Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Caldecott and Newbery Medals 2014

Early on the morning of January 28 hundreds of librarians gathered at the annual American Library Association’s (ALA) Midwinter meeting to hear who won the ALA Youth Media Awards. Locomotive, a picture book illustrated by Brian Floca, was announced as the winner of the Caldecott Medal. Flora and Ulysses won the Newbery Medal as the best chapter book.

Here are my reviews of these delightful books:

Caldecott Medal, 2014

Locomotive, by Brian Floca, is the story of a family moving west in the year 1869. The family leaves Omaha, Nebraska on a Union Pacific train and will eventually transfer to a Pacific Railroad train on the way to their destination of Sacramento, California. Readers meet the brakemen, firemen, engineer, conductor, and captain of the train. We see where the passengers eat and sleep and we see the country from the passengers’ point of view. A map is drawn at the front of the book so the reader can follow the tracks across the country. I would call this an information book with many fun illustrations. All ages would love the pictures but I see this as a read-aloud for third, fourth, or fifth graders.

Newbery Medal, 2014

Flora and Ulysses was written by Kate Di Camillo (author of The Tale of Despereaux which was the 2004 Newbery winner). Flora is a quirky little girl – maybe around 10 years old – who lives with her mother, a writer. Ulysses is a squirrel who is sucked up by a very powerful vacuum cleaner. Flora rescues Ulysses and saves his life using (yes!) mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. This book is about what happens in a world with a squirrel who can fly and write poems on a typewriter. You will love meeting Flora’s quiet accountant father, Tootie the neighbor who loves poetry, William Spiver who thinks he can’t see, and the very wise Dr. Meescham. I smiled through the entire 232 pages.

Book Reviews by Susan Berry

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Caldecott and Newbery Medals 2013

Caldecott Medal, 2013

This Is Not My Hat was written and illustrated by Jon Klassen and is the newest picture book winner! (Another of Klassen’s books, Extra Yarn, was named as an honor book this year.) This story is about a small fish who steals a (small) hat from a large fish. For some reason the small fish thinks he can keep this (small) hat. The plot shows how the large fish searches for his hat among all the weeds in the ocean. This is almost a “search and find” kind of story. The reader is determined to find that hat among the weeds but the illustrator does a beautiful job of “hiding” that hat. This is a fun, quirky little book. I love it.

Newbery Medal, 2013

The One and Only Ivan, written by Katherine Applegate, is a lovely (and that term is not used often to describe a Newbery winner.) story about a gentle gorilla named Ivan, two sweet elephants, and a feisty little dog. These animals were hurt and eventually cut from a circus and put on display at a shopping mall. Ivan the gorilla becomes an artist after lessons from a young girl named Julia. The description at the front of this book calls this a story of friendship, art, and hope. For sure.

Book Reviews by Susan Berry

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Caldecott and Newbery Medals 1996

Caldecott Medal, 1996

Officer Buckle and Gloria was written by Peggy Rathman. Officer Buckle is a police officer who teaches safety rules to classes of children. All goes well until Officer Buckle realizes that his sidekick Gloria (a dog with lots of personality) is the star of his show. Feelings are hurt but feelings are mended. This book brought giggles to my first graders.

Newbery Medal, 1996

The Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman is a relatively short (and small) book set in the fourteenth century. Beetle is a young girl who lived with a woman named Jane. Jane Sharp was the midwife in a small village who fed and housed Beetle but treated her poorly. Eventually Beetle changed her name to Alyce and soon learned the skills of a midwife. As Alyce’s skills as a midwife grow, so does her confidence. A well-written book, it seems appropriate for a middle schooler.

Book Reviews by Susan Berry

Monday, January 28, 2013

Caldecott and Newbery Medals 1990

Caldecott Medal, 1990

Ed Young wrote this Red Riding Hood story from China. Illustrated in water colors and pastels, Lon Po Po begins with the mother leaving her children alone at home. Guess who comes to visit! And guess who outsmarts the wolf! This book is delightful, beautifully illustrated, and a great companion to the version we all know and love!

Newbery Medal, 1990

Number the Stars is one of several books by beloved author Lois Lowry. The setting of this book is Copenhagen, Denmark during the German occupation in 1943. It is the story of Annemarie, a ten-year old, the older of two sisters in a Danish family who smuggled their Jewish friends across the sea to Sweden. This is a fiction story but it is based on what really happened during the war. This book is told from a ten-year-old’s point of view but based on a scary time. I would suggest it to any child (maybe with adult supervision or conversation) older than twelve.

Book Reviews by Susan Berry

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Caldecott and Newbery Medals 1969

Caldecott Medal, 1969 

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble was written and illustrated by William Stieg. It is a dear story about a family of three donkeys. The red pebble really is magic and whoever holds it has his wish granted. Unfortunately, when Sylvester is scared by a lion he wishes himself to become a rock. And a rock he became! Of course, Sylvester’s parents miss him terribly – but the ending is a happy one. This is a long picture book, a classic. Every family needs a copy.

Newbery Medal, 1969

The High King by Lloyd Alexander is the fifth and final book of the Chronicles of Prydain. This is the exciting tale of young people and loyal animals who fight to take back the land from Arawn Death – Lord. There is a glossary of names at the end of the book and that is very helpful but it took me a few chapters to figure out who is who. If I had read the first four books I’m sure I would have known the characters sooner. This was a lovely, very satisfying read.

