochelle masterful use of patterns to pace the story events. Everything begins with a child asking for a dog on Monday, and his daily requests continue. By Thursday, however, LaRochelle throws in a twist: a dragon. To avoid predictability, he then drops the days of the week pattern and switches to using repetition instead: Four attempts to find a dragon, three attempts to lure the dragon home, five dragon misbehaviors, and three attempts to dislodge the dragon from the home.

Young readers won’t close the book with a satisfied sigh and say, “Boy, that guy really knows how to move a story along with clever use of patterning.” But they’ll likely say, “Read it again!” After all, just like in show biz, it’s the skillful work behind the curtains that gets us clapping for an encore.

~ Lou
THEBESTPETOFALL-Tuesday
 ___________________________________________________________________

Dragons are not easy to find. At last I found a dragon. This dragon was at the drugstore. He was wearing dark glasses and a hat. ~ The Best Pet of All

David LaRochelle applies the lesser-of-two evils-principle to a picture book, making this the ultimate how-to guide for kids perfecting the art of persuasion regarding pet (specifically dog) ownership.

It seems unusual for someone with David LaRochelle’s artistic talent to step aside and let someone else illustrate his baby, but David LaRochelle has more humility than most and this gives way to literary success. It’s his humility and humor that has reaped him the Sid Fleischman Humor Award, SCBWI Golden Kite Honor Award, Minnesota Book Award, and his amazing books–over 25 of them, so far.

I wonder if he wants it back?Hanako Wakiyama’s flawless 50′s -60′s flavor makes me feel warm and fuzzy–and little again. Everyone wants that hip mom. And Wakiyama’s retro style reminds me of my vintage Whitman Tiny-Tot Tale Fun At The Beach by Gloria Trachtenberg, illustrated by Dagmar Wilson (that I borrowed  from my cousin in the 1960′s and never returned).

Tiny-Tot Tales' FUN AT THE BEACH

Tiny-Tot Tales’ FUN AT THE BEACH

BruceHaleWakiyama’s dragon reminds me of children’s author Bruce Hale, but it could just be the hat.

The Best Pet Of All is worthy to be read everywhere, even on the White House lawn.

Oh, wait! See below!

~ Anna
THEBESTPETOFALLII

THEBESTPETOFALLIII

KEM Diamond

Watch for another pick from Lou next week!

We want to hear from you!
What’s you favorite reptilian tale?

August’s KidLit Gem Theme - Survivor Stories

DANGEROUS!

Welcome to KidLit Gems!

About favorite children’s books and the elements that make them shine.

July’s theme: Reptilian Tales

NameplateAnnasGemIDANGEROUS!
Text © 2014, Tim Warnes

DANGEROUS401Picture
Book

Fiction

Age
Range:
3-7
Years

Grade
Level:
Preschool-
Second

Tiger
Tales

 

 

 

Mole loved labelling things. All sorts of things. Anything really. Naming things was what Mole liked best. ~ DANGEROUS!

Most of us like to label, but few of us like to be labeled. Mole writes nouns on stickers to identify the things he knows: like frog, poop, and feathers. But when he ventures through the woods and comes across a scaly, scratchy mystery he has to resort to adjectives. And when the enormous, lumpy-bumpy, spiky thing almost rolls over on him and gobbles up all the identifiers, Mole makes an assumption. This thing is DANGEROUS!

The thing doesn’t understand and ultimately proves there’s more on the inside of him than what Mole has discovered on the outside, so Mole must make more stickers. And the new adjectives are positive, leading to one conclusion–which you’ll have to read for yourself.

Tim Warnes, the author of nine books, has illustrations featured in over 65 books in 18 different languages and he created the Chalk and Cheese comic strip. Most of his work includes funny anthropomorphic animal protagonists, making Dangerous! identifiable and easy to label as one of many Warnes’ treasures.

If I were to write stickers for this UK import, they would say: delightful, funny, charming, creative, imaginative, pleasant, endearing, heartwarming, empathetic, sweet, friendly, clever, thought-provoking, quirky, superb, suspenseful, page-turner, genius, treasured, wish-I’d-have-thought-of-it, a favorite.

~ AnnaDangerousPageII650

DangerousPageIII650

DangerousPage650

GEM Ruby

Watch for Lou’s pick next!

We want to hear from you!
What reptilian tale would you recommend?

IF YOU EVER WANT TO BRING AN ALLIGATOR TO SCHOOL, DON’T!

Welcome to KidLit Gems!

Join us in a coffee-style chat about favorite children’s books and the elements that make them shine.