Book Reviews by Susan Berry

Monday, November 12, 2012

Petition to Support Public Education in Indiana

Some folks have started a petition to ask the governor and legislature to acknowledge that Glenda Ritz, the Superintendent of Public Instruction-elect was elected to change the plan which Tony Bennett has been pushing in Indiana.

Click HERE to sign the petition.

Here's the content:
Indiana voters elected Glenda Ritz as our new Superintendent of Public Instruction by a large margin. She received roughly 1,300,000 votes--about 100,000 more votes than the governor-elect, Mike Pence. Now, however, Governor Daniels refuses to acknowledge that our election of Glenda Ritz sent a clear message on the direction of school reform, saying instead: "The consensus and momentum for reform and change in Indiana is rock solid." Governor-elect Mike Pence is also choosing to interpret the election results as a "strong affirmation on the progress of education reform in this state," (Journal Gazette 11/8/12). On the contrary: when Indiana voters elected Glenda Ritz as superintendent, we rejected the top-down, corporate reform model imposed by the state. We embraced Ritz's platform and her research-backed proposals to support and improve our public schools.

Petition Letter

Dear Governor, Indiana Legislators and D.O.E. Board,

Indiana voters elected Glenda Ritz as Superintendent of Public Instruction by a large margin. She received roughly 1,300,000 votes--about 100,000 more votes than the governor-elect, Mike Pence. We call upon Governor Daniels, future governor Mike Pence, the D.O.E. Board, and our legislature to respect voters' clear message on the direction of public education in Indiana. We affirm our support for our candidate and her platform:

"More time to education, less time to testing" The use of high-stake testing to judge children, schools, and communities harms the process of teaching and learning.

"More control to local school districts to implement state and federal standards" Local schools need resources and support, not rigid dictates.

"Clear the barriers to quality vocational education" Schools must be given the flexibility to support a vibrant curriculum for high school students' vocational interests.

"Make teacher licensing and evaluation standards top in the nation" All children should be taught by qualified instructors. Effective teacher preparation programs are vital, and teacher licensing should be based upon comprehensive, effective teacher preparation.

"Stop the flow of public tax dollars to private education companies running take-over schools"

We believe public tax dollars belong in public schools. All school districts in Indiana deserve equitable funding.

The vote for Glenda Ritz is a mandate for the protection of the child's constitutional right to a free, high-quality public education as articulated in Article 8, Section 1 of the Indiana State Constitution, funded by tax dollars.

[Your name]
And here's another one which seems to be specifically directed at supporters of Mike Pence, the Indiana Governor-elect.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

FWCS Seeks Input on School Choice

Krista J. Stockman
Public Information Officer
Fort Wayne Community Schools
Phone: 260.467.2022
Fax: 260.467.1980
We Are Your Schools

FWCS Seeks Input on School Choice

Fort Wayne Community Schools is reaching out to parents and community members to better understand what influences their decisions when choosing a school for their children.

A School Choice Survey will be launched Wednesday, Nov. 7, to gather feedback about numerous factors, including awareness of school choice options and the priority given to school environment, school success and the availability of student support services.

“We understand that parents have many choices — both within Fort Wayne Community Schools and outside of the District —when deciding where to send their children to school,” said Superintendent Dr. Wendy Robinson. “We also recognize and appreciate that parents know their children’s educational needs best and put much thought into their final decision. This survey will help us better understand the factors that lead to those decisions.”

Working once again with independent research and communication firm K12 Insight, the survey is accessible through a link on the YourVoice section of the District’s website at http://fwcs.k12.in.us/admin/yourvoice.php. All answers are strictly confidential. Last year, the district partnered with K12 Insight on community-wide surveys focusing on aging school facilities and how best to direct funds from the FWCS Foundation.

Parents who have provided the district with their e-mail addresses will receive e-mail invitations to participate, but the survey is open to everyone in the FWCS community. Those interested in participating may provide their e-mail addresses through the Your Voice portal to ensure receipt of future surveys. Parents will be invited to participate in the survey this week while attending Parent-Teacher Conferences. Parents without computer access will be allowed to use computers at their child’s school at other times as well. Others without Internet access can visit a branch of the Allen County Public Library for access. Residents may also call the school district at467-2020 to request a paper copy of the survey. The goal is to ensure community-wide participation and feedback.

The survey closes on Friday, Nov. 30. The District will use the results of the survey as a basis for discussion in public work sessions conducted by the FWCS Board of School Trustees.

“Fort Wayne Community Schools is proud of our policy allowing students to attend any school in the district, based on space availability,” Robinson said. “Each of our schools strives to offer quality instruction, innovative programs and student support systems to create the best learning environment possible for every student. And for those parents who have chosen to send their children to schools outside of the district, their honest input will greatly help us understand where we need to focus our efforts so that we can best achieve our goal of being every family’s school system of choice.”

With nearly 32,000 students, Fort Wayne Community Schools is Indiana's second-largest school district. FWCS proudly allows families to choose any of its 51 schools through its successful school-choice program creating diversity in each school, including some with more than 75 languages spoken. FWCS offers seven magnet schools focusing on areas such as science and math, communication, fine arts or Montessori at the elementary and middle school level. In high school, students can choose from the prestigious International Baccalaureate program, Project Lead the Way or New Tech Academy as well as other rigorous academic and specialty training programs.