July’s theme: Reptilian Tales

NameplateKristisGemIIF YOU EVER WANT TO BRING AN ALLIGATOR TO SCHOOL, DON’T!
Text & Illustrations © 2015, Elise Parsley
See our favoritism disclaimer toward the bottom.

IFYOUWANTCoverPicture
Book

Fiction

Age
Range:
3-6
years

Grade
Level:
Preschool-
First

Little,
Brown
Books for
Young
Readers
(July 7,
2015)

ShowAndTell650

If you bring an alligator anyway, she’ll tell you that alligators are trouble! ~ IF YOU EVER WANT TO BRING AN ALLIGATOR TO SCHOOL, DON’T!

If you ever want to cry, DON’T read this book! It’s hilarious.

Parsley’s acutely aware of the funny bone and has created a main character, Magnolia, that can manage all of her illustrative wit. The delightfully adventurous Magnolia all but grabs your hand as she ventures into unknown waters by bringing an alligator to school for show and tell. You will wish you were in Magnolia’s classroom, so you too, could join in on the fun. Parsley’s attention to detail shines in every pixel of her artwork as she pokes fun at the school day rituals. You will find yourself poring over every illustrated page of this frank narrative time and again, unless of course, you get gobbled up!

Yeah, if you ever want to cry yourself to sleep, DON’T turn the pages of this book.

~ Kristi
Crust650
____________________________________________________________________

By now, of course, you’ll wish you’d brought a hollow stick or a bird’s nest or some sparkly rocks for show-and-tell instead of an alligator. By now, you’d rather have some dirt than an alligator. IF YOU EVER WANT TO BRING AN ALLIGATOR TO SCHOOL, DON’T!

Magnolia and her alligator never get old. That’s because their creator, Elise Parsley, made them so darn funny. As you turn the pages, follow the paper airplane; admire the colors, textures, and shadowing; read the names on the lockers and the facts on the blackboard; notice the classroom diversity, giggle at the alligator’s shenanigans; and count Magnolia’s teeth. You might accidentally learn something. I sure did.

Like the paint on page thirteen, Parsley mixes humor, mischief, and a dangerous supporting character with the universal school theme and stirs it to a satisfying circular end. Haven’t we all experienced the anxiety of show-and-tell?  Haven’t we all feared that teacher?

Everything you see is a part of Parsley’s charming life and imagination. She even designed the complementary font. That’s why we think she’s the bomb. And that’s why we know you’ll love this book.

Anyone who disagrees deserves three checks by their name and an underline.

Really, this was everyone’s Gem, but Kristi’s a better arm wrestler.

~ Anna

HerTurn650DISCLAIMER: YOU COULD EXPECT A HOLLOW STICK, A BIRD’S NEST, AND SPARKLY ROCKS FROM THIS RECOMMENDATION, BUT NOT IMPARTIALITY.

Not from us. We’re too invested. You see, we’re Elise’s critique partners–and we love her character creations like they were family. That makes us their crazy aunts, of sorts.

Fall2013PostcardFRONTg

Who doesn’t secretly love the mischief-maker?

Take her soon-to-be firstborn, Magnolia, for instance. We’ve been with Elise since Magnolia’s conception. Okay, maybe that sounds a little weird, but If You Ever Want To Bring An Alligator started with a funny picture–one not quite as polished as the postcard version above, but almost. It made us snort and say, “This is a great seed for a picture book.” That was the non-steamy conception.

Following this stage we fed Elise popcorn to appease her quirky “with child/character” cravings.

OrigamiAlligator650We monitored Magnolia’s embryonic stages of revisions, queries, and conferences. Then, we heard Magnolia’s heartbeat when an editor at the Fall 2013 Iowa SCBWI Conference told Elise that she had a breakout character.

We held Elise’s hand during her labor pains, when she queried Steven Malk of Writers House. And we held a baby shower when Mr. Malk offered representation and got her the amazing three-book deal with Little, Brown & Company.

And now we pace the floor, anticipating Magnolia’s birth. (You’ve probably surmised: It’s a girl! Oh–and an alligator.) Elise’s IF YOU EVER WANT TO BRING AND ALLIGATOR TO SCHOOL, DON’T debuts July 7. We can’t wait until Elise introduces you to our feisty new niece.

Magnolia at the 2015 Book Expo of America (BEA)

Magnolia’s professional début at the 2015 Book Expo of America (BEA)

KEM Sapphire

Watch for Anna’s gem next week!

We want to hear from you!
What is your favorite children’s book featuring a cold-blooded vertebrate?